Steve MacDonald – Coldwell Banker Timberline
“If you’ve skied on that solid ice in the East, even a little, you are immediately a reasonably good skier in the Rocky Mountains,” laughed Steve MacDonald, Broker/Partner Owner of Coldwell Banker Timberline.
The Westport, Conn. native who summered in Maine and spent his high school years in St. Louis did have some experience skiing the East’s icy slopes and was drawn to the mountains of Colorado. But it wasn’t because of the great powder. MacDonald came to climb the “14-ers.”
“Throughout high school I would visit Colorado, more for the summer sports than the winter,” he said. “I loved to climb so when the choice came for college in the east or the west, Colorado State University was number one because of the mountains.”
After earning an engineering degree MacDonald worked the following year out of Denver for an oil company. The hard work and endless hours weren’t a problem, but the countless grueling hours on the road were. “In the oil business I was constantly driving; it was relentless. I couldn’t drink enough coffee to stay awake.”
One year into the business fate played its hand. After what could have been a tragic car accident resulting from falling asleep at the wheel, MacDonald decided it was time to re-assess career options. He decided the best way to do that would be taking a year off to be a ski bum in Vail.
Once in the Vail Valley, MacDonald landed a job at Lions Square Lodge and was shortly promoted to front desk manager. There were many other college graduates at Lions Square Lodge at the same time, all with the same idea of assessing future options. “We had an unbelievable crew, it was terrific. The night auditor had a Ph.D, the Bellman had an M.B.A in psychology, someone had a degree in business, and someone had a degree in Spanish. There were a lot of talented people under one roof. It was great. I stayed for about a year-and-a-half,” he explained.
During that year-and-a-half MacDonald also earned his real estate license and soon began work as a broker with Timberline Real Estate. Four years later the employees bought the company, which became Coldwell Banker Timberline, and 25 years later he remains the partner/owner. “I’ve always believed real estate was a good investment and I think it’s easy to sell something you believe in. Here in the Vail Valley you’re selling the lifestyle, the location in the mountains, the whole package. You have to believe in all of that. It would be so different selling anywhere else, even Denver, and I don’t think I’d enjoy that. I enjoy selling here, I enjoy living here. It’s less of a job and more of a fun, social interaction. In this business and in this valley, you meet extremely interesting people from across the world with vast business knowledge and extensive travel experience.”
Fifteen years ago MacDonald bought Vail Management Company to compliment his real estate business. Five years later he expanded his business to include real estate development. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Having an engineering degree I’m very analytical and that’s a needed skill in development. And being able to take an idea for a property and make it a reality is very exciting.”
His latest development project is Heritage Park, located in Edwards. The project consists of 24 single-family homes. Thus far, the roads have been built and the first six homes are under construction.
“It’s a small, private community with big views. There is very little this far upvalley that is new and well-planned. That’s what makes this so special,” he said. “All of the sales, development and property management, work together but sales is where it all starts – it’s what drives everything else I’m involved in.”
Something else that drives everything he’s involved in is his family. He met wife, Nancy during his time at Lions Square Lodge and they have two adored children, daughter Ashley, in her first year at UC Santa Barbara, and son Kevin, in his first year of high school in Cape Cod. And while the family enjoys all the sports activities offered in the valley, traveling is a very special time for them. “Life is so hectic with everyone’s numerous activities so when we leave home there aren’t as many distractions. We enjoy traveling together, it’s one of our family’s big bonding times and we try to make sure it happens at least four times a year.” Lake Powell, Maine and Mexico are among the family favorites.
MacDonald is also involved with disabled sports activities in the valley, including teaching skiing to disabled athletes, helping disabled ski racers, and working with a local organization focusing on young disabled athletes, Small Champions.
How does he see the future of the valley? “Vail Valley is a very special spot and we’re no longer just a ski resort. We’ve become a year-round resort which is the sign of the maturing of a great resort. Baby boomers are coming into wealth, both made on their own and through inheritance, and getting ready to retire. Quality of life is important to them and they want to be in nicer resorts. They’re looking for special spots. Obviously that’s us,” he said.
“Demographics show the valley will be dramatically larger by 2025, from a population of 45,000 to 80,000. There will be a desire to be in great locations, a continued desire to be here and it starts with what Mother Nature gave us. The ability to ski, hike, golf, all of the mountain activities – and with the boomers maintaining their health and the valley offering year-round activities, this will continue to be the desirable location.”
The immediate future for the MacDonald’s is a traditional Christmas with the family together in Vail. “The kids insisted it wouldn’t be right to be anywhere else for the holidays so we’re all totally looking forward to it. The kids are in great spots and Nancy and I are supporting them in what they’re doing. It’s an exciting time for us.”
The beauty and quality of life that initially attracted MacDonald to Vail Valley has kept him here for 25 years. And because the allure is still as strong as ever MacDonald continues to do what he loves – living and selling the lifestyle.