Home Sales Surge in Resort Towns Even as Covid Looms Over Ski Season


Rob Turner is a big skier. But it wasn’t skiing that pushed him to make an all-cash, $1.3 million offer on a three-bedroom, four-bathroom, penthouse condo with ski-run views in Park City, Utah, in August.

The impetus to buy this summer was the town’s quality of life—a welcome respite from his home in San Francisco, where the pandemic and recent wildfires have made it unpleasant to go outside. Mr. Turner isn’t the least bit worried that coronavirus-related restrictions will limit skiing in Park City this year.

“It’s a ski mountain, but it’s also a beautiful place,” says Mr. Turner, 45, a wealth management adviser. “There are other things to do there.”


On The Mountain in Park City

Robert Turner paid $1.3 million for the property with ski-run views.

Rob Turner, 45, a wealth management adviser, bought this home in Park City, Utah, in August.

Lindsay Salazar for The Wall Street Journal

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For years, ski resorts have worked on diversifying their attractions to bring in more people by adding all kinds of non-ski amenities. The test is this coming season, when some might not even be able to open their skiing operations. The early results are looking good, as home sales and prices have soared despite the uncertainty.

The main bedroom in Rob Turner’s Park City condo.



Photo:

Lindsay Salazar for The Wall Street Journal

More From Mansion’s Ski Issue

“This was the busiest summer selling season ever,” says Ben Fisher, a broker with Summit Sotheby’s International Realty in Park City. The high end there has been particularly strong, with sales of single-family homes over $2 million up 50% between March and August 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to Park City MLS. One house sold for all cash and $350,000 over its $15 million list price just a few days after it went on the market.

In Colorado, Telluride saw the dollar volume of home sales increase 54% through the month of August compared with a year earlier, with $125 million in sales in August alone—a one-month record, according to

George Harvey

, broker and owner with The Harvey Team. Aspen recorded 65 single-family home sales through August this year, up from 50 for the same period in 2019, while the dollar value of the sales were up by 49%, according to Sotheby’s International Realty. Since March 1, 46 houses over $10 million have sold and 24 are under contract.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. The high end is flying off the shelf,” says David Viehman, a broker with Engel & Völkers in Jackson Hole, where the total number of sales over $3 million is up 55% over a year earlier and there have been 21 sales over $10 million compared with five sales in that bracket in 2019, a 320% increase.


‘Tucked Away’ in Aspen

A Southampton contractor bought this three-acre property seven miles from the center of town for $2 million

Keith Seigerman, a 61-year-old contractor from Southampton, N.Y., bought this house in Aspen this summer.

Jimena Peck for The Wall Street Journal

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Share Your Thoughts

Has the pandemic made you consider buying a vacation home, be it in a resort town or somewhere else?

Skiing was initially the reason Keith Seigerman started looking for a second home in Aspen three years ago, but the pandemic played a role in why he finally closed on a four-bedroom, 3,200-square-foot home on 3 acres, 7 miles from the center of town, for $2 million this summer. He likes that Aspen is hard to get to, with limited direct flights, and that it has a remote feel. He also appreciates how strictly the town has been enforcing social-distancing rules, a feat he feels is easier there because of the small size of the community. “It’s tucked away, quiet, peaceful and safe,” says the 61-year-old contractor from Southampton, N.Y.

“Covid accelerated our decision,” says Carter Westfall, who, with his wife, Kate West, bought a three-bedroom, 2,550-square-foot house in Wilson, Wyo., near the Jackson Hole ski area, for $1.75 million in August. The couple had been thinking about relocating from Oakland, Calif., ever since Mr. Westfall started a freeride snowboard competition tour with Travis Rice, a renowned Jackson professional snowboarder. But Mr. Westfall and Ms. West, a creative producer for The North Face, probably would have waited another year to buy if they hadn’t noticed that Covid-19 pandemic was increasing demand for houses there, pushing prices higher. At the same time, they worried people wanting to leave the Bay Area because of the city’s limits during the coronavirus crisis would lower the price they could get for their house in Oakland, which they have since sold. Mr. Westfall is aware there will be changes at the Jackson Hole ski resort this year, but says they are there for the long haul.

People fleeing cities in search of homes with more of a connection to the outdoors are driving much of the demand, real-estate agents say. What started as requests for long-term rentals in April accelerated into sales starting in June, says Kristen Barber, a broker with Stein Eriksen Realty in Park City.


From Oakland to the Wyoming Wilderness

Carter Westfall and Kate West bought this $1.7 million home near the Jackson Hole ski area to live somewhere less populated.

Carter Westfall and his wife, Kate West, shown here with their children Keaton “Keats” Westfall (9 months) and Shepard “Shep” Westfall (3½ years), bought a house in Wilson, Wyo., near the Jackson Hole ski area in August.

Aaron Kraft for The Wall Street Journal

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This summer, Michelle and Roland Weedon bought a two-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot condo at the Pendry Residences, a residential community still under construction in Park City. The Weedons, who live in Huntington Beach, Calif., where he owns a mortgage company and she is a real-estate consultant, already own a 6,000-square-foot house in Park City that they built three years ago and which is valued at around $5 million. But they thought lots of people would want to get away to wide open spaces and bought the condo as an investment. They are also eager to use the condo’s on-site amenities, including the pool and bar, spa, fitness center, ski concierge and slope-side parking. “People are looking to get out,” says Mr. Weedon.

