Have a look at the latest video announcing the opening of Hero's on Aspen Mountain this winter!
The leaves are falling all around and we're about one month away from Opening Day for the 2023-24 winter ski season. Let's take a look at the current state of the Aspen/Snowmass real estate market!
Moving through October, market dynamics in Aspen itself are tracking much the same as they did over the summer, still slightly favoring buyers as indicated by the following meter enclosed in Title Company of the Rockies' most recent Market Action Index.
Three-quarters of the way through 2023, both total volume and overall inventory have fallen off of summer highs a bit but the market remains strong. The summer was indeed a good one as July and August marked the first time monthly sales outpaced 2022. More properties came online for sale during this time as reflected in the small decline in price per square foot, but the total number of transactions also declined from last summer. The overall pace has slowed and more buyers are taking their time before closing.
Prices (both median and per square foot) took a jump up from the summer. Let's dig in to our select categories below for a more detailed picture.
Summer is definitely here - we've passed the solstice and Independence Day and are well on our way through July. It's time for an updated look at the state of the Aspen/Snowmass real estate market!
Midway through 2023 we’re seeing that inventory has rebounded a bit from historic lows last year but still remains well off the highs of 2019 and prior. The most recent snapshot from Land Title Guarantee shows the following:
The total sold volume has dropped from this spring and even the month of May. Mortgage rates and recent tax assessments may be taking a toll (read on for more about this below). It's well off the remarkable highs from 2021 and 2022 caused by pent up demand during the pandemic.
The middle of November in Aspen, that sliver of time between our spectacular autumn foliage and Thanksgiving, is about as close to an off-season as we get here. There’s still quite a bit of life in town but the place definitely feels as though everyone is catching their breath while slowly getting ready and getting excited for our busy winter. It’s a wonderful time for those of us who live here to see how town is shaping up, to take stock of the last several months, and to look ahead to the snow sports that drew us here in the first place.
Winter 2021-22 brought with it quite a number of changes to the retail and dining scene here, and 22-23 looks to be a little more settled. Strolling around downtown Aspen at the moment, we really enjoy peeking through windows at some new places and at old ones getting a freshening. We’ve had enough recent snowfall for the trails on all four mountains to look brilliantly white from the valley floor, and having Ajax’s trails in particular looking almost ready over the rooftops of the Wheeler Opera House and The Little Nell gets us all in the holiday spirit.
All of this is a nice reminder that although the glitz and glam of Aspen gets the spotlight and can dominate people’s impression of our resort across the globe, what truly sets us apart is that the access to world class dining, lodging, shopping, and winter sports that our guests expect of us still leaves room for a wonderfully atmospheric holiday season with all that we yearn for from that time of year. Strolling around Aspen, slowly breathing in the mountain air on a cold December evening after a warm meal in the company of friends and family is simply good for the spirit and reminds us why we chose this legendary mountain town to make our home.
It’s no wonder (and no surprise, really) that Travel & Leisure has just named Aspen the most charming town in America in which to spend Christmas. 25 Best Christmas Towns in the USA to Spend the Holiday Season (travelandleisure.com).
Thankfully we’re in the hospitality business here, and we very much look forward to sharing our Rocky Mountain home with all of those who choose to visit us for the holidays. Gareth Williams Properties does still have some availability for families to stay in our favorite spots for settling-in and making the most of Aspen Snowmass during the December holidays. We hope you’ll join us, and we’d love to help make the Aspen Snowmass holidays you imagine become a reality.
In the meantime, there are a number of ski lifts already spinning in Colorado. We’ve got some early season turns to make for ourselves so that we’re good and ready for our guests when you get here!
We’ve had our first snowstorm of the season on the heels of weeks of gorgeous autumn weather. With town pretty quiet it’s a great time to pick our heads up, look at the big picture and, most importantly, get excited for the coming winter. It is true that so many of us came for the winters but stayed for the summers but skiing and riding does remain central to our lives and all of us here certainly are looking forward to getting back to what drew us here.
