Big plans for Sunlight | AspenTimes.com

Big plans for Sunlight

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondent

Aspen CO, ColoradoGLENWOOD SPRINGS New lifts, eventual expansion of ski terrain onto Williams Peak, creation of “a world-class mountain biking trail” and not just residential, but possibly commercial, development are among the upgrades being planned at Sunlight Mountain Resort.That’s according to an official with the company that has agreed to purchase it.Mike Dooley, operations manager for Florida-based Exquisite Development, said in a telephone interview this week that the company expects to appeal to “adventure enthusiasts.” But it has some work to do before it’s ready to lay out the details of its proposal.”We’re currently just in a planning phase right now to try to put our plan together and move forward with it,” he said.A big part of the plan will be some form of residential development at the ski area, located near Glenwood Springs. The resort includes some 450 acres of private land that could be developed, and Sunlight officials say that development is needed to bring in the money to make other improvements on the mountain. An existing master plan for the resort envisions 780 residential units being built.Sunlight announced Saturday that Exquisite Development has agreed to buy the resort. The deal is contingent on development approval by Garfield County, and Dooley said it might take two years to get a plan submitted and approved.The two parties aren’t disclosing the selling price. The resort was put on the market last fall for $50 million.Exquisite Development has been involved in several luxury residential developments in the Southeast. Sunlight would be the company’s first ski resort project.Dooley said the company has yet to decide on the exact nature of the residential development proposal it will put before Garfield County, or the number of units the project might entail.”Of course we need to create a design that’s going to be appealing to all adventure enthusiasts. We also want it to embrace the local community and their needs. I believe if we can do those two things it’s going to be very, very successful and it’s going to be very positive for everyone involved,” he said.Dooley was able to speak with more certainty about some aspects of Exquisite Development’s plans for the resort.”There will be all new lifts, I can say that.”Sunlight’s current lifts are old and slow, and repair parts can be hard to come by.Replacing the day lodge and enhancing snowmaking also are on the company’s to-do list. Dooley said he doesn’t know yet how soon lift replacements and snowmaking upgrades will occur.Dooley said any commercial development proposal is tentative at this point. But he sees opportunities that for starters would include shops and restaurants catering to skiers, mountain bike enthusiasts and vacationers.Dooley called Williams Peak expansion “a big part of the plan.” He said it would be part of the company’s strategy for increasing skier days.Sunlight already has U.S. Forest Service permission to expand over to Williams Peak, which is now popular among backcountry ski enthusiasts. Dooley said it’s possible the expansion would occur in a later phase of the development.