Dick Rothkopf and his family spent every summer in Vail, Colo. One summer in the late 1990s, they noticed that one of their favorite hiking trails had been staked out for development. Rothkopf, an entrepreneur who brought Thomas the Tank Engine to America, called the property’s developer to investigate. He was informed that the land, comprising more than 200 acres, was going to be chopped up into 44 residential parcels. “We were sort of dumbfounded but we figured, ‘OK, that’s the way of progress,'” Rothkopf said.
In a rare victory, Nature triumphed—if only briefly—over Progress: It turned out that the road the developer needed to build “was, from an engineering point of view, infeasible,” Rothkopf said. The mountain was too steep.
Figuring he might be able to succeed where the developer had failed, Rothkopf offered to buy the 230-acre property for what he said was less than $5 million; at the time, it was valued at what he estimated was close to $25 million. “But remember,” Rothkopf said, “there was no way up.”
After hiring a prop plane to fly over the mountain with modern radar technology, Rothkopf produced a topographical map very different from the one the developer had used; Rothkopf’s new map showed a way up. First, the family built a mile-and-a-half-long road, and then built a secluded, eight-bedroom house at the very top of their private mountain. They named their new vacation home Il Podere. Ten years later, Rothkopf and his wife decided to downsize, and they are selling their mountaintop aerie for $21.85 million.
Aside from the miracle road, buyers of the land, which is about 30 minutes from Vail ski mountain and 30 minutes from Eagle County Regional Airport, will find themselves in possession of a 17,000-square-foot compound in the style of a grand Tuscan villa. (Rothkopf had briefly considered retiring in Italy, but his wife firmly declined. “She’s more practical than I am,” Rothkopf told us; “she said: ‘You don’t want to live that far from your kids, and I don’t want to be arguing with Italian repairmen for the rest of my life.'”) They compromised by traveling through Italy to collect architectural features for the home, including antique wood flooring and fireplaces from an old villa. In total, they shipped back 11 40-foot-long containers of material from Italy, which were then included in the house’s architecture.
The house is broken up into three sections: The main house has an owner’s suite, a guest suite, kitchen, office, and dining area; the kid’s area, accessed from the main house via a tunnel, has five bedrooms, a separate living room, and a separate kitchen; and between those sections, there’s a recreation area with a gym, sauna, steam room, spa, billiards room, cinema, indoor basketball court, and what Rothkopf calls “the inevitable” wine cellar. “The idea was to have a place where the kids and my guests could live without having to go anywhere,” he said.
The property also has an inground pool with “the most incredible views you can imagine,” a pool house with a half-kitchen and half-bath, a tennis court, and a barn that is zoned for agricultural and set away from the house.
Rothkopf has enjoyed his time in the house, but he said it’s time to move on: “What we’d like to do is get a smaller place, still in the area, and we have a piece of land in the wine country of California where we’d like to build something similar,” he said—adding, “similar, but smaller.”
The property is listed by Liza Hogan and Joshua Saslove at Douglas Elliman.