This fall, picking our heads up and taking quantitative look at the market has been particularly interesting. The Aspen Chamber Resort Association recently published their statistics for the 2022 summer season. As a result, we can now get a sense of where the market is trending, what the impact of the pandemic has been, and what that means for our clients. Whether you are considering entering the real estate market, assessing your real estate options, or simply planning your holidays here, it’s worthwhile taking a few minutes to consider what the numbers are showing us.
We’ve been working recently with our friends at Permafrost Information Strategies to better understand the long- and short-term impact of the pandemic on our marketplace, and their insightful analysis certainly has helped to crystalize our thinking. Along with Permafrost, we use lodging occupancy rates for Aspen Snowmass as a bellwether of our local economy. Though obviously limited in scope to one particular sector of the vacationing pubic, we find occupancy data to be a concise lens through which to see long-term trends for how our resort is doing generally. When assessing the impact of the pandemic on the market and looking ahead to what we expect from this winter, weekly and monthly occupancy averages against historical figures have been our focus. Looking at the recently released data from the busy 2022 summer season here provides us with the big picture view that we’ve been anxiously awaiting – it allows us to see the way in which the Aspen Snowmass lodging and real property markets may move post-pandemic and what long-term effects from the pandemic we are likely to see.
What Recent Data Shows About the COVID-19 Pandemic
What’s clear from the data is that we can now draw a tight circle around the months where occupancy was impacted directly by the pandemic. Those months that we view as skewing historical averages and affecting long-term trending are generally March 2020 through and including March 2021. While occupancy rates for February 2021, for example, were still significantly below long-term February averages, March 2021 saw a notable up-tick. March 2021 was still slightly below the seven March averages immediately preceding the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, but it did prove to be a significant correction from the pandemic months. Occupancy rates in April 2021 were strong compared to historical averages; and December 2021, and February and March 2022 saw the highest average occupancy rates for those months. Simply put, we can now see the big picture and understand it, and the way the data is trending it looks as though winter season occupancy is back to “normal” rates and that data demonstrates a general trend of growth similar to what we saw in the pre-pandemic winter seasons. As Permafrost’s Russ Kauff emphasizes, this analysis is not merely about throwing out high and low periods of economic performance so as to not include ‘force majeure’ and the like from our long-term view of discretionary spending; it’s about understanding how consumers prioritize components of their spending, where Aspen Snowmass fits into their thinking about their spending, and how their long-term behavior may be affected.
Summer and Shoulder-Season 2022
It is worth noting that the data from the summer months during the pandemic is where the most interesting trends have been in terms of what it tells us about how visitors’ behavior changed. In short, occupancy rates for the summer months were exceptionally strong in 2021 and 2022. Not surprisingly, we attribute this to travel having been curtailed and remote work having spiked significantly during those periods. Charting June, July and August over a long period that includes pre-pandemic years clearly shows summer 2022 to have been a return to pre-COVID trending, and the same is true of the traditionally quieter months of September and October.
Notably, August 2022 saw gross occupancy rates slightly lower than 2021 though still strong taking a long-term historical view. Internally, Russ at Permafrost has been using the tongue-in-cheek metaphor of ‘nesting travel versus adventure travel’ to describe how consumer behavior differed between the summers of 2021 and 2022. Synthesizing why that happened clearly involves a combination of a strong US dollar and pent-up demand for international travel as European nations in particular reduced or eliminated COVID restrictions. Still, taking the long view shows August 2022 to have been slightly less exceptional, perhaps less exuberant, but still quite strong and trending towards long-term growth.
Like the occupancy rates for summer 2022, we do expect some small amount of moderation of the spikes over the next couple of years. Still, as described above, we nonetheless foresee the progressive upward trend from the pre-pandemic years to continue.
The Effects of Short-Term Rentals
One of the shortcomings of the available data is that measuring ‘homeowner occupancy’ or the performance of Airbnb and VRBO properties as a way of generating a quantitative understanding of true lodging business levels is a challenging proposition. Anecdotally, summer 2022 certainly felt like an exceptionally busy season here in the Roaring Fork Valley. From a broader economic perspective, valley businesses that serve our guests did maintain notably high business levels throughout the summer months of 2022, and the numerous events that had been curtailed during the pandemic (Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the Aspen Ideas Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, etc.) returned to enormous fanfare and record crowds. Again, it’s possible that this was attributable to that elusive ‘homeowner occupancy’ level, though that is speculative. There are some interesting new analytical tools making use of web search algorithms to derive short-term rental variations on traditional occupancy rate data, and we expect to be able to provide greater insight to our clients about those platforms later this year.
