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‘Godfather’ behind ‘Varsity Blues’ college admissions scandal said he could get one parent’s child into Harvard for $1.2M

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‘Godfather’ behind ‘Varsity Blues’ college admissions scandal said he could get one parent’s child into Harvard for $1.2M

The “godfather” behind the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal told one parent who wanted to bribe his daughters’ way into Harvard that it would take about $1.2 million, but it would have its perks.

In a recording of one of William “Rick” Singer’s phone calls with former Staples and Gap Inc. executive John Wilson, Wilson responded, “Jesus.”

But Singer said, “The great thing about going to Harvard is once I get you in, you can do whatever you want. They don’t care.”

Wilson and former casino executive Gamal Abdelaziz are on trial on charges they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to help get their kids into the University of Southern California by falsely presenting them as athletic recruits. Wilson also is accused of paying more than $1 million to buy his twin daughters’ ways into Harvard and Stanford.

On Wednesday, the third day of testimony in the trial in federal court in Boston, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank showed jurors multiple emails between Singer, parents, and others, including one from March 2018 to Abdelaziz, thanking him for his “generous donation” of $300,000 to Singer’s Key Worldwide Foundation, adding the money would benefit disadvantaged youngsters.

Another email, from Leslie Wilson to Singer, said her children “would love your counseling about essays.” Singer later replied in an email to Wilson that he had taken “the liberty of completing (one) essay.”

Not long after John and Leslie Wilson paid Singer to get their son into USC, he wrote to former water polo coach Jovan Vavic that he was resigning from the team because he had had three concussions and wanted to concentrate on his academics.

Recordings of conversations between Singer and Donna Heinel, the former senior associate athletic director at USC, discussed “structuring” some donations, which FBI Special Agent Keith Brown told jurors meant breaking them into smaller amounts to evade taxes.

Under cross-examination by one of Abdelaziz’s attorneys, Brian Kelly, FBI Special Agent Keith Brown said he had not read all of the emails about Abdelaziz’s children.

“You didn’t pick all the emails that we saw here,” Kelly said. “The government cherry-picked them.”

Singer, who began cooperating with investigators in 2018 and secretly recorded his phone calls with the parents, was expected to be a key witness for the government. But prosecutors told jurors on Monday they will not call him to the stand.

The trial is expected to last several weeks. Defense lawyers have claimed that the parents were duped by Singer and led to believe that their payments were legitimate donations.

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Rockies podcast: On Bill Schmidt’s hiring as GM, deals for Antonio Senzatela and C.J. Cron, club’s offseason forecast and more

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Rockies podcast: On Bill Schmidt’s hiring as GM, deals for Antonio Senzatela and C.J. Cron, club’s offseason forecast and more

In this packed edition of the On The Rox podcast, Denver Post sportswriters Kyle Newman and Patrick Saunders break down an array of topics with the Rockies’ 2021 season fresh in the rearview.

What’s to make of Colorado hiring Bill Schmidt as GM? How should fans rate the deals handed out to right-hander Antonio Senzatela and first baseman C.J. Cron? What’s the latest update on Trevor Story’s free agency forecast? Who needs to break out for the Rockies to contend in 2022?

Those questions, plus analysis on Nolan Arenado’s postseason struggles, are addressed and more.

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Ben Roethlisberger is off to a poor start in 2021, but Broncos aren’t underestimating Steelers QB

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Ben Roethlisberger is off to a poor start in 2021, but Broncos aren’t underestimating Steelers QB

Ben Roethlisberger has played poorly early this season, but the Broncos are wary of proclamations that the veteran quarterback has completely fallen off ahead of Sunday’s showdown in Pittsburgh.

The future Hall of Famer’s QBR is 36.6, fourth-worst in the NFL, in part because he’s dealing with pectoral and hip injuries. The 39-year old looked especially bad in last Sunday’s loss to Green Bay, with eight inaccurate throws.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio isn’t buying that Big Ben is near the end.

“There’s a narrative out there that (Roethlisberger’s) gone down and I don’t see that,” Fangio said. “I’ve been watching this guy a long time. He’s still capable of doing everything he’s always done. He throws a great deep ball and has good pocket feel. I don’t buy into that narrative at all.”

Fangio’s comments aside, it’s gotten to the point where Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin had to re-iterate this week that Roethlisberger is still the team’s starting quarterback.

