Crown: ‘There’s no Base Village light’ | AspenTimes.com
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Crown: ‘There’s no Base Village light’

Steve Benson
Jim Crown glances at a model of the Base Village proposal last night in Snowmass Village. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.
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It’s do-or-die time for Snowmass Village, said the owner of the Aspen Skiing Co. Tuesday.Jim Crown made it clear in a community forum last night that if Base Village is rejected, there will not be another similar proposal in the future. “It’s either Base Village or no Base Village,” Crown told a standing-room-only mass of residents and second-home owners in the Snowmass Club’s Daly Room. “There’s no Base Village light.” But in a stark contrast to last fall’s town-sponsored community forums, which were greeted by the public with a high degree of skepticism and concern over the project’s size, last night’s forum was largely met with approval. If there are any residents of Snowmass Village who continue to oppose Base Village, they chose not to voice their objections last night.

Applause greeted several citizens who spoke up, including former Town Councilman Bob Purvis, who expressed support for the project and a desire to see it move forward sooner rather than later. “We ought to get on with this,” Purvis said.Some even ripped the idea of a referendum, which Crown said he both expects and respects as a democratic right. But he added that a referendum is a black-and-white issue, as voters will either revoke the Town Council’s decision or accept it.”There are no adjustments and no amendments,” he said. “The referendum will be an absolute junction in the road.” Crown’s presentation included his family’s history in Aspen, which dates to the 1970s, and commitment as the Skico’s full owners. He said Base Village is a “substantial financial risk” and is the largest business project his family has ever considered backing.The project would include $46 million in on-mountain improvements.

“We’ve been calling it a renaissance for Snowmass Village,” said Bill Kane, Skico’s vice president of planning. “And that’s what we believe it is.”Crown said Snowmass is losing both old and potential new customers to competition such as Beaver Creek.”Where are they going?” he asked. “To competitors with new villages, period.”While many applauded the compromises the Skico and resort developer Intrawest, who are partners on the project, have made to the plan in the past three years, other issues, like the reliability of the Pitkin County airport, came under fire.Bill Rafferty, who owns a home in Snowmass Village but lives in Houston, said he flies into Eagle and drives to Snowmass to avoid the headaches of flying into Aspen. Is it possible, he asked, that the problems at the airport will dissuade customers from visiting Snowmass and Base Village? Pat O’Donnell, CEO of the Skico, said winter sports enthusiasts are tremendously resilient, and the prospect of driving from Eagle to Aspen would not be daunting.

He said the drive to Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia, which is widely considered the top resort in North America, is two hours from the nearest airport. And Mammoth Mountain, Calif., attracts most of its customers from Los Angeles, which is about a six-hour drive. He said they both continue to grow and their skier days are increasing because they are “wonderful” resorts, and they have attractive base villages. Others wondered if Base Village will suffer like the Skico’s last bottom-mountain project – Aspen Highlands Village – which has been a virtual ghost town since its completion a few years ago. “Highlands was a big series of lessons learned,” Crown said, adding that those mistakes, such as building it “woefully undersized,” will not be repeated in Snowmass. The rest of the public’s concerns addressed the phasing of Base Village and the impacts of the construction, both of which will be the focus of the next community forum on Sept. 1. Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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