Snowmass Club shakes up leadership, still private but want to ‘involve the entire community’
The Snowmass Club announced a change in leadership Tuesday during the biannual State of Snowmass Village address.
New majority ownership group representative Eric Witmondt and new general manager/chief operating officer of the Snowmass Club Rick Sussman introduced themselves to the roughly 50 attendees and talked about the state of the Snowmass Club. According to Witmondt and Sussman, that state is one focused on improvement.
“We need to prove ourselves as newcomers to the community and to take a lot of input from the community at large and be able to filter all of that input to be able to do the right things to improve the club,” Witmondt said.
On the State of Snowmass Village address agenda, Scott Brown, the now-former general manager and partial owner of Snowmass Club, was slated as the person to speak on the club’s behalf.
Instead, Witmondt and Sussman took the floor, noting that Brown is still a minority owner but no longer has a role in management at Snowmass Club, as Sussman is taking his place.
Witmondt and Brown were two of the four partners who purchased the Snowmass Club in December 2018 for $18.5 million from the Toll Brothers, who bought the 212-acre property from Aspen Skiing Co. for about half the price in 2013.
A full-time northern New Jersey resident with a second home in Aspen, Witmondt owns three private country clubs and a tennis club in New Jersey, and said he has been visiting the Aspen-Snowmass area with his family for more than 35 years.
Witmondt also was part of the unsuccessful venture to develop the old Boomerang Lodge in Aspen that dissolved in March 2018, which he acknowledged Tuesday. He said he has been looking to invest in Snowmass specifically in recent years, and that becoming an owner of the Snowmass Club was the perfect opportunity.
“We love Snowmass, we think it’s really a gem and only has better days ahead of it,” Witmondt said on behalf of the majority ownership group.
Sussman, who moved to Snowmass Village from Texas just over a week ago, brings more than 35 years of private club, operational and executive management experience to his new role as general manager of the Snowmass Club.
“My wife and I are just thrilled to be here. It’s an awesome place and it looks like a fabulous place to live and work and be part of the community,” Sussman said.
Since it was purchased in December, the Snowmass Club started to establish a harder line between the private and public amenities the club has to offer, which Brown talked with the Snowmass Sun about in the spring.
That hard line included eliminating the majority of outside use of the club by non-members, except for the Black Saddle Bar and Grill, which is open to the public, and significant membership fee increases to help foot the bill for an extensive list of planned updates and improvements to the club.
Sussman and Witmondt implied they plan to continue the club exclusivity and to pursue these capital improvements with the help of public input and feedback moving forward.
However, Witmondt expressed the top management’s desire to become a larger part of the Snowmass Village community, hoping to strike a better balance between its private and public ties.
Per an agreement in place with the town of Snowmass Village, prior to new ownership, there is limited access to the course for local residents who meet certain qualifications.
According to a 2002 recreational use agreement between the town and then-owners Snowmass Club Associates (SCA), there is limited play allowed by local residents. The local play criteria includes any year-round Snowmass Village resident who is employed 30 hours a week or is a full-time student in Pitkin County. They can play as many as five times per year as space is available.
“We have a membership group that has paid for the use of the club and has bought homes there and are a part of HOAs and they believe they have the right to have a private club environment,” Witmondt explained Tuesday. “Conversely, the club is underutilized, it certainly should involve the entire community. … We hope to have a better plan than the current plan that’s in place.”
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Basalt town government and its consultants have been working on an update to the 2007 land use master plan since April. The process has entered a critical stage. Residents can help determine density on key land parcels and other important issues at a meeting tonight.