EAGLE COUNTY - One of the state's 26 ski areas hits the auction block this summer. Will it find any buyers?Echo Mountain, formerly the Squaw Pass ski area, was purchased in 2002 by current owner Jerry Petitt, who has installed lights, a sound system and other amenities on the 226-acre ski area, all of which sits on private property. According to a release from Sheldon Good & Company, the firm that will auction the property, the small resort posted record skier numbers and revenues last season.But a pair of industry insiders wonder how many bidders there might be for the property.Jerry Jones, a longtime veteran of the Colorado resort industry, said flatly he doubts there will be any bids on the resort by the Aug. 2 deadline.Jones believes Echo Mountain is too small, especially since Front Range skiers have bigger ski areas just a bit farther up the road."If you're a snowboarder or active Front Range skier, you can still ski cheaper with a (Vail Resort) Epic Pass," Jones said. Vail Resorts doesn't comment on how it evaluates potential future purchases, but Jones said it's unlikely the Broomfield-based company would be interested in Echo Mountain. The company has passed on small ski areas in the past, Jones said, adding that Vail Resorts seems more interested in "trophy" areas such, as Kirkwood in the Tahoe area, which it purchased earlier this year.Longtime ski industry executive Andy Daly, along with the Gart brothers - Ken, Tom and John - last year bought the Powderhorn ski area near Grand Junction for about $1.4 million. Daly said he won't be putting in a bid on Echo Mountain.Like Jones, Daly said Echo Mountain's size may turn off some bidders. And, while Echo Mountain is all private land, there's no potential for real estate development. The Powderhorn purchase included more than 600 acres of property with development potential.Echo Mountain "needs someone with experience at small resorts," Daly said. Still, there's an opportunity there for the right buyer, he said. "It'll be interesting to see what happens," he said.Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.
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