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Vail and Beaver Creek

High-end Home Sales Rebound in Eagle County After Slow Start to 2013

The high end rode to the rescue of Eagle County’s slow real estate recovery in February, with four transactions of more than $5 million contributing $35 million in sales. That’s more than a third of the overall dollar volume of $95.1 million.  One Vail Village sale of $13.5 million accounted for the biggest chunk of that high-end volume in February, which saw a nice rebound in high-end sales after a slow start to 2013 in January. The biggest sale in January was for $2.9 million.  Overall, February was a slightly slower month for sales than January, which trailed January 2012 by 48 percent. There were 83 transactions in Eagle County this February, compared to 97 in January.  But, according to the monthly Land Title Market Analysis (pdf), Eagle County year-to-date in 2013 is only slightly behind the same two-month period in 2012 (180 transactions to 181).

In general, Eagle County appears to still be enjoying a modest recovery from the bursting of the housing bubble that began in late 2008. Last year saw a five-year high in terms of both dollar volume and transactions, but realtors warn that the market is still fragile.  Vail Village remains a top real estate draw, with one transaction in February accounting for $13.5 million of the month’s overall $95.1 million in sales for the month.  “There are so many factors out there that can derail us, and we learned four years ago that, yes, we can be derailed, much to our chagrin,” said Slifer Smith & Frampton’s Led Gardner. “But on the flip side there are a lot of positives out there too, and the high end kind of set the pace for the rest of the valley. “Because if folks are building big homes that means that contractors are employed and painters are employed and that benefits down-valley in Gypsum and Eagle and those types of properties.” While high-end sales were up, lower to mid-range price points still accounted for the majority of sales in February, just as they did in January. And many of those sales on the west end of the county continue to be bank sales and foreclosures, although those transactions were down significantly in February.

Gardner was somewhat philosophical about the market moving forward in 2013.

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‘You Can’t Buy That Kind of Publicity’

imagesReopening Vail Mountain for an extra weekend is pretty cool. Reopening it six weeks after closing day is really cool.

Vail Associates, the precursor to Vail Resorts, reopened Vail Mountain in early June of 1983 or ‘84. Harry Frampton had just finished his first ski season as president of the company, and recalled that the late spring weather turned snowy, just like it has the past couple of weeks.  “We had something like four or five feet of snow,” Frampton said. So, with a few people on hand, the company reopened the mountain. Frampton recalled that much of the mountain crew was off in warmer climates, particularly Lake Powell. Larry Lichliter, then the company’s chief operating officer, started making some calls, and, in those days before cell phones, actually got through to several key employees.  “Enough came back that we were able to do it,” Frampton said.

Soon enough, there were photos in the national press of skiing in June at Vail.“We got incredible press from it,” Frampton said.  Longtime resident Craig Denton wasn’t in town when the mountain reopened that year — in fact, he and his family were in Hawaii. But they heard about skiing in June in Vail, from both friends and in the national press.  “Everybody we heard from was excited — and you can’t buy that kind of publicity,” Denton said.

While Vail doesn’t reopen very often, bonus skiing returned just a couple of years later, after George Gillett had bought Vail Associates.  “We really enjoyed it — we had a lot of fun,” Gillett said, adding that the bottom line didn’t have much to do with the move at the time — and probably doesn’t now. “It’s not done with a profit motive in mind,” Gillett said. “In fact, it’s expensive as all get-out.”

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Colorado Fun!

Alpine Slide-LEADWhen it comes to winter thrills, Colorado ski resorts offer nearly everything snow lovers crave. But just because skis and boards have been mothballed for the summer doesn’t eliminate reasons for visiting slope-side resorts.

Here are 33 summer adventures to be found around Colorado’s top ski communities. Like the trails and terrain, we’ve categorized activities by difficulty—family-friendly easy greens, more-challenging intermediate blues and adrenaline-infused advanced black-diamonds. Pick a pursuit and have some fun.

