Snowmass Mountain Chalet back under Melville ownership |

Snowmass Mountain Chalet back under Melville ownership

Melvilles buy Snowmass lodge after Challenge Aspen backs out of deal

Rick Carroll & Kaya Williams
The Aspen Times
Snowmass Mountain Chalet residents sit on the deck of the ski-in, ski-out lodge in Snowmass Village on Wednesday, March 5, 2021. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner)

The Melville family didn’t distance themselves from ownership of a local mountainside chalet for too long.

On Tuesday, a limited liability company controlled by Craig Melville acquired Snowmass Mountain Chalet for $10.5 million in a deal culminating after the nonprofit Challenge Aspen withdrew interest in buying the lodge.

Sales records at the Pitkin County Clerk & Recorder’s Office identify the buyer as Mountain Chalet Snowmass LLC and the seller as CA Loan I LLC.

The change in ownership came after the Melville family sold their Mountain Chalet on Durant Avenue at the foot of Aspen Mountain for $68 million in late March to a partnership led by Zach Kupperman of Louisiana and Larry McGuire of Texas.

Meanwhile, coming off their sale of the Aspen chalet and with money to spend, combined with two would-be buyers out of the picture for Snowmass Mountain Chalet, put the Melvilles in play.

“We got to the point, obviously after selling the chalet in Aspen, that we have some investing to do,” Melville said Wednesday, noting his family also was involved in the recent $24.1 million purchase of the W New Orleans-French Quarter hotel.

Melville said there are no immediate plans to overhaul the 64-room lodge in Snowmass, which his late father, Ralph, built in 1967 when the ski resort opened. The Melvilles also built the Mountain Chalet in Aspen; the original lodge debuted in 1954.

“We’re hoping to keep all of the staff (approximately 30 employees), and we hope to be consistent with the operations,” he said.

There may be some fudging with its name by going full circle, however.

“When we sold it (in 1985), it was the Mountain Chalet Snowmass, and they renamed it Snowmass Mountain Chalet,” Melville said. “We may go back to calling it the Mountain Chalet Snowmass.”

He said the family had been eyeing the Snowmass chalet since 2017 to add to their collection that includes the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs and Cristiana Guesthaus in Crested Butte.

Around this time last year, a deal was in the works for Challenge Aspen to acquire the 37,747-square-foot lodge located next to the Fanny Hill from the previous owner, CA Loan I LLC.

In April 2020, CA Loan bought both the Snowmass Mountain Chalet and smaller Snowmass Inn for $14 million from two LLCs controlled by New York-based real estate firm The Related Companies.

CA Loan sold the Snowmass Inn, which was not part of the discussions with Challenge Aspen, in November for $6 million to the town of Snowmass Village, according to property records.

After Challenge Aspen removed itself from the Snowmass Mountain Chalet deal last year, a group of investors, including Karim Souki, took it under contract to buy, according to people close to the negotiations.

Souki, who is part of the group that paid $70 million for the Westin Snowmass Hotel, Snowmass Conference Center and Wildwood Lodge in December, did not respond to a voicemail and email message seeking comment Wednesday.

Melville, however, confirmed he purchased the contract from the Souki group.

“We actually bought the contract from the Soukis and then closed on that,” he said.

Seller CA Loan initially purchased the building with the intent of selling it to Challenge Aspen so the organization could use it as an operations hub with offices, employee housing and accommodations for Challenge Aspen participants.

The principal of CA Loan, the seller, spoke on the condition that his named not be used. He said he has been a volunteer for several years and is still involved with the organization, which he considers “a phenomenal nonprofit in the valley.”

The seller and Challenge Aspen spent months discussing the details of the sale, according to emails provided by the seller. Talks began around January 2020. Challenge Aspen opted out of any further discussions or negotiations in a July 29 email that cited challenges meeting the timeline of the sale and details of the deal.

“Despite the best of intentions, we were ultimately not able to agree on a structure that met the needs of the parties, and therefore concluded those discussions,” Challenge Aspen board member Ben Moss said in a prepared statement last week. “We continue to explore opportunities to assist Challenge Aspen with the rising costs of housing for our participants and employees.”

The seller expressed frustrations with how that deal went south, especially after months of negotiations with a board he said he felt was disconnected from the organization at large.

The two parties also weren’t in alignment on how best to utilize the space, the seller said; the seller thought the Mountain Chalet would be exclusively for Challenge Aspen operations, but the nonprofit had expressed interest in continuing hotel operations in part of the building, the seller said.

He said the Mountain Chalet had been presented as a dream property for Challenge Aspen that would help meet the needs of the adaptive sports nonprofit with accessible slopeside accommodations at Snowmass.

He had purchased the building with the primary intent of helping Challenge Aspen, not of operating a lodge in Snowmass.

“I had no intention of buying it, I didn’t even know it was for sale,” the seller said. ”I didn’t want to own a hotel. I was doing it for them, basically, because I knew it was now or never.”

Though he will walk away with a tidy profit from the sale, closing the deal isn’t exactly a happy ending, the seller said. Selling the inn for $6 million and the chalet for $10.5 million added up to $16.5 million just more than one year after he bought them together for $14 million.

“I’m sure their hearts were in it, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they let go. … It could have been such a phenomenal place, and it’s just so sad,” the seller said. ”I laugh all the way to the bank, but it’s like I laugh with sadness, because every single day I’m at Challenge working, I’m like, god, what it could have been.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that the Mountain Chalet in Aspen debuted in 1954. and