Requests better return on investment
by Alissa Johnson
The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council agreed to donate $5,000 to Crested Butte Nordic for the purchase of a second snowcat. That came with a clear request: Don’t ask for future funding unless Mt. Crested Butte gets a better return on investment, including fat biking.
Crested Butte Nordic executive director Keith Bauer met with the council on December 1. He explained that Crested Butte Nordic sold one of its two snowcats. It had seen 7,000 hours of use and had some inherent design problems related to the blade and tiller that cost the organization a significant amount of money over the last several years.
The organization has secured a slightly used Piston Bully 100 for $95,000, which Bauer says is about half the price of a new snowcat. At the time of the meeting, the Nordic Council was $24,000 short of the full amount. Bauer expected an annual fund drive to bring in about $10,000 and was asking the town of Mt. Crested Butte to contribute $5,000.
The request raised some concerns from council members. Council member David O’Reilly wanted to know how much the town of Crested Butte had contributed to the purchase. Bauer confirmed that the Nordic Council had asked for $7,500 and received $4,000.
“I would love to give you $5,000, but when the town of Crested Butte gives $4,000—and you know I’m a big supporter of Nordic—I’m upset that they do that to you. Ninety-nine percent of the activity goes on downtown in Crested Butte,” O’Reilly said, adding that the lack of support shown by the Crested Butte Town Council blew his mind.
Bauer said it blew his mind too, particularly considering the way the town of Mt. Crested Butte paid to help groom the rec path and Skyland pays to help groom the country club. Crested Butte does not help fund grooming at Town Ranch.
“I do not understand those politics, but that’s the way it is,” Bauer said.
Councilmember Danny D’Aquila expressed his desire to see more partnership between Crested Butte Nordic and Mt. Crested Butte. He asked for ongoing discussions about how the town could see a return on its investment.
“I’m in favor of what you’re asking, but I think it’s the tip of a bigger discussion where we need to talk about what we can do. This has been ongoing. We see you this time of year, we support [Nordic] and the rest of the conversation goes away,” D’Aquila said.
“I’d like to see group discussion on a regular basis so we can make reports on progress. That might be asking a lot for $5,000, but I think this is the tip,” he continued.
Bauer said he would give that message to the Crested Butte Nordic board of directors and invited D’Aquila to attend a board meeting.
Mayor David Clayton echoed O’Reilly’s sentiments and urged Bauer to continue building capital reserves.
“I wish you had the reserves in there to be able to do this because in most businesses, when you retire equipment you have built-in reserves to replace equipment… I’m also disappointed that we don’t have equal support down valley for the product that lives in their town,” Clayton said.
“We’re working on [building the reserves],” Bauer said, “Our goal is to sell the cat earlier so it has a higher value, and the proceeds plus reserves would pay for the new snowcat.”
After some discussion about the potential of more Nordic and grooming near Snodgrass, councilmember Todd Barnes shifted the conversation toward fat biking. He said the likelihood of a connector between town trails and the North Village loop was slim, and pointed out that transporting the Nordic Council’s snowcat to Mt. Crested Butte for grooming was too costly. Since bringing more Nordic or grooming to Mt. Crested Butte would be difficult, he suggested allowing more fat biking on Nordic trails as a good alternative.
“We need somewhere for these bikes to go because we’re promoting it too strongly to not have an intermediate set of trails for these riders. You mentioned single track is the answer, but I’m afraid that you are wrong,” Barnes said.
Barnes wanted to know if it would be possible to let fat bikers ride out to the Gunsight Bridge on the west side trails, particularly at the end of the day before grooming. Bauer said that given easements, riders would probably have to start at the alien shack on Peanut Lake Road and he would present the idea to the board.
But Bauer cautioned that offering that trail in the evening might not be a good option for visitors. “If it’s a night time thing it’s not going to be tourists. What we’d be shooting for is fat bike trails for locals. You’re not going to get tourists biking from 5 p.m. to midnight,” Bauer said.
“I’m thinking more of the guy that would put on a headlamp as an alternative to poaching trails. I think you would build some collusion among the community if you allowed some of that to happen,” said Barnes.
“I’m willing to help you if you’re willing to pursue it—and I mean strongly, not just talk about it with the other six on the board,” he continued.
“I will bring that to the board tomorrow night and we will discuss it. There are a couple of things to think of operationally, but that’s not too difficult to work through,” Bauer said. He added that it’s not just up to the Nordic community to embrace fat biking—fat bikers needed to show respect for Nordic trails, too.
“From the little bit I’ve seen, these guys haven’t been able to police themselves,” Bauer said, explaining that one fat bike groove on soft snow ruins it for skate skiing. “You can put 30 dogs on a trail and still skate ski, but you get one rut and it’s over. You have to get the groomer.”
Even that didn’t sit well with Barnes. “Why not let them tear it up if you’re going to groom anyway?”
In the end, the council voted unanimously to donate the $5,000 to the Nordic Council, but made it clear that their concerns needed to be addressed before the organization asked for future funds.
Council member Gary Keiser summed it up. “Don’t come back for more money until you have a better plan to address fat biking.”