By Ann Zimmerman
“If you care about something you have to protect it — if you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”– John Irving
For a generation, images of ranches ﬂashed in front of eager faces. It was these Saturday morning television cowboy shows that set in young minds the heroic appeal of wooden ranch homes hugging the earth wrapped by deep porches set against a landscape of wide-open spaces. Only the rhythmic clap of approaching hoof beats broke the silence until the iron clang of Cookie’s dinner bell called the cowboys home. While the black-and-white TV’s cowboy heroes are long gone, the raw mystique of the West with the heroic strength of purpose felt against empty land is more than enduring: it is thriving.
Will Lange of the Lange Group at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services-Utah Properties is well versed on the demand for ranch properties surrounding the Park City area, especially Wolf Creek Ranch. He agrees that there is an enduring romantic vision of the Western spirit, and owning a ranch harkens back to the American dream. “Control over a large tract of land means you can do your own thing usually without a lot of oversight. A home isn’t limited by size constrictions, nor must it conform to a certain look. There is room for barns and buildings for hobbies.
While I find there is some interest in horses, just as often a barn is filled with a car collection, contains a basketball court, or is home to side-by-side ATVs and snowmobiles.
“Wide-open spaces mean spotting elk herds, watching the sky for hawks, and perhaps riding out on a horse or ATV, but more than anything, it means no congestion, noise, and traﬃc,” Lange continues. “Usually these are second homes, and homeowners want to balance the experience of their city home. Flowing water on the property is a big plus, and Wolf Creek Ranch has one mile of the Provo River and numerous ponds for fishing.
Wolf Creek’s 160-acre estate parcels also create a balance of quiet serene retreat with facilities designed to meet the neighbors and socialize — just because you like the wide open spaces you don’t have to sacrifice the fun of a second home.”
“I think the trend toward ranch property is more than local, it is national and worldwide,” adds Scott Maizlish of Summit Sotheby’s International Realty in Park City. “It’s part of a desire for retreats for families or businesses, and Park City is easy to get to and the area oﬀers large swaths of open space. As a corporate retreat or home for a working executive, it is easy to stay connected and work remotely from a very desirable and remote location. Technology makes it possible to live anywhere and work anywhere. Although you are remote, you can still function like you are in the boardroom.”
Ranch property close to Park City has strong appeal. View properties near Oakley, like Sunset Ranch, oﬀer panoramic connections with the rolling land, silence, and the experience of the Western lifestyle — retreat and sanctuary from traﬃc, noise, and constant demands. At the same time, a 30-minute drive away is the vibrancy of Park City’s entertainment and cultural life, as well as its engaging shops, galleries, and restaurants.
Brantley Grant of Mountain West Ranches makes the point that it is not just out-of-staters who want to get away. He sees a big demand from the rapidly growing Wasatch Front.
“Most of the properties Mountain West Ranches represent are within 60 minutes from Park City, and many are around Strawberry, Starvation, and Red Creek Reservoirs. We seldom see horses or stock on these ranches. They are places for family recreation. Often they have an RV or camper, and they may get around to building later. They just want to get outside and enjoy the land and recreation.”
Scott Maizlish doesn’t see the style of a home dictating a particular demand, but he finds buyers want a big open living room where they can entertain from 10 to 15. Bob Zierk, owner of Robert Kelly Home on Park City’s Main Street agrees there is not just one popular style, and he says that for ranch homes the key is to bring the outside in.
“The outdoors is why people are there, so we keep the interior of the home connected through natural colors and materials like leather, reclaimed lumber, railroad ties, images of Western life, accessories like antlers, and crafted iron. We work directly with a local artist who creates some beautiful iron pieces appropriate for ranches,” adds Zierk. He notes that ranches usually have a lot of wood. While he and his design team coordinate with the natural tones, they also introduce more color and diﬀerent textures through accents.
Kris Ellis, owner of Pinto Pony Designs, oﬀers a unique perspective on the appeal of ranch life, as she lived on a working ranch during her formative years. She understands the need for durable, easy-to-clean surfaces that don’t show the dirt, but says it is easy to err by focusing too much on materials that are strong and tough. “I try to avoid overdoing hard, dark, leathery surfaces. They can make it over-the-top masculine. I like to keep in mind that ranches are family gathering places, so I try to keep the spaces somewhat softer with fabric and color. It’s important that the design is comfortable for the whole family.”
What rings true from conversations with local experts is that the appeal of Western ranch properties is deeply rooted in Americans minds as a healthy escape from the pressures of city life and an opportunity to connect with the natural world. The demand for ranch properties is here now and will endure, and the area around Park City provides great and varied opportunities for relaxing, recreating, and focusing on family and friends.