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New Era in Ski Area Development

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
We all know that new ski areas are an endangered species. Here is an article from today's Denver Post about an alternative to traditional area development. Thoughts?

Wyoming town embraces ski resort plan
Homes to be built along runs

By Jason Blevins
Denver Post Business Writer

Monday, November 19, 2001 - ENCAMPMENT, Wyo. - A few steps down from the peak of Green Mountain, Bruce Burger stands in the middle of an oddly flat clearing with a sweeping view of the North Platte River valley and the Snowy Mountain Range.

"It's perfect," he says, pointing to the glades of aspen and lodgepole pine that roll down the mountain, spilling onto a gently sloping ridge.

Burger, who works for Montana developer Sand Creek, has joined several Wyoming investors to develop a ski hill on their 620-acre parcel with high-end homes lining the ski runs. In this clearing, the group has sketched plans for a mountaintop lift terminal from which homeowners can ski to their back doors.

The project, called Grand Encampment Mountain Resort, has been embraced by leaders in this remote section of Carbon County, a four-hour drive from Denver.

Green Mountain, with its north-facing bowls and abundant snowfall, was identified 35 years ago by forest rangers in the Medicine Bow National Forest as a perfect spot for a ski area. Local citizen groups years ago tried to pursue a small sales tax in the county to fund a municipal hill, but the effort foundered.

Despite its topographical promise for skiing, there has never been a market for skiing along these sparsely populated banks of the North Platte. The town closest to the project boasts a population of fewer than 50.

But, as any Realtor in the Rocky Mountains can attest, demand for second homes in the hills is skyrocketing - homes surrounded by myriad options for outdoor play that can attract generations of families.

"In my mind, this is the chance to build Vail for the first 200 families who arrived there, then we stop development and pull out the interstate," says John Jenkins, president of Sand Creek, a Billings, Mont.-based developer that specializes in ranch preservation. "This is the same notion that biggest is not necessarily the best. It will be resort living the way it used to be."

Jenkins' words mirror those often uttered by the developers of Montana's exclusive Yellowstone Club, where several high-speed lifts service dozens of groomed runs along parcels being sold for elite mountain homes. The 12,000-acre private Yellowstone Club, just outside Big Sky, was the first in the country to build a ski area just for millionaire members.

"I guess we are the everyman's Yellowstone Club," says Burger, whose group has not yet set prices for the expected 140 to 190 homesites planned at the base of Green Mountain.

But Burger promises that prices will be much lower than ski-in/ski-out homesites found at ski areas south of the Wyoming border.

The project was launched by Pat Lynch, an Encampment resident who worked for years in the area as district ranger for the Medicine Bow National Forest. He also helped the Forest Service plan ski hills at Copper and Aspen.

Part of his job in Wyoming was studying the feasibility of skiing on Green Mountain.

Recognizing that skiing would not work without residential development, Lynch rounded up Sand Creek and four Wyoming investors; found a 640-acre parcel of land near Centennial, Wyo.; and organized a land swap in May with the Wyoming State Land Board, which owned 620 acres of prime ski terrain on the mountain. The parcel is surrounded on four sides by national forest land.

The property has been zoned for 285 homes; about 290 acres are suitable for building.

Burger says that the group is determined to build fewer homes. There are plans for a single chairlift rising about 1,200 vertical feet and accessing about 300 acres of skiing. Surface lifts will help homeowners move about the mountain on skis. Preliminary homesites have been sketched into dense lodgepole pine groves, sunny aspen stands and sagebrush meadows.

The project, which has been approved by Carbon County commissioners, is now entering the planning process. Lots are expected to be offered for sale within the next three years.

Most of the ski terrain is intermediate, but the group plans to thin trees on steeper slopes to provide more advanced glade skiing. The area would be open to the community, although it would not market itself as a destination playground.

Burger says the group expects to see about $100 million in retail sales. It's budgeting about $50 million to develop infrastructure, the ski area including a base lodge, and 50 developer-built, 2,000-square-foot cabins.

Another $20 million is budgeted to handle the financing.

Private, communal ownership of mountain ranchland is a growing trend in the ranch real estate market. Large scale ranches in pricey markets are often sold to a handful of wealthy buyers who pay to keep the ranch operational and preserve the land from dense development.

The trend is also common for golf communities, where high-end homes abut private golf courses. It's a new move for the ski world but seen as a return to the roots of skiing and an escape from the bustle of ever-growing ski resort communities.

"This is an alternative to what's going on in the mountains," Burger says.
post #2 of 5

Lots of things come to mind like is this really necessary? Can't the pristine mountains be spared and used by everyone? How much will it cost to insure this place and pay for the lift operation and maintenance?

Sounds like conspicuous consumption to me. Also sounds like it's going to take away from the income of existing resorts.

But these are just thoughts off the top of my head.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ November 19, 2001 01:30 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Sugar Snack ]</font>
post #3 of 5
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Fredskier:
It's a new move for the ski world but seen as a return to the roots of skiing and an escape from the bustle of ever-growing ski resort communities.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hmmm, doesn't seem anything like that to me.
post #4 of 5
Yea, I have to agree with the other posters. Seems more like sprawl on a grand scale to me.

Just like putting a house on a big piece of property, you end up using up more open space. Much better to concentrate usage in one area and leave the rest of the space be.
post #5 of 5

Would have to agree. If it is going to be a ski area just put in a few well placed lifts to access the best terrain, a small day lodge and not much else. A MRG of the West.

The current development plan is for the rich and famous.

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