Expansion of Crested Butte Ski Area Nixed

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | December 11, 2009      

Update: Monday, December 14, 2009:

In an article published by the Crested Butte News just a few days ago, writers Seth Mensing and Mark Reaman tell how the Gunnison County Commissioners feel they were “used as an excuse to deny Snodgrass,” and may draft a letter to the USFS attempting to set the record straight.

The USFS decision about Snodgrass could affect the economy of the Crested Butte area for years to come. In fact, I’d say that it WILL affect the local economy — for generations. The effect could be good, or it could be bad, but taking the decision process farther would have not only allowed the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review to identify environmental concerns or lack thereof, but would also have allowed more time for the informal public vetting that always accompanies this sort of thing.

Yes, the Snodgrass issue has been going on for what seems like forever, but when these things get to the final decision making stage is when the public really wakes up. That process has been truncated, to a great extent because Forest Supervisor Charles Richmond did not see what he viewed as the requisite public support. Problem is, public support of the controversial resort expansion definitely exists, though not in such an organized fashion as the anti development faction.

Here is what Richmond wrote about public support in the denial letter:

“… polarization in the community has increased and organized opposition to development of Snodgrass has intensified. There is opposition from the Town of Crested Butte. Gunnison County is unable to submit a letter of support or opposition.…”

Upon more examination, I started thinking about the old adage of “follow the money.” Or, in this case, why would the USFS make a sea change in their common rubber stamp approach to ski area expansion? Beyond all the yammering about public support or lack thereof, lynx, economic impacts, yada yada, it’s pretty obvious when you read the USFS letter. The USFS simply doesn’t want to spend the money and endure the hassle of a controversial approval process. Following is what in my opinion is the Forest Supervisor’s “nut graf.”

“…Acceptance of your proposal would require a large commitment of both our resources and yours. In addition, local governments, stakeholders, and interested parties would need to expend time and energy engaging in the NEPA process. To proceed, I must be convinced that such an effort could lead to a decision which serves the public interest and for which there is a high likelihood of success. I am not convinced of this but rather am convinced otherwise…”

Now, just to keep my cred as being a backcountry skiing advocate, not a resort developer, the only thing I saw in the Denial that really floated my boat was this:

…Many residents in the Crested Butte area and recreational visitors to the area currently use Snodgrass Mountain for hiking, mountain biking and backcountry skiing. Development of the mountain as proposed would alter this use and, in some cases, displace these users to other areas on the National Forest…

All of above which takes us back to the questions:

1. Would Snodgrass actually help the resort become economically viable? Yes or no, it’s vitally important to address the question of how critical the ski resort is to the economic health of the Crested Butte area. If Crested Butte Mountain Resort were to fail, could the wonderful community of Crested Butte sustain? I doubt it, at least without something like, yes, mining.

2. Assuming the Snodgrass expansion would be of economic benefit, is it worth sacrificing the Snodgrass area from our backcountry lands inventory to use for resort skiing? And if we choose not to make that sacrifice, and the ski resort can’t survive as a result, what is the alternative economic engine for those Crested Butte residents without trust funds?

Original Blog Post from Friday, December 11

In Crested Butte, Colorado, the USFS has denied continuation of the approval process for the Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s expansion to backcountry terrain on Snodgrass Mountain. Local environmentalists applaud this of course, as do some backcountry users. But expanding the Crested Butte ski area is a complex issue. CBMR’s skier visits have decreased a stunning 30 percent since 1997. The resort says that to increase skier days they’re willing to try adding more intermediate terrain such as Snodgrass. The hope is that doing so will bring more destination skiers who may not be up for the extreme terrain that “The Butte” is known for, but instead seek moderate trails such as the vast meadows of Vail. Cynics I’ve spoken with maintain that what CBMR is doing with Snodgrass is just a real estate ploy, or simply a land grab on the faint hope it will help increase resort revenues. Check out the antis’ website here.

What’s interesting to me about this issue is that the _town_ of Crested Butte, which is a separate entity located several miles from the ski resort (not to be mistaken for the “Mount Crested Butte” base area village) is nearly wholly dependent on two things for its economy: construction and skiing. And without the skiing, construction would eventually go to zilch. Thus, if I lived in Crested Butte without a trust fund or outside income, I’d be very concerned about a 30 percent drop in skier visits up on the hill above.

It’s not unheard of for resorts in Colorado to fail. Could that happen to Mount Crested Butte? If it did, the pikas might have more room for mating rituals but the town of Crested Butte would need to start a mine if they wanted to keep more than a handful of people employed.

Speaking of mineral extraction, an ongoing issue for Crested Butte is the existence nearby of an enormous molybdenum lode that’s incredibly tempting for mining companies. Wouldn’t it be ironic if locals whined and moaned about a small ski resort expansion, said resort ended up dwindling and going out of business, and then those same people got to look at mining as their only alternative to moving back to Denver? Could happen. To turn a phrase, “if you can’t ski it, you’ve got to mine it?” More here.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


69 Responses to “Expansion of Crested Butte Ski Area Nixed”

  1. Cory December 11th, 2009 10:10 am

    Two things to think about:
    -The Snowmass base area expansion (intended to bring more visitors) now sits with vacant buildings and partial construction.
    -The climax molybdenum mine in Leadville (which started efforts to reopen in the coming years) has had it’s operations ground to a halt and is seemingly stopped in its tracks.

    Lou- Just curious…if it hasn’t worked in these areas, what makes you think that it will work in Crested Butte? Am I missing something? The Butte’s remoteness seems to make it even more difficult to make these types of things fly.

  2. Lou December 11th, 2009 10:55 am

    When did I say it would work in Crested Butte?

  3. Jeff December 11th, 2009 11:25 am

    Let us apply the simplistic lens of supply-and-demand economic explanations. It is clear, in the case of Crested Butte as well as most other ski areas, that the decrease in skier visits is attributable to a decrease in consumer demand of ski vacations, NOT due to a decrease in the supply of skiable acreage (ample) and snowcover (fantastic in recent years). Ski areas, seemingly oblivious to this fact, repeatedly seek expansion as as a way to generate consumer demand out of thin air. Yet, these expansions have negative feedback on the same consumers by driving up ski area costs, and thus, prices. This is the fallacy of ski area economics. By creating such a ridiculous financial hurdle to access lift-served skiing, they have actually decimated the breadth of their consumer base, and transformed skiing into one long commercial for elite, corporate affluence.

    Crested Butte can’t control the overall economy, and they must feel like adding terrain can help attract a bigger market. But, unless they can reduce the price of a ski vacation, none of it will matter. Acreage and intermediate terrain are not the limiting factor in their economy. If ski areas could unhitch themselves from real-estate Ponzi schemes, they could possibly operate with low costs and do fine. But given reality, why shouldn’t ski resorts subsidized by inflated real-estate speculation fail?

  4. Matt December 11th, 2009 11:40 am

    As a mining consultant and backcountry skier I hope that some day the Mt. Emmons project does get up and going. Moly prices will only rise in the future, despite the downturn we are presently in. It is only a matter of time before economics drive a company to throw enough money and people at the project to overcome local opposition. The deposit is too good to languish for eternity.

    I know I’m a minority, but I’d love to live in the middle of great terrain, in a great town, and be able to practice my profession.

  5. Njord December 11th, 2009 11:48 am

    You mean you need tourists to keep your fake little moutain town alive and you are suggesting that CB might fold-up if the resort went away? I find that hard to believe… does not everyone know that the resort is there for the locals and that tourists just get in the way of “keeping it real”?

    What’s next? No Santa Claus or Easterbunny?

  6. Cory December 11th, 2009 11:49 am

    First off, I personally don’t see either side as being “wrong”. There are just different points of view.

    However, I feel that using terms like “cynics” , “antis”, “whined and moaned”, doesn’t do much to veil your opinions on this matter. Be honest and speak from the heart. I assumed from the tone that you wanted the projects to go through. That is ok and I think it definitely has its merit. I also assumed that since you want the projects to go through, that you would also want them to succeed in their goals of economic development. Thus…they would “work.”

    Now, if you had used terms such as “money hungry developers” and refered to the proponents as being “antis” in terms of wildlife, I would assume that you were against such projects going through.

  7. haraldb December 11th, 2009 12:05 pm

    Matt – Do you know if the Mt Emmons deposit is even more productive/lucrative then the Henderson operation?

    Seems like Henderson has been able to satisfy Moly demand pretty well on its own and has plenty of recoverable material left. I’d reckon as well that Mt. Emmons will be developed at some point, but it doesn’t seem to make sense until Henderson is tapped out.

    With regards ti CBMR, it seems like the Muellers were planning on RE development to make their purchase make sense financially. The market in Crested Butte however is not deep enough to support the amount of development that has occurred in the last few years. From what I have seen and heard, a lot of the new development has not sold well. This makes me think that a new snodgrass base village is a bit of a fools errand.

    I hope CBMR can make it, I spent the best year of my life ski bumming there in the mid nineties. Always a treat to return to Crested Butte and go trippin’ on a memory or two.

  8. Andrew December 11th, 2009 12:06 pm

    Expand, extract… or die. This Colorado place is rough. 🙂

    Hip hip hooray for the “antis” and commies on this one. The Wasatch Powderbird Guides were recently denied a heliport in the middle of the most densely populated area of Summit County, UT, so perhaps the world really is going to heck in a handbag. Limbaugh is going to burst a valve over this one.

    I think this is a good/great thing as continued expansion and/or extraction at these ski areas (Park City in my case) is unsustainable and considering the amount of empty or unsold condos at the base areas, completely unneeded. The people in CB are smart and they will undoubtedly reinvent themselves and their economic base.

    And, this isn’t just CB. The same thing and illogical complaints are going on at Solitude, Snowbird, Alta and The Canyons – all these areas say they need to expand to keep up, yet at the same time they have empty high-speed quads with riders on every forth chair.

    The idea of more development seems especially ludicrous considering how many houses and condos are for sale or being foreclosed on it ski towns. In Park City, there are more “For Sale” signs than mailboxes on some streets, and these are for houses which have come down hundreds of thousands of dollars and are still sitting there.

    And really Lou – when was the last time you paid for a lift ticket? A day at CB for you, Lisa and Louie would set you back $261. Like the housing market, the skiing market could use a major correction.

  9. Jeff December 11th, 2009 12:06 pm


    It does seem that time and time again, you frame anyone who prioritizes ecology over human utility as “anti-“. They are never “pro-” anything, just “anti-.” This sort of negative framing is at an apex nationally right now, and you are doing your part to propagate the meme that “enviros” are anti-everything. Maybe some people are pro-Snodgrass Mountain. How’s that for a concept? Maybe they are pro-sustainability. Do you really think these folks are driven by a hatred of economy and jobs and skiing? Or are they instead maybe driven by a love of wildness? Could they pro-something?

  10. Jeff December 11th, 2009 12:11 pm

    Njord said it best. enjoyed the brevity, precision, and sarcasm. Could be a commenter at Gawker.com. Thumbs up Njord!

  11. Matt December 11th, 2009 12:24 pm

    heradlb – Mt Emmons is in the same class as Henderson. The new JV operator, Thompson Creek, has far more experience than the past JV partners of US Energy. They will likely slowly progress the project until production slows from their assests in Canada then push hard there in CB. – assuming they still have the option on the property at that time. Henerderson is owned by Freeport-McMoran, who also owns Climax. During the high moly prices of 2 years ago they were pushing hard to reopen Climax and run them concurrently. That was put on hold with the drop in prices over the last 18 months, however I’ve heard that they are again starting to put resources back on Climax as prices start to rise. The other major moly mine here in the states is Questa (chevron Mining) down near Taos. They have been producing less and less and need to do some major underground upgrades to keep production going to make up for some poor engineering decisions over the past few years.

    Permitting a mine in most parts of th US takes a significant amount of time. I think anything at Mt Emmons is 10 yrs away or more at best.

  12. dongshow December 11th, 2009 11:42 am

    I could see the area fold (I often forget it exists), but don’t see the mining option as too likely, although I did get a laugh. These days, to open a mind you need a state government willing to write permits to pollute and an expendable population. Colorado with it’s smiling activists and generally white bourgeois population really isn’t that type of place anymore.

    Too bad Crested Butte isn’t in Alaska, where the state would permit strip mining the place tomorrow and the local tribe could be removed and blamed for not adjusting to modernity.

  13. KDog December 11th, 2009 12:44 pm

    I have to agree with Jeff. The economics don’t make sense anymore. I lived in Vail for 11 years and saw their expansion/real estate sales model in it’s hey day. Now I have friends and family there whose businesses are almost failing. All this during some of the best snow in 20 years.

    Elsewhere, you’ve got Tamarack, the first “new” ski area permit in decades in bankruptcy and Bruce Willis’s Soldier Mountain plans on hold until the economic climate improves.

    Newer aquisitions like Powder Mountain in Utah are in turmoil over development plans and trying to ram the creation of a new “Township”, (under some archaic law) down the throats of neighboring towns. They want to control their own development regulations but their massive plan would stress the already overtaxed valley watershed. They are facing a lot of opposition and they are on private land!

    Across the valley at Snowbasin, owned by Sinclair Oil’s Earl Holding (also owns Sun Valley) has a similar expansion and real estate plan which includes a hotel, golf courses and many million dollar homes. He has been quietly buying up all the water rights he can get, but has slow tracked the construction.

    I currently live in Canada and am watching similar projects get green lighted by the BC government, whose motto seems to be, anything that raises tax revenue is a worthy project. Kicking Horse Resort’s expansion was started almost 10 years ago and the real estate sales have fizzled. The village still is not built out. Mt Revelstoke, the new darling, has the lifts in, some lodges and about 3 homes built. Dirt roads and muddy parking lots don’t scream luxury to me, but I am not a real estate speculator.

    Our home mountain, Whitewater was purchased by some guy’s from Alberta two season’s ago and they are submitting their expansion plan now. Real estate sales to fund ski area improvements is the word and “modest” by comparison to other BC Ski area expansions is their selling point. Even this tiny ski area in the Kootenay’s is not immune to speculation.

    I have not even mentioned the Jumbo Glacier Resort controversy and Ski Smithers, now owned by the guys who brought you Blackcomb Mountain.

    Is there a demand for all this development? Aren’t skier visits down due to skiing just being a luxury item for the “intermediate” terrain seekers who need their disposable dollars for more pressing items? Who is going to buy all this expensive real estate?

    As Jeff stated above,

    “Ski areas, seemingly oblivious to this fact, repeatedly seek expansion as as a way to generate consumer demand out of thin air”.

    Crested Butte should thank the Forest Service for keeping them from mortgaging their future just to compete with all the other speculators vying for the same piece of a quickly shrinking pie.

  14. Lou December 11th, 2009 1:30 pm

    The people formed their group to oppose Snodgrass development. The group didn’t exist before they existed to be anti development. Thus they are anti. Why is that a negative? I thought it was cool to be anti development. Don’t be so sensitive. Beyond what I called them, they have a website, I linked to it, and the point is, will Crested Butte as a resort eventually cease to exist, or are they fine without Snodgrass? Good comments above get a lot of that sorted out.

    Oh, and one other thing, I really truly have no opinion on whether Snodgrass should be developed or not. But I do have opinions on the general scheme of such things. Hence the blog…

  15. Cory December 11th, 2009 1:59 pm

    It is negative because of connotation. As stated before, you could have chose to say they were pro-Snodgrass mountain (that would have been called a positive connotation). Pointing out connotation doesn’t make a person more sensative…just like being quick to defend yourself doesn’t make you more sensative.

  16. D- December 11th, 2009 3:26 pm

    For the non-Fox news version of this WS post, Off-Piste mag. had a blurb about the CB expansion in their Dec. issue.

    Isn’t if funny that the only conservation conservatives are interested in is their pocketbook and a self-centered schema of the world?

    As Ed said, “Growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

    Thank you USFS!!!!!!!!

  17. Omr December 11th, 2009 4:31 pm

    Skiing is nothing more than a Trojan horse for high end real estate. When I was a kid SAve Our Canyons was up in arms over the development of Puruvian Gulch and Gad Valley (Snowbird). By today’s standards Snowbird is a model for retrained development. MAke no mistake. I wish there were no tram, chairs or high rise spas, but SB is the lessor evil than the current practice of gated. communitites to the top of historical bc terrain. But maybe we’re all to blame. Bc skiers broadcasting their exploits just might be the first ingredient of future development. The LCC skiers of the 1960’s undoubtedly were the seeds of life for Snowbird.

  18. Omr December 11th, 2009 5:18 pm

    Speaking of Wasatch development, Solitude is talking of expansion In to Silver Fork. See http://www.noahhowell.com

  19. Ken December 11th, 2009 5:22 pm

    I think its entertaining how so many view ski area expansion as this huge evil. Of the thousands of peaks in Colorado, there are probably 40 accessible by chairlift and probably another 35 accessible by some sort of decent road (rough estimate). And by and large those ski areas promote opportunities for the lay person to have an outdoor experience is some sort of controlled environment. It gives them appreciation for nature, gets them into it a bit, and allows them to see an environment that would otherwise be totally foreign to them.

    Yes, some of these people have more money than the rest of us and spend it ways that are not really understandable. But those are the same people that buy more gear for a weekend resort skiing than I buy for 5 years of BC skiing. They keep prices lower and keep shops in business. To some degree, rich folks keep the world going for the rest of us….to some degree, I said.

    Additionally, when it comes time for the richies to give a little and pat themselves on the back, where do you think they make those big donations? Thats right, the Sierra club, Save our Canyons, TNC, etc. Where do you think any conservation group would be without rich benefactors that had a good experience in the outdoors probably on top of a windswept peak in Colorado that they accessed on a lift? Nowhere. Rich people conserve more land through their donations each year than you and I could in whole lifetimes.

    Just to put this back in perspective, we’re talking about ski area expansion – places that have already been impacted, but that want to expand that impact in some manner. We’re not talking about pure evil here folks. Better next to already impacted area than within or next to a wilderness area. Its not like this stuff is in short supply either…like I said, out of thousands upon thousands of peaks in the US, really only a handful are dedicated to recreational skiing for those that can afford it for portions of the year. Think about the following questions:

    How much Pika habitat do we need?

    Recreational use of public lands (FS, BLM) is the number 1 use of those lands. Is the land better used for recreation or for timber harvest? Which do you think has more impact?

    What really is so bad about some more land dedicated to skiing? What does it really hurt and what would that land be used for if it were not used for skiing?

    Really folks, stand on top of a 14er in the San Juans and realistically try to make the case that there is just too much commercialization of forests. Its time for people to stop being selfish by demanding that public resources benefit only those willing to wander off trail and some misc. bugs and bunnies that already have plenty of habitat.

    Allow the rich people to have a good experience outside and watch their pocketbooks open to “save the planet” and protect what you claim to want to protect anyhow.


  20. Lou December 11th, 2009 6:49 pm

    Good discussion all, thanks! I’ll admit my “whine and moan” characterization could appear a bit much, but I promise I didn’t copy that from Fox News. On the other hand, I’ve listened in person to people whining about this sort of thing (usually they’re people employed by the ski industry or a close second), and have to admit the whining gets a bit tedious. I mean, you feel like saying “quite your whining, and go do something on the 100zillion acres of National Forest that are not part of a ski resort.” As for the moaning, yeah, I exaggerated. Have never heard anyone moaning about Snodgrass.

  21. gtrantow December 11th, 2009 7:01 pm

    CB needs to determine their fate. CB has good values and they will thrive or die by those values. I agree if CB mountain resort fails they will likely vote within a decade to open a mine…to replace lost ski jobs. I wonder how many people will cheer the Anti-Snodgrass movement then?

  22. Jefferson December 11th, 2009 8:07 pm

    Lou and Gang,

    Sorry I’m late to the party, driving a package car this time of year doesn’t leave much time to stay current with your page.

    “If you you can’t ski it you’ve got to mine it,” indeed. Or ranch it. Or paint and sculpt it. Or telecommute from it. Or educate people with it. You are right to provoke us, but, as I’m hinting, there are many players at the table when it comes to Big Plans for the valley. When the USFS cited community ambivalence in rejecting the expansion plan it’s those voices that were in the government’s ear. I think you need to enlarge the frame for this problem to the county and not just the municipalities of CB and MCB.

    When the Muellers bought the ski area I’m sure they thought their green credentials would be enough to push expansion plans past some of the same actors that got in Calloway’s way. The Muellers might have charmed the like minded arrivistes in the service, tourism and artisanal construction sectors who live in the butte’s shadow but I don’t think the rest of the county was impressed, especially when they sold the ski area to a Florida holding company. That was almost certainly the nail in the coffin. I’m surprised the ski area’s word is good for anything now.

