Second homes: High living in Aspen, even without the snow
By Larry Olmsted, Special for USA TODAY
Aspen has been a boom town since it was founded in 1879, thanks to rich natural silver deposits. The value of silver waned, but Aspen never did because locals found something even more valuable in the hills: snow. The first ski lift arrived in 1939, and Aspen's second-home popularity - and cost - have soared ever since.
Though Aspen is still known for winter and its fur-coat ski crowd, summer has rapidly increased in popularity. It features the nation's premier annual food and wine event, a large music festival and the intellectually acclaimed Aspen Institute.
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Unlike rivals Vail or Jackson, Aspen's ski resort is comprised of three unconnected mountains: in-town Ajax, along with Buttermilk, a beginners' facility, and Aspen Highlands, an expert-oriented mountain, both just outside town. (With its own village 8 miles away, Snowmass is considered an alternative to Aspen rather than one of its neighborhoods.) Many second-home owners choose the town of Aspen itself for its cultural, culinary and retail offerings, says realtor Gary Feldman, managing partner of Joshua & Co./Christie's Great Estates.
Living in the "downtown core" is not cheap: "Condos start between $500,000-$750,000 per bedroom, and the least expensive condo for sale in town right now is $1,050,000 for a two-bedroom, 830 square feet," Feldman says.
Surrounding neighborhoods feature single-family homes, which start around $2 million and go much higher. Feldman has a listing for $60 million, another is offered at $44 million, and eight-figure prices are common.
Though Aspen is not a place for bargain shoppers, Feldman notes that more reasonable options include the Roaring Fork Valley, towns such as Woody Creek and Basalt. One notable choice is the Roaring Fork Club (roaringforkclub.com), a private country club community with the region's best golf course and blue-ribbon fly fishing. Though luxury condos begin around $1.3 million and new high-end cabin homes start at $2.5 million, both are available as fractional ownership. The 60- and 90-day shares begin at $215,000 for condos and $650,000 for larger homes.
A look at three Aspen neighborhoods
• Downtown core: From the base of Ajax mountain to the central pedestrian mall, downtown Aspen is where the action is with restaurants, bars, shops and hotels. Almost all of Aspen's condos are here. Downtown also includes several fractional-ownership options, such as the Residences at the St. Regis hotel, the Grand Hyatt and the new Dancing Bear, where six-week annual shares begin at $750,000 (dancingbearaspen.com).
• West End: The "painted ladies," 19th-century Victorian buildings that have been the focus of Aspen preservation efforts, are found here. The homes typically meld the original colorful exteriors with fully modernized interiors. "It's one of the best locations, home to cultural activities like the Aspen Music Festival and the Institute, but still walking distance to downtown," Realtor Gary Feldman says. Single-family homes begin at $2 million and run to more than $20 million.
• Red Mountain: On a hillside opposite the ski area overlooking downtown, Red Mountain is the priciest part of a pricey town. There are no condos, and the least expensive home now for sale is at just under $5 million. "It's the Hollywood Heights of Aspen," Feldman says. "It's for buyers for whom price is no object."
ON THE MARKET
Midrange price: $3,550,000
This 1888 "Painted Lady" bordering Aspen's West End and downtown core is the least expensive single-family Victorian home now on the market.
Size: 1,360 square feet
Features: Fully renovated in 2007, large kitchen with stainless-steel appliances and granite counters, hardwood floors, high ceilings, gas fireplace, first-floor master bedroom suite.
Low price: $1,317,000
This lodge condo is one of six remaining at the private Roaring Fork Club, a luxury golf and fishing community 15 miles from downtown. It's also available as one-sixth fractional shares for $219,500.
Bathrooms: 1 1/2
Size: 695 square feet
Features: Dual river-rock fireplaces, indoors and outdoors on a large porch, fully furnished including flat-screen TVs, small kitchen, interior decorated by ski country specialists Slifer Designs. Includes National Club membership with golf for two.
Posted by BTMdev on June 11, 2009 in Press