Long dormant Stagecoach ski area has plans to reawaken as private club south of Steamboat Resort
Early plans submitted to Routt County include five ski lifts, 800 high-end homes and a golf course along the shores of Stagecoach Reservoir.
Half a century ago, Stagecoach Ski Area opened with three chairlifts, a temporary lodge and one subdivision as Colorado’s next major ski resort. But when investors pulled funding in 1973, Stagecoach was on a downward trajectory.
It would close after its 1974 season concluded, according to ColoradoSkiHistory.com. Towers for one of those chairlifts are still visible on the privately owned property, as are the remains of the lodge and the trails cut through the trees of Stagecoach Mountain.
Now — just shy of 50 years after the resort shuttered — there are “very early” plans working through the Routt County Planning Department to revive the long-dormant resort as Colorado’s newest ski area: Stagecoach Mountain Ranch.
Publicly available documents show where five new ski lifts could be built, space for as many as 800 high-end residential homes and an 18-hole golf course along the shores of Stagecoach Reservoir. But unlike Steamboat Resort 20 miles to the north on Mount Werner, Stagecoach Mountain Ranch would be a private club.
“[Stagecoach Mountain Ranch] is envisioned to be a place of exceptional quality set within the natural beauty of Stagecoach,” a narrative for the project reads. “[Stagecoach Mountain Ranch] will offer a variety of recreational activities to members that will be operated as a private club.”
Rumors of Stagecoach’s reawakening have occasionally surfaced in recent years, but have never quite come through. If it does come to fruition, Stagecoach Mountain Ranch could bring hundreds of millions in property tax valuations and deliver millions in funding to taxing districts in South Routt, which is facing the uncertain future that is coming with the sunset of its century-old coal-based economy.
The project narrative submitted to the county says plans for Stagecoach Mountain Ranch have been in the works for 45 years. Chris Wittemyer, a real estate broker who has worked in Steamboat Springs since 1996, is listed as the applicant on documents from the Routt County Planning Department.
“We’re in the very early planning stages and are working on putting together a comprehensive plan that addresses all of the feedback we’re receiving,” Wittemyer said, in response to questions from The Yampa Valley Bugle. “We definitely want to keep an open dialogue with the community and we’d be happy to provide further updates as we progress with our plans.”
The plans submitted are part of what is called an Administrative Review Team. This is an optional part of the land use process to receive feedback prior to a formal application, according to the Routt County Planning Department. The Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District, Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and Routt County Road and Bridge Department have all submitted comments on the plans.
The project narrative was submitted to Routt County on Feb. 2. A memo written by Routt County planning staff was uploaded a month later, and outlines that the project will require zoning amendments, numerous studies and eventually a special use permit subject to approval by the Routt County Commissioners.
The documents do not present a clear timeline for development and Wittemyer didn’t answer a question about that either. The project narrative from developer Stagecoach Mountain Ventures, LLC, requests preliminary technical review and feedback on plans that will be later submitted for the development of the property.
According to the documents, the development would primarily occur on two properties — the ski area property on the northwest end of Green Ridge and the golf course on the south side of Stagecoach Reservoir. About 80% of the development would be on the ski area property, with the remaining 20% being around the golf course.
The plans for the mountain submitted show five ski lifts, including one that is labeled as “2024 Ski Lift.” The others are given the simple names of Ski Lift A through D, according to a map of the ski mountain submitted to Routt County. Stagecoach Mountain would include four lodges and have home sites on the mountain.
The plan narrative says the current vision includes 50 to 100 large track lots and 200 to 400 single-family lots. The remainder of the housing would be multi-family properties including townhomes and condos, the documents show.
“Anticipated to have 800 residential units, [Stagecoach Mountain Ranch] represents a substantially lower density than allowed and will have a lower impact including less traffic, less impact on infrastructure and less impact on county services including schools, rife, police, etc. than permitted under the current zoning,” the narrative reads.
Comments from the Morrison Creek District say the development would require significant upgrades to their water system that the developer would need to pay for.
The golf course would be along Stagecoach Reservoir, with some holes being directly adjacent to the shore. The narrative suggests the developer hopes to secure water contracts recently surrendered by the Hayden and Craig powerplants out of the reservoir to irrigate the golf course. This water would be used for snowmaking and to supply homes as well.
In the narrative, the developer suggests the development of Stagecoach Mountain Ranch would be a significant economic boon to South Routt. Taxing districts such as the South Routt School District, South Routt Library District and others are already seeing the impacts of depressed valuation from Twentymile Coal Mine.
Hypothetical numbers in the narrative suggest the development could eventually add nearly $600 million in assessed valuation, which at current mill levies, could collectively deliver taxing entities more than $57 million a year in revenues. When the development progresses towards a preliminary application, developers will commission a detailed fiscal and economic study, documents show.
“Implementing this plan for this property is expected to be a major contributor to the economic development of South Routt County, replacing lost property tax base and jobs as the area transitions from a coal-based economy that has been the primary economic driver for the past 100 years,” the project narrative reads.
Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said he was not aware of any details of the plans and it wouldn’t be appropriate for the planning department to share those details at this time. Still, he has heard vague rumors about the development.
“Color me skeptical,” Corrigan said. “We’ve heard about development after development after development and none of it ever happens. So, I’m happy to wait and see. When it becomes a reality, or when there is actually an application, I’ll start to pay attention. Until then, it’s nothing to me.”