Industry veteran Rick Sussman has been named General Manager/Chief Operating Officer of the club in Snowmass Village, Colo., which was acquired by new private ownership from Toll Brothers in December 2018. The owners and Sussman have pledged to continue to improve facilities and amenities for Snowmass Club members, while also focusing on community relations and greater utilization of the property (an agreement is in place for limited use of the club by local residents).
The Snowmass Club in Snowmass Village, Colo. announced a change in leadership on August 6 during its biannual “State of Snowmass Village” address, The Aspen (Colo.) Times reported.
New majority ownership group representative Eric Witmondt and new General Manager/Chief Operating Officer Rick Sussman introduced themselves to the roughly 50 attendees and talked about the state of the Snowmass Club, The Times reported. And according to Witmondt and Sussman, that “state” is now one that is focused on improvement.
Witmondt and Brown were two of the four partners who purchased the Snowmass Club in December 2018 for $18.5 million (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/snowmass-club-sells-for-18-5m/) from Toll Brothers, which bought the 212-acre property from Aspen Skiing Co. for about half the price in 2013, The Times reported.
Sussman, who moved to Colorado from Texas at the end of July, brings more than 35 years of private club, operational and executive management experience to his new role as the club’s General Manager/COO. Sussman’s career has included top-management positions at Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club in Menlo Park, Calif., for which he earned Excellence in Club Management Awards recognition in 2006 (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/from-tin-cup-to-pure-platinum/) and at Hageman Reserve in Sulphur Bluff, Texas (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/the-bold-new-club-concept-at-hageman-reserve/).
“My wife and I are just thrilled to be here,” Sussman said after arriving to begin his role at the Snowmass Club. “It’s an awesome place and it looks like a fabulous place to live and work and be part of the community.”
The agenda for the State of Snowmass Village address originally had Scott Brown, the now-former General Manager, slated as the person to speak on the club’s behalf, The Times reported. Instead, Witmondt and Sussman took the floor, noting that Brown is still a minority owner but no longer has a role in management at Snowmass Club, with Sussman taking his place.
A full-time resident of northern New Jersey with a second home in Aspen, Witmondt owns three private country clubs and a tennis club in New Jersey, The Times reported. He said he has been visiting the Aspen-Snowmass area with his family for more than 35 years.
Witmondt was also part of an unsuccessful venture to develop the old Boomerang Lodge in Aspen that dissolved in March 2018, which he acknowledged at the August 6 meeting, The Times reported. He had been looking to invest in Snowmass specifically in recent years, and becoming an owner of the Snowmass Club was the perfect opportunity, he said.
“We love Snowmass, we think it’s really a gem and only has better days ahead of it,” Witmondt said on behalf of the majority ownership group. “We need to prove ourselves as newcomers to the community and to take a lot of input from the community at large and be able to filter all of that input to be able to do the right things to improve the club,” he added.
Since it was purchased in December 2018, ownership and management set about establishing a harder line between the private and public amenities the Snowmass Club has to offer, The Times reported. That included eliminating the majority of outside use of the club by non-members, except for the Black Saddle Bar and Grill, which is open to the public, and significant membership-fee increases to help foot the bill for an extensive list of planned updates and improvements to the club (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/snowmass-club-returns-to-private-roots/).
Sussman and Witmondt implied at the latest meeting that they plan to continue the club’s exclusivity and to pursue capital improvements with the help of public input and feedback moving forward, The Times reported. But Witmondt also expressed top management’s desire to become a larger part of the Snowmass Village community, hoping to strike a better balance between its private and public ties.
Per an agreement with the town of Snowmass Village that was in place prior to the change of ownership, there is a requirement for providing limited access to the Snowmass Club golf course for local residents who meet certain qualifications, The Times reported. The local-play criteria includes any year-round Snowmass Village resident who is employed 30 hours a week or is a full-time student in Pitkin County. Those who qualify can play as many as five times per year as space is available.
“We have a membership group that has paid for the use of the club and has bought homes there and are a part of HOAs, and they believe they have the right to have a private-club environment,” Witmondt explained at the latest meeting. “Conversely, the club is underutilized, it certainly should involve the entire community. We hope to have a better plan than the current plan that’s in place.”