A valet and ski concierge business in Snowmass Village has closed and told its 200 members that they will not be refunded deposits that average $12,500 each.
In a Dec. 21 letter to the members, Jim Light, a manager of the Roaring Fork Mountain Club Snowmass ownership entity, cited Town Council’s vote four days earlier as the reason for the business shutting its doors. The vote denied the business from receiving a temporary use permit to change its operating location. About 20 employees were laid off, and Light said the lost memberships will cost the town tens of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue.
The mountain club had existed for five seasons, operating out of the former Silvertree Hotel that has since been remodeled into the Westin Snowmass Resort, said Light, whose Chaffin Light Real Estate firm is a minor partner in Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge-Snowmass LLC (RFMLS), which owns the club.
Club officials were seeking to move from the Westin to The Timberline condominiums farther up the hill because of concerns raised by the village’s police and fire departments. Officials with the departments told town staff during Westin’s approval process that such clubs would increase traffic on upper Brush Creek Road and Elbert Lane, which would not be in line with Snowmass Village’s 2010 comprehensive plan. Westin officials agreed not to house that type of business as part of the new hotel’s approval.
Town Council on Dec. 17 voted 3-2 to deny a one-year permit for the mountain lodge to operate out of The Timberline, also because of traffic concerns.
“The fact that the town has denied any viable plan for the club’s operations eliminates the ability for RFMLS to sell memberships, which have always been the source of funds to refund members ...,” says Light’s letter. “As a result, RFMLS has neither funds nor any source of funds to refund the membership deposits of the current members.
“RFMLS owners, who are forced at this point to wind down this entity, have lost millions of dollars in the investment in Snowmass Village, and have not received and will not receive any return of that investment.”
The business provided ski valet and concierge services, which included parking, taking members’ skis to the slope side, child care, après ski and other amenities.
“It was a real nice luxury,” said Charlynn Maxwell Porter, a part-time Aspenite and former mountain club member who said she and her partner paid a $16,000 deposit when she joined. “It was just convenient for the parking. They would get your skis and boots out of your car, put your skis on the snow next to the slope.”
A member since April 2011, Porter said a broken neck sidelined her for so long that she ended up paying the deposit only to use the mountain club four or five times.
The club’s membership agreement says that a member will receive a refund of their entire membership deposit within 90 days of the club’s discontinuing operations, according to membership documents.
But the mountain club is “essentially bankrupt,” Light said Thursday.
“Unfortunately that’s where we are,” he said. “The money went for capital improvements and operating subsidies and pursuit of a long-term plan.
“The money was spent in legitimate ways, but it was always assumed we’d be in business.”
Porter said she has not yet decided how to proceed in trying to recoup her deposit.
The mountain club’s rejected plan involved shuttling members’ vehicles between The Timberline’s parking spaces in the upper village and the Snowmass Chapel at the intersection of Owl Creek and Brush Creek roads, with drivers returning to the upper village in another vehicle.
At the town’s Dec. 17 meeting, Councilman Jason Haber raised the point that, from a traffic count perspective, the Owl Creek-Brush Creek intersection already is “failing” frequently, or unable to handle the level of vehicles.
And Councilman Fred Kucker said allowing the club to operate from The Timberline would inconvenience skiers and that the members had “no inherent right” to be in the upper village over non-members.
The idea that the mountain club operated seamlessly from the Silvertree “is just dead wrong,” he added.
Light, who presented the revised plan to council, on Thursday called officials’ vote inexplicable.
“This is a resort, and there are businesses who depend on that,” he said. “Some members said they spent $1,000 when they were here; others said they spent tens of thousands, which impacts merchants, town sales tax, SkiCo and so on.”
Town officials said they weren’t “anti-wealth,” Light said. “They just didn’t want the traffic there.”