Snow Globe

Snow Globe


As the global landscape changes, the ski industry faces unprecedented challenges. Julia Millen investigates how Canadian resorts are adapting to this high-altitude paradigm shift

With some 400 million annual ski visits worldwide, winter sport is a major global industry, while the ski resorts that serve it, are home to some of the world’s most desirable residential property markets. With climate change advancing, however, the ski industry faces a challenging future, forcing ski towns to adapt by investing in snowmaking technologies and diversifying heavily into alternative outdoor pursuits. The latest research by Savills indicates that high-altitude low-temperature resorts are best placed to meet the rising challenges of climate change and one destination leading by example, is Canada.

The number of people visiting the country to ski has consistently increased over the past decade. As for those looking to put down more permanent roots - access is a key attribute. For UK buyers, with just a few more hours than a European flight, a spacious log home can be purchased for the same price as an apartment in the Alps. Adds property consultant, Jemima Deverell: “Snow is guaranteed, the resorts are not overcrowded, the standard of skiing is high, plus there’s a huge selection of other year-round sports available. With the rate of inflation currently sitting at 1.9% (as of August 2019), strong prospective capital gains, a burgeoning rental market, combined with an interest base rate of 3.95% and mortgage rates available at 1.99%, it’s easy to see why Canadian ski resorts have become so attractive to European investors.”

North America’s largest ski resort and the most famous snow-sure ‘brand’ in Canada, Whistler boasts a generous season lasting from November – June, offering skiers and snowboarders of all levels a diverse array of runs, 8,000+ snow covered acres and 200 trails which encompass sections of the impressive Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.

At the base, is a village that’s very European in style and feel. Plus, there are no cars, just patios, cafes, eateries and boutiques. The clientele is shaped by residents that appreciate the finer things, but in an understated way. This is reflected in the high-end restaurant, bar, and nightlife scene. Aside from snow sports, the resort also offers some of the best mountain biking in the world, golf, hiking, and spas. A veritable four-season resort - July and August are two of the busiest months of the year.

Property market conditions remain strong, with significant domestic and international demand. Ann Chiasson of ReMax Sea to Sky stated: “The market in Whistler is very stable, albeit slower than in recent years. That said, there’s lots of property choice within the $2.5 – $25 million price bracket.”

The agency is currently marketing, an uber-luxurious 10 bed, 11-bathroom, 8347 square foot property for an eye-watering $22,000.000. Adds, John Ryan of the Whistler Real Estate Co: “The low Canadian dollar is very attractive to international buyers. Plus, easy access from Vancouver airport, an average annual snowfall of over 38 feet, and North America’s two highest lift-serviced vertical mountains with a pedestrian village at their base, makes for a magical four-season destination.”

Situated in the majestic peaks of the Canadian Rockies - Banff stands as an iconic destination as Canada's first National Park. The combined ski resorts of Banff and Lake Louise are also among the most well-appointed and popular in the country, attracting a distinguished and well-heeled clientele. Similar to Whistler, the domain offers an upscale, yet understated, apres-ski scene. Although popular with intermediate and advanced skiers due to the exciting blue and black runs, there’s also a number of green runs available for less experienced skiers.

One of the main attractions is well-connected mountain access. Unlike many other resorts; due to its protected national park status, and "need to reside clause" (people are not permitted to own property in Banff unless they have a job or are business owners there), there is limited availability for home ownership. Adds Christies International property consultant, Greg Weston: “99% of our second-home owners and people moving into the area choose to purchase in Canmore, an understated, affluent area with one of the highest per-capita incomes in Canada, situated just 20 minutes away. Buyers are primarily from the oil or finance world, with direct international flights to Calgary International Airport and just a one-hour car ride to the resort, contributing to a surge in purchasers from the United States, Europe, Asia, and the UK. Christopher Vincent from Sotherby’s International Realty Canada observes: “50% of buyers are local Canmore residents and 50% of buyers own secondary properties in Canada. The biggest segment of investors in this sector are from Toronto, followed by the USA, the UK and Asia, with the largest contingent from Hong Kong.”

Although, the area has stringent building restrictions, there are several exciting residential projects in the pipeline. The Three Sisters community of townhouses and apartments, including a resort centre and hotel, is a key project in the area, with average prices for an apartment around $968,000, $623.69 per square foot. The Spring Creek Mountain Village – a revamp of an old campground in the heart of Canmore with luxury villas, a boutique hotel, casino and a gondola at the Silvertip Resort, is situated above the town of Canmore in an enclave known for some of Canmore's most exclusive homes. Property prices start at $479,000 for a one-bedroom condo.

Mont Tremblant

Voted the number one ski resort in the eastern region of North America for eight years by the US Ski Magazine – Mont Tremblant boasts 100km of cross-country ski trails, a frozen cliff face for ice climbing, an 18-acre snow park with ramps, modules, jumps and a 130-metre long and six-metre high half-pipe for extreme sports fans.

In 2018, Alterra Mountain Company obtained ownership of Mont Tremblant and has subsequently invested $17 million in lifts, trails and apres-ski facilities. The area exudes a magical feel - the snow, and the sweeping views of the Laurentian peaks and lakes, effortlessly combined with a unique evolving atmosphere which becomes increasingly diversified and sophisticated.

The resort is around 90 minutes by car north of Montreal and is served by Air Canada and Porter which fly several times a week between Toronto and Mont Tremblant International Airport. The last few years have witnessed major expansion across the resort. Tourist numbers have swelled from 700,000 in 1996 to 3.5 million in 2018. Several new property initiatives are also underway and being marketed simultaneously.

Steven Lafave, Senior Director at Engels & Völkers explains: "The market is busier than since pre-2008, with a notable increase in property sales over $1 million. In 2018/19, there were 26 vacation property purchases over $1 million within the village, compared with just 10 the previous year.”

One of the latest masterplan projects to be announced is the deluxe four-star condo development by C Hotels Tremblant. This $45-million initiative which includes 92 ski-in, ski-out condos starting from $380,000, saw a 23% increase in the number of transactions in 2018 over 2017, with 2019 trending even higher. Adds Lafave: “The median price for properties has increased from $256,500 in 2017 to $390,000 today. Not surprisingly, the overall dollar value of transactions is also up, increasing 31% in the first quarter of 2019 from the previous year.”

Piste of the Action

Exciting plans have been revealed for a new $3.5 billion ski resort located just 45 minutes from Whistler. With a potential opening date muted for 2025, construction of Garibaldi at Squamish is expected to begin in 2023.  Like many of British Columbia’s larger resorts, Garibaldi will be located off the Sea-to-Sky highway, the main connecting road from Vancouver, an hour's drive away from Squamish.

Buying in Canada

  • The process of buying property in as a foreign national is straightforward
  • No foreign ownership tax, only legal fees to pay (under 3,000 Canadian dollars)
  • Multiple Listing Service (MLS) - one agent will show you all the listed properties, so there’s no need to visit multiple agencies
  • No Visa requirements
  • The pound to Canadian dollar ratio is favourable, so a great investment location for UK buyers
  • Resorts are great year-round destinations. Summer is more popular than winter

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