Revived Cuchara ski area could boost Colo. county
Associated Press Writer
DENVER – Locals hoping to revive the former Cuchara Valley ski area say their plan could add 600 jobs in a southern Colorado county with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
The $14 million plan by the Cuchara Valley Recreational Foundation proposes a mountain coaster, tubing hill, zip line, a reservoir for snowmaking, and a half-pipe for snowboarders and skiers on about 47 acres.
The plan envisions turning an old office building into a convention center, luring a developer to build a 70-room hotel, and renovating a restaurant.
Organizers said they also may add around 300 condos and single-family homes on 193 acres to help pay for the project. A later phase could add advanced skiing and biking on national forest land, perhaps even skiing accessed by helicopter, but that would require federal approval.
“It would be a major boost to our economy if it happens,” Huerfano County Administrator John Galusha said.
The plan hinges partly on sales of bonds, but organizers hope to start construction in April or May. The plan would be shepherded by the new Cuchara Valley Recreational Metropolitan District, run by volunteers.
In recent years, the county of about 7,500 people about a three-hour drive south from Denver has lost some natural gas industry jobs. A private prison that employed almost 200 residents closed this year. The county jobless rate is about 10.3 percent. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates about one-fourth of residents live in poverty.
The redevelopment plan includes projections of 600 jobs for the Cuchara Valley.
“That would be every bit of our unemployment and then some,” Galusha said.
The former ski area has had a series of owners and was last running in 2000. The current landowner received a deed for it in lieu of foreclosure and was transferring it to the recreation district.
The volunteers insist they’re not interested in turning their community between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Spanish Peaks into another Aspen or Vail.
District board President Bruce Cantrell, a retiree who owns some of the property for the project, said the district would hire a ski industry veteran as general manager for an undisclosed sum to run the recreation area. The district also would pay off the bonds that it hopes to put up against some or all of the property. Details on the bonds were still being negotiated.
Galusha said a lack of enough natural snow kept former incarnations of the resort from competing with bigger ski areas. Marketing a resort for beginners from drive-in markets like Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico and Texas could work, Galusha said.
“We’re a depressed community here. We desperately need jobs to support the people,” said Cantrell.
The plan also aims to create reasons for visitors to spend money in the area all year.
“Right now it’s only a summer economy,” said Marshall Moore of the foundation. “Our goal is to create an economic engine to employ people on a year-round basis.”
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.