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New gondola but no skier parking

Nicole Frey
NWS Gondola PU 12-29
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EAGLE COUNTY- When a shiny, new gondola is finally installed in Avon, it will pair new access to the mountain with no skier parking. “They don’t want to see the whole place fill up with day skiers,” said Eric Heidemann, a senior planner with the town of Avon. According to town officials and developers, the gondola is meant for guests staying in Avon and those who arrive via public transportation. But parking or not, some locals and tourists are saying the gondola would be an unnecessary, extra step to getting on the mountain.”I would rather just go to the village and right to the Centennial lift,” said Vail Resorts employee Pat Dobslaw.

Visiting from the East Coast, Jenna Ladowski said parking in a free lot and riding the shuttle to Beaver Creek Village was “easier, closer and more convenient” than riding a gondola with no place to park nearby.”I probably wouldn’t use it,” she said. But Dobslaw acknowledged the appeal of not having to find parking in order to get on the mountain. “A lot of tourists get really confused about where to park, so getting on the gondola would just eliminate that,” he said. In 1998, a 400-space surface parking lot was envisioned for the parcel south of the Avon town hall that will one day house a gondola along with homes, hotel room and shops, said Chuck Madison with development company East West Partners. Although the plan was approved, Heidemann said he thought a surface lot would have been a waste of space.”I don’t think it’s in anybody’s best interest to create a large surface parking lot,” he said.

Then, about a year-and-a-half ago, East West Partners took over development with plans to purchase the parcel, which was dubbed The Confluence. Planned as Avon’s version of Vail Village, The Confluence will have restaurants, shops, hotels and timeshares – all accommodated by one underground parking garage with 315 parking spots. Just 100 of those spots will be available for the public, but none for day skiers. “We think that’s adequate,” Madison said. “The rest of the plan is really for the town to take their transit money and focus more on the valley floor.”The remainder of Avon has only 614 public parking spaces, some with limited access. The town of Vail has more than 2,600 spots – more than four times as many as Avon has. Madison suggested expanding Avon’s public-transportation system so skiers and riders can get to the gondola via bus. He also pointed to Beaver Creek’s Elk, Bear and Wolf parking lots – totaling 1,700 parking spots along and above U.S. Highway 6. Beaver Creek’s shuttles take skiers and snowboarders from the lots to the mountain. “If you’re going to drive anyway, you might as well drive to the lifts that are going to take you up the mountain,” Madison said. Although the town and developer are discouraging skiers from parking in Avon to ride the gondola, Avon officials fear skiers may hog the few parking spaces the town has.

“We don’t want people to park at town hall or the library, but how we get there, we’re not quite sure,” Heidemann said. “It may be one of the unintended consequences that we don’t want to have happen.”To alleviate parking pressure in Avon, Heidemann said the town is interested in building a parking garage close to the planned “Main Street” near the Avon Recreation Center. But as parking availability stands now, the town is simply encouraging people to ride the bus. Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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