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Which Mountain Town to Buy a Vacation Condo In?

Which Mountain Town to Buy a Vacation Condo In?

Old Mar 9th, 2006, 03:55 PM
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Which Mountain Town to Buy a Vacation Condo In?

Help us decide... for a while we've been exploring mountain towns to buy a vacation condo in. What we are looking for in the town is 3-fold: We want great skiing, we want a town where there is some character besides the ski village, and we want a place that has enough eating and shopping options so the bad snow days won't be completely wasted.

Here is our prelim list:
Aspen, CO
Jackson, WY
Steamboat Springs, CO
Big Sky, MT
Telluride, CO

We are very interested in hearing from people who either have made some commitment to one of the above towns (vacation place - how do you like it) or have been to more than one of the places and can provide some reason that one is better than the other.

If we have left one off that you love, let us know. For proximity reasons, we are staying away from the Tahoe and Pacific NW areas.

Thanks a bunch. With the group of worldly travelers on this thread, I'm sure we'll get some great input.
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 04:28 PM
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I bought my second home in Summit County, Co. Love it. I've been here since November. If you're thinking of Aspen you better have a lot of money!

Just passed through Big Sky (no shopping) and Jackson. Consider West Yellowstone. Beautiful areas but maybe hard to get to? Steamboat Springs is more affordable than Aspen, but a completely different feel.
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 04:32 PM
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Thanks, Catbert. By saying that Steamboat and Aspen have a different feel, are you saying that Steamboat is still a cow town while Aspen is glitzy? (oversimplified to make a point, of course).

Since you bought in Summit County, I'll ask you the question I've been curious about... do you get hoardes of Denver traffic there on weekends?

Also, is Snowmass less expensive than Aspen, or are they so close that they both have inflated prices?

Thanks!
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 05:14 PM
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Do you want a place you can get to on a direct flight for short weekend trips? The towns you've mentioned differ in their proximity to major airports.

Everyone has a price that they can afford and feel comfortable with and you need to start looking at real estate websites before you set your sghts on something unrealistic.

Also, do you want a place you can consistently rent out when you aren't using the place? Proximity to a resort equals more rental potential.

We bought a hike/bike condo near Phoenix/Scottsdale (Fountain Hills) because we can get inexpensive, nonstop, quick flights from our hometown making it an enjoyable place to go for even as short as 2-3 days.

We had no plans to lease it but were contacted by an agent and have leased it continuously for 1-2 month rentals by retirees (less wear & tear on long rentals) for the winter and spring. Its even booked already for next spring.

We're currently shopping for a ski condo in Summit County for the same reasons- direct flights to Denver are cheap, quick and easy from our hometown and we can be at the condo within two hours of arriving in Denver. Summit County is relatively affordable compared to Vail, Beavercreek, or Aspen.

Our number one destination has always been Aspen and even after buying in Summit County we plan to enjoy Christmas in Aspen. However, getting to Aspen requires a second flight for us(and not a real fun one if you've ever done it) or a 4 1/2 hour drive from DIA (IF the weather is good and the highway isn't closed somewhere between Denver and Vail Pass).

Even a couple of years ago the average home price in Aspen was WELL over $2M. A condo doesn't go for much less than $1M anymore.

Yes, Snowmass is cheaper. I've seen things as low as upper $400s but not much. We can pretty easily buy the same 1-2 bedroom condo in Frisco for under $300K. We don't expect to rent it out as Frisco is 6 miles from the closest resort (Copper). We could find a condo cheaper right at Copper but we want a bona fide town with locals and more restaurant choices.

Many people who would like to have a place in Aspen have purchased in Basalt a few miles down the road and it has become a pretty little place with art galleries, jewelry stores, and restaurants downtown.

My brother is looking in the Winterpark area which is also much cheaper than Aspen but really only has downhill skiing at Winterpark and smaller Sol Vista nearby.

Intrawest that has developed the base of Copper, Whistler/Blackcomb, and Keystone is dumping mega millions into building a new base at Winterpark. but the town ain't Aspen....

