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Groswold brought in the big guns during those talks, facing off against the city with a small arsenal of high-powered attorneys and political consultants. Tensions ran high during meetings of Webb's advisory committee. At one gathering in February 1994, former councilwoman Donohue derided as "bullshit" Groswold's claim that the WPRA had developed Winter Park out of the goodness of its heart. "When I said those things, [Groswold and three WPRA boardmembers] really squirmed and looked at the ceiling with their faces turning red," Donohue says. The Webb administration also complained about the adversarial attitude Groswold seemed to be taking toward the city, which included penning a confidential memo asking his boardmembers to dig up any "information" they could about the members of the mayor's committee.

However, when the Webb administration ultimately signed off on the Forest Service land swap--and threw in the city's ninety-acre parcel as an added bonus--it cleared the way for Groswold to finally realize his dream of making Winter Park a "world-class" resort. And his greatest victory may have been convincing city officials to buy into his vision of Winter Park as a for-profit venture no longer designed to subsidize low-cost skiing for Denver residents.

Over the years, ticket prices at Winter Park have remained the lowest of any comparable resort in the state. But the formal objective of development at Winter Park, as outlined in the agreement between the resort and the city, is to sell or lease land now belonging to the taxpayers to private entities. The money derived from such sales or leases would theoretically flow back into the WPRA, which in turn is obligated to forward $1 million per year plus 3 percent of its total revenues to Denver. The new agreement says nothing about keeping prices in check.

"Because it is owned by the city and county and therefore doesn't have stockholders demanding higher income, it's been able to keep ticket prices down," says the parks advisory board's Tony Trampler. "If this kind of development happens, I believe it's going to be priced like Vail and Aspen. I can see a $50 lift ticket at Winter Park."

If Groswold is the WPRA's loose cannon, known for blowing his stack when he feels the resort's interests are under fire, Eugene L. Hohensee is its silencer. A Denver attorney with the silk-stocking firm of Arnold & Porter, Hohensee has been involved behind the scenes in virtually every major project the resort has undertaken in recent years, including its bold attempt to statutorily abolish the Moffat Tunnel Commission after that body challenged the WPRA's lease. Even though Denver owns Winter Park and the WPRA operates it as an agent of the city, it is attorney Hohensee who does the talking when it comes to base-area development.

Groswold and the WPRA boardmembers have decided not to speak to the press about their plans, says boardmember James A. Swanson, a Denver real estate investor. "We really have centralized all communications through Gene," he says. Even the powerhouse public-relations firm that the WPRA employs, Denver's MGA/Thompson, refers questions to Hohensee.

And Hohensee doesn't have much to say.
The lawyer won't say how much the WPRA pays him per hour for his services. He won't say which private developers have responded to a request for qualifications sent out earlier this year by the resort--or how the WPRA plans to cut them in on the deal. (The Denver Business Journal has already reported that two of them include East West Partners of Beaver Creek and Intrawest Development Corporation, the largest ski-area developer in Canada.) And he won't say who serves on the boards of the ski area's new for-profit subsidiaries. Explains the gracious Hohensee, "I'm not at liberty to tell you."

Hohensee does, however, confirm that the resort is holding open the option of forming yet another development entity in the future: a limited partnership with a private developer in which either the WPRA or the developer could conceivably serve as the controlling general partner. "We could only speculate as to who might be in which position," he says.

The resort has already set up a holding company, Winter Park Services Inc., which in turn is responsible for appointing the directors of a real estate subsidiary called Winter Park Village, Inc. The real estate subsidiary would be responsible for overseeing development of 39 acres of city land and 32 acres of Forest Service swap land.

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Andy Van De Voorde