Polarizing Billionaire Joe Ricketts Buys 'Haliburton Hotel' In Pinedale

The High Country Suites in Pinedale — known to locals as the Haliburton Hotel — was sold to billionaire Joe Ricketts last month, just after his purchase of White Pines Ski Resort. Ricketts has drawn criticism for wanting to rename the town of Bondurant to "Little Jackson Hole."

Renée Jean

June 05, 20245 min read

High Country Suites in Pinedale, Wyoming (via Google)
High Country Suites in Pinedale, Wyoming (via Google) (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

High Country Suites in Pinedale was quietly sold to a new owner last month, but someone well-known to locals — billionaire Joe Ricketts.

The Ameritrade founder and Chicago Cubs owner bought the hotel on May 13, according to county and state records.

The Sublette County Clerk’s GIS map service links to the warranty deed for the property, which lists the seller as Vista Grande and the buyer as Pinedale Suites. The Secretary of State’s office, meanwhile, lists the president and CEO of Pinedale Suites as J. Joe Ricketts.

Others listed as contacts for Pinedale Suites include Executive VP Steve Christensen, Executive VP Mark Simmons, and SEC and GS Alfred Levitt.

Pinedale Suites was incorporated April 4.

These dates are in line with Ricketts’ purchase of the White Pine Ski & Summer resort from Alan and Robyn Blackburn on April 22.

While the sale of the resort to Ricketts was announced in press releases, the hotel purchase happened much more quietly, with no fanfare or press release.

Plans for the hotel are unclear at this point. An email has been sent to Ricketts’ public relations team to ask about that, which responded it would get back to Cowboy State Daily “asap,” but had not responded by the time this story was posted.

Timing of the sale suggests the hotel purchase could eventually be linked with Ricketts’ plans for the 363-acre White Pine Ski & Summer Resort.

At the time the purchase was made, Ricketts had said he wants to ensure White Pine remains a “strong part of the community, and continues the tradition of serving local residents.”

The Old Haliburton Hotel

High Country Suites has long been known to Pinedale locals as the Haliburton Hotel. The 100-room motel was under construction in 2006, and all of its rooms were reserved for oil and gas workers working with Haliburton.

Pinedale was undergoing a severe housing crunch at the time, according to local media reports, which said people were spending the winter sleeping in their cars, due to lack of affordable housing in the community and surrounding areas.

“There are long waiting lists for available rentals and nothing on the housing market is priced at an entry level under $150,000,” an article in Pinedale Online opined. “The average single-family home sold for $244,000 in Sublette County in 2004.”

About 20% of Sublette County’s housing stock at that time were RVs, man camps and motels.

Today, High Country Suites has shifted to more of a tourism angle, billing itself as a “basecamp” for adventure.

But it can still offer that extended stay hotel experience that originated with serving Haliburton workers.

Each room has kitchenettes with full-sized refrigerators, as well as a sofa seating area. Onsite laundry services are also available.

Other Ricketts Projects

White Pine Ski and Summer Resort is one of Wyoming’s oldest ski areas. It opened in the Bridger Teton National Forest near Pinedale in 1940.

The resort today has two lifts with nearly 30 ski runs that drop down a 1,100-foot vertical.

There’s a tubing hill, as well as some rustic accommodations, and miles of Nordic trails for winter skiing and summer hiking.

The resort has previously been voted the No. 1 resort in Wyoming for beginning skiers, but it had struggled in recent years.

The family-owned resort was listed for sale in 2020 after a 2019 fire destroyed the resort’s main ski lodge.

Ricketts has said publicly that he has formed an advisory board to guide his development efforts with the ski resort. He told Cowboy State Daily in February, when the sale was announced, that he has met with U.S. Forest Service officials to talk about extending the resorts ski season in the future by using enhanced snowmaking.

He’s also promised to improve existing infrastructure, though not many details about that have been released.

“My hope is to ensure the White Pine remains a strong part of the community, and continues the tradition of serving local residents,” he said in a press release in April.

Little Jackson Hole?

Some of Sublette County’s community members have speculated that Ricketts’ purchase of the ski resort is meant to dovetail with a 230,000-square-foot resort the tycoon is building in Hoback Valley.

Ricketts has billed the resort as a “premium resort experience with a mission-driven focus on protecting, preserving, and enjoying the natural beauty of the Hoback region” in press releases sent to Cowboy State Daily.

But he’s declined to be interviewed about his plans for the resort and how they might be compatible with conservation.

More recently the resort has drawn criticism from residents of the valley, as well as residents from nearby Bondurant. Many of the longtime locals still recall a dinner where Ricketts floated the idea of renaming Bondurant to Little Jackson Hole.

The seven-course meal included fancy swag bags for all the guests, but most of them left those bags behind when Ricketts told the guests about his idea to rename the valley to Little Jackson Hole.

Ricketts said the name has a historical basis. That’s based on research he commissioned into famous mountain man Davey Jackson’s favorite hunting spots.

According to that, Jackson had two favorite mountain valleys — Jackson’s (Big) Hole, which is where present-day Jackson is located, and Jackson’s Little Hole.

Changing Bondurant’s name to Little Jackson Hole would make the area much more marketable, Ricketts suggested.

Renée Jean can be reached at renee@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter