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Why Vail Corp is Betting on Utah

Posted by Scott Maizlish on Friday, July 17th, 2015 at 8:31am.

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Colorado to visit Steamboat Springs, Vail, and Beaver Creek. I had not been to these areas in many years, and as a resort property specialist, I felt it was my duty to visit Colorado. Now I experienced a few things in Colorado that I felt are superior, and will say that my blog will be Utah “biased”, but I feel my observations are legitimate, and Utah is the overall winner in my comparison.

In the past 10 years selling Park City real estate, I cannot tell you how many times buyers have told me, “We have skied Colorado and/or California for years, and thought we should give Utah a try.

Why Choose Park City Real Estate

As soon as homebuyers realize how easy it is to get to Park City vs. the other locations from virtually any major city, the amount of supreme powder skiing, and world class amenities we have, and that you can actually get a drink in Utah, the rest typically sells itself. The ability to land at Salt Lake International airport and get to the base of the slopes in less than 45 minutes is a huge plus. Flying into Reno and driving over an hour into Tahoe or flying into Denver International and having to extend your trip by an additional 3 hours in drive time just to arrive at a ski resort is an exhausting endeavor.

I’ve written about this many times before, and do not want to sound like a broken record, but after experiencing it myself, I’m gonna say it again: In real estate they say location is everything.  Well, then — Utah real estate and specifically Park City can not be beat!

Steamboat Springs Real Estate

My first stop was Steamboat Springs. Very cool town with a great vibe. The Yampa River runs right down the side of downtown. I was so jealous of this when I had dinner at one of the many restaurants on the river, and watched fly fishermen and rafters as I enjoyed my meal. I thought, could we turn Swede Alley into a river? Run more water down Poison Creek? :) Downtown was very similar to Park City with restaurants, shops, and bars, but their downtown is actually on Highway 40 which is a very busy 4 lane roadway. Park City is just plain ole’ “Main Street” which gives visitors a more relaxed feel and the ability to stroll at leisure and enjoy the ambiance. Also, the ski area is actually a few miles out of town vs. Park City having a lift serving 7,000 skiable acres directly accessed from Main Street.  

The Steamboat ski base is somewhat elaborate but a completely separate area of town. There were many different lodges and condo developments surrounding the ski base. With 165 Trails and 2,965 Acres, it is a nice sized resort.  The only issue I had with Steamboat was its access. You are 3 hours from Denver International Airport, which is much more reliable than their high altitude airport.

Vail, Beaver Creek & Bachelor Gulch

The next couple of days we spent in Vail, Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch. All three of these areas are beautiful rocky mountain ski areas that are directly on I-70. You can access them via 2-4 hour drive from Denver Airport, or fly directly into Eagle Airport. The main issue with Eagle Airport is if it is accessible in inclement weather. It is at 6,500 feet above sea level, which is the same elevation as the Park City Base. In a snowstorm, you have a high probability of being diverted to Denver International.

While in the Vail Valley, we were shown various properties by local Sotheby’s agents, and after touring a few properties, I am even more bullish on Park City Real Estate.

Beaver Creek Real Estate

First we toured Beaver Creek. The base is at 8,000 feet, and has about 1,815 skiable acres. The area opened in 1980 and is home to the Birds of Prey downhill race. It is not what I would call a local community, but more of a vacation destination. It’s ski village is very well designed, with many near mountain lodging and amenities. We even toured the Vilar Performing Arts Center, which is a 535 seat underground theater. It was truly an architectural masterpiece. We also toured some condos and single family homes throughout the village, and I did find that your dollar does not stretch like it does in Park City.

My overall take on Beaver Creek real estate is that it is a very nice area, but it is designed to be visited, not lived in. I did not get that sense of a “local” community. Think of it as a cruise ship in the mountains.

Bachelor Gulch Real Estate

Bachelor Gulch was our next stop and we toured the Ritz Carlton. Bachelor is designed for the ultra-high-end skier experience, with luxury amenities throughout. With its connection to Beaver Creek, you are able to move back and forth between the two villages. The Ritz was very well done and offered a heavy mountain design and feel. When we discussed the costs of ownership in the Ritz at Bachelor Gulch, it is about double the cost of a similar property at Montage at Deer Valley. The HOA dues, rents, purchase price, everything. Not taking anything away from the beauty and exclusive feel of Bachelor, but at those price points, I would like more choices and better access.   

Vail Real Estate

Vail Village was my final stop on the trip and you could see that it was a ski town founded in 1962 to be a ski destination closer to Denver. With about 5,000 residents, the Vail ski village is beautifully master planned with shops, restaurants, mass transportation, and other various amenities. You could truly spend a week there and find plenty to do.

This is part of the trip that truly had my eyes wide open because I knew I was looking at the future of Park City.

The base of Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons will undoubtedly evolve into what Vail Village is today. It will be more people than we are used to but also more choices of places to stay, dine, and recreate. I visited one condo with direct base views and access, and it was listed at $15 Million. We also visited homes in Cordillera which were in the mid $400’s a square foot. This area was a beautiful wooded area with tall pines and spruce trees, however it was no less than 15-20 minutes from the slopes.

Park City Home Prices

At the end of the day, I can see why Vail is so bullish on Park City, and as a real estate investor, you should be as well. The Colorado ski resorts cannot replicate Salt Lake being just 30 minutes away. In my 10 years of selling property in Park City, I can only think of one buyer that opted for a Colorado property over a Utah property. We are just too easy to get to, with 7 resorts in such close proximity. The best part is Park City Home Prices are still much less than a comparable Colorado Resort

Here are two prime examples of the pricing difference between Vail and Park City.  Both are high end luxury properties with world class amenities, however you will see that the Park City property offers just as much (if not more) for less of an investment.  Click the links below to experience the Park City difference.

Photo courtesy of Solaris Real Estate, LLC                        Photo courtesy of Park City Board of REALTORS

                        Solaris Penthouse in Vail, CO                                                       Montage Penthouse at Deer Valley, UT 


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