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Owners ‘ambiguous’ about Village project

Davey and Rosanne Pitcher, co-owners of Wolf Creek Ski Area, warily are following the progress of the proposed Village at Wolf Creek that would create a major resort development adjacent to the ski area.

On Nov. 20, the U.S. Forest Service approved a land exchange proposed by Texas billionaire Red McCombs to pave the way for his proposed Village at Wolf Creek project.

The trade gives 177 acres of McCombs’ land to the Rio Grande National Forest in exchange for about 205 acres of public land. The trade would allow vehicle access to the proposed development. A 45-day period for objections is underway.

“We’re in support of the land trade,” Davey Pitcher said. “We’re ambiguous about the Village.”

The Village readily would be visible from the ski area.

The Pitchers have been skeptical of the proposal to build the Village at Wolf Creek, and environmental groups have fought the project for years. But Davey Pitcher came away somewhat encouraged from a recent conversation with Marsha McCombs Shields, daughter of Red McCombs and a principal with the Village at Wolf Creek.

Pitcher said he believes the developers want to make sure the Village will be “supported by the community and compatible with the ski area.”

“That being said,” he said, “they have a lot of business interests. They’re not a skiing family, so it’s hard to say what they would do with the project.”

At present, plans call for up to 1,711 housing units, including hotels, condos and single-family housing along with commercial development. All of this at 10,000 feet elevation and more than 200 miles from any major city.

Pitcher said Shields “seemed quite disinterested in that past vision, which was refreshing to me that she was being thoughtful about the future and what might take place.”

Shields could not be reached for comment. But Village at Wolf Creek project manager Clint Jones said the project would be only as large as the market can support.

“A lot of this could be market-driven, and we don’t know long term what the market will hold as far as the resort’s popularity,” he said.

Of more immediate concern, Pitcher is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to conducting avalanche training on Forest Service land without a permit last winter. A longtime Wolf Creek ski patroller, Colin Drew Sutton, 38, was killed in an avalanche during the training.

“I take it very seriously,” Pitcher said. “I lost a close friend and co-worker that I’d worked with for 11 years.”

He said he hopes Wolf Creek will continue to do the avalanche training but in closer collaboration with the Forest Service.

cslothower@durangoherald.com

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