Long-dormant Stagecoach ski area not forgotten | SteamboatToday.com

Long-dormant Stagecoach ski area not forgotten

The old Stagecoach ski area operated only from 1972-74, but interest in reviving it remains.

— Does the old Stagecoach ski area have a future as a modern resort? The Wittemyer family, which has owned the dormant ski area 18 miles south of Steamboat Springs for many years, still has hopes.

Chris Wittemyer, a Steamboat Springs Realtor, said April 27 that his family (his father, John, is a retired water attorney from Boulder) employs a two-man crew that is actively cutting new trails on the ski hill that can be glimpsed from the deck of Thunderhead Lodge on the Steamboat Ski Area.

"Our desire has always been to put that back together,” Wittemyer said of the ski area Tuesday. "The mountain is bigger than when it originally opened (in 1972) — we've acquired two more pieces of property (in 2005 and 2008)," that increased acreage to 3,500 and added "more vertical (rise) and more terrain than what you can see from town."

The ski area, where the chairlifts haven't run since 1974, now has a respectable 2,400 feet of vertical drop. The resort had barely begun to gather momentum in the early ’70s when the original developers, the Woodmoor Corp., entered bankruptcy, and the ski area closed. But the potential is still there.

This spring, the unincorporated South Routt County community of Stagecoach, 18 miles south of Steamboat on the south side of Stagecoach State Park, is finalizing the first update of its community plan since 1999 with Routt County government.

The long-desired community store is being revisited, perhaps with the possibility of locating it in one of the southern residential neighborhoods. County planner Kristy Winser told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that, in 1999, Stagecoach was home to 250 dwelling units (some of them 1970s townhomes), and today, there are 480 homes.

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Stagecoach had 16 platted subdivision in 1999 and today, has 31 when one takes into account re-plats of some of the larger existing subdivisions that divided them into smaller pieces. She said that, during neighborhood meetings, some of the preferred land uses identified included hiking, biking and the marina at the nearby state park.

"The ski area and golf were actually secondary to that," Winser said.

There were also discussions about capping the number of skiers who could use a revitalized Stagecoach ski area on a daily basis.

Wittemyer hinted that if daily skier numbers were capped, it might push a future developer toward a private club, something that isn't his preference. He currently has a special-use permit from the county and uses it to guide a couple skier outings on the mountain through the course of a winter.

"As it sits today, it's kind of at a crossroads, where it could become a real community asset, or it can go forward as a private development,” Wittemyer told the BOC.

County Commissioner Doug Monger responded that he is "definitely opposed" to a provision in the new community plan capping skier days at a future Stagecoach ski area.

Wittemyer favors the more arduous course of re-envisioning the ski area as a (public) asset. He told Steamboat Today that, while his family has not actively marketed the ski area for its development potential, he receives inquiries on a "fairly frequent basis."

And it doesn't hurt that the the ski area is entirely on private property, which means it would not have to go through a costly and time-consuming federal environmental impact process.

John Troka, president of the Stagecoach Property Owners Association, said he believes the new community plan should emphasize a 20-year outlook for the future of the area.

"It's important that we work with the large landowners in the area to make sure we're developing something we can be proud of," Troka said.

Wittemyer said time will tell if the Stagecoach ski area can be reborn.

"I think that with getting through the (economic) downturn, there's a lot more interest now," Wittemyer said. "Whether or not something can come to fruition is still up for discussion."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1