1996: New King of the Mountain
In celebrating the 125th anniversary of The Aspen Times, we are printing a story or two from each year the newspaper has existed – 125 historical selections in 125 days. This series is in conjunction with the Aspen Historical Society.New King of the MountainBy Scott CondonIn an exclusive interview, Aspen Skiing Company President Pat O’Donnell tells the town what he’s thinking:On the future of World Cup skiing in Aspen: “I don’t think we are fully prepared to say we are now committed long-term to World Cup racing.”On the decision to pull out of Colorado Ski Country USA: “There just didn’t seem to be any way to get their attention.”On the relation between high ticket prices and quality service: “The bottom line should be ‘That’s why they call it Aspen.’ “These are not quiet times at the Aspen Skiing Company. From employee grooming codes to World Cup races to airport expansion campaigns, controversies have rocked the company time and again over the past year.But, as Pat 0’Donnell steps into his new job at the helm, as president of the Skico, he makes it clear he’s not about to keep a low profile or shy away from the hard choices.On the contrary, O’Donnell’s management style requires visibility for success. He promises to cultivate relationships between the company and local residents that will eliminate the kind of shocks and surprises that rocked the valley in 1995.”We have to share where we’re going,” O’Donnell said. “The surprises, I think, are what upset everybody.”O’Donnell, 57, took over the title and duties of president this week from Bob Maynard. O’Donnell, now president and chief operating officer, will oversee all ski operations, from marketing the ski resort to grooming the ski slopes.Maynard, 68, president of the Skico since January 1988, remains the company’s chief executive officer and was named chairman of the board this week. He is still responsible for the company’s overall direction and answers directly to the owners, the Lester Crown family of Chicago. But Maynard will now concentrate on long-range issues and running the company’s hotels, instead of day-to-day ski area operations.O’Donnell has steadily assumed more responsibility and accountability since joining the Skico in June 1994, a progression that now puts him in the hot seat, calling the shots on issues such as hosting World Cup races, repairing relations with the state ski trade association and the ban on snowboarders at Aspen Mountain.It was no secret that O’Donnell was being groomed as Maynard’s successor. But only now that he has actually moved into the position of power is the new Skico boss ready to reveal his views on some of the big issues facing the Skico and on some of the controversies that have recently embroiled his company.In an exclusive interview with The Aspen Times on Thursday, the day his promotion was announced, O’Donnell sketched the direction he sees the company going. But he first stressed that the president of the Skico “doesn’t make decisions in a vacuum.” Instead, those decisions are crafted with the owners and the upper management team.”Dictatorship is not one of my management traits,” he said. (Jan. 27-28)Divided we standBy Scott CondonPitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland, after surviving the recall attempt Tuesday, made an appeal to locals to put aside differences and concentrate on solving problems – at least until the November elections.But in his heart, Ireland knows that’s unlikely to happen,This valley’s local governments, like virtually all others, face an ever-present, though varying, level of discontent. Neither Ireland or his colleague on the board, Bill Tuite, can proclaim a mandate for everything the county board has done, despite having survived the recall by healthy margins. Ireland was kept in office by a margin of 2,094 to 1,412, a 60 percent to 40 percent split.Tuite was retained by an even wider margin of 2,444 to 1,039, 70 percent to 30 percent.But putting a damper on the results was the great unknown. Only about 35 percent of the registered voters bothered to venture to the polls. The other 65 percent apparently weren’t riled up enough to care one way or the other about the fate of the two commissioners – but what would happen if the board decided to crack down on house sizes, for example, in the next few months?Both Ireland and Tuite are politically savvy enough to realize satisfaction with government can be a fleeting thing. Today’s friends could be tomorrow’s foes, depending on the issue and whose oxen are gored.Commissioner Chairman Jim True theorized that a certain core group of people are angry with a government at any given time.”In any community there is at least 20 percent that are totally against the government and suspicious of what they do,” True said.”It’s just kind of a national trend, I think. It’s not isolated to local government.”He noted that rarely does a candidate or ballot issue receive more than 80 per cent of a vote total, or less than 20 per cent.Tuite also espouses the 20 per cent dissatisfaction theory, adding that the 20 per cent can sometimes be more vocal and do a better job of winning converts.”I realize there is a solid core of dissatisfied people,” Tuite acknowledged on election night. “I’m glad to see there’s a solid majority of support.”Ireland went a little further, stating a belief that there is “solid support” for the county commissioners’ “general direction.”The day after the election, when some of the euphoria of victory had worn off, Ireland said the attempt by recall supporters “to make it a mandate on general performance” didn’t seem to affect the vote.”It’s difficult to interpret the results when so many issues were dragged into (the election) at the last minute,” he said.One group supporting the recall, Residents for Better Government, threw everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at Ireland and Tuite.The political action committee ran advertisements that blamed the two county commissioners for everything from delaying the widening of Highway 82 to the state’s survey on attitudes about a rail system to retail shops going out of business to, even, the “ugly bridge” built for pedestrians and bicyclists crossing Maroon Creek.True said it’s difficult to say definitively what Tuesday’s election results reveal about satisfaction with county government, lacking some detailed, scientific poll of voters.”You just don’t know if this is a reaffirmation of the county, a reaffirmation of Rural and Remote or rejection of the recall,” he said. “But I still believe the Rural and Remote legislation is supported by the majority of residents of Pitkin County.” But True, Tuite and Ireland all maintained the county commissioners have to learn a lesson from the recall.”There’s still healthy skepticism of what we do and that keeps government on its toes,” Ireland said. (April 13-14)
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The town of Basalt is working on an update to its 2007 master plan. The document will be a blueprint for how and where the town will grow. But the family that has owned a 180-acre ranch at the edge of town for nearly 60 years objected Tuesday to the document’s parameters for its property.