Mount Sopris To Become Private – Land Exchange Completed for Iconic Colorado Peak

Post by blogger | April 1, 2013      

This blog post is a April Fools’ parody and satire construct, and is in no way factual or intended to represent any real agency, person, or entity. Images are used as derivative works for the purpose of political satire.

Approximate borders of the Wexner Mount Sopris Land Exchange

Approximate borders of the Wexner Mount Sopris Land Exchange. It's likely the mountain will be renamed as well.

The way is clear for billionaire Colorado ranch owner L. Wexner to own majestic Mount Sopris — the signature mountain of the Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley area. (Wexner owns Limited Brands, which includes Victoria’s Secret and other companies.)

“We’ve got the details worked out, it’s a done deal,” said Big Land Group’s Andy Willner.

Big Land Group is a consulting firm that’s known for its expertise in substituting land for hard currency and thus “buying” public land through land exchanges.

“This is an unprecedented land exchange,” said Willner, “We managed to acquire a somewhat useless parcel of rock pile wilderness for Mr. Wexner, by trading the public ownership of a small wildlife preserve where biologists can do tick infestation studies on our declining deer population. Along with that, we gifted a few acres of scrub oak for a public mountain bike trail and a shooting range. It’s an amazing win-win — one of the best land exchanges we’ve ever been involved in.”

The success of the land deal is obvious. Nearly every politican in central Colorado either welcomed the proposal with open arms, or if opposed was handily out-voted by their fellow officials. Sopris Land Exchange supporter Geo Nellman of the Pitkin County Commissioners was instrumental in the process.

“Sopris is such an ugly hunk of stone,” said Nellman, “With the mountain in private ownership and thus taken out of the national Wilderness system it can be beautified by Wexner’s landscape architects, as well as providing more acreage for his ranch employees to enjoy their ATVs and herd cattle. Privatizing public land is simply a great way of preserving it — and here at Pitkin County we are all about preserving land. For example, we work hard to make sure most of our homeowners live elsewhere and build unoccupied houses on large tracts of land, thus preventing residential sprawl and automobile accidents involving children.”

Photo removed by request of NSA and BLM, caption: The incredibly wealthy ranch owner (third from right) at a dinner celebration in Aspen with Big Land Group and Pitco Commissioner Geo Nellman (second from right). Sources at the elite dining location said the group toasted their success in mountain shopping with multiple bottles of Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru, at $15,000 a bottle.

The final decision of the Pitco officials was an exciting ending to the five-hour-long land-use meeting, which brought nearly 300 Cinch Creek Subdivision (adjacent to the land exchange) residents to the Court House building in Aspen to support the proposal. Preferring to remain anonymous, one Cinch Creek resident expressed his delight with the decision due to his fear that if the mountain were to remain as Federal land, annoying public access could be granted near his back yard. He also stated that the growing popularity of hiking on the mountain was dangerous, and shutting it down by making it private would save public funds used for search and rescue.

Other nearby land owners in favor of the historic land exchange said the proposal would decrease noise, lights, traffic, fire hazards, carbon emissions, watershed contamination, ozone depletion, wildlife stress, erosion, bandit trail building, Rainbow Tribe gatherings, latino parking and picnicking, gas development and target shooting, and that it would produce a major increase in property values due to local children watching Wexner’s hunting guests cleaning their kills.

Lilly Cruse and a friend in favor of the Sopris Land Exchange say they wouldn't have their yoga outfits wtihout Wexner, and in their eyes he can do no wrong.

Lilly Cruse (left) and a friend in favor of the Sopris Land Exchange say they wouldn't have their excellent yoga outfits wtihout Wexner, and in their eyes he can do no wrong.

“We are so looking forward to these free anatomy lessons,” said Cinch Creek resident Lilly Cruse, “With Wexner owning the peak and land adjacent to ours, we expect his guests to be much more successful with their hunting and subsequent game cleaning than when anyone with a public tag could hunt up there. When it’s public, the game gets scared off. When it’s private land big game is attracted by the salt licks and feeding stations that the ranch hands can more easily install. I’ll be buying my daughter a telescope tomorrow.”

