The Most Expensive Real Estate in Sun Valley Has Nothing to Do With Houses

“I’ll take a chicken burger,” said a grandfather on a winter afternoon in Sun Valley, Idaho. It was the beginning of 2020, and the counter of the bar was sticky from beer overflow and wine glass ring stains after the lunchtime rush. Wearing ski boots and a glossy red ski helmet, he took a seat at a table that looked out at Bald Mountain. The grandfather was Clint Eastwood.

Early last year, the resort’s most popular mountain access point, Warm Springs Lodge, was in full swing. Famous faces and their children like Patrick Schwarzenegger, actor and son of Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger, filled the wood-paneled gateway during peak après hours. And while the crowds in the lodge used to be as densely packed as Coachella’s main stage, the 2020–21 ski season is a different picture. Currently, the resort’s lodges are closed to all social activities and ski-boot removal due to the pandemic.

At any luxury ski resort, the main lodges typically resemble the now legendary cantina scene from Star Wars, bustling with the most powerful and eccentric visitors imaginable. Now, the wealthy watering holes around the world have shut down to socializing. In Sun Valley, the most exclusive action has pivoted a few footsteps north from Warm Springs to the Edelweiss, a Bavarian-style condominium complex that has long since seen better days. Here, celebrities and billionaires have bought (and occasionally sold) studio-size condo units for as much as $1.5 million each—not as a place to lay their heads, but for their privacy, an opportunity to socialize without COVID-19 restrictions, and a special locker dedicated solely to their ski equipment. That’s right: Folks are buying tiny Edelweiss condos for seven-plus figures simply as a place to store their skis!

Tom Ford, the fashion designer and filmmaker, renovated his condominium for a full floor-to-ceiling makeover. Some Edelweiss owners considered this “perfuming a pig.” But to others, Ford simply understood the Edelweiss’s most valuable amenity of all: isolation. And like everything Ford designs, his ski locker received the VIP treatment before the sleek mahogany unit was listed on the market for $949,000 and traded for an undisclosed amount.

On busy ski weekends, Edelweiss owners like Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Jann Wenner, and Steve Wynn can be spotted roaming the narrow, brown-carpeted hallways. Residents are greeted with a mural of Pinzgauer cows wearing bells and a hiker moving into an Alpine sunrise. In the evening, there’s no other noise — mingling hours are over. An issue that plagues most densely built condominiums with paper-thin walls are loud neighbors, but not at the Edelweiss. By 6 p.m., the parking lot is almost entirely empty, and so are the condos—or “ski lockers”—as they’re known to owners. Again, because nothing actually “sleeps” here except their owners’ skis.

“I’ve never even considered it,” said Steve Wynn of spending a night at his locker. When informed that there is an in-ground pool between buildings A and B of the resort, the Las Vegas tycoon and fine art collector responded: “There are two buildings?”

There is no central heat or air in the complex, and Kipp Nelson, the chairman of U.S. Ski and Snowboard, calls his first-floor unit “a college dorm.”

During a visit over MLK weekend—one of the resort’s busiest times—Nelson’s condo lived up to his dormitory description. Dozens of upright skis crowded the stand-up shower. “It was a waste of money to install that,” Nelson said about the $50,000 shower renovation for a condo where he never actually stays overnight. “But then it turned out to be a perfect storage spot for overload.”

For much of its existence, the Edelweiss was largely seen as a missed opportunity. Sun Valley does not have the kind of ski-in-ski-out hotel that’s so popular at other destination resorts, and the Edelweiss—a 72-unit burnt-chocolate condominium complex with now iconic Tyrolean typeface—occupies the only viable real estate that could offer the full ski-in-ski-out experience.

Peggy Dean, a widow of a local tire businessman, was one of the first owners of a first-floor unit. In the early 1970s, the Edelweiss was a second home to many in the ski-apparel industry. Developed by Robert Mickelson and named after his now defunct line of athleisure clothing, the Edelweiss often hosted trunk shows and presentations of new ski apparel. During busy weekends, racks of clothing for sale would line the first floor’s deck, and designers could take refuge on their Murphy beds inside. Toward the mid-’70s, there were talks of converting the entire first floor into a retail space, but the owners were less than enthused. “It didn’t get past a discussion,” Dean said. Why? “I just love the convenience for skiing too much.”

Over time, the fashion world moved out, and wealthy skiers moved in. Due to the recent lodge closures, owners are now holding on especially tight. In stark contrast to the beginning of 2020, not a single unit is currently for sale. The only place to socialize in town, the Edelweiss has transformed into a small underground social club of the who’s who of the global .011 percent.

A local relic, the Edelweiss has become famous for its low-key veneer. The dissonance, between ski culture’s innate glitz and the dilapidation of Sun Valley’s most exclusive hot spot, seems perverse. But the Edelweiss is a mascot of what Sun Valley is all about: It may look tired and shabby on the outside, but once you get in, it’s pretty special.

Many full-time Sun Valley residents don’t understand the need for a six- or seven-figure ski locker. “It’s a luxury, and an unnecessary one,” said Phil Barney, a co-owner of Hawaiian-print shirt brand Three Islands Clothing and son of famed American portrait photographer Tina Barney. “I live five minutes away from Warm Springs. I just drive down in my ski boots and park my car in the free lot. Everyone who has a locker has a second or third home here too. Why don’t they just learn to drive in their ski boots? It’s easier than it sounds.”

But to Brad Harrington, cofounder of Olly, a wellness brand built on gummy vitamins, the idea of driving an all-wheel Porsche Targa in ski boots is comical, and not just because of the obvious dangers of trying to operate a clutch pedal without mobility in his ankles. “There’s a certain mystery of association with the Edelweiss,” Harrington said, who doesn’t own a ski locker yet but uses a close friend’s. “It’s this quiet club of influential people hidden behind a kitschy Bavarian façade.”

“It’s a unique asset that only those in the know, know,” he added.

Source: Read Full Article