|Forty-year hospitality industry veteran Jerry Petitt has a reputation for using unorthodox methods to sell hotel franchises and room nights. Now, he’s out to sell his personal mountain, and true to form, he’s scaling new heights to do it.
The former president of Choice Hotels bought the land in 2002 and opened Echo Mountain in early 2006, just 45 minutes from downtown Denver. Now, Petitt is running counter to conventional thinking and is selling the 226-acre resort via a sealed bid auction, handled by Sheldon Good & Company.
“I’ve really enjoyed building up this unique property, but I want to devote more time to my first passion, hotel management and ownership,” says Petitt. “I hate to divest this property, but I need to devote my time to my core business."
In his career in the hotel industry, Petitt developed and managed Marriott Courtyard Inns, SpringHill Suites and Fairfield Inns, Hilton Hampton Inns, Choice Comfort, Comfort Suite, and Quality Suite properties. As president of Choice Hotels, he guided the company in the creation of the Sleep Inn, Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites brands, as well as the acquisitions of Clarion Hotels and EconoLodge, growing the company to over 3,500 hotels. Petitt also has served as chief operating officer of Best Western and managed their expansion from 900 hotels to over three thousand.
“While most people would never conceive of owning their own ski resort, Echo Mountain is expected to sell for a price that’s within reach of far more people than just those whose names are Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey," he says. "The resort is small and therefore more manageable than typical Colorado ski resorts. What makes this sale more interesting than the typical hotel transaction is the almost limitless opportunities the new owner will have to take the property in any number of directions, including building condos, adding a hotel, expanding the ski runs, or simply owning their own personal ski resort and inviting only your closest friends to ski and enjoy winter sports."
Opened in 2006, Echo Mountain’s location, just 35 miles west of downtown Denver, offers north-facing mountain terrain that varies from 9,000 to 11,000 feet in elevation and a ski season that often stretches into May. Resort highlights include two multi-purpose buildings, which incorporate administrative offices, cafeteria, retail and rental shop, close-in parking, and average snowfall of 220 inches with 300 days of sun annually.
Echo’s current ski operation was master planned in 2005 by SE Group/Snow Engineering, a ski area design and planning firm, and includes a vertical drop of 660 feet that can be expanded to 1,500 feet-plus; 16 named trails; three lifts, including a 2,000 foot, fixed-grip triple chair; a magic carpet surface lift for the learning center and a handle tow for the events area; proven helipad and snowmaking operations with four wells and a reservoir.
Less than 33 percent of the 226 acres have been developed, and the resort is surrounded by U.S. Forest Service-managed property, making its operations expandable through trades or leases.
“It really is a unique piece of property – a ski area this close to a metro area with three million potential customers. I’ve had a great time talking to many potential buyers," says Petitt. "I concluded that this sale is best handled as an auction because it is focused and doesn’t disrupt the on-going business or the employees. It flies in the face of conventional thinking, and that’s worked pretty well for me in the past.”