Barrons’ Twenty Best Places to Buy a Second Home: Vail, Colorado

For second homes in America’s most affluent locations, the past year was ugly. No way else to describe it. Median home prices were down 50% in North Lake Tahoe, and 44% on Martha’s Vineyard, to cite two examples.

Last year was brutal for second homes in the nation’s most affluent areas. But the market is firming up again. Here’s our list, expanded to 20 sites, for those seeking top-tier refuges.

5. VAIL, COLORADO: For those who want the high life rather than the quiet life: After skiing knee-deep powder on Vail’s incomparable back bowls, a woman with a diamond ring the size of Pike’s Peak hands her skis to the valet. Prada sunglasses shade her tired eyes from the sun. The skier, the wife of a Mexico City industrialist, enters the Arrabelle Club, an apres-ski hangout where gold-medal Olympic skier and cover girl Lindsey Vonn keeps her locker. The Mexican jet-setter is handed a glass of Veuve Clicquot Brut. Favorite old-school hangout: Pepe’s for Bavarian schnitzel. New-school: Sweet Basil for a round of vodka martinis. Fifty single- family homes changed hands in 2011, nearly half the volume of a year earlier, but median prices were down only slightly.

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