I'm in the market for a Summit Co. condo and we've decided on Frisco for several reasons. A)many ski options- Copper, Keystone, Breckenridge, Arapahoe fairly close and even Vail and Beavercreek are do-able. Smaller town where people actually live year round. Great restaurants that are walking distance from condos. Breck is larger and we don't want to deal with the traffic on vacation.
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 05:41 PM
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Excellent points, amwosu. We screened all of the locations I mentioned because they had easy, direct flights for us. However, if a typical condo in Aspen runs $1M, we'll let someone else buy it and take it off our list. We are about fun and good skiing, not status.

Question for you, if you check this thread again. We've heard that the rule of thumb is that the rentals might cover your taxes and association fees, and a touch more if you are lucky. Has that been your experience?
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 05:45 PM
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I think Frisco is a great choice. I agree, Breck is the most congested. I live in Keystone, at the far end of the resort and avoid the Villages on weekends. I never feel it's too crowded but it's not for everyone. Understand that IN any resort will be pricier than outside the actual resort. Come on up. You'll love it!

We just returned from a (2300 mi.) drive to parts of Montana. It's gorgeous in the West Yellowstone area but definitely very far removed from everything. I was looking at real estate ads around Jackson, Teton Village and Jackson Hole and they are pretty pricey.
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 05:46 PM
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By the way, amwosu, did you try Samples?
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 06:06 PM
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Since you guys seem pretty in-the-know on this stuff, are timeshares a ripoff?

Seems to me that the pro's are an obvious lower cost of entry / getting a nicer place than you could outright.

The con's would be that you cannot control the weeks you would use it, and perhaps they are a little more difficult to sell if needed.

Am I missing anything? We're heavily leaning toward condo but wouldn't rule out a nice timeshare.
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 06:08 PM
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Catbert- check out my trip report on Summit County. Samplings was awesome. I have quite a report on eating my way thru Summit County!

Hazelmn, Aspen CAN be about status but it is very much a down to earth place which is why it appeals to so many who can afford to buy or vacation anywhere they chose. It has very high and very affordable restaurants and there are still locals. With that said, real estate prices have been high for over a decade. My brother has a rich friend whose family sold a property for $19M at least 15 years ago and I saw it relisted not many years later for $31M. Of course it DID inclue pilots' quarters, maids' quarters, and a couple of vehichles,

I really don't know yet about how much we'll bring in with our rental in AZ. We truly bought it for ourselves and hadn't planned to lease it at all until we were contacted by another owner in the building. Apparently he had rented the place out for the fall for the former owner who failed to inform him that he was selling it.

So far we are getting more than double what our mortgage is on the place per month but of course it will only be leased 6 months or less per year. No one is begging for it in June, July or August when it will be 106 degrees by 9am. I've heard over and over again not to even include possible rental income into what you can afford and count everything you get as a blessing and $$$ for upkeep and maintenance.

Ski condos are very much like beach condos in that they get hard use by a party crowd. Few ski condos can command two week minimum or longer leases so you can't really prevent the wear and tear that happens.

If you look at http://www.carbonate-property-management.com under current listings you'll get an idea of what condos at Copper go for. I think the older ones (pre Intrawest development)are very reasonably priced.
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 06:08 PM
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I'm another Summit Co. condo owner (but in Breck), so in terms of the opinions about that location, mine are pretty much the same. For us, Breck was the obvious choice. It's a real old mining town (as is Frisco), and especially off Main St., there are plenty of the Victorian buildings left. And because we've had young kids (they're older now), it was nice to be able to pick up the ski shuttle right outside the door to our condo.

In terms of the locations you listed, do some preliminary pricing on condo costs; it sounds like that may have caused you to cross Aspen off your list.

Steamboat Springs is one of our favorite places to ski, and every time we stay there, we daydream about someday retiring there. However, the relative remoteness of Steamboat from other activities, whether skiing, shopping or dining, makes that part of Steamboat a negative. Also, there aren't a huge number of restaurants/stores in and around Steamboat, either (though plenty enough for our visits). But the town itself still has part of its cow town feel - partly a marketing effort. But there are still real ranches in the area, and plenty of ranch folks. It's a very welcoming town.

And of course proximity to anything else (like airports and big cities) will effect rental prices and the ability to rent out your unit. That would apply to other of the locations on your list.
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 06:34 PM
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You need to research timeshares vs. owning real estate. Huge differences in tax advantages, financing, reselling for a profit.

