Some of you might consider the “highest and best” use of the Bear Creek inholdings near Telluride, Colorado to be purchased as open space, or perhaps through miraculous intervention to simply be ignored by the owners (and for the ownership to be ignored by the locals, as it used to be). Open space? Could happen. Ignored? The prayers don’t seem to be working. A hut? Hmmmmm….
Gold Hill Development (owners of the upper inholding in Bear Creek) is exactly that, developers. They seek what’s known in their trade as the “highest and best” use of their property. They know in days of wine, roses, and mega-homes they could have perhaps built a gigantic trophy home on their site in Bear Creek. Yuck. Instead, they’ve been seriously looking at building and operating a European style alpine hut-lodge on the site.
This to the extent that one of the GHD partners recently spent three weeks in Europe hiking and otherwise visiting dozens of classic huts such as those of the Ortler region, areas in Austria, and Germany.
Warning, this concept is in the nascent stages, GHD has little idea if the hard core land use codes such as that of Telluride area would allow such a thing, nor how it would be operated year-around for a variety of user income levels.
To me, the concept looks exciting. It’s next to an existing ski resort, not in legal Wilderness, in an area that is proven for ski alpinism. Could be one of the most amazing resort amenities in North America. What do you Telluridians think? Want a version of the Tomboy Mine up there, or perhaps an alpine hut as an alternative? Or both? Check out my mockup above, and expository images below.
Frankly, I’ve been feeling for many years that the future of the backcountry hut business in Colorado, if not the U.S., is for-profit business operated on private land. Restrictions on public land use, combined with the non-profit culture, seem to have two opposite effects. First, they have resulted in numerous huts. Excellent. But, many of those huts are not located at higher elevations in ideal areas for modern mountaineering ski touring, and most have never taken the leap to providing even basic meal service — let alone a few draft taps. I’ll leave it to someone else to work up a business model, but my suspicion is that in the right location, a full-service hut could turn enough profit to be a viable business.
I’ve never seen a more ideal situation for a European style hut than what Gold Hill Development has in Bear Basin. Existing backcountry skiing with an international reputation for the goods. Adjoining ski resort. Town with existing ski culture. Variety of income levels in residents and visitors, some of whom would no doubt pop for full service and the luxury accommodations in a full-on hut/lodge. Location, sublime. Not to mention the potential for guide services. Besides the business model, the only downside I can see to trying to operate such a thing at such a high altitude would be the necessity of overnight visitors being at least acclimated to Telluride. Or, could it be the first hut in North America with pressurized rooms, like the Everest View Hotel over there on the big one?
So there you go, your thoughts oh esteemed denizens of the old mining town, and elsewhere? Please remember our comment rules for Wildsnow. No profanity. No personal attacks. Leave the hate for other websites. Be nice, be constructive.
(Sources: Gold Hill Development partners, in-person and online discussion, photos by same.)