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Embezzlement case results in new yurt operator at Colorado state park

Eighteen months after Colorado Parks and Wildlife terminated its contract with the company that operated the Never Summer Yurts near Walden in an embezzlement case, CPW has reached an agreement with a new concessionaire to reintroduce the yurt system there.

Yonder Yurts, owned by Corey and Sarah Peterson of Steamboat Springs, plans to construct seven new yurts to replace the existing structures in State Forest State Park. Work will begin as soon as weather conditions permit, CPW announced on Monday.

“Anybody who has ever stayed at these yurts knows how amazing an experience it is,” said Corey Peterson, an avid backcountry snowboarder and cross-country skier who is vice president of engineering maintenance and facilities at Steamboat Resort. “Ever since the first time I stayed there, me and my wife, we’ve always just been passionate about that area. As soon as we found out the previous concessionaire lost their contract with the park, we’ve been staying really close to it, and we put in a proposal.

“We’re just very passionate about the outdoors, State Forest State Park, backcountry skiing and snowboarding, fishing and hiking and everything else that comes with the yurts,” he added. “Just kind of a dream of ours to be able to run this system, and we feel very fortunate.”

Peterson said he anticipates the new yurts being finished and ready for visitors in late summer.

Never Summer owner Bron Austin Deal left the property locked in 2022 and disappeared with money would-be guests paid for reservations, according to CPW. That September, the agency announced it had canceled its contract.

Three weeks ago, Deal was sentenced to 60 days in the Larimer County jail and four years of supervised probation as an “economic crime offender,” according to a news release from the Larimer and Jackson Counties district attorney’s office. He also was ordered to pay $24,617.18 in restitution. The release said Deal “knowingly embezzled funds and defrauded customers throughout 2022,” adding that there were 107 victims.

The yurts are located in the mountains between Walden and Cameron Pass, and have been a beloved destination for decades.

“It’s a beautiful area,” Peterson said. “All of the yurts are in remote locations with really good backcountry skiing around them, also really good cross country skiing and snowmobile trails. There’s also really good trails between the yurts for yurt-to-yurt trips.”

Tony Jackson, acting manager of State Forest State Park, said it was a priority goal to bring back the yurt experience following the closure of Never Summer Yurts.

“We know this camping experience has been missed by many of our visitors,” Jackson said in a news release, “and we are looking forward to working with Yonder Yurts to once again have this unique experience available to our guests for many years to come.”

The yurts were left in poor condition, according to CPW spokeswoman Rachael Gonzales, which is why Yonder Yurts will be constructing new ones. In addition, they will operate the Nokhu Hut and Agnes Creek Cabin, which are located further east near Cameron Pass.

“Those also need some pretty significant updates and repairs,” Gonzales said. “That’s why we’re going to utilize State Forest State Park volunteers to help with that process.”

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