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$46 million? This Utah ranch could be yours if the price is right

PETERSON, Morgan County — The sign on the gate says, "No Trespassing." But if you have a little bit of cash to spend — say $46 million — you could enter and soak up the scenery anytime you want.

So far, there's not a firm buyer in sight for the Wasatch Peaks Ranch. For well over a year, this spectacular piece of Utah has been stuck — without a buyer — on the real estate market.

The $46 million price tag is likely the biggest reason.

Standing on the crest of a hill overlooking much of the property, real estate broker Chris Corroon expressed optimism.

"Obviously, this view," Corroon said, "it's a $46 million view."

That's the asking price, but Corroon says the only way to test the actual value of the property is to see what kind of offers come in. So far, none have.

That doesn't mean there's no interest from the rarefied realms where people have that kind of money to spend. Corroon said he's given property tours to about a half-dozen financially qualified people who are very interested in the property.

"Serious interest," he said. "No offers, but serious interest."

So why is the sticker price so high? Part of the explanation is the old real-estate adage, "Location. Location. Location." The ranch is less than 5 miles from the populous Wasatch Front communities of Davis County where hundreds of thousands of people live.

But that mileage is mainly pertinent for eagles and other creatures with wings. The ranch is on the opposite side of the Wasatch Mountain ridgeline. It's on the eastward facing Wasatch Back on a vast chunk of land where no one lives.

Wasatch Peaks Ranch is in Morgan County, overlooking I-84. The drive from the Salt Lake City International Airport takes well under an hour.

There are no significant buildings, but a buyer would get a lot of bang for his 46 million bucks on a ranch that's big enough to be a county all by itself.

"Obviously," Corroon said, "the views are killer."

An online promotional video markets it as a private paradise on a vast expanse of scenic mountain land.

"One of the most spectacularly pristine and private recreational properties in the U.S.," the video's narrator says. "At 12,740 deeded acres, the ranch features 20 square miles of natural alpine wilderness within the Wasatch Mountains."

The property includes 24 peaks, at least five of them higher than 9,000 feet. Millionaires Earl Holding and Snowbird founder Dick Bass — both now deceased — bought the property many years ago. Their dream was to build a new ski resort.

The promotional video includes comments recorded by Bass before his death in 2015 extolling the property that averages 400 inches of snow each year. "That's as good a snow as you'll find anywhere in the world, " Bass says in the video. "So this is truly a remarkable place."

The heirs of Bass and Holding are selling the property along with co-owner Peter Hicks. In theory, the ranch could be developed into subdivisions with 5,000 homes.

"Probably never happen," Corroon said, "but it could happen."

Ski runs have already been mapped, at least on a scale big enough for private skiing; no prospective buyers so far are considering a full-blown ski resort. Corroon says the most likely buyer is someone — or a group of someones — who want their own private expanse for mountain recreation less than an hour from the Salt Lake International Airport.

"There's mountain biking and horseback riding," Corroon said, working his way through a long list of selling points, including 11 streams suitable for fly-fishing. It's a "great opportunity for Nordic cross-country skiing on this property as well," he said.

Although Corroon thinks it's most likely to become a private playground for the very wealthy, some say a better use would be to conserve it as a resource for the public.

"It would be a true gem to protect that place," said Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons.

He said local, state and federal governments ought to create more tax incentives that encourage property owners to sell their land to public entities. He also argues that lawmakers should provide more funds for such purchases as a means of conserving water and wildlife resources as well as recreational opportunities.

"I think it would be a huge, huge win for local communities," Fisher said.

"We would love to have a conservation buyer," Corroon said. "Anybody that would be a good steward of this property would be a welcome buyer."

All it would take is the right someone — public or private — with a very large pile of money.

"We're feeling pretty confident that a couple of folks that we've been working with may step forward," Corroon said, "but, uh, nothing yet. No checks yet."