Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Search Results for: resort town life

Town survey indicates citizens concerned about change

Weigh in on the future of Crested Butte

By Mark Reaman

More than 750 people have so far responded to the Crested Butte Community Survey but the goal is get more than 1,000 responses by the end of August. The 20-question survey is a broad poll on what people want to see as the town grows. Initial responses appear to center on awareness of the changes Crested Butte is experiencing and about how to shape the changes into the future.

More than 70 percent of the respondents described themselves as “outdoor enthusiasts” and almost 12 percent said they could be described as a “ski bum.” So far, about 30 percent of those who have responded live in Crested Butte. Another 37 percent live in the north end of the valley. The rest live south of Round Mountain, on the Front Range, or out of state.

Several questions allowed respondents to select more than one choice for an answer so percentages don’t necessarily add up to 100 percent. When asked what “kind of community” they want to see in 20 years, almost half said they wanted the town to be able to “accommodate responsible growth without losing its unique historical character.” Another 41 percent said they wanted town to have a “balanced economy with good jobs and attainable housing.” Only 17 percent said they wanted town to remain like it is 20 years from now.

As for the greatest local challenges Crested Butte is now facing, it probably comes as no surprise that lack of workforce or attainable housing tops the list, with 52 percent saying it is an issue.

Other challenges topping the list include maintaining quality of life with a balance between being a community and being a resort. General affordability and cost of living in the area also received significant clicks of concern from respondents.

Supporting existing businesses was the most popular answer to the question about what town’s priorities should be regarding economic development. Diversifying from a tourist-based economy to a broader year-round mixed economy also received popular support.

Parking congestion also surfaced as an issue, with survey respondents saying that traffic congestion and parking availability is a problem, especially in the summer. The solution from those who took the survey was to develop an intercept parking lot near town with public transit; create more parking lots in town; or change “user behavior instead of investing in new capital improvement projects.”

Overall, people say they like the small-town feel and mountain environment that is part of Crested Butte. They also value the outdoor recreation and the people.

“People can remain anonymous when taking the survey so it feels like we are getting pretty honest feedback,” said Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman. “The news about Vail purchasing CBMR  broke about the time we opened up the survey so that seems to have impacted the responses, especially at the beginning. But we are getting a good steady stream of people taking the survey.”

Crested Butte town planner Bob Nevins said it is obvious people are feeling the impacts of a changing community but for the most part they don’t want to build a wall. “It seems a pretty mature outlook,” he said. “People see change is coming but they want to try to guide it responsibly.”

As would be expected, the opportunity to include written comments always makes for interesting reading. Some examples include:  “All council members should take economics classes and learn how economies work;” “Don’t let tourism ruin our town;” “Do NOT build more infrastructure in an effort to turn it into a city;” “Your values are way too far to the left;” “The class division is so apparent and only going to get worse;” “CB and Gunnison should embrace their serendipity;” “They say ‘No’ a lot to most items on the agenda;” “Important to keep it a place that is accessible to more than just the 1%;” “No paid parking downtown;” “Quit being so progressive;” and “Open the portal to Somerset, mine the Red Lady, quit being wimps and put up a statue of the 45th president. Embrace Vail and connect the mountain with a Gondola.”

No word yet on where council stands on that last comment.

Anyone is eligible to take part in the survey. Physical surveys are available at the coffee shops in town. A link to the survey is on the town website or you can simply go to crestedbuttesurvey.com.

Ski resort under contract with Vail

After 30 years, the rumor is confirmed

by Mark Reaman

To paraphrase an old CBMR marketing campaign—“We are not Vail.” But Vail will likely be running the ski mountain this winter. In an announcement that sent shock waves through the community Monday morning, it was revealed that one of the world’s largest ski resort operators, Vail Resorts, is under contract to purchase family-owned Crested Butte Mountain Resort. The deal is expected to close later this summer.

Current CBMR operators, the Mueller family, who came to Crested Butte 14 years ago, confirmed that they agreed to a sale of all three ski resorts they manage under Triple Peaks LLC, including Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Okemo in Vermont and Sunapee in New Hampshire.

Vail Resorts executive vice president of the mountain division Chris Jarnot told the Crested Butte News Tuesday that the company is excited to bring CBMR into its portfolio but has no desire to change the community or culture of Crested Butte.

Vail will pay $82 million for Triple Peaks and the leases currently held by a hedge fund will be paid off at closing. The Muellers will retain a chunk of the local real estate holdings including the Prospect property on the back of the mountain; the North Village property at the base of Snodgrass; the commercial property in the Lodge at Mountaineer Square; and the Treasury Center building in the base area.

Vail will take over the Grand Lodge commercial property, the main parking lot and the land behind the Grand Lodge. The property where the Adventure Park and mini-golf is located will go to Vail Resorts at closing.

“We are no longer in the real estate development business,” explained Jarnot. “When it came to the real estate aspect of the Crested Butte equation, we acquired what we need to help operate the mountain and let the Muellers retain the other real estate. We were focused on the real estate we need to operate the mountain.”

Tough call, staffing 

Ethan and Erica Mueller both said Monday that the decision to sell was extremely difficult for the family, especially given the recent financial successes the Triple Peaks resorts have seen the last several winters. But they basically said the writing was on the wall in terms of how the ski resort industry was evolving with Vail and Alterra (Aspen) basically controlling resorts across North America and the world and marketing their brands to skiers through ways smaller resorts had trouble competing with.

“There were times during these discussions that it was a shock for us,” admitted Erica. “We would ask ourselves if this was really the conversation we were having. It took a lot of contemplation. It was not easy.”

