For better or worse, the pandemic has permanently changed how we live, where we work, and how we play.
The transition to and continuation of remote work has given us the opportunity to live anywhere we choose rather than near the office. Places like Jackson Hole, Park City, and Breckenridge — and all mountain towns that were once vacation destinations — are now seeing a flood of urbanites armed with cash and a new plan for where and how they want to spend their time.
Tom Hedges has been a part of Jackson’s growth long before the pandemic put it on the fast track. Moving to the area in 2003 from Chicago, Tom has a similar story to the more-recent transplants. He was anxious to get out of the city and back to the mountains after spending some time in the Italian Alps and Breckenridge.
As part of the Vail Resorts Development Company, he was sent to Jackson to assist with the renovation and real estate development of the Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club. After completing the project and selling out of memberships, he chose to stay in Jackson rather than move to Vail. He’s since played a role in a number of businesses and developments, and he and his wife, Laura, are raising their two kids here — Bill, 6, and Ellie, 1.
“I cannot imagine a better place to raise kids and we have no plans to ever leave the valley,” Tom says.
Once he decided to put down roots in Jackson, he was immediately attracted to the real estate market.
“It seemed that the finite nature of the developability of Teton County, combined with the natural beauty, produced almost guaranteed ongoing appreciation opportunity,” he says.
He began investing himself, and eventually started brokering deals for clients. That initial investment has blossomed into a plethora of projects, including C&C HomeServices, a property management company that Tom started with his business partner, Kelly Akin.
The company has been operating for over 15 years, offering short- and long-term rental management and caretaking services in Jackson Hole and Teton Valley. The team currently manages 64 homes, but is looking to grow their portfolio to 100 properties in the next two years.
Last year, Tom and Kelly launched Akin & Hedges Realty. With several development projects already under construction, they wanted to keep their brokering services in-house and didn’t see a need to tie themselves to a national brand. They broker real estate purchases for buyers and sellers in Jackson Hole and Teton County, with an office on the Jackson Town Square and on Main Street in Victor.
And his work doesn’t stop there. In 2015, Tom and a small group of associates purchased land to build Conestoga Ranch in Bear Lake, Utah. Just two and a half hours from Jackson, this glamping resort offers luxury glamping tents, Conestoga wagons, a restaurant, and other amenities.
“We’ve enjoyed great success and look forward to providing a fun and unique lodging experience for years to come,” Tom says. “Bear Lake is booming and we foresee it becoming an even more popular vacation destination as it continues to reach its potential. With all of the new demand for vacation homes in Bear Lake, we are working to launch a great new real estate development adjacent the resort this summer.”
After falling in love with Moose Creek Ranch (MCR) at the base of Teton Pass in Victor, Tom purchased the property with business partner Tom Hendrick in 2019. They then completed a top-to-bottom renovation of the ranch and added 15 RV sites near Moose Creek.
“We have an incredible staff and provide a totally unique lodging experience for our guests,” he says. “This year, MCR is celebrating its 65th year in operation. The ranch remains one of the premier Teton locations for weddings, events, and unique guest ranch-style getaways.”
Over the last few years, Tom has been focusing more and more on real estate development. He and a good friend purchased the Lift restaurant property at the base of Snow King Mountain, constructing a new building on the bones of the old restaurant in June 2021. He’s also working on a 60,000-square-foot mixed-use building in the same location and building two homes at the Amangani with another group of associates.
His first subdivision project, called The Outpost at Mountainside Village, has just broken ground in Victor and will offer 39 mountain-modern, farmhouse-style homes.
While Tom has certainly taken advantage of the new growth in the area, he’s not blind to how it has affected the community and the natural spaces surrounding town. He believes that the protections of those spaces are what keeps Jackson unique.
“It remains one of the great places in the world and we are super fortunate to have the majority of the land protected against developability,” he says.
However, it’s those protections that are also pricing longtime locals out. In combination with the beauty and the Jackson Hole name, Tom says the limited developability — 3 percent of the entire county — has made it one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. Many of his friends have left the county due to ever-increasing costs, and he admits he plays a role in that as a local developer.
“It has become almost impossible for our service workforce to afford to stay and enjoy the quality of life they deserve,” he says. “Satellite communities like Victor, Driggs, and Alpine seem to be the only solution for many. We need to continue to work diligently and invest in workforce housing or Jackson Hole will continue to lose its sense of community and maintaining small businesses will become difficult to impossible. … Teton County is the highest personal income per capita county in the country. We should collectively be able to find a way to fund and build workforce housing.”
Tom himself has plans for a new mixed-use building on five acres along Main Street in Victor with a substantial portion allocated to workforce housing. Along with some partners, he also purchased the old Grumpy’s Goat Shack property and renovated a building for employee housing. He is also in discussions with the town of Victor to donate a portion of property along Trail Creek to be developed into a community park.
Tom is certainly one to capitalize on opportunities, and Jackson has given him plenty.
“There is also amazing opportunity for harnessing the wealth pouring into the valley,” he says. “I’ve seen many friends start incredible businesses and experience great success. The overflow of demand to spend top dollar for just about anything is there to be serviced for those with creative ideas and good work ethic.”