Silverton Mountain goes official

It’s official. After a nearly eight-year wait, the Bureau of Land Management has inked the permit and issued a Land Use Lease to Silverton Mountain. The lease authorizes the all-expert ski area to use 1,300 acres of BLM land for a period of 40 years. Up until this point, the ski area has operated on annual permits.

BLM Durango Area Manager Mark Stiles signed the lease Oct. 10. The occasion ended a lengthy and thorough review by the BLM that started in 1999. Aaron Brill, Silverton Mountain’s founder, commented, “This is a real triumph for us being able to accomplish something nobody else has been able to do in the ski industry in more than 20 years. Since we are a tiny mom and pop area, it’s nice to be able to succeed where the big corporations could not.” 

Brill jokingly added that the lengthy review had an upside. “The bright side of the BLM process taking so long, is our 40-year term starts today instead of in 1999.”

Silverton Mountain is the first ski area to be issued a Land Use Lease by the Federal Government since Colorado’s Beaver Creek Resort in the mid 1980s.  Several highly funded large corporations have attempted to build new ski areas on USFS public land in Colorado – including Adam’s Rib Ski Area near Rifle and Stagecoach Ski Area near Steamboat Springs. However, they failed to get the necessary federal authorizations. 

Durango selects new city manager

Durango has tapped its new city manager. At a special meeting Tuesday, the Durango City Council voted unanimously to offer the position to Ronald LeBlanc. The city attorney has been directed to negotiate the terms of an employment contract.

LeBlanc currently serves as city administrator of Ketchum, Idaho, home of Sun Valley ski resort. His prior work experience includes serving as town manager of Groton, Conn.; city manager of Olathe, Kan., and Springfield, Ore.; and deputy city manager of Arvada. He holds a masters degree in public administration with a concentration in urban administration from the University of Colorado, and a bachelor of arts from Boston College.

Pending confirmation of a mutually agreeable contract, LeBlanc will fill the position of city manager that was held for nearly 25 years by Bob Ledger, who retired in August. Of 58 applicants, three candidates – LeBlanc, William Ray and Greg Clifton – came to Durango for interviews with the City Council, staff and the general public on Oct. 18 & 19.

Animas High School makes grade

An alternative high school for Durango stepped forward last week with approving nods from the Colorado Charter School. Following the Oct. 18 approval, the Animas High School set its sights on a 2008 opening. The school’s steering committee has begun work with the Colorado Charter School Institute on a contract to open a 440-student high school.

The school will be modeled after High Tech High in San Diego, and as a charter school, Animas High School will be able to set its own curriculum, calendar and policies as well as choose its own staff and board of directors. In addition, Animas High School will have a slice of each pie: as a public school, it will still receive state per-pupil funding, while its size will allow individualized learning through “project-based” curriculum.

9-R Superintendent Mary Barter congratulated the group of local residents who spearheaded Animas High School, saying, “They have provided a compelling vision for an alternative educational program for our community. We wish them the best of luck in turning their vision into a reality.”  

The real work now begins for the Animas High School steering committee, which would like to begin classes next August.

Molybdenum mine to reopen in Rico

Large-scale mining may be stepping back into the region. Bolero Resources Corp. has entered into an agreement to purchase a massive molybdenum deposit immediately east of the town of Rico. The Canadian-based company has paid a nonrefundable $100,000 deposit toward the $10 million purchase price and plans to close Nov. 16.

Bolero’s President and CEO R. Bruce Duncan commented, “We are extremely excited about the potential of this project. We believe that it may represent a significant molybdenum project in Colorado. We are also excited about the potential of the district; consequently, we have been actively staking the region.”

The Anaconda Company owned the holding between from

1979 through 1983. Anaconda estimated then that it could produce up to 273 million pounds of molybdenum at the site, according to a report in the Telluride Watch. By contrast, the Front Range’s Henderson Mine, the largest molybdenum producer in the world, has produced 770 million pounds of molybdenum since it started operations in 1976.

Molybdenum is a greasy metal used primarily to harden steel and is often mined as a by-product of copper. Molybdenum is also noted for its resistance to corrosion and is used in everything from automotive to nuclear power plant construction. For years, the price of molybdenum stagnated, but since 2002, it has risen from $2 to $35 a pound.

In 1984, Rico Properties/Rico Renaissance purchased the entire property. At that time, the goal was to redevelop the land for nonmining purposes. The group did work cooperatively with the town of Rico to update the town’s master plan and sought to create an acceptable development plan.

That changed Oct. 22 when Rico Renaissance agreed to sell the land to Bolero. Rather than a “renaissance,” Rico now seems poised to return to the dark ages of industrial mining.

Skyhawks off to defend title

The Fort Lewis College Cycling Team is off to the big show this weekend. The Skyhawks will defend their National Collegiate MTB title in Banner Elk, N.C., on Oct. 26-28. Host school Lees McRae College is putting on the three-day, four-event national championships that includes cross country, downhill, short track and dual slalom competitions.

The team truck and trailer departed Oct. 23 “packed to the gills” with bikes and equipment on a cross country journey with coaches Rick Crawford, Chris Heath and Tommy Tokarczyk at the helm. The 16-member team and three support personnel flew out of Durango the following morning.

There are individual championships on the line, and local riders are in position to win half of them. However, the main focus is bringing home the team title and getting points to the individual riders in each race. The team with the highest sum of points for the four events will be the winner.

Durangoans can follow the action online at either or

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

May 11, 2023
Digs for dirt bags

New hostel offers hikers, skiers and other frugal fun hogs place to hang their hats

May 4, 2023
Saving the cemetery

Proposed apartments spur efforts to preserve historical burial grounds

May 4, 2023
Rico reprieve

Small mountain hamlet to remain resort-free, for now