Ethan agreed. “I’m sure some people look at it and think it was easy and have the attitude of, ‘Look at how many millions they got,’ and I get that to a degree. But this has been our life. It’s always been our plan to take this business into the future. And now everyone is asking what will we do now and frankly, we don’t know. We’ve been focused on the deal and our employees. Obviously, there will be some change. The Vail people indicated that CBMR is structured basically the way it should be structured, so the intent is to keep people,” Ethan continued. “That being said, there are some people who probably won’t be a fit. It was the same way when we came in. As for us—we will be out of a job soon.”

Jarnot said no one should expect major staffing changes. “The management structure looks much like our existing resorts,” he said. “We’ve said that we expect to retain the vast majority of employees at all the resorts we recently purchased.”

“Our employees have done so much good work over the last several years to make CBMR a success. We want to see them continue to do it. With this move they will have more resources and that is exciting,” said Erica.

Retaining community 

“As part of the decision process we contemplated whether this would be good for the community,” said Ethan. “We recognized it would be a big shift. And quite frankly, we do think it will be a good fit. For people who think there will be a million skier visits, there won’t be. There’s a natural infrastructure governor (such as found in small engines) that won’t let that happen. There are only so many rooms for example, and this isn’t a day resort. But we’ve been intent on growing, too. I think they’ll get to our goal, easier. We were fighting the good fight and we were getting ourselves there but it was harder for us. We have been looking at that 500,000 to 600,000 skier-day winter for years. I would expect they will get somewhere in that realm but maybe not in that first year.”

Like the Muellers, Jarnot makes no bones about the desire to see an increase in skier visitations. “We announced that we would spend money [$35 million] out of the gate on improvements at the resorts we purchased. We invest in the guest experience to make it better and we certainly want to attract more people,” he explained. “We expect a return on the investment. That is part of the business strategy. But I don’t understand how that would change Crested Butte.”

When pushed whether the sale from small independent ownership to worldwide corporate conglomerate would intrinsically change Crested Butte to move away from its somewhat rough-around-the-edges reputation toward a more glossy corporate feel, Jarnot said that was the last thing the company would want.

“We already have a Vail and we don’t want to buy another one,” he said. “Crested Butte is so unique and different, with strong individuality. That’s the attraction of Crested Butte that appeals to us. Our perception is that the community as a whole is very distinct in attitude and feel. I’m surprised that people think we could change that or even that we would want to. That is not what we want to do.

“Okemo and Sunapee certainly complement Stowe and the idea of the company having a presence in the Northeast,” he continued. “Our strategy is to offer different resorts and different experiences for our customers. But this deal was not just about the Northeast. We have been aware and have been interested in Crested Butte as a unique and different resort. It is a true destination resort, especially compared to our other Colorado resorts. It is not as much of a regional draw as our other resorts in the state. Our overall business strategy is to provide different experiences for people to choose from. We want to get them to try new places with different feels, and Crested Butte offers that.”

“Vail can’t come in and overnight dictate that we’ll go from 31,000 airline seats to 75,000,” added Ethan. “It just isn’t going to happen. Monarch Pass is still Monarch Pass and some people will be okay driving over it and others won’t be okay. We’re still at the end of the road. And I think those things will largely continue to, as they always have, keep things in check.

“We are not now Vail,” Ethan continued. “CBMR doesn’t define Crested Butte. Crested Butte is what it is because of the people. Vail can’t change that nor do they want to. They’ve been very upfront that they don’t want to homogenize everything, which is what people are afraid of. They recognize their opportunity is to diversify. They know there is a customer out there who wants a Crested Butte and they want a product they can sell that person. That’s their intent. So they want Crested Butte to be Crested Butte, with a few more people to come and see Crested Butte.”

“Vail is a ski company,” added Erica. “That is its roots. They never sell a resort. They want skiing to prosper but keep it unique to what it is. I think they want to keep and celebrate our character. Their decisions here won’t be just something out of Broomfield. It was discussed with them and made our decision more comfortable.”

The new business model came into play

Ethan said that while considering whether to sell, the wave of ski area consolidation was a factor. “One realization we came to with Alterra and Vail is, whether we want it or like it, this is where the business is going. They’ll brand differently but at the end of the day they are similar. It’s been largely driven by consumers. Consumers are making these companies successful and they are asking for these things so we came to that realization.

“Our resort companies have been close to record years lately,” Ethan continued. “There wasn’t any one thing that clicked us into making the decision. Like any big decision, we talked about it a lot. The more we talked, the more obvious the answer became. It initially was a ‘Holy Crap’ moment but over time as we absorbed that and talked through the deal and all the stuff like the employees, the community, the personal stuff that was in the mix, it slowly made more sense.”

Jarnot said it made sense to the corporation as well. “Crested Butte is physically remarkable,” he emphasized. “The combination of the town, the setting, the wide-open spaces, the ski terrain, all add to the mix. The character of the town and the local businesses, the attitude of the locals, it all has a distinct flavor. Over time Crested Butte has developed its own strong personality and that is part of the appeal for some people who want to visit. The destination is distinct and different from other places and that is why it works for us.”

As for season passes, if the acquisition goes through, Vail will honor CBMR passes that have been purchased. Pass details can be found online at www.epicpass.com.

Expansion and housing

The proposed Teo-2 expansion currently going through the U.S. Forest Service review process will continue to do just that. Jarnot said his team has not seen the actual terrain but has looked at maps and photos. “We need to learn more about the expansion plan and what it provides for the guests,” he said. “We will evaluate it all and see what to do if it gets approved by the Forest Service.”

Jarnot said that good employees and their living situation is an important part of any business model. “We have been focused on affordable housing in our other resorts and the types of housing depend on the various resorts. In Breckenridge and Keystone we have significant employee housing that we own or control through master leases. In Park City, we don’t have as much. But it is a concern in every single mountain community in the West. We understand that we need it to operate our business.”