    Lou, I’ve nagged you about how to sustain the pinecone economy on the other side of the hill last year:


    my comments hold even more true than before:

    “But be prepared to find more than nostalgia in the mining legacy. The ghosts of the old houses are telling us something: if you stay here you need to do something else.”

  23. Lou December 11th, 2009 9:33 pm

    Jefferson, it’s indeed true that some local economies can be made robust when they loose what previously anchored them. And in the case of Crested Butte, without mechanized skiing I’m sure that ranching and tourism would sustain something, but it would be way different than it is now, and in my view could only support a fraction of the working class that now lives and recreates in what many call “paradise.”

    I do like to bring up mining because we all need it, but am using it as a rhetorical device, not being a mining advocate. But I think you get that.

    Also, as an aside, I do enjoy our mining heritage and it amuses me that Aspen was completely raped by mining just a century ago, and it’s now considered such a beautiful place and home to so many wealthy people who could live anywhere they wanted, but they buy a zillion $$$$ house on a mine dump, where silver that is still circulating was dug up once upon a time… wild.

  24. Andrew December 11th, 2009 10:55 pm

    I’m sure when mining started to die off in a lot of these mountain towns people thought the towns were washed up as well, but suddenly skiing came along and everything changed. Or to put it another way 50 years in the future:

    “Also, as an aside, I do enjoy our skiing heritage and it amuses me that Aspen was completely raped by the ski industry in the 1980’s, and it’s now considered such a beautiful place and home to so many normal, well adjusted people who could live anywhere they wanted, but they buy a reasonable, substainable house on a ski trail, where ski lifts circulated once upon a time… wild.”


  25. Mark December 11th, 2009 11:07 pm

    Tamarack is a good example of real estate not supporting the weight of an otherwise fine ski area development. And Moonlight Basin is facing bankruptcy as well. I don’t wish places such as these to fail, but sometimes I really just want a simple place to ski with little more than a basic lodge and a couple lifts–when I’m not in the backcountry earning my turns.

  26. Lou December 12th, 2009 10:05 am

    Mark and all, there is almost nothing that breaks my heart more than what’s happened to the ski “industry” over the past fifty years in places like Aspen. To take an affordable family recreation done on public land and make it into an expensive activity for the elite, that just makes me want to cry.

    On the other hand, high end industrial skiing like any business in that it does employ a LOT of people in this area, and does a huge amount to keep our whole economic engine running.Ask any of the families around here who don’t ski (most of them), and have good jobs, and I’d imagine they’d say they’re just fine with whatever the Ski-co wants to do.

  27. Jeff December 12th, 2009 12:02 pm

    I feel it trickling down all over me…

  28. Jeff December 12th, 2009 1:07 pm


    You never referred to the developers as anti-open space, or anti-wildland, or anti-backcountry. Why aren’t the developers “anti-“? Only the environmentalists are “anti-“. Your probably employ this framing subconsciously as a consequence of your belief system, but now that it’s been pointed out, you can be more conscious about it. Good luck!

  29. Lou December 12th, 2009 2:21 pm

    Jeff, you are over thinking this. People who start an organization to intentionally oppose something or be against it are antis in the way I’m using the term. They are intentionally anti something and proud to be in that position. Hence I call them antis.

    You can re-define the term all you want, but your take is not how I was using it.

    Sure, anyone who does anything usually precludes something else. But that doesn’t make them “anti” in the way I’m using the term. For example, I wouldn’t call a person who hikes as “anti automobile” unless they stated they were opposed to driving, or indeed were anti automobile. By the same token, I wouldn’t call a developer “anti backcountry” unless they stated the purpose of their organization was to oppose backcountry.

    But I think you’d be happier if I said, sure, I’m an anti as well because I’m against the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal. You could then say I was anti wilderness, but that wouldn’t be true, as I’m “for” the wilderness we have here, and also “for” new wilderness where it’s needed for various reasons, perhaps in the Wasatch for example.

    The thing is, there are certain people in the backcountry world who seem to just have a demeanor of being anti this, anti that, anti anti anti. In a broader sense, I’d call those people “antis” and use the term as a statement about their personality and how they approach the concept of multiple use.

  30. Lee December 12th, 2009 2:30 pm

    I like blogging and reading blogs because they’re a genuine personal expression – free from the demands of unbiased (or deliberately biased) reporting, political correctness or semantics. If the way a blog post is phrased gives a hint of the writers’ personal bias, geographical location, personal history, belief systems, upbringing, etc. then that’s great! That’s why blogs are frequently far more interesting than other forms of ‘journalism’.

  31. Tom December 12th, 2009 4:01 pm

    One of the reasons that the “Friends of Snodgrass” use for not wanting development on Snodgrass is that they state that the area is “pristine”. I will just come out and say that that is a joke. The space between CB South and the upper limits of Mt CB (East River) is the definition of sprawl. Standing at the firehouse in Mt CB looking west what do you see? The old junker houses of old MtCB in the foreground then an open field that is pretty but typical and then the sprawling subdivision of Meridian Lake. Pretty? Yes Rare? No Pristine? Not.

    Another fact about CB is that it is at the end of the road and is relatively hard and expensive to get to. Just to compare; there are about 4-5 times as many flights from about twice as many cities going into Aspen as there are going into Gunnison and they are about 20-50% more expensive. Why exactly would anybody want to go there? Oh ya, the Roaring Fork valley has 4 ski areas.

    They need to make themselves appealing to the widest range of people possible. I have lived in CB two times over the last 18 years and just in that short time period got bored with what was available, they need to expand. Not developing Snodgrass is shooting themselves in the foot. After developing CB South, Hidden River,Riverland, RiverBend, Skyland, CB, all the crap in the middle, Meridian Lake, Mt CB and GoldLink etc. why are they protecting one fairly insignificant bump with trees on it?

    It is a community of contradictions and somewhat self destructive behavior, not unique in the mtn town world but really baffling to me in this specific situation.

    CB, IMHO, is nothing special but the area around it is stunning and I spend alot of time there (18 years) riding, kayaking,skiing and don’t want to see it slowly fade away which seems like they are setting themselves up to do. I was in the construction business there and in the off season it has a desolation like I’ve not seen anywhere else. No viable ski area equals a ghost town. The economics from a mine doesn’t compare to that of a ski area.

  32. Matt Kinney December 12th, 2009 6:45 pm

    Too bad then when ALL who oppose something like this are ALL automatically branded as “environmentalist” or “anti’s” when in reality they are just common citizens who take issue with things from time to time.

    Some may even be your strereotypical house moms who just oppose this or that. I bet very few of “ALL” are environmentalist in the classic sense. Even in my circle of pals, I know few, if any classic environmentalist. Most are just concerned citizens who want to be heard on an issue that may affect their quality of life. The world is full of NIMBYs on both sides of land issues in any “hood” in the USA. Heck we got a swarm of oil workers here livid over a single cell tower proposal next to their ideal cluster of trophy homes. Are they antis? Are they ranting enviros…of course not. They are Americans though.

    Lou, I think you do an injustice with that type of branding on these land issues though I do enjoy your articles You and others tend to throw that term around pretty willy-nilly which is your biased, un-balanced right as the purveyor of this blog I guess. I would hope for slightly better journalism than group branding. In the future, “concerned citizens” is a much more appropriate name.

