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S’mass, Skico officials to visit Utah, Canada resorts

Brent Gardner-Smith

Members of the Snowmass Village Town Council and the town’s staff are packing their duffel bags for trips to Whistler, British Columbia, and Park City, Utah, with representatives from the Aspen Skiing Co.’s planning and development arm.

The purpose of the trips is to look at competitors’ base areas to see what might make sense for the bottom of the Snowmass Ski Area in the area known as Base Village.

“It’s crucial to understand what our competitors are doing and why visitors are going there instead of here,” Bill Kane, the Skico’s vice president of planning and development, told the Town Council last week.

The trip, which is costing the town about $2,000 per person, is hard to characterize as a ski trip as the tight itinerary doesn’t include any time riding chairlifts. Instead, the group will be touring base area facilities and will be checking out more hotel rooms than bump runs.

All five members of the Town Council are planning to go on the three-day trip, as is the town manager, the public works director and the planning director. Additional staff and members of the Planning Commission will likely meet the larger group in the Park City area but will pass on the more expensive leg of the trip to Whistler, which Kane characterized as “dead-on our competition.”

Personnel going from the Skico include Kane, Dave Bellack, the company’s in-house attorney, Don Schuster, the company’s vice president of real estate, and several members of the company’s planning department.

The group plans to leave Aspen on Tuesday, Feb. 6, and fly to Vancouver and then drive to Whistler. Once there, they will tour the village core, the transportation center and other areas. At 5:30 p.m., the group will engage in a little “aprs research” at the Dublin Gate, an authentic Guinness pub.

When urging the Town Council to send all five members to Whistler, Bellack said “the [Whistler] village vitality is unlike anything else we’ve seen.” The visit to the pub might help convince the Town Council of that.

The next day, the group will meet with Hugh Smyth, president of the resort operations group of Intrawest, which owns the Whistler/Blackcomb resort, to talk about operations and activities. Then they will tour the Pan Pacific and Westin hotels, as well as the Whistler Creek base area. From 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., a block of open time is scheduled that could allow for some turns.

After 4 p.m., the group will tour the Meadow Parks Sports Center, including an aqua center and skating rink, and then return to Vancouver.

The next day, Thursday, Feb. 8, the group will fly to Salt Lake City and drive to The Canyons resort outside of Park City to tour the new Grand Summit hotel and the Sun Dial condos. They will spend that night in Park City. The next day, the group will go to Deer Valley and tour the Deer Valley Club, the Silver Lake Lodge, the Stein Eriksen Lodge, the Snow Park Lodge and the Lodge at Deer Valley. At the end of the day, on the way back to Salt Lake, the group plans to stop and check out the base area of the Solitude ski area and then catch a plane back to Aspen.

On Monday, Town Councilman Arnie Mordkin asked the other elected board members if maybe two members of the town’s Planning Commission shouldn’t join them on the Whistler leg of the trip, as they too will be reviewing Base Village.

Financial concerns nixed the idea, however.

“I have a concern about how much of the town’s money we are spending on research,” said Doug Mercatoris, Snowmass Village town councilman.

Instead, the Planning Commission members and some additional members of the town staff are planning to meet the group in Park City.

The town has budgeted $10,000 for the resort tours, which also include a trip to Telluride on Feb. 22 and 23.


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