Aspen Skiing Co. should buy out Browns |

Aspen Skiing Co. should buy out Browns

I have to laugh at the news that the Browns have pulled out of the Lift One plan. Aspen has been hoisted on its own petard, to borrow from Shakespeare. No one should be surprised.

Since we first visited the town, Aspen has become a magnet for promoters. The goal seems always to use other people’s money to become rich. A few have. Most fail. Michael Fox tried when he contracted to convert the Aspen Club into a swank time-share with a health club. The Aspen Club is in bankruptcy apparently because the time-shares could not be sold. Meantime the location is an eyesore, like the old Boomerang, which has been closed for more than a decade.

Investors no doubt saw through the Gorsuch ruse when they were asked to put money up to bolster the promoters. Lift One was (and is) an ambitious project. It would be difficult to build under budget in any location. In Aspen it would be impossible to build under budget.

Construction costs are higher in Aspen for several reasons. The city’s fees and taxes boost costs. However, the costs of labor are a more serious issue. The workers who would build Lift One live as far away as Silt or even Grand Junction. They will come to Aspen only if compensated for their travel time. Most drive because RFTA does not accommodate tools. Anyone bidding on a three-year project must assume that the delays will get longer and longer.

Then there is global warming. Lift One is not likely to be finished for four or five years. Real returns will only be earned after 20 years. Yet today, no one is willing to guarantee that Aspen mountain will be open for skiing in 2030 thanks to global warming.

There is only one way Lift One gets built. The Aspen Skiing Co. must buy the Browns out. Skico can implement the project if the Crowns put up the funds. It will be a trophy property which probably never pays for itself. On the other hand, Skico and the Crowns are first-class builders. They are not promoters.

Philip Verleger