U.S. Ski Resorts Pursue Extensive Expansions, Giving Local Home Prices a Major Lift

The Wall Street Journal  |  
October 13, 2022

Upgraded ski lifts, increased snow-making and new real-estate developments may be a big draw for mountain home buyers, but not everybody is happy about the growth

There were over 60 million skier visits to U.S. resorts last season, the highest the National Ski Areas Association has ever reported. Ski industry analysts see no slowdown in sight: The past two years of record individual domestic participation—10.5 million in 2020/2021 and 10.7 million in 2021/2022—“bodes well for the upcoming season,” says Adrienne Saia Isaac, who heads marketing for the NSAA.

The growth in skiing is part of a pandemic-inspired rise in outdoor activities, which grew 6.9% in 2021 from January 2020, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. But skiing’s growth is also partly tied to a push by big resort companies to sell multi-mountain ski passes. Ski passes accounted for more than half of skier visits last season, compared with only a third a decade ago, says the NSAA. Last year the Epic Pass, which gives access to over 80 resorts around the world, such as Vail, Park City and Stowe, and provides a significant discount off daily lift tickets, saw sales rise nearly 50% in the 2021/2022 season compared with the prior season after prices were cut by 20% before the season started, according to an analysts call last month regarding Vail’s fiscal 2022 results.

Grand Targhee Luxury

The Comarattas are building a home at Tributary, a high-end development in Driggs, Idaho, near Grand Targhee, that is similar to the one shown above. Mark and Kim Comaratta; Tributary (2)

Geordie Gillett, Grand Targhee’s general manager, declined to comment, but said in a previous statement, “We put the skier and rider experience at the forefront of everything we do.”

The prospect of more skiing areas at Grand Targhee is one reason Mark and Kim Comaratta decided this past spring to start building a 4,000-square-foot home for around $2.25 million in a gated golf development called Tributary, right next to downtown Driggs.

The couple, who live in Bozeman, Mont., say long lines and crowded slopes are why they looked for an alternative to Big Sky Resort, about 50 miles away in Big Sky, Mont., which Mr. Comaratta, a 63-year-old physician, says has exploded, becoming “like Vail and Aspen.”