New study prompts CBMR to shift gears

Mountaineer Square North review delayed for branding results

Three weeks ago Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission chairman Dusty Demerson asked the designers of Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s proposed Mountaineer Square North development just what sets it apart from every other copy-cat base area in the state’s ski industry.



On January 9 CBMR will give an answer. Here’s a hint: “It inspires your passion for adventure.”
Six months ago the ski area began a series of surveys and interviews as part of an intensive branding study, the results of which were intended to help redefine the “brand” of the resort.
But according to CBMR’s vice president and chief marketing officer Ken Stone, “The brand is much deeper than just superficial advertising.”
On Wednesday, December 19 CBMR representatives were scheduled for the fifth in a series of public hearings to take comments on the resort’s new base area plans. According to the resort’s director of real estate and sales Michael Kraatz, they intended to show up with no changes to the plans. In fact, there wasn’t any presentation at all, because last week the company decided to shift gears and incorporate elements of the completed branding study into the plans.
According to Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick, the resort is scheduled to present the findings of the branding study, along with a taste of the new brand philosophy, in a detailed presentation to the Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission on
“They won’t have a new version,” Fitzpatrick says of the Mountaineer Square North plans. “What they will have for us on January 9 is another idea of when they’ll be ready.”
Kraatz says the move isn’t a big step back for CBMR, in the grand scheme of things, but they do have work ahead with incorporating the brand elements in the Mountaineer Square North plans.
The decision to change, Kraatz says, was largely based on Demerson’s question about distinctness, and good timing with the branding study just being completed.
Demerson says the question first occurred to him when the Planning Commission was reviewing designs for the bus loop. “I remember the focus being trying to do something distinctive, whether architecture, land use or whatever. When you see pictures of most base areas you don’t know where you are,” Demerson says.
Demerson says that philosophy of distinctness helped shape the way the Lodge turned out, but it wasn’t truly refined. When the Planning Commission started reviewing designs for Mountaineer Square North, “the question became, are we getting away from that theme,” Demerson says.
Stone says the change won’t be made to specifically set the resort apart from others, but to truly capture the spirit of Crested Butte—the way people here live, think, and play, he says.
But it’s also about the perceptions of others, previous guests and people who may be familiar with the name, but have never been here. CBMR is no longer “The Great Unknown,” the first brand Stone says the resort may have developed in the early ’70s. The resort and the North Valley as a whole, he says, have grown up. “We’re playing in a different league,” he says.
Kraatz says the new brand will certainly shape CBMR for years to come, but it will also affect developments in and around the Valley, businesses and marketing ideas.
“We’re going to make adjustments to the (Mountaineer Square North) plans we’ve already created. I don’t know to what extent, but there will be changes. Densities will not change, commercial square footages will not change. It’s the look and feel of the project that will be further refined,” Kraatz says.
Some public comments opposing the current Mountaineer Square North plans have attacked the development’s tall buildings, abundance of condominium units, and lack of any real hotels.
Even CBMR’s branding results indicate the resort needs to shift to a quality-over-volume scenario. “You need less volume if you go after the right customers,” Stone says. But Stone also says this is a theme that CBMR has been integrating in the recent developments, largely as a result of public comment.
When originally proposed, Mountaineer Square North had a much denser layout, less open space and even more condominium units than proposed today, Stone says. The resort’s plans shifted from the town’s baseline of 30 percent open space to 48 percent open space, the number of units dropped, and the density dropped as well, he says.
When asked if the upcoming renewed plans will have even fewer condo units, but with larger square footages, Stone said, “I don’t know. Certainly we need more volume… but there’s always this fear that we’re going to change and become something different because of that. I don’t think so,” Stone says.
Kraatz says the proposed North Village will also get a similar treatment, although plans for that project are still in their infancy. “The traditional neighborhood design will stay, but we’ll have further refinement of architectural standards and a change in provided amenities.”
CBMR has held several meetings with local real estate agents to give a preview of the study and how it may be incorporated, as well as several employee meetings and training sessions, Kraatz says. The lead design firm on Mountaineer Square North, California-based EDAW, has been completely supportive of the change Kraatz says. The “official” roll out, he says, will be in January.
Demerson received only a brief glimpse of the branding results as relayed to him during this interview, but says he’s excited to hear full presentation in two weeks. “I’m anxious to see how it integrates. I’m glad to see they’re thinking in that direction.”
“It’s kind of like giving birth,” Stone says. “It’s very exciting to have something to measure all of our service levels against. It really starts with what’s true, what’s meaningful, and what’s distinctive about Crested Butte.”

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