When Gwyneth Paltrow bemoaned the loss of “half a day of skiing” at her Utah trial last year, the internet went into a tailspin. She might as well have said, “Let them eat cake!”

But at a resort like Deer Valley where this season’s lift ticket prices will reach nearly $300 per adult per day, and in a place like Park City where the median home price is over $3.5 million, even mere millionaires are feeling the pinch of winter’s favorite pastime.

It hasn’t helped that the industry’s two competing giants, Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company, have been on a shopping spree over the last decade, scooping up resorts and giving them the mega-corporation glow-up with glitzy lodge refurbishments, slopeside real estate development and fancier food and drink.

More lifts, more slopes, more clubs and more swag are coming to Utah. Can cramped Colorado compete? Eric Schramm

Last summer, Park City’s Alterra-owned Deer Valley resort announced an ambitious project dubbed “Expanded Excellence,” which, over the next three years, will more than double the resort’s skiable terrain, as well as add a new village, more lodging, more dining and more retail. The grandiose plans are in partnership with Extell Development Company, the developer behind One57 and Central Park Tower along Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row.

North of Park City, another multiyear makeover kicked off at Powder Mountain, which just received a cool $100 million investment from its new majority owner, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings.

Other capital improvement projects are happening at Snowbasin Resort, which unveiled its most significant infrastructure investments since hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics: a new 5,000-square-foot heated cobblestone patio and a new high-speed chairlift.

“We have more people coming here during ski season that are renting for two or three months at a time to enjoy the snow.”

Joel Carson, Utah real estate agent

Park City Mountain’s Red Pine Gondola zhuzhed up its gondola cabins. Brighton Resort added a new mid-mountain lodge, and just installed the first Doppelmayr “D-Line” chairlift in Utah.

“Investments in ski areas are well and good, but they really need to have that community focus and culture focus,” said Eliza Cowrie, an air quality lobbyist and Salt Lake City resident. She’s seen her lift ticket get pricier and her rent double since 2017. “You hear about expansion plans at resorts but then you also hear these stories about how all the J-1 visa workers at the resorts, where eight people are living in a one-bedroom apartment and rotating who gets to sleep on the bed and who has to sleep on the floor.”

But the development isn’t likely to slow.

Deer Valley is building big in a bid for bookings from black-run Brahmans. Eric Schramm

Flexjet, one of the world’s largest fractional private jet providers, has seen ski season travel to Utah increase year over year by 20%. And a spokesperson for Exclusive Resorts — a luxury vacation club with a $195,000 initiation fee for a 10-year membership and annual dues which can soar north of $40,000 per annum — called Deer Valley a “member favorite” out of their global portfolio of over 75 destinations.

Exclusive Resorts’ on-site Deer Valley concierge team has hosted White House officials (with over a dozen Secret Service agents in tow); draped entire rooms in flowers for marriage proposals; and planned heli-ski excursions to impress the most cynical of teenagers.

“We’ll always have a presence here,” said Greg Ciluzzi, director of operations. “We’re extremely excited about the three-year expansion that will nearly double the size of Deer Valley’s ski resort.”

Fine food is part of the plot to further upscale Utah’s ski resorts. Eric Schramm

Of course, that’s just the rental option. According to Utah real estate agent Joel Carson, “For a true ski-in, ski-out in Deer Valley, you’re looking at $5 million or more. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

Carson added that while inventory is “limited,” buyers can expect more opportunities to open up as Deer Valley’s expansion brings the resort’s trail network closer to the Jordanelle Reservoir just outside of Park City.

What this Utah gold rush all boils down to, said Carson, is the snow.

Last season was a banner snowfall year for the state, with Alta Ski Area clocking over 900 inches of the white stuff. When there’s more snow, there is a clear spike in interest.

“We have more people coming here during ski season that are renting for two or three months at a time to enjoy the snow,” said Carson. “That’s why you’re seeing all these mega-million-dollar expansions.”

Source link