Snow: melt it or no?
Paying $2.8 million to heat most pedestrian avenues in the village’s commercial core, however, could be a steep price.
Vail Town Council members are working with team of designers on streetscape project for the village. The multi-million-dollar endeavor, in conjunction with Vail Resorts’ $75 million Front Door Project aims to spruce up the village’s look and polish its connection to Vail Mountain.
The Denver-based design team, led by Bill Wink, has been gathering information for the past four months on how to expand upon the 1991 Vail Village Streetscape Master Plan, which includes Bridge Street, Wall Street, Gore Creek Drive, Hanson Ranch Road, Willow Bridge Road and Gore Creek Promenade.
One of the biggest pieces of the colorful puzzle, intended to keep individual characters of separate public areas intact, is whether the phased project should include features that would melt snow. If approved as a whole by the council, the project would get underway next April.
Sherry Dorward, a landscape architect on the design team, says opinions on melting snow on pedestrian walkways are split and stark. She says she’s heard people say the don’t like Beaver Creek, where snowmelt systems are installed throughout the village, “because it doesn’t ever have snow lingering.”
Bob Fritch, owner of the Sitzmark Lodge, says early morning snow removal taxes his business.
“I do get complaints about the snow removal, and when they pile it up and take it away, it goes on all day,” he says, adding that once the snow has been cleared from Gore Creek Drive, the streetscape “is ugly.”
“The cinders, the ice – it just doesn’t look like the snowy landscape that people envision,” he says.
Tom Steinberg, a longtime Vail resident, says the environmental impact of snowmelt – emissions of greenhouse gases, artificially warming the atmosphere – should be considered before the consequences hamper its success.
“I think you are walking into a trap,” he says. “It will give you bad publicity sooner or later, when environmentalists are going to come down on it.”
Council members come down on both sides.
“I don’t think that should guide our overall direction,” Vail Mayor Ludwig Kurz says, adding that environmentalists have sued the U.S. Forest Service for clearing out the very timber that has fueled some of this summer’s devastating wildland fires.
“It gets dirty within a day and you don’t get the clean lines that you get with snowmelt,” Kurz adds.
Snowmelt will likely be part of the planned, area-wide renovation of Lionshead, too, he says, and that “would create a disadvantage for the village.”
Councilwoman Diana Donovan says she is “inclined to support snowmelt” – if the community gets behind it with passion and pocketbook.
“It requires that the community ante up,” she said, adding that “the snow in the village is only pretty when it has just come down. … Then it starts looking like a trash dump.”
Opponents say the economic equation doesn’t add up, and including snowmelt in the village will create a never-ending need for snowmelt in other areas.
“Once we start, I don’t think we can stop,” says Councilman Bill Jewitt, adding that he has reservations about snowmelt for aesthetic reasons.
“People who come to a ski resort expect snow on the ground,” he says.
Councilman Greg Moffet appears to be the staunchest opponent.
“From a political point of view, this is a “no’,” he says.
For now, the council has opted to wait for results from an environmental impact study before giving snowmelt a go.
Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at email@example.com