A North Routt landmark changed hands Dec. 14 when Chris and Laura Jones of Chicago, Illinois, closed on the purchase of the real estate associated with the 587-acre Vista Verde Guest Ranch, including its grand lodge and 10 guest cabins for $12.25 million. In a separate transaction, the 8,000-square-foot owner’s home for $4 million, for a combined $16.25 million.
The ranch, is located at 5745 Cowboy W,ay just off Routt County Road 64/Seedhouse Road in the upper Elk River Valley. Ranch guests enjoy horseback riding, Nordic skiing and special meals, all within sight of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness.
Realtors close to the transaction confirm the Jones intend to continue to operate the property as a guest ranch, and key employees are remaining in place, including ranch manager Ben Martin and Stephanie Wilson, who presides over reservations.
The selling entity in the transaction was Vista Verde Guest Ranch, Inc., and on the home, it was the Peggy Sue Throgmartin Trust, managed by her son Gregg W. Throgmartin. In both cases, the buyer was CJJ Family Holdings. Christy Belton of Ranch Marketing Associates listed the property for sale in May 2014. Cam Boyd of Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty represented the buyers.
“Chris is a wealth manager from Chicago. They’re a younger family with eight children, four of whom are adopted. They’re a very, very generous family,” Boyd said. “They really kind of fell in love with the ranch, and don’t want to change a thing. They’ll occupy the family home when they’re out there.”
Belton said The Throgmartins fostered the loyalty of key employees some who had been there for 15, 20, even 25 years.
“They took it to the next level with their employees,” Belton said, “They were a significant part of their lives.”
Vista Verde history
Vista Verde, surrounded on three sides by the Routt National Forest, was primarily a traditional cow/calf ranch with a few guest cabins on the side until 1975 when Frank and Win Brophy acquired the property and began to shift the emphasis to guest accommodations. In a 1993 interview with the Steamboat Pilot, Frank, a former Ford Motor Company executive, said the year before he bought the ranch, it grossed a total of $17,000.
“It took us seven or eight years to get it healthy and to the point we could take a salary,” Brophy recalled.
It was under the ownership of Jerry and Peggy Throgmartin, that Vista Verde’s reputation grew substantially. In addition to upgrading the buildings, they developed a top horse breeding program.
Guest reviews on Trip Advisor in October 2016 alone, are full of superlatives, confirming the strong reputation Vista Verde has built.
“They were living here and building their dream,” Belton said. “They took the time to understand the culture of North Routt and they did a lot of things for the immediate community,” including frequently hosting students and teachers “from the North Routt Charter School for outdoor education lessons.”
Sadly, Jerry Throgmartin died unexpectedly in 2012, leading to the family’s decision to list the ranch for sale.
The process of closing the sale was lengthy, Boyd said, with many details to attend to, from U.S. Forest Service special use permits to liquor licenses and vehicles. The ranch just took delivery of a new snowcat the week before the closing.
Boyd said knowing that Vista Verde will continue to be run by a family that wants to carry on the tradition of excellence at the ranch is valuable to Routt County. He added that the Jones would like to include members of the community in events at Vista Verde during less busy times of year.
“I think the biggest thing for the valley is that somebody will keep it continuously running as a guest ranch,” Boyd said. “The people and the wealth they bring to the valley is at a pretty high level. They expose a large number of people to the valley, and everybody who comes up here experiences a high level of service.”