Influx of Year-Round Ski Resort Residents

Wood River Valley has become a more accessible with year-round year-round mini-cities with quality arts and culinary offerings

Article by Jordan Gray

Photography by @discoverwoodrivervalley, @svwellness, @visitsunvalley, @communityschool

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

The Wood River Valley has always been an attractive spot for adventurers from around the nation.

These days, it’s also a pleasant spot to settle down. The area has seen booming growth, with values rising and properties being snatched off the market almost as quickly as they go on.

“We were growing fairly slowly until summer of 2020, when things really took off,” Young Group Sun Valley REALTOR and Marketing Director Kelsey Bates said. “Between Winter 2020 and Spring 2022, we did see values pretty much double.”

Sun Valley Economic Development Executive Director Harry Griffith concurred.

“The real estate market has been on steroids for the last 28 months, but is showing signs of slowing,” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic afforded many workers the opportunity to perform their duties remotely. And when you can work from anywhere, many saw their living options open up. As for why they’re choosing the Wood River Valley?

“The small-town feel and ease of access is what makes Sun Valley and the entire Wood River Valley so special,” Bates said. “The convenience of hiking, biking, and skiing in the winter makes getting fresh air on your lunch break very accessible. The area is very family-friendly. I think a lot of people are just chasing a better quality of life, and we offer that and then some here!”

The area also offers more than just outdoor recreation.

“The quality of arts, cultural, educational, and entertainment experiences, outside of opportunities from our natural surroundings, equals a strong quality of life at an exceptionally lovely pace,” Visit Sun Valley Executive Director Scott Fortner said.

Another factor has also made the area desirable for remote workers looking for a place to call home.

“Investment in broadband has helped, especially more rural parts of Blaine County, with Carey receiving a state grant for a big increase in new broadband,” Fortner said.

With the additional folks, some industries in town have shown strain, while others have benefitted – sometimes both.

“Customer-facing industries like restaurants, guiding services, sports shops, and the like have benefited immensely from these relocations,” Griffith said. “People are buying to outfit a new home or a second home and need their toys. Bikes, skis, and outdoor soft goods have been flying off the shelf.”

“For a Valley as small as ours, pretty much every industry has grown with the influx in population,” Bates said. “Our restaurants have definitely seen increased volumes, but that doesn’t come without added stress as tables are limited and staffing is tough. We have also seen large growth in a lot of our recreation programs as much of the population growth has come from entire families moving to the Valley.”

As with any change in a population, the town itself will change as well. Ironically, that can shift what brought people to the area in the first place.

“We like to say, ‘Don’t change Sun Valley, let Sun Valley change you,’” Bates said. “So often we see people wanting to move away from large cities to experience the small-town lifestyle, but their habits are very metropolitan based. There is a learning curve to moving to a small town. Things just move a bit slower, whether it is being stuck in ‘traffic’ due to a herd of elk crossing the highway, or showing up to your favorite coffee shop only to find out they are opening late being it is a powder day on Baldy. There are many quirks that make this area so loveable. I think it is easy for people who have moved from larger cities to find frustration in those quirks, but they eventually start to find the relaxed nature of our town charming.”

“This a giving community rather than a taking community,” Fortner said. “The sooner that new residents jump in and participate in one of the community organizations or events, the sooner they will feel accepted. There are a significant number of groups in the Valley to fit almost every need, interest, or passion project that some may have.”

For those ready to make the change and slow their pace a little, the area is now seeing options once again.

“For as expensive as our Valley is made out to be, we are still undervalued in comparison to other resort areas such as Park City, (Utah); Aspen, (Colorado); Vail, (Colorado), etc.,” Bates said. “Since this spring, we have started to see some leveling, both in prices as well as demand. Certain properties are still going quickly, but we aren’t seeing the multiple offers as much.”

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