Blumenthal: Snowmass needs to step up to compete |

Blumenthal: Snowmass needs to step up to compete

Mel Blumenthal
Second View
Mel Blumenthal

I’m back in sunny Santa Monica for a few weeks while the snow gods contemplate when they’ll start dropping some new powder in the Roaring Fork Valley. In the meantime, I’ll while away mostly sunny days in the mid- to upper 70s and attempt to stay fit with regular bike rides along the beach and hikes with Jersey in the nearby mountains. I’m counting on the snow gods to work their magic in time for my return in mid-February and a Muttering Mad Hutter multiday ski excursion to Crested Butte and a backcountry yurt trip at the top of Tennessee Pass.

A week ago, a couple of Mad Hutters took a not-so-rustic overnight ski excursion to Telluride. It’s been quite a few years since I last skied there, and I had forgotten what a wonderful ski area and town it is.

We stayed at the historic and beautifully renovated New Sheridan Hotel in the heart of town — new because the original hotel built in 1891 burned down in 1894 and was rebuilt in 1895 with a major restoration in 2008.

The town has lots of character and pleasant authenticity, adhering more closely to its early mining heritage than Aspen has done of late. The mountain along with the newer Mountain Village area offer a magnificent variety of ski runs and social amenities that kept us fully occupied and satisfied in spite of the five-hour car ride it took to get there.

Due to comments in my last column concerning less-than-ideal levels of service at many establishments in Snowmass Village, I was on the lookout for similar issues in Telluride but happily found nothing but very cordial, helpful and well-trained employees wherever we went. Some of our local business operations have a good deal of work ahead of them to meet the high-level service standards at other resorts in our competitive set.

That being said, I’d like to give a shout-out to several of our village establishments and their staffs that consistently work their butts off to deliver high-quality service and offerings to our residents and guests.

I’ve previously complimented Aspen Skiing Co. on its exemplary and well-honed on- and off-mountain service standards and its well-trained staff. To this I’d like to similarly add well-deserved attaboys to Il Poggio, Aspen Sports, Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant/Cafe, The Artisan at Stonebridge Inn, Taster’s, Sundance Liquor & Gifts, Daly Bottle Shop and Grain Fine Food, Starbucks and Fuel, all of which deliver great service and quality offerings along with a smile and good cheer no matter how busy they are.

Hopefully other village establishments that don’t quite measure up to the quality standards set by these establishments will take their lead and work on making much-needed improvements in their staff selection and training.

Another disturbing note we must come to grips with is no matter what we wish to happen with the restart of construction in Base Village this year, unfortunately it’s becoming evident that nothing is likely to happen until the spring or summer of 2016 at the earliest.

Due to the nature of the changes requested in Related’s application for a major amendment of its previously approved plans, I hear the town staff is contemplating something akin to what likely will amount to taking a whole new look at what Base Village should look and feel like.

That may be heartening to those among us who never wanted Base Village approved as it was back in the early part of this decade, but unfortunately it’s now partially built and in its stalled state is an eyesore and obstacle to improving property values in and around the village as well as a detriment to fully achieving our village aspiration.

Brushing aside all the messy technical issues contained in Related’s amendment application, the thousand-pound elephant in the room is Related’s community-purpose obligations, which are the quid pro quo for all the variances previously granted to Related.

From Related’s standpoint, it wants to save as much money as it can get away with, but its proposal to replace the much grander public aqua-center complex originally approved as one of Related’s community-purpose obligations with a smaller pool adjacent to the proposed Limelight hotel primarily for use by its guests and a few condo owners in Base Village is clearly of lesser value in fulfilling its community-purpose obligations.

As has been previously suggested, a fully renovated and reasonably sized Discovery Center to house and display actual artifacts and replicas of our recently discovered prehistoric mammoths and related findings along with an all-purpose adjunct multiuse facility for lectures, meetings, film, theater and music presentations would likely make up for any diminished community-purpose valuation. However, Related will have to foot most if not the full bill to make it all work, and that, for those of us who adhere to the old adage “follow the money,” is likely where the discussions will be focused.

From what I’m hearing, it will take much longer than originally anticipated for Related and the town to reach a mutually agreeable consensus on this item and to complete the town’s review of Related’s application. Unfortunately, as I said before, it’s unlikely we’ll see any construction activity in Base Village this year.

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