You have to admit, Aspen Skiing Co. is a really good real estate company. We all know about the Base Village bonanza. Skico acquires the land at the bottom of Snowmass ski area for a song, finagles government approval for a colossal development the size of which the valley hasn't seen since the Third Day and then sells it just as the clouds part to reveal the peak of the real estate market that we likely won't see again for decades. I remember when the first map of Base Village came out, and they actually had named one of the proposed new hotels the "Capitol Peak Lodge." Developers have been lining up with their asbestos gloves to play hot potato with the thing ever since, and all we're seeing are a lot of burnt fingers in the emergency room that used to be known as Town Council chambers. Lots of folks have said that they were just lucky on this one, but I don't know.
Skico recently sold the Snowmass Club. I don't know any of the particulars of the deal. They sold it. That's enough. That fact provides all the information you need to know to conclude that they pulled another financial miracle out of the dirt.
I don't get out much, but I know a couple of local duffers who have been trying to sell their golf memberships at the club for years. According to their agreements with the club, that's their privilege - as long as there are other people out there willing to buy one from the club first. That's simple enough. The only snafu occurs when nobody is buying them from anyone, which is what has been the state of affairs for quite some time. The bottom line can't possibly be black when you have a longer line of customers waiting to get out than to get in.
But before you conclude that Skico is a pack of idiots for getting into the golf business to begin with, think about why they did it. They didn't give a twit about running a golf course. They needed to put something next to their timeshares to make them a little more attractive.
No matter how you look at it, it's hard to sell expensive timeshares that are next to a sewer, three miles from the slopes and the post office, surrounded by a dysfunctional golf course from the '70s connected to a health club frequented by local riffraff. That's more the setup for a nice Motel 6.
What's the alternative? You build an incredibly expensive, super-modern, beautiful-looking, designer-label, pseudo-country-club golf course. Sure, it's expensive, but you're going to recoup the cost by selling six weeks a year there for half a million bucks on top of collecting the jacked-up monthly dues forever. Then you make every executive write out a note with the same message on it to post to the bathroom mirror so they have to look at it every day as they achieve the dress code. It said, "The second the last fractional unit at the club is sold, we will unload the money-sucking amenity that we call a golf course." It makes perfect sense. Build the golf course in order to sell timeshares, and then sell it to somebody else to run at a loss and keep the timesharers coming back.
It's going to be about as interesting to watch the new owners of the Snowmass Club turn that thing around as it has been watching Related Cos. pray for the second coming of a big profit out of Base Village. My guess is that both ventures will become profitable at about the same time, but that is further dependent on one huge event happening. I'm telling you, Skico has the inside line on the timing of when Siberia will become a tropical paradise. Trust me, the first sign of that happening will be me shooting par on the club course. For those keeping score at home, first of all, I'm not a member, and secondly, when I played there as a guest last summer, I shot a 112.
As much as I'd like to believe that Skico just got lucky on the timing of the Base Village deal, it's all but impossible to discount the orchestration of the Snowmass Club sale as incompetence that happens to stumble across the end of the rainbow. It was genius, plain and simple. My golf visor is tipped to them. They holed out from the bunker again!
Roger Marolt is waiting for the guided fishing tours on the golf-course ponds as part of the Snowmass Club's revitalization plan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.