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ACRA hears Base Village pitch

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Base Village plan for Snowmass Village was presented to the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors Tuesday, with an emphasis on how the development could benefit Aspen.

According to Bill Kane, Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of planning, studies over the past few years have shown that Snowmass Village’s overnight guests have spent 50 percent of their vacation spending money in Aspen, not including for a hotel stay. That shapes up to about $35 million a year that Snowmass guests spend in Aspen, and Kane said Base Village could encourage people to extend their vacations.

“The theory is that if this Base Village is successful, guests would spent one more night in Snowmass,” Kane told the ACRA board.

The Base Village project is being proposed by Intrawest and Skico for the base of Snowmass Ski Area. The proposal includes 635 condos, as well as 184,000 square feet of nonresidential space, 94,000 of which would be for restaurant and retail. Plans also include parking for 1,100 cars around the base of Fanny Hill.

Kane presented the ACRA board with figures demonstrating that the bed base in Aspen has been steadily declining for the past several years and that skier visits to Snowmass Ski Area are also declining, while visits to similarly family-oriented Beaver Creek are increasing.

Kane referred to refurbishing Snowmass Village with the Base Village project as “painting the house once in a while.” He said other resorts are improving their amenities and visits to Snowmass Village will continue to decline if the resort doesn’t “stay part of the game.”

Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud, a member of the ACRA board, asked Kane what would happen if multiple development projects all “came online” at the same time, such as a major project in Winter Park. But Kane said Base Village will cater to a separate market of consumers – particularly to more affluent families. The project will be in direct competition with Beaver Creek, he said.

Main benefits to the project include a children’s center, a transportation hub, revived apres-ski venues, improved lifts on the mountain and plenty of new visitor lodging, Kane said.

The Snowmass Village Town Council held its first review of the proposed project on Monday night, and each Town Council member expressed concern over its height, density and scale. Kane said he considers their concerns positive indicators of the village working with Skico and Intrawest to arrive at a blueprint that best represents the interests of locals and visitors.

“We should know where we are in another six months – what the community wants and how the development team feels,” Kane said.

Although ACRA board chairman Rick Jones expressed concern over Skico neglecting its three other ski areas because of Base Village, Kane and Skico vice president David Perry noted several improvements to the other mountains.

Buttermilk continues to be improved in preparation for the 2004 ESPN Winter X Games, and Aspen Mountain recently received a revamped Ajax Express lift and an expansion to the Sundeck. Kane noted that the oldest lift at Highlands, the Exhibition lift, is only 7 years old.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]


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