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Slopeside living comes with a killer commute.
Slopeside living comes with a killer commute.
Photo by Dan Davis
Life on the run
Ski-in/ski-out properties enjoy Vail Valley renaissance
By David O. Williams

November 17, 2007 — Barrett Klemm, a 44-year-old dentist from North Platte, Neb., has owned property up and down the length of the Vail Valley.

“I’ve kind of tasted it all, from right in Vail Village to just east of the village to Beaver Creek, even Avon and every one has been monetarily rewarding along the way,” says Klemm. “But now I’ve found the good place.”

Klemm and his wife, Brenda, 40, for six years now have owned a ski-in/ski-out home in Bachelor Gulch, an area that’s strategically situated, with its own lifts and uncrowded runs, between the once separate ski mountains of Beaver Creek and Arrowhead. All three areas are now interconnected with ski trails and lifts, each boasting unique base villages and majestic mountain homes.

The Klemms always thought they wanted to be in the heart of the action, in town at the base of Vail, or at least in the swank confines of Beaver Creek Village near all its shops and restaurants. Barrett says he was certain he would not be interested in what his realtor, Led Gardner of Led Gardner and Associates, wanted to show him – a slope-side home surrounded by trees, ski runs and lots of solitude. Absolutely convinced to the point of obstinacy. Right up until the moment he stepped onto the front deck of his new home.

“The convenience is something that’s immeasurable,” Barrett says. “When we drive or fly in and pull our car into the garage, it doesn’t move the rest of the weekend. Then you put you boots on and right out our back door you just slide away on your skis.”

For Barrett, a lifelong avid skier whose family began visiting the valley on ski vacations when he was a kid, his choice of a home here has always been about the skiing. He estimates he’s upped his ski days from 10 to 15 a season to 20 to 30 a season since buying the Bachelor Gulch home. Brenda, a comparative newcomer to the sport who grew up in the skiing-challenged Cleveland, Ohio, area, is now up to 40 or 50 days a season on skis.

“It’s the perfect getaway,” Brenda says of their frequent weekend escapes to their mountain retreat. “I really don’t know what we would do without skiing. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to spend some time away from civilization.”

And even Barrett now admits the seclusion has grown on him. “I like the solitude now,” he says. “I’d much rather look out my window at trees and skiers than cars and buildings and 20 more condos. It’s not that we don’t like people, but I probably saw 50 patients today, so when we get away we really want to escape it all.”

The ‘beachfront’ boom

Despite being located a mile and a half above and more than 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean, Vail Valley slope-side, ski-in/ski-out properties – the mountain equivalent of beachfront – are being snapped up at a record pace. Much of the frenzy can be attributed to availability. An aging inventory in Vail Village and Lionshead is being torn down and replaced with a vengeance, shifting the focus back up valley from Beaver Creek and its surrounding environs, which have dominated the ski-in/ski-out scene for the past decade.

“In the past 15 years virtually all of the new residential accommodations have been built in Beaver Creek. Bachelor Gulch, Arrowhead and Cordillera,” says Larry Peterson, Slifer Smith & Frampton’s managing broker for Vail Resorts’ $500 million New Dawn revitalization of Vail, part of a broader $1 billion renewal of the aging ski village being undertaken by a host of private developers and the town of Vail.

“We may have thought that people had changed their preference from Vail to Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch, and what we found with Arrabelle is when we did have a brand-new, quality, ski-to/ski-from property we had an overwhelming demand,” Peterson adds.

The 67 units available in the yet-to-be-completed Arrabelle at Vail Square, a luxury RockResorts condominium hotel, were purchased with dizzying speed in January of 2005, as were the 16 residences at nearby Gore Creek Place. The two Lionshead area projects generated nearly $300 million in pre-sales revenues for Vail Resorts, and there is an equal sense of anticipation for the proposed Ritz-Carlton Residences, Vail - 108 luxury condominiums being built by Vail Resorts but managed by the famed hotel company. That project will include yet another high-speed quad chairlift, bringing Vail its 16th such lift and the undisputed title of “King of the Quads.”

