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3 Colorado Ski Towns Make List of Best Small Towns in America

What the six ski towns on the list have in common and how it will impact real estate


Image credit: Nick Fox/ Shutterstock.com

In U.S. News & World Report’s annual listing of the 25 best small towns in America, Colorado’s ski towns dominated, representing three of the top 15 towns.  Although it is no surprise that Colorado has become a coveted destination, I was surprised to find that the six ski towns on the list all had one thing in common — aside from great snow — and that this commonality could impact real estate.  

Which cities made the list?

Three Colorado resorts land in the top 15 with Telluride taking top honors as the best small town to visit in America, Steamboat as the eighth and Breckenridge coming in at fifteenth.  Here’s how the six ski towns on the list ranked:

  • (No. 1) Telluride, CO
  • (No. 2) Jackson Hole, WY
  • (No. 3) Lake Tahoe, CA/NV
  • (No. 8) Steamboat Springs, CO
  • (No. 11) Stowe, VT
  • (No. 15) Breckenridge, CO

What do all six resorts have in common?

As I went through the list one thing immediately jumped out — all six of the resorts are either owned by Vail or Alterra or have partnered with them.  This is just another indicator (among many) that ski industry is rapidly becoming a two-horse race, where resorts must either be acquired or partner with Vail or Alterra to survive.

  • Telluride – partnered with Vail
  • Jackson Hole – partnered Alterra
  • Lake Tahoe – owned by Vail
  • Steamboat Springs – owned by Alterra
  • Stowe – owned by Vail
  • Breckenridge - owned by Vail

What about real estate?

Having six of the destinations on the list being either owned or affiliated with Vail or Alterra further perpetuates the companies’ competition. As the same cities continue to get recognized within the national media, travelers will continue to flock to each of these locations furthering the demand in each of the respective ski towns.

More visitors and “positive” media recognition will continue to spur real estate demand in each of the top destinations.  At the same time, supply is severely constrained in each of the Colorado mountain towns due to lack of land and high building costs.  This will lead to continued appreciation in the top destinations.

The continued success of peak destination ski resorts (such as Telluride, Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge), will force resorts into either being acquired by or partnering with Vail or Alterra to stay relevant in today’s ski environment.  The resorts that don’t get on one of the two major horses will have a tough time staying afloat.

Further Implications

This list further highlights the strength of the two major players in the resort industry.  When looking to invest in mountain real estate (whether in Colorado or elsewhere) you should focus on resorts that have already partnered with or are owned by Vail or Alterra.  This will limit your downside risk as both companies are very well capitalized and will continue to invest and maintain the resorts even in a downturn.

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Glen Weinberg

Glen Weinberg is and owner and the chief operating officer of Fairview Commercial Lending, a privately funded hard money lender based in Evergreen.  Fairview has been lending since 1975 He is recognized throughout the industry as a leader in hard money/non-traditional real estate financing on both residential and commercial transactions throughout Colorado. More information on Colorado hard money loans can be found at www.fairviewlending.com  Reach him at 303.459.6061 or glen@fairviewlending.com

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