Under-the-Radar Ski Spots
These three locales—in Canada, the U.S. and Europe—may offer serious investment opportunity
By Lana Bortolot
While Vail Resorts’ acquisition last year of Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia and Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont, made its portfolio larger, it made ski-industry ownership a little smaller.
“There’s an arms race amongst ski resorts right now,” said John Clary Davies, editor at Powder magazine. “A lot of the big ski areas are coming under one umbrella.” Of the largest three, Vail Resorts owns 13 properties in the U.S.; Peak Resorts Inc. owns 12 and Boyne USA Inc. owns 10. Groups such as Vail Resorts, can take advantage of certain economies of scale, such as offering services like multi-resort ski passes.
Mr. Davies said while mega companies “certainly have incredible amenities,” they lack the unique culture of smaller ski communities.
For those seeking a ski on the wilder side, here are three resorts where you can experience uncommon luxuries—whether skiing in the tracks of European royals, in sight of medieval mountain villages or on pristine pistes—because you got there first.
It can’t rival Whistler Blackcomb in size or amenities, but that hasn’t stopped skiers from discovering Revelstoke Mountain Resort in the Kootenay Rockies, about a four-hour drive from the Washington state line. Natasha Worby, an agent with RE/MAX Revelstoke Realty, and former Whistler resident, said “I always think of Revelstoke as having more of a rawness to it; it’s not the Disneyland of skiing.”
Known for its prolific snowfall (40 feet fell last year) and snowcat and heli-skiing, the resort is replacing its double chair with a quad lift, and overhauling the base lodge with expanded food services and additional parking.
The town of Revelstoke features a historic downtown of shops, restaurants and a mix of architecture from Victorian and Queen Anne to Dutch Revival and Art Moderne. “People like the ‘character homes’ and are bringing them back to life,” Ms. Worby said.
“They are in high demand by local people and also people coming for second homes,” she said, noting downtown is serviced by a shuttle to the mountain, a seven-minute drive. She estimated the homes—typically three-bedroom, two-bathroom— were selling for C$325,000 (US$260,489), but in recent years have increased to C$425,000-C$500,000 (US$340,640-US$400,753), depending on home and lot size.
Closer to the mountain, development for single-family homes has trended to “mountain modern,” Ms. Worby said. “Before they were more timber frame and traditional, and now they’re more modern with different materials, mixed looks, metal siding and cedar shakes.” Such houses, she estimated begin in the C$700,000s (US$560,000s) and can go up into the millions, depending on the lot size and proximity to the mountain.
A planned master resort is taking shape at Revelstoke Mountain Resort with a variety of options: luxury suites at the Sutton Place Hotel condominium, or slope-side and heli lots. At the condominium, a two-bedroom, two-bath unit is listed for C$1.4 million (US$1.14 million). On the mountain, slope-side lots range from .73 to one acre and from C$795,000 to C$1.1 million (US$637,000-US$877,800). Three heli-lots are listed ranging from 1.25 to six acres, and priced from C$1,425,000 to C$2.9 million (US$1.14 million-US$2.3 million).
On The Market
Location: Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada
Price: C$1.2 million (US $969,823)
This four-bedroom, three-bath home built in 2016 in the Arrow Heights neighborhood is four minutes to the ski area. Features include an open concept kitchen, gas fireplaces, vaulted ceilings and a heated garage. The property has a legal one-bedroom suite with a separate entrance that currently generates rental revenue.
Better known for the sprawling Killington resort in the south or the old-school and upscale Stowe Mountain Resort in the north (home of the singing Trapp Family Lodge), Vermont’s smaller ski areas offer fewer bells and whistles, but more open space and, often, more character.
Places like Mad River Glen about 25 miles east of Montpelier, the state capital, are definitely the “alternative narrative to the conglomeration trend,” Mr. Davies said. Mad River is the country’s only skier-owned resort, lying about 40 miles south of Stowe, and just 6.5 miles from the Sugarbush ski resort.
The resort’s long-time motto, “Ski it if you can,” refers to the mountain’s reputation as having some of the best wood skiing in the east, said Doug Paulding, a New Yorker whose second home in Vermont permits him to live part time as a ski instructor at Killington. “It’s bad-ass, stripped down and ungroomed as nature threw it out.”
Erik Reisner, a managing partner at Mad River Valley Real Estate, said though Mad River’s rugged terrain is renowned, it’s also a family-oriented place where buyers come looking for legacy properties they can share with generations. He sold such a house two years ago for $2.325 million with five bedrooms and five baths, on 140 acres.
