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SNOWMASS, CO-Construction recently began on the development of the first phase of the Snowmass Base Village, approved by Snowmass residents in February, which is expected to have a completed value of $556 million of 2005. Construction kicked off today with a groundbreaking ceremony signaling the start of the initial phase.

Phase one of the project is expected to last two years and will include two new ski lifts, a gondola, a children’s center, condominiums, retail shops and a 352,000-sf underground parking garage. The entire redevelopment is slated for completion in 2011.

“This marks the start of a new era for Snowmass,” says Jim Crown managing partner of the Aspen Skiing Co., owner and operator of Snowmass. “The construction of Base Village, together with the substantial improvements in our on-mountain facilities, will position Snowmass at the forefront of destination resorts around the world. The entire Aspen/Snowmass community will benefit from this project. We have been looking forward to this day for quite some time.”

The developer is Vancouver, British Columbia-based Intrawest. Intrawestalso is developing the base village at Winter Park, Co. “Intrawest is excited to be a part of the renaissance at Snowmass Base Village,” says Gary Raymond, president and CEO, Intrawest Placemaking. “One of the major benefits of this new development is an updated place for kids to play, and today, we wanted to give the kids a sense of what’s to come.”

Access to the ski mountain from existing retail shopping will be greatly improved. This coming ski season, the new six-passenger lift Village Express Lift will take skiers and riders from the base of Fanny Hill to the top of Sam’s Knob in 9.5 minutes, with mid-way unloading station. Also new this season is the Mall Connector or Sky Cab. The two-minute Sky Cab gondola ride will connect the existing Snowmass Mall and the new Base Village, offering lower Fanny Hill access for children’s learn to ski/snowboard programs.

Snowmass’ 3,000-plus acres of skiing/snowboarding terrain will not be affected by the Base Village construction. The entire Base Village development encompasses only a few acres of land located below the Fanny Hill chair lift, which is outside the ski area.

All current Snowmass restaurants, retail outlets and activities will be unaffected by the development. All pedestrian access points will remain open. Two day-skier parking lots and corresponding shuttle stops have been eliminated, but all other access points for the ski area will remain unchanged. Day skiers can continue to park in the Rodeo Lot and shuttle up or Lot C.

To help ensure that the land, water, air and natural habitat experience has as little disruption as possible, the construction team erected important systems designed to protect the surrounding community. An air-quality monitoring system was installed that will alert the team to any irregularities with respect to dust or other airborne particles. A wetlands- and erosion-control mechanism was also installed to prevent soil run-off from leaking into streams and other water sources.

“Snowmass residents and visitors will see lots of activity throughout the summer, and it’s our primary concern to ensure this process is well managed and impacts on the community are as minimal as possible,” says Gary Meggison, vice president with the Weitz Co.’s Rocky Mountain Business Unit, which is the general contractor on the project.

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