What would you do if you owned your own ski resort? Would you bolt up the main gate and use it as a private sanctuary for you and your friends like the DC Mountain Lab? Perhaps you have a ski club you are passionate about? Or maybe you aim to maximize that pricey MBA you scored back in college and want to become the next Vail Resorts mega-entity?
Although summer is still in the air, plans for the upcoming winter are already well underway. While most skiers and snowboarders are focused on upgrading their equipment, others are wheeling and dealing on a much grander scale. Those that have the proper bank account and passion to embark upon the ultimate pipe dream have a very unique opportunity with the auction of Echo Mountain Ski Resort in Colorado. On August 2nd, bids were due for what can only be described as one of the most unique ski resort real estate deals in recent memory. Racerbrook and its auction affiliate, Sheldon Good & Company are heading up the auction process.
Echo Mountain is located a mere 35 miles from Denver, Colorado, garnering it the reputation as “The Mile High City’s” closest and most affordable family-orientated ski and snowboard area. While it may still be considered a small resort compared to other Colorado destinations like Breckenridge or Copper — Echo’s potential for growth is absolutely massive! As of this year, less than 33% of the resort’s privately-owned 226 acres has been developed, and its current vertical drop of 660 feet can be easily expanded to clear 1500 feet! Furthermore, the land is surrounded by U.S. Forest Servicde managed properties — which means operations could be expanded through trades or leases.
Limitless potential aside: Echo is a proven travel destination that just came off a record-breaking season for attendance levels. The resort also boasted some of the best snow in Colorado in the midst of what has been called the second worst snow drought in ski industry history.
There’s clearly something special about Echo Mountain Ski Resort, so in anticipation of the big auction we chatted with Mark Troen, the Chief Operating Officer at Sheldon Good & Company to learn more about this unique opportunity for ski industry entrepreneurs.
The Ski Channel: How would you characterize the potential buyers that are interestested in acquiring Echo Mountain Ski Resort?
Mark L. Troen: The auction has generated serious excitement among a number of players in the industry. I would describe them as being from three groups: The first group with a great deal of interest are the ski industry owners. There are a number of parties in Colorado actually, and outside the state who say this could be a great play for their current ski area.
The second group is those who see this area as a private club, or private ski racing and terrain park environment. We already have a number of those individuals and their groups who have expressed interest in making Echo their very own private preserve.
Finally, we have what I would call the opportunistic group, who isn’t just focused on skiing and snowboarding, but look at Echo Mountain Ski Resort as a year-round opportunity. They appreciate that there is also a huge opening for biking, zip lining, hiking, ect. — and they’re trying to see how they can take advantage of the mountain environment and take the four season aspect to the fullest.
We also have a couple potential buyers that look at Echo as a branding opportunity. Since it is built on private land, owners are fee to advertise and utilize the area as they see fit. For example, if a major company like Coca Cola wanted to brand something to further their sports and entertainment efforts.
TSC: What are some of the biggest selling points for Echo?
MT: I know this is a little area, but this mountain has an advantage thanks to its elevation. If you’re going to do ski racing, you got to start the season early, you got to prepare your team and at the current elevation which is nearly 11,000 feet — the snow hits first, the snowmaking is earlier and you get a head start on all the other groups, teams and players on the scene.
Another point of interest is the fact that it’s not fully developed and is open for expansion. This is privately-owned land as opposed to leased-land, so you can build out the area substantially without messing around with any government authority. As you know, many resorts are located on US Forest Service property, and that’s really not an issue here. Of course the expansion possibilities do include the option to expand into the government lands, pending approval of any leases.
Some of the private groups we’ve talked to have already priced out the lift to see how they could expand that vertical by another 900 feet pretty quickly. Right now its only 660 vertical feet. Such expansion possibilities could expand the resort dramatically. Very few other areas match that.
TSC: What is the significance of implementing the sealed bidding auction process?
MT: The auction is August 2nd; we’ve already gotten keen interest. Our seller has decided that they are moving on, they’ve done very well in the ski resort business, but they are focusing their energies and capital elsewhere. They’ve already made a substantial investment, so the auction is the accelerated means getting the sale done. We’re letting the market choose the price, which is another unique mechanism or our process. The market dictates the price, and then the seller has the right to accept or reject it.
The seller has undergone significant investments into the mountain and they’ve built the platform – now its time for someone to take it to the next level. They had close to 32,000 skier visits this past season – that’s pretty damn good – for one chair going 660 feet. Then they’ve got the night skiing and the short 35 mile drive to Denver — it’s a hard combination to beat.
TSC: There is a strong effort to bring the 2022 Olympics to Denver, Colorado. What role could Echo potentially play if the games were to come back to the Rocky Mountain State?
MT: Well that’s a great question, but I’ve got to tell you — my crystal ball is as cloudy as everyone else’s. I don’t know how to predict the future, but that being said, Echo is a mountain that is extremely close to Denver. If someone wanted to build out the area to its full capacity and made it a specialty for either terrain or it became the site of one of the Olympic venues I think it’s a really cool idea. Once again it’s an opportunity for a smart savvy entrepreneurial group or individual to shape the concept and development to their liking. Since that’s a decade out, they have plenty of time to do it and do it right.
TSC: Of the three buyer types you mentioned earlier, is there any kind of leaning or preference from the current owners on who they would rather hand over the reigns to?
MT: Another great question but one I can’t answer that until the incoming bids are finalized. We do have an undisclosed reserve. The key for us is that we want the buyer to preform. If they meet all of our criteria, and demonstrate that they have the financial means, that looked at the property, physically visited it, downloaded all the virtual deal room documents and have a familiarity with all the issues in play — then we can evaluate what and who is the right buyer. All things being equal, if two bidders came to us with the same price point, we’re going to go with the buyer that’s demonstrated all these qualities.
TSC: How long after the bids come in will it take for a decision to be met, and the sale to be processed?
MT: The bids are due on August 2nd and then there is what is called the irrevocable bid consideration period, which is for five business days – then we have to come to a decision. So the purchasers and prospects won’t be left hanging. They know this deal will sell and in a certain period of time, and that’s the key of our auction format.
- End of Interview
Interested in learning more? Head over to www.EchoMtnAuction.com for more details.