What we are experiencing is a “hollowing out” of our community. To be more precise, more second homes/condominiums are being built while properties formerly in the rental pool are simultaneously being converted to vacation homes.
The typical result from this shift is that the shoulder seasons will stretch out while the peak periods will grow taller. Additionally, commercial businesses will suffer from a lack of foot traffic except during holidays and peak periods.
In the greater Telluride area, it appears that our infrastructure, such as highways, sidewalks and public works equipment, is aging while cash flow and bonding capacity in the public sector is getting tight due to a lack of revenue growth and increasing operating expenses for our local governments. Our schools are too small and our hospital is too small. We don’t have enough affordable housing. The Mountain Village conference center is underutilized.
It’s clear that most people who are trying to make a living or raise a family in Telluride want a vibrant economy which provides opportunity and prosperity without the detrimental effects of sprawling growth which would threaten our natural resources and sense of place.
Today, Telluride’s economy is highly dependent upon tourism, construction and real estate development/sales. What will happen when our two towns run out of land suitable for development? Are our public policies positioning our community for prosperity in the long run? Do our elected officials have the data they need and have land use policies been developed to assure long-term prosperity for our community?
Once Telluride and Mountain Village are built-out, is it possible that redevelopment will be dominated by wealthy individuals acquiring existing employee housing and/or hotel units for conversion to second homes? This is exactly what is happening right now.
Some say that as the baby boom generation ages, they will move here permanently and occupy a greater proportion of the second homes/condos that sit empty now. The ski industry has been talking about this for years. We call that a “retirement community” and retired people don’t frequent restaurants or shop in retail stores nearly as much as visitors. Yet, they still want the benefit of a wide variety of high-quality restaurants and galleries when they do decide to go out for a special evening.
It is in this context that Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association hired Ecosign. This firm has worked in 32 countries helping over 300 resorts find an appropriate balance for mountain communities. Ecosign may not be able to help us solve everything but bringing them in is a good start.
The new president of Switzerland Tourism, Jean-Rancious Roth, recently said that international competition for tourism is increasing. “We are competing against 190 other destinations worldwide. Today you can go skiing in Dubai or take a beach holiday in Sweden,” said Roth. “As a result, Switzerland either has to be better or cheaper than the others, and as we have no chance of competing in the low-price segment, we therefore have to be better,” he commented.
Is Telluride positioned to compete successfully against other destination resorts in the long run?
Zermatt recently passed a law that requires 20 deed restricted public accommodation rooms to be built for every one free market apartment built. The Swiss are focused on what “mix” of units will be appropriate for the long-term viability of their alpine communities.
The Canadian Ministry of Tourism recently developed guidelines for all-season mountain resorts. The report states that a mountain resort should be economically viable in its own right, without having to depend on the potential ongoing economic support of real estate development and sales within the base lands.
The guidelines state that with careful planning, the development of overnight accommodation – both private and public – can significantly add to the success of the overall community in terms of direct economic value and the indirect value of a built-in “captured” market for the ongoing success of the area.
The guidelines state further that public accommodations (warm beds) should be developed closest to the resort core and mountain staging facilities to ensure vibrancy. As resorts expand through subsequent phases of development, the objective is to increase the percentage of publicly available beds.
Additionally, one of British Columbia’s principal differentiators within the global tourism market is the preponderance of ski to/ski from accommodations across the province and the guidelines recommend that the trend be encouraged.
Regarding employee housing, the BC Ministry of Tourism says that the laissez-faire approach of letting employees find their own way – encouraging (or providing them no other option) to live outside the resort area – will create a potentially divisive environment.
Such competing needs negatively impact service levels, as unsatisfied and unfulfilled employees often do not meet the service expectations demanded by the resort’s guests. In order to avoid “industrial tourism” – and to move towards ensuring a sustainable and successful resort employees/residents must have the ability to live and play where they work.
In British Columbia, mountain resort development functions on a system of “perform and reward.” Basically, once the resort puts in the recreational amenities, then the Crown (Federal Government) will sell base area lands (which are then tied to the appropriate number, type and mix of bed units). They also increase the mix of public accommodation beds when the mountain community has a longer travel time to the marketplace.
Telluride Ski and Golf is absolutely committed to working in good faith to get ahead of these issues. What’s good for the community is good for the ski area and visa versa.
I can be reached at email@example.com if you would like to talk with me about what we can do together for the future of Telluride.
Dave Riley is Chief Executive Officer for the Telluride Ski and Golf Company.