Steamboat’s ski resort has enjoyed a rising level of commercial success ever since 2007 when Intrawest first arrived and made the $265 million purchase of the ski area. This was nearly triple what the asking price was 6 years previously, and was a strong hint at what plans were in store for the resort. The market noticed, and the real estate market erupted for both buyers and developers with sales hitting a record level of $1.5 billion.
When looking back on whether or not Intrawest was actually the cause for this boom, David Baldinger, owner of Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty, had this to say. “We can’t figure out if it was just the tail end of the real estate boom or if it was Intrawest. We think it was Intrawest, because the financial crisis was underway but Steamboat had strong volume for another year. We think it was enthusiasm for a new owner.”
The trend of a resort getting a new owner stimulating the real estate market is one the high country is very familiar with. The same thing occurred in 2002, also involving Intrawest, and Winter Park. Then again in 2003 with the purchase of Crested Butte.
This year Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners have partnered to purchase six of Intrawest’s resorts including Winter Park and Steamboat. It is expected that this purchase won’t make the same waves as earlier ones, however, largely due to the recession. “We had locals buying condos in luxury developments purely as an investment, but it didn’t make sense given their capability if anything changed. Then everything changed,” said Jon Wade, the owner of the Steamboat Group real estate firm.
Intrawest’s great success came to a screeching halt with the recession in 2008 and 2009. They were forced to sell off some of their 11 resorts just to cover the debts they accrued. Aspen Skiing and KSL intends to learn from this and use third parties for developing real estate on their 1,100 acres of slope-side land.
“We would love to see those areas developed in a responsible manner,” KSL Capital Partners chief Eric Resnick said. “But developing that real estate is not our main driver.” Winter park has already been enjoying a growth period, with $30.1 million in sales in February alone, and the ski resort going to new owners is expected to bolster that growth according to local real estate owners.
“These guys, Aspen and KSL, they live in a world of responding to what resort and travel customers are looking for. I think they will add new fresh thoughts to the mountain and the village,” said Walter Koezbel, owner of a 1,100 acres of residential project. “Activity begets activity, and they will take experience they have learned from their multitude of properties and they will bring new ideas to Winter Park and Grand County. It will shine a light on what we have up here.”
Baldinger summed up the mood with his statement that “I like the idea that the people in the ski business will be focusing on the ski business and the talent in the development community can focus on the development pieces.”