Resort real estate sales still surging

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – In Aspen, the real-estate market continued to post huge increases. In Vail and Park City, markets slowed down, even if prices continued to rise. And elsewhere in the West, two more resort-dominated valleys joined the billion-dollar club.

Aspen-dominated Pitkin County registered a 28 percent increase in sales. The average sales price of a single-family home was nearly $3.8 million, according to a report by Land Title Guarantee Co. Colorado’s Summit County gained 11 percent in total sales volume.

An anomaly of this general increase was Vail-anchored Eagle County. After an increase of 100 percent in sales volume during the previous two years, volume last year declined 2 percent. Also, even if total sales volume slipped, average sale prices continued to rise briskly. Eagle County continues to lead resort counties in the Rocky Mountains with nearly $2.8 billion in sales.

Meanwhile, two other real estate markets in the Colorado mountains surpassed $1 billion in sales last year. Garfield County, traditionally a bedroom community for the Aspen and Vail resort areas, saw a 22 percent surge in real estate volume. However, the surge was driven in large part by the boom in oil-and-gas production, and also the rising interest in oil shale development.

That boom is centered in Rifle, about 80 miles from Aspen and Vail. Million-dollar homes are selling in the Rifle area, something unheard of five years ago, said Lynn Kirchner, managing broker for the Sotheby’s International Realty Branch in Carbondale.

The Steamboat Springs-anchored Routt County market also surpassed $1 billion in sales.

In Utah’s Park City-anchored Summit County, total volume of sales went down almost 10 percent. This, however, came after a year in which the market nearly doubled in sales volume, noted Matt Green, president of the Park City Board of Realtors. However, the average price of a single-family home sale in Park City increased 30 percent last year, hitting $952,088.

Meanwhile, even as resort prices rise, a lot of the sales action has been found in the down-valley communities. In Carbondale, 30 miles from Aspen, the average single-family sales price jumped to nearly $500,000 last year, reportedThe Aspen Times. Eagle, located 30 miles from Vail, was a scene of flurried sales activity last year.


Town studies big box alternatives

CARBONDALE – Town trustees in Carbondale, located 30 miles downvalley from Aspen, continue to chew on alternatives to a big-box retailer. Among the ideas they’ve discussed is a cap of 60,000 square feet on stores.

Still, they’re being courted by big-box retailers, among them The Home Depot. Company representatives will speak to the Town Board on Feb. 27 and presumably will predict a fortune in sales tax revenues.

But Carbondale residents in a vote two years ago rejected one plan for a big-box retailer, fearing eventual homogenization of the town. Despite one of the prettiest settings of any resort valley in the West, it still has the feel and looks of the old potato-farming and coal-mining town that it once was.

To bolster their case, those citizens have recruited Michael Shuman, an economist and attorney, who coined the phrase “small-mart revolution.” In this obvious play on words, he argues that local communities need not be reactive, but can aggressively create a more long-lasting healthy economy. To do this, he encourages they create malls anchored by local businesses, not by national retailers.

In the case of Carbondale, he suggests the town buy the land in question, 25 acres, even if the price in question is well in excess of $8 million. “I’m suggesting that you just buy the land and other private entrepreneurs come in and decide how to use the land. Nobody is going to lose their shorts buying land in Carbondale,” he says.

Why are local retailers better than national franchises? Schurman, an economist, argues an economic one: Only 10 to 15 percent of the revenue stream from a typical chain store goes back onto the community, compared to 30 to 40 percent for a locally owned and operated store.

Backcountry collision raises questions

ASPEN – Fingers are being wagged in the aftermath of a mid-January collision between a snowboarder and a snowmobiler in the Richmond Ridge area, south of the Aspen ski area. In that collision, snowboarder Dorran Laybourn’s leg was shattered and he suffered broken bones to his face. The snowmobiler, Roy Reed, suffered a concussion.

The area where the accident occurred was involved in mining operations in the 19thcentury, and as such is a jigsaw of rectangular private lands amid the White River National Forest.The Aspen Times reports that both men are calling for changes. “Is it a free-for-all back there, or is someone or some agency going to step up to help?” asked snowboarder Laybourn.

The Forest Service insists it is managing the area, distributing maps that show what uses are allowed and also patrolling it. That said, District Ranger Bill Westrooke commented that “inherent risks” remain in using national forests, and heavy use of an area inevitably includes conflicts.


Thin snow results in frozen pipes

PARK CITY, Utah – It’s not exactly a drought across the West this year, but the snowpack has tended toward thin in many areas. The ramifications in Park City are freezing water pipes.

Kathy Lundbord, the city’s water manager, recently told officials of 128 calls from people in January and early February complaining that water was not flowing. That is triple all complaints from last winter, when the snowpack was much deeper and temperatures somewhat warmer.

The problem is most frequent in Park City’s older neighborhoods, where many water pipes were laid decades ago and closer to the surface. Residents were advised against too much conservation: keep faucets dripping, toilets running and homes at least 55 degrees.

Steamboat spreadsheet hits the net

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. mistakenly sent out an e-mail to an unspecified number of people that contained a spreadsheet. The contents of that spreadsheet contained addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for 399 customers, although no credit card numbers.

The ski company was hard at work doing damage control, contacting each of the 399 customers, but did not immediately know what else may be done. One Steamboat Springs resident who is an expert on identity theft, told theSteamboat Pilot & Today that the ski company might consider offering a year of credit-monitoring to the individuals whose private information was inadvertently disclosed.

Breckenridge rethinks offices

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge wants to rethink a proposed cap on real estate and other offices at ground-floor locations in the downtown business district. Some 20 percent of available space is currently used for professional offices, primarily as outlets for real estate development.

Town officials believe that the opening of a gondola at the north end of the existing district may shift development patterns. They also detect a growing demand for residential space in the town’s Main Street business district, reports theSummit Daily News.

Ski area adopts sustainability charter

DRIGGS, Idaho – Grand Targhee, the small ski area nestled in the west side of the Teton Range, recently adopted a sustainability charter. The document defines sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to thrive. It has now hired a director of sustainable operations, in addition to a previously hired resort naturalist.

Grand Targhee has been “greening” up in other ways as well, reports theJackson Hole News&Guide. Last year, it offset 100 percent of its energy consumption through the purchase of renewable energy credits. It has also increased its solid waste recycling levels by 20 percent in the last four years.

Developer imposes own restrictions

TAOS, N.M. – Owners of a 5,000-acre ranch on the outskirts of Taos are planning the typical high-end, low-density exurban development: lots 11 to 22 acres in size for those wanting to get intimate with nature.

ButThe Taos News reports that the developer envisions something other than typical ranchettes. Proposed restrictions would mandate use of alternative-energy systems, water catchments and xeriscaping. No individual horse pastures and little fencing would be permitted, although a horse-boarding stable might be allowed in a common area.

– compiled by Allen Best