Does Vail need Ever Vail?
VAIL ” When Vail Resorts announced a new “green” village for Vail Mountain earlier this month, one environmentalist raised a basic question: Does the development need to happen at all?
“If you’re going to do development, then doing it (green) certified is the way it should be done,” said Ryan Bidwell, executive director of the environmental group Colorado Wild. “That leaves aside the question of whether the development is necessary at all or appropriate.”
The $1 billion proposed development, called Ever Vail, includes a new gondola up to Vail Mountain, plus condos, timeshares, a hotel, a parking garage, offices and stores.
The development is on Vail Resorts-owned land, but the town of Vail has to grant some approvals if the project is going to move forward as planned.
Ford Frick, who analyzes resorts as managing director of Denver-based BBC Research and Consulting, said change is often good for resorts.
“The hardest thing being a resort community these days in acknowledging you have to change, evolve and grow with the market, but at the same time, preserve the scale, character and ambiance that gives you individuality and a sense of a separate place.”
Saying “no” to change can mean losing vitality, Frick said. That happened to Vail in the mid- to late 1990s, Frick said.
“It felt stale and stagnant and nonresponsive and gentrified,” he said. “There was nothing exciting going on.”
Ever Vail could bring a wider range of things to do in Vail, Frick said.
“My inclination is, this is worth looking at and considering,” he said. “Ever Vail and Lionshead and Vail Village will all begin to have a different feel. … That makes the experience more diverse and interesting.”
The community needs to make sure it gets things like parking, employee housing, bus stops and road improvements, he said.
Bidwell echoed Frick, saying the town needs to make sure it gets benefits out of the project to retain its “community” feel.
“If no one can afford to live or work anywhere near Vail, it doesn’t matter how shiny and new a village is,” he said.
And even if the new village is labeled “green,” it would still consume energy and water.
“Obviously, there is something oxymoronic about the phrase ‘green development,'” Bidwell said.
But Mark Gordon, a Vail councilman, said he thinks the project is a good thing.
“This is a net positive,” he said. “Development is inevitable in the mountain and in ski towns. If we can make sure development is done in a good way, that’s good.”
Vail Resorts touts several benefits of the project, beyond the money it will make selling homes.
For one, a new parking garage will add 400 public parking spaces. That would be a chunk of the 1,000 more public spaces the town of Vail says it needs over the next 20 years.
Also, the new gondola would help skiers get onto the mountain faster, company officials say.
The Lionshead gondola often has long lines. And with big new projects being built or proposed in the neighborhood, including the Arrabelle at Vail Square and the Lionshead parking garage redevelopment, there could be even more skiers coming up from Lionshead soon.
The Ever Vail gondola would go to the bottom of Chair 26.
The new village would also redevelop an area of town that isn’t particularly attractive, officials say.
The area houses a maintenance yard, an old gas station site that’s contaminated with oil, office buildings and stores.
Town officials have echoed those benefits. Gordon added that the project will add more office space in town.
“That’s something this town is hurting for,” he said.
He also said the project would bring more sales tax, which is a large source of money for the town.
And there will be employee housing in the village, Gordon said. Ever Vail would be subject to stricter new housing rules that the town is supposed to pass soon.
Hunter Sykes, a former Eagle County local who is now a documentary filmmaker living near Lake Tahoe, recently released a documentary called “Resorting to Madness: Taking Back Our Mountain Communities” that is critical of ski-resort companies ” including Vail Resorts ” for their development practices.
Sykes said he applauds Vail Resorts ” a publicly traded company ” for committing to a “green” village and for building in a place that’s already been touched by development. But he said he’s not sure Ever Vail really will help Vail.
“I would say that it’s probably not necessary,” he said. “(Vail Resorts) would say yes, and businesswise, it would be, because they need to make money.”
The project would add jobs, but many of the jobs would be low-paying and many workers would not be able to live in town because it’s too expensive, Sykes said.
The project might exasperate the flight of locals out of Vail, he said.
Sykes also said the town needs to make sure it gets benefits from the project.
“It’s up to community to make sure it’s done in way that doesn’t have major impacts on the community,” he said.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.