The Wilson, Wyo., home of Kate West and Carter Westfall.



Photo:

Aaron Kraft for The Wall Street Journal

After the pandemic hit, Claire Nathel second-guessed her decision to buy a 4,000-square-foot penthouse in Deer Valley, Utah, for around $3.5 million. She and her husband, Ira Nathel, had put down a deposit in January but started to falter in May. “We felt like it wasn’t the right time, with people losing jobs,” says Ms. Nathel, 48, who owns a wholesale produce company in the Bronx. She also felt uncertain about how the pandemic would affect travel and skiing. But she went ahead with the purchase because the closed-in feeling she had in New York made her grateful for a space to go. She and her husband hope to spend a couple of months a year in Utah when their home is finished.


Sizing Up Snowmass

This 3,298-square-foot Colorado home on the Roaring Fork River is surrounded by 75-foot evergreen trees.

This house, along the Roaring Fork River near Snowmass in Colorado, sold for $4.8 million this summer.

Michael Brands

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Gary Feldman, a broker with the Gary Feldman Group at Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s, says one difference he noticed this summer was that buyers didn’t care as much how close they were to the ski mountains. He sold his own three-bedroom, four-bathroom, glass-and-wood house along the Roaring Fork River near Snowmass for $4.8 million and is moving about 7 miles away to Basalt, where he says buyers are now “coming from everywhere.”

Keith Orr, who bought Mr. Feldman’s house, also saw the pandemic as an opportunity: It made it easier to sell his 2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom ski condo in the center of Aspen. Mr. Orr, 58, a car salesman from Dallas and Texarkana, said it took 10 days to sell the condo for $5.3 million—he paid $3.2 million for it seven years ago. He said there were dozens of showings scheduled for his condo after two days on the market. “I’ve never experienced such a thing,” he says.

Write to Nancy Keates at nancy.keates@wsj.com

Stuff Your Broker Didn’t Tell You About Mountain Life

Welcome to your new year-round mountain home, flatlanders! You’re excited to leave the city behind and embark on your new permanent mountain vacation. Here’s what to expect when living full-time among the peaks.

Surviving Winter

  • You visited for a couple of weeks each year to ski, so you probably don’t know this: Winter—serious, blizzard-having, school-canceling, live-animals-freezing-solid, Donner-Party winter—starts on Halloween and ends on Memorial Day. It’s fun at first. Then it’s not.
  • Chances are very high that your Escalade’s windshield will get cracked by mid-December. Most mountain communities use chunks of gravel instead of salt to grit icy roads. Don’t bother getting it repaired. It’s a badge of honor that marks you as a local. The cowboy hat will give you away, though.
  • Snowplow drivers don’t care. Your Expedition will not be able to get over the 14-foot-high snow drift they leave at the end of your driveway. Your snowblower will be useless. Pace yourself while shoveling it and try not to fall off the top. Don’t dump the snow back in the street. This just makes the plow drivers angry.
  • Snow drifts are beautiful until they block your furnace exhaust pipe. Don’t be that (potentially dead) guy.
  • Assume all water, dark patches, or suspicious shadows on the road are black ice.
  • “Mud season” is mid-March through mid-May and is the reason many people don’t make it through a full year of mountain living.

Avoiding Nature

  • All that nature you craved as a city-dweller will eat you if given the chance, especially the mountain lions. You don’t need to go looking for it: Nature will visit you in your backyard, and, if you leave a door unlocked, your kitchen.
  • At night, those reflective round circles by the side of the road are the eyes of elk, moose, buffalo or mule deer waiting to leap into your vehicle’s path. When you see an “animal crossing” sign on the road, believe it.

Breathing

  • At 7,000 feet, the air has 16% effective oxygen content, compared with 21% at sea level, which makes your new home great for developing aerobic fitness—eventually. But first, you’ll have a couple months when you’ll have to stop halfway through chewing a piece of steak to catch your breath.
  • Due to the extremely low humidity, your skin will visibly age five years for every year you live in the mountains. Even your eyeballs will dry out. Drink more water than you thought possible. Invest in effective skin care.
  • On the plus side, your hair will dry very quickly when you get out of the shower, and mildewed towels and stale crackers will be a thing of the past.
  • Lack of oxygen means the sun is incredibly strong. You’ll sunburn in the time it takes to walk from your estate to your mailbox. Wear sunscreen all the time. Even at night.

Running Errands

  • Here, there is no “popping out” to the hardware store. Everything you want to do is at least an hour’s drive away and involves traversing at least one mountain pass or major river crossing.
  • Roads are frequently and suddenly closed for landslides, blizzards, washed-out bridges, avalanches, migrating herds of elk and really bad car accidents (see black ice/animals, above), so always have a Plan B route home. Plan B may involve a kayak.
  • Keep tire chains in the car, even in summer. Pack your trunk like you might spend the night, possibly two, in your vehicle. You eventually will.

—Kris Frieswick

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