When the deal goes through, it will be Vail that is a new partner in the Brush Creek Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) contract and Vail will have a 25 percent say in the project. “I’ve heard about the Brush Creek proposal but don’t know a lot about it yet,” admitted Jarnot. “We are interested in understanding where CBMR was with it and see if there is opportunity there to create housing for our seasonal employees.”

Coming in, going out

Overall, Jarnot is excited to delve more into the community. “We went into this expecting it would be big news and a surprise, and it was,” he said. “We understand the concern to protect what is valued in the community. We are really excited about acquiring CBMR because it is Crested Butte and it is so individual and has such a strong character. That is what interests us. We have no interest in trying to change that. We have a lot more to learn about Crested Butte and I’ll be back there this summer and look forward to meeting with community members and talking about how we can be part of the community.”

There was some obvious emotion as Erica and Ethan discussed the sale in their office at the base of the Silver Queen.

“This is home for us,” Erica said. “A big part of our hearts is in Crested Butte.”

“It always will be home,” agreed Ethan.

“Like our parents in Okemo, we have developed a lot of good relationships and had a lot of good experiences here,” said Erica. “A lot of emotion came with the decision.”

“If we didn’t have a mostly positive feeling about it we wouldn’t be doing it,” concluded Ethan.

Town Council to hold public meeting over Brush Creek

Gathering info to form an opinion 

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Town Council will host a work session that will include a chance for the public to comment on the proposed Brush Creek affordable housing project. The meeting will be held on Thursday, October 5 at the Crested Butte Center for the Arts starting at 6 p.m.

The idea is for the council to get a feel for what the community at the north end of the valley wants on the site and what impact a project at that location will have on the town. The town staff will run the meeting and give a history of how the project got to the current point. The council plans to sit in the audience and listen to the pros and cons of the proposal.

Negotiations have been ongoing between Gunnison County and Gatesco, a Houston-based development company that was selected to propose a plan for the site located at the corner of Brush Creek Road and Highway 135. Gatesco’s initial proposal called for 240 rental units. The plan has been submitted to the county to begin a Planning Commission review but has yet to be made public while staff evaluates the completeness of the application.

The town of Crested Butte, along with Gunnison County, the town of Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte Mountain Resort, contributed to purchasing the property in 1998. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the four entities but the county holds title to the property.

Some Crested Butte Town Council members have voiced misgivings at how the process has played out to this point. At the September 18 council meeting several citizens spoke during the public comment section of the meeting to caution the town about supporting the plan, given the potential major impacts on the community.

“I sort of feel like we had just started dating and we were ready to go on a second date and suddenly we show up and find out we’re engaged, with the dad behind us with a shotgun,” said councilman Jim Schmidt.

Councilman Chris Ladoulis said he would prefer to have a public discussion before even discussing a draft purchase agreement between Gatesco and the county in executive session, which was scheduled for later in the meeting. “I think having an executive session tonight would be imprudent,” he said and later was the sole council vote against going into the closed-door session.

Mayor Glenn Michel said it was important for the council to listen to the constituents to help the council determine where the town should head with the project. “We might end up in the same spot or in a different spot but we need to understand the impacts of this project on the community in terms of both the costs to us financially and on the quality of life,” he said. “It would be good to have a general sense from the community of weighing the costs and the benefits of this project. We need to look at the county Housing Needs Assessment Study and see how this projects fits into that. It seems to be the Crested Butte way in that we are comfortable engaging the public and it helps the way forward. I think the people want to be heard and we’ll listen.”

“I’m encouraged by the public engagement on this issue,” said councilman Jackson Petito. “I love it when people come up with alternatives to an issue as opposed to just saying they don’t like it.”

“I think this offer was very seductive, especially to the county when it provided rental units at no cost,” said Schmidt. “But if something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not true. I have educated myself and gotten information from the public and housing experts since this came out. I’m comfortable with my position.”

“I agree with the analogy of the second date,” said councilman Roland Mason. “I think the north end of the valley needs to be fully aware of the implications of this project. A public meeting to listen to the people and shed some light on our boundaries as the Crested Butte Town Council would be appropriate.”

“And it would provide an opportunity for the public to gain information and background on the process and project,” said town manager Dara MacDonald. “Ultimately the public input will go through the county.”

MacDonald said the September 18 executive session would center on the draft purchase agreement and not the county’s Land Use Resolution process.

“Some might say the two issues can’t be separated,” said Ladoulis.

“We have always said that we will publicly bring the document to the council for public discussion before council votes on it,” said MacDonald.

“I am reserved and guarded with the option of one suitor,” said Michel.

“The town participated in the Request for Qualifications and the Request for Proposals and agreed to go with Gatesco,” reminded MacDonald. “There was a process.”

“We know what we are trying to do. Is it the right place?” asked councilman Paul Merck. “Has enough public notice been given? People need to understand that the ship has not sailed. The land has not been transferred.”

“People also need to understand this is not in our municipal jurisdiction. It is in the county and we are not the Gunnison County Planning Commission or the county commissioners. We will do what the town can do but the real process is at the county. That is where it will really matter,” said Michel.

Friends of Brush Creek attorney David Leinsdorf wanted to comment on what he felt the council could do but Michel tersely shut him down before giving him a brief opportunity to comment.

“What concerns us is the lack of transparency thus far. We are trying to empower you to have multiple bites of this apple,” Leinsdorf stated. “The town should be a player in the sale and I urge you to slow down the sale of the property. We get the feeling you feel you are only bystanders but we want you as a partner in the property, to be empowered.”

The council decided to hold the public work session at the larger Crested Butte Center for the Arts space instead of Town Council chambers, given space constraints. They will implement some basic guidelines and let the staff run the meeting. Michel suggested a three-minute limit to each public comment.

