Intrawest strikes deal to develop village at Snowmass 

The Aspen-Whistler connection got a little stronger this week with the announcement that Intrawest has entered into an agreement with the Aspen Skiing Company to design and build a base village at Snowmass at Aspen.

The agreement had been anticipated for several months.

"We conducted a comprehensive review of potential partners who could work with us to ensure the village development is in keeping with our values, while maintaining the balance between resort and community," said Jim Crown, speaking for the Crown family which owns Aspen Skiing Company. "Intrawest came out clearly on top."

The Snowmass base village site is 20 acres and located in the heart of the Town of Snowmass Village. A mix of residential and commercial space is anticipated in a pedestrian village.

Last March Gary Raymond, president of Intrawest’s resort development group, was invited to Aspen by Bill Kane, vice president of planning for the Aspen Skiing Company. The invitation came after Kane had led a delegation of Snowmass politicians and officials to Whistler and two Utah resorts the previous month to study village and base-area plans.

"We are honoured to have this opportunity to work in Snowmass, one of the world’s best known and most highly regarded mountain communities," Raymond said this week in a release. "We are committed to seeing the resort’s vision for Snowmass become a reality."

Intrawest will work with Kane and his staff and with the Town of Snowmass to come up with an appropriate design for the site. Envisioning sessions are planned for mid-September and concepts are likely to be presented in October.

"Intrawest has demonstrated at resorts across North America its ability to build the appropriate character and quality into its villages," said Pat O’Donnell, president and chief executive officer of Aspen Skiing Company.

Aspen Skiing Company chose Intrawest over Hines Resorts of Aspen and East West Partners of Beaver Creek, Colo. to develop the 20-acre parcel.

In a sense, the Aspen Skiing Company’s partnership with Intrawest completes a circle. It was in October of 1978 that the Aspen Skiing Company, through its half-ownership of Fortress Mountain and in partnership with the Federal Business Development Bank, was awarded the right to develop Blackcomb Mountain. Kane, then a planner for Design Workshop, a Colorado company, did much of the early design work on Blackcomb, which opened to the skiing public in December, 1980.

In 1984 Raymond, the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s treasurer, was hired by Blackcomb to become vice president of finance. The recession had hit Whistler hard and Aspen Skiing Company was losing interest in Blackcomb. One of the first things Raymond had to do was put together the numbers showing what Blackcomb was and what it could be for anyone interested in buying out Aspen’s stake in the company.

In 1986 Intrawest bought Aspen’s share of Blackcomb. Intrawest then began to develop the real estate on the Blackcomb Benchlands.

By the early 1990s, with Blackcomb having surpassed rival Whistler Mountain in skier visits, Intrawest decided to concentrate all its efforts in mountain resorts, acquiring properties across the continent and developing pedestrian villages at the base of them.

In the meantime, Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation appointed Pat O’Donnell president in November of 1991. O’Donnell was with WMSC until June of 1994, when he left to take an executive position with the Aspen Skiing Company. He became president of Aspen Skiing Company in 1996.

At the end of 1996 it was announced Whistler Mountain was being acquired by Intrawest. The deal was completed in 1997.

Intrawest holdings include 10 mountain resorts, as well as Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Florida. In addition to the Snowmass development the company is also building mountain villages at Keystone in Colorado, Solitude in Utah and Squaw Valley in California, in partnership with the owners of those ski areas.

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