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A tale of two interests: resorts and ski towns

Christine McManus Summit County Correspondent

They are called resort towns, but the level of cooperation varies between ski resorts and their adjacent towns.

For the town of Vail, being a resort town – as seen from Summit County – means installing fancy pothole covers and prohibiting real estate offices on main level shopfronts. For the town of Breckenridge, leaders there boast, it means working with the resort to attract visitors and keep them coming back.

At a recent meeting in Breckenridge of about 20 resort-town leaders, mayors and managers of towns belonging to the Colorado Association wanted to study, up close, the affects of a town and a resort whose leaders are seen as cooperative.



“At the town council meetings, the Breckenridge Town Council talks about the street lights for hours. Then we end up featuring a lighted Main Street in our advertisements to bring people here,” said Roger McCarthy, chief operating officer for Breckenridge and Keystone ski resorts.

“We had a complete turnaround in Breckenridge when Roger got here,” said Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula. “Roger made life better for business in Breckenridge.”



Mamula bragged about securing 1,400 parking spaces through negotiations with the resort.

Skier counts from 2000 to 2003 show the ski industry is experiencing a renaissance, much like the one in the 1960s and 1970s, said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Area Association. Berry and McCarthy advised the group of mayors and town managers on how to help out the resorts, so the resorts can help the towns.

Following were their suggestions:



– Amenities – The more ice rinks, festivals, Nordic centers, etc., the better the resorts, businesses and towns will fare.

– Approvals – When resorts ask for night lighting, chairlift changes, traffic controls, nightclub approvals, visible signs, zoning changes, etc., town council members should consider the big picture of attracting and retaining guests.

– Historic Preservation: Historic structures give areas character and should be preserved as much as possible.

– Zoning – Shopping areas should be extremely well planned. To compete with large malls on the Front Range, resort towns should encourage lessors to stay open similar hours. Towns should discourage real estate offices from taking over main streets because they don’t produce sales tax revenue and often make visitors feel unwanted with the high prices of land.

– Nightlife – Whether they’re underground to buffer the noise or far away from lodging, nightclubs should be approved within reason.

“The nightlife that attracted people here years ago is exactly what they don’t want now that they’re sitting in the council chair at night,” McCarthy said. “Nightclubs are crucial to the mountain experience. Those are the stories you hear back in Texas at the office on Monday morning about skiing in Summit County, Colorado.”

Town leaders reminded ski industry officials that skier counts should not be the only concern. The environment and quality of life that voters favor also must factor into policy decisions.

McCarthy said magazine coverage was crucial in attracting more guests. For instance, professional athletes who live in Summit County end up in magazines that attract legions of visitors, he said.

Another way to get magazine coverage is to pool ad budgets from towns, businesses and resorts, McCarthy said.

Towns and resorts these days hit vacationers’ radar screens when they work together to retain the baby boomers and attract new skiers and snowboarders, added Berry.


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