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Big bucks on Battle Mountain

Alex Miller
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyDeveloper Bobby Ginn would like to provide patrons with a "private ski experience" near Minturn.
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MINTURN – Most ski-area operators spend a lot of time and money wooing skiers with a combination of public relations, marketing and advertising. Pretty much the only qualifications skiers and snowboarders need – even at resorts as upscale as Vail and Aspen – are a pulse and enough money for the often-discounted lift ticket.If, however, someone wanted to ski at The Yellowstone Club outside Big Sky, Mont., they would need to come up with some serious cash and a hefty commitment. Day skier be damned, at “YC” – as its logo brands the resort – you’d have to pony up $250,000 for an initiation fee, plus annual dues of $16,000. And that’s on top of the log mansion you’ll need to build on the property you have to buy to be part of the club – minimum price for a home site? $1.2 million.The good news is you don’t even need a lift ticket, since access to all skiing and golfing is included. At this early stage, it’s not clear if the private ski and golf resort being proposed by Ginn Clubs & Resorts near Minturn will reach the level of price and exclusivity seen at The Yellowstone Club. But with home prices near the base areas of Vail and Beaver Creek easily reaching into the millions – and selling – it may be that developer Bobby Ginn can ask for and receive plenty for the 1,400 homes he proposes to build once the land is annexed into the town of Minturn. With initiation fees and annual dues plus real estate sales, Ginn can throw the skiing and golf in like condos offer a pool and rec center.Ginn’s ski area, when and if it’s built on Battle Mountain, will be the first private ski area in the state. Most ski areas in Colorado and the West are operated by companies that lease land from the U.S. Forest Service, and the public is more than welcome not only to help pay the bills but by law. It is, after all, public land. At Battle Mountain, early word is it’ll be private, but maybe not completely exclusive.”Bobby Ginn has made comments about letting residents of Minturn and Red Cliff have access,” said Bill Weber, senior vice president at Ginn Clubs & Resorts, who’s now based in Minturn. “We’ll be private, but there will be exceptions.”

No lift linesWhile the notion of a private ski area sounds strange to skiers used to open facilities, the concept itself isn’t unknown.”It’s not much different from a private golf club,” said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association in Lakewood. “The theory is that there’s enough people looking for that type of experience, enough people who can pay the price.”Berry said that, while private ski areas aren’t very common, they’re not unheard of, either. There are a number of clubs in Canada, as well as western New York, he said. One example is the HoliMont Ski Area in New York, near the Pennsylvania border. While it’s a lot less expensive than The Yellowstone Club, there’s still a hefty chunk of change to pay up front.”It’s $14,000 for a family membership,” said HoliMont spokeswoman Bonnie Cady, adding that membership dues are another $1,500 per year. “We have no lift lines, really, and it’s a great, safe place for kids and families.” Where HoliMont and other membership ski clubs differ from the likes of The Yellowstone Club and Battle Mountain likely will be is that real estate isn’t a big part of the deal. Also, to make ends meet, HoliMont opens the hill to John Q. Public Monday through Friday.That isn’t the case at the YC, according to spokeswoman Brooke Draves.”Oh, no, we’re never open to the public,” Draves said. “We’re definitely exclusive.”

A gated America?Although Eagle County has its fair share of multimilion dollar homes, it can still be difficult for average people to understand how it’s possible for anyone to possess so much – and in many instances to leave it vacant 50 months out of the year. The average wage in Eagle County is $33,000, which is probably what some wealthier homeowners spend yearly on utilities and landscaping.Despite how hard it is to fathom, the reality is the number of millionaires in the U.S. and around the world is continuing to grow – exactly the kind of folks Bobby Ginn is counting on to want to buy and ski at his development. One report from Chicago’s Spectrem Group puts the number of U.S. households with net worth exceeding $1 million at 7.5 million – a 21 percent increase over the previous year.But that may be chump change for Ginn; a better figure comes from the number of U.S. households with net worth exceeding $5 million: They grew by 38 percent last year to a total of 740,000. (See chart)According to Draves, the reason people buy at The Yellowstone Club – apart from the fact that they can afford it – is the freedom.”We just offer that freedom for people you can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “It’s completely private with more space than you can possibly imagine and no lift lines. It’s a genuine experience, and it’s open year-round.”Adele Cygelman, who edits the high-end “Robb Report Vacation Homes” magazine in Malibu, Calif., has another take on the appeal.”Once you’ve reached a certain level of affluence, what you’re chasing after is something unique,” Cygelman said. “In this case, it’s real estate that only a limited amount of people have access to, and you’ll only be among your peers.”



That, she said, is comforting to the rich in the same way their gated communities back home are. “I think the whole country is going to become one gated community in the future,” Cygelman said. That attitude extends to vacation homes.”No one wants to just go to the beach or the mountains, they want to go for an experience – it’s a lifestyle issue,” she said. Plus, she added, the networking opportunities can’t be beat.”It’s where all the deals are really done,” she said. “Like on the golf course.”Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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