“We want this to be about the project. We do not want character attacks,” said Michel. “The council wants opinions and information to form an opinion on the matter. We want to weigh the costs and the benefits of this and there are good points on both sides. We won’t have all the answers that night but we want to hear from the public.”

CNL reaches agreement to sell ski resorts, includes CBMR

No changes in resort management

By Alissa Johnson

CNL Lifestyle Properties announced last week that it reached an agreement to sell its 36 remaining ski and attractions properties, including Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR).

The sale is expected to close early in the second quarter of 2017, but no noticeable changes will take place on the mountain or with resort operations.

CNL, a real estate investment trust, has owned CBMR since 2008. CNL also owns Mount Sunapee Mountain Resort and Okemo Mountain Resort, and leases all three to the Mueller family, which manages the resorts through Triple Peaks, LLC.

Michelle Rash, a CNL spokesperson, confirmed the agreement via email, writing, “CNL Lifestyle Properties has reached an agreement to sell Crested Butte to Och-Ziff,” a New York hedge fund manager and real estate investment trust.

CBMR is one of 14 ski and mountain lifestyle resorts that will be acquired by Och-Ziff, including Mount Sunapee and Okemo. The remaining CNL properties will be acquired by EPR Properties, which is also providing Och-Ziff with five-year financing for 65 percent of its purchase.

According to an article by the Associated Press, CNL would receive about $830 million in cash and stock through the purchase, and long-term leases with the properties will remain in place. “If it closes, it would be the largest single ski resort transaction in the history of the sport,” according to the article.

And according to reporting from BusinessDen, Och-Ziff already has a foothold in the ski town of Aspen. “CEO Daniel Och owns a $16 million property in the ski town and three Ziff brothers that initially funded the hedge fund … owned a portfolio of Aspen properties worth $44 million as of 2014.”

The sale will not change how CBMR operates. Vice president of marketing and sales Scott Clarkson likened any such sale to the transfer of a home mortgage or paying rent to a different landlord. “There is no change for us. It’s basically like having a mortgage sold between two lending institutions and you’re still sending payments in.”

This latest agreement comes after CNL had already sold 120 other properties in its portfolio. According to a statement provided by Rash, CNL’s board of directors has also approved a plan to liquidate and dissolve the company. Both the sale and the liquidity and dissolution will need be approved by stockholders.

It’s Labor Day… A weekend to honor life’s job journey

If you’ve spent much time in the labor force there is a good chance that like me, you’ve been hired, you’ve been fired, you’ve quit jobs and you’ve changed jobs. It’s part of life’s work journey. And from everything I’ve been told, it makes life sense to keep working even when you have the chance to retire. Just sayin’.

Anyway, in honor of Labor Day and work, let’s touch on some local job situations. Dara MacDonald is about to embark on an interesting Crested Butte job journey as the new town manager. She has the experience and what appears to be the demeanor to sit in the hot seat. And that seat can be really hot.

While it is apparently against the law to tell me who from Crested Butte applied for the job, no Crested Butte locals made the final cut. The most likely local candidate to be offered the job, RTA executive director Scott Truex, applied for the position, evaluated his life options and withdrew from the running. He is my friend and I think he would have been really good. A few other locals that I felt had the chops to do the job did not put in an application. I have always contended that an engaged local would have a foot up for that position since he or she would know and understand some of the unique Crested Butte quirkiness that is evident every day in that job.

I do not know if the other applicants with Crested Butte ties had the experience to take those reins. The council obviously felt they did not. I know they too had hoped a current local would rise to the top. But from what I hear, they are very confident that Dara will be an excellent fit in that job in this town. They feel she can work well with the staff, the council and the public. Part of having her be a good fit is to give her the tools to be a success.

I have said it before and will again suggest that the town take some of the seven figure savings account that the town has and spend it on expanding the staff. Those in town hall are hard workers and really smart but the amount and pace of issues coming to Crested Butte would seem to warrant some additional personnel to help deal with the issues. That’s just one potential tool but an important one. There is a lot of stuff coming down the road pretty quickly and hopefully Dara has gathered the skills on her work journey to deal with a lot of things at the same time. My gut tells me she has the abilities to fulfill those high expectations and understand the weirdness of this place. Good luck to her.

Labor Day is an opportunity to take note of a pretty big jobs turnover up at the ski area. Several managers at Crested Butte Mountain Resort have left in recent weeks and months and gone on to their next section of the job journey. Managers in sales, marketing, administration, ticket sales and development have all moved on. Many have taken positions at other resorts. Others have left to be closer to family. CBMR vice president and general manager Michael Kraatz explained that while it definitely seems like a lot at once, such turnover is part of the ski resort business in general and it provides opportunity for others in the company to move up.

“Most of the change we have seen is a direct result of an opening up of the job market, and in many areas career advancement opportunities now exist that have not been available since the recession started back in 2008. And of course there are some people who have made choices to leave the area or just do some different type of work,” Kraatz explained. “There is no one reason why a change happens and it is cyclical. Like any large business we expect to see a certain amount of turnover each year, and with that turnover, career advancement opportunities for others open up. We are happy to see that qualified people within the company are moving into most of the positions that have become available and are advancing in their careers, and I think this speaks to the caliber of employee we have and the depth we continually try to build within each department.”

While the resort business is by nature pretty transient, hopefully this blip up there results in more opportunity and steps forward and fewer glitches from transitions as we head into the ski season. Keeping good people is not always easy but hopefully all local employers, not just the big ones, know that when they have good people it is important to treat them well.

And finally a nod of thanks for the job that Crested Butte’s interim town manager Bill Crank did the last several months. Coming back to work in the office that towers over the plaza and plaque that bears his name, Crank stepped in and provided solid guidance for a town in transition. And I think the amount of transition surprised even him at times. His direct, frank and fair manner reinforced the good qualities of a good town manger in a good but quickly changing community.

