Vail Resorts’ involvement has lent momentum to the redevelopment program; altogether, more than a dozen projects are under way or already finished. This past summer, work finally began on an ambitious complex called Solaris, a mix of retail space and condos. Coming soon: a Four Seasons, slated to open in 2009, followed by a Ritz-Carlton. Eventually, the Lionshead parking lot will get made over to the tune of $600 million or more, helping to boost the "Billion Dollar Renewal" to something more like twice that. "People keep asking me when the redevelopment will be over," says the Antlers’ Levine. "I tell them, not in my lifetime."
He’s only half joking. Who knows how long the train could keep on rolling?Then again, since the locomotive is the real estate market, a crash could radically cut back on the number of buyers willing to fork over as much as $2,000 per square foot on a second, third, or fourth home. While fears of a market turn are publicly dismissed, in private some Vail insiders admit they’re keeping a worried eye on the market.
Vail’s difficulties and successes are of vital interest to the rest of the ski industry, for which condo development has long been the main driving force. As more and more aging, built-up ski resorts find themselves needing a revamp, Vail’s is the example they’re going to have to emulate. "Everyone’s trying to find that elusive solution, to create an environment with a sense of place where people are comfortable," says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, based in Lakewood, Colorado.
For longtime Vail residents, however, the goal is much more simple. "Now," says Bob Lazier, "the town will finally equal the mountain."