Roethlisberger is 109-of-170 for 1,033 yards, with four TDs and four interceptions. The Steelers’ backups are Mason Rudolph (5-4 in nine starts for the injured Roethlisberger in 2019 and ’20) and Dwayne Haskins (3-10 as a starter for Washington in ’19 and ’20).

Roethlisberger told Pittsburgh reporters that he’s “got to find ways to be better with my lower body” to improve upon the accuracy problems that plagued him against Green Bay — and his overall inefficiency through the first four games. In addition to to Roethlisberger’s poor QBR, his passer rating this year is 78.9, compared to 93.7 across his 18-year career.

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New, and no bids required: At Heritage Todd Creek and Inspiration, Lennar has big ranches ready at good prices

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New, and no bids required: At Heritage Todd Creek and Inspiration, Lennar has big ranches ready at good prices

In a fall market where buyers are getting top dollar for their outdated 2-story homes but are then having to bid up the price of ranch-style houses to replace them, you can come see two ranches that are ready for move in now, in an age-55-plus master-planned community—no bidding required.

“I can’t believe the prices that people are paying for older ranches that still have laminate countertops,” says Tina Dinkel at Lennar’s Heritage Todd Creek, off E-470 at Quebec in Thornton.

She and Cindy Ditallo can show you two big ranches ready to go now, with better size than the resale houses you may be seeing, each brand-spanking new.

That includes an ‘Oxford’ ranch—1,749 sq. feet with an oversized deck and a day-lit garden-level basement, backing to mature trees and no other home. It’s priced at $609,900—just $35,000 more than a median-priced resale house was selling for in the 11-county Denver metro area last month.

They’ll also show you a Hepburn ranch, 2,156 feet with a big deck and a full-wide 3-car garage, at $750,000, and some other ranches underway for later delivery—time to get your place ready for sale.

All of that was looking good to John and Beth Thomas from Arvada’s Lakecrest area, who were touring those homes Monday. They’d seen the house next door to theirs sell overnight, over price—but were wanting something new, and weren’t finding anything in Arvada like Todd Creek’s age-55-plus lifestyle.

Lennar creates that sense of community at two master-planned communities around town. At Heritage Todd Creek, homes are adjacent to an Arthur Hills-designed golf course, matched to a clubhouse that’s a very active scene now, with lots of clubs and activities created by a full-time lifestyle director.

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Nobel Peace Prize awarded to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov

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Nobel Peace Prize awarded to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov

MOSCOW — Journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their fight for freedom of expression in countries where reporters have faced persistent attacks, harassment and even murder.

Ressa and Muratov were honored for their “courageous” work but also were considered “representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Ressa in 2012 co-founded Rappler, a news website that the committee noted had focused critical attention on President Rodrigo Duterte’s “controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign” in the Philippines.

She and Rappler “have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse,” it said.

Muratov was one of the founders in 1993 of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which the Nobel committee called “the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power.”

“The newspaper’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media,” it added, noting that six of its journalists were killed since its founding.

Ressa, the first Filipino to win the peace prize and the first woman to be honored this year with an award by the Nobel committee, was convicted last year of libel and sentenced to jail in a decision seen as a major blow to press global freedom.

Currently out on bail but facing seven active legal cases, Ressa, 58, said she hopes the award will bolster investigative journalism “that will hold power to account.”

“This relentless campaign of harassment and intimidation against me and my fellow journalists in the Philippines is a stark example of a global trend,” she told The Associated Press.

She also pointed to social media giants like Facebook as a serious threat to democracy, saying “they actually prioritized the spread of lies laced with anger and hate over facts.”

“I didn’t think that what we are going through would get that attention. But the fact that it did also shows you how important the battles we face are, right?” she said. “This is going to be what our elections are going to be like next year. It is a battle for facts. When you’re in a battle for facts, journalism is activism.”

Muratov, 59, said he sees the prize as an award to Novaya Gazeta journalists and contributors who were killed, including Anna Politkovskaya, who covered Russia’s bloody conflict in Chechnya.

“It’s a recognition of the memory of our fallen colleagues,” he said.

“Since the Nobel Peace Prize isn’t awarded posthumously, they came up with this so that Anya could take it, but through other, second hands,” Muratov said, referring to Politkovskaya.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 17 media workers were killed in the Philippines in the last decade and 23 in Russia.

Muratov said he would use part of his share of the 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1.14 million) prize money to help independent media as well as a Moscow hospice and children with spinal muscular problems. He said he wouldn’t keep any of the money himself.