    Cheers and ski hard….. 🙂

  33. Lou December 12th, 2009 7:20 pm

    Matt, your comment makes sense. I maintain that there is a personality type who is the nimby anti and deserves to be called out. On the other hand, if I use the term as too much of a catch-all, then you are correct I should watch out for such as I certainly don’t intend to insult anyone who doesn’t deserve it. And while posting an opinion laced blog isn’t exactly straight journalism, I should indeed make a stab at improving my style and doing a better job.

  34. Jefferson December 12th, 2009 7:03 pm

    Lou and Gang,

    Lou, thanks for your reply. IMO, I’ve found your views on development, land use, and the pine cone economy eclectic. As far as the topic at hand goes I think you are merely asking, “if not this, then what?”

    Tom: I agree, Snodgrass is not pristine. Then again, what part of the High Elk Corridor is? Humans have used the area as a hunting ground for centuries, it’s been mined, quarried, and otherwise developed for almost a century and a half. It’s not pristine, no, but those of us with an interest in it would like to know what the value-added is in developing it still more?

    You ask “why are they protecting one fairly insignificant bump with trees on it?”
    Well, although it’s insignificant to you it is important to other folks who live there. I could trot out some folks from the RMBL to help explain but I wonder what good it could so since you think “they need to expand.” Please tell me why Snodgrass should become, in your words, part of “all the crap in the middle”?

    Chime in here, Lou, but I think whether one is in favor or or against any particular development project I think in Gunnison County and elsewhere in the mountain West that development must be diverse and sustainable. Diverse; in that a municipality is not dependent on one sector to drive prosperity and sustainable; in that development must add relative value irrespective of whether the economy as a whole expands or contracts. The CBMR plan for Snodgrass fails both tests. It makes no sense to expand the ski area when it’s not close to capacity; it makes no sense to build yet more houses when the price of existing homes is falling. Until this changes Gunnison County will need to look towards other kinds of economic activity to stimulate growth.

    In an older post Lou and I went back and forth over how this is happening in the Roaring Fork/Upper Colorado River basin: public transport links; planning between the counties; expansion of the energy sector. Gunnison County’s remoteness plays against these possibilities; it will truly have to reinvent itself.
    For those interested, you may wish to consult this PowerPoint:

    (broken link)

    Among his findings:

    Gunnison County has very attractive assets – high education, a pristine environment, an airport, a 4 year degree college and a hospital – these have not translated into high incomes.


    Gunnison County is highly educated, but earnings are not consistent with high education. The major industries pay poorly, average earnings per job are low and have not risen, in real terms since 1970. Therefore, on average, education in Gunnison County does not coincide with high earnings.

    The County is vulnerable to the recession.

    So, the solution seems obvious: the County needs to attract and develop businesses that take advantage of the area’s high education levels.

    Any ideas, Lou?

  35. Matt Kinney December 12th, 2009 8:51 pm

    tks…. recommend ” a few environmentalist along with other American citizens…..” or words to the affect. I think that is more the reality typically in these type of local issues from my experience.

    And don’t mess with your style. You do a great job!!! 🙂

  36. Eric December 12th, 2009 9:25 pm

    As someone who lives in Gunnison (30 Minutes away) and a student at the college there I might be able to give a better perspective. For the last three years, Crested Butte has continually raised their season pass rates in an effort to weed out the college students. But why would they do this. Well for one,they make no money off of us. Even though our student pass rates are close to $700 and non discounted pass close to $1200 they make very little off of us. When I did a paper on this topic, i spoke to management at CB and they said that they make almost all of their profit off of lodging and food. This is one of the reasons they changed the rules of free ski. For instance, we were able to go ski the first two weeks the mountain was open for free, but guess what 90% of the free ski participants where either locals from around the area and college students. People brought bag lunches so they didn’t have to spend anything. Now, in order to ski free, you have to buy lodging, thus they make money off of it.

    It still Baffles me how bad their plan is to make money. The development of Snodgrass will cost close to 19 million. 18 of which is the lodge at the base. Also, since Snodgrass is on the other side of town, people will physically have to get in their car and drive to the other side. Yet, they believe this will encourage more people to drive from the front range, pay close to $100 for a day pass, and raise income. And they are willing to do this when the town is already 65 Million dollars in debt? So are there other things they can do?

    There sure is. First lower the ticket sales, yet keep lodging at the same price. They said it themselves, they make their most money off of lodging and food, so instead of spending more money and risking going under, lower the prices to make it attractive to drive all the way out here in order to ski. They will still make the same if not more money, yet won’t put the town even more in debt.

  37. Lou December 12th, 2009 9:50 pm

    “If not this, then what?” is exactly the point.

  38. Eric December 12th, 2009 10:23 pm

    To Jeff:
    The Paper was for a business class, but i have also used it in a rec class. I choose the topic because i am always amazed at what companies and businesses believe they have to do in order to get more money. Any business is run in basically the same way. They offer a service, whether this is gear, entertainment or recreation etc… What makes a business stay up and running though is a couple of things. The first being customer service.

    In order to retain business, the company has to do something that sets them apart from everyone else; for CB this is the Steeps and the reputation. But, in order to continue to get business, they need to modify there business plan in order to better serve their customers, the skiers.

    What CB doesn’t realize is the fact that with the amount of people they currently have skiing there, they could be finacially stable. They just need to modify their business plan. Like I mentioned before, they don’t need to add more terrain, they have plent of greens, blues and blacks; out of 151 runs, only 57 are double blacks. Now take into consideration that the double blacks are some of the shortest runs their, yet the steepest, and you have the locals skiing on approximatly 1/3 of the resort.

    So, if the locals are using only 1/3 of the resort who is using the other 2/3’s? THe answer: tourists. These people fly in from all over, drive from the front range, and god knows where else to ski at THE Crested butte. They are coming for the reputation. But the thing that is driving peopl away is the ticket prices. For instance, take the locals this year. 1/3 of them went to ski at Monach mountain (info came from ticket sales at monarch). I was one of them. Season passes at Monarch are just over $300. Day Passes are $55. So tell me why people from the front range, who have to drive pass Monarch Mountain and over Monarch Pass, whould drive an extra 60 miles, and pay almost double the ticket price where thye can get the same terrain at Monarch.

    In my mind, Monarch Mountain has a good business plan. They don’t upgrade for the sake of it. They upgrade when something breaks down. For instance, monarch only has 1 high speed quad, everything else is standard two seaters. They have no ungodly huge lodge for people to stay at becuase it would mean more $$ out of their pocket: this money would be to maintain, develop and keep the lodge running. Yet when I went up their today (SAT) The parking lot was so full i had to park on the road on the pass and walk to it…

    So, like i said, in CB’s quest to become the next big resort, they are digging themselves in a finacial hole. And when they want to sell it, they will be so in debt, currently 65 million, no one will be able to buy it.

