Schuss!

A family resort like Winter Park should have no secrets.

Much to the annoyance of many committee members, Webb announced that he would not be known as the mayor who sold Winter Park (even if he was more than willing to wear that label eight years earlier). "I believe very strongly that in cities in the West, we have to preserve our history, and we also have to preserve some of our assets," he said.

And much to the shocked delight of almost everyone, a half-dozen entities were interested in pursuing a partnership, a list of suitors eventually whittled down to Intrawest, the Canadian corporation that owns Copper Mountain and Whistler/Blackcomb, and East West Partners, a company that's not only done an estimated $1 billion in mountain real-estate development, but is currently changing the landscape of Denver's Central Platte Valley.

In January, Intrawest was proclaimed the winner.


Late last month, Intrawest officials skied the mountain and enjoyed a lovefest with the same Fraser Valley residents who'd been so hostile a year before. "There's a lot of relief in both the local community and Denver," says DeFrange, who recognizes that the deal could put the WPRA (not to mention him) out of business. "Some people complain that the character is going to change and that it will never be the same. One of the things that's going to change is we're going to go into the parking lots and build condos and shops. Is the character the parking lot? It's the mountain. The mountain is the same. If anything, we have the ability to enhance the mountain."

"I don't know another ski area in North America that has the kind of mountain Winter Park does," says Liz Orr, the city's project manager. "I think Intrawest is great. It's as strong on the operations side as its is on the real-estate side. We really thought we needed both." According to Orr, the first draft of the city's agreement with Intrawest may be ready next week.

Still, there are bumps ahead. While Intrawest will be able to develop the Winter Park base, it will have to work around the Hines projects that take up close to half of the 172-acre site. It will also have to work around a possible lawsuit: An outstanding agreement between Vail and Intrawest (which developed River Run at Keystone, now owned by Vail) could prohibit either company from getting involved in Grand County real-estate projects.

And then there's the Denver Auditor's Office, which has taken a strong interest in Winter Park business dealings -- and even filed suit under the Colorado Open Records Act demanding access to WPRA records. In December, Grand County District Judge Richard Doucette ruled that Auditor Don Mares was not authorized to obtain those records, since he didn't qualify as a "natural person" under CORA. On March 1, Mares asked the Colorado Supreme Court to overturn that decision; last week, the court gave the WPRA until March 25 to show why the judge made the proper ruling.

That won't be an easy argument. Because now, more than ever, public officials need access to public information concerning a public asset -- Denver's most glamorous asset. This family should have no secrets.

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