Musick takes aim at Skico |

Musick takes aim at Skico

Local developer John Musick, already locked in a legal war with Pitkin County, has decided to turn his guns on the Aspen Skiing Co.’s plans to replace the aging Sundeck restaurant with a private club atop Aspen Mountain.

In the opening salvo of his war, Musick has offered the Skico a way out before any shots are fired – simply sell several hundred “one-cost, lifetime, transferable local ski passes to be distributed to the locals for $10,000 per paid,” and he will hold off on his plan to file a lawsuit to block construction of the private club.

“I don’t think we’ll be doing that,” said Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton, with a chuckle, noting that the Sundeck is on private land and thus does not fall under federal jurisdiction.

The Skico is beginning this week to demolish most of the old Sundeck restaurant to make way for construction of a new, expanded facility, part of which will be a membership-only club for 350 to 400 members. The memberships will cost $50,000 in a one-time initiation fee, and several thousand dollars per person in annual dues.

Musick has written letters to the U.S. Forest Service offices in Glenwood Springs and Washington, D.C., Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, and the Pitkin County commissioners, requesting a vast amount of information on the Skico and its owners, the Crown Family and the Hines interests.

In the letter, Musick notes that he recently asked the Skico to make 100 memberships in the exclusive mountaintop club available to residents of Musick’s proposed housing development at W/J Ranch near Aspen.

When the Skico failed to grant his request, he changed his course and went on the attack. In the letter, he declares, “the locating of a private, exclusionary club on a skiing facility permitted by the United States Forest Service, regardless of whether or not it is on private land, is an absolute outrage.”

The letter requests information on the special-use permit granted by the county; on the Forest Service response to the application for that permit; on “all permits relevant to the exercise of this permit by the Aspen Skiing Company for any of the mountains on which it operates”; on “all permits of any kind held by the Aspen Skiing Company, the Crown family, the Hines partnership interests, and General Dynamics, or any other facility permitted to any of those entities or any other entity related in any way to those entities located anywhere in the United States.”

The letter goes on to request a variety of “correspondence, analyses, memoranda and other documents” held by the Forest Service that were used in dealing with the Sundeck club plans, and “all reports, financial statements” and other documentation concerning the permit application drafted by the Forest Service “or any other governmental agency.”

In addition, Musick demands to see a variety of correspondence, telephone notes and messages “pertaining [to] any communications between any employee, officer, agent or independent contractor of the USFS, or any other government agency” with Skico representatives.

According to Betty Schmitt of the Forest Service public relations office, the agency will have to take some time to figure out how best to respond to Musick’s requests.

“We’ll respond to whatever parts of it we can respond to,” she said, noting that certain financial information submitted by forest permittees is not public. She said her office has 20 working days from receipt of the letter, on April 5, to respond, and predicted it might take up considerable staff resources to do the job.

But, she noted, the Sundeck is on private property and the Forest Service had little to do with the review process that ultimately approved the construction of the club.

She said Musick’s request will be handled by Eric Martin, ski area manager for the agency in this region, and is likely to cost a considerable amount of money, which will be billed to Musick.

“We just don’t have the people to do it,” she said, explaining that the office would need to charge Musick to pay for the extra help needed to process the request, made under the Freedom of Information Act, and keep up with the normal daily flow of paperwork.

Or, she said, she may invite Musick to come to the office and inspect the files himself, thus saving staff time and letting Musick avoid paying the fees.

Musick also has written to Skico CEO Pat O’Donnell, suggesting the Skico reserve 375 transferable, lifetime passes for sale to locals at $10,000 apiece, which he said is roughly equivalent to the cost of the ski pass included in the membership fee. If his suggestion is rejected, he wrote, “I will be compelled to proceed with filing the litigation” calling for a court order stopping the Sundeck project.

Musick indicated he dropped his quest for club memberships because the locals he approached with the idea told him, “we do not want to associate with the captured animals behind the Crown Cage in the zoo of the private club …”

O’Donnell could not be reached for comment on Musick’s letter on Tuesday.

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