SNOWMASS VILLAGE - The end of the year can be a time of reflection, of looking back on the journey made over the past year. It is also a time of new beginnings.
Snowmass Village has seen some changes this year, including new businesses and new faces in town. Some of those changes are still their infancy, and so the Snowmass Sun is looking forward to what 2013 and the years ahead will bring.
For the first time in several years, businesspeople and developers are feeling cautiously optimistic about the town's economic climate. Sales tax revenues were up for all but one month from June 2011 to October 2012. The Silvertree Hotel underwent a $55 million renovation and was transformed into the Westin Snowmass, and the Wildwood above the Mall got a facelift too.
With the change in ownership at the Westin and Wildwood, Snowmass said goodbye to some shops on the Mall, some of which had been there for many years. But a few, including the Snowmass Bakery and Local Rebels, have found new homes in the Village while others returned to theirs this season.
The stalled Base Village project finally found itself in a new owner's hands. An entity of Related Cos., which formerly owned the project starting in 2007, closed on a deal in September that transferred all the site's assets to the company and ended litigation with the lender group. Some people have expressed skepticism with the deal based on Related's history with the project - the company defaulted on a loan in 2009, sending the assets into foreclosure - but some progress has already been made. Since closing the deal, Related has made improvements to the Arrival Center, released residences at the Viceroy Snowmass for purchase and recruited new tenants for Base Village retail spaces.
Snowmass Village voters also made a lot of choices in this year's general election. The measure to increase the mill levy for the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District passed on Election Day, ensuring the department won't have to cut staff or continue drawing from reserves next year.
Snowmass voters also chose a new councilman, Chris Jacobson, in the general election. The majority of Snowmass residents also voted in favor of President Barack Obama's re-election, Amendment 64, which legalized recreational use of marijuana, and John Young for Pitkin County commissioner, although Young was defeated by Steve Child.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has said that the January to November period of this year in Colorado was the driest on record in the state. While Snowmass Village's area was lucky to not have any large wildfires like other parts of the state, the drought still impacted everything from snow conditions to wildlife.
Last winter was one of the worst recorded in terms of snowfall for much of the U.S., and the Aspen Skiing Co. had to make do with about half the usual amount of snowfall in the area.
With higher-than-average temperatures as well, area bears came out of hibernation early only to find their food sources compromised by lack of water. In Snowmass Village, a trio of cubs continuously found their way into residents' cars.
Avalanche danger was also especially high last winter. Two local men died on the slopes in separate accidents on the same day in January, one of them a longtime local living in Snowmass at the time. Keith Ames, 43, was killed during an avalanche while skiing on Burnt Mountain adjacent to the Snowmass ski area.
Rachel "Bunny" Krausch