October 7, 2011 10:04 pm

Conditions on the slopes

The fall in prices has created a buyers’ market in some of the most popular mountain resorts

For owners of Rocky Mountain ski homes, the financial crisis was an avalanche. Prices in some Colorado resorts have fallen by up to 50 per cent from their 2007 highs. Even Aspen has not been spared, suffering an estimated 30 per cent fall. Now estate agents say there are signs that the market is bottoming out and buyers in the most desirable locations are enjoying what may prove the best conditions in years.

Deer Valley, Utah

“Utah has been viewed as a provincial place with Mormons who don’t drink and where everyone is in bed by 8 o’clock,” says Craig Reece of Deer Valley Specialists, a unit of Prudential Utah Real Estate. That perception meant that Deer Valley and neighbouring Park City attracted lower-key clientele than did glitzier Colorado resorts. Nonetheless, for the past four years readers of Ski Magazine have voted Deer Valley the best resort in North America.

In spite of this popularity, the local market has fallen about 30 per cent, with premium ski-in/ski-out homes faring slightly better. “Deer Valley was developed on private land rather than in national forest, so we have the luxury of having many properties on the major ski trails,” says Reece.

The Deer Crest and Bald Eagle sections are highly sought after, with ski-in/ski-out houses costing $6m-$20m. A six-bedroom Deer Crest home near the top of the ski mountain is selling for $6.6m. Buyers with deeper pockets might consider a 12-bedroom house on a 60-acre estate, owned by industrialist Jon Huntsman. Once listed for $55m, the current asking price is $49.5m.

Skiers in the Aspen ski resort

Aspen ski resort has seen an average 30 per cent drop in property prices

Aspen, Colorado

Although there is a dearth of ski-in/ski-out houses in Aspen proper, the town’s reputation as a second- or third-home destination for Hollywood glitterati has long fuelled the property market. Resorts such as Telluride, Steamboat and Vail have not weathered the recession as well. One Aspen property recently changed hands for $4.5m; two years ago it sold for $6.2m.

“We have pockets of B locations where people tried to push the envelope and those areas have been affected by as much as much as 50 per cent,” says Craig Morris, partner at Morris & Fyrwald, a Sotheby’s International Realty affiliate. “The average for us looks to be about 30 per cent.”

Aspen’s planning laws have helped limit supply, says Morris: “Restricted development means there’s nowhere else to go.” Aspen has also attracted an influx of families wishing to make it their year-round home.

Morris & Fyrwald is selling a five-bedroom, 5,233-sq ft home within walking distance of the town centre. Originally priced at $6.95m, it’s now about $1m less. Buyers seeking ski-in/ski-out houses will find better opportunities in Aspen Highlands, two miles from town. A house with a one-acre plot just off the ski run is listed at $15.9m.

A map of the area around the Rockies

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

With vistas of the Tetons, Jackson Hole may be the most photogenic valley in the Rockies. And with over 4,000ft of vertical drop, back-country skiing and a recent average of 475 inches of in-season snow, the logistical travails of getting here (private jet users excluded) quickly pale.

“The mountain here is above all the ski homes, so a lot of homes you can ski into but not out of,” says Rob DesLauriers, associate broker at Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty. The few from which you can do both have seen their prices slide less than 20 percent, he adds. A slopeside, five-bedroom home on North Granite Ridge Road is selling for $12.75m. In the South Village older homes can be found for under $2m. The real bargains, however, are hotel-affiliated condominiums. Two-bedroom, 1,700-sq ft condos at the Four Seasons sell for about $1.8m, down from market highs of about $3m.

DesLauriers has candid advice for buyers: “Shop carefully and don’t be afraid to make an offer. A lot of times it’s what’s going on in the seller’s life that matters, not the market.”

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Buying guide

What you can buy for ...

$100,000

● In Deer Valley, the least expensive property available is an 800-sq ft, one-bedroom condominium for $270,000

● In Aspen, $100,000 will buy a fractional interest in a vacation hotel, or for an additional $50,000 – a parking space

● In Jackson Hole’s Teton Village, $100,000 could almost buy a studio in an old condominium block

$1m

● In Lower Deer Valley, five minutes from the slopes and Park City, Deer Valley Specialist is selling a four-bedroom, five-bathroom house for $859,000

● In Jackson Hole, $1m will secure a ski-in/ski-out three-bedroom condominium in a four-star hotel with a short walk to the new aerial tram

● A two-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium in central Aspen today commands about $1m

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Details

Morris & Fyrwald Sotheby’s International Realty, www.aspenskihomes.com, tel: +1 970 925 6060

Deer Valley Specialist, www.DeerValleySpecialist.com, tel: +1 435 901 3064

Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty, www.jhsir.com, tel: +1 307 413 3955

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