Skiing Co. takes pivotal step in its overhaul of Snowmass |

Skiing Co. takes pivotal step in its overhaul of Snowmass

The Aspen Skiing Co. paid $11 million yesterday to acquire about 500 acres of real estate in and around Snowmass ski area.

After months of negotiations, the multimillion-dollar deal was sealed yesterday between the Skico and Snowmass Land Co., according to Skico attorney Dave Bellack.

The plum of the purchase was a 15-acre parcel that stretches from the base of the Fanny Hill chairlift to east of the Woodrun chairlift, including Lot A, the main day-skier parking lot in the resort.

Skico officials believe that the 15-acre parcel, known as Base Village, is the key to Snowmass’ future. They want to level it off, then construct base facilities that are befitting a major, modern resort and more up to snuff with competition.

Those facilities will include skier services, restaurants, retail shops and short-term tourist accommodations, according to Bill Kane, Skico vice president of planning and development.

That property is also the key to solving Snowmass’ ongoing mountain-access woes. Relying on the overwhelmed Fanny Hill lift to move the bulk of the skiers out in the morning isn’t cutting it anymore, said Kane.

Although planning is preliminary, Kane said he envisions extending the Fanny Hill lift farther down the slope into the Base Village area, adding a chairlift or gondola from Base Village to the Elk Camp section of the mountain, and replacing the Burlingame chairlift with a high-speed model.

That would spread the crowd among three lifts rather than just one.

Kane is working with Skico vice president of real estate Don Schuster to come up with a development plan for the property. Schuster said whatever plan emerges must balance the short-term need to generate capital to pay for mountain improvements with the long-term needs for the operations of a ski resort operator.

“We’re a ski company,” Schuster said. “We’re going to be here for a long time.”

The market might suggest, for example, that development and sale of townhouses would generate the most capital. But the Skico doesn’t want to develop property that will just sit empty a good share of the time, Schuster said.

Instead it wants “hot beds” that turn over frequently and supply customers for the ski area. That could include anything from a hotel to a high-end, timeshare property or possibly a mix, he said.

Kane said Skico officials hope to have a proposal prepared for the town of Snowmass Village by next spring. He and Schuster said they regard the first step as less of a review and more of a joint exploration between the Skico and community on what should be developed.

The vision for Base Village has been cloudy for over 30 years. The Skico jointly owned the Base Village parcel with the Snowmass Land Co. through much of the 1990s, but the partners failed to earn approvals for two plans.

Skico officials say they will now be able to advance a plan with only one set of goals rather than a wish list of two partners.

“We’ve taken the original Base Village submission and wiped the slate clean,” said Schuster.

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