Looking Ahead, and Looking Forward to Winter
Where does this analysis leave us and what are we seeing and thinking here in our hometown of Aspen? The good news, we think, is that it leaves us approximately where we were pre-pandemic. Demand for lodging in Aspen Snowmass continues to grow at a rate that is consistent and far less elastic (to be polite) that the widely publicized single-family residential property market here.
We believe that in the long term, Aspen Snowmass resort’s combination of limited hotel space, numerous hotel branded rental and ownership properties, and in-town short-term rental properties dampens the volatility which characterizes the top end of the private property market in recent quarters. This gives us confidence for the upcoming winter season. In short, we expect to welcome a great many guests to our mountains this winter, and we expect to see Aspen Snowmass continue to solidify its’ place in the hierarchy of North American vacation marketplaces. As always, we hope all of our guests fall in love with Aspen Snowmass in the same way we did when we arrived here thirty years ago, and that is a major part of why we derive such joy from working with our real estate clients.
The data compiled by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and discussed here is available at Occupancy Reports | Aspen (aspenchamber.org)
Austin, TX and Orange County, CA Now Offer New Non-Stop Service to Aspen for 2021/22!
According to last week's Aspen Times, "nonstop commercial flights to Aspen-Pitkin County Airport from up to six airports between Texas and California are part of a schedule that is all but finalized for the upcoming winter ski season."
The newest locations for non-stop service include Orange County, California and Austin, Texas.
“I think this is a pretty solid plan,” said Bill Tomcich, a consultant to Fly Aspen Snowmass, which is an alliance among Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Snowmass Tourism.
On Friday, what Tomcich said is the final piece to the winter flight schedule came with the announcement of two daily direct flights between Santa Ana, California, and Aspen. United Airlines will offer the flights starting Dec. 16 and running through March 26. The incoming, nonstop flights to Aspen will originate from John Wayne Airport.
The two newcomers join San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Chicago and Atlanta giving guests a wider choice of route options than the town has had in many years. This is surely a sign of the continued popularity of Aspen/Snowmass as a vacation destination.
Now that you know how to get here why not pay us a visit this winter? Gareth can connect you with the best possible luxury lodging whenever you choose to come! Call (970) 309-7649 or email him at [email protected] and reserve your accommodations today!
Scaling Back and Moving Online
A recent article in the September 30 Aspen Times reports on the challenge of promoting winter sports during these uncertain times. The Aspen Skiing Company rethought everything and the resort scaled back their support staff and magazine ad buys.
“Aspen Skiing Co.’s marketing campaign will look significantly different this winter, both in substance and execution,” writes Times reporter Scott Condon. “There will be no national branding such as the “Give a Flake” effort of recent seasons.”
The management company for the mountains of Aspen/Snowmass has let some staff members go and tightened up their strategy in response to the current economic environment.
“It’s definitely going to be a different kind of marketing campaign,” Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications, said Tuesday. “You have to remain flexible and ready to pivot.”
Gone is the campaign urging skiers, snowboarders and other outdoor lovers to “Give a Flake” and get involved in concrete action to ease global warming.
“We’ve moved on from that. That was the plan already,” Hanle said.
The article goes on to state that “an advertising agency was working with Skico officials on a new campaign, but that’s been put on hold. There won’t be any advertisements in ski publications in January, for example, because conditions could change so drastically by then, Hanle noted. The ads would have to be finalized now to run in January.”
“Instead, Skico will remain nimble with messages that will be shared primarily through digital platforms. They will ...focus on education about protocols to keep customers safe from the spread of the coronavirus, trumpeting fresh snowfall and renewing the spirit during a tough time by getting outdoors, according to Hanle.”
The types of visitors the resort typically sees will change this year with fewer international visitors and more “drive-time” domestic visitors. The resort expects guests to stay longer than what would be typical during an average year.
A big part of the marketing effort will be education about the new hands-free procedures that will be in place for everything from ordering food at restaurants to buying lift tickets.
