While Mayor Stu Fraser said Tuesday’s discussion wasn’t solely about possible planning of the Lift 7 subarea but, rather, the entire north side of the Telluride Ski Area, the two-and-a-half hour-plus conversation seemed to dance around the controversial issue that underlies the complicated planning relationship between the town and the ski area.
While Tuesday’s work session did not result in a formal decision on whether or not to move forward with planning in the Lift 7 subarea, the work session did, once again, offer to keep the conversation alive. Council informally agreed that the next step is for Town Manager Greg Clifton, Town Attorney Kevin Geiger and Councilmember Ann Brady to meet with Telski Chief Executive Officer Dave Riley and his staff to discuss the planning of the north side of the ski area as it relates to any possible planning by the town. It will be up to that small group to report back to council at a later date on how best to proceed, if there is a need to proceed.
From Riley’s perspective, he’s been asked by the U.S. Forest Service to update the ski area master plan. In the process of doing that, Telski was integral in the Town of Mountain Village’s successful process in drafting its Comprehensive Plan. With that plan complete, Riley said the next step for Telski is to see how the Town of Telluride envisions its future as it relates to the north side of the ski area, which faces the town.
At the heart of the conversation (as well as a previous work session on the matter) was Telski’s plan to upgrade its aging snowmaking infrastructure on the north side of the ski mountain. With water rights in place and a building permit approved for a new pump house, Riley said Telski is poised to begin upgrading the snowmaking capabilities in phases. The first phase would be to construct the pump house and water line to move water from the San Miguel River up the mountain to a storage facility at the top of Lift 4. A second phase would replace the north side’s snowmaking pipelines and add new snow making technology so that upon completion, Telski would be able to open its town-facing slopes at an earlier date. Both phases, he said, could cost more than $5 million.
Riley said the upgrades are among a host of others Telski must address, and he’s trying to gauge which to tackle first.
“We have a big mountain with a lot of requirements and a plan from the Town of Telluride is going to go a long ways in giving us some sort of confidence,” Riley said on Tuesday. “If the answer is, ‘We love it the way it is and not one thing will change,’ that's OK. I’d like to know that. That is why I am here.”
Councilmember Bob Saunders sees it differently.
“I still contend the town already has and continues to contribute to the skier experience here,” Saunders said. “I think the town is owed certainty with snowmaking on this side of the mountain. I think that should be done without further economic additives…The town, I feel, and the businesses in this town, add a huge amount to the skier experience here and it should be appreciated by Telski [instead of saying] we want more.”
While Clifton, Geiger, Brady, Riley and Telski staff plan to meet sometime in the near future, it is unclear if and when they will report back to council on the Lift 7 subarea planning process.
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