When you get to a certain stage in life, there is really only one thing left to gift your family: a place where the entire clan can enjoy layers of generations under one roof, basking in the tranquility of nature.
In other words, a home on the range where memories can be created between generations, and then passed down to future generations.
For many North Texans, that dream is a ranch, one perhaps offering equestrian experiences and certainly, if in neighboring Colorado, relief from the Texas summer heat as well as a full ski season.
However, let’s face it: real life on a ranch is never anything but hard work. As you hike or ride, you notice the fence that needs repairing, the barn that was bashed during the October storms, and oh yes, the horses that need constant tending. Add that to the rest of the inevitable days’ worth of sun-up to sun-down chores, and despite the romantic allure, you begin to wonder, ‘is Ranch ownership a realistic option for our family?’
Pondering this very question inspired our recent visit west to Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club, located in picturesque, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, which we knew for awesome skiing.
But ranch life?
We’d heard that this property was different, that it was the perfect solution to mountain ranch ownership: a beautiful mountain property in the northwest corner of the state, acres of breathtaking forest and soaring mountain views that lower your blood pressure every time you open your eyes. There is horseback riding, fly-fishing, golf, ski-in/ski-out mountain access to fresh powder, fresh water swims, critters and cattle, and the best gift of all: a luxurious home on the range without the maintenance.
In other words, you own this ranch: it doesn’t own you.
Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club is what’s known as a shared ownership ranch, or “ranchette.” Simply put, owners get 100 percent of the benefits of ranch ownership without all of the work. Without a fraction of it, actually. The ranch has managers, wranglers, and full-time concierges on staff who take care of those chores.
Trust me: there is such thing as an on-site ranch Concierge, and it is wonderful. If only they had them back when Bick brought Leslie Benedict to West Texas.
The Ranch Concierge staff is available 24-7 to ensure your activities are pre-set and hassle-free — dinner reservations, tee times, airport transportation — so you can begin your vacation immediately upon arrival. The Concierge staff will even pre-stock your fridge and regulate your home temperature.
The vision for Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club began when Bill Butler, a Covington, Kentucky-based real estate developer, and founder of Corporex, a firm that specializes in hospitality, real estate development and management, started his first work in Colorado. He developed hotels and numerous office buildings in the Denver metro area. Butler, being a huge land lover, cast his eyes wide across the rugged state and started seeking the perfect mountain property.
To him, says Butler, part of the allure of Colorado is the natural amenities of the mountains, sun, snow and air — as well as the people. He loved Colorado so much, he started looking for a place for his family to return to again and again for generational gathering and memory making. After seeing every mountain community in the state, he settled on Steamboat Springs.
In Steamboat, Butler found the perfect cross-roads of authentic cowboy culture mixed with an Olympian skiing tradition and the area’s famed Champagne Powder snow. The developer in him could envision other families enjoying the same appeal his family had, and thus the seed was planted for his creation of Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club. A home on the range that is designed, as Butler says, “….to maximize time spent with family and friends, for generations”. He carefully chose property boasting the best views, value and location, in Colorado. A departure from the flashy, ski Resort communities that dot the heavily-trafficked I-70 corridor, Steamboat Springs attracts a different clientele than most Colorado resorts and offers a more genuine, family-centered experience.
Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club is a 1,216-acre community in Steamboat Springs, Colorado nestled in the famed Yampa Valley. The location makes it one of the most perfect shared ranch communities I have ever seen. Located just outside of Steamboat Springs, the property offers 5-acre luxury home sites abutting Steamboat ski resort, National Forest, and the area’s most prestigious local golf club – Catamount Ranch & Club. There are 63 homesites, a 900-acre wildlife preserve, a swim-able fresh water lake perfect for paddleboarding and fishing, a new owners’ lodge with full kitchen, equestrian center, miles and miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding, a backcountry cabin aptly named The Hermitage, and access to Steamboat Springs only minutes away. Raw land prices start at about $1.4 million, and two completed homes are available starting at $4.495 million.
There is even a guest house for prospective buyers or homeowners’ use while their home is under construction.
