Indian summer delays A-Basin opening |

Indian summer delays A-Basin opening

Bob Berwyn

Warm weather has put a crimp in A-Basin’s plans to open in late October, the Denver Post reports. The Summit County area had hoped to open by Friday, Oct. 24, but resort officials acknowledged that balmy skies and near record-high temps have slowed snowmaking efforts.According to the Post, A-Basin chief Jim Gentling offered a tongue-in-cheek guarantee that the area will fire up a lift by Oct. 31 if the weather cooperates. Colder temps are expected for the last of October, and that should help get the snowmaking operation back in gear.Meanwhile, just across the Continental Divide at Loveland Ski Area, crews have managed to create coverage on a big chunk of a top-to-bottom run that is generally the first to open, but there was no official word at press time Thursday, Oct. 23, as to when the chairs will begin to roll. Colder late-October weather would speed the process, enabling Loveland to once again become the first Colorado area to open.Vail settles wetlands disputeVail Resorts and the EPA have agreed on an $80,000 settlement for Vail’s alleged impacts to about 0.7 acres of wetlands near the 645 acre Blue Sky Basin terrain expansion. The wetland impacts occurred in 1998-99 as a result of unintentional and inadvertent mistakes by Vail.The wetlands were damaged when Vail built a road to haul timber out of the Blue Sky Basin area, crossing wetlands in the process. The resort and Forest Service immediately closed the road and started to repair the damage. Since then, Vail and the EPA have been negotiating the fine. Wetlands experts hired to restore the wetlands say the process is going well.In a prepared statement, Vail chief Bill Jensen said, &quotVail cannot express how deeply we regret that these wetland areas were impacted. We are entrusted with the stewardship of our public lands and we take that responsibility seriously and to heart,&quot Jensen said.Snowmass plans scrutinizedBigger isn’t always better unless it’s an Intrawest ski area base development. The Canadian resort operator recently won planning commission approval for a massive upzoning at Copper Mountain, and the company is also discussing the size of the future Snowmass base area with town officials, according to the Aspen Daily News.The Snowmass Town Council has expressed concerns about the scale of the proposed development, but Intrawest officials say they want to talk about economic factors related to the project’s scale before talking about reducing the size. Intrawest’s formula emphasizes finding a balance between lodging and retail facilities to make the development viable.The proposed Snowmass project at the base of Fanny Hill includes 635 condominiums, 10 townhouses, 180 employee units and 184,000 square feet of nonresidential space, with 94,000 square feet reserved for restaurants and shops. Several town council members told the Aspen Daily News that they aren’t likely to approve the development at that size. According to the Daily News, opponents say the project is about twice the height and density of what the town code allows. A citizen group is pursuing an initiative to require voter approval for certain variations from the allowed height, size or density of a project.Aspen 24-hour race still lacking sponsorRacers may be ready, bur organizers of the 24 Hours of Aspen ski race are still searching for a title sponsor willing to throw down the requisite $350,000 of sponsorship money, the Aspen Daily News reports.The Aspen Skiing Co. recently sent out its schedule of upcoming events and the race was not included. The mid-December race is one of the town’s early season highlights, bringing plenty of media attention just as resorts gear up for peak season.Senior SkiCo officials say they are still hoping to pull off a last-minute miracle, but time is running out. The race has been held for 16 years running. Past title sponsors have included Audi and Gulfstream, but according to the Daily News, SkiCo execs said the overall sluggishness of the national economy has made it tougher for companies to reach deep into their pockets.Local Crested Butte purchase bid sputtersA group of Crested Butte locals looking to put together a deal to buy Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) may have run out of time, the Crested Butte News reports. What could have been a unique private/public partnership is now in the realm of what might have been.Instead, the Denver Post reports that the list of potential buyers has been narrowed to two, including Tim and Diane Mueller, long-time players on the resort scene who own Okemo, in Vermont, and who were involved in failed bids to develop Catamount and to buy Steamboat from the American Skiing Company.According to the Crested Butte News, the mayor of the town acknowledges that the idea of local ownership is on hold, with the sale to outside investors imminent.Record deal for Aspen?The Aspen Skiing Co. may sign a deal with a major record label to produce a series of on-mountain concerts at one or more of the resort company’s four ski areas, the Aspen Daily News reports.The concerts are set to begin Thanksgiving weekend at the bottom of Aspen Mountain, a SkiCo spokesman said. The so-called Budweiser Hi-Fi Concert Series will be held at Snowmass and Buttermilk as well as Aspen, coinciding with other special events, including the ESPN Winter X Games and Spring Jam.Like other resorts around Colorado, Aspen is trying to draw younger skiers and snowboarders into the fold to replace aging baby boomers retiring from winter sports.Mega-hotel planned for Telluride’s Mountain VillageThe Telluride Daily Planet reports that the Mountain Village Design Review Board has approved a sketch plan for a 96-foot-tall, 350,000 square foot hotel development, intended to be a Ritz-Carlton. The vote was 3-2, with concerns about the project’s massive size.According to the Daily Planet, the OK comes with more than 70 conditions that need to be met before the developers get final approval from the town council. Residents and adjacent property owners expressed similar reservations, pointing out that the proposed building exceeds height limits by 36 feet.According to the Daily Planet, developers claimed the new building won’t obstruct views and also touted a slew of community amenities, including an ice rink, pedestrian access to the resort through the hotel, underground public parking, and a post office space. Expansion for AK area?The Anchorage Daily News reports that Girdwood residents have met with city and state officials to draw up plans for an expansion of the ski area, and to figure out how find interested developers and investors.A group of civic and business leaders calling itself Girdwood 2020, wants to transform the area into a four-season recreational destination. Preliminary plans show twice as much terrain than currently available at Alyeska, including year-round glacier skiing on 135 acres.The ski area expansion hasn’t drawn much criticism, but an associated golf course development is tangled up in litigation, after opponents tried to block it with a voter referendum, according to the Daily News. Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, recommended to proponents that all parties involved craft a detailed agreement showing that everyone is on board that way, potential investors are more likely to take the project seriously, Berry was quoted as saying in the Daily News.Weather stymies some elk huntersThe Middle Park Times reports that mild weather has affected hunting season, with elk staying high in the mountains until snowfall starts to drive them to lower elevations. For the West Slope, that means that elk numbers are still &quotover objective,&quot according to Colorado Division of Wildlife big game manager John Ellenberger.That means elk numbers remain higher than biologists would like to see in many parts of the state. CDOW officials have set a target of 65,000 elk to thin herds. Under ideal conditions, a bit of snow would force the ungulates to lower elevations and enable hunters to track the animals. Too much snow impedes hunting; if the weather is hot and dry, the animals hide in pockets of dark timber to stay cool.More ‘village’ development at MammothIntrawest will launch phase III of its commercial and residential base area development at Mammoth in mid-November, brining another 43 luxury condos online. According to an Intrawest press release, more than 90 percent of the original inventory in the first two phases of development have been sold.The third phase of development will include the Grand Sierra Lodge, a typical condotel project that has become standard at all Intrawest-owned resorts. Condominium prices for Phase III will range from $370,000 to $1 million. Construction of Phase III is expected to begin in the spring of 2004, with expected completion in mid-2005. The base area is connected to Mammoth Mountain via a new 15-passenger gondola, set to open this winter.

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