Picture sweeping forested trails with glorious powder snow, year-round access to the great outdoors and service-driven leisure amenities and you get a snapshot of America’s ski destinations. Colorado is the go-to winter destination there, boasting resorts that rank alongside Europe’s finest with some of the most exclusive properties in the world. Which of these might tempt you across the pond…
Dubbed the most expensive ski town in the USA, Aspen’s exclusivity was confirmed in June this year when an 11-bedroom mansion there sold for a headline-grabbing $72.5million, a new record for the resort. The property was located on Red Mountain, more commonly dubbed ‘Billionaire’s Mountain’ for its prevalence of multi-million-dollar pads and popularity with American high-rollers.
The sale happened within a record-breaking year for sales volumes in Aspen, fuelled by wealthy buyers snapping up mountain homes to escape their urban lifestyles and the threat of Covid.
Aspen’s glamorous town centre, located around four hours’ drive from Denver Airport, acts as a hub for four ski areas. Offering a total of 5,500 acres of slopes and all served by buses, the four mountains are Aspen (Ajax), Buttermilk, Highlands and Snowmass, which is the largest and an upmarket ski-in ski-out resort in its own right.
Mirroring the likes of St Moritz and Courchevel in the Alps, the streets of central Aspen are lined with high-end boutiques and sophisticated restaurants. Homeowners include well-known billionaires – there are at least 50 of them, including names like Murdoch and Abramovich.
Property options are varied. To be close to the après-ski action, an apartment in downtown Aspen is your best bet. For opulence and cachet, choose a mansion on Red Mountain, while more privacy is had on one of the small developments on the edge or just outside of the resort. To be within walking distance of lifts, dazzling Snowmass won’t disappoint – fractional ownership opportunities are available there, otherwise freehold condos start at circa $900,000 and smaller chalets from $3,500,000.
Competing with Aspen to be the USA’s most coveted ski destination, today Vail is as popular for its lively, amenity-packed centre – a rarity in typical American resorts, as for its world-class skiing. Certainly, there is marginal difference in what you pay for the finest homes in each.
It’s closer to Denver than Aspen too, at around two hours’ drive, making it more attractive to weekenders from the city. And like Aspen, homeowners there are both international and from across the USA.
Vail can refer to the collection of resorts along Vail Valley, but the heart of this huge outdoor playground is the area around the base of Vail Mountain, home to the main Vail Village as well as neighbouring Lionshead, a short walk or bus trip along Gore Creek. Both are upscale and have direct access to lifts or gondola (Vail has three, Lionshead one) to access the main ski area of Vail Mountain. Between them you’re spoilt for choice of top-notch bars and restaurants, nightlife, luxury hotels, condo blocks and boutique shops, complemented by the cinema, bowling alley and ice rink.
Understandably, Vail Village is a property hot spot among the jet set who enjoy the combination of being in a lively resort with easy access to the slopes. It was there that last August that the resort achieved a record property sale of $57.25million for an 11-bedroom duplex.
For many though, it’s the wonderland-like residential areas that meander up Vail Mountain that offer the most attractive ski homes. Being on the mountainside means the chalets there are ski-in ski-out and have easy access to the resort’s legendary Back Bowls powder fields – a heaven for any skier.
Quieter areas that form part of the Vail municipality, include East Vail, home to the resort’s golf club and West Vail, beyond Lionshead. A couple of miles away down Vail Valley, which has numerous events throughout the year, is Vail’s little sister, Beaver Creek. About a third of the size but still exclusive, it is less crowded and well suited to families, with an excellent ski school, and an outdoor ice rink at its centre.
Where else in Colorado?
For a less showy but no less exhilarating skiing experience, there is Teluride. Set in a remote setting in the San Juan Mountains, it’s regarded as one of the USA’s most scenic ski areas. Popular for its vertical slopes and boasting one of the steepest drops in Colorado, it’s split between the original mining town, with its old world charm and scenic high street, at the foot of the mountains and the purpose Mountain Village further up.
If maximum international cachet isn’t high on your wish list, alternative options include Breckenridge – a good all-round resort that’s very popular with Americans and high altitude by USA standards, hence being home to North America’s highest chairlift.
Meanwhile, Keystone is regarded as one of the most family-friendly resorts in Colorado, or there is Winter Park, close enough to Denver for day trips and also dubbed the Mountain Bike Capital of the USA, with world-class lifts and parks geared to bikes.