SALT LAKE CITY — You may have seen Kim Kardashian and Kanye West skiing at Deer Valley in Park City over New Year's. Or the countless celebrities who flocked to Utah - and made time for a few turns on our famed ski slopes - for the recently wrapped 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
It appears that people are finally catching on to what we Utahns have known for years: We have something special to offer here, from our world-class ski resorts and outdoor recreation opportunities to our friendly business climate and outstanding quality of life.
And, from a real estate perspective, these people are not just visiting Utah. In many cases, they are choosing to stay.
For years, the residents of Utah yearned for the country and the world to see Utah. No matter what the state did, no matter how great the snow was, no matter how close we were to an international airport, the ski communities in Utah lived in the shadows of better-known resorts in Colorado and other western states.
When the 2002 Winter Olympics were awarded to Salt Lake City, many Utah residents were ecstatic that the world would finally recognize our state as a player on the global stage. To some degree that happened, but when it came to an influx of international buyers who were investing in other western resort markets, the growth was slower than predicted.
Having traveled throughout the last several years as president of Summit Sotheby's International Realty to participate in luxury residential real estate symposiums in Miami, New York City, Monte Carlo and other European cities near the world famous Alps, it has been surprising to see how little ski connoisseurs knew about Park City. They would readily know about Aspen and sometimes Jackson Hole and Vail but far too often I would be asked, "What state is Utah in?"
But then two big things happened.
First, Montage Residences Deer Valley opened atop Empire Pass in one of the most coveted locations in Deer Valley. With ski in/ski out access to America's No. 1 ski resort, these luxury residences on the top six floors of Montage Deer Valley quickly drew the attention of many.
Reminiscent of the great mountain lodges of North America, the resort features a refined Mountain Craftsman style to complement its majestic Wasatch Mountain setting. The residences are noteworthy for their spaciousness, ranging from one to four bedrooms with 1,221 to 6,858 square feet of living space, complemented by views of inspiring ski slopes and pristine sub-alpine valleys. The resort offers extensive 24-hour services, amenities, five on property dining outlets, including a gastro pub with a four-lane bowling alley, a 35,000 square foot Spa Montage, and all-season indoor/outdoor recreational programs that make the most of its location adjacent to thousands of acres of wooded forest terrain.
Second was the arrival of Vail Resorts to operate Canyons Resort in Park City. Vail Resorts owns and operates 10 premier resorts in Colorado (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone), the Lake Tahoe area of Nevada and California (Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood), Minnesota (Afton Alps) and Michigan (Mt. Brighton).
Vail Resorts' Epic Pass allows pass holders to access all 10 resorts, which will open new options to Vail customers who previously may not have considered Utah as a place to ski and stay.
With these offerings, which are similar to those in other better-known resort markets, we are seeing a dramatic rise in international real estate buyers. Buyers and investors from Mexico, Southeast Asia, Western Europe and the Middle East are starting to arrive in larger numbers and are experiencing the Utah that we've always known existed.
At times, it can be a little frustrating to hear out-of-state clients and friends proclaim what an amazing place Utah is, especially when they're noticing the very things my father taught me to love when he taught me to ski as a 4 year old in 1977.
But, if it means that Utah is now emerging as a significant destination on the international stage, I'll continue to smile with the knowledge that they are learning what the rest of us Utahns have long-since figured out.
Thomas Wright is President and Principal Broker at Summit Sotheby's International Realty.