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County Council Updated On Ski Area

on December 21, 2017 - 2:33pm
Los Alamos Ski Club President Susan Brockway-Hahn speaks during the special session Friday. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com

James Coleman of Pajarito Recreation, LLC speaks Friday during the County Council meeting. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com

 

By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
 
The Pajarito Ski Area opened for the winter season this past weekend but during the Los Alamos County Council’s special session Friday, attention turned to the ski area’s future and what was in store for it.
 
Part of its future entails new ownership. The Pajarito Ski Club is transferring the land and all its assets to Pajarito Recreation LLC, which is owned by James Coleman. The company has actually managed the ski area since 2014.
 
While this transaction does not involve the County, both the club and Pajarito Recreation, LLC are hopeful the County will contribute to the construction of a pipeline, which will improve the ski area’s snow making capabilities.
 
According to agenda documents, the County Council previously placed $2 million aside for the purpose of partnering on a waterline for the ski hill. Additionally, the ski club board proposed in a full-transfer plan, that Pajarito Recreation LLC should match the County’s pipeline costs and complete the project within two years, which is a $1.71 million obligation, as stated in the agenda documents.
 
Ski Club President Susan Brockway-Hahn said securing the pipeline is key to the ski area’s success. Brockway-Hahn stated in her presentation, “We need a reliable water source for snowmaking operations when natural snow is not available and to ensure a longer ski season.”
 
She further pointed out that the existing storage pond at the mountain has been used for fighting wildfires and the pipeline would add to that. Brockway-Hahn emphasized the pipeline is “vitally important, if we don’t have snow, we don’t have a ski area.”
 
It is a worthy investment, Brockway-Hahn said.
 
“The Los Alamos Ski Club recognizes how important the ski area is to the County not only in economics but  the land it sits on... It draws visitors of all kinds from the County and region for all kinds of recreation. There are many different ways you can enjoy Pajarito Mountain,” she said.
 
She added, “It is very vital to us that it remains a recreational resource. We want skiing to remain at Pajarito Mountain.”
 
Coleman and his partners operate several ski resorts including Sipapu and Purgatory. He explained he got into the ski business right after college.
 
“It really is a passion,” he said. “I’m doing my favorite sport ... I’m committed to it and it is a huge part of my life.”
 
He added his concern at the moment is to do improvements to the ski area and not pursue any developments. Coleman said his mantra is skiing comes first. “That really is our focus and what comes first,” he said.
 
Some of those improvements are already seen. Brockway-Hahn reported that the ski area has newer rental equipment and its computer system has been updated. Additionally, a mountain biking director has been hired.
 
Pajarito Recreation has proven its dedication to the ski area, she said.
 
“All of these different steps taken by Pajarito Recreation … gives us all the indications that they are in it for the long run,” Brockway-Hahn said.
 
A few members of the community spoke in favor of the County moving forward on supporting the pipeline.
 
One speaker said, “I learned how to ski at Pajarito Mountain in 1986 … personally, I just think it is a win-win for the skiers and the community as a whole.”  She encouraged the County Council to move as quickly as it can on the pipeline.
 
Local resident Tony Fox said he felt supporting the ski area would be a step in bringing economic vitality and tourism to the area. As a member of the group working on the economic vitality action plan, he said he felt the conversation about the ski area was legitimate.
 
Former County Councilor Mike Wheeler voiced his support toward the ski area’s new owner.
 
“I ski all over the country basically … there’s a big difference in ski areas that are interested in skiing and ski areas interested in real estate ... James and the LLC operate ski areas; they are not real estate developers.”
 
Wheeler also gave a shout out to the volunteers who work at the ski area.
 
“The ski area is the way it is today because of the community involvement,” he said.
 
Other residents asked questions. One asked what impact the pipeline would have on the County’s potable water supply. Another expressed support in pursuing a conservation easement. With the area already being affected by climate change, she said she wanted to make sure the land is preserved.
 
Another speaker said he was puzzled by the objections toward the plan for the ski hill. “I’m very likely to be the longest serving volunteer,” he said, pointing out he volunteered as a kid with his father. “I grew up on the mountain. It’s my mountain ... I feel very strong about Pajarito. That said I am puzzled by the objections. The transfer makes the most sense. Please support this motion.”

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