We Have Met the Enemy
by Seth Cagin
May 17, 2010 | 2374 views | 38 38 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Over in Crested Butte, the news is that the U.S. Forest Service has rejected the first appeal by the ski company of the denial of an expansion proposal. The same week, the Crested Butte Board of Zoning and Architectural Review rejected an application for a large hotel, after more than two years of process, on the basis that it was simply too big for the town.

These developments led the editor of The Crested Butte News to suggest in an editorial that perhaps No means Yes.

“Those opposed to both Sixth Street Station [the hotel] and Snodgrass [the ski area expansion] will contend that the decisions made this week are actually a Yes to the idea of being a small resort community,” wrote Mark Reaman in an editorial column. “It could be argued that the message is for the community to focus on being a second-home resort with some tourism. A gated community, if you will. The valley will still have some of the amenities associated with a ski resort but it will be smaller than, say, a Telluride. Is that sustainable for people wanting to make a life here? I’m sure it is for some.”

It is interesting that Reaman cites Telluride as something bigger that Crested Butte may or may not want to be. Because in Telluride, No may mean Yes, too. We’ve shot down a big hotel or two here on the grounds that they are too big for our town. Those concerned about the possibility that the Telluride Ski and Golf Co. may seek to expand into Bear Creek look approvingly and with hope to the Snodgrass decision by the U.S. Forest Service.

We could probably all agree that bigger is not always better and that small can be beautiful. But Reaman is worried, as I am, about the sustainability of his community.

“If continued physical growth is not the way to go, what is?” he asks. “What is the idea, the path or the plan to bring success to this end of the valley? I’m talking about success in terms of the lifestyle, the economy and the environment.

“Is there a template that allows people to comfortably earn a living and raise a family here (and that involves real income) without growth? I’ve always been a believer in slower, smarter growth but I am respectfully asking for the successful alternative strategy.

“If ‘physical’ growth is not the desire of this community or the Forest Service, does that mean we will have to shrink to fit with the size ski resort that is already up there? Rely on Nordic skiing? Buff out more mountain bike trails? Just accept the demographic of Extreme Skiing as a primary draw? Will there be a few more empty spaces downtown or are there businesses that fit into the idea of a ‘physical’ no-growth model that would be workable?”

I am quoting Reaman at length because I could have written pretty much the same words about Telluride.

Mark, I feel your pain.

You and I both operate newspapers in communities that that are fiercely anti-growth. There is no doubt something admirable in the rejection by a community of business-as-usual, a community that says, “We want to do it differently, better, smaller, more sustainably. We are not and do not want to be Vail.”

But at what point do we fail to provide an economy that can sustain those who do not have an independent source of income?

I would imagine Mark would agree with me that a community may reduce itself to non-existence by continually saying “No.”

Like Reaman, I believe in slower, smarter growth. I don’t want to see unbridled growth in Telluride, or unthinking growth. I dream of planned growth, strategic growth, growth that nourishes a sustainable community. But I fear we are so reflexively no-growth in our local culture that good growth is next to impossible and the growth that we do get, because it is “by right” within existing zoning and can’t be stopped, is not really in our best interests.

Why would a couple of newspaper guys be the ones to continually make this argument? Especially since, in so doing, we risk being characterized as pro-growth and thus out-of-step with our readership?

The reason, I think, is that newspapers are so inextricably linked to the communities they serve. A newspaper can only do as well as its community, the publisher of a much bigger paper once told me. When our communities are suffering, we feel it directly; and we especially feel it when small businesses, who are our advertising base, are in decline. Small businesses are not only our advertising base, either. They are the community’s lifeline.

In his editorial, Reamon cites rising vacancies downtown as symptomatic of the disease and laments a future for Crested Butte as a “gated community.” I, too, have prophesied a Telluride that is a country club for the idle rich. Like Reamon, I would like my friends who believe that No means Yes to explain how they would have us avoid this lamentable outcome.

But how could the community be suffering from unreasonable no-growth passions if it is the very same community that expresses those passions and translates them into policy?

Well, the proud and defiant communities that remain in Crested Butte and in Telluride would not be the first of whom Pogo so famously said: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
what will Riley do?
June 02, 2010
Go for working with the locals or ?
FaceOnMars (nli)
June 02, 2010
Not just the courts and media, but within the social and business fabric of the entire region.

It's a shame that such a wedge might come to being in our community, but sometimes you just have to put your body down on the line so the wheels, cogs, and springs of the machine come to a grinding halt.

Civil disobedience is a powerful force if applied properly and "within the lines".
To Delusional
June 02, 2010
Of course the man was using a descriptive term.

We understand that you would like to plead victim status, under attack, etc while it is the developers of Bear Creek who wage war for greed and profit-wildlife and human enjoyment be damned.

Any war will be fought in the courts and in the media...we will paint an ugly picture. Skiier days? We think we can get a boycott...

Ski this...
YOU want a figtht
June 02, 2010
WAR? I understand you may be using the word for dramatic affect, but come on? What would mother nature think of your threatening real destruction to life and property over her? Come on! You claim to love Bear Creek so much you are willing to kill for it? You are delusional.
He must want a fight
June 02, 2010
Bear Creek push = war.
Ol Riley would
June 01, 2010
be better off installing some better johns on the slope, opening up the existing slopes on pow days way before the sun bakes the top into a crust and generally seeing that all of Tride has more "skiier days"...

