Ski base area plans compared

Vacationers want more than well-groomed slopes

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The future success of ski res--orts may depend on what happens after a day on the slopes is finished.

"Everybody understands it's really not about lifts and trails anymore," Bill Kane told an audience at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Hotel on Wednesday night.

Kane is vice president of plan--ning for the Aspen Skiing Company. He said that typical vacationing snowboarders or skiers might spend six hours a day on the slopes. Assuming they sleep for eight hours, that leaves 10 hours during which they look for other interesting things to do on vacation. Increasingly, it's the attractions within a base village that set ski destinations apart, Kane said.

He was speaking to more than 80 people who attended an open house that was part of the city of Steamboat Springs' efforts to create a new plan for the redevelopment of the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.

Steamboat Planning Director Steve Stamey said the city wants to hear from residents about their priorities for reinvesting in public facilities at the base of the ski area.

"This is an exciting and important meeting for the future of Steamboat Springs," Stamey said.

The city's adoption of an urban renewal authority at the base of the ski area late last year has provided the impetus for the current Steamboat Base Area Master Plan Update. The URA will capture a fraction of incremental growth in the property tax base at the foot of Mount Werner, allowing the revenues to be reinvested in public improvements there.

Kane has been working for six years to gain approval for a new base village at Snowmass Ski Area. He said that when his company realized it steadily was losing market share at Snowmass to competitors such as Beaver Creek, it took a hard look at its facilities.

"This is a story about what to do in a resort setting with five to six years of negative trends in skier visits," Kane said. "We were losing appeal in terms of all the non-skiing experiences."

When he and his colleagues visited Beaver Creek, Kane said, they saw a popular ice rink and a base village programmed with events and entertainment.

With the passage of a voter referendum last month, Snowmass now has embarked on a plan to create a new base village grouping 620 new hotel and condominium units around shops and restaurants. A feature of the village will be a series of hot pools he called an aquatic center.

Russ Forrest, community development director for the town of Vail, told the gathering that after eight years of planning, his community is seeing the beginning of what eventually will be $1 billion in private investment in new development in Vail Village and Lionshead.

Vail has $3.4 million in lodging and sales taxes dedicated to building a new conference center. The business plan for the conference center projects 60,000 additional room nights annually, generating $30 million in new sales taxes.

"Stay true to your values," Forrest urged. "They'll help you know which developers to say 'yes' to and which to say 'no' to."

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