BEAVER CREEK — Barry Parker believes he’s been flimflammed by Vail Resorts. So Parker, and other members of the Beaver Creek Property Owners Association, are headed to court.
The association, along with the Greystone Homeowners Association, Thursday announced a lawsuit against Vail Resorts in an attempt to stop the company’s plans for summer activities around and near the top of the Buckaroo Express gondola. The company last week announced it was starting a project that would put a ropes course, zipline, summer tubing hill and, most important, an alpine coaster — which the company calls a “Forest Flyer” on private property in the area.
The Vail Resorts-owned property abuts the Greystone condos, some of which have ski-in, ski-out access to the Beaver Creek ski area. On a lawn at Greystone with a sweeping view of the area proposed for construction, Parker and other association members outlined their complaints against the resort company. Association members also rolled out their preferred terms for Vail Resorts’ plans — “roller coaster” and “amusement park.”
This suit is a continuation of a lawsuit filed by property owners in 2006, in an attempt to stop the resort company from building an alpine slide. Parker said the property owners put a hold on that suit after the resort company agreed to help pass a law that allows summer activities on ski areas. That law — sponsored by Colorado Senator Mark Udall — was passed and signed in 2011. Vail Resorts is now working with the U.S. Forest Service on approvals for activities, including an alpine coaster, atop Vail Mountain.
The resort, however, disagrees, saying that it has addressed the concerns about noise and sight line from back in 2006 when the project was first proposed. The company completely scrapped the original plans for the alpine slide and moved the activities to an entirely new area further up the mountain in response to homeowner objections, said Doug Lovell, vice president and CEO for Beaver Creek Resort.
“We understand that there has been a reactivation of a previous lawsuit, which in our opinion is not relevant,” he said. “We disagree with their allegations and will vigorously defend our position. After spending so much time with property owners to respond to their concerns expressed in 2006 — including close to 10 meetings since February of this year – we are very surprised and disappointed that they are reactivating their lawsuit because our dramatically revised plans are responsive, terrific and will engage a broader group of kids from different income and diverse backgrounds at our premier resort and in the outdoors as only we know how to do.”
Parker said while the property owners aren’t fans of what they consider an “amusement park,” that mountaintop locations, or locations far away from homes — such as a coaster in Breckenridge — are the best places for those activities.
Parker said he’s been assured that the coaster will largely be hidden by aspen trees. A map provided by Vail Resorts indicates that the coaster will be mostly located in an aspen grove uphill from the Greystone condos.
“But those trees only have leaves on them about five months out of the year,” Parker said.
Resort officials, however, said that the alpine coaster is a far cry from an amusement park, and Lovell added, “We think the people at Elitch Gardens would be amused by their portrayal.”
The property owners are also concerned about the fact that the Beaver Creek activities are on private, not public land.
“If (the project) is on Forest Service land, it can be monitored,” Parker said, adding that the property owners have also asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to look into the association’s claims that the ropes course might impact a wetland area.
“There’s a lot we don’t know, and that’s what frightens us.”
While the homeowners at Greystone may see most of the new activities, another homeowner said he’s worried about his property values, as well as his future at the resort. Larry Graveel said he and his wife own a home along the Beaver Creek golf course. Graveel said he probably wouldn’t have purchased that home if the summer activities were there at the time.
“If this goes through, we may have to sell,” Graveel said.
Parker said worries about property values are mentioned in the lawsuit, and the property owners are seeking monetary damages.
While the property owners say they’ve been left out of Vail Resorts’ plans, but the company takes a different view.
In a statement, Lovell, maintained that, “The new activities followed a very public process.”
The statement added: “We have spent nearly eight years carefully crafting a plan to best respond to the concerns expressed by homeowners in 2006 — 2007 around the location and impacts of an alpine slide... We would imagine that the Beaver Creek homeowners have a high respect for property rights and are disappointed that some have chosen to not respect ours in this situation.”
Lovell added that there has always been opposition to new “innovations” at ski resorts, “... and we do have guests and homeowners who would like us to eliminate snowboarding or terrain parks.”
The property owners, though, say they aren’t against “fun,” or Vail Resorts making money. But, Parker said, the property owners are determined to fight this plan, at this location.
“We’re going to fight this as long as we can,” he said.