Steamboat’s Red Bell Ranch centerpiece of wildlife sanctuary |

Steamboat’s Red Bell Ranch centerpiece of wildlife sanctuary

— In summer 2011, as Steamboat's real estate market continues the lengthy process of getting back on its feet and hitting full stride, a home priced at $12.875 million ought to be very special.

Perched above the upper end of Strawberry Park, the singular home that is the centerpiece of a virtual 119-acre wildlife sanctuary at Red Bell Ranch makes the claim.

In a valley studded with many spectacular homes, this property stands out for the 150-year-old oak barn timbers used in the construction; what could be the largest covered porch in Routt County; unobstructed views that stretch from Soda Mountain to Mount Werner and Howelsen Hill; and an aspen forest waist deep in ferns that is disturbed only by miles of private hiking and snowshoeing trails.

"It's only three miles into town for shopping and restaurants, and out here there's no light pollution," said listing broker Penny Fletcher, of Colorado Group Realty. "You have Gunn Creek running through 119 acres that borders 260 acres of BLM (public) land."

The field of rural homes in Routt County priced above $10 million is small — there are six, and three of those are on larger working ranches that have asking prices north of $19 million.

Of the three between $10 million and $17 million, Red Bell Ranch represents the newest construction.

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Pam Vanatta's (Prudential Steamboat Realty) listing on Pine Drop Drive in the south valley offers the benefits of a secondary residence, a six-vehicle auto plaza and a private lake fewer than five minutes from a home price at $17 million.

Dennis Kuntz's (Exceptional Properties Real Estate) $13.9 million listing in the Elk River Valley is for a handsome older home that is farther from town than Red Bell Ranch but offers more than 1,100 acres that includes private fishing on the Elk River. When guest cabins are counted, there are seven residences total.

Each of the three mega-listings is likely to appeal to distinctly different buyers. But Red Bell Ranch has the market for casual wearers of blue jeans cornered.

Not only is Larry Ameen, who owns the house with his wife, Cindy, a longtime executive in the denim clothing industry (Jordache and Pepe), the 8,360-square-foot home is insulated with environmentally sensitive recycled denim and soy foam.

Once the new owners move their furniture and slip into their most comfortable denims themselves they'll enjoy unusual privacy.

Larry Ameen said they had been looking at property with Fletcher for almost a year when they finally came across Strawberry Park. One look was all it took.

"Cindy and I looked at each other and said, 'This is it,'" he recalled.

They canceled the rest of their showing appointments for the day.

Fletcher said the couple took great care in choosing a building site and in the way it was oriented on the property.

"They wanted to build a home that fit in with the environment and would not be seen from miles away."

As it turned out, most people traveling Routt County Road 36 to The Lowell Whiteman School or Strawberry Park Hot Springs are oblivious of its presence. The only easy vantage point from which the home can be clearly observed is from the road up Buffalo Pass.

Ameen acted as his own general contractor during construction of the house in 2006 and 2007, working closely with framing contractor Bob Albertini. Ben Spiegel, of Spiegel and Son, worked on a variety of interior finishes including softening the barn timbers. Chris Haight, of Kitchen Perfection, produced the extensive cabinetry and Joe Bonn, of J. Bonn Wood Products, worked on integrating the historic timbers into the construction of the house.

The covered porch accommodates dining and even an outdoor bed not far from its own wood-burning fireplace. Just around the corner is a sunken fire pit followed by an outdoor cooking area with access to the bright kitchen where white marble countertops reflect the outdoor light into the room.

Cindy Ameen said the teak cutting block that covers the entire kitchen island affords ample room for her and her husband to cook together. The kitchen and nook are warmed by their own gas fireplace.

The timbered living room is ideally situated to watch alpenglow unfold over the distant ski slops of Mount Werner. But the Ameens best remember a night when they sat transfixed on the couch and watched the interaction among about 20 elk that had bedded down under a full moon just off the flagstone porch. They routinely see moose with calves on the property and an occasional bear.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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