Ending the season in positive partnerships…from Red Lady to the steeps to (of course) parking…

Achieving significant things for a broad community is rarely done alone…it takes a team, a partnership. Partnerships can sometimes be trying but when partners agree on a goal, figure out action to achieve that goal and then proceed with focus and honest intent, good things happen. Good things are happening as we close out the winter ski season.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the finalization of the Thompson Divide administrative mineral withdrawal. It will basically prohibit mining on 225,000 acres of public land from Crested Butte over Kebler Pass toward Glenwood Springs. For us here in the valley, it takes away the threat of mining on Mt. Emmons for the next 20 years. Congressional approval of the CORE Act can make that permanent, but this week’s action is a big deal. And it came about through a lot of hard work over many years from a variety of partners that included environmentalists, ranchers, recreationists and public officials. 

This action closes a gate on a molybdenum mine on Red Lady for the next two decades. While that mining threat has dissipated in recent years, it always seems to raise its head out of nowhere. The Red Lady fight is part of our history and culture, but this provides an opportunity to breathe and continue to find that solution that lasts forever. Kudos to all the partners involved, especially our U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper. A good partnership resulted in broad community benefit.

Up at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, this season’s actions helped bolster the ski area’s cred with the community. For the second season in a row, the mountain received great snow. It was a sweet season. The pow came regularly and the mountain has held the winter goods. There is still terrific skiing up there.

Great appreciation goes out to the CBMR mountain ops and ski patrol teams. This seemed to be one of, if not the best season for getting the Extremes open in a timely fashion when we got hit with a storm. The professionals up there focused on the difficult work needed to get our signature steeps open and they deserve a lot of credit for a great job this year. Locals noticed. Cheers to that effort and hopefully it signals continued good things to come in future seasons. That effort goes a long way toward making the resort feel like a community partner and not a stereotypical corporate adversary.

The seven members of the Crested Butte town council are not turning a deaf ear to the copious feedback floating around the real and virtual worlds over the parking direction they set a few weeks ago. That is a positive thing, especially when they convey that they understand the partnership involved between the town and the greater surrounding community. 

The parking kerfuffle issue came up at last Monday’s meeting and the council is refocusing on potential alternatives to ramifications of restricting parking near Mountain Express bus stops next winter. The idea of putting aside money for a Brush Creek intercept parking lot was touched upon. A meeting is being held in the CBMR corporate suite next week to figure out ways and responsibilities to make parking at the Crested Butte Community School parking lot during busy holiday weekends and powder days convenient and easy. While they still haven’t dismissed the plan to implement two-hour winter parking limits on the public parking spaces located near the Teocalli Avenue and Four-Way Mountain Express bus stops, at least some of the council members understand the town can shift direction if things become difficult for locals. Purposely pushing locals away from easily catching the most reliable and convenient mass transit option in the valley makes things difficult for locals.

Credit to the council for acknowledging the public feedback floating around the valley. That’s what good partners do. They listen. Personally, even after listening to the town officials pushing the idea, I still do not see the logic of pushing away non-CB residents from parking in a public parking spot near a public bus stop to take a public bus to the ski area. Aside from a few days each ski season, I do not see a major problem given the current realities of vehicle usage and lack of realistic parking alternatives. 

Kudos especially to councilmembers Billick, Prochaska and MacMillan who made clear they did not want to proceed blindly without viable alternatives. They did not want to push more cars up the hill to Mt. CB so promised to keep a close eye on the situation and were willing to “pivot” or amend the parking direction if locals encountered problems with the new restrictions.

Billick was clearest when he stated that, “I believe it should be a town priority to facilitate access by locals to the ski resort without driving up the hill. If the partners are unable to address the situation before next winter and locals have problems accessing Mountain Express because of the changes around the Four-Way and Teocalli, I’d like to see the town pivot quickly.” Hear, hear.

Some on council raised an eyebrow when, during an after-meeting discussion, I said that I agreed with the aspirational goal to have fewer cars in town. I walk and ride my townie a lot in Crested Butte and fewer cars zipping by me and our aging dog would be good. But there is no magic wand that will get waved to simply eliminate the use of cars and trucks as tools for people who live, work, recreate and shop in the North Valley. Council must deal with the broader holistic community— its partners— and not just the conveniences experienced by in-town residents. There is reality to face as well as aspirations to shoot for. Give people a convenient place to park-and-ride and they’ll use it. They are in fact doing that now. Success!

My informal poking around of local officials indicates there is no regular tidal wave of complaints coming from the neighborhoods that see cars park in the public rights-of-way along Elk and Teocalli. 

I do think if the new two-hour restrictions push people to other places near bus stops in town, those neighborhoods will become artificially congested and the “ask” will be to put restrictions there as well based on numbers generated by town action…Grrrr.

The sentiment that Crested Butte should not be solely responsible for ski customer parking is also valid. Hopefully the partners that most directly benefit from ski area business, CBMR and Mt. Crested Butte in particular, will step up at that April 9 stakeholders meeting and agree to put skin in the game to figure out better parking solutions or all. That too is what good partners do.

Successful partnerships embrace thoughtful collaboration, honesty and responsibility to improve things for the broader community. A halt to mining on Red Lady, a focus on the terrain locals like to ski and that defines CB, a shift away from making things hard for out-of-town locals in a ski town. It seems at the end of the great 2023-24 ski season, we are seeing good results from dynamic partnerships.

—Mark Reaman

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