Snowmass Town Council wowed by Whistler on tour of base areas |

Snowmass Town Council wowed by Whistler on tour of base areas

Brent Gardner-Smith

PARK CITY, Utah – The Snowmass Village Town Council is having breakfast in Deer Valley this morning. They had dinner last night in Park City. Thursday morning, they woke up in Vancouver, British Columbia. Lunch on Wednesday was in Whistler. And they expect to be back in Snowmass tonight.

Four of the five members of the town board have been on a whirlwind tour of ski areas in Canada and Utah since Tuesday morning. They are traveling with executives of the Aspen Skiing Co. and are comparing notes on base lodges, condos, hotels and base area facilities at the Whistler, Canyons, Deer Valley and Solitude ski areas. The goal is to make better decisions as they review the Skico’s proposal to develop a key portion of the base of the Snowmass Ski Area.

And while their trip is still in progress, it’s fair to say that seeing the village at Whistler/Blackcomb energized the elected officials and made them more optimistic about the future of Snowmass.

“We now believe we can make Snowmass Village as good a resort as Whistler, and then some,” said Mayor T. Michael Manchester on Thursday evening, as he toured The Canyons, just outside Park City.

Manchester and council members Arnie Mordkin, Dick Virtue and Bob Purvis are on the road with town manager Gary Suiter, town planner Chris Conrad and public works director Hunt Walker.

Joining them from the Skico are Bill Kane, vice president of planning and development, Don Schuster, vice president of real estate, Dave Bellack, vice president and general counsel, and John Sale, a ski area planner.

Given the expense of air fares to Canada, five members of the town’s planning commission opted to meet up with the group Thursday afternoon at The Canyons. And even though they were at a ski resort in Utah, much of the talk was about the Whistler leg of the trip.

“Everything they do at Whistler won’t work for us, but a lot of what they do will,” said Virtue, who was impressed with how Intrawest has developed the village there. “These guys are really engaged and they think about things in a really logical way.”

Council members were struck by how the Whistler village was laid out to ensure good views of the two ski areas from the main pedestrian walkway; how the restaurants were located to catch afternoon sun; and how 65 percent of the commercial space is restaurants and bars so there are reasons beyond retail stores for people to stay in the village.

“I think there are lessons to be learned from these people,” said Purvis.

It was the first time that any members of the Snowmass Town Council had been to Whistler, which is often ranked the No. 1 ski area in North America.

“Whistler has a village formula that is really successful,” said the Skico’s Kane, who was pleased the company could help facilitate the Town Council’s trip. “There really is a vocabulary of resort design. Now it’s hard for the group to get through a conversation without using an example of something we’ve seen. It’s really instructive.”

While the board members feel the trip is justified, they are aware that some members of the public might think they are on a ski trip junket.

But “ski trip” is not a correct term given that the tightly scheduled trip did not allow for any ski time. And among Snowmass Village locals, many of whom live to ski, the bigger sin might be going all the way to Whistler and not making time to ski.

But the only turns the elected officials from Snowmass Village are making on this trip are lefts and rights down hallways as they tour the new crop of condos, fractional ownership projects and hotels at a series of base areas.

Today, the group planned to tour the Marriott Mountainside hotel in Park City and then see the Deer Valley Club, the Silver Lake Lodge, the Snow Park Lodge and the Lodge at Deer Valley.

But before they have time to buckle a boot, they are off toward Salt Lake City to visit the Olympic luge, bobsledding and ski jumping facilities, and then see the base area of the Solitude ski area before catching a plane for home.

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