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Airports Near Aspen, Colorado

jet_slopesWhile Denver International Airport is Colorado’s largest airport and is generally the easiest and cheapest to fly into, it is a four-hour mountain drive to Aspen, and even farther from the western ski resorts of Telluride and Durango. Colorado High Country has a variety of airports that are closer to its world-class ski resorts, allowing for more direct, quicker travel.

The Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (aspenairport.com) is Aspen’s regional airport, just five minutes from the resort area. Take a morning flight and be skiing by afternoon. Two airlines service the airport: United Express, operated by SkyWest, and Republic, operated by Frontier. Direct flights are available from cities including Denver, Los Angeles and Chicago.

While Aspen/Pitkin County Airport is the most convenient airport to Aspen travel, there are other airports in the surrounding ski country that are much closer to Aspen than Denver. Further, so long as you don’t mind car travel, these airports will allow you to piece together trips with other famous Colorado ski resorts. Eagle County Regional Airport (eaglecounty.us/airport) is about an hour and a half north of Aspen and is located conveniently to Vail and Beaver Creek. To the south, Gunnison airport (gunnisoncounty.org/airport.html) is not much closer than Denver, but would allow you to combine a trip to Crested Butte, one of Colorado’s most challenging ski areas, with a trip to Aspen.

Your Guide to Buying a Rural Property in the Rocky Mountains

imagesThe Rocky Mountains offer many pristine, rural properties, ranches and farm houses for sale.  Here are ten pieces of advice to keep in mind before buying:

  1. Is the water supply public or private? If it’s well water, you should have it tested to check for chemicals or other harmful components.
  2. Does the house have adequate septic? When a house is constructed in a rural area, a leach field is built to collect sewage and water waste. Make sure the leach field is the proper size to avoid costly construction bills down the road.
  3. Is the house on a private road? If so, you could be facing thousands of dollars in extra expenses each year, as you’ll be forced to split the bill with your fellow residents for plowing, maintenance and paving.
  4. Has the area ever experienced a major power outage? If so, how long was the power out?
  5. How is the air quality? Ask about radon levels and smog levels from any nearby manufacturing plants.
  6. What is the average snowfall? How does the town handle major snowstorms?
  7. Where are the boundary lines? Make sure the property divisions are clear and established.
  8. Who handles trash pickup? Is there a nearby dumping ground?
  9. Are there any deed and zoning restrictions?
  10. How difficult is it to maintain the property?

Colorado Revenue Continues to Grow, Economists Say

imagesColorado’s economy continues to outperform expectations, spurred on by tax revenue from stock sales, although unemployment remains high, state economists told lawmakers Monday.  The state’s tax receipts are expected to be $548.2 million, or 7.1 percent higher, this budget year than the prior year, according to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s economists. The latest quarterly forecast from state economists touched on familiar trends of past reports: Colorado’s economy is outperforming the national economy, but there remains caution because of the revenue growth is driven by taxes on one-time stock sales.  “We have clue after clue that what we’re dealing with is volatile revenue stream,” said Henry Sobanet, Hickenlooper’s budget director.  With the adjusted revenue numbers from December, the state’s general fund is expected to be $8.3 billion for the fiscal year that began in July. The general fund now exceeds the pre-Great Recession peak of $7.7 billion in 2007. The quarterly forecast released Monday afternoon will play a key role in the upcoming debate over the budget, especially as lawmakers debate an overhaul of the state’s system to fund schools. Lawmakers typically give final approval to the budget next month.  State legislative economists also delivered a separate forecast to lawmakers Monday with a similar outlook of cautious optimism for the state.  “I believe it is the spring of this recovery. However, know that storms can still happen in the spring,” said Natalie Mullis, the Legislature’s chief economist.

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Vail Resorts Launches New Summit-centric Pass

imagesVail Resorts announced the launch of a new season pass this winter, providing skiers and snowboarders to Summit County’s two east-side resorts, Keystone Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.  The new “Keystone A-Basin” pass, introduced at $279 for adults with escalating pricing as the year goes on, is restricted during the peak Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King and Presidents Day holiday timeframes.  “It’s an incredible value especially for families and folks on the Front Range,” Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kathleen Lessman said. The new pass follows the introduction of a new program at Keystone allowing children under the age of 12 to ski for free at the resort when families book two or more nights with resort-owned lodging. Both Keystone and A-Basin are situated along Highway 6 on the eastern side of Summit County.

