Ranch bordering Flat Tops Wilderness on the market for $100 million
August 14, 2017
EAGLE COUNTY — Running a farm or ranch is a lot of work. Running a 20,000-acre ranch is a labor of love. For Susan Nottingham, it’s time to write a different chapter in her life.
Nottingham is the owner of a ranch in northwest Eagle County that bears the family name. Her father, Bill, put together the nearly 20,000-acre property after selling a ranch that stretched from what’s now Avon to near the west end of Dowd Junction in the early 1980s.
After that sale, the family relocated to the area above Burns. The family bought a place and then added to it over the years until it became perhaps the biggest working ranch in the county.
The private property is surrounded mostly by U.S. Forest Service land, some of it bordering the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. The ranch has a number of federal grazing leases, which allow cattle to roam and graze during the summers.
The ranch is still a working agricultural property, with senior water rights, pivot sprinklers for the hay and, of course, a good number of cattle. Nottingham estimated the current number at about 3,000 head.
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A DIFFICULT DECISION
But change is coming. Nottingham recently decided to sell the ranch. It’s currently listed at $100 million.
“It’s a decision I’ve been struggling with for quite a while,” Nottingham said. “It’s always been a family endeavor. But I just turned 65 and don’t have kids and there’s nobody coming up behind me.”
The decision was “something I needed to do while I’m still healthy,” Nottingham said. “It’s a decision I need to be in control of.”
When Nottingham made the decision to sell, she called longtime friend Ed Swinford, a broker with Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate. Swinford helped broker the deal for the ranch on the valley floor in the early 1980s. He and fellow broker Brent Rimel are co-listing the property.
While the ranch is on the market, everyone involved is being patient. There’s a pretty limited pool of individuals or groups in the market for $100 million ranches.
Still, Swinford said, he’s been pleased with the response so far. One broker out of the area has asked for more information, and other ranch brokers have expressed some interest.
It’s likely that the eventual buyer of the ranch doesn’t live in the valley, which is why the sale announcement was picked up by the Wall Street Journal and ranching magazines. But, Swinford said, someone who lives in, or visits, the valley might be interested.
“I know there are people who come through here who can afford it or know people who can,” Swinford said.
Still, the timing might be right to sell a very large ranch in reasonably close proximity to Vail and Beaver Creek.
“The timing is good in general,” Swinford said. “The country’s on a real solid track right now.”
WORK TO BE DONE
Until that buyer — or group — shows up, the ranch will keep running.
“I’ll work hard — that’s all I know,” she said. “We’ll just keep it going the way it goes.”
Nottingham’s talk of hard work isn’t idle, either.
“She puts in longer days than any of the men,” Swinford said. “She never will tell them to do something she wouldn’t do herself.”
Putting in the work, from cutting and baling hay to helping a cow give birth to a balky calf, creates a connection with a place. That connection will be hard to give up.
Nottingham said she knows the ranch will be someone else’s responsibility when it sells, and those new owners can do as they please.
Still, she said, “My preference is for someone to come in and love (the ranch) like I do.”
Both she and Swinford expect the new owner will respect the ranch for what it is.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to spend that much money to destroy it,” she said.
Swinford added that a buyer might want to build a new home on the property. But, he added, “A buyer will see the beauty of this place.”
When the ranch does sell, Nottingham said she expects to keep busy — at something.
Nottingham’s mother, Neva, is still alive and had to move to the lower elevation of Grand Junction a few years ago.
“It was a huge change for her,” Nottingham said. “If she can do the change, maybe I can.”
Nottingham isn’t the type to count chickens before they hatch, and there’s plenty of work in the here and now. But that day will come.
“I can’t see myself sitting around doing nothing,” she said. “I’ll have a lot of money to hopefully do some good. That will take some time, but I hope I can make a difference in the world.”
But that day isn’t certain.
“In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to my shovel,” she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.