Nordic Council may require pooch pass for the Town Ranch

Adult Nordic pass prices rise as well

Fido will probably have to wear a Nordic pass around his collar next winter when hitting the Crested Butte Town Ranch ski trails. The local Nordic Council floated the idea of charging Crested Butte’s four-legged friends to run with their Nordic skiing partners on the trails behind the school next season at the Crested Butte Town Council meeting Monday evening, and the Town Council generally supported the idea.



Crested Butte Nordic Council director Keith Bauer told the Town Council that his organization was facing some tough economic times and his board was looking at all ways to generate additional revenue.
In a letter to the town, Bauer wrote, “Along with increased fuel costs, our snow cat maintenance ‘trade’ with Mountain Express has ended, and the Western State ski team program is no longer in existence. Combine that with a tightening economy and the probability of reduced funding from the Town and our future is looking pretty challenging.”
Bauer, along with Nordic board members Rich Smith and Jake Jones, the newly hired Parks and Recreation director for the town, came before the council to update them on the local Nordic program. “The board is looking at increasing adult passes 15 percent instead of our normal 4 percent,” he said.
As an example, Bauer related that an early season adult pass purchased before September 1 sold last year for $130 and topped out at $160. This year it will cost $150 if purchased early and $180 if you wait until the last minute. “We are trying to keep it affordable for families, so we are slightly reducing the cost of a children’s pass, with the early season price dropping to $50 from $55 last year,” he explained.
Dining might raise revenue also, said Bauer. ”We are looking at using the yurt on the Land Trust property west of town as a place for dinner as a way to raise revenue, so I want to let you know we might go to the county and ask for a liquor license.”
 “The board is seriously looking at a $35 doggie pass at the Town Ranch,” Bauer continued. “People will still ski free but the dogs might have to pay.”
Bauer said while the board has not made a final decision, they have estimated doggie passes would raise about $4,000 a year. Town planner John Hess said there has always been an understanding that the Town Ranch trails would be free for people but would be groomed by the Nordic Council. “That came about when the town paid $100,000 toward the first snow cat at the time,” he explained.
“But as a dog owner, I wouldn’t have a problem spending $35 on a pass for my dog,” Hess said.
Mayor pro tem Leah Williams thought a donation box at the Town Ranch trailhead could generate some cash, but she too was in support of charging for dogs to use the trails. “I think charging for dogs is reasonable to me,” she told the Nordic representatives.
Councilman Dan Escalante agreed. “I think it is your business and you’re running the show,” he said. “See how it works. It costs money for you to do what you do out there. I say it is your call.”
Nordic skier and councilmember Skip Berkshire was in support as well. “That’s the reality of running the ranch trails,” he said. “There are several kilometers of trails out there and it costs money to service it. It’s a real dilemma. It is a nice amenity but there is no free lunch. I don’t like these dilemmas. I’d like everything to be in blissful harmony. People like to ski with their dogs and this is a dog town. I know we will get some complaints but I think it makes sense.”
Bauer said his board would love to see a bigger space for Nordic activities. The Nordic Center is currently headquartered in the warming house by Big Mine Ice Rink. Bauer said while they make about $5,000 a winter renting skates, it costs them $4,000 to man the place at night and oversee the rink and building during hockey.
“No one really wants to address the issue of the ice rink, but if the council decides to put a roof over the existing rink, the warming house would have to get bigger to accommodate the increased use,” he said. “Plus parking is just crazy over there right now in the winter.
“That said,” Bauer continued, “if the council puts a new rink over at the Town Ranch, we could definitely use the entire warming house building. We would like to make it a nicer space.”
Bauer said the Nordic Council could potentially upgrade the rental skate inventory if the town made Big Mine rink strictly a recreational ice rink. “I think we could generate $20,000 in skate rental revenue but it’s my understanding it takes close to $65,000 to keep ice on the rink. That’s something to consider down the road, but it would be a nice amenity for tourists.”
Also down the road is the Nordic dream of turning this end of the valley into a Nordic destination resort. Bauer cited the example of Methow Valley in Washington State. Likening that town to Crested Butte, Bauer said it was not an easy place to get to but it had a couple hundred kilometers of trails. He said the Nordic aspect brings in more than $8 million a year to their local economy. “I think this area has a similar potential to that,” he told the council. “Not to sound like CBMR asking to expand ski terrain, but we need more Ks to make it happen. We also need to find ways to connect the trails we have.”
Bauer said the Nordic Council was currently working on obtaining easements with local landowners to make those connector trails happen. He also explained that Nordic trails were planned for the top of the Painter Boy area at the alpine ski area and plans were to have Nordic trails by the North Village on Snodgrass.
After hearing about equipment woes from Bauer, the Town Council asked the staff to help them find places, at least temporarily, to keep the Nordic snow cat warm if it needed repairs. The staff said they will investigate the possibility and work with the Nordic board.
Given the fact the Town Council is preparing to focus on a Crested Butte “master plan,” councilman Billy Rankin told Bauer his timing to update the council was impeccable. “We will keep these things in mind as we head toward a town master plan,” he promised Bauer.
The Nordic season officially is slated to get under way November 22.

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