No Early Opening for Eclipse

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SAM Magazine--Idaho Springs, CO, November 6, 2006--Colorado's Clear Creek County has delayed a crucial planning meeting on the rezoning of the former St. Mary's ski area and the opening of the new Eclipse ski resort on the property. Eclipse, which is headed by Michael Coors of the Coors brewing dynasty, hopes to open this winter. The County Planning Commission plans to examine the ski area's rezoning request on November 15.

Coors, who purchased St. Mary's ski area last year for just under $2 million, originally had plans to follow the lead of nearby Echo Mountain, an all jib resort that caters to the Gen X and Gen Y demographic.

However, Coors has recently changed tack to a family-friendly style ski area which would not be entirely terrain park fueled like Echo Mountain. "We want to have a really good terrain park for the younger guys, but also have it be a place for their parents and for people who just want to get out of town for a quick ski," Coors told the Denver Post newspaper.

Currently, local public opinion is divided about the merits of the resort, with some residents citing the jobs and boost to the economy that the mountain would bring, while others, particularly those who live along the local access road to the resort, citing concerns about congestion and traffic.

Ironically, both Echo Mountain and Eclipse are within a 30 minute drive of Berthoud Pass, home of a defunct resort of the same name. Berthoud Pass was well known to expert skiers, not least because the defunct ski area averaged 500 inches of snow each year, and the ski area featured some of the steepest terrain in the state. Both Echo Mountain and Eclipse average less than 200 inches of snowfall, and their terrain--with the exception of their park and pipes--is substantially tamer.

Owner Michael Coors said earlier Wednesday that he plans to open Eclipse sometime this winter with roughly 20 acres of terrain served by one T-bar lift. First, however, Eclipse must be approved by the planning commission on November 15. Should the commission find in the resort's favor at what is sure to be an emotionally charged, contentious meeting, the project will go to the board of county commissioners, which will make the final approval on the rezoning necessary to re-open the ski area.