When Willner of Big Land Group was asked how his firm had apparently engineered a nearly seamless process for privatizing a whole mountain that is public land, he cited Lou Dawson and Tayler Chapman as outside consultants without whom they would have given up and walked away from the daunting challenge of converting a whole mountain from public land to private.

“I read Lou’s blog religiously,” said Willner, “if it wasn’t for him I’d have never contacted Taylor Chapman and tapped Chapman’s vast knowledge of the land exchange process. According to Outside Magazine, the guy has done 487 land exchanges like this, talk about experience!”

Chapman (who avoids appearing in public) was missing from the commissioners hearing room during the decision. Admited “publicity hound” Lou was there and said it’s been an empowering experience working with individuals as varied as Willner and his wealthy client.

“I love these guys,” said Lou, “After the Big Land Group promised me a new backcountry skiing trailhead to be built near Marble, Colorado, I couldn’t help but support giving away Mount Sopris. I didn’t quite know how to go about helping, but Chapman is a genius and showed the way. Along with all that, I’m looking forward to the 50 pound box of Victoria’s Secret lingerie that I’ve been told Wexner sends to all his supporters once these sorts of deals are locked. My wife is going to look good in that stuff, and I might even try some of it myself. Oh, and remember to check for the latest developments at WILDSNOW.COM, THAT’S W I L D S N O W DOT C O M”

This lingerie model was at the public hearing passing out her TGR casting call glossies. She said she not only thought Mount Wexner would be a great place for Victoria's Secret models to train for photo shoots, but that her hair style was inspired by Glen Plake.

This Victoria's lingerie model was at the public hearing passing out her TGR casting call glossies. She said she not only thought Mount Wexner would be a great place for Victoria's Secret models to train for photo shoots, but that her hair style was inspired by Glen Plake. She said her outfit is a Twist Bandeau Top with Foldover Bottom, available on the Victoria's website.

Last year a proposal to rename Mount Sopris to John Denver Peak was implemented. While the John Denver name idea appears to be a non starter, Wexner representatives said that if Mr. Wexner owns the mountain he can rename it, and they’ve already discussed changing the peak’s title to Mount Wexner. Forest Service officials concurred that they’d already been asked about a name change. They said while they don’t have ultimate authority for geographic name changes, the USGS Board of Names generally listens to their recommendations. Wexner supporters this reporter spoke with also suggested the peak be named Mount Victoria. Consensus seemed to be that was too commercial and the name Wexner was more in keeping with local culture.

Opponents of the Sopris land exchange became desperate in the final hours. After being reported by annoyed nearby ranch owner Yon Shook, two individuals were arrested for attempting to protest the historic land exchange by shining their headlamps from the Sopris summit. Shook complained that “light pollution is a very real problem, and this was a perfect example of uncaring individuals messing things up for the rest of us.” Still others hiked off established trails and crushed sensitive weed stalks, causing Forest Service officials to step up their law enforcement presence in the area.

Forest Service officials said they were confident that now that the Sopris Exchange was a done deal, they would not only have less land to patrol with their ever shrinking budget, but that they were sure protesters would be silent and accept the rule of law. Nonetheless, the officials cautioned that “today’s bright LED headlamps are a very real environmental problem, please dim your lamp when hiking at night so as not to offend other user groups.”

(WildSnow guest blogger Leon Sendmuller spends equal time on the ocean as a yacht crewman and writing about ski towns. He specializes in researching ways public land is improved by giving it up to private ownership. Researchers Dillon Downing, Leslie Dawson and Haul Gandersen contributed to this article. Thanks also to volunteer editors from New Forker magazine who made sure the word count was adequate. Lorbs magazine column writer Andy Gritty also contributed.)

Full journalistic disclosure and latest development. This box from Victoria's was delivered this morning to Wildsnow Field HQ, it actually weighs more than 50 lbs and Lou is already 'enjoying' the contents.

Full journalistic disclosure and latest development. This box from Victoria's was delivered this morning to Wildsnow Field HQ, it actually weighs more than 50 lbs and Lou is already 'enjoying' the contents.

