Second homes Base village brings Winter Park ski resort to its peak

Date: Dec. 4th, 2009
Contact: Larry Olmsted USA Today

Although ranked in the nation's top 10, the mountain never made much money from the Denver day-trippers. Without private investment, facilities were tired and the area lacked resort amenities such as hotels, retail and dining. So in 2002, the city partnered with ski operator Intrawest, which has already invested more than $50 million in on-mountain skier improvements.

The bigger change is the new pedestrian base village, with condo hotels, restaurants and shops. Now Winter Park — which had only 230 condos in 2000 — has base-area condos for sale, and more on the way, at prices lower than most Western competitors. The average home price of $450,000 in Grand County is nearly half of nearby Summit County (where Breckenridge, Copper and Keystone are located) and even less compared with Eagle (home to upscale Vail, Beaver Creek).

These dramatic changes have also spurred development in downtown Winter Park, 2 miles away, and for 30 more miles up the road, as the popularity of the resort — the closest large mountain to Denver and its airport — has grown.

"Customers coming to the valley now are expecting more in the way of nightlife and restaurants — and they are getting it," says Realtor Lance Gutersohn of ReMax Peak to Peak. Gutersohn estimates that over 90% of residential real estate built in the last decade are second homes, and several new communities are a direct result of the base-village expansion. The ski resort itself has approvals for 1,300 more residences and, should it get too crowded, for another entire mountain also owned by Denver.

A look at three Winter Park neighborhoods

Slopeside Village: New condos are in two hotel-style complexes and in luxury lofts above the new retail and dining storefronts in the pedestrian village. Since there are no hotels at Winter Park, these can be rented out through the resort to generate income. Two-bedroom condos start around $350,000, while the lofts cost around $670,000. In older buildings, studio condos begin under $150,000. The most luxurious options are the custom homes in Bridger's Cache, averaging about $3 million.

Town of Winter Park: Two miles from the ski area, Winter Park has a store- and restaurant-lined Main Street and numerous condos and single-family houses. The most notable is Grand Park, a 1,700-acre community at the northern end of town with its own village underway. A new four-bedroom house meeting Colorado's "Built Green" certification costs $549,000.

Granby Ranch: This 5,000-acre golf and ski community is 15 miles north in the Highway 40 development corridor. Granby Park has its own small (33 trails) ski resort, SolVista Basin, and many residents use both the skiing here and Winter Park. Slopeside condos start under $200,000, and lots for new houses can be found in the mid-$100,000s.