But Vail Resorts is far from the only developer riding the wave of interest by baby boomers in being right at the base of the mountain. To the east of Lionshead in the more classically Tyrolean Vail Village core, the Vail Plaza Club is adding 38 new fractional units and 100 hotel rooms to the mix, and just across Meadow Drive, One Willow Bridge Road unveiled its 22 new fractional and wholly owned units last ski season. A host of other projects are also in various stages of construction or conception, including a Four Seasons hotel and fractional-ownership club.

“I think it’s very exciting and says a lot about the community to have all this renovation going on. For a community this size that’s only 40 years old to be tearing down and putting in the high-quality accommodations that we’re seeing is a great statement,” says Peterson, who’s been in Vail since 1976. “We’ve always been driven to be No. 1 in the ski world, and this only endorses that goal.”

While buyers in Bachelor Gulch and Beaver Creek may be motivated more by solitude, the Vail wave seems to be driven more by the three A’s of access, amenities and atmosphere. To the west of the Lionshead Mall, which surrounds the base of Vail’s gondola, the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa has its own chairlift access to the mountain and will soon have new neighbors.

Mitch Perry, a broker with Slifer Smith & Frampton, says buyers of the 13 new Westhaven at Cascade Village residences being built adjacent to the hotel and spa appear to be motivated mainly by location and a stellar amenity package that includes use of the Cascade’s ski concierge, shuttle service, room service and full memberships to the Aria Club & Spa. They are active buyers who want to ski hard and then have a full menu of amenities at their fingertips when they’re done, and that’s a trend he says is growing throughout the valley as longtime homeowners are moving on to golf communities or warmer climes and giving way to baby boomers with a passion for skiing.

“There’s no question that there has been a graying, if you will, of original owners in Vail Village, Lionshead and the Cascade area, and a lot of those folks have moved to areas where being at the base of the lift isn’t as important,” Perry says of Westhaven. “Our buyers are the folks who are still actively skiing and have family who are actively skiing and may or may not want to rent their property when they’re not using it. They want the whole enchilada, the amenity package and the access to the Cascade Village Lift right out their front door.”

‘Close to the slopes’

One realtor estimates 86 percent of the homes in Bachelor Gulch are ski-in/ski-out and attributes its rapid sellout to that simple fact. Darrold Cannan, a retired broadcast executive from Wichita Falls, Texas, and an owner in Bachelor Gulch since 1999, would not argue with that assertion.

“What we love about Bachelor Gulch is the privacy of the area, and we knew it would be upscale and the density was going to be low. We just loved the ski area that was going to be going in. Even though it’s tied in with Arrowhead and Beaver Creek, it’s really separate,” says Cannan, a Vail skier since its second season in 1964 and homeowner there beginning in 1971. “If it wasn’t for Bachelor Gulch, we would still be where we were in Vail, right where we were on the east side of Vail Village.”

Cannan says his family loved owning along the golf course in Vail, even though their home was just outside walking distance – especially in ski boots - to Golden Peak, the ski portal on the far eastern edge of Vail. That necessitated a short shuttle ride to the slopes. Bachelor Gulch living merely requires stepping into one’s bindings.

“The ski-in and ski-out capabilities that we have at our home is what keeps us skiing, because we can walk out our ski entry, walk down eight stair steps and we’re on the ski trail, and at the end of the day we ski right up to our door and we’re home,” he says. “At our age, that keeps us skiing.”

Cannan hopes a new pair of high-speed quad chairlifts – the Upper and Lower Beaver Creek Express lifts installed last season – don’t concentrate appreciably more skier traffic in Bachelor Gulch, but it’s certain that the new portal onto Beaver Creek Mountain will have a profound impact on the town of Avon.

East West Partners, a Beaver Creek-based development company, has built luxury condominiums at the base of the Lower Beaver Creek Express lift as part of mixed residential/retail project called Beaver Creek Landing. The company has installed a gondola to connect that project to the 200-room Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa across the Eagle River in Avon.

Long the valley’s center of commerce, a “beachfront” boom is on. One condo complex changed its name to LiftView to capitalize on the pending ski connection.

“The ski mountains are what continues to drive our market here,” says Realtor Led Gardner. “If you had your choice and you’re a skier, you’re always going to want to be as close to the slopes as you can be.”



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