Former Soviet leader and 1990 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev used some of his award to help fund what would become Novaya Gazeta. He congratulated Muratov, calling him “a wonderful, brave and honest journalist and my friend.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also praised Muratov as a “talented and brave” person who “has consistently worked in accordance with his ideals.”

But Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy to international organizations in Vienna, tweeted that Novaya Gazeta’s editorial policy “has nothing to do with strengthening peace” and that “such controversial decisions diminish the value of the Prize.”

Moscow-based political analyst Abbas Gallyamov said the award marked “a painful strike to the Russian authorities … because the freedom of speech and the principles of independent journalism are an evil in the eyes of Russian authorities.”

As part of a new crackdown on independent journalists in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, the government has designated some of them “foreign agents,” saying they received funding from abroad and engaged in undescribed “political activities.” Muratov said he asked government officials who congratulated him if he would now also receive that designation, but received no reply.

The state RIA Novosti news agency quoted lawmaker Alexander Bashkin as saying the Nobel wouldn’t fall under the definition of foreign funding under the bill on foreign agents. Hours after the prize announcement, the Russian Justice Ministry added nine more journalists to its list of foreign agents.

Muratov on Friday denounced the foreign agent bill as a “shameless” attempt to muzzle independent voices.

Referring to the hopes by many in Russia that the prize should go to imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Muratov said he would have voted for him if he were on the committee, saying that he admires Navalny’s courage and adding that “everything is still ahead for him.”

Some critics have questioned if honoring journalists respected the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel and its original purpose to prevent war, but Reiss-Andersen said freedom of expression was essential to peace.

“Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda,” she said. “Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time.”

She also cited the danger of misinformation and attacks on journalists by leaders denouncing them as purveyors of “fake news.”

“Conveying fake news and information that is propaganda and untrue is also a violation of freedom of expression, and all freedom of expression has its limitations. That is also a very important factor in this debate,” she said.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders celebrated the announcement, expressing “joy and urgency.”

Director Christophe Deloire called it “an extraordinary tribute to journalism, an excellent tribute to all journalists who take risks everywhere around the world to defend the right to information.”

“Journalism is in danger, journalism is weakened, journalism is threatened. Democracies are weakened by disinformation, by rumors, by hate speech,” said Deloire, whose group has worked with Ressa and Muratov to defend defend journalism in their countries and comes under regular criticism from authoritarian governments.

After the announcement, the Nobel committee itself was put on the spot when a reporter asked about its decision to award the 2019 peace prize to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has since become entangled in a domestic conflict with the powerful Tigray region.

“Today, I will not comment on other Nobel laureates and other issues than we have on the table today, but I can mention that the situation for freedom of press in Ethiopia is very far from ideal and is facing severe restrictions,” Reiss-Andersen said.

In other awards announced this week by the Nobel Committee:

— The medicine prize went to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries into how the human body perceives temperature and touch.

— The physics prize went to three scientists whose work found order in seeming disorder, helping to explain and predict complex forces of nature, including expanding understanding of climate change.

— The chemistry prize went to Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan for finding an easier and environmentally cleaner way to build molecules that can be used to make compounds, including medicines and pesticides.

— The literature prize went to U.K.-based Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee.”

The economics prize will be awarded Monday.

___

Gera reported from Warsaw, Poland, and Rosario reported from Manila. Kostya Manenkov in Moscow, Masha Macpherson in Paris, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed.

___

Read more stories about Nobel Prizes past and present by The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/NobelPrizes

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Denver grand jury indicts group calling itself “The Sopranos” on auto theft, weapons and drug charges

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Four suspects arrested in shooting death of man in Denver

A group of 11 people who called themselves “The Sopranos” have been indicted in series of alleged crimes involving vehicle thefts, weapons and drugs.

The Denver District Attorney’s Office announced Friday that a grand jury handed down 91 counts against the group for crimes allegedly committed between Feb. 19 and Sept. 29. The 11 are accused of stealing “more than $950,000 in motor vehicles, firearms, tools, financial transaction devices and other items to maintain their lifestyles and support their drug habits,” according to a news release.

The DA’s office said group members would work in pairs to steal vehicles, particularly Kias and Hyundais, and unattended vehicles that were left running. Members also are accused of using credit cards left inside the vehicles to make quick purchases, according the indictment.

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City Park: Urban oasis appeals to younger, active residents

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City Park: Urban oasis appeals to younger, active residents

Bordering Denver’s largest park, the City Park and City Park West neighborhoods offer residents an active, urban lifestyle.

