A new way to get on the mountain

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Vail Resorts plans to redevelop the west Lionshead area around the base of a proposed new ski lift. The town of Vail and Vail Resorts are working on a master plan for the area.
Preston Utley/Vail Daily

Edward Stoner
December 4, 2005

VAIL - Vail Resorts and the town of Vail are planning what will be built around the base of a ski lift planned for west Lionshead, an area poised for significant redevelopment.

"We feel like this is an important new development for Vail," said Councilman Farrow Hitt, a member of the planning committee.

Vail Resorts has been buying land in the area of the south frontage and Forest roads, where it wants to build the lift.

Jack Hunn, senior vice president of development of Vail Resorts Development Company, said the development will probably include condos, public parking, possibly a bus hub and perhaps retail space. Hunn said the resort wants some amount of "warm beds" - which means timeshares or condos that are part of the rental market.

It's doubtful that hotels would be part of the project, Hunn said.

The planning committee is trying to decide whether west Lionshead should be an entry point to the mountain similar in size to or smaller than Golden Peak. The area probably wouldn't be able to rival Lionshead or Vail Village as an entrance to the mountain, Hunn said.

The west Lionshead area could be targeted toward locals and employees who are going up the mountain, Hunn said. That could mean creating a financial incentive that would compel merchant-pass holders to park in west Lionshead and ride the lift.

"This could be by design a more local-oriented portal," Hunn said.

That could free up more space in the Vail Village and Lionshead parking garages for other skiers, Hunn said.

Hunn said, at the very soonest, the redevelopment would begin in the summer of 2008.

Buying up land

In June, Vail Resorts announced its plans to build a new high-speed chairlift so skiers and snowboarders could get on the mountain from west Lionshead. The lift would connect to the bottom of Chair 26, the Pride Express Lift, which takes riders to Eagle's Nest.

In August, the company bought the Vail Professional Building and the Cascade Crossing Shopping Center, a total of 1.8 acres. Vail Resorts has a contract to purchase the BP station. The contract is set to be concluded in December. The company already owns the Holy Cross maintenance site.

The gas station site would likely be used for snowcat maintenance that would take place mostly underground, Hunn said.

The base of the new lift may sit beside a new development built by Vail Resorts and managed by Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton Residences would include 108 condos of two, three and four bedrooms.

The base of the lift could move farther north if the frontage road is realigned along the interstate, Hunn said. It may also be at the site of the current BP station, he said.

The Ritz-Carlton project received unanimous final approval from the town's Planning and Environmental Commission on Monday. It now must get approval from the Design Review Board.

Even before the plans for the new lift were announced, Vail Resorts' nearby Gore Creek Place homes sold in record time, bringing as much as $1,005 per square foot.

Hunn said Vail Resorts has unsuccessfully attempted to purchase the Glen Lyon office building, and they are currently not in talks with its owner to buy it.

Give and take

The town and Vail Resorts are working out the details of the give-and-take that is part of the redevelopment process.

Vail Resorts wants the Forest Service and the town's approval. In order to get approval from the Forest Service, the lift must have benefits other than simply increasing real estate prices.

The company also will probably need new zoning for the Cascade Crossing Shopping Center and Vail Professional Building to redevelop the area, said Russ Forrest, the town of Vail's community development director.

As a result, the town could get a parking garage, sales tax from new shops and a bus hub.

Hitt said he's interested in a "portal" that would attract a lot of people to help expand the town's retail base and help relieve the town's parking crunch. The town, he added, wants to keep stores and offices in the area.

"We're concerned that those don't get torn down and replaced with second or third homes," he said.

Hunn said Vail Resorts wants to have no net loss of retail space that exists in the area now.

One idea for the redevelopment of the area is to relocate the frontage road so it runs alongside the interstate. That would connect the Holy Cross maintenance site with Lionshead.

Some have suggested Vail Resorts would build a conference center as part of the West Lionshead development, but Hunn debunked that rumor.

"I would say there's no truth to that," he said.


West Lionshead planning committee

History: Met for the first time in November.

Who's on it: Two Vail town councilmembers, two representatives from Vail Resorts and two members of the town's Planning and Environmental Commission.

Members: Councilman Farrow Hitt; Jack Hunn and Brian McCartney from Vail Resorts; Doug Cahill and Bill Jewitt from the planning commission (the commission is seeking a replacement for former councilman Dick Cleveland, who was not re-elected in November's elections).

Next meeting: 2 p.m. Dec. 15, probably at the Marriott in Lionshead. Confirm the location with the town of Vail at 479-2100. Public is invited.


Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or estoner@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado