Sizing up Minturn’s proposed Battle Mountain ski resort
eagle county correspondent
MINTURN ” Visualize Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch ” combined they have about the same number of homes that are planned for a private ski resort on Battle Mountain.
The Ginn Co. wants to build 1,700 homes within four areas south of Minturn, while nearly 1,400 homes or hotel rooms exist in Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch.
“It’s a valid comparison in that it’s something to give you an idea what it’s going to be like,” Minturn resident and business owner Harry Gray said. “I think that stuff on Battle Mountain is going to be comparable to Bachelor Gulch.”
Two housing areas on Battle Mountain might look similar in design to Arrowhead, with condos located in a small village and houses extending outward that are comparable in size and spacing to Bachelor Gulch.
Other development areas around Battle Mountain include Bolts Lake, where 700 condos grouped next to the golf course are planned. Condos, a few houses and retail stores are tentatively planned where the abandoned Gilman mining town is now.
The design among Arrowhead, Bachelor Gulch and Battle Mountain might be similar in some ways, but the feel will be different, Ginn Company spokesman Cliff Thompson said. Battle Mountain is reserved for home owners only, while anyone can eat, shop and ski at Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch. Thus, more people go to these public resorts and more employees are needed, Thompson said.
“There’s elements where you can’t draw comparisons, but there are some places you can,” Thompson said.
Ellen Eaton lives in Edwards and works at Smith Eaton Real Estate. She says she is opposed to the development because it will increase traffic and create jobs Eagle County can’t fill.
Eaton said the comparison with Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead is understated because the Battle Mountain project would have 300 more homes.
“I feel like people need to get a clear picture of how big this is going to be,” Eaton said. “I have a clear picture in my head and I don’t like what I see.”
Jerry Jones, a longtime ski industry executive, compared the Battle Mountain project to the Yellowstone Club near Big Sky, Mont. Both resorts require property ownership to become members, and offer activities skiing, fly fishing, golf and other activities.
“I would think that Ginn is probably fashioning his project after Yellowstone Club,” Jones said.
The Yellowstone Club is larger in acreage, but the density of homes is significantly less than what’s planned for the resort outside Minturn. The Montana club plans to build a maximum of 862 houses, condos and townhouses on 13,400 acres, while the Ginn Co. wants its 1,700 homes built on 5,400 acres.
And the homes on Yellowstone are scattered across the property, Yellowstone Club officials said.
The land the Ginn Company owns is currently zoned by state standards, which means one home can be built for every 35 acres. The Ginn Co. wants to annex the land into Minturn and convince the town to change the zoning so more homes can be built.
Eaton said she prefers the land be developed according to Eagle County standards because fewer homes equals less environmental damage.
Gray is “underwhelmed” with the information coming from the Ginn camp and what Minturn gets in return for approving the development. But he said the planning of homes around small villages is well done, unlike Vail and other patchwork resort development in the valley.
Building the homes in clusters is a good idea because it allows parking, shuttles and other services to be centrally located, he said.
“It’s better than spreading it out,” Gray said. “When you cluster, you take advantage of the land. It’s easier to serve, more efficient and more economical.”
The village concept is novel, but similar resort developments have scattered villages across mountains and failed to draw enough visitors to participate in activities such as golf and swimming, Jones said. The visitors were spread too thin at too many locations to make the activities profitable, he said.
The Ginn Co. must centrally locate activities at one village to be feasible, Jones said.
“If you have multiple villages it becomes more difficult, instead of having a critical mass where everybody goes,” Jones said. “You want to build a critical mass somewhere.”
The Ginn Co. plans to locate most activities near its “Icon Building,” which it wants to build next to the golf course. However, Thompson said critical mass isn’t necessary for success because the Ginn Co. doesn’t plan to make its money from the activities.
“Public resorts have to drive a lot of people through their doors to be profitable,” he said. “We’re not going to do that. We don’t have to drive thousands of people through to make it successful.”
Eaton says she worries the employees a resort this size needs greatly exceed Ginn Co. estimations and will create more traffic. She said the window washers, snow plowers, plumbers and housekeepers must all drive into the resort.
“I’ve seen this time and time again,” Eaton said. “Developers paint a pretty picture because they want their project approved.”
But in its development plans, the Ginn Co. says these maintenance workers have been accounted for. The developer plans to hire 776 employees ” 30 percent from Eagle County and the remainder from Leadville and Lake County to the south.
Vail Associates contracts with Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead to provide the resorts’ gate attendants, snow plowers and other employees, said Tony O’Rourke, executive director of the Beaver Creek Resort Company.
Those employees are recruited across the world and have the option to live at River’s Edge or the Tarnes apartment complexes, O’Rourke said.
Former Minturn Councilman Darell Wegert said he wonders whether Eagle County can handle more new jobs. Wegert and Gray suspect the company might steal employees from other resorts, such as Cordillera and Vail. In the battle to keep employees, Gray said resorts need to up the ante.
“There will be more pressure on employers to pay more and provide more employee housing,” he said.
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