Course, it aint gonna happen....

Look for Bear Creek push this summer...

FaceOnMars (nli)
June 01, 2010
LC is correct. My estimation is that an expansion into BC would not likely increase skiers significantly. If anything, it would probably be a case of diminishing returns ... at best.

Remember folks ... just because there isn't a front page story doesn't mean the wheels aren't always turning @ telski re: an expansion effort.

Don't let what might be billed as just an idea which has been "floated" sneak by us ... because my guess is that if Telski does seek to pursue an expansion, it will be done so in a way which uses any effective tactic available. We might not even realize it before it's too late. There might not be an opportunity to go to a meeting and "speak your peace". We need to speak NOW and CONTINUOUSLY to friends, family, neighbors .... anyone who cares to prevent it.
May 30, 2010
Expansion into Bear Creek will bring more skiers? Hah! those days are gone, folks. Hal Clifford covered it all in Downhill Slide back in 2002.

Over the past 15 seasons, Colorado resorts increased skiable acreage on USFS lands by 50%, more than 13,000 additional acres! Skier visits? Flat as a board! Destination/Paid skier visits - the folks who rent rooms & gear, buy meals & t-shirts? Down!

Sure, TSG has had a wee bit more growth in skier visits than most other CO resorts, but that growth hasn't been in paying customers. Riley told us that in '08 in the Watch. The growth has come from increased sales and use of season passes by "regional and second home owners." who "don't shop nearly as often" as visitors.

The ski industry will continue to exist but the glory growth days are gone. Telluride and Crested Butte offer unique products - to a small segment of the tourism market. The key is to not screw it up. If TSG and CBMR continue to seek expansion onto all the adjacent public lands to try to "compete" with Vail etc, they'll end up looking just like those Front Range Resort-Marts, they'll just be harder and more expensive to get to.

Chewing up more of the most accessible, popular, valuable public lands for more lift-served skiing won't help the working folks.

May 27, 2010
One overlooked alternative....


luv it, Dan's bones
May 24, 2010
You nailed it, Daniel Boone's bones. "Sustainable growth" is an oxymoron, Seth. Indeed the growth town is experiencing now is much more sustainable than the out-of-control real estate speculation which helped put this country in the ditch.
Daniel Boone's bones
May 24, 2010
O my, Set, the scion of progressive carpetbagism, I mean capitalism, has spoken. Who never had a thought that didn't have something to do with selling more adverts. As if one lift, one more resort, well placed, would end all suffering when in fact, Telluride is simply suffering with the rest of the world. Maybe if there were some baseline standard against invading more sacred spaces with ugly golf courses and three-mile long sacrifices to the Ski God ... "prophesied"???? Meet the enemy? No, read him ...
Now we get
May 23, 2010
the indignity of Randy Edwards proposing a flop house just inside the twin columns coming into Mtn Village..

Hot beds yes!

He compared them to Shandoka!

Property values are going to plummet all around this venture.

May 23, 2010
S&M: Watch it as it dries up and blows away.
they did it out of
May 22, 2010
the goodness of their hearts

recession or not

I only
May 22, 2010
paid $1,000 for a season pass last year. The year before I paid $1,200.

All this Telski bashing seems a little unthankful, at least from my perspective as a local contractor.

Telski has done a great job on the mountain, and even lowered its season pass rates.

Lighten up on them.
Yes, the 55 million
May 22, 2010
dollar airport improvement is good for the working class.

First we brought in an out of state contractor.

Next, there is no next.

We look forward to the additional cost of staying here in Telluride (the lodging tax $25 per night) that doesnt go to the working class, it goes to help market the ski area...generally..the working class benefits if it trickles down and we havent hired out of county foreigners...

Then we increase the cost of everything with the TMRAO tax which helps...not the working class...who actually runs the TMRAO? Where is the TMRAO head office?

Next we in general have the highest rate of taxes in CO...so a $12 dollar burger is actually $14...

Do you understand now how we became low volume?

Because prices are out of this world!

main street..
May 22, 2010
be empty..soon to be like the lost people of mountain village...

did observe the hot dog guy out with his cart by the courthouse...$15 dollar dogs (with tax) at Capella be damned...

Yes, it is a berry berry bad shoulder season...anyone looking out for the local working class?
Is Telluride ....
May 22, 2010
.... SOOOOOO SHABBY a place to ski at the moment that without lifts in Bear Creek, we won't have much in the way of challenging terrain or scenery in order to lure visitors?

Is this the "void" which lifts in Bear Creek would fill? If not this in particular, then what?

If there is no void, then WHY?!?
I don't think so
May 22, 2010
Kinda tough to argue that Telluride's low volume, high yield model has been good for the working class. Where are they? Our afluenza has pretty much eliminated the working class from town. But we have plenty of welfare for the wealthy projects: the $55 million airport and now we're poised to take Bear Creek away from the unwashed masses and turn it over to the the high yield folks. How charitable.
Great idea
May 22, 2010
Lets chant Geography is Destiny...

And save one of our most precious geographical features...

Bear Creek.

No Lift In Bear Creek.

If we are doomed then lets at least preserve our region...