This blog post is a April Fools’ parody and satire construct, and is in no way factual or intended to represent any real agency, person, or entity. For factual opinion articles about Soprs land exchange issues, please see our Land Use Category.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


28 Responses to “Mount Sopris To Become Private – Land Exchange Completed for Iconic Colorado Peak”

  1. skihiker April 1st, 2013 6:18 am

    Lou and all, thanks for this! No one else does the kind of reporting you guys do. It speaks to me in a deep place, you touch my core.

    And who is Sendmuller, where did you find him? He must have worked for hours on this story.

    Again, you guys rock.

  2. Lou Dawson April 1st, 2013 6:24 am

    skihiker, thanks, we worked really hard on this. Sendmuller hails from a variety of publications where he mostly worked as a researcher for authors such as Hunter S. Thompson and Maureen Dowd, but his byline appears here and there if you google him. Lou

  3. Bill April 1st, 2013 6:59 am

    Oh thank goodness! Mt. Wexner rolls off the tongue soooo much easier than Mt. John Denver anyway 🙂

  4. Kathy April 1st, 2013 7:19 am

    I heard Wexner has Julie Andrews under contract for a new single, “The thongs are alive with the sound of music…..”

  5. Harry April 1st, 2013 7:28 am

    It took much longer for me to figure out this was an April fools post than it should have. Mostly because this isn’t that far off of Wexner’s actual dealing with New Albany and central Ohio in general.

    Far to much of the land in his school district fell into the hands of those who’s income is sub 200k, so his serf population has really gotten out of control. There are even several condo developments that went up alongside the 4 lane highway expansion he had built to gain quicker access to his Easton Mall. And we can all agree that condo developments with sub $1200 rents are the waddle huts of our day.

    Mt. Wexner seems like a good place to start over and try again.

  6. Brian April 1st, 2013 7:32 am



    Happy 4/1 to you as well

  7. Grant Alexander April 1st, 2013 7:52 am

    Lou this article is absolutely hilarious and wonderfully written. It is however a reflection of the sad reality that the political process in this country is so heavily influenced by money and private industry. My question to you is, would you support more deals like this if he had a “Freedom to Roam” policy similar the ones they have in countries like Sweden?

  8. Lou Dawson April 1st, 2013 8:04 am

    Hmmm, seriously? Yes, I think “Freedom to Roam” or “Freedom of passage” would defuse many of our private land issues. But that is a totally rhetorical point as changing our private property laws to allow that would not only be incredibly problematic in our culture, but would probably require a constitutional amendment to implement.

    Remember there are also limits on the European passage freedom laws. My recollection is that at least in Western Europe they are partially based on the size of the property, but also still allow a person to have privacy. For example, you can’t just walk into someone’s front door and walk through their dining room as “freedom of passage.” What is more, they vary greatly from country to country and region to region. Some are more cultural than legal. For example, my understanding is that much of this attitude in Austria is more about culture than any particular set of laws.


  9. Mark W April 1st, 2013 8:11 am

    He he! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but seriously, this was hilarious for the moment. And don’t poke fun at those insanely bright headlamps. They may be causing vision problems for the ever-elusive lynx on Mt. Sopris.

  10. Joey Sissom April 1st, 2013 8:13 am

    Great piece of journalism — — — — — — — — —- —- —- in the tradition of the day. Thanks for the belly laughs and the acknowledgement of the somewhat sad truth that it sometimes doesn’t seem too far fetched of a scenario to happen in this country. Big money is such a scary thing in my mind that I was believing the veracity of this piece well into the fourth paragraph (the tick infestation studies mention is what made the coffee come out of my nose). I needed this, thanks again.

  11. Lou Dawson April 1st, 2013 8:36 am

    I forgot to mention that apparently they have found a new species of tick, are listing it, and no humans will be allowed on the land where those ticks are found unless they’re willing to let the ticks feed on them and reproduce. Weirdness arises because certain groups of radical enviros would rather the tick stayed on the endangered species list so as to prevent oil and gas development, and if it feeds on humans it will reproduce so well that it may be delisted. Thus, they are pushing for continued restrictions on human activity other than conservation biologists in hazmat suits visiting the tick habitat.

