Hollywood's Ski Getaways: Luxe Real Estate in Peak Markets Aspen and Tahoe

Courtesy of Resorts West Real Estate
Deer Valley, Utah

Don Henley's former estate is part of a $27.5 million spread in Colorado, while Larry Ellison's massive compound takes shape in Nevada and California -- with nary a bear rug in site.

Modern design is going straight to the top of some of the country's hottest ski resort towns, where right-angled contemporary homes -- with plenty of out-there amenities -- are keeping company with traditional-style cabins.

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After years in the doldrums, Aspen real estate has come back during the past two years. And suddenly, some of the area's highest-priced properties are swerving away from its traditional log-cabin and Victorian architecture to new, modern homes loaded with A-list amenities. "It used to be all timber, logs and stone; now we're getting a blend of more contemporary architecture," says Joshua Saslove of Christie's International Real Estate, whose current listings include a $45 million spec house located just 1½ blocks behind The Little Nell hotel, where part- and full-time Aspen residents Kate Hudson, Mariah Carey and Michael Eisner hang out. The home's 18,000 square feet of interior space includes an indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, shooting range, two elevators and a garage with a lazy Susan device that can rotate cars.

At the former Don Henley estate in nearby Woody Creek, Colo. (where Nancy Pelosi has a winter home), the eight-time Grammy winner's original farmhouse still is part of the $27.5 million spread. But now that home has become the guesthouse, playing second fiddle to the main house, a newly constructed 12,000-square-foot glass-and-concrete structure that angles around a massive rectangular pool.

Perhaps there is no more striking symbol of the shift than the new building that will house the Aspen Art Museum, due to open in 2014. Designed by the highly conceptual Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, the striking structure will dominate Aspen's downtown area. "This is four times larger than its previous museum, and it is definitely going to be a state-of-the-art space that will be great for the city," says Bob Gersh, co-owner of the Gersh Agency, who has a home in the city and is a board member of the museum.

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"This is going to change the landscape of downtown Aspen into something more hip and cosmopolitan," says BJ Adams, owner of real estate firm BJ Adams and Co. She also sees a new wave of residential development hitting downtown with penthouse homes built on top of the area's rapidly evolving commercial spaces: Dolce & Gabbana and Helmut Lang will occupy the recently razed Gap space, while an Officine Panerai replaced an organic food store earlier this year.

Not that it's all about high design. Earlier in 2013, Jack Nicholson's Victorian in Aspen's West End sold for $11 million (the actor purchased the property with record producer Lou Adler in 1980 when neither could get good enough television reception for Lakers games from their respective Aspen homes). And at nearby Meanwhile Ranch, a 56-acre Snowmass Canyon spread that's on the market for $15.95 million, its 12,000-square-foot main home still exemplifies the area's penchant for supersize log-cabin construction. "Michael Jackson rented this property out and had blacked out every window on the property," says BJ Adams agent Gary Feldman. Its greatest amenity, however, has nothing to do with rotating rides or indoor pools: "The property comes with an easement, which means that owners have rights to go through Ringo Starr's property directly across the street to get to Roaring Fork River."


Straddling California and Nevada, the mountaintop getaway of Lake Tahoe has seen some of the most significant rises in real estate values compared with other ski towns. For design lovers, Martis Camp, located on the California side, has become a magnet for top Los Angeles architects and designers. L.A. architecture firm Marmol Radziner (whose clients include Tom Ford) has just completed its second commission in the 2,177-acre private community, while interior designer Jamie Bush (Nina Jacobson, Rich Ross) is finishing up an 8,000-square-foot contemporary for former Facebook vp and current venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya. "This is where the serious money are building homes," says Bush.

But the even bigger money is moving in on the Nevada side of Tahoe, says real estate agent Kerry Donovan of Chase International. Case in point: Larry Ellison's massive in-construction compound. "This year, we've seen almost $200 million in sales on the Nevada side, mostly in Incline Village and Crystal Bay," Donovan says. "Much of that has to do with Proposition 30 in California, which has raised income taxes. That's not the case here, and that has got the market moving."

This story first appeared in the Jan. 3, 2014, issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.