The community has also used local resources most wisely. Alpine Mountain affiliated with local vendors to offer a rich variety of off-site amenities that enrich ranch life but do not, frankly, jack-up homeowner fees. Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club associated with the best fly-fishing guide companies in Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Flyfisher, and offers exclusive access to 1.5 miles of Gold Medal fishing sites on the famous Yampa River. Golf enthusiasts can tee off and dine at the Catamount Golf Club, so close it can be reached via the golf cart path, which connects the two properties.
Perhaps the best amenity investment is its ownership interest in the Alpine Mountain Summit Club at One Steamboat Place, an exclusive private ski club at the base of Steamboat’s famed ski mountain. The Summit Club offers ski in and out access, heated parking, complete gear storage, food & drink (breakfast and apres ski every single day), day spa and sauna, heated outdoor pools, children’s clubs and activities, and limitless mountain access only steps away from the gondola. And owners at Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club have an exclusive option to join the Summit Club. The Alpine Mountain Summit Club is more like a mountain-side country club with vast stretches of white powder, instead of putting greens. The Summit Club enhances home ownership at the bustling mountain base while offering the best of both worlds: privacy and immediate access.
We visited Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club in mid August, and we were sold:
The direct flights to Steamboat from North Texas on American are now in effect, though we flew through Denver, a mere two hours from DFW. Also, driving to Steamboat from Dallas is not unbearable: about twelve hours. The Steamboat Springs/Hayden Valley airport is one of those cozy, super friendly small airports where the seats are comfy, the bathrooms are spotless, and the same people who check you in guide you to the plane. The atmosphere is more like a private FBO terminal. Indeed, there is a private aviation terminal and spots for 30 private aircraft on the tarmac. Flying directly into Steamboat Springs, regardless of the time of year, is pure heaven. As one traveler put it, “relaxation begins here as soon as you land.”
We arrived on a Wednesday evening, and just like real ranch homeowners, we were up fly fishing on the Yampa early the next morning. The transition from hustle bustle Dallas (and DFW) to the quiet peace of fishing on the sparkling river — cold even in mid August — was mind numbing. Weather could not have been more perfect had you ordered it: the sun glinted off the crystal clear water. We cast our flies and bobbled, picking up a few nibbles here and yonder. I caught a large trout with a damaged eye and practiced my catch, kiss and release. Off he went swimming down the river.
Next was lunch back at the ranch, right outside the clubhouse along the lake. If we had a home, of course, we would be having lunch in our kitchen with magnificent views. Then we hit the equestrian center for our afternoon ride on horseback to tour the property. Again, this is the typical life of an Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club homeowner.
We rode for two hours, making it to the top of the mountain at about 8,500 foot altitude. One of the beauties of Steamboat is that while the Sierra Madre Range (Steamboat Springs sits on the southwestern flank of the range, at the base of Mount Werner) is plenty high and dramatic, offering great elevation and vista-rich terrain, it is not “painfully” high as some towns in the west where friends tell me they suffer altitude headaches for two to three days, particularly when coming from North Texas, elevation 430. Steamboat, elevation 6732, is an easy altitude transition as long as you keep hydrated.
One of the most charming assets of Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club, aside from the abundant wildlife, is the 900 acre nature preserve nestled in the heart of the development. It includes hiking paths and a meditation cabin where owners’ kids can even take a sleeping bag and camp out for the night.
As for that wild life, we saw moose, elk, a bear early one morning, coyotes, hawks and deer. I think we saw a fox once, too. The coyotes spoke to us at night, and we slept with windows wide open, just as we would if we owned a home there. No one can even find keys to lock their doors at night — in this gated community, there is simply no need to lock up.
