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Market conditions for popular all-season resorts make this the peak for buying a recreational or income property.SUPPLIED

Post-slope hot chocolate in front of the fireplace or grilling burgers after a thrilling mountain bike ride are the stuff Western Canadian family memories are made of. Yet, 67 per cent of Western Canadians don’t think they can afford a mountain resort property, according to a recent Leger survey commissioned by RE/MAX.

“The perception is that ski resort properties are unattainable or only for the extremely wealthy,” says Elton Ash, Executive Vice President, RE/MAX Western Canada. “In reality, the story is very different.”

Thanks in part to growth in so-called uphill capacity (infrastructure that allows more visitors to access mountaintops) in Western Canada over the last few decades, many popular mountain areas are no longer just winter ski destinations — they’re year-round resorts for every activity from hiking to golf. Additionally, mortgage accessibility promises are expected to be part of many 2019 federal election platforms, making it easier for prospective buyers to get financing.

While the Leger survey found that potential ski property buyers value snow conditions (53 per cent) and mountain elevation (37 per cent) along with nearby restaurants and shopping (51 per cent), year-round usability is also top of mind. All-season resort capabilities are desired by 71 per cent of Western Canadian investors interested in ski properties, some of whom plan to rent their homes when not in use. And as long as the U.S. dollar is strong against the loonie, Western Canadian mountain resorts remain a popular vacation and investment choice for Americans.

Here are some of the best places in Western Canada to invest in a ski property.

Whistler

The Epic Pass attracts skiers from 65 resorts across North America to Whistler Blackcomb to chase top conditions at one of the world’s best ski hills.

Most buyers here are from British Columbia’s lower mainland, with some foreign investors. There are two tiers of properties with usage restrictions (some of which allow 28 days of owner occupancy in the summer and 28 in winter) in addition to rental homes. These covenants are reflected in prices.

ASKING PRICE: From $230,000/$389,000 (studio, with/without restrictions) to $1.2 million (four-bedroom home)

Kelowna

Canada’s largest ski-in and ski-out resort, Big White, gets reliably blanketed by the white stuff every winter; in summer, the Kelowna area’s nearby lakes and golf courses add to the mountain’s year-round appeal.

Within a 60/40 split of Canadian and foreign buyers, the Toronto, Vancouver and local Okanagan buyers who invest here get the lifestyle benefits of a part-time home, often subsidized by rental income when they’re not using the property.

ASKING PRICE: From $100,000 (studio) to $600,000 (single-family home)

Vernon

Silver Star, a short drive from Vernon’s hilly east edge, has a high base elevation, meaning more snow. Ninety per cent of its properties are ski-in, ski-out, making it a star among Western Canadian ski hills.

With summer mountain sports and festivals plus year-round conferences, the resort is a favourite of buyers who are early and semi-retirees or younger families. Some cash out of lower mainland B.C. homes for the Okanagan lifestyle, and others buy Vernon income properties.

ASKING PRICE: From $200,000 (one-bedroom condo or townhome) to $300,000 (two-bedroom)

Kamloops

Just 45 minutes from this Thompson Okanagan boomtown, drier northern conditions mean great powder at Sun Peaks Resort. Biking, golfing and year-round business travel are bringing B.C. and Alberta buyers to the mountain community, with young families drawn to Sun Peaks Elementary school.

While some condos and townhomes are zoned for short-term rentals, others are not, with the income potential reflected in local prices.

ASKING PRICE: $380,000 (strata) to $900,000 (freehold)

Revelstoke

Known for deep powder and a high vertical (1,713 metres), Revelstoke Mountain Resort is conveniently close to town, giving almost every home easy access to the mountain. Rock climbing, paragliding and river and lake water sports supplement hiking and biking in the summer.

This relatively new resort (opened in 2007) attracts buyers in their 30s and 40s plus active retirees, with both skiers and investors represented among buyers from B.C. and international markets like Germany, the U.K., Australia and east Asia.

ASKING PRICE: From $500,000 (freehold) to $525,000 (strata)

Canmore

This booming community is close to the “Big 3” ski resorts (Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise) plus Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis and Canmore’s own Nordic Ski Club.

While many Alberta owners use their Canmore homes for winter and spring holidays, early and semi-retirees from Calgary or Edmonton find a fresh mountain lifestyle here.

ASKING PRICE: From $370,000 (one-bedroom) to $464,900 (two-bedroom)

Like a skier or snowboarder at the crest of a slope, potential buyers and investors should get ready to take an exciting plunge into one of Western Canada’s mountain communities. The Leger survey commissioned by RE/MAX found that among Western Canadians who are interested in owning a ski property, the majority come from cities (27 per cent) and suburbs (24 per cent) rather than rural areas (16 per cent).

“With so many potential buyers […] coming from urban and suburban areas, it’s clear that more Western Canadians are interested in pursuing some sort of lifestyle change,” says Ash. That change might just involve breaking out your family’s skis, paddles, clubs and helmets much more often — or even moving them to your new or second home.


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