Idaho Springs, CO – The auction sale of Denver’s closest ski area, Echo Mountain near Idaho Springs, has just closed, and its new owner will convert the resort into an exclusive training facility for school-age ski racers. The purchase price was not disclosed.
The ski area’s conversion means that the public will no longer have access to Echo Mountain’s slopes. Customers of Echo Mountain who have already purchased season passes for the 2012-13 season will be contacted in the next few weeks to arrange a refund for their passes.
In announcing the purchase, Pykkonen Capital LLC, has also announced the Front Range Ski Club which will operate Echo Mountain beginning this November. The auction drew international attention and numerous bidders, says auctioneer Sheldon Good & Company, largely due to the fact that Echo Mountain sits entirely on public land, and that this past winter broke revenue and snowfall records at the resort.
Pykkonen Capital LLC is led by Denver area ski racing mom Nora Horan Pykkonen, who lamented driving long hours to reach training facilities for her kids in the Vail Valley.
“I have three young girls that have fallen in love with alpine racing but also love their school on the Front Range,” Pykkonen explains. “The past few years we have been torn with wanting to ski full time and attend traditional schools. ”
Pykkonen plans to spend an additional $5 million to expand Echo Mountain’s lift-served terrain to 1,500 vertical feet. The transformation of Echo Mountain into the Front Range Ski Club will begin in the coming weeks and encapsulate the entire property. Operating on a membership basis, the Front Range Ski Club will have a heavy emphasis on after-school programs for young alpine racers looking for advanced training. The club has already secured World Cup Alpine ski racers from around the world to be new coaches including Sarah Schelper-Gaxiola, Petter Brenna, Patrik Järbyn and Mike Farny, and expects to announce additional coaches in the coming weeks.
“I have very limited knowledge of Alpine Racing and will be a student of the sport forever,” Pykkonen admits. “I am very fortunate to have found a team that is very knowledgeable, creative, dedicated and most of all very passionate. They want to make a difference in the lives of every child they interact with on our mountain and create a unique environment.”
While Echo Mountain was already a fully functional ski resort with trails, lifts, snowmaking operations, slope lighting for night training and building amenities, Front Range Ski Club is planning additional upgrades to serve its high-performance training needs, such as new terrain and ski runs including a Super G course, a new organic restaurant, 17 additional snow guns, homework and tutoring stations, building upgrades and a new pick-up/drop off shuttle system with stops throughout Denver. Less than one-third of the property’s 226 acres have been developed, leading to many expansion possibilities.
“As a mother of children who have recently fallen in love with alpine racing, I was inspired to create a premiere training facility that provides innovative and progressive coaching in a nearby location that allows families to better balance their children’s schooling and time at home. The fact that so many families in the area share my enthusiasm and that many World Cup athletes have signed on to be coaches, demonstrates the Front Range Ski Club is a winning concept,” said Pykkonen, who also co-founded Slalom Consulting, a management consulting company with 1,300 employees.
There are over 20,000 ski racers across the United States, over 2,000 of which are members of the nearby Rocky Mountain division and of these members 1,300 are school-aged children. Currently, many families interested in exploring full-time training often commute long distances or in some cases move to be closer to a training facility. The Front Range Ski Club will provide young athletes in the Rocky Mountain area with a new venue to train full-time and be closer to home. The property is also one of the few ski/boarding areas that has permitted slope lighting, allowing for later training hours that help balance school schedules.
Initiation dues and annual coaching fees, however, are expected to be quite high, and Front Range Ski Club will face stiff regional competition from training facilities already established at Copper Mountain and at Golden Peak at Vail. Eldora Mountain near Boulder already has limited nighttime trace training available.
Echo Mountain first opened in 2006 on the site of the former Squaw Pass ski area. Located just 35 miles west of downtown Denver, it features north-facing mountain terrain that varies from 9,000 to 11,000 feet in elevation with views of the Continental Divide. The property averages snowfall of 220 inches with 300 days of sun annually.