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Realtors see Intrawest’s First Tracks as resort barometer

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Real estate is not tourism but in Whistler, property sales are a reflection of the resort’s tourist appeal and that is why the recent sell-out of Intrawest’s newest Creekside project, First Tracks, should have everyone smiling.

Whistler Real Estate Company owner Pat Kelly said the high-end complex sold out in a day.

There were more than 100 prospective buyers vying for a piece of the 84-unit project. About 50 per cent of the units were priced close to the $1 million mark, ranging from $355,000 at the low end and $2.15 at the top.

In the face of talk about Whistler losing its competitive edge, Kelly sees the First Tracks sell-out as a sign of continued investor confidence in the resort.

"With the kind of news that is being bandied about right now, like skier visits being down and the value at Whistler disappearing out of the window, I think this is a tremendous statement," said Kelly.

"To me, this would certainly state that there are still people out there who view Whistler as wonderful value, otherwise we wouldn’t have sold out," he said.

First Tracks buyers matched the traditional market profile, with a good chunk of Americans, some addresses from Hong Kong and the U.K. and others from the Vancouver region. All are well-heeled and not hurting from the slump in the U.S. economy or stock market jitters.

In fact, said Kelly, "when the stock market is off, people look for alternative investments and resort and luxury real estate is one of those."

The news also bodes well for the remainder of the Creekside development.

"It shows a tremendous confidence in Creekside. Legends sold out in one day and now First Tracks and that shows there is lots more future for us," said Kelly.

Phase II of Legends – 176 quarter ownership units – recently sold out in six hours. First Tracks, however, presents a departure from recent Intrawest projects.

Most condo-hotel units in Whistler are designed for a couple or family to enjoy their vacation together. They are comfortable and practical, but they aren’t conducive to entertaining.

The mountain homes in First Tracks Lodge will be "entertainment-sized," with the largest over 2,000 square feet. Construction will be concrete.

Owners can either live in their units or place them in a rental pool. Kelly said he expects half of the buyers will use their First Tracks units full time. The rest are investors.

Where Legends is funky and eclectic, First Tracks Lodge will be classical, refined, grand – the kind of home conducive to hosting a dinner party.

Intrawest was responding to a shift detected in the market – a desire for grander mountain homes. The sell-out would appear to confirm the trend.

Construction of the First Tracks development was slated to begin this week. Completion is scheduled for the fall of 2002.

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