Vail homeowners hear good economic news at annual meeting
VAIL — A Tuesday update for people who own homes here carried mostly good news, from the overall economy to the strength of the real estate market.
The annual meeting of the Vail Homeowners Association — almost always held around the Christmas holiday season — usually brings the town’s business and political leaders together to talk about the state of the town and the mountain. This year was no exception, with presentations by longtime Vail businessman Harry Frampton, Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot, Vail Mountain Senior Director of Operations Elizabeth Howe and Vail Mayor Dave Chapin.
Frampton, one of the principals of East West Partners and Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate, as well as board chairman of the Vail Valley Foundation, said Vail is in pretty remarkable shape right now.
“We should recognize that we’re having pretty good times here,” Frampton said, giving an A-plus grade to the resort’s economy and an A-minus to the local real estate business.
A humming economy
Frampton said one of the primary reasons for that humming economy is cooperation between the private sector and the local government. Earlier this year, East West Partners entered into a deal to purchase and develop the base area at Snowmass. The company announced it was pulling out of the deal last week.
“In Vail there’s a sense of partnership,” Frampton said, adding that the town, in the early 2000s, spent millions upgrading the streets and other public areas of Vail Village. Frampton said Snowmass town leaders were insistent that whatever company redevelops the base area will have to pay for street and other public improvements.
“That’s why (Snowmass has) had no new product for 20 years,” Frampton said.
Cooperation between business and government has helped keep Vail’s real estate values high, even compared to the rest of the valley.
“If (a home) in Beaver Creek is $1, it’s $1.60 or more in Vail,” Frampton said, quickly adding there are plenty of exceptions to that general rule.
The state of the mountain resort that drives the real estate market is strong, too.
Jarnot talked about Vail Resorts’ investment in its flagship ski area — a planned replacement in 2016 of Chair 17 — the Sun Up lift — means the parent company will have replaced nine chairlifts in a decade, with more to come. Jarnot said Chair 11 and Chair 7 are on the replacement list for the foreseeable future.
Howe talked about Vail’s new commitment to more grooming, noting that crews are already grooming about 30 percent more terrain this season than last. Jarnot and Howe also talked about the prospects for the company’s summer recreation programs, and efforts to improve skier safety — although, responding to an audience question, Howe said it’s unlikely that Vail will ever designate runs for skiers or snowboarders only.
TOP-Heavy real estate market in vail
It all adds up to a rosy picture — with a few thorns.
Frampton said while the local real estate market is healthy in terms of sales and units on the market, there are too many very large homes at the upper end of the market. While the age of second-home buyers has been constant for decades — people age 50 remain at the heart of the buyer group — those people today may not want the very large slopeside homes that are in abundance.
Changing demographics in the ski industry also present a challenge for the companies running that business.
“The baby boom generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) is what our industry has focused on for 40 years,” Jarnot said. “We’re now targeting (boomers’) children and the generation in between.”
And the competition is heated for those families’ vacation time and money.
“We have direct ski competitors, but we also compete against the beach and other diversions,” Jarnot said. But, he added, that’s a big part of the thinking behind the Epic Discovery summer projects. Parents want a better experience than just sand or an amusement park ride.
But even with the changes in the resort industry, Tuesday’s speakers all said Vail is uniquely positioned to continue to thrive — if businesses, the local government. and homeowners remain committed to constant improvements.
“If we have an opportunity, we’re going to come out on top,” Chapin said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.