Featured Interview: Chris Pollack – Dream Ski Homes in the Snow

Posted By: The Ski Channel on January 17, 2013 12:49 am

Chris Pollack, President of Pollack+Partners has the privilege to oversee some of the most exotic ski-homes and buildings built in heavenly snow cities near ski resorts such as Aspen, Jackson Hole, Park City and Whistler.Pollack+Partners is a high net-worth residential and building firm that carefully chooses partners complete with industry experts to make luxurious and unique ski houses in reasonable timing at a reasonable price with no secrets.  

Ski Home

Pollack recently published a study that identified 7 winter vacation sites including Aspen, Big Sky, Telluride, Jackson Hole, Whistler, Vail, and Park City.He compared the cost to build a custom estate on a per square foot basis. In Pollack’s study Aspen, CO is at the list at $1,235 per square foot (psf) while Whistler, BC, was the lowest price at $715 psf.With the cost analysis, there is a more realistic and simpler approach to customizing your dream ski home. 

 The Ski Channel had a chance to meet the voice of this awesome company that turns dreams into reality. Wouldn’t we all like our own customized place next to our favorite snow resort?

The Ski Channel: Pretty interesting stuff with the luxurious ski homes you’re making.

Chris Pollack: Thanks, I don't know if you saw but the Wall Street Journal just covered it and blogged it. 

TSC:That's cool and it will give you guys exposure. So does your company primarily deal with the high-end housing market?

CP: Yes, specifically what we do is talk to our partners at the high end companies to put together teams to design and build very high end homes, beach houses or roads in a city or wherever those clients live.We start from the early stage where sometimes we're helping our clients buy the site and pick our stages of suitability and that's the point we put together the best players that we work with or are suitable the project: architects, interior designers, landscape or the techs and they have to work with structures and see the project all the way through as the project manager.That's an example of essentially what we do.That entails, project budgets, scheduling, making sure the quality is there, make sure everything is communicated properly.

TSC: So, the customer has one person to deal with for the whole process?

CP: That's exactly right. If one person can deal with the design and construction expert then it's watching out for their best interest for the project. We're talking about sophisticated homes that are more commercial these days than they are residential-big, large scale and involved- then it can be organized and then managed as it goes to make sure they're getting paid for all that.So it's a service for the kind of people who are doing multiple projects at a time. Project costs are typically, not over I'd say a minimum of 5 but over 10 and up to 70 million.

 TSC: So you've dealt with projects up to 70 million?

CP: Yes. We’ve worked in various markets including London, Caribbean and out west.

 TSC: Have any of you guys been dealing with more winter homes lately?

CP: We did a project in Montana about 7 years ago and built some club so we got experience up there. We don't specialize in just one type of location or home;it's just really what the clients want to be built. 

TSC: What inspired you guys to do the research of the construction costs and project costs of the 7 popular snow resort areas?

CP: We did one this summer for each of the houses and we thought it was interesting to look at any of the different markets and see how the cost fluctuated and also the overall project cost. Most people who are quoting how much their house is costing typically don’t want to think or consider what their total number is sometimes because it is scary.  Some of our historic data and experience we have is that we put all of our project costs in our database. We give the information that our clients want so they know what to expect at the end of the day. It's a little bit dangerous to do but we don't like surprising our clients. 

TSC: Is that something more unique to you guys?

CP: I think so. When you hire a contractor or architect all of their quoting is the contractor's construction cost. They don’t have all the other data that we have.We have all of the numbers; security, employee visual,writing designers. There are so many consultants on the projects we do that impact the overall cost of the project and we like to have that up front. We even factor in legal fees and financial losses, price installation. These projects sometimes take up to 3-4 years.

 TSC: What was the process in putting together this analysis? What kind of sources and tools did you use?

CP:I tried to select cities that I have been to personally with the comfort of knowing that it has been looked at firsthand.We tap into global experts and the architectural building design and brokerage markets. So in order to reach the markets we ask the industry experts the local costs and we use our info from that for the project costs. But for the projects we're talking about, they tend to use national brand architects in larger firms that could work in any of the various markets.  

TSC: What are some of the trends. Were there any drastically different scenarios in this area?

CP: Not drastic.There are things that we would find different like prices, the distance from major airports and other transportation hubs that are farther to get away from or harder to get to places were more expensive to build. Typically, the labor costs do tend to go up. For example, the labor pool in Montana mostly came from another city that's an hour and 10 minute drive each way. That factors into the overall labor and material costs. Not to mention some of those locations are perpetual to incorporate a certain amount of stone or have a building look a certain way. 

TSC: Do they all do that or is it specific to one of the 7 spots with more stringent guidelines? 

CP: The Yellowstone Club doesn't close; it's a private club. It's in Montana. It's more specific because the entire resort is a private club including the ski mountain and so all of the homes have to go through the architecture review process. 

TSC: Did you find that any of these are more popular than the other? Are they experiencing more or less of a boom in terms of housing?

CP: Management there seems to be busier than most because they are attracting more of an international market more than other resorts.

TSC: Do you have any nightmare experiences or projects that got out of hand?

CP: We often get a call when the project is in that certain situation so we go there and fix it right away. Essentially, we try to avoid those situations to make sure the team we have is qualified for the project. It only takes one of the team members to go off course. There is not an exact process or science for finding a team but sometimes you get someone who may be just a friend or have heard of a good architect, meanwhile, something happens if they’re not careful. So that’s the most important thing to me. 

TSC: How is this study going to help people interested in these locations and help the industry as a whole?

CP:The people know the overall cost so they are better educated consumer as they go in. I think they can look at the different markets and get a sense of the same size house that can cost less in another market based on the location. They might decide to go to another market that is similar to the one they like but because it's more cost effective to build that in Park City and Aspen; they'd pick Park City. 

TSC: How is the market as a whole? Would you say these homes are still a good investment in today's housing market?

CP: That's a tough one. Typically vacation homes, when the markets are pressed are the first ones to fall as far as cost reductions. The goal is to create a house that is high-end, distinctive and unique that will always hold its value and will be higher if you have a good location. I know it sounds obvious but it's also very important. Many homes during a boom that have weak sites are the ones we see price reductions in more so than ones that are in better locations, view or access.

TSC: What would be your advice to someone who would be interested in building a home?

CP: Besides hiring my firm (laughs). Do your own work with the best possible team that you can. Get as educated as you can before you start a project and be diligent. Like anything, setting up is the most important thing,  make sure the team is knowledgeable and up to the challenges of building a ski house in that location with the unique structures. Each one, depending on it's site, has it's own challenge and you want people with the most experience to successfully execute it.

 -End of Interview