This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
This pristine and ski-perfect slice of Utah landscape can be yours for a mere $46 million.
The breathtaking Wasatch Peaks Ranch, east of Ogden, spans 12,740 acres of forested summits and gorges, dramatic slopes and sweeping meadows near the top of the Wasatch Mountains.
Among the largest privately held tracts of land in the Intermountain West and virtually untouched for two decades, the ranch is for sale.
Might it become Utah's 15th ski resort and one of the nation's biggest? A one-of-a-kind conservation reserve? Or perhaps an exclusive playground for a wealthy buyer?
"It's pretty spectacular," said Salt Lake City real estate broker Chris Corroon, who is marketing the 24-square-mile outdoor paradise along with Ken Mirr of Denver's Mirr Ranch Group.
Sloping eastward into Morgan County from just below a string of 24 mountaintops, Wasatch Peaks represents an unfulfilled dream of two late Utah ski pioneers.
Dallas oilman and Snowbird founder Dick Bass bought what was then called the Gailey Ranch in 1997, with visions of it as a ski resort. Wyoming oil billionaire Earl Holding, developer of nearby Snowbasin and central Idaho's Sun Valley, eventually joined Bass as a co-owner, as did Boston investor Peter Hicks.
"They saw it as a unique opportunity," Mirr said.
But the development never became a reality. Holding died in 2013 at age 86; Bass died in July at 85. Real estate brokers put Wasatch Peaks Ranch on the market last summer.
Bass and Holding were said to have been especially struck by the ranch's estimated 5,500 acres of potential ski slopes, which drop as much as 4,750 feet from their white-capped peaks. The property boasts 15 bowls and more than 400 inches of yearly snowfall. Helicopter skiers take runs on adjacent mountains.
Located just south of Mountain Green and Interstate 84, the ranch's unblemished sage scrub lands and soaring terrain are also a draw for summer hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking on nearly 80 miles of trails.
The alpine haven borders a 1.75-mile stretch of the Weber River, a lure for fly-fishers, and is managed by state officials for wildlife habitat.
All of this 15 minutes outside Ogden and 45 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport.
A decade ago, state road planners foresaw the acreage covered with 500 single-family homes, 1,000 condominiums and a resort hotel with 500-plus rooms.
Through the years, the Bass and Holding families and their friends are said to have enjoyed the ranch's skiing, fishing its 11 creeks and hunting big game in its woodlands. Beyond that, with the exception of few dirt roads, the spread has been kept to its original wild quality.
Mirr, who specializes in such property listings throughout the West and abroad, said he is pitching the ranch to a variety of potential buyers, including billionaires and large resort operators thus far with no serious takers.
"I can't really speak to where that industry is going," Mirr said, "but we're not seeing a lot of new ski resorts opening these days."
Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah, which markets the state's 14 resorts, recently hiked the property and was "just really kind of blown away."
"It looks big from down low," Rafferty said, "but up there, it feels just enormous."
If it became a resort, he said, Wasatch Peaks would instantly place among the top five largest U.S. ski destinations.
"I'd love to see it as another neat asset for our industry," Rafferty said.
Morgan County has a significant interest in how the land might be developed, according to Bill Cobabe, county planning director. The mountainside property is visible from everywhere in the county, he said, "and it's important to us."
The ranch is currently zoned for one recreational dwelling for every square mile, he said, but the county is open to changes.
"I would anticipate something very similar to Snowbasin," Cobabe said.
Yet with zero utilities and limited road access, that could be many years away.
Rafferty and Corroon said they would welcome a buyer interested in conserving the land or pursuing limited resort development, akin to Colorado's Silverton Mountain, with its single chairlift.
"When you have a blank slate like that," Rafferty said, "you can really take your time and do it right."
On his own time, Ski Utah employee and powder enthusiast Luke Ratto launched a low-key crowd-funding project during the summer to buy Wasatch Peaks Ranch, one of several such campaigns. Ratto wants to rename it Citizen Mountain and see it operated for public use. With little publicity, his gofundme.com effort drew about $15,000 in support, Ratto said.
"It could be a really cool opportunity to change the model of what constitutes a ski or mountain resort," he said. "With all the fighting over public lands these days, it could be a game changer."