I personally didn't buy at Sun Peaks because I thought it was going to be "the next Whistler." I really don't believe there is going to be a next Whistler, Whistler benefits from a unique set of attributes that I doubt can be matched:
1) Some of the most amazing terrain in the world
2) Ok snow fall (good amounts, but I'd say only so, so quality)
3) It's 1 1/2 hours from a HUGE metro area with major national/international air traffic. This is the #1 thing Whistler has that none of these others do, a huge city just close enough that people day trip, but also just far enough away that people take weekend trips.
4) Another major metro area only 4 hours away (Seattle)
I bought at Sun Peaks because I can't afford Whistler, I like skiing the mountain, the people up here are great, I can still drive here from Seattle, oh, yeah, and I do believe that while this will never be Whistler, there is a lot of room for growth. I also believe I got in early enough that even if this place only grows to a fraction of the size of Whistler I'll do pretty well for myself. And either way, I'm having a blast skiing and hanging out up here, something I just can't really do with stocks and mutual funds
I hear great things about Kicking Horse too, I'm hoping to make it out that way next month. I don't know enough about it right now to comment upon the real estate market, but I do hear the "buzz" in the air about the place, much as I did about Sun Peaks a year ago. It is clear that promoting tourism is a huge priority for the BC government right now, so anything they can do to promote it will be done.
Perhaps my number #1 piece of advice to anyone looking to buy in a ski area (and realize, this is truly risky investing) is to go to the area and talk to the locals. You'll get lots of differing opinions, but what is the general consensus of the people that have been there for years and are watching this sudden expansion? Up here at SP there is A LOT of excitement, a lot faith in the people running the place, and even amongst the nay sayers that miss the good old days of Tod Mountain and the Burfield Lodge, almost the resignment that growth is inevitable at this point. Oh yeah, and before you buy, make sure you LOVE the area, because then just being there will make the whole thing worth it.
If I were a betting man, although based on incomplete knowledge of most of these places, I'd say investing in Whistler, Sun Peaks, Silver Star, Red Mountain, Fernie, and Kick Horse would all be good moves right now. The problem up here at Sun Peaks is that there is literally almost nothing available for sale right now. A new condo complex went on sale a couple weeks ago, 40 units, starting price $300,000, sold out in less then 6 hours!