As one of the world’s best alpine ski racers in the early 1990s, Cary Mullen took on a somewhat unusual challenge – working towards his Realtor’s license in Alberta.
Real estate was something he picked up from his schoolteacher parents, who also bought, fixed up and sold properties. “By the time I was in high school, they owned an apartment building and they would put me to work cleaning, painting, and fixing up the units,” Mullen said. He knew he would need a “fall-down plan” for life after his time on the national ski team was over.
Mullen’s “fall-down plan” was unfortunately fairly literal; he retired after sustaining his third serious concussion in 1998, two decades before brain injuries were big news.
“I took two full years to recover from the second concussion and suffered the third one while free skiing during training runs,” he says. “I wasn’t even going that fast.” Neurologists knew that with each successive blow to the head, the chances of serious injury would increase, so Mullen wisely, as he says, “went on to play safer games.”
He didn’t, however, quit skiing; in fact, he went to work for Austrian heli-skiing pioneer Mike Wiegele, whom he would later credit as his mentor. Mullen was more than just a celebrity ambassador skiing with wealthy clients; he also became a keen student of the hospitality and tourism industry.
Real estate led Mullen to his current passion: developing Vivo Resorts, a master-planned beachfront community 16 kilometres west of Puerto Escondido in Mexico’s Oaxaca state. Mullen applied 44 different investment factors against 30 separate beachfront locations around the world before settling on Puerto Escondido.
Similar to ski resorts, beach resorts have their strengths and weaknesses. Mullen wanted a location that was close to a truly authentic Mexican town with warm, but not sticky, tropical weather. He did not want to build a resort based on the large-scale, all-inclusive industrial tourism model found in the Yucatan Peninsula or Puerto Vallarta. He was also looking for a safe, sandy beach that did not have a history of erratic weather – especially hurricanes.
Like Mullen’s career on the national team (he was Canada’s Male Skier of the Year in 1992 and 1993), Vivo Resorts has been very successful. Every building (they’re now on the eighth) has been fully pre-sold.
“There’s really nothing quite like it anywhere else in the hemisphere,” Mullen says. “This is a special place where all three generations can have fun, and it’s the best weather in North America – in the mid-to-high 20s every day of the year.”
– Steven Threndyle, for S-Media