Real estate development at Steamboat Lake goes back 40 years |

Real estate development at Steamboat Lake goes back 40 years

The Emery home in Aspen Heights overlooks Steamboat Lake and frames views of 10,839-foot Hahn's Peak from the deck and kitchen window.

— Lee and Elaine Emery's home in Aspen Heights might be as close as one could hope to come to living in a national park without the crowds.

To be accurate, the Emerys' home on Antelope Way borders Steam­boat Lake, one of Colo­­rado's most popular state parks, not a national park. But the Emerys managed to create a four-lot subdivision of their own that is removed from the campground at the other end of the lake and close enough to the shore to grab a spinning road, jump in the car and be casting to trout in five minutes.

Realtor Mike Autrey, of Colo­rado Group Realty, has co-listed the house at $1.5 million with his wife, Ronna.

"This house represents instant gratification for anyone who has always wanted to live in North Routt," Mike Autrey said.

It's the carefully framed views that set this warm, 3,515-square-foot home with a timber-frame-style interior apart.

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Lee Emery, a homebuilder on Colorado's Front Range for 33 years, handpicked 43 tiny building lots from another era in Routt County history to create his 5-acre lot.

"We camped up here for years before we built," Emery said.

Next, he carefully sited the home so that guests arriving in the foyer are confronted by a panorama of Steamboat Lake with minor peaks City Mountain, Little Mountain and Grouse Mountain arrayed behind it.

However, the most stunning view rewards whoever spends a little time at the kitchen sink, where the bald point of Hahn's Peak is framed in an oversized window as if by a famous landscape photographer.

Lake development history

The story of real estate development at Steamboat Lake goes back 40 years to 1970 when Middle Park Land and Cattle Co. promoted 7,000 1-acre home sites surrounding the lake and the state park.

Middle Park Land and Cattle entered into two rounds of multimillion-dollar financing agreements with a real estate investment trust in Jacksonville, Fla., and platted 1,850 lots with agreements to sell about 950 of them. A golf course was developed to 40 percent completion, and a chairlift-served ski area was built at Pearl Lake.

But the developer filed for bankruptcy in 1975. A business entity called Lifetime Com­munities tried to revive the project and issued bonds to develop water and sewer lines but struggled with generating enough revenue stream to service the bonds.

Lifetime sought to auction 650 lots during the heart of the savings and loan crisis in 1982, but Routt County said there was sufficient sanitary infrastructure through Steamboat Lake Water and Sanitation District for only 26 of the lots. The suggested bidding range was $200 to $25,000 for different categories of lots. But the county made it clear they were not buildable.

After decades of inactivity, with people continuing to own lots they could not hope to build on, Routt County created a process for people to assemble five or six of the original lots, enough to have 5 acres, or the minimum size for a septic system. Since then, there has been a clear path to building high-end rural homes in the Steamboat Lake area.

A modern mountain home

Emery was among the modern developers who were able to consolidate enough original Steamboat Lake lots from the 1970s to build his home overlooking the lake.

He has picked up a few things in more than three decades as a builder. The two-level home, with four bedrooms, was deliberately cut into a gentle slope to place it at the perfect height to capture views while softening its visible impact on the landscape. He went further, placing building envelopes on three nearby lots to keep them out of the views (while protecting their own views).

"This view will never change," Emery said.

Routt County government required downcast exterior lights with opaque shades in Aspen Heights to minimize light pollution for park visitors, Emery said.

The home was built with traditional frame construction, but a grid of posts and beams on the interior evokes the timber-frame style.

Playing off the grid is a teardrop-shaped kitchen island.

Emery is proud of the staircase, which he said is designed to be a feature of the home with generous shelves.

The hickory floors, alder cabinets and solid alder doors soak up the mountain sunlight. The home is being offered for sale fully furnished, and Elaine Emery's sophisticated taste is reflected in custom metal light fixtures that are rustic but not trendy.

The west-facing deck, perfect for watching the sun set behind the lake, is covered — no need for snow removal in winter. In fact, Emery said, it's comfortable on sunny late-winter days.

"This is a home for people who enjoy the outdoors in all seasons," Emery said.

The heated garage has room for a pair of kayaks that can be delivered to the lake. The home is also a great location for snowmobile enthusiasts, who can leave from the driveway and legally hop across and up Routt County Road 129 to a public trailhead at Steamboat Lake Outfitters.

"You can ride to Wyoming and back on a groomed trail and stop at SLO for a beer on the way home," Autrey said.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail