Krabloonik officially in town’s good graces, Snowmass council says

Lease no longer in default after two years of successful restaurant operations

Snowmass Village Town Councilman Tom Goode and Mayor Bill Madsen chat near one of the areas that house sled dogs at Krabloonik Dog Sledding during a site visit on Monday, June 14, 2021.
Kaya Williams/The Snowmass Sun

The owners of Krabloonik Dog Sledding in Snowmass Village are officially in the town’s good graces following an amicable site visit to the facility and subsequent work session discussion on June 14.

Town Council unanimously moved to cure a notice of default on Krabloonik’s lease that the town issued to the business on Nov. 1, 2019, after the operation temporarily suspended dinner service in the restaurant portion of the facility.

Clearing that default was a “big relief” said Danny Phillips, who co-owns and operates Krabloonik with his wife, Gina.

The notice had been pending for more than a year and a half. Krabloonik’s facilities sit on town-owned land, which its operators lease for $10 per year through 2026, and that lease includes a stipulation that the operation must serve dinner at least 100 nights per ski season.

(The lease was issued in 2006 and amended in 2015 to reflect a change in ownership; Danny and Gina Phillips purchased the business from founder Dan MacEachen in 2014.)

That 100-day requirement was not met during the 2018-19 season because the head chef experienced serious health complications and the business wasn’t staffed to provide the level service and quality of food that met Krabloonik’s standards, Gina said.

“We weren’t willing to destroy the restaurant and have one bad season where we couldn’t serve the food that we know we should be,” she said during the work session.

“Everybody had the heart to keep going, everybody wanted to keep going, but we didn’t have the staff to do it,” Danny added.

The restaurant operated on a lunch-only basis for much of that season but since then has had two successful 100-day-plus seasons of dinner service to meet the lease requirements, even amid the last year of COVID-19 restrictions, Gina said. The restaurant is already accepting reservations for the 2021-22 season, she said.

The opening of a retail shop in the Snowmass Mall last November (dubbed the “Krabloonik Country Store” for its first season; it’s now called “Guapo Dog” and operates as a boutique pet shop) was a “savior” that helped ensure success during the challenging pandemic year, Danny said. Gina added that it also helped establish a presence in the village for Krabloonik, which is located about a mile up the road from the Snowmass Mall.

The two seasons of dinner service were reason enough to cure the notice of default, Mayor Bill Madsen said. Town attorney John Dresser also recommended the motion.

Council agreed that Krabloonik would still be in the clear on their lease agreement with the current 191 dogs on site, about 30 of which are retired. The lease suggests that there should be no more than 175 dogs at the facility but Town Manager Clint Kinney said that was not a “hard and fast” rule and that there could be some flexibility.

The lease was not the only thing on the council’s mind for the site visit and work session.

The idea of a site visit to Krabloonik came on council’s radar in early April after Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk received an email expressing concerns about the state of the facilities and the care of the dogs and read several negative online reviews on the same topic.

Following the June 14 site visit, through, Shenk and Councilman Tom Goode said they were impressed with the cleanliness of the facility and the wellbeing of the animals, noting it to be an improvement over its condition when it was operated by former owner MacEachen.

The Phillips discussed animal health and wellbeing at length during the site visit, noting that systems like outdoor igloos and teathers — while perhaps not what might be expected for a family pet — are well-suited to the dogs’ desire to be outside and allow mushers to closely monitor each dog’s health and eating habits to ensure they get enough nutrients.

“My impression from some of the reviews was, a lot of people were shocked about how the dogs are living and the treatment, but … a lot of people don’t necessarily understand these types of dogs,” Shenk said.

“I certainly felt like our tour today went really great. It was nice to see the facility and, I don’t know, I think this is what this operation is,” she added.

There is also a Best Practices Review Committee with six members — three designated by the town, three by Krabloonik — who conduct random spot checks, visit the facility quarterly and meet annually to write a report that details whether the facility is following the best practices for animal care. Council reviewed reports and notes from that committee and though and did not see any standout worries.

“If they had major concerns we would have seen that in the documents, and I didn’t see that in place,” Shenk said.