The next day we hiked for about 7.5 miles just outside of town on the Lost Mine trail, a beautiful, breezy hike to an abandoned silver mine that ended in the pool of an ice-cold mountain water falls. We saw and chatted with so many hikers along the way, all in great, healthy shape from living in this beautiful place, altitude and getting out to hike every chance they could. (Which could be us, if we had a home here!) There were couples, families with dad’s toting toddlers in shoulder packs, dogs, tykes and Texans. Many Texans. There were ladies in work-out gear. We grabbed supplies at the Safeway (and thus felt at home, Safeway being the parent company of Tom Thumb — I even used my reward card!) and headed home to the ranch for a nap. Later that afternoon we enjoyed massages and a tour of One Steamboat Place, the ski-in/ski-out club that can be the mountain ski home for every Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club home owner. More than duly impressed, we must return to enjoy the huge variety of winter time food and beverage service, the boot warmers (boot warmers!) and the spa. We also swam in the outdoor pool, which is heated.
The town of Steamboat offers more activity than I remembered from our ski trip there twenty some years ago. (But then, I was parenting young children and not exactly paying attention to night life back then.) Every season has activity upon activity to offer: Winter Carnival, Strings Music Festival, the Pro Rodeo Series and a colorful 4th of July Celebration, OktoberWest, balloonfest, and many more. Summer activities include hiking, mountain biking, rafting, fishing, hot springs, horseback riding, and golf. You get bored in Steamboat, you have a problem. The downtown shopping and dining scene is bustling, with casual to gourmet dining options, craft breweries and a flurry of food and wine events.
Thursday night, for example, we had excellent Italian food and pizza in town at Mambo Italiano. Friday, while I got a manicure, my husband enjoyed brews across the street. He asked a fellow drinker what she felt was the biggest difference between Steamboat Springs and other Colorado resort communities, the glitter of I-70?
“In Aspen and Vail, waiters might wear jackets and ties,” she said. “Here in Steamboat they dress in cute, clean polos. There is a lot less pretentiousness in Steamboat Springs. It’s like we are here with our family to relax and just have fun, not impress the people next door.”
(On a trip to Aspen a few weeks later, I saw the difference myself: the dress code in Aspen was remarkably similar to Highland Park, as was the party scene. I could go anywhere in Steamboat Springs in cowboy boots and jeans and be quite appropriate.)
That relaxed living was totally apparent at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo our last night in Steamboat, Saturday night. Everyone was there: moms and dads, cowboy’s girlfriends, kids crawling all over the bleachers, flag-waving equestrians who had been riding since before they could walk, the calf and ram scrambles for the kiddos, and some pretty tough cowboys on bucking broncos. Of course we have been to the Fort Worth Rodeo, but I have to say Steamboat put on quite an impressive show and showcased some tough riders. It caught my heart when we paused to sing the Star Spangled Banner, and for a moment I wished a New York City television crew was there that very second to record the sincerity of the moment. This is the heartland. The ceremony reflected on the rock solid relationships evident in the community, as well as respect for the main industry: ranching.
Before watching dusty cowboys get bucked, we had dined at the base of the mountain at an incredible gourmet restaurant, a meal so memorable I have the restaurant saved in my iphone map: Cafe Diva, located in the Torian Plum building near the base area of Steamboat Ski area. Cafe Diva is one of those memorable restaurants that is so good it’s worth a flight just for dinner. If I lived in Steamboat, I’d be a regular, but then have to hike the rest of the week to work it all off.
I’m thinking about Steamboat, fantasizing about the possibility of home ownership there, measuring the distance from the base area to our kid’s homes. (I may have also checked on whether the state accepts Texas medical licenses — shh!) And I totally fell in love with Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club. The concept is flawless, the execution perfection, and the local people are unpretentious and welcoming. The location cannot be better. Trust me, you don’t always find these ingredients in such communities. Shared ownership ranches in beautiful, protected environments like this are highly sought by those who can afford a second (or even a third) property.
I now understand that it took a land man all the way from Kentucky to find the land that would lend itself to helping families write their own history.
“Mr. Butler’s initial impression, when he came all the way from Kentucky to northwestern Colorado, was that he simply fell in love with the land,” says Bob Dapper, Director of Development.
“And he had seen mountains, land, lakes all over the U.S. Once you see it, Bob, he told me, you will understand. You will just have to own it.”