10 Years Ago in Telluride
by Seth Cagin
Mar 20, 2008 | 803 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joan Haber did not mince words at Monday night’s meeting between skiers and representatives of the U.S. Forest Service and the Telluride Ski and Golf Co.

“It will tear out the heart of the Telluride ski community,” the telemark skier told Forest Service and Telski officials, of a proposal to combine lifts 5 and 6 into one high-speed 15-minute ride (with midway loading for Lift 6 pod skiers).

Other areas of concern, Haber said in a phone interview Tuesday, are Telski’s intermediate-pleasing proposal to recontour Giant Steps (which goes from Silver Glade to the Lift 6 gully), and to create a new catwalk (from Silver Glade to Happy Thought) leading back to the Lift 5 area.

Haber was one of roughly a dozen diehard Lift 6 enthusiasts who showed up at Monday’s meeting to discuss their hopes and fears for these and other improvements Telski has proposed to the Forest Service.

“Lift 6 is a healthy place where people meet every Friday,” Haber said. “There’s a group of us who head for Lift 6 every Friday afternoon, at about 1:30.” In addition to skiing, “We discuss what happened during the week, what’s going on for the weekend, what our family plans are, and what changes are occurring in the community and in the school.

“It’s a social gathering place,” continued Haber. “I’ve met some of my best friends on Lift 6. We say hello; we howl at each other form the lift; we see who’s come back into town.”

Of the lift ride itself, Haber said, “You can find out a lot during that six-minute ride.”

Haber and other members of the Lift 6 community remain adamantly opposed to a new high speed quad to replace lifts 5 and 6, even if it includes a midway-loading station, as proposed as one alternative in the Forest Service’s Environmental Assessment of proposed ski area improvements. The inclusion of a mid-station is Telski CEO Ron Allred’s answer to Lift 6 skiers who fear that a combination of lifts 5 and 6 will diminish their experience.

“Mostly, I feel that a single combined lift limits the options for intermediate skiers, rather than expanding them,” said Haber. “There will be no midway unloading. This means everyone will have to ski from the top of the combined lift, up on top of the ridge.”

That knife ridge, she said, “is narrow, and in inclement weather, the visibility is horrible.” Furthermore, she added, “If the lift stops, it will close down two pods of skiing.”

The Lift 6 community won this battle. Lift 5 was replaced with a high-speed quad, and Lift 6 was replaced with a triple in an improved alignment, with the summit further up the ridge. But looking back from the perspective of ten years later, one wonders about the terms of the argument. Is that Lift 6 community intact? Are there new “communities” on the mountain, and if so, where do they gather? It seems that the Lift 6 pod has become pretty quiet since the opening of the Gold Hill lift. Passions shift over time.

Landowners Worry That County Moves Too Fast on Watershed Protections

San Miguel County’s proposed new restrictions on development in high alpine basins may be supported by credible science, but there are indications that there may be some opposition – or at least more questions – when the county commissioners consider final adoption of the rules in May.

Several property owners or their representatives suggested in interviews this week that the county has failed to adequately notify potentially affected landowners that new restrictions on their development potential are under consideration.

Moreover, suggested several persons interviewed this week, the restrictions themselves, while supported by recent scientific studies, may be too onerous, particularly with regard to restricted building size and limited winter access.

The county’s proposed new regulations would adopt maps showing data collected this past summer, which identify different landscapes in the high basins. Chemical measurements by scientists from the University of Colorado’s Institute for Alpine and Arctic Studies (INSTAAR) have indicated that some of those landscapes – notably tundra – are highly vulnerable to perturbations. The county regulations would restrict development in areas identified on the maps as being vulnerable.

Another highly emotional debate from a decade back, that now seems almost quaint. On the one hand, you wonder whether high basin development was ever really that much of a threat; on the other hand, you wonder if restrictions on such development really hurt anyone. In any case, the restrictions are now in place.

Five Years Ago in Telluride

As Reported in These Pages on March 18, 2003

In Face of War, 50 Light Candles for Peace

It began as one lone flame, a candle flickering below a burning, almost-full moon and under the backdrop of Telluride’s snow-capped mountains, shining bravely into the darkening night sky Sunday night in Elks Park.

Soon, another candle flickered to life, and another, and another, until a flaming circle of fifty candles burned into the night.

