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For the week of Jan 29 - Feb 4, 2003

News

Resort-town researcher asks Sun Valley what it wants to be


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Mountain communities, including the Sun Valley area, are experiencing growing pains as they transition from ski towns to quality-of-life communities, and only time and planning can determine what the end result of that transition will be.

Ford Frick, managing director of Denver-based BBC Research and Consulting, was the featured speaker Thursday at the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureauís annual Economic Outlook Breakfast. Express photos by Willy Cook

 

"Destination business in Western resorts is fairly stagnant," resort town researcher Ford Frick told a group of local business owners and public officials last week. "At some point in the 1980s, skiing became even more marginalized. Itís just a form of recreation. Now itís one of the amenities that a Western town offers."

Frick, managing director of Denver-based BBC Research and Consulting, was the featured speaker Thursday at the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureauís annual Economic Outlook Breakfast. He presented an array of information about resort town economics and trends, but left it up to those who attended to draw conclusions about what the Sun Valley area might become.

There are as many ways to approach the next 10 years as there are Western ski towns, Frick said.

Mammoth, Calif., has embraced a high-risk, capital intensive remodel of its aging facilities.

Deer Valley, Utah, and Sun Valley have embraced "an elegant sensibility."

Breckenridge, Colo., is using public money to pay for "incremental improvements," including a public golf course, public bus system and public recreation center.

Aspen, Colo., is striving for "messy vitality," in which the community has declared, "We want locals living here, and we want local retailers living here."

Crested Butte, Colo., fits in the "still struggling" category, where the community is polarized and "theyíre still at the point of arguing a whole lot about what they want to be."

"Whoís got the formula right?" Frick asked. "Will new villages be anything people care about? Will fractionals (time-share properties) work? How do you do retail better? How far will down-valley go? Is there something that will revitalize skiing? What does a community do when itís fully built out?

"Do the kids of baby boomers care? Are they embracing these places? Or are we going to be their fatherís resort?"

Ski towns have been evolving since they were founded, Frick said, and changes will continue to occur.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.