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What if Breckenridge gondola were closer to downtown?

Breckenridge Ski Resort and Breckenridge town officials will be taking another look at the planned gondola from the day skier parking lots to Peaks 7 and 8 to see if a better alignment might be found that starts closer to the heart of downtown.

This may come as a surprise to many who think the two entities had hammered out a gondola alignment earlier this year and the thing was all but built.

“My objective in all of this is to find a way to be more accommodating to the business community than what the current alignment offers,” Mayor Sam Mamula said.



According to Mamula and ski resort chief operating officer Roger McCarthy, the certainty of an approved alignment liberates both entities to explore new possibilities, knowing they can always return to the original plan.

The approved alignment starts from a proposed intermodal transportation center in the Watson parking lot and ascends to a midstation at Shock Hill, where a new high-end subdivision is taking shape. A lodge also is approved at Shock Hill.



Two issues with this alignment are that the gondola suffers the same disconnect from downtown as do the Watson and Sawmill day skier parking lots, and the Shock Hill midstation is an expensive add-on.

From the midstation, the gondola would fly over Cucumber Gulch to Peak 7, where it would juke to the left and end at Peak 8.

Mamula said the town could consider a new base terminal at the town-owned F parking lot, or even the town-owned parcel currently occupied by the Schoonover building next to the Sawmill day skier parking lot.

If F lot is the base, the challenge becomes how to transport day skiers from the parking lots to the terminal. If Schoonover is the choice, the base would be next to the parking lots, just not in the middle of them.

According to Mamula, the principle in play is how to make the gondola a central part of downtown and play a role in linking the ski area and the town, a la the way gondolas operate in European ski resorts – and even Aspen.

If the gondola does move to F lot, the alignment likely would parallel Park Avenue and go up the Four O’Clock ski run.

If Schoonover is the choice, the gondola might align with Ski Hill Road.

“The question is, can these two options work for a gondola, and if they can, are there significant benefits other than reduced costs?” Mamula said.

The reduced cost would be from elimination of the Shock Hill midstation, he said.

“Let’s do the very best thing we think we can do, then let’s figure out how to pay for it,” Mamula said. If financing is an obstacle, then the original gondola alignment and financing scheme stands. In that scenario, the town would contribute about $6 million toward what could be a $16 million project.

Under current financing conditions, the gondola might not be operational until 2008 after real estate sales at Peaks 7 and 8 help fuel construction. In recent months, Mamula and McCarthy have scratched their heads about accelerated funding for the gondola in advance of real estate sales.

That, however, would take some help from parties who would benefit from construction earlier than now planned.

If that is the case, attention focuses on Shock Hill developers. As it is, Mamula thinks once gondola financing becomes a hot topic, questions will be asked about the Shock Hill deal.

According to Mamula, the developers benefit by many millions of dollars from annexation into the town, the granting of housing and lodging density and, of course, by a gondola stop.

Back to the skiback

Also on the mayor’s agenda is the postponed skiback descending from Peak 8 to the base of Park Avenue, across the street from the day skier parking lots.

The skiback’s appeal is that it brings skiers to the parking lots at the end of the day, saving bus trips, and it helps sell the ski resort’s Mountain Thunder Lodge.

Mamula wants to see the skiback built sooner than later.

Two years ago, the ski resort was hot to build the skiback but approval was detoured by town-forced issues about guaranteed parking in the Watson and Sawmill lot.

The skiback controversy, in fact, led to the touted development deal the town and ski resort announced earlier this year whereby the two laid out a framework for the gondola, reduced commercial space at Peaks 7 and 8, guaranteed parking and reduced density for future parking lot development.

“Our one mistake in the negotiations was postponing the skiback,” Mamula said. “If the town is going to be part of any early financing, it should be for the skiback. It offers the most community benefits by reducing lines for buses and cutting back buses on Ski Hill Road,” Mamula said.

“What we should really do is get the damn skiback done. It really reduces traffic.”

Jim Pokrandt can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 227, or by e-mail at jpokrandt@summitdaily.com


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