The town manager in any community is a lightning rod and as politics and tenor in a community change, the town manager oftentimes takes the brunt of the tension and frustration that accompanies such change. That eventually makes for a turnover situation.

But Crank again showed the town what it takes to be a success in that tough job. Part of the success comes from speaking honestly and treating everyone with respect, whether it is a member of the staff, a member of the public or one of the seven bosses on the Town Council. Part of that means getting out and talking to the people to make sure nothing is straying too far out of line. Part of that is following through with what the council wants and doing what he says he is going to do. Part of that is simply showing up.

Crank did all those things when he was here for 19 years and he did it again when he was here for five months. So thanks again for helping to guide this town through example, knowledge and wisdom gained through experience.

Hopefully Bill too gained some more insight on this latest part of his work journey that doesn’t necessarily need to be over.

It is Labor Day, a day to honor workers, a day to honor work, a day to honor getting a job, getting fired, quitting, and exploring new work opportunities on life’s hopefully interesting job journey. We see all that and more in this community every day. Embrace it this Labor Day Weekend.

—Mark Reaman

Mountain lions, ideas on Fat Biking, Twister, and development north of town

I’m not sure exactly why, but the picture and ultimate fate of the mountain lion lying by the snowmobiles at the Kebler Pass trailhead (see page 8) makes me a bit sad. Despite being in such bad shape—starving, quilled by a porcupine, frostbitten—the cat still emanated a wild dignity. For him to decide to give up and deliberately go where humans gather, even to stay warm, indicates the direness of his situation. Ultimately the professionals at Colorado Parks and Wildlife took charge, evaluated the situation and euthanized him. It was probably the most humane decision, given the circumstances. As Joe Lewandowski of CPW stated, “Life’s tough in the wild…”

Yes it is.

I like people who throw out ideas. Sometimes they work, other times they fall flat. But at least something is tried and ultimately something is learned if people are not afraid to throw some weird ideas against the wall.

Here are a few recent ideas people have shared (and none are that weird):

Fat Bike Grooming up a ‘silent’ valley—Groom Gothic Road this winter from the Snodgrass trailhead to Gothic. Adding several groomed road miles to the new tracks put down at the base of Snodgrass for the Fat Bike World Championships would be a great addition. Treat the road sort of like one of the southern drainages that allows for Nordic and snowshoeing on the right and fat biking on the left. Now, fat bikers should take responsibility for the chore and pay for the gear and grooming. A creative groomer could explore some singletrack in the aspen forests along the road for those bikers who are ready for the next step. Why not try it this year, see if it works and expand as needed…

photo by Lydia Stern
photo by Lydia Stern

Use Twister Lift (for fun!)—This idea is not to turn Twister on all day every day but make it an event—make it a party. Maybe CBMR could consider running it on just Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 2:30 to 3:30. Twister is an iconic Colorado double chair resting silently just outside Uley’s Restaurant on the front of the ski resort. It can still run after some maintenance work but it is a “redundant lift,” so CBMR has sort of mothballed it. That’s understandable, but Twister gets some of the last sun of the day. Bring it back into play and call it the Twister Happy Hour. Sell some PBRs out of a bin at the bottom. Bring in a DJ or a band or a boom box but make it a party at the end of the day. There’s something special about Twister. Bring some fun to the sunny side.

Introduce skiing to native Coloradoans—There was a news story on TV last week detailing the lack of kids from the Front Range who ski. It is primarily an economic situation. Apparently the majority of kids living in Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs have never made it over Kenosha Pass. So maybe CBMR and the Tourism Association can partner with some sort of alternative school program and take a few late January weekends when it is slow and partner with a bus company, some lodging and some rental shops to introduce Colorado kids to … skiing (or fat biking). Bring them to what would likely seem a storybook setting in Crested Butte and give them one night and a couple days of lessons. Find some grants, partner with schools, charge a nominal fee and keep your ski instructors busy with introducing the sport to a new group who just might get hooked and come back. You get not only good karma, but a loyal growing client base for decades. It might actually be a good, long-term business decision.

And the biggest new idea thrown out here this week is how to handle the 44 acres north of Crested Butte, the Slate River development hybrid plan. My initial impression is that the development idea is pretty darn good—at least on first impressions. The 30 free-market homes (reduced from well over a hundred) would get hooked up to a town sewer system instead of using septic tanks along the Slate River. The public would get land for parks, a potential school building, affordable housing and a possible fire station. The sledding hill would move there from Big Mine Park, which means the skate park probably wouldn’t move—and that is a smart thing. The town and developers have struck a compromise and want more feedback. There are still some issues lingering out there (house sizes being a big one and water being another) but there are a few weeks to digest and evaluate the idea. Take some time to think about it and let your representative know what you think before a public meeting scheduled for January 25.

Ideas. I like them. Throw them all against the metaphorical wall and talk about them and use the good ones that stick and make sense. And if they don’t make sense, at least there’s something to think about…

—Mark Reaman

Modest turnout at CBMR expansion open houses hosted by USFS, resort

No surprises so far

By Alissa Johnson

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) hosted open houses in Gunnison and Crested Butte regarding the resort’s proposal to expand skiing into the Teocalli drainage and add summer trails. There was a moderate turnout at each meeting, and so far, little opposition to the proposal has been raised.

The meetings were held as part of the environmental review process outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). “We are doing the highest level of NEPA, which is the Environmental Impact Statement,” said district ranger John Murphy. “We are in the earliest stages of public scoping, which ends December 7.”

Murphy explained that there will be two parts to the USFS decision: reviewing the proposed activities and amending the Forest Plan to allow for the expansion of CBMR’s permit boundary. In addition, the Fish and Wildlife Service will review the proposal under the Endangered Species Act assessing impacts to Canada lynx habitat.

