"If you are lucky enough to be in the mountains, then you’re lucky enough” reads the plaque hanging on the door of a rambling vacation home that sits just off of Cresta in Arrowhead, the gentle ribbon of skiable terrain on the westernmost perimeter of Beaver Creek in Edwards. And while luck may not have anything to do with the real estate market’s current tenuous but hardy renaissance in the Vail Valley, there’s a certain amount of truth to the simple aphorism that graces this doorway.
Luck had it that Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton skinned up a powder-blessed mountain with no name on a March day in 1957—and five years later launched one of the world’s most famous and successful ski resorts. And luck had it that in 1970 a ski enthusiast and member of Congress named Gerald Ford borrowed $50,000 from his children’s insurance policy and bought a condominium at the Lodge at Vail, then seven years later as 38th president presided over the groundbreaking of Beaver Creek, where he built a 11,200-square-foot ski chalet just off of the Strawberry Park run that now bears his name.
That chalet sold in June 2015 for a cool $6.65 million. In fact, there were 1,235 residential transactions in the valley in 2015, totaling $1.3 billion—eclipsing, for perspective, the gross domestic product of Antigua, an island nation and vacation destination with a population of 90,000 (compared to Eagle County’s 52,460). As for new inventory, 121 homes were built and sold last year, and 128 plots of vacant land changed hands. That’s the best the area market has been since the dawn of the Great Recession. And in case you were wondering, the median price of the 801 active listings from East Vail to Gypsum is ... wait for it ... $1.65 million.
Yes, there may be some sticker shock. But with the world-class ski resorts (including new summer amusements like Vail Mountain’s Forest Flyer alpine coaster and Game Creek Bowl zip-line canopy tour), a thriving arts scene (witness Joshua Bell leading the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields at Bravo! Vail this summer), the 2.3 million-acre forest in Vail’s backyard with amazing hike and bike-to attractions and quick access to Denver via the Interstate, who wouldn’t want to put down roots here? As Vail Board of Realtors chair Kyle Denton puts it, “The Vail Valley offers the best of everything.”
Whether you’re navigating the market for a vacation home, thinking about relocating from the Front Range or the Texas panhandle, living here already, or wishing you did, we asked real estate agents, locals, and absentee homeowners to help guide us through today’s market and pinpoint what makes each of the valley’s (by our count) 25 mountain towns and neighborhoods the special places they are. Follow their lead, and with any luck you’ll find your place here to call home—and maybe a four-leaf clover, too.