  12. Chase Harrison April 1st, 2013 9:30 am


    Why am I not surprised at this, the way things are going these days? Seems like anyone can buy anything. Is everything for sale?

    You had me going there for a while until I realized what day it was.

  13. Andy Dorais April 1st, 2013 10:23 am

    Wow! We drove by and admired Sopris yesterday. I got really pissed — — — — — — — until I remembered the date. Nice elaborate story!

  14. Ryan Stefani April 1st, 2013 10:45 am

    So wait. Didn’t this happen already? ****** ********* ********* Is this a retelling of an old gag?

  15. Charlie April 1st, 2013 11:58 am

    What a tragedy. Mt. Sopris is such a fine place, not just in the winter, but the summertime too. I hope the Wexner outfit allows public travel in deference to historical use of the land.

    Commenters — note that your comments pop up in the sidebar beside the article. Add a little plausible filler if you want to help the ball roll.

    Well played Lou. You had me going for at least twenty seconds.

  16. Lou Dawson April 1st, 2013 12:13 pm

    Thanks Charlie, this is indeed a huge event. What is more, the folks being hauled off to court for shining their headlamps from the summit set a new precedent that we’ll all have to live with. Lou

  17. Mike Marolt April 1st, 2013 12:27 pm

    I don’t climb and ski in that Victoria Secret stuff because I am kinky, I just think it’s darn comfortable. ha.


  18. Lou Dawson April 1st, 2013 12:54 pm

    Mike, I feel the same way, but another thing is the colors really suit me. I’m still going through the goody box but have found some real winners so far.

  19. John Werner April 1st, 2013 1:41 pm

    well done lou- surely dr thompson would nod. who says quality journalism is dead? keep up the good work, …regardless of your preferred base layers….

  20. Andy April 1st, 2013 1:47 pm

    Damn–you got me again. I need to remember to avoid WS.COM this time of year! 🙂

  21. Chris Romeyn April 1st, 2013 10:13 pm

    This sounds great. That’s the kind of money we need to get the C’Dale-Sopris Tram going. It will take a tonn of snowmaking, but we’re lookikng at 5000+ vert of sick skiing. Jackson Hole>

  22. Lou Dawson April 2nd, 2013 6:43 am

    Chris, that’s one reason I’m a private property advocate. Once land is private it’s easy to build things like cable car systems. Can you imagine, downtown Carbondale, you get on the tram car and you’re on the summit of Sopris in 15 minutes? I’d sell my snowmobile and might even join Wilderness Workshop!

  23. Rob Mullins April 2nd, 2013 6:53 am
  24. Lou Dawson April 2nd, 2013 7:40 am

    Hey Rob, I don’t want to drift this comment thread to anything serious (grin), but thanks for the link, that’s an interesting development.

    One funny thing that’s happening around here is that ski resorts are actually taking more important backcountry skiing terrain than snowmobiles… so that’ll be part of any discussion that comes from all this. Please don’t comment here, as again I don’t want to drift this to anything serious.

    If things with the snowmobile issue progress, I’ll include in a News Roundup or something like that.


  25. SR April 2nd, 2013 8:45 am

    Is it true that they’re already proceeding with a release of Himalayan Snowcock to bring some much-needed diversity to the bird-hunting options in CO? I was initially apprehensive when I heard the news of the land exchange, but it seems like these are people willing to make good things happen.

    Apparently there are plans to have a yurt constructed where hunting guests can have snowcock cooked by a Tibetan chef. When not used for this purpose, members of the ski club that is being formed will be allowed to use the yurt so long as dues are current and the dress code, equipment code, and turn size code are complied with.

  26. Lou Dawson April 2nd, 2013 9:08 am

    Snowcock is an amazing bird, it is frequently viewed around WildSnow HQ when the subject of public land management is brought up.

  27. B April 3rd, 2013 2:07 pm

    My first instinct was disapproval, but if he’d let me in the heli with the models, let’s face it…

  28. Cynthia May 5th, 2013 4:45 pm

    I have loved Mt. Sopris and the Roaring Fork Valley for over 40 years. Mt. Sopris is one of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. I am against making this a privately owed mountain. The public should be allowed to enjoy its beauty without worrying about crossing any private boundaries.

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