Bad times for private ski resorts in Montana, Colorado

What’s the first thing the uber-wealthy give up in a downward-spiraling economy? Their private ski resort memberships, apparently.

The Yellowstone Club, a gated ski and golf resort off the backside of Big Sky ski area in Montana, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, citing an inability to secure financing with its creditors and bondholders.

A private ski mountain the size of Beaver Creek in Colorado, the Yellowstone Club’s members include Bill Gates, Dan Quayle and director of skiing Warren Miller. One of its more famous members, American cycling great Greg LeMond, recently settled a lawsuit over his ownership stake. The Club also was taken over by CEO Edra Blixseth, wife of founder and billionaire timber baron Tim Blixseth, in a messy divorce settlement.

The Yellowstone Club debacle doesn’t bode well for a Colorado resort being planned using a similar model. Florida developer Bobby Ginn’s Battle Mountain project off the backside of Vail Mountain has slowed down its approval process because of the softening high-end real estate market, despite getting overwhelming annexation approval from Minturn voters in May.

The Ginn Company, with golf and beach resorts throughout the South, has experienced its own credit problems in recent months, and now the developers say they’re in no hurry to submit their final plans for the property between the old mining towns of Minturn and Red Cliff to the south of Vail. Preliminary plans called for a ski area, golf course, hundreds of high-end homes and two gondolas on the former patchwork of mining claims, part of which is an EPA Superfund site.

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail and Real Aspen.

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