“The neighborhood fits Denver’s active lifestyle,” says Rhyan Diller, 8z real estate agent.

“It’s close to the city without being downtown. It has a lot of options for walkability because it’s close to restaurants, coffee shops, and bars.”

And City Park itself is a significant draw. Home to the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the park has tennis courts, baseball, football, soccer fields, walking and running trails, two lakes, and two playgrounds. Residents also can compete in recreational sports leagues for activities like dodgeball and kickball or bring a blanket and enjoy a picnic. During the summer, the park’s home to the City Park Jazz concert series.

What’s available?

Neighborhood properties include a mix of older Victorian homes, condos, and townhomes. Diller says the Victorian homes typically sell for $845,000, while condos sell for the mid-500,000s to the mid-600,000s.

With little new construction, properties sell quickly and typically are on the market for a week or less.

“It’s still very much a sellers’ market,” Diller says. “I tell my clients who want to live in this area that they need to be prepared to look and then be prepared to commit when they find something they want.”

Who’s moving in?

The neighborhood’s active lifestyle draws a younger demographic, Diller says. It appeals to young people and young families.

Many residents make the short commute to downtown using Colfax Avenue. But with the switch to more remote work, more residents can work from home.

Parking in the neighborhood can be challenging, but it’s still easier to find a parking spot than in downtown Denver or the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Diller says.

Additional amenities

The City Park area is known as a foodie destination, Diller says.

Popular neighborhood restaurants include:

Atelier by Radex: French-influenced cuisine.

Denver Biscuit Company: Biscuit sandwiches and biscuit plates served for breakfast and lunch.

Dos Santos: Tacos and more.

Hamburger Mary’s: Sports bar flair and juicy burgers.

Irish Snug: Takes its name from the small private rooms in Irish bars. Enjoy pub-style small plates, burgers and sandwiches, and entrees like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie.

Kinga’s Lounge: Enjoy dinner Monday through Friday and brunch and more Saturday and Sunday in the old Colmar mansion. All-you-can-eat pierogi for $14 is available during brunch hours.

Pho & Bar: A fun twist on traditional Vietnamese food.

Syrup: Enjoy award-winning corned beef hash, handcrafted syrups, and signature green chili stew.

Popular neighborhood attractions include:

The Denver Zoo: The 80-acre zoo is the most popular paid attraction in the Denver metro.

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science: The museum, which is more than 100 years old, offers a collection of permanent and temporary exhibits.

City Park Golf Course: Recently redesigned to improve the 18-hole course while adding a stormwater detention area to mitigate flood risk to nearby neighborhoods.

The news and editorial staffs of The Denver Post had no role in this post’s preparation.

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St. Louis sports fans rooting against Rams in NFL lawsuit

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St. Louis sports fans rooting against Rams in NFL lawsuit

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis sports fans watching Thursday night’s football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams showed little interest in the outcome on the field. The bigger picture for many fans is what will happen in court. 

“I’d like to see St. Louis and the County get billions,” said Will Boyer, assistant general manager of The Post Sports Bar & Grill. 

He recalls the region taking a financial hit when the Rams left town.  Boyer said Rams games were good for business, especially when the team played on a Monday or Thursday night. 

St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authorities are suing the Rams and the NFL over the team’s move to California.  

A circuit judge has ordered the NFL and several team owners to turn over their financial records.  The defendants are fighting that decision.  A motion hearing is scheduled for October 13th

Sandy Goldstein is a St. Louis sports fan who recalls when the football Cardinals left St. Louis for Arizona.  He believes a fair settlement would involve the NFL awarding St. Louis another team.  

 “We would absolutely support another football team here and I think we deserve it,” said Goldstein.  

Some sports fans would like to avoid a settlement so the case can work its way through the courts.  

“The NFL has the money,” said St. Louis sports fan Andy Voss. “I think it hurts a little bit more for them to have to go through the process.” 

FOX 2 asked the office of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page if they had a preference between the city being awarded a team or a cash settlement.  

Both offices declined to comment citing the ongoing lawsuit as reason they could not offer an opinion.  

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Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater participating in practice for second straight day

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Broncos’ Teddy Bridgewater returns to team meetings, weight room following concussion last Sunday against Ravens

Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was back on the practice field Friday for the second consecutive day, making it more likely he will start Sunday at Pittsburgh.

Bridgewater sustained a concussion late in the first half of the Broncos’ loss to Baltimore. He observed practice Wednesday and was listed as a limited participant Thursday.

