After one of the mildest winters in recent years, leaving some areas of the parched high country with less than 10 percent of normal snowpack -- not to mention forests ravaged by drought and pine beetles, ready to explode into wildfires like the rapidly expanding High Park blaze -- this may not sound like the ideal time to be peddling a ski resort. But if you've ever had a hankering to be king of your own mountain, now's your chance.
Echo Mountain, the modest Squaw Pass resort that boasts of having the closest runs to the Denver metro area, is headed for the auction block on August 2. The 226-acre operation, located entirely on private land south of Idaho Springs, offers sixteen runs, three lifts, four terrain parks, and a rep for being an "Echonomical" and family-friendly alternative to the larger, pricier Summit County resorts. (Westword awarded Echo its "Best Ski Deal" in 2009.)
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How much will Echo, which has been operated by Jerry Pettit and his family for most of the past decade, fetch in today's market? That's hard to say. According to this account in the Vail Daily, some industry insiders think bids will be scarce, given the size of the operation. The Powderhorn area on the Western Slope sold for $1.4 million last year, but it has more extensive terrain and potential residential development attached to it.
Then again, as the ski industry enters a new era of austerity and climate change, a penny-pinching, bare-bones experience that involves minimal drive time on I-70 might be just the ticket. The auction site lists "additional expansion opportunities for development as: an all-season resort; private club with homes; and/or ultimate sport park," as well as "advertising and product promotion opportunities throughout the property with branding potential for individual slopes." More important, though, the place has seen steady revenue growth in recent years -- and, despite the light snowfall across the Front Range, record attendance this past season.
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