  39. Trevor Hunt December 12th, 2009 9:25 pm

    Being an outsider to this conversation (I’m from Whistler Canada, and have never skied at ‘the butte’, I definitely didn’t get a Fox News or one-sided vibe from Lou’s article . . .
    I’m interested in hearing about the downfall of the ski industry, because my hometown is the poster-child. Skier visits to Whistler dropped drastically after sept.11.2001, and Whistler has continued to raise lift ticket prices every year since. In contrast, I remember seeing an advert in a ski magazine this year about a relatively cheap season passe for 5 major resorts in Colorado (don’t quote me on this!). I was glad to see that in the past couple of years, at least some of the resorts in the U.S. seem to be reducing prices.

  40. Lou December 12th, 2009 10:28 pm

    Did I hear the word “bailout?”

  41. Eric December 12th, 2009 10:30 pm

    no you heard the word “chapter 11”

  42. Chris Beh December 12th, 2009 10:40 pm

    If the ski are expansion is supposed to pull more skiers to CB why can’t they expand the terrain but skip the base development? Then they wouldn’t have to raise ticket prices to fund their speculative real estate building? If the new terrain draws so many new visitors then a decade down the road they could add new housing. The Butte is too hard to reach compared to Summit County, Vail or even Aspen for the average ski tourist.

  43. Jefferson December 12th, 2009 9:50 pm


    Thank you for your post. You say you did a paper on this topic for a class at Western State? Please describe the paper; how you chose the topic; how you did your research; and your findings.

    Are you familiar with these folks?

    (broken link)

    I’m sorry that your paper isn’t available for us to view, please share as much as you can. You are more than just a neighbor; on this subject you are also at least a researcher, if not a local expert.

  44. XXX_er December 13th, 2009 2:15 pm

    Up here in BC but we got the same issue ,Thompson creek is trying to put a moly mine under our ski hill , IN a community watershed with “acceptable” runoff into a world class steelhead river

    fortunatley commodity prices fell and I don’t think they could get some thing like that past the Wetsuetin 1st nation with whom the gov have not and would like to settle the land claims

    Thompson creek closed shop & their office became a coffee bar but no doubt they will be back … when moly prices are back

  45. Lou December 13th, 2009 3:59 pm

    We should just mine the metals for our mountain bike frames in third world countries where they don’t care as much about the environment, and need the work. :angel:

  46. Lee December 13th, 2009 4:42 pm

    I think you’ll find that has been going on for centuries – which is why the world is so f***ed up!

  47. XXX_er December 13th, 2009 5:53 pm

    well there is a certain amount of NIMBY in the community BUT since they want to drill a new shaft anyhow they could put it in the back of the mountain instead of the front IN the community watershed ,they could ship by rail instead of every 15min by truck thru the town , and what is a acceptable amount of pollution into a fish bearing river ?

    there are alot of smart scientists in town types in town and thompson creek was told as such straight up in the beginning … don’t mess with these people cuz they aren’t stupid

    instead they try to railroad thru weak science , their own agenda and a con job with the promise of a few job …nobody was fooled or impressed

  48. TreeDodger December 14th, 2009 11:45 am

    Why “mine the metals” when there is endless scrap lying around in every sanctioned and unsanctioned landfill? Will this country ever be able ween itself from entrenched industries and finally re-invent itself?

  49. Colorado MoJo December 14th, 2009 12:03 pm

    If anyone is curious what the skiing on Snodgrass looks like today, here’s a link to a fun video from last March, created by CB guide Mark Smiley:


  50. Cory December 14th, 2009 4:18 pm

    Thanks for the update. Sorry about baing a pest about connotation…it’s the English Major in me. Maybe the way to cross this avy path (metaphor) is to separate you articles into infomational and editorial. Just a thought.

  51. Lou December 14th, 2009 5:21 pm

    Cory, I’ll let you guys do the separating, it’s more fun that way!

  52. Andrew December 15th, 2009 11:06 am

    Just for reference and clarification Lou, have you ever supported an environmental cause or fought any sort of development?

  53. Lou December 15th, 2009 11:21 am

    Andrew, I don’t understand your point in asking other than if you’re trying to call me out as some kind of development booster or see if I have some kind of hidden agenda or am not intellectually honest… But at any rate, I’ve done everything from blocking a snowmobiler with a ski pole to marching in a nuclear bomb protest in Rulison (a bomb I still think was patently ridiculous), not to mention voting for McGovern. I also recall going to meeting way back when and speaking against helicopter skiing in our local mountains. In terms of fighting development I’ve signed petitions over the years that opposed some housing developments and that sort of thing. Also did some things in my younger days I’m still embarrassed about and won’t go into, but you can use your imagination. Most recently, I wrote a letter that questioned the need for building a hut in a pristine backcountry area, though I have mixed opinions about that issue.

    Thing is, I’m just not knee-jerk for or against development. In the case of Snodgrass, I see there might be two sides to the issue and I’m not sure which is the correct side to be on.

    Oh, almost forgot to mention I filed as a conscientious objector during Vietnam, and was willing to go that route, but had a low number instead thank God. Does that give me any cred in your book?

    All that being said, it’s probably obvious to you that I’m somewhat of a property rights advocate and feel that a modicum of development in our mountain towns is ok, just as is a certain degree of resource extraction to support our lifestyle and civilization. I mostly regard that attitude as simple honesty and lack of hypocrisy rather than any sort of radical position. But then, that’s just my opinion.

    More on my take here:

  54. Andrew December 15th, 2009 11:49 am

    You just answered my point, which was to see if you were ever anti or NIMBY anything yourself. Welcome to the club. 😉

    I feel some things are worth fighting for, especially if it is a David versus Goliath situation where you are going up against developers, speculators, rich motorsports lobbyist and unfettered corporate greed at the expense of public land.

    On that note, I was just in Sun Valley this last weekend and they seem to be doing well by increasing the quality rather than just the quantity of their skiing experience. I have a real problem with modern day ski areas claiming they need to expand when they don’t even have lift lines.

  55. Lou December 15th, 2009 11:53 am

    How could a person go through life without being opposed to something, and thus “anti?” I don’t understand why this distinction is so important to you.

    When I was protesting Rulison, I was an “anti.” So what?

  56. Jefferson December 15th, 2009 7:20 pm


    Lou’s views on the environment and development are eclectic, as you read from his followup, and as past posts of his on this blog bear out.

    Snodgrass for Lou (and myself) is not a cause but a question, namely: what projects on the Western Slope are worth the trade in prosperity for development? I personally agree with those who oppose expansion of the MCBSA to Snodgrass but Lou’s question still stands: if not this, what?

    Rather than engage in NIMBY vs. More-Eco-Than-Thou barbs I wish we’d get back to the question.

  57. Andrew December 15th, 2009 11:01 pm

    Okay, consider me back on the question.

    Given the choice between mining or ski town expansion, I’d go for mining. At least it is real.

  58. Lou December 16th, 2009 8:31 am

    Andrew, good point about “real.” I’d agree that it’s an open question and that mining can be fine. There are lots of types of mining. Like logging, it gets a bad rap overall when people are ignorant of the subtleties and current state of the art. On the other hand, from what I’ve read the molly mine that could exist next to the town of Crested Butte is on such a massive scale it sounds like it would basically make the whole area into a sacrifice zone because of the tailings and large operation.

