Long dormant Stagecoach Ski Area south of Steamboat under contract to sell in October | SteamboatToday.com
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Long dormant Stagecoach Ski Area south of Steamboat under contract to sell in October

The Stagecoach Ski Area first opened in December 1972 and closed February 1974 when the Texas-based developer Woodmoor Corp. foundered.
Matt Stensland

Stagecoach ski area proposal at a glance

• Pending purchase comprises 3,500 acres of private land.

• Vertical rise is 2,200 feet on the north face, with a potential 800 feet vertical rise on south side.

• Initial skiable acres in December 2017 total 900, growing to 1,200, with additional lifts in the future.

• Amenities: very few to begin with.

• Residential development: flexibility in the plan, emphasis on open space, no 35-acre lots, possibly allowing room for small-scale food production in greenhouses.

The development group

In addition to CEO and founder Don McLean, who played a role in development of Mountain Village at Telluride, the development group seeking to revive the Stagecoach Ski Area includes the following.

• Steamboat Realtor Steve Elkins, one of three founders of the new group, who, from 1970 to 1994, was the Steamboat Ski Area’s director of planning and development with responsibility for construction management.

• Boulder certified public accountant Scott Sober, another founder, who will serve as president and director of finance.

• Former vice president of real estate development at Vail Resorts, Rick MacCutcheon, will act as the chief financial officer at Stagecoach.

— Don McLean, CEO of Stagecoach Communities LLC, surprised the Routt County Planning Commission Sept. 1 with the announcement of his plans to close on the purchase of the long-dormant Stagecoach Ski Area in mid-October from the Wittemyer family and open it with two new chairlifts by Dec. 17, 2017.

“We’re looking to create a family-based, active, four-season community,” McLean said. “Our intent is to create a blueprint for responsible mountain development to show how this can be done. ”

McLean’s company, Red Bear Holdings, has interests in Boulder, Telluride and Steamboat Springs.

Planning Commission was prepped to consider adopting the newly updated Stagecoach Community Plan — two years in the making — this week. That will now be moved back, but no one seemed to mind.

“This is a game-changer for Stagecoach, certainly,” Stagecoach Property Owners Association board President John Troka said.

Stagecoach ski area proposal at a glance

• Pending purchase comprises 3,500 acres of private land.

• Vertical rise is 2,200 feet on the north face, with a potential 800 feet vertical rise on south side.

• Initial skiable acres in December 2017 total 900, growing to 1,200, with additional lifts in the future.

• Amenities: very few to begin with.

• Residential development: flexibility in the plan, emphasis on open space, no 35-acre lots, possibly allowing room for small-scale food production in greenhouses.

Stagecoach first opened in December 1972 and closed in February 1974, when the Texas-based developer Woodmoor Corp. foundered.

“Stagecoach was the real deal, and it had good skiing for everybody,” Olympic downhill skier Jim “Moose” Barrows told Steamboat Today in 2015. “They invested in some pretty good lifts, and there was good terrain.”

The mountain is situated between a couple of ski resort heavy hitters in the Steamboat Ski Area (18 miles north) and Vail/Beaver Creek to the south. Asked to define the niche of a revived Stagecoach, McLean said he sees it complementing Steamboat by offering a change of pace for visiting skiers and an alternative to the ski experience at resorts along Interstate 70.

The development group

In addition to CEO and founder Don McLean, who played a role in development of Mountain Village at Telluride, the development group seeking to revive the Stagecoach Ski Area includes the following.

• Steamboat Realtor Steve Elkins, one of three founders of the new group, who, from 1970 to 1994, was the Steamboat Ski Area’s director of planning and development with responsibility for construction management.

• Boulder certified public accountant Scott Sober, another founder, who will serve as president and director of finance.

• Former vice president of real estate development at Vail Resorts, Rick MacCutcheon, will act as the chief financial officer at Stagecoach.

“It will be a ski area built by skiers for skiers and riders,” McLean said, “with intermediate terrain, beginner terrain and some pleasant surprises, with some (steep) pitches that exceed anything in the area. … We’re not coming in with $100 million to build a six-story building.” We intend to develop, “something that’s more organic that follows what the land tells us to do and not try to rush it.”

If the ski are re-opens late next year, base operations will be in temporary buildings, McLean said.

The pending purchase involves 3,500 acres of private land, eliminating the need to go through the protracted and costly environmental impact process required to build a ski area on public land.

McLean grew up skiing in the upper peninsula of Michigan and later moved to Vail, where he was a ski patroller and roommate of the son of legendary Vail pioneer Pete Seibert. He graduated to the sales team at Beaver Creek, then moved on to Telluride, where he reported to resort owner Ron Allred during development of the mountain village.

McLean’s intent is for the ski area to be public. He told Planning Commission that the chairlift manufacturer, Doppelmayr, has visited the site, and he has visited the company’s offices to make plans for the new ski lifts — a detachable, high-speed quad that would reach up the first two thirds of the north-facing ski mountain, with a second, fixed-grip quad that would go beyond the first lift to the top of the mountain.

McLean clarified that his ability to re-open the ski area 15 to 16 months from now is predicated on his ability to successfully gain a permit from the county for “a flexible master plan with boundaries and built-in flexibility,” — essentially, a master plan with boundaries and pre-agreed upon limits for density and open space. He also left open the possibility that the ski area could be operated privately if the public approval process doesn’t result in the issuance of a permit.

In addition to operating the ski area — which has about 2,200 vertical feet on north-facing slopes, where some ski trails already exist — McLean said plans include real estate development with significant amounts of open space.

Unincorporated Stagecoach, just east of the town of Oak Creek, is home to Stagecoach State Park, which surrounds the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District’s Stagecoach Reservoir. The residential neighborhood comprises some housing that dates back to the original ski area, as well as contemporary neighborhoods with much newer homes. There are other large, undeveloped tracts within Stagecoach

Stagecoach has been owned for many years by the Wittemyer family, of Boulder, represented by longtime Steamboat Realtor Chris Wittemyer.

He confirmed the pending sale this week, but declined to elaborate.

“We’re optimistic the closing will take place,” he said.

Skiers in Northwest Colorado may find out within a year’s time if they’ll be able to ride a new chairlift at Stagecoach.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1


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