Skico buys 500 acres in Snowmass
In a significant shift in the dynamics of Snowmass Village land ownership, the Aspen Skiing Co. signed a contract Tuesday to purchase 500 acres from the Snowmass Land Co.
According to the county assessor’s office, the “big players” in the town’s land ownership are the Skico and the Snowmass Land Co. But after the deal is finalized, the Land Co.’s holdings will shrink to 150 acres while Skico’s will burgeon to over 900 acres.
Where that shift will play out most significantly is in future plans to build a base village. Prior to current negotiations, the Skico and Land Co. had planned to be partners in the large development. Now, the Skico will hone the design to fit its own specifications.
“All previous plans effectively had to blend our and the Land Co.’s objectives. Now we can form our own program,” said Bill Kane, the Skico’s vice president of planning and development.
As a result, the Skico is going back to the drawing board, meaning it could be quite some time before the company is ready to submit a conceptual plan to the town’s planning office. Once the market studies are completed and the Skico’s planning staff has refined the company’s designs, Kane expects the process to be much smoother than in the past, when lawsuits between the town and the Skico and Land Co. marred relationships.
“This certainly speeds up the decision-making process by offering a much simpler kind of organizational structure,” Kane said.
The land purchase comes as a welcome change, believes at least one town leader.
“It’s still a big, complicated problem, but now it’s one step simpler,” said Mayor T. Michael Manchester. “At least there aren’t two sets of interests potentially fighting against each other and making conflicts more difficult to resolve.”
The Skico’s intention to develop 15 acres at the base of Fanny Hill as a Base Village is the most important concern for the company and the town. But the other 485 acres purchased from the Land Co. will also play significant roles in Skico’s future plans.
Much of the land under contract – roughly 300 acres – is property between Fanny Hill and Forest Service land, but other important pieces of the deal include: Sinclair Meadows, land adjacent to Burnt Mountain, and a series of open-space parcels scattered within the town’s boundaries.
Manchester views the company’s increased flexibility as an asset when it comes to working with the town.
“Now one entity has more ability to work with a bigger picture in mind and can more easily move pieces around,” Manchester said. “I feel Skico understands the bigger picture of the needs of the town as a whole and how this investment is good for them and good for us.”
At this point, the Skico doesn’t anticipate any expansion of ski terrain, but there will be a concerted effort to improve the “skier experience” off the slopes.
“In order for Snowmass to maintain its position as a world-class resort, it is essential to provide an effective and efficient base village that meets the needs of guests and residents alike,” said Pat O’Donnell, Skico’s president and CEO.
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Mario Ruiz came to Aspen Highlands from Bariloche through the ski patrol exchange as part of the Sister Cities program last winter. He quickly ingrained himself with the Highlands patrol. Ruiz was killed July 27 in an avalanche while working at his home ski area. The Highlands patrol is raising funds for his family.