    Thus, I think the folks in Crested Butte really need to be asking some hard questions about economic sustainability. If expanding the resort results in more homes to maintain, more ski lifts to be employed to work on, more ski patrol positions, etc., then it could contribute to a sustainable economy. Provided the visitors came to ski and spend money. But if their skier visits are down 30 % since their peak years ago, why in the world would adding a few ski runs increase their visits? Have they done studies? Or is this just an “unreal” real estate pyramid scheme wherein they add some lift served terrain so someone can make money from the development of associated land, keep themselves floating financially for a few more years, and the inevitable failure or the resort is simply delayed, not prevented?

    One thing about little high altitude mountain towns like Crested Butte: they’re actually not very sustainable, despite local politicians and citizens who like to make out that they’re somehow more ecologically enlightened then the droves of consumers in the lowlands.

  59. Lou December 16th, 2009 8:55 am

    On another rabbit trail, when reading the Forest Supervisor letter, I was stunned to see that one excuse he made for his denial was that developing Snodgrass would create more access to avalanche terrain. This in the face of it being a backcountry skiing area anyway — along with his whole (non-wilderness) National Forest being the playground manic snowmobilers and plenty of avalanche terrain skiing.

    I have to wonder if some of the antis used the “access to avy terrain” argument in their letter campaign. If any of them did, that’s very disappointing, as the next thing you know the Forest Supervisor could close Snodgrass to ALL SKIING because of avalanche danger.

    That’s like playing the lynx card to prevent development (which is in the denial as well). I mean, call out the lynx issue to prevent a ski resort, and why should even backcountry skiers be allowed in the area if it’s sensitive lynx habitat?

    Dangerous ground to be treading on, folks. Be careful what you ask for — you might get it.

  60. OLDDUDE December 16th, 2009 9:50 am

    One thing about some developements is the potential disconnect between those who are pushing it and whether they care if it actually works longer term. Are they using their own money or investors money?The boys in the suits are a tricky bunch so as they say “follow the money”

  61. Pat December 16th, 2009 6:37 pm

    After spending a winter in CB (07-08), I can say that the locals I met were divided and polarizing on the expansion. Whereas the mine seemed to have little or no support in CB.

    Lou, I agree with your post dated December 16th, 2009 8:31 am.

    The case needs to be made that developing Snodgrass is beneficial long-term, and not just for expansions’ sake. Yes, more is better when marketing a resort, but is that it? There’s lots of aging property that could be converted without sacrificing Snodgrass to the developers and achieve similar levels of temporary building stimulus to the community.

    If Snodgrass is simply another building boom, is that really the answer? In 15 years where will be next?

  62. Jefferson December 16th, 2009 7:58 pm

    Lou and Gang,

    Sorry I’m late for the party again, back from the package car.

    Returning to the paths of development for the local economy, the biggest strike against the Snodgrass expansion on its own merits is the MCBSA’s shoddy business plan. Eric’s research – post that paper, dude! – and every friend who lives in the valley has told me the ski area’s marketing plan borders on incompetence. Lou is right to wonder why they are apparently sticking to the old plan based on wealthy second homeownership – anyone care to guess the AGE of the folks who want the “less challenging terrain” on Snodgrass? – which is no longer tenable. I wager that too many people have been promised by the ski area and their pals that real estate investments, contrary to what the market is bearing, will hold their value. In that sense the MCBSA/real estate pyramid might be “too big to fail.” Frankly, I think the authors of that strategy will need to be fired before MCBSA has a prayer of another bite at the Snodgrass apple.

    As for mining, I am not familiar with how moly would need to be removed from the Red Lady. Whether or not it could be done in a cosmetically pleasing fashion I think that there are several issues that raise red flags against that project.

    First, metal mines are water intensive industries. If the MCBSA has a water use problem where will the water come from for a moly mine? And how will the runoff from the mine, which will be loaded with arsenic and other lethal compounds, be treated so as not to affect residential and agricultural use down valley?

    Second, mining will require the use of power tools, probably using diesel engines. Will their emissions be trapped in an inversion in Crested Butte or downvalley?

    Third, taking the moly to market will require a massive improvement in the transportation infrastructure. Does a rail right of way still exist that could handle the metal freight? If not, what improvements will need to be made to accommodate large trucks on 135? Are the Landrover and Landcruiser owners at the ski area ready to keep their windshield repair guy on speed dial?

    Personally, I agree with Andrew that mining is more “real” in the sense that the true value of moly is dictated by global forces and not a clique of high end real estate shills. Miners are not as pretty as real estate agents and ski instructors (sorry Lou) but as an industry the wealth and opportunity is more likely to spread evenly among the people who live in the valley than with skiing.

    But I must nag you all about the findings here:

    (broken link)

    “Gunnison County is highly educated, but earnings are not consistent with high education. The major industries pay poorly, average earnings per job are low and have not risen, in real terms since 1970. Therefore, on average, education in Gunnison County does not coincide with high earnings.”

    Rather than proliferating the valley with miners or real estate agents should we be thinking outside the box as to what kind of businesses could be developed that take advantage of the area’s highly educated population? Perhaps trying to draw the corporate HQ of outdoor equipment makers, like Carbondale tried to do recently?

    Lou, I know I’m leaving myself open by drawing that analogy but I’m ready to take my lumps.

  63. Lou December 16th, 2009 9:14 pm

    Jefferson, all good points as far as I’m concerned.

    I do wonder about all of us trying to be MBAs and so certainly judging a company’s strategy. But then, the resort is on public land so we probably have a right to make the best call we can on whether their business will actually work or not.

    I’d tend to just say go for it and see if it works. But that would probably be a dumb thing to say and you guys would tell me why (grin).

  64. Frank Konsella December 17th, 2009 9:38 am

    One of the more interesting aspects of the Snodgrass denial is that it didn’t even make the NEPA (Environmental Review) process. It’s probably akin to applying for a job you think you have a really good shot of getting, and then not even getting called for an interview. Both the CO ski areas assoc. and Sen. Udall have expressed their concerns over this aspect of the denial, fearing the precedent set. A much bigger (more lifts + trails than currently proposed) Snodgrass project WAS approved back in ’82, but the poor economy of that time kept the previous owners from ever building it out.

    Mining? Nothing short of a nuke would more surely and quickly destroy Crested Butte. The people of CB should have the right to determine their economic future, not have a mining based economy shoved down our throats just because Moly happens to be nearby.

  65. Albert December 24th, 2009 4:54 am

    In my view An enterprising person is one who comes across a pile of scrap metal and sees the making of a wonderful sculpture. An enterprising person is one who drives through an old decrepit part of town and sees a new housing development. An enterprising person is one who sees opportunity in all areas of life. To be enterprising is to keep your eyes open and your mind active. It’s to be skilled enough, confident enough, creative enough and disciplined enough to seize opportunities that present themselves… regardless of the economy.

  66. David January 5th, 2010 8:47 am

    I wonder what impact nuclear warfare will have on the ski industry and wildlife? I am pro-life, for the record.

