On Monday, the planning department will unveil the Snow King Stakeholder Group’s scenarios for future Snow King development. Both the stakeholders’ work and robust community dialogue at two public meetings make it clear that our community wants Snow King to succeed, welcomes some of Snow King’s ideas, and finds other proposals very controversial. Read our comment letter to Town Council for more of our thoughts on the scenarios.
What was the stakeholder group?
After Snow King Mountain Resort released a massive new “Phase 2” development plan, the Forest Service asked the Town for a read on the community’s temperature before starting into their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analysis. So, the Town hosted big community meetings in January and March and brought together 16 stakeholders representing a range of interests. The stakeholders reviewed input from the hundreds of community members who showed up at the meetings, worked to balance core interests from financial viability to wildlife habitat and environmental sustainability, and have created four scenarios that represent various compromises. The scenarios are not binding on the Snow King investors – who can propose whatever they want to the Town and Forest Service – but the work that went into them helps clarify which proposals are broadly-supported, and which are highly controversial.
What does our community generally agree on?
Through the public meetings, there was a clear sense that our community wants Snow King to succeed – we want the lifts to keep spinning, and for our kids to be able to learn how to ski. There was support for additional beginner terrain and for a new lift to the summit. Residents and stakeholders had broad interest in some kind of “mountain sports center” that would provide a great new facility for the Ski & Snowboard Club as well as a climbing gym and additional ice sheet. And there was support for building more parking, workforce housing, and holding the Snow King Resort Master Association (SKRMA) to its obligations in the Resort Master Plan. You’ll likely see these ideas throughout the stakeholder scenarios.
What Snow King proposals are highly controversial?
A few of Snow King’s ideas raised red flags for large numbers of residents and many stakeholders. The three most controversial ideas are:
- Snow King wants to land a new gondola on Phil Baux Park, and this did not play well with large numbers of community members who showed up. If we’re going to give part of our ballpark to Snow King, we should receive fair value in return. Not just new grass to replace the parking lot, but significant compensation of money or nearby land that reflects the market value and current public use of the park. The Town already leases almost 30 acres to Snow King for only $100 a month. There was a strong feeling from the community and stakeholders that we should renegotiate these leases for a fair price – and that any negotiations over Phil Baux Park should require a fair deal.
- Snow King wants to expand their operations into important wildlife habitat with new roads and chairlifts outside the current footprint – to the east, west, and on the backside. This was very controversial and provoked a very divergent range of responses from community members. The stakeholder scenarios also have a broad range of options to limit the impact from Snow King’s proposal. We encourage Snow King to re-think this one, and instead make improvements within their current operating footprint – an idea with much more community support.
- Snow King started charging for uphill access this season, and it did not go over well with a large number of locals. This continued to be a very controversial idea for community members who showed up, with many asking Snow King to commit to free uphill access (especially if we’re giving or leasing Town land to Snow King).
We encourage Snow King’s owners to listen to our community and scale back their proposal to remove the controversial elements before submitting a proposal to the Forest Service. In particular, we hope they’ll protect wildlife habitat and build their new projects within the existing operating footprint.
The Town Council presentation about the scenarios is on Monday, May 21 at 3pm in Town Hall. You can share your thoughts at the workshop or ahead of time: email@example.com.
And the Forest Service will start their Environmental Impact Statement soon. We’ll keep you posted on how to get involved.
* Note – these are our staff reflections based on attending the stakeholder and public meetings. We welcome your perspectives, especially if you have a different take. Let Skye know: firstname.lastname@example.org.