At the November 19 meeting at the Lodge at Mountaineer Square, CBMR president Ethan Mueller said the expansion grew out of the community’s response to earlier proposals to expand onto Snodgrass.

CBMR expansion open house.         photo by Lydia Stern
CBMR expansion open house. photo by Lydia Stern

“[This proposal] is something we’re excited about. We started looking at it a number of years ago after the Snodgrass initiative didn’t go through. We heard loud and clear from those who were against it to look at the main mountain and see what you can do there, so that’s exactly what we did,” Mueller said.

He spoke to a room of about 20 members of the public, plus Forest Service and resort employees who asked limited questions and were generally receptive to the idea, some calling it well thought-out.

The proposal itself includes the addition of two new lifts, five new intermediate ski trails, four new advanced ski trails and 10 new gladed trails in the Teocalli drainage. The North Face lift will also be realigned.

The goal, according to the resort, is to have enough terrain to provide visitors with four to five days’ worth of skiing for intermediate to advanced skiers. In addition, the proposal adds snowmaking capabilities to existing terrain and 15 new miles of mountain bike trails—a 50 percent increase.

Aaron Drendel, a recreation officer with the Forest Service, said the tenor of the Mt. Crested Butte meeting was similar to that of the Gunnison open house. He credited that to the work that CBMR has done to inform the community about its proposal.

“There are no surprises,” he said.

Erica Mueller, the resort’s director of innovations and relations, said few major concerns have been raised to resort officials. Some hunters who use the area during fall have brought up their concern, but overall reception has been positive.

“The meetings last week in Gunnison and Mt. Crested Butte went really well. We were able to answer some great questions and have conversations with those in the community who came out to understand more. We really appreciate having the opportunity to do that,” Erica Mueller said.

Like Drendel, she believes that efforts to inform the community have played a big role in that reception.

“We have led a lot of tours back there in both the summer and winter months, presented to all three town councils, the Board of County Commissioners, as well as other stakeholders in town. This has gone a long way for us garnering support, as the project has been carefully thought-out to align with our purpose and need for the expansion,” she said.

The public comment period remains open through December 7, after which date the Forest Service will respond to information collected during the scoping period. The agency will develop alternatives to the proposed action, consider identified issues and develop mitigations as appropriate, and issue an Environmental Impact Statement for public comment.

According to Murphy, there will be also be a 45-day pre-decision objection period before the agency signs off on a final decision (this replaces the appeals process the Forest Service used to follow).

“Generally with an EIS it takes a year and a half, so it’s not going to happen overnight,” Murphy said. The SE Group, a third-party contractor that specializes in the NEPA process, is being funded by CBMR and will help move the project forward.

“The SE Group has done a lot of work on similar projects all across the nation. They’re a very credible and professional company, and the Forest Service is looking forward to working with them,” Murphy said.

A project overview, a full library of project documents, and the opportunity to submit comments are available at www.crestedbutte-eis.com

Meet the Candidates for Crested Butte Mayor and Crested Butte Town Council

Between now and the beginning of November, the Crested Butte News will be asking the candidates for Crested Butte mayor and town council questions related to issues in the community. We are requesting that the six candidates keep their answers to no more than 600 words. 

We are also asking readers to send us their suggestions for questions to ask in the newspaper. Send your suggestions to editorial@crestedbuttenews.com.

And do not forget that we will be hosting a Crested Butte News Candidate’s Forum on Sunday, October 18 at 6 p.m. at the CB Center for the Arts. We will give a couple minutes to those who wish to speak for (or against) the two proposed sales tax increase issues – the one funding the RTA and the other being put forth by the town council to address parks and recreation funding. Everyone is invited to come in person and ask questions of the candidates or the people representing the issues.

Ballots will be mailed to eligible voters starting October 13 and they must be returned by the official election day of November 3.

—Mark Reaman

Glenn Michel, mayoral candidate

Years in the valley: 18

Occupation: Self-employed carpenter

What motivated you to run for this position and what strengths can you bring to the role of mayor or councilmember?

I enjoy contributing to local politics and shaping the future of Crested Butte. My family and I have been fortunate to be able to live and work in the community and I believe it is important to give back to our town. After having served on the Town Council for four years and the BOZAR for five years—two as chairperson—I am ready to serve as mayor. My abilities to listen, find consensus, run effective meetings, and make good decisions based on solid reasoning are the skills that make me a strong candidate. Our town is ready for calm leadership based on trust and mutual respect—attributes that define my leadership style. In addition, I have a diverse knowledge base with bachelor’s degrees in economics, history, and politics and government. I serve on several boards and committees including the Mountain Express, Center for the Arts, the One Valley Prosperity Project, and the Big Mine Park master planning committee. Most important, I am engaged in the community. My wife, Gesa, and I both work and own our house in town, and are raising our two boys here. My experience, education, personal skills, and community engagement are strengths that I will bring to the position of mayor.

GlennMichel_October22015

Define your idea of “prosperity” for someone living in Crested Butte.

As an original member of the One Valley Prosperity Project I have been working on the definition since March with stakeholders from throughout the entire valley and we just released this definition: “Prosperity is the opportunity to provide for ourselves in a meaningful and fulfilling way. However, we can only be a prosperous community if we achieve the delicate balance between providing the need for economic opportunity with protecting our other community values—the very reason we live here.”

Favorite sport: Skate skiing on sunny days and telemark skiing on powder days.

Favorite athlete: Aqib Talib, cornerback for the Broncos.

Favorite month in Crested Butte: September, as long as it does not become too busy!