    Just got back from Powder Mountain—still cheap—and better than most ski areas in the US. Lifts a little slow. They need Wal Mart and few more condos in Eden, then I won’t be able to complain because the new gondolas will be FAST, but I will complain about the new price.

    What about all the pollution from the jets we take to get to the ski areas. Skiing should be illegal to non-locals. But then none of the lifts would be operative due to lack of funds. But all the granola munching tree huggers, could get on their mountain bikes and hook up a turnstile to make the lift wheels go, Flinstone engineering style. Or just hike for their turns. God forbid all of us tourist come to your mountain and enjoy it. May be I should move to your mountain so I can be a “local too”. Nah I will stay here in Florida and enjoy my days by the sea, and come to visit your mountain, and watch all the locals take everything way too seriously. It is alot of fun I might add..

    -Thanks, interesting blog.

  67. Lou January 5th, 2010 10:10 am

    Like Dave says, anyone can buy carbon offsets from him, and he’ll just ride his bicycle more for you. He should hit up the private jet owners going in and out of Aspen, as they make so much CO2 it makes everything else look like fairy breath.

  68. David January 5th, 2010 3:15 pm

    Defintely anti-walking, anti-biking, and anti-driving from Florida to Colorado or to Utah for that matter. I love flying and the carbon foot print we all leave to to reach the skiing areas. I bet the next thing they will suggest is that we use a solar powered plane to come skiing. If you are a leftist (which I am not), you should all sell your condo if you can. Once your global warming hype comes true (as you beleive it will), there will be no skiing/snow boarding.

    I say expand the mountain while there is still snow. :biggrin:

  69. chuck shaw January 6th, 2010 3:14 pm

    Lou, as one of the so-called Snodgrass “anti’s” (altho’ it should be noted that we view ourselves as a “pro” group – “pro-lift-free”, that is) i’d like to wade in here. The real question is what would be gained and what would have been lost by expanding lift-served skiing onto Snodgrass? Here’s some of the facts of the issue, all of which come from ski industry data (which I can provide if you’d like). Please bear with me as I work from macro to micro.
    * Colorado’s resorts have expanded terrain by more than 50% since 95/96 (adding 13,000 skiable acres) – every CO ski area expanded except Howelson Hill in S’boat Spgs. However, “total” skier visits barely budged, inching up at less than 1%/year.
    * Virtually all of that skier visit growth occurred at a 3 ski areas – Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and A-Basin, which had relatively small terrain expansions (+/- 400 acres ave.)
    * Conversely, their neighbors – Aspen, Keystone, Vail and Winter Park – expanded an average of 1,500 acres each and they all LOST Skier Visits!
    * For the past decade-and-a-half, the strategy of expanding terrain in order to attract more skiers and/or improve ski town economies has flat-out failed.
    * More importantly, “Paid” skier visits – the ones that do boost ski town economies – have been in steady decline industry-wide – in spite of vast terrain additions.
    * That small growth in “total” skier visits mentioned above came from a declining number participants who skied/boarded more days using heavily-discounted season passes (ala Vail’s Epic Pass). Both the NSAA and the USFS attribute CO’s small total visit growth to increased season pass use (which does little for local economies).
    * The ski industry’s demographics are truly frightening. The number of skiing participants dropped nearly 30% since ’98. Snowboarder participants, which grew steadily between ’98 and ’03, suddenly reversed, dropping 19% since ’03. Baby Boomers, the meat of the market, are rapidly dropping out of the sport. Michael Berry, NSAA prez’, says Boomers are down 40% since ’97 and the rest will be gone in a decade. The NSAA’s Model for Growth, instituted in 2000 specifically to attract new participants, has been a failure.

    As to the local issue:
    * True, CBMR’s skier visits are down 35% since 97/98. However, 97/98 was the height of their infamous Ski Free program and they gave away more than 100,000 free lift tickets that year. in addition, the cash-strapped previous owners shortened their ski season by 31 days (21%) and the quality of the ski product dropped way off. There’s no mystery here – CBMR gave lift tickets away and their visits jumped way up, they stopped giving tickets away and shortened their season and visits dropped way back. Since new owners arrived in ’04, CBMR’s growth in visits is better than the CO average.
    * The existing ski area is way under-utilized at less than 40% of it’s Comfortable Carrying Capacity (CCC). Skier Density/acre numbers are extremely low. There are rarely lift-lines except on holiday weekends. There’s plenty of room for more skiers on the existing ski mountain. The challenge has always been how to get ’em to this remote valley with spotty air service and long drive times.
    * CBMR has standing approval from the USFS to implement badly needed upgrades to the existing ski area on Crested Butte Mountain including: add intermediate terrain; glade intermediate trees; upgrade old, uncomfortable, slow, fixed-grip/center-pole chairs; add a new lift; eliminate long-standing, dangerous bottlenecks; add restaurants and bathrooms (both of which are deficient), and more. Some of these unimplemented USFS approvals are 12 years old. CBMR can’t compete with the Beaver Creek’s of the ski world as long as the existing ski area is an unfinished work-in-process.
    * CBMR continually complains that CB Mtn is deficient – not big enough to keep people happy for more than 3 days, not enough intermediate, runs that are too steep and too short for most skiers (seems like that repeated negative message from the owners would depress skier visits, doesn’t it?). They also claim that Snodgrass would have provided an “overabundance” of intermediate terrain and transform the resort. However, CBMR’s own terrain data, published in their Master Development Plan, says otherwise…
    * Snodgrass would have provided only 276 total acres of which only 98 would have been intermediate. The intermediate runs on Snodgrass would have been both steeper and shorter, on average, than the intermediate on CB Mtn. There would have been more Black/Double Black terrain on Snodgrass than intermediate. If, as CBMR claims, the existing terrain is too short and steep, how does adding more terrain that is shorter and steeper solve the problem?
    * The top of Snodgrass would have been more than 45 minutes, via 4 lift-rides, from the current Base Area. lower Level skiers could only have accessed Snodgrass on a bus. Snodgrass would have been small, short, steep and hard to get to. Hardly transformative…in fact, it sounds a lot like their complaints about CB Mtn.
    * Environmentally, Snodgrass would have been a disaster. More than 200 acres of trees clear-cut, extensive blasting and filling in order to try to smooth out the mountain’s unstable, convoluted topography, substantial snowmaking and drainage systems that would have destroyed the mountain’s complicated hydrology. The extensive, year-round, easily-accessed, free backcountry recreational benefits would have been substantially altered and/or destroyed.
    The USFS likes expansions that are “light on the land”, like A-Basin’s Montezuma Bowl. Snodgrass couldn’t have been much “heavier on the land.”

    BTW, most of the Friends of Snodgrass – you know, the “anti” group – are avid alpine skiers. We’re not anti-CBMR or anti-skiing as has been claimed. it’s just that the Snodgrass expansion would have been a losing proposition for the American public – the owners of the National Forests. There would have been substantial downside to the expansion and the chances of it improving our local economy, as CBMR claimed, would have been approximately zero.

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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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