Landowner Insights

Are Private Ski Slopes and Secluded Mountain Bike Trails the New Ranch Norm?

Mountain biking and alpine skiing may be on the path of fly fishing, with ranch owners wanting to privatize the land where they recreate.  This would allow for a landowner to enjoy private ski trails in the winter and secluded mountain biking trails in the summer months.

The year 1936 changed the ski industry forever in the lower 48 when Union Pacific Railroad designed North America’s first chair lift. This was the first point where alpine skiers could reach what was before unimaginable downhill terrain.   The world has dramatically changed since 1936, but one activity remains the same, people love lift access to alpine skiing.

The most recent “game changer” to the alpine skiing world was the Epic (Vail) pass.  This pass allows a person who purchases it, unlimited access to 50+ resorts around the world.  The Ikon pass, which is made up of a majority of independently owned ski resorts, formed in response to the Epic pass.  These passes make skiing affordable to the average skier.  With the average skier skiing more days at all resorts this has led to over-crowding on the slopes and lift lines, especially during peak times like holidays.

Longer lift lines means skiers opt for the backcountry, which can be dangerous, and the average skier may not be ready for this responsibility.  For people who want to ski without the long lift lines and don’t want to take risks in the backcountry, there may be one more option for getting those powder turns.  The answer: purchase a ranch with ski runs that were created years ago.  With a purchase of a large plot of land or ranch there would be two options for the owner; create a small resort or reserve the runs for friends and family.

Skiing is not the only outdoor activity where people are moving to privatizing their sport.  Ever since the Klunker’s in the 1960’s, near the bay area of California, this group created a sub-culture that now rivals ski resorts for profit.  Mountain biking has swept across the nation as a premier outdoor sport.  “Chris and I have had several showings in 2019 which involved people asking about establishing mountain bike trails on ranches,” said Brian Hartley.

In 1999, Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, became the first resort in the world to fully invest in the mountain biking phenomenon.  In 2013, CEO of Whistler Blackcomb says, “we’re the only mountain that breaks even or makes money in the summer. Winter is a large piece of our business, but summer is becoming more and more important.” Known as the Superbowl of Mountain Biking; Whistler hosts an annual event called Crankworx that last 10 days, bringing in over 1 thousand athletes and well over 300,000 spectators.  “In recent years we have experienced a handful of clients approach us looking at ranch properties with a specific purpose of a privatized mountain bike terrain park.  This is one of the reasons I enjoy this business because one’s perception of an agricultural only ranch is someone else’s ideal recreational ranch.  Just look at Kanye who purchased his second ranch with the intent of Glamping,” said Tate Jarry.

With the Live Water Properties headquarters in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we keep a close eye on new developments to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.  It is no secret that they have dramatically stepped up their game in the downhill mountain bike terrain park.  Grand Targhee Resort, which is just over an hour drive from Jackson Hole has one of the better bike access terrain in the northern Rocky Mountains.  “The cross-country riding at Grand Targhee is as good as it gets.   If you are in the mood for mellow single track, ride Rick’s Basin on the north side of the resort, if you are looking for more climbing and killer downhills, head to the South side of Peaked Mountain.  No matter where your ride; expect big views, wildflowers and few people,” says Matt MacMillan.

There is no doubt the Epic and Ikon passes have changed the resort skiing culture (for better or worse).  The simple fact is, more people are beginning to privatize their outdoor activity and maximize its pleasure by owning the land. For fly fishing, folks don’t have to compete versus other anglers by owning their own stretch of creek or river.  The alpine skier can get endless powder face shots while not having to wait in any lift line.  Wide open single track for a mountain biker may be better than winning the lottery.  The only way to ensure the feeling of satisfaction, owning the land that offers the chance to maximize those outdoor activities.  There are privatized real estate developments forming in every corner of the world – connect with a broker to learn more about building your own private skiing and mountain biking ranch.

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