Both the town and the resort are working hard to plan and educate guests on how to have fun and stay safe this winter.
Many urban and suburbanites are looking towards the mountains as more than a holiday escape. As the global pandemic continues with no end in sight, people seeking a respite from the stress of crowds see mountain communities like the Roaring Fork Valley (Aspen to Glenwood Springs, Colorado) as the perfect place to relocate for an extended stay.
Mountain homes provide for a welcome change of scenery and access to fresh air and the great outdoors, something in short supply in major metropolitan areas. According to a recent article in the Denver Post, “initial predictions of a wave of panic selling depressing second home prices never materialized. Instead, the opposite has happened. More people are buying in resort areas to escape big cities, and the available inventory has tightened.”
Vacation property rental agencies reported that “not only did occupancy roar back, but guests were staying for long periods of time. [Guests] were either taking extended vacations or, more likely, they were working remotely.”
In fact, “guests have started asking for something that was a rare request before — desks in their rooms.”
“If they can work remotely what does it matter if they are working from their apartment or house or further away,” said [a Denver-based property rental associate]. He also noted that many guests don’t always tell their employers where they are actually located.
Guesty, a [popular] property management software, has seen a 117% increase in reservations of 90 days or more. It is also seeing more spur-of-the-moment rentals. In July, for example, a majority of bookings came within seven days of arrival.
Bookings for holidays periods, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, are running behind they did this time last year, but that might change given the trend to booking closer in. At Gareth Williams Aspen Snowmass Real Estate, we certainly expect those bookings to pick up as the season approaches!
Indeed, given the likelihood that winter resort activities could move to a reservation-only setup, the time to book your accommodations is now. If you are looking for the flexibility to work remotely while taking advantage of everything the Aspen/Snowmass area has to offer be sure to give Gareth a call at (970) 309-7649!
Spring value season has arrived in Aspen!
Spring in Aspen/Snowmass is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory. According to recent reports our snowpack is well over 100% of average. The conditions outside swing from snow to sun every few days and the days are getting longer, leaving more time for sunny apres-ski celebrations!
Aspen enters spring with a full slate of events including the Apres Ski Cocktail Classic (March 12-15), more Aspen Laugh Festival performances at the Wheeler Opera House (March 12-13), and The Bud Light Spring Jam (March 17-22) with contests, live music and big air competitions at all four mountains.
For the past few years Aspen Skiing Company has joined forces with 17 other prominent ski areas to offer the Mountain Collective pass. Passholders get two free days at Aspen/Snowmass and 50% the window ticket price for any days beyond that.
Aspen also accepts the 2019/2020 Ikon Pass, which entitles members to ski or ride for up to seven days out here - good enough for a nice vacation - hint, hint! If you purchased either of these passes this past year now is definitely the time to get out here and use them!
We’re expecting a fantastic spring season out here so reach out to Gareth and come join us. Breathe the mountain air, enjoy the sunny (and snowy!) weather and live it up in the best place in the Rockies!
How do you make the most of your time on the mountain?
Aspen Skiing Company has been polling guests and has just what they need. Vacationers these days look for their cell phone apps to enhance all kinds of experiences, from travel to dining to tracking fitness. Aspen's newly improved on-mountain app does all of the above and more. A recent Aspen Times article interviewed the in-house developers at Aspen Skiing Company about just what goes in to building and improving their app.
Guests can now start their day with the latest information about on-mountain conditions. They can see current weather and snow reports from each of the four mountains. This info is updated every hour, but that’s just the beginning.
Worried about getting lost or taking a wrong turn? Peace of mind is close to hand as the app can actually track your location on the mountain and even alert ski patrol if necessary.
Are you someone who loves setting goals and measuring your progress? The built-in tracker lets you see how many vertical feet you covered each day. It’s the perfect way to challenge your friends and see who’s really in shape the next time you have a powder day!
According to the article, future improvements could include ways to meet up with friends and family on the mountain, assuming cell network coverage permits.
Being on vacation can be a great way to escape from our phones, but for those who enjoy having them alongside sometimes a little technology can make being out on the mountain even more fun and rewarding. At last count over 100,000 current users would agree!