Transforming copper.

Author:Graham, Sandy

TOM MALMGREN CAME TO LIVE AT COPPER MOUNTAIN IN 1973 AT THE BASE OF what he calls "a quiet, little, fantastic ski mountain." Today, Malmgren lives at the largest ski area in Summit County, also home to Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. The. owner of Copper is Intrawest Corp., North America's largest ski-resort owner. Intrawest has already invested tens of millions in Malmgren's little resort and plans to spend plenty more. And Malmgren, a real estate agent and property manager, himself, has been left a little breathless.

"Their (proposal) is in excess of what I feel our little valley can accommodate in terms of density," said Malmgren. In fact, Intrawest's plans for Copper dwarf what other ski areas have in the development pipeline. Yet Intrawest is just getting started in Colorado. It currently is negotiating with the city of Denver to redevelop historic Winter Park. Details of those plans have not yet been released, but the company's agreement calls for it to pay a minimum $23 million to the city over the next 10 years. It will be the city's operator and developer of the resort for the next 50.

Intrawest, of Vancouver, B.C., wants to expand Copper's base development to complement its vast network of more than 125 trails on 2,450 skiable acres. It bought Copper in March 1997, and already has put in roughly 500 residential units at the base of Copper Mountain. Its proposed l5-to-20-year Comprehensive Development Strategy for the mountain, however, goes far beyond that: 1,100 new residences, 110,000 square feet of conference and community facilities, and 47,500 square feet of commercial space.

The plans have elated some but shocked others.

Brad Leonard, who bought a home in Copper Mountain in 1977 and retired to it in 1999, cautiously praised the Intrawest development strategy as "generally an imaginative and sound plan for the development of this small mountain valley."

Chris Eby, a former member of the Ten Mile Planning Commission, is torn: "Intrawest has the capability, knowledge, expertise and bankroll to do some great improvements at Copper," said Eby, broker/owner of Buyer's Resource Real Estate in Frisco. Eby, who worked at Copper in the 1970s also has skied the resort since the early '70s.

"The sacrifice is you lose some of that more intimate, family-type ski resort, he said."

Summit County officials -- the current Ten Mile planning commission, a subset of the countywide planning commission, and Summit County commissioners...

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