Best places to buy a winter vacation home 2021–2022

Published November 2021

>

Break out the snow boots and defrost the car—after a complicated ski season in 2020, a fresh heap of snow is gathering on the mountains and skiers and snowboarders are here for it. For season pass holders or really anyone heading up to the slopes, staying in a vacation home is an ideal scenario. Not only are many of the homes ski-in, ski-out (oh, the convenience!), but many are flush with hooks, ski boot warmers and heated floors to welcome you back from the mountain. 

Staying in a vacation home is one thing, but owning one is quite another. And while we realize that may be a powder dream for some, those looking to use the home themselves and as a short-term rental are in luck. Ski cabins are one of the most sought out types of inventory and often serve as popular year-round vacation rentals due to proximity to lakes. So in the spirit of the season, we’ve rounded up the Best Places to Buy a Winter Vacation Home based on estimated cap rate or, more simply, return on your investment. 

A snowy, yet bright outlook 

For all of Vacasa’s Best Places to Buy a Vacation Home reports (see Beach House, Lake House, and Top 25), we base our rankings on cap rate, or the yearly return on investment. Peak cap rates help indicate how well a market is performing, but the real estate market has been a crazy one and average home costs—both primary and secondary—are soaring. This of course has an impact on cap rates, so those are sitting a little lower than normal because rents tend to trail home prices. But fear not, we’ve seen an uptick in average daily rates in this year’s top markets, meaning annual gross rental revenues remain strong, which translates to more vacation rental income for short-term rental owners.

The 10 best places to buy a winter vacation home in 2021–2022, ranked

Market

Cap rate

Median home cost

1

Newry, Maine

12.3%

$245,965

2

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

8.4%

$335,750

3

Poconos, Pennsylvania

6.9%

$274,500

4

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland

6.2%

$439,367

5

Conway, New Hampshire

4.8%

$343,412

6

Big Sky, Montana

4.8%

$850,000

7

Big Bear, California

4.5%

$417,178

8

Chelan, Washington

4.1%

$416,000

9

Ludlow, Vermont

3.9%

$346,950

10

Banner Elk, North Carolina

3.6%

$369,000


COVID disclaimer:
Indoor and outdoor attractions, restaurants, bars, ski villages, events, and festivals mentioned within local market descriptions may be closed or cancelled, or may have limited service due to COVID. Before visiting, you are encouraged to check local regulations for the latest information.

beautiful fall colors surround a home in Newry, Maine

1. Newry, Maine

The number one ski market on our Best Places to Buy a Winter Vacation Home hits the half pipe in Newry. Though the northeastern part of the country may not come to mind as the best place to hit the slopes, the powder at the Sunday River Resort helps boost the town’s 12.3% cap rate. And, not to be ignored is the Jordan (nope, not that one)—the fastest eight person chair lift in North America—to take you to the top.

Cap rate

12.3%

Median sale price

$245,965

Annual gross rental revenue

$50,436

Log cabin in gatlinburg with porch lights on in the evening

2. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg can’t seem to stay off of our Best Places to Buy a Vacation Home lists and has come in at the top for the past few years. Perhaps one winter activity driving guests to the area? The Ober Gatlinburg Mountaintop Park and Aerial Tramway, which not only offers skiing and snowboarding, but ice skating, tubing, and even a ski mountain coaster. But let’s not just focus on the chillier months, Gatlinburg is a year-round destination for travelers and boasts a strong cap rate above 8%.

Cap rate

8.4%

Median sale price

$335,750

Annual gross rental revenue

$47,328

string lights drape over the deck of a vacation rental in poconos with a hot tub and outdoor table

3. Poconos, Pennsylvania

Down(hill) just one spot from our 2020 Best Places to Buy a Winter Vacation Home report are the ski towns that lie within the Poconos region. And, according to the Poconos Mountains website, which lays claim to modest mountains, deep snow, fast lifts and impeccably groomed trails, it’s no wonder Poconos ranks on our list for the second year in a row. The median home sales price is still under $300,000, making it an attractive buy for first timers in the market.

