From vision to stock value
The 10th Mountain Division trained during WWII at Camp Hale, 25 miles from where Vail is located now. That group of 10th Mountain Division heroes returned to the United States and developed the ski industry, which grew to as many 700 ski areas in the late ’70s.
There were over 4,000 people that attended Pete’s memorial service on that Monday, all of whom, I believe, he knew personally.
What the pioneers in Colorado mountain development envisioned during the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s is much different from many of the mountain resort developers of today, and the communities that depend upon the mountain resorts for their livelihood.
We have gone from individual hard-working visionaries (who through tenacity and hard work developed our resort communities) to large corporations and conglomerates whose actions are dictated by the performance of their stock during their last quarter.
It’s not to say that these aren’t brilliant, qualified individuals who guide our resorts of today, but they are not the same people with the passion to provide that mountain experience for millions of people and their families.
Missing is the 10-year plan, the five-year plan, or even the six-month plan to make the resort communities better for consumers. Too much emphasis is placed on the bottom line and not enough on the consumer.
During this last decade, our mountain communities have been blessed with adequate snow, tremendous real estate sales and value appreciation. More recently, the mountain communities have been hit with below-normal snowfall, and a lift-ticket price war which has benefited the consumer but also has created a price imbalance between the destination skier and the Front Range skier.
It has caused some concern by the retailers in the mountain communities that the industry is exchanging low-cost guests for the higher-paying destination guests. We also have seen a weakening in the very high-end market.
The over $1 million real estate purchase seems to be in a slump, at least currently. Maybe that’s because some of the billionaire CEOs of publicly traded companies have either gone to jail or have had to sell their mountain properties to pay for their legal fees. Places like Vail, Aspen and Telluride are very closely tied to the Fortune 500; the stock market will have an affect on these high-end real estate purchases.
What is exciting and very positive about the mountain communities is the proliferation of more affordable development by companies like Intrawest, which is at the base of Snowmass, Copper Mountain, and soon, Winter Park.
There is now an alternative to the direction that mature resorts are headed. For example, consider the new opportunities of building second-home properties, primarily condominium and fractional ownership units at very competitive prices (under $100,000 for fractional units and $200,000 to $300,000 whole ownership) compared to the $1,600 per square foot for a multimillion dollar condominium at the Ritz Carlton in Bachelor Gulch, or the $500-plus per square foot for a half-million to a million dollar condominium at the base of many of the mountain resorts.
The ski facilities at these mountain developments are now complemented by many other amenities, such as golf courses, marinas, snowmobiling, Adventure Ridge-type activities, etc.
Intrawest and other developments like Grand Elk in Grand County are making the mountain second-home market much more affordable while providing a large menu of activities. In fact, there are those that believe that they can still get in on the ground floor of real estate investment in the mountains, and have not lost the opportunity to do so.
There are many projects for the Colorado real estate buyer that offer tremendous opportunities. The consumer should seek these out and find what best fits the needs of them and their families for the long term.
Who would have known that in 1962 when Peter Seibert started Vail, 40 years later it would have the second-busiest airport in Colorado, millions of ski visitors, golfers playing on 19 area golf courses. We can be thankful for those that had the vision that started mountain tourism and those that continue the vision to develop real estate and investment opportunities in the Colorado mountains.
Jerry D. Jones is a ski industry consultant and developer based in Avon. He is a partner in the Grand Elk development.