Mr. Reisner said new development is moderate, because it’s not a market focused on “keeping up with the Jones’s … it’s about getting your family out of what you live in day to day, whereas in other [trendy] places, it’s an extension of that,” he said.
Mr. Reisner is currently selling a 75-acre estate for $1.399 million, which he says would cost double in the Stowe area, where he said “luxury sells like hotcakes.”
Likewise, said long-time Warren broker Virginia Roth, of her listing in nearby Fayston—a five-bedroom, five bath post-and-beam home for $2.5 million.
“In Stowe or in the Woodstock area, this would probably be $4 million,” she said. “But our area is pretty low key and attracts people who don’t want the big splash of knowing they’re in the right place. They like their privacy.”
On The Market
Location: Fayston, Vermont, United States
Price: $2.5 million
“Summit Run” is a five-bedroom, five-bath post-and-beam home with hand-crafted details, including a ceiling-height stone fireplace, custom tilework and wide wood plank floors. The house features a chef’s kitchen, walk-in pantry and wet bar, two hot tubs and a three-car garage convertible to an apartment.
Location: Waitsfield, Vermont, United States
Price: $1.399 million
This 75-acre equestrian estate has a two-bedroom, three-bath house, and two independent income apartments (currently rented) in the outbuildings. All residences have radiant heat. The working barn has eight horse stalls, a tack room, and a washer/dryer. The main house has knotty pine panelling and wood-beamed ceilings throughout.
Though it’s the country’s largest ski resort, attracting members of the Spanish royal family, Baquiera/Beret is Spain’s best-kept secret. Partially that’s due to its location: high in the Val d’Aran valley in the Pyrenees mountains. Just two hours from the French city of Toulouse, its privileged position, facing north and influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, means it gets more snow—an average of seven meters (23 feet)—and it stays longer.
American born Keith Kerwin, now a local property consultant, said he came here from Montana with his snowboard in 1995 and “never looked back.”
“I didn’t even know there was a ski resort in Spain a month before I came here,” he said. “This is still off the beaten path—not as much as it was when I came here—but it’s still not an internationally known resort. He cited not only the quality of skiing, which includes top heli-skiing, but the “majestic, quaint and quirky” lifestyle.”
Mr. Kerwin, who is launching the local office of Engel & Völkers, a German-based luxury real estate firm this year, said residents from Barcelona and Bilbao comprise much of the second-home market here, but generate a robust amount of rental activity. Most condo-styled apartments are ski in/ski out, and Mr. Kerwin said the new construction fits into the local environment: the town of Baquiera is but one in a cluster of medieval hillside villages.
“All construction is required to be built with stone, wooden exteriors and slate roofs. It’s authentic from the Middle Ages,” he said.
The real estate market includes a variety of housing, from a new two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with a balcony in the neighboring village of Gessa listed at 340,000 euros (US $399,857) to slopeside condominiums and standalone homes.
Though its profile is on the rise, Mr. Kerwin said the resort still retains its charm. Residents speak Aranese, the native language, first.
“Only recently have we seen a lot of people being able to interact with people in English,”
Mr. Kerwin said. But, he added, “You can practice your Spanish here and no one will rebuke you.”
On The Market
Location: Salardu, Spain
Price: €1.115 million (US$1.311)
This three-story house with four-bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms in Salardu is three-and-a-half miles from the mountain. It’s of stone exterior construction, featuring large windows, skylights in some rooms, sliding glass doors to a desk, beamed ceilings and a stone/slate fireplace. The garage can house up to three cars.
Location: Baqueria/Beret, Spain
Price: €1 million (US$1.18 million)
This four-story home in the Nin de Beret complex is one minute from the Tanau chairlift and offers views of the ski runs. It has four bedrooms, three with en-suite bathrooms, with the master-bedroom suite occupying the top floor. Common areas include a great room, open kitchen, living and dining room and library. The garage accommodates two vehicles.
Location: Val d’Aran, Spain
Price: €3 million (US $3.54 million)
This seven-bedroom, six-bath renovated traditional farmhouse compoundconsists of main, guest and service residences that in total accommodate 13 people. The main house offers an open plan with double-height ceilings, fireplace, gourmet kitchen and mountain views. Twenty minutes from the ski area and 10 minutes from a heliport, the property features a gym with a sauna and professional-grade recording studio in the converted stable.