The Keystone A-Basin pass is the second Summit-centered offering in the Vail Resorts arsenal, alongside the Summit Value pass, which provides restricted access to Breckenridge Ski Resort as well as A-Basin and Keystone.  The Broomfield-based company also recently announced the addition of Eldora Mountain Resort, near Boulder, to its premium Epic Pass in the coming winter season.  The pass now includes unlimited access to nine resorts in Colorado, Nevada and California.

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Colorado Ski Towns Face Off in Energy Challenge

imagesAspen, Crested Butte and Vail compete for skier days every winter. But this March, the towns and the counties they’re located in will go head-to-head for energy assessments in the Energy Smart Challenge.  In 2010, Eagle, Pitkin and Gunnison Counties all received Department of Energy grant funding to offer the Energy Smart Program. Now, in the third year of the program, it’s time for a little friendly competition.

The Energy Smart Challenge kicked off on Friday and will end on Earth Day, April 20. Every homeowner who signs up for an energy assessment during the Energy Smart Challenge will be entered into a raffle for a free pair of custom, locally-made skis. One lucky participant from the Aspen/Snowmass area, including Basalt, Redstone, Marble and unincorporated Pitkin and Eagle Counties within the Roaring Fork Valley, will win a pair of custom-made Double Barrel Meier skis from beetle-kill pine.

Besides good karma and bragging rights, the winning county will also receive recognition on the Energy Smart and Protect Our Winters websites and an Energy Smart Pizza Party for the community.

“Since the program began, we’ve facilitated 3,111 home energy assessments and 1,439 home energy improvements,” said Amelia Potvin, the Energy Smart Program Manager in Pitkin County. “The Energy Smart Challenge is a way to encourage more homeowners to take advantage of the program.”

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It’s Story Time for Vail’s Originals

imagesPeople want Vail’s stories, and that’s what they’ll get Thursday.  History is stories and the thing about a place like Vail is that those stories are told by people who lived them.  And that’s why, during Vail’s 50th anniversary, we begin to understand that there’s no place quite like it.

The Vail Symposium is hosting a Founders of Vail panel. Rod Slifer, Elaine Kelton, Merv Lapin and Terry Minger will tell most of the stories fit to tell.  For example, in May 1962, before there was a Vail, Rod Slifer moved here from Aspen to help Morrie Shepard start the ski school. Slifer was to be paid the princely sum of $500 a month for his efforts, which did not begin or end with the ski school.  There were no job descriptions. Everyone did everything.

Slifer, you’ll be interested to know, was not only Vail’s first Realtor and mayor for 16 years, he took Vail’s first pay cut. In May 1962 before he even arrived, on that original, short Vail Associates corporate roster, someone erased Slifer’s $600 monthly salary and penciled in $500.“It was still the most money I’d ever made,” Slifer said.

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Review: Beano’s Cabin, Beaver Creek

IMG_9711In the hot heat of summer guests to Beano’s Cabin arrive at the Beaver Creek stables, hop on a horse and enjoy a one hour trot to dinner. The trip offers breathtaking views of the mountains, aspen forest, wild raspberries bushes, friendly deer and the rush of a raging river. Never have I journeyed this way to a feast, Colorado cowboy style. It makes you feel as though you’ve earned the 5-course meal waiting for you upon arrival.

After walking through the entrance of Beano’s luxurious alpine lodge my jaw dropped. I was greeted by a smiling host who stood in front of a cozy lounge featuring rock adorned fireplace. The decor here is classic Rocky Mountain lore featuring bear skin hide, antique ski and snow shoes, deer bust, framed cowboy loving landscapes and elk antler chandeliers. The property is located a significant hike from the resort at the top of a mountain thus offering stunning views via the dining rooms floor to ceiling windows. Throughout the meal a local musician strummed his guitar crooning moody Gorden Lightfoot vocals which sent chills down my spine.

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