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Planning Commission green-lights private ski area around Cimarron

Pristine powder at a price

By Toni Todd

The Cimarron Mountain Club (CMC) is a private ski resort in the works. The property is located south of Gunnison, at the northern tip of the San Juan Mountains. The club includes a lodge and a helipad, plus 2,000 acres of snow-cat–accessible back-county terrain.

The Gunnison Planning Commission voted this past Friday to approve a request from High Cimarron LLC, the business name for the club, to add eight bedrooms to an existing clubhouse and three communally-owned cabins. The proposal is considered a minor-impact project under the county’s land use resolution and does not require final approval from county commissioners.

CMC is the brainchild of Jim Aronstein, a retired natural resources lawyer who loves untouched powder. He bought the property above the Cimarron River in 2005. The land was formerly owned by a logging company. Aronstein and his family have used it as their own personal getaway for snowmobiling, skiing and fishing—until now.

Aronstein’s idea is to preserve the wilderness characteristics of the area while making it available, and skiable, to an elite few. With the help of three former experienced ski area professionals—John Norton, who held positions at both Aspen Skiing Corporation and Crested Butte Mountain Resort; Johnnie Stevenson from Telluride; and Bill Kane from Aspen—Aronstein and company have created a concept that will allow for a ski area with an acreage bigger than Aspen Mountain, accessible to Cimarron Mountain Club members.

The project was initially approved in 2015. Since then, Aronstein said he’d had the opportunity to speak with many prospective owners. “A lot of people do not want to build their own place to participate,” he said. That’s good, he added, since Cimarron’s goal is to keep the club as low-density as possible. “We’re looking for more of a communal vacation opportunity, a lodge versus individual 35-acre lots,” Aronstein said.

Aronstein told planning commissioners the club would need to recruit 15 members to support the concept.

Planning commissioner Vince Rogalski expressed concern over so few communal opportunities. “If many members don’t want to build, and you have eight lodge units, plus three communal cabins, that’s 11 and you need 15. Where’s everybody going to stay?”

Aronstein said they would employ a lottery to determine who gets first dibs to stay where and when. He also said that it was unlikely everyone would want to be there at the same time,  and that there would be enough space for everyone who wants to come.

Every member who buys in, he added, also gets 35 acres. “So, if they find they can never come when they want, they could consider building a place.”

There is no cell service in the area, but Aronstein assured commissioners there would be voice internet protocol, or VoIP, available, so phone service would not be an issue. The helipad is there for club members, but also available for emergency services personnel in the event someone needs to be evacuated for medical treatment. There will be rooms added to the equipment barn, designed for overnight stay by ski guides.

Originally, Aronstein said, the property was divided by 12. That made for large parcels. Now, they are all 35 acres each. The resort will include another 14 lots in Montrose County.

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