The only player not accounted for was tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, who injured his hamstring Wednesday and sat out Thursday.

Cornerback Ronald Darby (hamstring) and running back Mike Boone (quad) have practiced all week. They remain on injured reserve so the Broncos would have to make two corresponding roster moves to activate them.

Respect for Watt. Despite missing the Week 3 loss to Cincinnati, Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt is tied for second in the NFL with five sacks.

Against Green Bay last week, Watt got two sacks when he might have purposely tripped quarterback Aaron Rodgers and when Rodgers slid behind the line of scrimmage and Watt was the nearest defender.

Watt mostly lined up against Packers right tackle Billy Turner, which means Broncos right tackle Bobby Massie could get the regular assignment.

“Really good player,” Fangio said of Watt, who led the league last year with 15 sacks. “The thing that stands out besides the obvious — and his production is very obvious — is his instincts for the game are top-notch. That helps him make all those plays. He’s a highly talented guy with a high level of instincts and that produces a great player.”

Watt had 2 1/2 sacks in last year’s win over the Broncos.

“I respect his relentless pursuit to the ball,” outside linebacker Von Miller said. “I remember seeing a couple of plays, I think two years ago, when it wasn’t even about the pass rush or getting tackles for loss. He would chase the ball 20 yards down the field and cause a fumble.”

Tuszka a Steeler. Outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka was a seventh-round pick by the Broncos in 2020 and played in nine games (six tackles). But he was cut after this year’s preseason, passed on the depth chart by rookies Jonathon Cooper and Andre Mintze.

Tuszka signed with Pittsburgh’s practice squad and has played 35 snaps in two games (two tackles).

“He’s a quick learner,” Tomlin said. “He’s been able to get on the moving train — I describe this process in that way when you’re not with us at the beginning (of camp). He’s done a good job fitting in with the group and getting a sense of this environment, this culture and finding his space in it. We’ve been pleased with his addition.’

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Rare-early evening Draconid meteor shower peaks Friday night

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Rare-early evening Draconid meteor shower peaks Friday night

ST. LOUIS– Stargazers are in for a treat tomorrow night as the Draconid meteor shower will peak Friday evening across the Northern Hemisphere.

The St. Louis area is anticipating clear skies for tomorrow night. You can find the cloud cover for a different region on the 7-day Cloud Cover Forecast.

EarthSky reports that unlike many meteor showers, the Draconids are short-lived. October 8 is the peak but you may be able to catch some meteors on the days surrounding Friday.

EarthSky suggests use the Big Dipper to star-hop to the star Polaris. Polaris marks the end star in the handle of the Little Dipper. 

NASA says the Draconid meteors are caused when Earth collides with bits of debris shed by periodic comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner (and that’s why this shower used to be called the Giacobinids). 

The Draconid does not usually produce a rich meteor shower. EarthSky says you can expect about 5 to 10 meteors per hour.

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In Steamboat, Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club sees its custom sites sell rapidly as buyers seek splendor, privacy

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In Steamboat, Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club sees its custom sites sell rapidly as buyers seek splendor, privacy

What began as a blip in the mountain resort market as the pandemic arrived in 2020 has now become a full-blown trend—as buyers make changes in their lives, rethinking where they want to live, opting for the peace and majesty you can see this weekend a few minutes from the ski lifts in Steamboat.

Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club, with 5-acre homesites that have transcendent views of the ski resort and Yampa Valley, was selling well coming into the pandemic, but 2021 has seen an avalanche of new buyers making that choice. Already this year, the ranch has had 17 sales, placing it well past the halfway point of its 63 total sites.

“People choose us to build their forever mountain home for its nearness to the ski area and downtown Steamboat, but also its tranquility,” says William P. Butler, developer.

“It’s a lifestyle equal to that in the mature resort markets, but at much greater value. Building a home in Aspen, Vail, or Park City is twice to three times more expensive and not truly comparable for the investment for that level of home here,” he adds.

Butler salutes his team for seeing the community’s vision through a 10-year recession, to a moment when Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club is earning a national reputation as one of the most sought-after places to own.

Those choice sites (they’re priced now from $1.75M) are increasingly luring buyers that see Steamboat as a year-round home (some 40% are full-timers).

“Buyers are telling us that someday has become now,” says Suzanne Schlicht, Senior Vice President and Director of Sales. To that end, Alpine Mountain Ranch’s affiliated Alpine Master Builders has two custom market homes underway for early 2022 delivery that you could own from $5.695 million.

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