No matter what a timeshare agent tells you, they do not really appreciate in value. My dad has friends who couldn't resell or even give theirs away on the beach in Florida- he offered it to my dad just to take over the yearly maintenance fees. He finally just quit paying their yearly fees because they quit using the timeshares years before and it went back to the timeshare group.

On the other hand the former owner of our AZ condo made $80G in 11 months when he sold to us and although the market has peaked and flattened less desirable units in our complex are now selling for $15-20G more than we paid last summer).

Timeshares are not a financial investment so much as a prepaid vacation. There are two kinds of timeshares- those that are on a point system and those that are offered by certain weeks of the year.

My parents have one that is by the week that they bought two decades ago and the current listing of available units is similarly priced to what they paid all those years ago- no gain. Their maintenance fee is $2G/year on a three week ownership. My brother has one that is on a point system and he has traveled off season to Mexico and used his home complex at Breckenridge.

It is very difficult to trade a timeshare to get a place in Florida for Spring Break, Christmas (or most winter weeks) in ski towns, or Hawaii ever (unless you can go in October when kids don't get out of school).
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 06:40 PM
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BTW- Timeshares in Aspen have gone waaaay upscale. They are called fractional ownerships and there is a minimum number of weeks you can own that is higher than typical in the industry.

I haven't checked in several years but I think the Ritz Carlton Club at Aspen Highlands offers quarter shares for well over $350G and then the maintenance fees are steep. Snowmass Club which isn't even at the base of the mountain also sports a hefty pricetag.

In Aspen, the Sardy House, a great old house on Main was turned into ridiculously expensive timeshares as well and I know the St. Regis is going to offer high end fractional ownership now too.
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Old Mar 10th, 2006, 07:37 AM
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ttt
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Old Mar 10th, 2006, 09:29 AM
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Big Sky is basically a ski village with few shopping and eating options. You could look in West Yellowstone or Bozeman, but then you'd have to drive quite a ways to ski. Or you could buy in Bozeman and ski at Bridger Bowl.
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Old Mar 11th, 2006, 10:50 AM
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Thanks... I think we are slowly crossing Big Sky off the list. We've heard it is a hike from the nearest airport as well (Bozeman).

Any other ideas?
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Old Mar 11th, 2006, 10:56 AM
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Hazel, Have you spent time in all these places? I really think it's essential to get a feel for them. A great example is Aspen vs. Steamboat (or even Breckenridge vs Keystone). They each have such a different ambiance and it's important to find the one that "speaks" to you.

Good luck.
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Old Mar 11th, 2006, 11:09 AM
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Between my wife and I, we have spent time in all of these places. In some cases, we've made several trips. I'd say on average we've been to each of these places 4-5 times. That is how we got down to the short list.

However, many of my visits have been in the eyes of a very temporary tourist - didn't have to drive myself, didn't have to buy groceries, didn't have to "live" in the area (hence, my forgetfulness on how far Big Sky was from the Bozeman airport). As a result, I'm very interested in hearing from those who actually own in one of these places and might see some of the mundane negative points as well as the glowing stuff. For example, I have my 3 favorite restaurants in Steamboat... but what is it like when you might spend 2 months there... do you run out of things to do?

I agree with you that many of these posts are from people thinking of commiting to a place sight-unseen, which is crazy IMHO.
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Old Mar 11th, 2006, 01:00 PM
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Sun Valley, ID. I know it wasnt on the list but just my 2 cents worth. Has everything you want far as I can tell. Quick flight from Boise to Sun Valley too. Okay, sorry if Ive taken this subject in the wrong direction.
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Old May 14th, 2006, 05:39 AM
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Hi all

I'm curious - I've been idly watching ebay for timeshares and found one DIRT cheap in Breckenridge - the week is late September (is this still good for hiking? I'm more of a hiker/horseback rider than a skier anyway..)

at any rate - has anyone heard of Alpenrose condos there in Breckenridge? It's so ridiculously cheap I'm half considering just snapping it up to use it this year and check out the area for future possible purchases (not timeshare - real purchase).

it's RCI which I've heard has a good network...
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Old May 14th, 2006, 09:27 AM
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As a former resident of Telluride, and employee of a property management outfit, I'd recommend you think of signing up with a place so your condo can earn money for you when you aren't there. But as far as choosing a place to spend your time, you have to really love the town, and the mountain, but if shopping is more important than the view from your window - stay on the I-70 corridor.
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