SNOWMASS VILLAGE - The lodging industry is one of Snowmass' most important business sectors.
Snowmass Village was carved out of a hillside in the late '60s and early '70s to create a winter sports paradise. To accommodate tourists and those workers needed to run a resort, condominiums and other lodging were built on the surrounding mountainsides.
Time, gravity and 40 years worth of weather and the natural elements have combined to create challenges in the best-constructed buildings around town. And it is a historical fact that some of the buildings in Snowmass were built by ski-bum labor whose starry passion and youthful energy made up for any lack of technical experience.
The 60-unit Snowmass Mountain Condominiums were one of the first condo projects built in Snowmass. At the time, it was an impressive feat and incorporated a massive use of railroad ties (said to have come from Basalt's Midland railroad) to construct a roadbed with carports and open parking spaces. Condominiums were built around and above the roadbed and even below and to the side of it.
After all of these years of punishing winters, the owners of the Snowmass Mountain Condominiums, SMC, were faced with a deteriorating roadbed that was beginning to slide down the mountain.
Greer Fox and her husband, Bruce, are homeowners at the SMC, and she is a director of the homeowners' association.
"We have one of the lower units," Fox explained, "and I never slept well because I was always concerned the railroad tie wall might come down on us."
After years of discussion, a vote by the homeowners, and time spent before the Town of Snowmass Village Planning Commission and Town Council, the Snowmass Mountain Condominiums underwent a year-long $6.7 million construction project (from April 2011 to summer 2012) to replace the railroad tie roadbed, replace old clay sewer pipe, refurbish and replace other aging infrastructure, and create stability and security for the members of the SMC homeowners' association.
During the process, Fox documented the work weekly and sent out reports to owners.
"Our owners were so cooperative," Fox said. "This work happened in the midst of this recession. A lot of our owners are elderly, and this was a big hit. Many of our owners are local and don't have the incomes that some of the second-home owners have."
In order for the work to be completed, all 59 units had to be evacuated and the utilities shut down. The owners were out of their units from around April 15, 2011, until nearly Thanksgiving.
"It was a challenge for our owners," continued Fox. "Owners that rent out their units lost their rental income. Owners who reside in their unit full time had to find alternative housing for seven months."
The $6.7 million cost for the project was split between the homeowners based on the square footage of their units. Owners with more than one condominium were assessed multiple times. Because of the recession, many owners found bank refinancing difficult or impossible at that time. Only one owner lost their unit to foreclosure during that period.
The project contractor, The Neenan Company, found multiple surprises during construction, creating additional work and financial commitments.
Heavy equipment was used to excavate the entire roadway. All of the railroad ties had to be carefully removed since there were no plans to show exactly what the railroad ties were supporting. A wrong decision could have resulted in the upper buildings at SMC collapsing down onto the lower buildings of the complex and everything sliding down the hill onto the Seasons Four condominium complex.
Because of aging clay sewer pipe, sections needed to be replaced by the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District with newer, state-of-the-art piping. A crushed drainpipe behind the Woodbridge Condominiums also needed to be replaced, according to Carl Vill, another SMC homeowners' association director who, along with president George Falk, was involved with the massive construction project for more than six years.
With the completion of the project, the condo units will see new paint, new railings, a new snowmelt system, landscaping, new carport alignments and concrete pads and additional parking spaces. Because the project was under budget, money will also be spent on strengthening balconies, building new flagstone patios, replacing deck and patio furniture, redoing the amenity area, buying new workout equipment, revamping the men's and women's locker area, replacing the aging sauna with steam showers and replacing the hot tub and pool decking.
The property manager for SMC is Snowmass Hospitality, a division of Related Colorado. Hank Hays is the property manager of SMC.
"The homeowners were really cooperative, especially with moving out on time," said Hays. "This allowed the project to get started on time, and I'm sure helped in the project being completed on time and on budget. I thought it went really well."
And now, Snowmass Mountain Condominiums are ready for another 40 years of winters.
Steve Alldredge is the former assistant editor/writer for the Snowmass Sun. He now runs a local communications company whose clients include Related Colorado. He can be reached at email@example.com.