Picture: Getty Images Words: Francesca Steele
Property of the month: 5 reasons to buy this cosy Colorado cabin
Its prime Aspen location
Aspen, where Prada or one of its glamorous competitors lurks around every corner, is usually impervious to housing market fluctuations. Five years ago The Wall Street Journal dubbed it “the most expensive town in America”. Things have looked a little more jittery lately, with concerns about the election, oil, even Brexit, but normal service seems to be resuming.
The Knight Frank Wealth Report just listed the town as one of the top three ski chalet investment locations in the country. The average sales price in Aspen is $7.7 million, that’s if you want to be in or near Aspen itself. Even a two bedroom condo will set you back a minimum of $2 million.
Telluride, home to the September film festival, is not much cheaper so those on a budget should consider Vail. Not as historic as Telluride or Aspen, it sprang up in the 1960s and is neither as chic nor trendy, says broker Wendy Wogan, of Douglas Elliman. However, you could pick up a family home here for $800,000 – and the skiing is great.
A huge home at a bargain price
Nestled in a valley only 10 miles from downtown Aspen, this estate is one of the most expensive properties on the market, not just in Colorado but in the whole of the US. Elk Mountain Lodge, one of the homes belonging to Bill Koch, the billionaire energy executive, is on sale for $80 million – a relative bargain given that the 82.6 acre estate was priced at $100 million a couple of years ago.
A main house with 28 bedrooms and 31 bathrooms, seven cabins and four lodges make up the enormous Rockies idyll, and it’s begging to be used for big, festive gatherings. Indeed Koch has often filled every bed in the place at Christmas and during summers with friends and family, according to Wendy Wogan, a broker with Douglas Elliman. There have been plenty of viewings since it was first brought to the market, she says, but “it’s going to take another Bill to buy this property – someone with a real vision of how it should be used – and there just aren’t that many Bills out there”.
It has every imaginable amenity
Koch, a notable sailing enthusiast who won the America’s Cup in 1992 (when he sailed as crew himself), bought the property in 2007 for a mere $26.5 million. Back then it was used as a wedding venue, but parts of the estate were originally built in 1907 as a tourist ranch. Allegedly, Koch has sunk $100 million into the renovations and it’s easy to see how such huge sums could have been spent.
There is a cinema room that doubles as an altitude acclimatisation chamber. One of the cottages has a full-sized basketball court. There is a gym, a princess-themed playroom, a pool, two hot tubs from which to view the snowy peaks of the Elk Mountains and Castle Creek. And, of course, a temperature-controlled wine room – Koch is an avid wine, as well as art, collector. In May he sold nearly $22 million worth of wine at a Sotheby’s auction.
It's designed for enjoyment
And yet, despite the luxury add-ons and the sheer size of the property, it is cosy, according to Wogan. “Even though it’s a huge house it feels small, in the best possible sense. It’s comfortable, you can melt into it.” The look is luxury rustic: panelled oak, great stone hearths and antlers, guns and wilderness paintings everywhere you look. The main lodge – 15,000 sq ft – was originally built as a fishing company retreat and has eight bedrooms, a dining room that seats 20 and the Great Room, the hub of the house with spectacular views of the slopes.
This is not the most expensive property ever marketed in Aspen. In 2006, Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia listed his Hala Ranch estate for $135 million. In 2012 the hedge-fund billionaire John Paulson bought it for $49 million. Wogan says that the same fate is unlikely to await Elk Mountain Lodge, however, because it is so much more in keeping with its surroundings. “There was nothing that was mountainy about that property. It was all marble and gold. You don’t get more mountainy than Elk Mountain Lodge, that’s what’s so wonderful about it.”
The skiing, sailing and fine dining
For the boat enthusiast, there is a small sailing club known as the Aspen Yacht Club at a reservoir about an hour’s drive from Aspen. The real sport around here is, of course, skiing. The main ski lift is in town, but the new owners may also wish to take a quieter, more private route, driving to the top of the gondola through Little Annie Road. The area boasts some of the best cross-country skiing in the world. A short drive, ski or even sleigh ride in the other direction is the famed Pine Creek Cookhouse, a log cabin-style restaurant where you can try local alpine delicacies such as house-smoked trout and elk bratwurst.