Cap rate

6.9%

Median sale price

$274,500

Annual gross rental revenue

$37,770

log cabin near deep creek lake covered in snow

4. Deep Creek Lake, Maryland

In the winter months, skiers and snowboarders flock to Wisp Resort in the Western Maryland mountains, where they can glide down 33 slopes totaling 11 miles of terrain. For those who prefer to have their feet firmly on the ground, there are plenty of other winter activities—including hiking to Swallow Falls State Park, partaking in a guided snowshoe tour, and even slushing through the snow on a festive sleigh ride. A median sales price of approximately $440,000 means these dreamy scenarios can be a reality.

Cap rate

6.2%

Median sale price

$439,367

Annual gross rental revenue

$51,603

cabin Conway, NH with second floor deck and garage

5. Conway, New Hampshire

Often referred to as the Birthplace of American Skiing, Conway oozes New England charm, drawing a wide variety of visitors to its snowy peaks. In short, it’s a skier and snowboarder delight with more than a dozen ski resorts and Nordic centers within just half an hour of town. Snowshoeing and tubing also abound, but one activity Conway can offer that others cannot? The opportunity to partake in some of the best ice climbing around. A 4.8% cap rate can keep you flush with cash for park fees.

Cap rate

4.8%

Median sale price

$343,412

Annual gross rental revenue

$37,855

cabin with mountain views in Big Sky

6. Big Sky, Montana

The Montana vacation destination known for endless miles of snowy terrain AND summer time fun is another market that consistently ranks on our Best Places to Buy a Vacation Home lists year after year. Some refer to Big Sky country as an “R” destination, meaning it offers guests the opportunity to recreate, reconnect, relax, and rejuvenate—but it should also count as an “S” destination, for skiing, snowboarding and basically any other activity that involves fluffy white powder. The median home cost in Big Sky has soared since the pandemic, so $850,000 is likely a stretch for most, but we’re still optimistic about the $60,000+ in annual gross vacation rental revenue.

Cap rate

4.8%

Median sale price

$850,000

Annual gross rental revenue

$61,980

log cabin with garage in Big Bear, CA

7. Big Bear, California

Known largely for the best skiing in SoCal, Big Bear has a more laid-back vibe than some of the other markets that made this year’s Best Places to Buy a Winter Vacation Home report. Skiers and snowboarders will fly through the trails freshly groomed for every type of skier—from little ones testing the magic carpet to advanced participants taking on the Black Diamonds. Buyers are feeling good about Big Bear because of its 4.5% cap rate and annual gross rental revenue of just nearly $39,000.

Cap rate

4.5%

Median sale price

$417,178

Annual gross rental revenue

$38,913

waterfront home on Lake Chelan

8. Chelan, Washington

When a destination describes itself as “life inside a snow globe” there is no doubt that it belongs on our Best Places to Buy a Winter Vacation Home report. For locals, an experience like no other can be found at Echo Ridge, a Nordic ski resort in Lake Chelan Valley, which offers snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and tubing, in addition to the regular downhill fare. With homes available—and lakefront a major plus—around $416,000, Chelan is an ap “peel”ing option in the apple state.

Cap rate

4.1%

Median sale price

$416,000

Annual gross rental revenue

$37,892

chalet in Ludlow, VT

9. Ludlow, Vermont

The Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow is a true winter wonderland with world-class amenities and terrain options for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. It’s another mountain resort that truly has it all and is accessible for all ages in the Green Mountain State, which is bordered by several highly populated northeastern states. Ludlow is an area where the cap rate may have dipped, but the average daily rate for vacation rentals has increased significantly.

Cap rate

3.9%

Median sale price

$346,950

Annual gross rental revenue

$38,674

Large vacation home in Banner Elk, NC surrounded by trees

10. Banner Elk, North Carolina

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina’s High Country, Banner Elk is nicely situated between two major ski resorts—Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain Resort—and keeps skiers and snowboarders on their toes with a wide variety of terrain. One has North Carolina’s only double Black Diamond run, and the other offers the state’s only mountaintop skybar. Fun for kids can be found just 30 miles away at the East Coast’s largest tubing park, featuring more than 30 lanes.

Cap rate

3.6%

Median sale price

$369,000

Annual gross rental revenue

$32,598

Our methodology

To determine its ranking of top vacation rental markets, Vacasa analyzed home sales and vacation rental performance data from the last twelve months for vacation destinations throughout the country where Vacasa and its licensed subsidiaries manage vacation rentals. *To determine average gross rental income (homeowner revenue made from bookings, excluding any fees) for a market, we used actual performance data for the market as a whole, where available, except that Vacasa-only data was used for markets where Vacasa manages more than 50 units and actual Vacasa rental performance beats the market average by at least 25%. To calculate average cap rate, we considered the averages of the following in each market: property taxes, utilities, HOA fees, insurance, and property management fees. 

