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Vail Resort’s "front door’ still evolving

Matt Zalaznick
Special to the DailyVail Resorts' Front Door Project now includes a major redesign of the area around the Vista Bahn ski yard aimed at sprucing up the spot where most skiers and snowboarders get on the mountain.
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Some major changes have been made to a somewhat controversial building planned for the base of Vail Mountain in Vail Village.

Vail Resorts’ Front Door Project now includes a major redesign of the area around the Vista Bahn ski yard aimed at sprucing up the spot where most skiers and snowboarders get on the mountain.

A key part of the project is the removal of the Giant Steps chairlift, also known as Chair 1, and the construction in its place of a skier-services building similar to the one at Golden Peak. The original design for that building, which irritated the owners of condominiums above the ski yard, has been scrapped, says Jack Hunn, project manager for the Vail Resorts Development Company.

“The previous scheme was an earth-integrated building trying to appear as if it was built into the hill. It had a flat, sod roof,” Hunn says. “What we heard a month ago was that nobody in the neighborhood was very excited about that scheme.”

Vail Resorts, therefore, re-conceived the facility, he says.

“We were encouraged to redesign a building more in character with Vail Village – and that’s what we did,” Hunn says. “We went back to the drawing board and literally re-designed the building.”

The building, Hunn says, is meant to be a “one-stop shopping” spot where skiers and snowboarders can buy lift tickets, sign up for ski school classes and rent and store equipment. There also are plans for a coffee shop, he says.

“It’s just a comfortable place to sit,” Hunn says.

Lengthy process

The Front Door plan is still in the midst of a lengthy review by the town of Vail. Aspects of the plan –including a park and an underground parking garage near the Christiana Lodge on Hanson Ranch Road – have been approved by Vail’s Planning and Environmental Commission. That board reviews, and suggests changes to, development projects before forwarding proposals for final approval – or rejection – to the Town Council.

The Planning Commission may be close to final approval of the Front Door plan, says George Ruther, a planner with the town of Vail. It would then go before the Town Council.

The Front Door project has been a subject of several Planning Commission meetings, and only two more are scheduled, Ruther says.

“This project – at least with the Planning Commission – is reaching some finality in the review process,” Ruther says.

“Postcard image’

The changes to skier services appear to be a critical part of the approval process. Ruther says neighbors had argued the skier-services building’s initial design clashed with both the overall architectural look of Vail Village and the natural feel of the mountain rising above. Residents wanted the building to be a showpiece –a “postcard image,” Ruther says.

Planning Commission members also were troubled by the original design of the building, Ruther says.

“It’s far more interesting visually than I believe the original design was, as proposed,” Ruther says. “I think the design –which has been one of the major issues – has been meet favorably.”

The Planning Commission will review the Front Door project further at its Sept. 8 meeting and may be ready to endorse the proposal on Sept. 22, Ruther says.

Loading and delivery

Another key part of the plan is re-arranging how deliveries are made to Vail Village shops and restaurants. Town planners are hoping to move most deliveries to new facilities on the outskirts of Vail Village and thus, keep as many delivery trucks as possible off of Bridge Street and out of the way of skiers headed to the slopes, Ruther says.

“There still are concerns and questions about loading and delivery and traffic, but those are issues we are confident, once they’re discussed, can be resolved and will be resolved before final action is taken on the project,” Ruther says.

Hunn, meanwhile, says it’s unclear when construction will begin at the base of Vail Mountain, though the company hopes to have all its approvals from the town by the end of this year.

The original goal was to start at the end of this ski season, but delays in reaching a key land deal with U.S. Forest Service may postpone the work until 2005, Hunn says.

Ruther says residents have been active in the town’s review of the Front Door, and he hopes people will stay involved throughout the approval process.

“It’s probably one of the most significant projects for the town of Vail,” Ruther says.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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