W.E. “Skip” Berkshire, mayoral candidate

Years in the valley: 17+

Occupation: Retired. I was in the Air Force for 21 years where I was involved with buying and operating large satellite systems. I retired and went to work for Lockheed Martin as a systems engineer. After 12 years with Lockheed, I retired (again) and moved to Crested Butte.

What motivated you to run for this position and what strengths can you bring to the role of mayor or councilmember?

There are many reasons why I am running for mayor. Here are three:

1. I would like to improve the Town Council process so that we don’t have meetings that go until 2 a.m. in the morning. There is also way too much drama—let the Mountain Theater handle the drama, they’re good at it.

SkipBerkshire_October22015

2. I would like to improve the council’s outreach to the community—we need to have more folks engaged in our important decisions.

3. I would like to ensure that we focus on keeping Crested Butte the unique, small town that it is. Let’s focus on preserving the quality of Crested Butte for the folks who live here. If we do that, people will come to visit because we are the real deal—not just another “me too” resort.

My service on the Town Council (2001-2009 and this last year) has given me great experience and knowledge in how the town works as well as understanding the key players and processes in the county and Mt. Crested Butte. I am open-minded and consensus driven—I do my homework. I work collaboratively. My service on the Crested Butte Nordic board (10+ years), the Land Trust board, and numerous other organizations has helped me understand the needs, values and people of our community.

Define your idea of “prosperity” for someone living in Crested Butte.

It’s not about money. It’s about a quality life; a life filled with promise, peace, security, health, family, friends, and opportunity. Just about everyone here in Crested Butte is here by choice. I’m sure that we share a lot of the same reasons that helped us choose Crested Butte. We love the community and the human scale of our small town. The recreational opportunities are unparalleled, and the soul enriching landscape nourishes our spirit. We have a world-class school, we’re kid friendly, we know our neighbors—we care for each other. We have fun and we are happy.

Favorite sport: I don’t have “a” favorite sport. In the winter I enjoy all forms of skiing—Tele, AT, Nordic (classic and skate), and an occasional snowshoe outing. Winter also affords the opportunity (sometimes) to dig a big snow cave in the backcountry and spend the night with friends decadently consuming wine and good food in a cozy white room. Skinning up Mt. Crested Butte during a full moon and skiing down in the moonlight after some hot chocolate and schnapps is also a favorite winter ritual. In the summer I enjoy mountain and road biking, hiking, climbing, backpacking, traveling and gardening (especially growing garlic and our own vegetables). I used to run trails a lot and would like to get back into running.

Favorite athlete:  Male: Pat O’Neil. Female: Tie—Stevie Kremer and Jari Kirkland

Favorite month in Crested Butte: September (we could use about 20-30 more days like our current ones). The beautiful fall colors, soft light and solitude are simply unbelievable.

Erika Vohman, council candidate

Years in the valley: 19

Occupation: Nonprofit founder and director, Maya Nut Institute; co-founder, owner, YawannaGO Camping Gear Rentals

What motivated you to run for this position and what strengths can you bring to the role of mayor or council member?

I am motivated to run for Town Council because I think we need some female voices on the Town Council. Women tend to have different viewpoints than men on some issues, and having an all-male council creates a scenario where women are underrepresented. I don’t purport to say I can speak for all the women in town, but having a seat on Town Council will create some diversity which is currently lacking.

My strengths come from my background in the nonprofit sector as founder and executive director of Maya Nut Institute, where the highest value is placed on qualities such as transparency, consensus, honesty and fairness. I have some professional credentials; I was a CNN Hero in 2010 and have won awards for my work with rural communities and the environment, including the St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, the E-Town E-Achievement Award and a UNEP Award for Best Community Forest Management project in Latin America. I have a lot of experience in consensus building and participatory processes with a wide variety of stakeholders via my work in Central America. These qualities and experiences will help me be a good councilperson.

ErikaVohman_October22015

I always try to be respectful of peoples’ time, and therefore tend to be concise and decisive in my discussion of controversial topics. I hope this will help keep meetings short. My background in biology and agronomy and my past 15 years of work in ecology, population biology and restoration have given me an immense appreciation for human impacts on natural systems and the importance of functional ecosystems for human quality of life. These are strengths I can bring to the council when we are making decisions that might impact our ecosystem, our economy and the future wellbeing of all species, including humans, both here in the valley and downstream.

My second business in town is a camping gear rental business, which I started, with my business partner Valerie Jaquith. One of our primary motivations with the business was to teach visitors how to camp using Leave-No-Trace principles because we were seeing a lot of abuse and overuse in the backcountry. I have learned a lot about the “camping demographic” here and how to teach Leave-No-Trace to campers, which is a strength that may prove useful in the coming years on Town Council.

Running two businesses in town helps me understand the weaknesses in the business economy in town and I hope that as a councilmember I can work to create a more favorable business environment that encourages small business growth and fosters economic diversity in the business sector.

Define your idea of “prosperity” for someone living in Crested Butte.

A prosperous Buttian has a home, a job and physical, emotional and financial health. They have at least some free time every week to enjoy our amazing place, and they have a job, hobby or volunteer opportunities that help them feel they are contributing to the prosperity of those less fortunate. 
Favorite sport:
Anything with my dog

Favorite athlete: Kurt Olson

Favorite month in Crested Butte: September

Aaron J. Huckstep, council candidate

Years in the valley: Almost 8

Occupation: Lawyer, current mayor

What motivated you to run for this position and what strengths can you bring to the role of mayor or councilmember?

My motivation is grounded in a desire to be a public servant. Public servants, especially here in Crested Butte, have the ability to make a positive difference in the community’s future. It is hard work (leadership is dangerous business), but it’s also very important work for the community at large. For me, one important motivation is to continue building and strengthening relationships throughout our valley—and thus building our capacity to collaborate and cooperate on intentionally creating the future we want. My strengths include experience (including four years as mayor), good judgment and a healthy dose of pragmatism. I also have a strong sense for action as opposed to words, and have the courage to approach issues from a new perspective.

