Sep 05, 2022 / INVESTMENT

Buying ski property in the US? Read this first

Typical US ski lodge

The United States has a long history when it comes to skiing. Norwegian immigrants introduced the sport in the late 1880s and within fifty years the first chair lift was built at Sun Valley, and the Winter Olympics took place at Lake Placid. In the 50s and 60s skiing saw growth of a huge 15% each year and by 1964 140 ski areas had snow making capability, so visitors could be sure of enjoying the slopes. 

US ski market facts and figures

Fast forward to today, and figures from the International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism shows that the US has around 470 ski areas and 2970 ski lifts serving 52,942,000 visitors each year. The majority of these visitors are domestic, with overseas skiers making up just 6% of the total. The largest number of visitors recorded is 60.5 million in a single year, and even times of unprecedented challenge such as the Covid-19 pandemic maintained strong visitor numbers. 

Which are the largest ski resorts in the US? 

Many of the largest ski resorts in the US are in Colorado. These include Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone and Vail. Elsewhere, Mammoth Mountain and Park City rank amongst the largest ski resorts in terms of visitor numbers. 

Aerial view of Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 7 and Peak 8 in Colorado

Key ski resort management companies in the US

Vail and Alterra dominate the ski resort industry in the US. Vail is the biggest, it currently has 39 resorts across the world. The majority of Vail’s resorts are in the US and include places like Beaver Creek, Crested Butte, and Breckenridge. Alterra has 16 resorts, including big names, like Steamboat Springs and Deer Valley and Palisades Tahoe. 

Challenges for ski resorts in the US

Ski resorts in the US are facing a similar challenge to those faced by resorts worldwide - that of an ageing population. As the enthusiasts from the 50s and 60s grow older, then resorts need a new crop of skiers to take to the slopes. Unfortunately the number of young people entering the sport has declined, which could present problems for the future. 

These problems are not insurmountable of course - initiatives like increased opportunities for beginners as well as actions around cost will have a positive impact over time. Other ideas like the Mega Pass concept, which gives access to linked resorts at a reduced cost, will be superb for retention of skiers once that beginner stage has passed. 

What type of development can we expect in US ski resorts? 

If only we had a crystal ball! Whilst it’s impossible to predict the future, we can look to recent developments to give an indication of the direction we can expect some US Ski resorts to take. If we look at things like the realisation of the much anticipated ski lift that will link Alpine Meadows and Tahoe Palisades in California we can see that accessibility and practicality are at the forefront. This new lift will reduce driving distance between resorts to 2.4 miles as opposed to 7 miles, and create a 6000 acre ski resort with 8 peaks and 270 miles of trails.

As well as making things a whole lot simpler (and quicker) for skiers, this development will reduce road congestion in the area. This is a huge plus, particularly since the increase in those who use their ski homes as a primary residence. Investment is happening elsewhere too, such as Mayflower Mountain in Utah, the third resort to come under the Park City umbrella. 

Downtown Park City, Utah

Where to buy US ski property

For those looking for an investment property that has a good chance of making a sound return, then choosing one of the big name resorts makes sense. Buying in a resort that’s part of a large concern means solid potential for investment in infrastructure, as well as the benefit of things like the mega pass that will attract new and old visitors alike. Connectivity is key as well and you can find out more about connections to major highways and airports in our buyers guides. 

What if I want to live in a ski resort? 

You’re not alone - mountain life offers a wealth of benefits beyond the slopes and many people make the move to a mountain town each year. If a more permanent kind of mountain life appeals to you, then there are other aspects to consider when it comes to choosing your ski property. As well as the usual elements of moving home, it’s always worth looking at whether the resort you’re aiming for is accommodating outside ski season.

You may like the idea of an established resort town like Steamboat Springs or Telluride perhaps somewhere like Crested Butte - regarded as the last great ski town in Colorado, has more appeal.

Snowboarding Crested Butte

Discover your ideal US ski property

Our property alert service makes it easy to find your perfect US ski property. Whether you’re looking for an investment property in one of the big ski resorts, or hunting down your forever mountain home, you can tailor your search to make it easy to find what you need. SnowOnly is a dedicated ski property portal which means we have access to a huge variety of properties so you can pinpoint your perfect home without trawling countless websites. Our buyers guides make your choice too, and our articles give you unique insight into the US ski property market.