Local regulations vary by jurisdiction and the transfer of a property to a new owner may affect its ability to be used as a vacation rental. Generally, all vacation rental regulations are subject to change, which may affect your ability to use a property as a vacation rental in the future. Buyers should always check current local regulations prior to making an investment decision.

You might also like...

2021 Best Places to Buy a Vacation Home
aerial view of galveston, tx coastline
Best places to buy a beach house 2021
wood dock over a lake
Best places to buy a lake house 2021
snow-covered mountains in colorado
Best places to buy a winter vacation home 2020–2021



Vacasa offers property management and other real estate services directly through Vacasa LLC and through Vacasa LLC's licensed subsidiaries. Click here for more information about Vacasa's licensed real estate brokerage/property manager in your state. Vacasa’s licensed real estate brokerages/property managers include: Vacasa Alabama LLC; Vacasa Arizona LLC; Vacasa Colorado LLC; Vacasa Delaware LLC, 302-541-8999; Vacasa Florida LLC; Vacasa Louisiana LLC, Dana MacCord, Principal Broker, ph 504.252.0155 (Licensed in LA); Vacasa Michigan LLC, 947-800-5979; Vacasa Missouri LLC, Susan Scanlon, Designated Broker; Vacasa Nevada LLC; Vacasa New Hampshire LLC, P.O. Box 283, Conway NH 03818, Dave Grant, Broker of Record; Vacasa New Mexico LLC, 503-345-9399; Vacasa New York LLC, 888-433-0068, Susan E. Scanlon, Real Estate Broker; Vacasa North Carolina LLC; Vacasa Pennsylvania LLC; Vacasa Real Estate Corporation, California DRE #02105811, Joseph Czapkowicz, California DRE #01380722; Vacation Palm Springs Real Estate, Inc., California DRE #01523013, Joseph Czapkowicz, California DRE #01380722; Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Colorado, Daned Kirkham); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Idaho, Oregon, and Utah); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Maine, Michael McNaboe, Designated Broker); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Texas, Debra Brock, Designated Broker); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Washington, Robert Brush, Designated Broker); Vacasa Seasonals Inc., California DRE #02160171, Daned Kirkham, California DRE #01424621; Vacasa South Carolina LLC; Vacasa Tennessee LLC; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Hawaii LLC, 3350 Lower Honoapiilani Road, Suite 600, Lahaina, HI 96761; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Montana LLC, Cameron Bree James, Licensed Property Manager; Vacasa Virginia LLC; Vacasa Wisconsin LLC; Vacasa Wyoming LLC. In Canada, this advertisement is provided by Vacasa Canada ULC, CPBC lic. number 75826, 172 Asher Rd. V1X 3H6 Kelowna, BC.

*This document is for information and illustrative purposes only. It is not intended to provide “investment advice” or a “recommendation” regarding a course of action. The discussion is general in nature and has not taken into account your personal financial position or objectives. You should consult a licensed financial advisor or other professional to discuss your specific situation.

Estimated rental income figures and home sale prices are based on historical averages; for any specific property, the actual revenue, purchase price, and cap rate may differ materially from estimated amounts and depend on a wide range of factors outside Vacasa's knowledge or control, such as the property's condition, layout, and furnishings; expenses associated with the acquisition and ownership of the property (such as property taxes, utility fees, HOA fees, insurance fees, and mortgage-related expenses); rental calendar availability; existing and future regulations; current and future economic, social, and political trends and conditions; and weather and environmental factors. These estimates do not take into account the potential impact of state income taxes.

Many locations restrict or impose conditions on the use of properties as vacation rentals, or restrict vacation rentals to certain defined areas. Before purchasing a particular property as a potential vacation rental a buyer should confirm that the property can legally be used for this purpose.

Vacasa makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, about the accuracy of this document. Furthermore, Vacasa has no obligation to update, modify or amend this document or to otherwise notify users in the event that any opinion, assumption, forecast or estimate set forth herein changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate. Therefore, you should not place undue reliance on statements in this document.