VAIL — Wandering into a room full of Realtors can be an informative exercise, if only to learn how crazy some resort towns can be. If you thought legal pot was a challenge, then try doing business around Jackson Hole.
The Western Mountain Resort Alliance — a group of Realtors from mountain resorts in the western U.S. and Canada — held its annual meeting in Vail this year. Part of the meeting included a panel discussion in which representatives from Jackson Hole, Lake Tahoe, Park City, Sun Valley and Vail talked about their markets, their communities, and the problems and opportunities they have at the moment. Let’s look at a few, starting with the most entertaining:
Talkin’ ‘bout Jackson
Realtor Jill Sassi had plenty to say about her home market. Some of it was good — such as brokers from other areas, Sassi said the real estate market in the Jackson Hole area is showing some real strength. But weird stuff is going on in Teton County.
The biggest issue is a coming ballot issue that would extend the area’s 2 percent lodging tax, and a group of area residents is campaigning for a “no” vote. That tax helps pay for the area’s air service program — which requires revenue guarantees to airlines — as well as tourism marketing and local transit.
Sassi said those campaigning against the tax simply want fewer visitors in the area. That might be tough to do, since two of the country’s most popular national parks are in the immediate vicinity. That’s why airline passenger numbers into the area are greater in the summer than winter.
Away from the ballot box, Sassi said there are proposed land-use regulations that would limit the amount of north-facing windows a home could have, in the name of energy efficiency. Of course, north-facing windows also give the best views of the Tetons.
In the air, on the ground
Members of the EGE Air Alliance, the local group pushing to expand pitches to airlines for more routes, portray Eagle County as being behind most other resort areas. And it is, compared to, say, Aspen, Telluride and Jackson. Even the Sun Valley area recently approved $2 million in funding for revenue guarantees. Sun Valley representative Bob Crosby said the guarantees will help bring 35,000 new commercial airline seats a year into the area.
“Now, we just have to fill them,” Crosby said.
While most resorts have an airport at least kind of nearby — most notably Park City — Tahoe depends for the most part on people driving in, mostly from the San Francisco Bay area. There are direct flights into Reno, Brett Williams said, but the community doesn’t provide any guarantees for flights. In fact, there’s just now a plan for transit service between Tahoe’s various mountains.
Vail, of course, has work to do on its air program, and local representative Kathy Cole said the coming months will be a challenge due to another season of work on the Interstate 70 Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs.
What we share
Aside from a strengthening market, almost all the Realtors on the panel had something to say about the dangers wildfire presents to mountain resorts. Most communities have some sort of program in place, with the exception of Sun Valley.
Land sales seem to be picking up across the region, which may be a sign of building to come. And brokers seem to understand they’re competing for customers with other resorts.
“If you think your buyer isn’t looking elsewhere, the data says otherwise,” Williams said.
Everyone also worries about what might help or hurt property values, from the drought in California to legal marijuana in Colorado.
Speaking of which
Park City’s Mark Seltenrich made a crack about legal weed in Colorado, prompting every Colorado broker in the room to participate in a spontaneous group eye-roll.