Vail hoping to corner the market

VAIL – Vail Resorts Inc. continues to calculate how it can steal market share from other resorts while building real estate at the base of Vail Mountain.

Ever Vail, this gleam in the company’s eye, has already been in the planning for a decade. It would cover 12 acres, connect to the ski mountain via a new gondola, and has a price tag of $1 billion.

There would be 428 housing units, and in announcing revised plans, company officials emphasized that 60 percent of buyers would likely be new to Vail. The company identifies the price range as $350,000 - $450,000, at the low end for slopeside housing units of 1,500 square feet in Vail.

“We’re opening up the capacity for new people to come here,” said Tom Miller, project manager for Ever Vail.

From the outset, Vail Resorts had described the project as one designed for new generations of buyers, Gen X and Gen Y.

“We believe we’ll be one of, if not the only, resort community that’s going to be able to market new product – that’s going to pull people away from these other resort communities,” said Kristin Kenney Williams, speaking at a recent meeting covered by theVail Daily.

Plans also call for a 102-room hotel plus 15,564 square feet of retail, which is 30 percent less than what was previously announced. Now, the company says it doesn’t want to compete with existing business. It does, however, plan a 13,000 square-foot specialty grocery store plus 1,400 parking spaces.

Also in the works: an 80-foot indoor climbing wall.

Naturalists scoff at Banff via ferrata

BANFF, Alberta – Earlier this year officials from Parks Canada announced they’d review a proposal to install an aided climbing route called a via ferrata. The via ferrata would not be directly be related to the natural landscape of Banff, but would draw additional visitors, supporters say.

A group called the Bow Valley Naturalists disagrees, insisting that Canadians want national parks as place “where the natural world may be experienced on its own terms: no gimmicks, no bells and whistles,” in the words of Mike McIvor, in a letter excerpted in theRocky Mountain Outlook.

Writing in the same publication, Jeff Gailus insists “Reading between the lines, we can all see that the real impetus for via ferrata and other titillations is to make commercial operators in our national parks ‘competitive’ (and more profitable) with their counterparts outside the parks.

“If Whistler gets a bigger amusement park than Banff does, well, then Banff should get to expand its amusement facilities too,” he continues. “Unless this is exposed for what it is, we can expect to see, over time, the need for a never-ending list of titillations and amusements that will be necessary to keep pace with so-called progress.”

The argument in Canada parallels a similar one in the United States, where ski areas who operate on national forest land have been seeking clear authority to expand summer-time activities that, like via ferrata, might be called amusement park-type attractions but in majestic outdoor settings.

Lending market beginning to thaw

VAIL – If prices remained far below what they were three years ago, real estate activity has been picking up in Vail and the broader Eagle Valley. Part of this has been due to somewhat relaxed lending procedures.

Mortgage brokers and bankers tell theVail Daily that deals can be done more easily now than a year ago, but the process remains far more demanding than during the boom years.

It used to be that even people without much proof of their income could secure loans with little documentation. Sarah Jardis, president of Central Rockies Mortgage, a company based in Avon, told the newspaper that those days are gone – probably forever.

But they can still get loans. They just have to prove income. If the proof is show in income taxes, they should be able to get loans.

Bill Walsh, president of the Alpine Bank in Avon, told the newspaper that mortgages for condo-tel – short for condominium units

partly used for hotel rooms – have become easier, helping such projects as the Westin Riverwalk.

But the shadow of the recession still hangs over the market, says James Wilkins, of FirstBank of Vail. “The floodgates are not open,” he said. “The local real estate market is still uncertain.”

Residents push to rename fourteener

CRESTONE – A familiar debate has returned in a proposal to rename one of Colorado’s highest peaks, 14,165-foot Kit Carson Peak. Residents of the nearby town of Crestone are petitioning to give the peak a new title, Mount Crestone.

As reported by theColorado Springs Gazette, the proposal is partly a referendum on the legacy of Kit Carson, the mountain man who became a celebrity in the 1840s when he became a guide for John Charles Frémont.

But those who want his name removed describe Carson as a war criminal. “They point to his brutal 1863-64 campaign against the Navajo, when, acting under orders from the Union government, he led a march of destruction through their territory. When they surrendered, some 8,000 were forced on a 300-mile march to New Mexico, where they lived in captivity for several years, losing many of their numbers.”

One of the 104 petition-signers describes Carson as a “shameful character of U.S. history.”

Others say that locals have always called it Crestone Mountain – although two other peaks in the neighborhood also bear the name Crestone.

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which has jurisdiction over names of geographic features on public lands, will review the proposal in the next few months.

Even if Carson’s names get expurgated from that mountain, it would remain in many places of the West and Great Plains. His name graces towns, counties, a national forest and a river.

Vail debates value of sculpture

VAIL – What is art worth? The Vail Town Council was scheduled this week to revisit that famous question as it pondered the fate of sculptured outdoor art that has been in storage for the last five years.

The art was originally commissioned in 1999 to be placed in Seibert Circle, at Vail’s oldest and still more important ski portal. It was created by a Texas artist, Jesus Moroles. But the art – a series of stones, meant to represent Vail and the Gore Valley in which it is located – was problematic for a variety of reasons, including issues with snow removal. The town eventually put the art into storage.

Moroles’ star has been rising, however, and some local art dealers in Vail think that the piece might now be worth $2 million. There is a movement afoot to get the art out of the municipal closet and into more prominent display in a park. The cost of doing so would be $260,000.

Some critics say the town could use the money better. But Margaret Rogers, a City Council member, sees the Moroles’ art as a draw, especially among Texans. “Art lovers – that’s a niche in the travel industry we’d like to get a bigger piece of,” she told theVail Daily.

But a prominent local activist, Jim Lamont, who directs the Vail Homeowners Association, has been skeptical. “What down the road, do we need to do to keep the economy afloat?” he asks. “I’m of the mind that art installations don’t do it.”

Whistler takes a look in the mirror

WHISTLER, B.C. – Most of the big questions of the ski world seem to get asked in Aspen first, and so it was that Aspen in the 1970s began asking: How much is too much?

Aspen kept growing, eventually getting the four-lane highway that it had so long opposed.

In Winter Park, where Intrawest was developing real estate several years ago, its motto was: “Just enough.”

However much that was.

Meanwhile, in Whistler, the same conversation continues in a different way. Taking stock of his community of the last 11 years, staff writer Andrew Mitchell ofPique Newsmagazine notes many losses: nighttime stars, empty restaurant tables, and so on.

– Allen Best

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows