At Whitetail, resorting to homebuilding Pennsylvania ski area putting up houses in $10 million expansion

Luring recreation lovers

Dwellings to range in price from $178,000 to $260,000

September 01, 1996|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Whitetail Ski Resort has started a $10 million residential expansion at the Mercersburg, Pa., mountain resort that's expected to lure vacation home buyers from Maryland.

The first of 48 slope-side townhouses should be complete in time for this winter's ski season, Whitetail President Stephen K. Rice said last week.

So far, buyers have signed binding contracts for 30 of those homes -- ranging in price from $178,000 to $260,000, Rice said.

"People have purchased them up front," Rice said. "For a resort in the first phase of residential development, it shows a lot of faith in the quality and the project's completion."

The three- and four-bedroom, brick-front, Federalist-style houses will be built in clusters of up to four units. Some homes will sit as close as 10 yards from the Northern Lights trail on Two Top Mountain, allowing residents to ski from their doorsteps.

"None of these residents of the village will have to do anything but take a few steps to the slope," Rice said.

As part of the first phase of development, roads, water and sewerage has been completed for the townhouses and for an additional 350 units to be built within three to five years.

This winter, the resort will start pre-selling 60 condominiums planned for a six-story tower with a health club and pool. Condo residents should be able to move in by the winter of 1997-1998.

Homes for sale or rent typically have been a key component of large, destination-oriented ski resorts, such as those in Vail and Aspen, Colo., said Stacy Gardner, a spokesman for the National Ski Areas Association in Lakewood, Colo. Even at smaller, regional ski slopes, residential development has proved popular and profitable, Gardner said.

"With baby boomers turning 50, as they get older they're looking for a place where the family can reside on its off time," said Gardner, who noted that the number of skiers 55 and older jumped 88 percent between 1990 and 1995, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. "It's convenient to keep personal skis at a second home."

Over the next 10 years, Whitetail plans to build up to 1,500 homes, a mix of townhouses and condominiums. Along with pricier homes, the resort is considering building more affordable, compact cottages that would feature bedrooms with separate entrances that owners could offer for rent.

White-tail expects to compete in the vacation homes market by selling the resort as a place Maryland and Virginia residents can easily reach for a weekend getaway.

The resort is about 80 miles from downtown Baltimore.

So far, buyers have come from the same Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas that produce the resort's skiers, said Rachel Nichols, a Whitetail spokeswoman.

The nation's newest mountain resort attracted about 240,000 skiers last winter.

"People are taking the opportunity to have a vacation home that feels like it's far away, but geographically it's not," Nichols said. "They can reasonably leave home on a Friday after work and be back at work Monday."

Adding a golf course

Whitetail, which plans eventually to double its 17 trails, hopes to attract visitors year-round with the residential expansion and the addition of an 18-hole golf course.

The 5-year-old resort has entered negotiations with a golf course developer to start building next year.

Maryland's only ski resort, Wisp Four Seasons Resort, built a golf course more than 15 years ago to expand year-round activities.

Whitetail's first 48 homes are being built by Trailside Builders, a joint venture of Rockwell Construction of Mercersburg and Brechbill and Helman of Chambersburg, Pa.

The architect for the resort's base lodge, Banwell, White and Hemberger, also designed the homes with the same exterior look of red brick, green roofs and beige siding.

Pub Date: 9/01/96

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