Scott Bayens: The everlasting allure of Aspen
Last week, local residents and property owners watched with interest as the contentious and controversial Lift One measure passed by a razor-thin margin. Whether for or against, the stage is now set for a major redevelopment of the portion of the mountain where skiing in Aspen began; where the first runs were cut and navigated downhill with the use of wood, leather, wool and sheer determination so many years ago.
Personally, I think the project is good for the town, and I’m happy to see a hotel and more pillows finally making their way in, after similar hotel proposals have been shot down. But I also understand why others don’t like the changes, opposed to more big development hoping to preserve the unique character of our mountain town. But like it or not, it is after all, the city of Aspen. And some would argue that genie has been out of the bottle for some time. Just look at the new Aspen Art Museum.
Also last week, we heard from appraiser Randy Gold, on the state of the local real estate market, presented at the annual luncheon hosted by the Aspen Board of Realtors. The presentation and its conclusion was not much of a surprise to those who follow the residential and commercial markets. According to the data presented by Gold, activity and interest is cooling a bit, with the notable exception of Snowmass where the renaissance of the Base Village is fueling a buying frenzy.
It’s no secret much of the market is overpriced and Gold’s conclusion was spot on. We are clearly shifting from a seller’s market to one that favors buyers, so long as sellers lower their prices. No need to panic, we sold roughly $1.9 billion in real estate around these parts last year, just off from 2017 when just over $2 billion traded hands. The forecast for the coming year is a bit less than both, but nothing drastic. The point is, the state of the local market remains strong for now, with perhaps a bit of a bumpy road ahead with the 2020 election year looming and an overabundance of high dollar inventory coming out of the ground.
Elections and market analytics aside, just look around. There have never been so many people in town. Thanks to mother nature, more skiers than ever are taking advantage of all the snow that’s fallen this winter. Locals have even complained what’s been dubbed the “Ikonization” of Aspen as lift lines go from two minutes to 10, but Aspen Skiing Co. tells us it’s the locals, not the tourists, who have been out in force this year. The airport looks like O’Hare and try getting a reservation this week and next at a downtown restaurant as spring breakers run amuck.
I guess one of the greatest things about where we live and play can be attributed to the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Aspen-Snowmass simply captures the imagination and attracts dreamers from all over the world. There’s a quote from longtime local and ski instructor Tim Mooney that I love (and forgive me if I have shared before), but it really says it all regarding the special allure of the area, “Everybody that comes here wants to leave the corporate jungle behind, shed their armor and go native. They can’t wait to disappear into the anonymity of a local.”
Yes, Aspen is different than it was in its “heyday” in the ’70s and ’80s. Many of us missed those days and yet, we’re all still here and visitors just keep coming. Point is, the magic of Aspen remains alive, and this spectacular winter just reminds us how special it all is, has been and will remain. Does it need to be protected? Of course. Do we need to adjust for the times? Just as important. For now, enjoy the rest of the ski season and indulge in everything the area has to offer. If you’re here, count yourself among the luckiest people on Earth.
Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty with more than a decade of experience with buyers, sellers and investors. He can be reached at email@example.com.