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Mountain News: Vail has product, will it find buyers?



VAIL, Colo. - Several hundred high-end housing projects in Vail will soon enter the market. These aren't your grandpa's condos. In fact, one of the projects, called Solaris, was getting $3,000 per square foot in pre-construction sales before the real estate bubble started hissing air.

Another project, called the Ritz-Carlton Residences, wants $2.2 million to $9.1 million each for its spacious, base-area units.

Touring these projects recently, the Vail Daily found much to impress. One real estate salesman said it was a matter of upgrading the real estate to match the on-mountain experience.

"Vail got to the point where people were saying the accommodations weren't keeping up with the experience on the ski hill," said Tye Stockton, of Ascent Sotheby's International Realty, the listing broker for the Ritz residences. "Now the accommodations are on par with our skiing."

Ah, but will the developers get anywhere near that kind of money? Granted, the very wealthy seem to have survived this Great Recession with some cash jingling in their pockets.

But these projects were conceived during the happy days of the last decade when it seemed that the real estate market had no boundaries. Informed speculation in Vail has it that this flood of inventory will take several years to sell and may need new configurations.

Not many new ski lifts

PARK CITY, Utah - Ski areas this year don't have many new lifts or terrain to talk about. But just the same, they continue to tinker.

The Aspen Skiing Co., for example, will keep limited terrain open until sunset on Fridays beginning on March 18. The company has four ski areas in and around Aspen.

The Sun Valley Co. will offer free same-day skiing for people who arrive on flights from Seattle, an offer expected to be extended to other fly-in customers. That's not what is commonly advised for people coming in from sea-level, because of the lack of acclimatization, but then Sun Valley has a base area of only 5,000 feet - not even as high as Denver.

An exception to the small-margins changes is in Utah, where the Park City resort now called Canyons has a new lift, a new reservoir under construction that will allow snowmaking to be doubled, and finally 300 new acres.

That increment allows Canyons to brag that it's the third biggest ski area in the United States, as measured by terrain, behind only Colorado's Vail Mountain and, on the California-Nevada border, Heavenly.

Ski companies seem to believe that business will continue to improve this winter. After skier visits dropped 13 per cent two winters ago, they rose 4 per cent this last year at Aspen and Snowmass. The company projects an increase this winter of between two and six per cent, reports The Aspen Times.