Major projects to hit the dirt this spring
Some common New Year’s resolutions might be to quit smoking, recycle more often, and take better care of the Chia pet. Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) also has some resolutions, but they’re a bit bigger: begin construction on two new major buildings, implement a new brand strategy, lay the groundwork for new chair lifts and terrain, and exceed 425,000 skier days.
The big-ticket items that will be most readily noticeable by visitors will be the groundbreakings of the Red Lady Lodge and the Cimarron building. CBMR general manager Randy Barrett says groundwork on both of these projects will begin early in the spring once the lifts close.
The proposed Cimarron building will be in the area formerly occupied by the Gothic building, which is currently an open field in the middle of the base area. The town of Mt. Crested Butte approved the Cimarron project in 2005. The new building will be home to a cafeteria and bar with slope-side deck, ticket and rental facilities, retail shops, a slope-side private swimming pool, as well as an array of locker rooms. The top five floors will house 95 condominiums, which range from $875 to $1,500 per square foot. The foundation and first floor decking are scheduled for completion by the start of the 2008-09 ski season. Completion of the building is not expected until late 2010.
The other building, the proposed 22,000-square-foot Red Lady Lodge, will be located just past the top of the Red Lady Express lift on the north side of the ski slope. The lodge proposal includes a storage area for CBMR, a main dining space for 230 people, a fine dining component that will seat 100 guests, and a separate play area for kids. A single, large kitchen will serve both dining facilities. Construction of the Red Lady Lodge will take approximately 16 to 18 months.
Aside from two new buildings, Barrett says the resort is eagerly anticipating the decision notice from the U.S. Forest Service for the Main Mountain Improvements plan in February.
CBMR’s Main Mountain Improvements Plan includes a new T-bar lift out of Teocalli Bowl, new high-speed lifts for Painter Boy and Gold Link, the addition of gondola cars on the Red Lady Express, 40 acres of new snowmaking, and 50 acres of new and expanded terrain.
In addition, the plan outlines the relocation of the ski patrol headquarters to the top of the Silver Queen lift, an expansion of the Ice Bar, and several improvements related to the proposed Red Lady Lodge.
CBMR unveiled its master plan to the public in November 2005. Barrett says the improvements plan is an overall vision for the build-out of the main mountain over the next several years. With approval of the plan, “We will be able to start to implement some of those projects and may move forward with some of those this summer,” he says.
Gunnison/Crested Butte Tourism Association director Jane Chaney says the mountain improvements, and the prospect of new buildings, really helps the image of Crested Butte as a destination. Chaney says it’s not just the buildings and improvements themselves, but the media buzz that follows that helps bring visitors. “From a strategic standpoint it’s wonderful every couple of years to have something new to announce,” Chaney says. “When someone arrives here year after year and they see something new or different it adds a new dimension to their vacation.”
CBMR will also begin implementing its new brand image in 2008. The new brand is the result of an intensive, six-month branding study with help from SHR Perceptual Management. While details on the new brand are only just starting to be revealed, CBMR vice president and chief marketing officer Ken Stone says it will include a new slogan and a new logo, coupled with artistic refinements to the resort’s advertisements. However, Stone says the new brand is much deeper than just a slogan and advertising, and will affect many of the resort’s other proposed developments and improvements.
While things outside of immediate changes may go unnoticed by the casual observer, throughout 2008 CBMR will continue the planning processes for a ski area expansion onto nearby Snodgrass Mountain, along with two other proposed developments —Mountaineer Square North and the North Village.
Mountaineer Square North is the second phase of a planned overhaul of the Crested Butte Mountain Resort base area. The project includes 400 new residential units, over 20,000 square feet of commercial space, and several other amenities that will be located at the current site of the resort’s main parking lot.
The planning process has been delayed to incorporate elements of CBMR’s new branding study, but CBMR officials are still hoping to have the project fully approved by mid-2008.
Plans for the North Village are scheduled for an official introduction to the Town of Mt. Crested Butte in the first quarter of 2008. Based on “New Urbanism,” the conceptual vision of the 1,000-plus-unit North Village is for it to serve as a town plaza for Mt. Crested Butte.
The new town hall, the post office, a gondola that accesses the base area of CBMR, and the commercial district are in the center of the 68-acre planned village center, at the base of Snodgrass Mountain.
With the North Village proposed at the base of Snodgrass Mountain, CBMR is also pursuing a ski area expansion onto Snodgrass to provide more intermediate terrain. Plans for a ski area expansion onto Snodgrass have come and gone since the early 1980s, but in 2005, plans for Snodgrass resurfaced, as the resort, under new ownership, submitted a new proposal to the Forest Service.
CBMR’s plan includes three major lifts, which would access immediate to lower immediate terrain with limited lift access to expert terrain.
The geological hazard report released by the Forest Service in 2006 said landslides and slope movements on Snodgrass Mountain were the main concerns that development of the mountain would pose. CBMR disputed the claims and hired consultant Jim McCalpin to conduct an independent geological study of the mountain. That study wrapped up in November and now CBMR is awaiting a final review of the independent report by the United States Geological Survey, which is expected in January.
With the approval from the USGS, the expansion plans would then be submitted to the Forest Service and the National Environmental Policy Act processes would begin, which analyzes environmental impacts of major projects. CBMR would also be able to begin the county permitting process for the expansion.
Finally, Barrett says, the resort has a goal of reaching 425,000 skier days this year. Barrett says, “That’s just a goal, and we’re looking toward exceeding that number. With the great conditions we’ve been having hopefully that’s the case.”