Teri Orr: The slippery slope of business

Park Record columnist Teri Orr.

Lilacs are incredibly fragrant this year. They don’t always have a full scent that wafts through the afternoon air. Bleeding hearts have no discernible smell, but they are prolific now. “Ladies in a Tub” – Sister Margo taught me all those years ago when she lived next door. One afternoon she walked through my yard and showed me how to take the heart and gently separate it and the tiny head and skinny body appeared, and instead of a heart -voila- a lady in bath.

I like to sleep with my windows open now and hear the sounds of the night and the birds with enough faith to sing before dawn.

It’s not a time of year that I usually associate with politics.

But there is big news blossoming with the appeal in front of the city with citizen advocates/appellants against the multi-glomerate international corporation Vail Resorts or whatever their official name is. For those of us here since the ’70s, we’ve looked at the rights granted in the ’90s. It took decades before we knew that back then, when both stations were claiming the right to one day sell their parking lots or develop them themselves, we would end up paying the piper. PCMR and Deer Valley have secured the rights to develop their own parking lots…eventually. We just never saw the drastic growth of the community coming that would remove all other parking options. At the time, there were so many vacant dirt lots that it was hard to imagine, if not impossible, that everything else in this world of endless dirt lots that no one cared about could disappear. We hadn’t imagined the post-Olympic traffic and greed and those one-day lift tickets that would become the price of a few hotel nights.

The current claim – questions the overall capacity of ski lifts and how their number was calculated, and by whom and when. It looks like the thing has been out of order for years, if not decades.

I’m curious how the proposed upgrade/adjustment/completely new system of loading skiers from a single bottom entry point will affect the Eagle run/lift. The way I remember the track being created is this – it was part of a race course created for World Cup Ski races in the mid 80’s. I had no idea it had a distinct name at the beginning. The electronic mechanism – necessary to time the runner’s arrival – was malfunctioning, and it appeared – with all eyes and cameras on the course – that we would be forced to cancel the race. And then, out of nowhere, an eagle came and flew down the course and across the finish line, and that magic kind of triggered the system, and the race could take place. The following year it was formerly called the Eagle Race/Raise with appropriate ceremony – as we did then. Communications director Mark Menlove had received an eagle feather which he slipped into his jacket for the blessing. He ensured that the sacred feather was returned to the native culture after having it close to him to name the space.

Reducing the sacred intent of this land to an on-ramp to the corporate “mountain experience” hurts my heart. The reality this call has shown us is that capacity is already greater than expected in the 80s. And in increments, lifts and capacity have grown and expanded beyond approvals and intentions as how customers should access the mountain experience.

In an old historic mining town, we’re talking about the ghosts rattling in the tunnels beneath the spaces where our mining tunnels used to exist. I think of more recent ghosts – those elegant gentlemen/businessmen Nick Badami and Edgar Stern. I fear they will roll over, shaking the ground as the foundations of the family resorts they have created eroded. These two gentlemen had come to skiing late in their careers, where they had both been successful in the clothing business (Sears Roebuck and BVD underwear). Nick Badami became the first CEO of a clothing conglomerate – The Rapid American Corporation. Edgar Stern added Dean Whitter to his portfolio and his hotels in New Orleans and the famous Stanford Court in San Francisco.

They first created useful objects at affordable prices for the enjoyment of families. Today’s operators are more like robber barons who have created conglomerates where the business of their business is not so much family recreation and enjoyment of nature as the backdrop for real estate development and stock market notoriety.

There are still people here who know the intention of these kind, wise and benevolent resort operators. We learned in the 90s that parking lots would one day have buildings on them, but we thought recreating parking spaces would be easily done on any of the dozens of undeveloped dirt lots all over town.

If there ever was a time for a Council of Elders, it’s now. For people who have lived here for decades to come together with their vast knowledge of why and how and intention and forward-thinking planning. And they have to speak up. With little to gain or fear, they are in a rare position to speak truth to corporate power. It is NOT too late to do and say the right thing. The appeal currently before the planning commission has far-reaching ramifications for resorts across the country and across the pond, because let’s be honest – current occupiers who own resorts in our city have resorts in several places in our country, but also in Canada and Europe. It’s a big company – a big stock market company. And jungle drums are beating this week – globally – in the ski world – over this case in Park City, Utah. Eyes wide shut will be on us if we don’t come together and clearly understand the ramifications of what this call could mean.

Let’s help the city planning commission have the tools they need to reverse the decision made arbitrarily, capriciously and poorly documented by city staff.

Let the city say – enough is enough.

It can work – if we show up and stand up to the soulless entities that pressure the land where giants of men, who cared passionately about this community, once stood…

We know where the bones of the stories are buried because we have carefully placed them there. And now we have to look at what has blossomed – a bleeding heart or a lady in a bathtub or a ski lift built for a few hundred people to ride in a day or thousands. Day after day. Either way, you see – the same can change with the slightest bit of imagination. Let’s help the planning commission remember what was planted, where and why. You can write a letter to the city or show up and stand up and speak at the planning meeting next Wednesday. Just don’t sit this one out for days to come. This is important for all future Sundays in our Park….


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