Intrawest may help develop S’mass base |

Intrawest may help develop S’mass base

One of the biggest companies in the resort development business is helping the Aspen Skiing Co. figure out what to do with its lucrative property at at the base of Snowmass Ski Area.

Intrawest Corp. – which owns and operates popular ski resorts like Whistler/Blackcomb and Copper Mountain – could end up playing a large role in the Skico’s development of a new base village, according to Skico Vice President of Development Bill Kane.

The Skico brought Intrawest executive Gary Raymond to town last month to look over 12 acres of land it owns at the base of Snowmass. The trip was primarily a professional courtesy from Raymond to Kane. The two have worked together previously, Kane explained.

But the relationship could grow beyond that. There’s a chance that Intrawest could be invited to develop a portion of the base property or become a partner in the entire development, Kane explained.

The Skico had a similar arrangement with the Hines development company at the base of Aspen Highlands. Developer Gerald Hines acquired the ski area, then immediately merged with the Skico.

While the Skico ran the mountain, Hines developed a $230 million village which will be completed next year.

Kane wouldn’t disclose whether the Skico is inviting other companies to look at Base Village. At this point, he said, the Skico will get approvals for its project, then decide whether it wants to enlist a partner for development.

The Skico aims to submit a development proposal this summer that will include tourist accommodations, skier services, retail shops, restaurants and new chairlifts.

Intrawest is an expert when it comes to developing ski resort villages. Its work at Whistler and Blackcomb villages is continuing. It undertook a $250 million overhaul of Copper Mountain. It even became partners with rival Vail Resorts to redevelop the village at Keystone Resort.

The Vancouver-based Intrawest owns 10 mountain resorts and a golf resort in Florida and has a 45 percent interest in Alpine Helicopters Ltd., owner of the world’s largest heli-skiing operation. During the 1998-99 ski season, the company’s resorts generated about 6.4 million skier visits.

The presence of an Intrawest executive stoked waves of rumors in Aspen that the ski industry heavyweight was purchasing the Aspen Skiing Co. and its four local ski areas.

Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton insisted the rumors are untrue. He believes Intrawest’s Raymond was introduced to a lot of locals while he was here, and that sparked speculation of an acquisition.

Kane stressed that at this point it is not even known if Intrawest will be invited to develop some of the Snowmass base village or become a partner in the project.

The review of the project will likely start in mid-summer 2001 and continue for 12 to 18 months, he said.

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Posted: Tuesday, March 6, 2001

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