Huck_October22015

Over the past four years, we have seen significant change in our community—some desired, some not so desired. As an individual, I have a very strong disposition for proactive, solution-oriented behavior. This means engaging with individuals in a very forward-focused manner, relentlessly believing that there is a means to achieve a desired outcome. And if the plans we make today prove to be problematic tomorrow, that’s okay—adaptation is a requirement in today’s world.

This is exactly why I am working on the working group focused on the upper East River Valley and summertime use. Our backcountry areas are second to none, but they won’t stay that way unless we act to create and protect the environment we want. This requires cooperative effort between the town, the USFS, RMBL, Gunnison County, CBMR and Mt. Crested Butte. Four years ago, this effort might have been perceived as an undertaking destined for failure. Today, it’s ripe for success. Projects like this prove why relationships throughout our valley are primary, above all else.

Define your idea of “prosperity” for someone living in Crested Butte.

I’m sure everyone has a little different definition of prosperity. For me, it’s this: the ability to safely pursue economic satisfaction and personal satisfaction in a place that inspires your passions, ultimately generating your own happiness. Underlying this definition is a presumption that your “place” (Crested Butte, for most of us) provides you with a greater-than-reasonable chance of success at succeeding in your pursuit. My desire to be on council, as opposed to continuing as mayor, is grounded in the need to make a living here—to create my own prosperity.

The One Valley Prosperity Project is concerned with addressing the latter part of my definition. Many economic indicators suggest that our community does not give most people a “greater than reasonable chance” at prosperity. Changing this, without simultaneously losing the quality of life we all have come to love, is the principal issue that must be addressed by the OVPP. People in our valley (and in many other places) fear that “economic development” of any sort will result in the loss of their quality of life—and that fear is a very powerful motivator. Figuring out what we can do to improve our situation, while protecting our quality of life, is a worthy and very challenging endeavor.

Favorite sport: Post-mountain biking beer-in-hand bocce in the desert.

Favorite athlete: Dan Loftus the morning after a long night out.

Favorite month in Crested Butte: May! It’s the only month (usually) when you can ski, bike and boat all in one day.

Laura Mitchell, council candidate

Years in the valley: 29

Occupation: Practitioner of ortho-bionomy and yoga teacher

What motivated you to run for this position and what strengths can you bring to the role of mayor or councilmember? 

I feel that I can bring a fresh and unique female perspective to the council. I am motivated to run because I think we need to make traffic safety in town and particularly 6th Street access a priority.

LauraMitchell_October22015

Define your idea of “prosperity” for someone living in Crested Butte.

To live an authentic life doing what you love at work and recreation.

Favorite sport: Skiing

Favorite athlete: Aaron Blunck

Favorite month in Crested Butte: August

Paul Merck, council candidate

Years in the Valley: 27 years

Occupation: Arborist

What motivated you to run for this position and what strengths can you bring to mayor or councilmember:

My motivational factors are that I have always been a volunteer in the community and enjoy a variety of experiences. My volunteer services in the community have included: EMS, Fire, Search and Rescue, Center for the Arts, Mallardi Theater, Heritage Museum, Arts district, and the Grand Traverse. At times I tend to sit at the Town Council meetings for the hot topics and now I am currently attending to learn more about the process. I believe it is my official time to serve the town and give back to the community as a council member.

PaulMerck_October22015

The strengths I feel I can bring to the community are vast. After high school while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics I served six years in the Army National Guard as an engineering officer. I also worked with mentally challenged adults and at risk youth in a residential facility as a vocational director and a certified teacher. I spent five summers in Alaska in a remote Brown Bear lodge viewing and arranging guided trips and in the winter worked for CBMR as a ski patrol and ski school instructor. I have lived and volunteered abroad in New Zealand, Australia, and Costa Rica. I have served on boards including the theater board in Crested Butte and worked with the charter school on Oahu North Shore. Being self-employed, motivated, and owning two businesses in Crested Butte allows me the freedom to attend various forums and gives me the time to dedicate to the people of Crested Butte. My broad knowledge and flexible schedule will enhance serving on the council to deal with town issues.

Define your idea of “prosperity” for someone living in Crested Butte.

Prosperity for me is happiness, safety, and health. Living in Crested Butte requires work, however; I have strived to set up a life to spend time with my beautiful wife Lisa and wonderful children Joshua and Samantha. A work life balance is key to living here and enjoying the amazing surroundings and activities. Crested Butte has always felt safe to me because we are a family and all look out for each other’s wellbeing. Living here allows us all to have a healthy lifestyle and I feel it is my turn to share and continue in our town’s growth and keep the prosperity we can all enjoy.

Favorite Sport: Telemark skiing

Favorite athlete: My kids

Favorite month in Crested Butte: September

Visitors fill resort and towns during busy holiday

CBMR tops 6,000 skier visits in a single day

If the crowds on Elk Avenue have you thinking it’s busy in town, you’re right. Skier numbers at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) have the base area practically bursting at its seams, and over the last couple of weeks, CBMR lodging has sold out several different nights. Read More »

Meet the candidates for Crested Butte mayor and Crested Butte town council

As one of the candidates stated to me after receiving this week’s questions, “Wow, I can’t wait to go home and pick that scab. Thanks.”
That sentiment wasn’t directed at the pizza topping question and it isn’t wrong. But like it or not, the ski area and its future through expansion (or contraction) of people and/or terrain will play a role that impacts the upper end of the valley for many years. Even if, as some contend, we are turning into more of a summer resort with a ski area, the health of the ski area affects us all. So, here ya go. Remember, ballots must be returned to the county by November 5.

—Mark Reaman
Read More »