Of all the neighborhoods in Aspen, Colorado, Red Mountain is one of the most prestigious. One particular estate in this sought-after enclave on Aspen’s north side is the largest, most private lot currently listed, earning its owners serious bragging rights.
The historic Erickson ranch, listed with Christie’s International Real Estate, is on the market for $17,950,000. Spread across about 12 acres near the base of Red Mountain, the property has stayed in the same family for 70 years. The land was owned by the late Walter Paepcke, an industrialist and philanthropist who is considered a founding father of Aspen. Paepcke and his wife, Elizabeth, founded the Aspen Institute, Aspen Music Festival and School and Aspen Skiing Company. Elizabeth also established the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, a nonprofit environmental science education organization.
Colter Smith, a co-founder and broker at Christie’s International Real Estate Aspen/Snowmass, is the listing agent for the property, which is currently owned by the Paepckes’ 90-year-old daughter, Paula Zurcher. Smith, who is Zurcher’s step-grandson, says the property includes two shared amenities, a horse/barn facility surrounded by pastures and a recently remodeled ranch manager’s quarters reminiscent of old Aspen pioneer days.
Senior water rights help irrigate the entire ranch, which along with three other lots, encompasses more than 100 acres of Red Mountain. The property cannot be subdivided into additional lots.
Though the ranch may appear remote, one doesn’t have to go far for shopping, entertainment or outdoor activities. The heart of Aspen is a quick ride away.
Built in 2002, the luxurious 6,800-plus square-foot home made from wood, stucco, metal and glass includes seven bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms and a two-car garage. All the bedrooms walk out onto a patio or deck.
To say that the home has rooms with views would be an understatement. The contemporary design of the elongated residence blurs the distinction between inside and out, offering unobstructed views as far as the eye can see.
Architect Harry Teague designed the contemporary wood, glass, stucco and steel house with a rolling roofline. The architectural masterpiece with a blend of organic finishes hugs its surroundings as if grown from them. Soothing natural design elements inside by interior designer Marcia Weese make one feel calm and welcomed.
In an interview with Western Interiors and Design magazine, Teague said that in designing the contemporary residence, he was “trying to acknowledge the bigger picture and the openness of the West.” He explained that “houses should engage the full expanse of their surroundings and experience everything the landscape has to offer. The two should flow together.”
Indeed, enjoying views of a bucolic landscape instead of catching a glimpse into a neighbor’s window makes Zurcher appreciate the home even more. And why not? Privacy defines the estate.
“As for the land, I loved the privacy, especially,” says Zurcher. “I didn’t have to look at cars, roads, traffic of any kind. And I didn’t have to look at the city of Aspen.”
She is grateful that the exterior of the home is elongated, “taking advantage of the views in all direction. We used materials that would hold up to the elements like barn wood siding, rusted corrugated metal, steel and stucco. The exterior of the house has withstood the elements very well over the course of its 17-year life span.”
Most of the entertaining and living areas are on the main level. Banks of grand two-story windows flank the living room, while all seven bedrooms are above grade with each imbuing their own ambience and unique views of the surroundings. For example, the master bedroom has a sliding glass door where Smith says you can hear the relaxing sounds of a running creek all summer long.
“When you walk through the entry door, it opens up into a short hallway with two-story ceilings and views west looking through the open staircase into nature,” says Zurcher. “At the end of the hall, it opens into the great room to the left, which is lined with voluminous two-story windows on the north and south sides and a large wood-burning fireplace. You truly feel like you’re in nature when you are relaxing and entertaining in the great room.”
Beaver and trout ponds, an elk habitat, natural springs, a tranquil stream and forests as far as the eye can see contribute to the idyllic setting.
In addition to the 12-acre lot, the backyard consists of an additional 50-acre meadow shared with three neighboring parcels. Coupled with the diverse terrain of the neighboring Hunter Creek Valley, this environment provides ideal trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and exploration.
Ariane Zurcher, daughter of Paula Zurcher and part owner of the ranch, recalls that in the 1970s, the Erickson ranch had no houses on it, just fields, shrub, irrigation ditches and beaver dams.
“Herds of elk roamed through each winter. Bears and coyote took over in the summer,” says Ariane, adding that “the only structures were a barn and the ranch house at the edge of the property.”
After Ariane’s grandmother, Elizabeth Paepcke, passed away, the ranch was divided into three parcels, one for each of her daughters. “My mother chose the parcel furthest from the original road,” says Ariane, noting that the property has always held a special place in her heart.
“It’s a place I used to come to as a teenager with my grandmother, who insisted on weeding the great open fields of thistle,” she reminisces. “I can still remember the smell of sagebrush, the hot sun, the cracked earth, the coolness that the Aspen trees afforded. The ranch was a place of solitude, removed from everything. Unless an airplane flew overhead, one would not know what year it was, and yet a five-minute drive plunged one back into the center of town. Being in that house, the house my mother built and lived in after my father died, on land that my grandparents walked and picnicked on, is a reminder of what is important in life.”