Rocky Mountain HighThe emergence of the ski resort as an all-season individual or family destination isn’t news. Ski destination pioneers in Europe have seen their exclusive model re-imagined for every income level in every part of the world, to the point where locations in Japan, the United States and Canada are giving the old school locales a serious run for their money. Better value and better rental returns (and sometimes superior physical environments) are drawing investors to these locations, and the latest to spring up on the landscape are the residences at Silvertip Village in the heart of Alberta ski country.

The Rocky Mountains are, arguably, second only to the Himalayas for sheer awesomeness, and 20-year-old developer Stone Creek Resorts is preparing to launch a series of investment residences. Set to be completed in 2015, The Village Residences at Silvertip are a stone’s throw from Banff National Park. If you’ve never seen Banff and Lake Louise you’ve likely heard the breathless exclamations about its ridiculous beauty from friends who have. The residences will ultimately comprise nearly 1,300 one- to three-bedroom suites ranging in size from 500 to 2,000 square feet. Phase I will span two low-density towers in the Sienna and Lancaster residences, a small corner of the total 550-acre (225-hectare) site.

One hour from Calgary and closest to Canmore on the sunny side of Bow Valley, Silvertip is a sustainable development that boasts geothermal heating and cooling among its environmental considerations. This is Stone Creek’s second high-end resort development, the first being Eagle Ranch in Invermere, British Columbia, just about two hours from Banff. Currently, those properties are valued anywhere between CA$600,000 and $4.4 million (HK$4.5 to 34 million).

Like many resort investments, Stone Creek is offering purchasers 30 to 60 days per year of use plus a rental yield. The Rocky Mountain region welcomes upwards of four million visitors each year, and five-star facilities (the iconic Banff Springs Hotel excepted) are in short supply. Guy Turcotte, Stone Creek’s founder, president and CEO, is confident the product has a place in the market, so is the developer guaranteeing rental returns the way scores of other branded property investments do? “There is no guaranteed rental return. Hopefully we’ve created an environment for success,” Turcotte begins. “But we believe Silvertip will generate a nice return. Phase I is located right in the heart of the village and the existing amenities should make it one of our best.”

The existing Village in Canmore itself is a rustic alpine town, defined by traditional architecture and is surrounded by golf courses (seven), dining, shopping and naturally, skiing. The Residences will ultimately feature amenities that include a spa, fitness centre, private pools and golf and full concierge services. Stone Creek is hosting a launch event at the Mandarin Oriental July 21-22, because as Savills’ head of business development Julian Sedgwick sees it, “For investors there are two potential tenants’ streams — the vacationers and long term renters. The market has a lot to offer Asian investors.”

Sound familiar? To anyone who’s been to Whistler, it might, and separating the two, particularly in the investor mind, could be tricky. Where Whistler is a bustling ski bum town (not necessarily a bad thing), Silvertip is more of a peaceful hamlet to be savoured. “The Alberta Rockies are different than the mountains at Whistler. I wouldn’t say we were the be-all and end-all, and I don’t think Whistler is either. There are great resort communities in Québec,” argues Turcotte. Which is not to say the brain trust at Stone Creek didn’t pick the Whistler developers’ brains when it came time to fully realise Silvertip. About the difference between the Rockies and the Pacific Ranges, Turcotte is quick to point out that, “The beauty of Silvertip is the mountains are a bit more rugged than at Whistler … And Whistler prices are considerably higher than ours. We’re within an hour of a very strong corporate base that provides excellent demand for our services. Those three to four million tourists that come to Banff every year speaks for itself.” Those and the breathless exclamations of friends.