Imagining a ‘lighthouse’ |

Imagining a ‘lighthouse’

Nicole Formosa

SILVERTHORNE – Local real estate agent Eddie O’Brien envisions that some day, people will drive west through the Eisenhower Tunnel and be welcomed into Summit County by the Tri-City Winter Sports Mountain – a vast winter sports training facility with ski jumps, cross-country ski trails, slalom courses and an indoor training club.He sees crowds gathering at night to watch skiers launch themselves off a 90-meter speed jump and he believes Olympic hopefuls and competitive teams from all over the country will descend on Summit County to use the facility.”You can have a big dream, and it can occur, no question,” O’Brien said.The dream is one of several that O’Brien and his fellow Silverthorne WOW Concept subcommittee members are exploring to bring a “lighthouse,” or a distinguishing amenity, to the town.The group is one of three subcommittees of the larger Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC). While two of the town’s main goals are to build a stronger economic base and stray from its reliance on sales tax, the subcommittees’ suggestions could run the gamut.Ideas include attracting a four-year university, developing a wine and cuisine campus that would highlight Colorado’s wine making industry or starting a town trolley to transport people to the Town Center.But O’Brien sees the training facility as one that is absolutely viable. He doesn’t have an estimated size or price since it’s still conceptual, but it would be built at the base of the Dillon Dam near the Blue River softball fields and the rodeo grounds. The ski jump would be located on the hillside known as Lake Hill west of the rodeo grounds.It would also serve as a recreation base in the summer with trails linking Silverthorne, Dillon and Frisco and would act as an auxiliary area for rodeo activities during the summer months.’Howelsen Hill south’O’Brien’s idea was born decades ago when he lived in Steamboat Springs and noticed the character the town gained from Howelsen Hill, a ski jumping complex and training ground for Olympians and national ski hall-of-famers.”What I knew right off the bat when I got there was the heart and soul of Steamboat was in Howelsen Hill,” O’Brien said.The subcommittee and the EDAC as a whole have been receptive to the plan, O’Brien said, and the town is keeping an open mind as well.The target group for the facility would be people of all ages who want to learn to ski race, including competitive teams. Business leagues would also be welcome to race under the lights at night.Though O’Brien also hopes for a small, lighted ski area for night skiing or training, he believes the facility wouldn’t compete with the county’s large resorts but would instead complement them, as is the case in Steamboat Springs, where Howelsen Hill and Steamboat ski resort coexist.”It’s really Howelsen Hill south,” O’Brien said.The land for the training facility is owned by several different landowners, including the Forest Service, the Colorado Department of Transportation and a private party. The Blue River softball fields are owned by Denver Water but are operated by the county on a long-term lease. The rodeo grounds are owned by the county.Silverthorne Mayor Lou DelPiccolo said he welcomed all the ideas and thoughts from the town’s economic committee and subcommittees, but said it is premature to judge any of them.Regardless, O’Brien said he thinks that if all the towns and the county work together, three years from now, it’s possible that his project could be a reality.”I think there’s enough excitement. I think there’s some checks to be written and I think the five governments would get behind this,” he said.Vail, Colorado

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