Summit still ‘Colorado’s Playground’ |

Summit still ‘Colorado’s Playground’


SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County’s clever but dated marketing move to dub itself “Colorado’s Playground” still holds water. A recent study showed that while the economies of surrounding counties are primarily driven by second homeowners, Summit’s economic engine is still fueled by winter tourism.

Second homes came in a close second as a top economic driver for the local economy in the study, which was compiled by Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG).

The study estimated that $1.6 billion was generated for Summit County from outside sources, with winter tourism accounting for 39 percent of those dollars and second homes accounting for 32 percent.

Winter tourism brought in $632 million, while spending associated with second homes – including construction and spending by owners for goods and services while they are here – brought in $517 million.

In comparison, Pitkin County received 34 percent and Eagle County 38 percent of outside income from second homes, while winter tourism generated only 22 percent of outside income for both of those counties.

Other outside economic generators include resident income and summer tourism, bringing in 12 percent each to Summit’s economy.

The local tourist economy also generates more jobs than second homes. Winter tourism produced 46 percent of the county’s estimated 20,957 jobs, while second homes generated 28 percent of jobs through construction and positions created by second homeowner spending.

In both Pitkin and Eagle counties, more jobs were generated through second homes than by winter tourism.

While Summit County’s economy is not primarily driven by second homeowners, the county has a higher percentage of nonresidents than other counties in the region. Sixty-seven percent of Summit County homes are owned by nonresidents, compared with 49 percent in Eagle County, 55 percent in Pitkin County and 63 percent in Grand County.

In the region, second homeowners are likely to be aged 55-64 with children nearing adulthood or not living at home, according to the study. Most of the second homeowners have a college education or advanced college degrees and nearly half make more than $150,000 annually.

In Summit County, there is a substantial income difference between locals and nonresident homeowners. The average household income for locals was $93,558, while the average income for second homeowners was $211,787.

The number one reason for purchasing a second home was for the property’s investment potential, study surveys found, and 44 percent of respondents said their second home was used only by owners, family and friends. Only 1 percent of second homes were used for corporate retreats, while 38 percent of second homeowners said they rented their property part time.

Historic information, such as that compiled in the NWCCOG survey, is not available, so it is impossible to outline trends in the region’s second home market.

“We want to revisit the same economic analysis in the next few years to see if drivers are moving in different directions,” said Linda Venturoni, special projects coordinator for NWCCOG.

In other words, while Summit County can still wear its “Winter Playground” badge, will second homes begin to dominate the local economy in the future?

There are currently 6 million second homes in the U.S. – up 46 percent from 1995 – and spending on them exceeds $19 billion per year. That figure does not include purchasing or furnishing new second homes, but accounts for mortgage interest payments, property taxes, maintenance, utilities and insurance costs.

Nearly 80 million baby boomers are moving into the age bracket that traditionally sees the most second home purchasing. Currently aged 40-55 years old, if this huge demographic continues the national trend, Summit could follow Eagle and Pitkin counties into an economy dominated by second home development.

NWCCOG will host a symposium titled “The Social and Economic Effects of Second Homes” July 8 at the Manor Vail Resort in Vail. For more information, visit

Kim Marquis can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249 or

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