With a fresh dusting of snow across the GTA comes the urge to hit the road and head for the hills. The ski hills, that is. And for those looking to buy a chalet, this might be the perfect opportunity to do so in Ontario. A recent report found that the ski town housing market in Ontario has seen the second highest price drop compared to ski areas across the country — similar to a price drop in cottage country homes earlier in the year. Interested in buying slopeside this year? We’ve consulted the experts on the best places to do so in Ontario and how to get the best deal.
Blue Mountain and Collingwood
From ski aficionados to bunny hill warriors, everyone will agree that Blue Mountain and Collingwood are the places to be once the snow sets in.
Sotheby’s realtor Storey Badger, a former Alpine ski racer and instructor for 25 years, sees the region as remarkable.
“It’s very unique to the world,” he said, referring to several private ski clubs that dot the area and are a rarity in North America. For example, Ontario is the only place in Canada where you’ll find exclusive alpine clubs.
“Collingwood has several private clubs. There’s Devil’s Glen, just south of Collingwood, and then on the same escarpment, there’s Blue Mountain, the one that’s a public area,” Badger said. “And then, there’s a club called Osler, Craigleith, Alpine, Georgian Peaks. There’s also Beaver Valley.”
With so many top-notch ski options close to Toronto, purchasing a chalet in this region is the gold standard.
“It’s going to be good, because those clubs, just like private golf clubs, attract a certain caliber of investors,” Badger said.
Karen Cox, ski enthusiast and owner and Broker of Record at Sea & Ski Realty, points out how Blue Mountain’s proximity to the GTA, paired with year-round amenities, makes it a win for those seeking to buy a chalet.
“Living in a slopeside chalet here allows unparalleled access to skiing or snowboarding without the hassle of commuting,” Cox said. “It maximizes time on the slopes and provides convenient breaks or returns to the chalet during the day.”
“Prime slopeside ski chalets can be found in the Blue Mountain Region, specifically within the private ski clubs or at Blue Mountain Resorts,” Cox said. “This area boasts a vibrant, four-season recreational economy that offers year-round activities, ensuring sustained property values and making a chalet purchase a sound investment.”
It was Southern Georgian Bay, a region that encompasses Collingwood and The Blue Mountains, that recorded the highest year-over-year price drop in Ontario, with the median home price dropping 10 per cent. So the area may be a more affordable option for buyers right now too.
Though one might see Muskoka as a summer destination, the region surrounding Huntsville is a ski lover’s delight, making it an excellent option for chalet seekers.
Badger, who splits his time between Collingwood and Muskoka, knows the value of year-round properties that offer the best of both worlds — with access to waterfront and ski hills being most desirable.
Buying a chalet or four-season cottage in idyllic Muskoka means proximity to the ski and snowboarding slopes of Hidden Valley and several cross-country ski routes, including the Nordic ski trails at Arrowhead Provincial Park.
“Look in Huntsville. Hidden Valley Ski Resort is great,” Badger said. “You could have a cottage which you could enjoy the whole summer, and then there’s also the slope with great little chalets all around it.”
With remote work increasingly common and the desire to escape the city for a healthier lifestyle, Badger said some families have decided to move to slopeside communities permanently.
“With the four-season accessibility throughout Collingwood and Muskoka-Huntsville, you’re finding people that are living there full time… there are families who had a place in Toronto and went up here and sold it, deciding to stay put,” said Badger.
“The amount of families that moved up here, that have stayed up here post-pandemic, and have children going to local schools, it’s quite interesting. As a primary residence, it’s actually quite affordable comparatively to the GTA.”
Insider tips on buying a ski chalet
Whether choosing to buy a chalet in popular spots like Blue Mountain and Muskoka or in other ski locations like Simcoe County and Calabogie, knowing what to look for can make all the difference.
“The realm of ski chalet choices can be intricate, and having an experienced guide will greatly ease navigation,” Cox said, who also expresses the importance of going with a local realtor.
“Consider key factors like proximity to ski resorts, available amenities, and ease of access… Additionally, contemplate year-round usage of the property and interests beyond skiing or boarding, ” Cox said. “It’s crucial to take into account rental income possibilities and local bylaws that might affect your location choice.”
Badger recommends selecting a property with manageable maintenance, a good-sized equipment room and a heated porch — which comes in handy when you want to dry out your ski gear.
And because people often head slopeside for the week with friends and family, keeping space in mind is also a good idea.
“It’s a big event,” Badger said. “When you have a chalet, you’ll have friends show up, so the more beds the better, typically.“
Evaluating the size, layout and condition of the chalet is vital, according to Cox. “Look for features that align with your preferences, such as ski-in/ski-out access, parking, equipment storage, fireplaces and other amenities. Finally, thoroughly assess your budget for both purchasing and maintaining the chalet throughout the year.”
Experts weigh in on buying
With recent reports of a price drop on ski country properties, one might wonder if now is a favourable moment to snag that slope-side chalet you’ve been dreaming of.
“The current period presents an opportune time to purchase a chalet due to higher interest rates resulting in lower prices,” Cox said. “If interest rates decrease in the future, prices are likely to rebound, making the present an economically prudent time to buy.”
Badger noted how the flexible post-pandemic work environment adds to time as value when spending money on a chalet.
“I don’t think anyone’s overpaying now. I think there’s value to be had on slopeside living,” he said. “With remote work — it actually extends the weekend.”
He also reiterates the trend of living slopeside year-round for its lifestyle benefits and value per dollar.
“At the bottom of all those clubs, and at the bottom of Blue Mountain, there are chalets that have actually turned into primary residences,” Badger said. “You can have a two-bedroom condo for $1 million, but I would go slope-style four seasons. You get good schools and a healthy lifestyle… For a young family, slope-style living is not out of reach.”
Cox also pointed out the many long-term advantages of investing in a chalet.
“Ski resort properties typically experience robust appreciation, particularly if the resort gains popularity or the surrounding area sees development or heightened demand.”
And that slopeside location is worth it if you can find it. “Properties located slopeside tend to maintain their value well and may even appreciate faster than those further from the slopes, potentially benefiting future resale,” she said.