The family that operates Crested Butte Mountain Resort is in discussions with a potential buyer who would take over the Gunnison County ski area.

The Mueller clan won a bidding war to acquire Crested Butte ski area in 2003, besting Roger Staubach's Dallas-based real-estate investment company. In 2008, Tim and Diane Mueller — as well as their son Ethan and daughter Erica — sold the resort to Florida real-estate investment trust CNL Lifestyle Properties. The family retained a 40-year operating contract to run the resort. The deal gave the Muellers access to long-term, fixed-rate financing for their resort business at a time banks were cutting back on loans.

The Mueller family acquired Crested Butte ski area in 2003, then sold it to a Florida company five years later but still retains operations.
The Mueller family acquired Crested Butte ski area in 2003, then sold it to a Florida company five years later but still retains operations. (Crested Butte Mountain Resort)

The Muellers were courting a potential buyer of Crested Butte-area real estate that the family owns when that buyer asked to discuss purchasing the ski-area operation, said Erica Mueller, spokeswoman for the ski area.

The discussions include a confidentiality agreement that prohibits discussing the identity of the potential buyer, she said.

"It started as a real-estate deal, and it slid into, 'Well, what's going on with your operations?' They have had people on-site looking around now, seeing if that is a direction that they want to go," Mueller said. "It's in that 50-50 zone. The Mueller family definitely was never looking to go anywhere, but if the right buyer comes along, we will entertain the idea. We love Crested Butte."

The Vermont-based Muellers have a long history in Colorado. The owners of Vermont's Okemo ski area tried to revive the unsuccessful Catamount ski-area project outside Steamboat in the 1990s. They tried to buy Steamboat ski area from the now-defunct American Skiing Co. They bid on the long-term contract to operate and develop the Denver-owned Winter Park ski area.

Longtime Crested Butte real-estate broker Doug Kroft said rumors about the potential buyers are floating around, with Dallas-based SRS Real Estate Partners — an evolution of the Staubach real-estate group — the most commonly heard name of the potential buyer.

Regardless of the identity, the town is hopeful that new ownership could refresh the ski area and draw more visitors.

"There's a lot of optimism. A new operator could be a good thing for the area," Kroft said.

Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, jblevins@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jasontblevins