Sunday’s circle and candlelight vigil marked Telluride’s participation in the Worldwide Wave for Peace.

Five years later, the war goes on.

Proposed Ritz-Carlton Height Dramatically Reduced

Moving quickly to address the major point of contention that has arisen in the review of a proposed Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Mountain Voillage, the project’s architect has presented new plans that reduce the structure’s average height from 90 feet to 62 feet. As a result, the project drew far less fire at a joint meeting of the boards of the Mountain Village Metro District and Mountain Village Metro Services on Friday, than it did at a meeting of the Mountain Village Design Review Board last week.

The hotel would still reach a maximum height of 115 feet at one point, architect Mike Stornelle said. However, the building’s proponents reduced the building’s overall bulk dramatically by primarily reducing floor-to-floor heights, a reduction achieved in part by employing a different construction technique. In addition, the revised plan relocates bulk from the proposed building’s east side to its west side, away from existing buildings. In addition, meeting space in the hotel was reduced from over 10,000 square feet to 6,600 square feet.

The battle wasn’t over, but that building is under construction now and is tentatively scheduled to open as a Capella Hotel, not a Ritz-Carlton, next December.

As Reported in These Pages on March 21, 2003

Council Gives Nod to Auditorium Fly Tower

The Telluride Town Council this week gave its blessing to a 70-foot fly tower as part of the enhanced Telluride Middle/High School auditorium.

A council majority was apparently swayed by the arguments of the performing arts community that the fly tower, which will be twice the town’s maximum 35-foot height limitation, is necessary for the building to be fully functional, including an ability to serve users with a variety of needs, and to host professional touring companies. The arts community also argued that the tower would provide school district students with an incomparable performing arts education.

Though some members of council expressed wariness of setting a precedent of a building that will be 70 feet in height, the council majority directed the town Planning and Zoning Commission to approve a variance to the height limit. Council enjoys general waiver authority under the town charter.

Although the fly tower is in place, with minimal adverse impact (a subjective point that could be argued), it is also true that it has been less of a boon to performing arts in the community than was argued. As in so many local battles, the emotions on both sides seemed to stretch the debate beyond all reality.

Town Extends Manager Offer to Jay Harrington

The Telluride Town Council sent an offer of employment as its town manager to Pagosa Springs Town Manager Jay Harrington on Wednesday morning, following an executive session Tuesday.

After the closed-door meeting, council took the action on a 5-1 vote, with Mayor John Steel voting against. Councilmember Mark Buchsieb was absent.

The next day Steel explained his action. “I voted against the motion not because of any feeling that Jay and his family were not absolutely lovely people, but I don’t think that Jay could take over the responsibility of government and follow through on the things of great importance, such as the Valley Floor [condemnation] and the budget,” Steel said. “If he does accept the offer, I pledge to work and cooperate with him to the fullest extent. But I do not think he is the man for the job.”

At a public interview of two finalists several weeks ago, Harrington made it clear that he would consider a job offer only if council’s decision was unanimous.

Given the mayor’s ringing endorsement, it’s amazing that Harrington took the job. Indeed, it is generally considered good practice in municipal government for councils to put aside their differences at such a juncture, recognizing that it is in the larger interest of the community for the new manager to be given every opportunity to succeed. But perhaps Harrington understood that by this point in Steel’s sad tenure, the mayor was reminiscent of a dog that just can’t help himself from barking.

After 13 months of searching, the Telluride Town Council has narrowed its effort to hire a town manager to Jay Harrington of Pagosa Springs.

Following an executive session on Tuesday, council announced that it had directed Mayor John Steel to invite Harrington to Telluride for further discussions concerning his candidacy. At the same time council removed Stephen Pauken of Berthoud, the only other finalist, from the finalist list.

The decision to narrow the list to one finalist followed a 5-2 council vote last week in which council declined to move interim Town Manager Steve Ferris to finalist status. The vote was a rare public action in a process that has largely been conducted behind closed doors. Steel and Councilmember Hilary White opposed the motion to take Ferris off the finalist list.

Harrington got the job, which he held through June 2006. He became city manager in Cortez in September 2007. Telluride’s current town manager, Frank Bell, came from Crested Butte. Call it manager musical chairs.
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