Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Synthetic ski hill, more zip lines and Segway course may be in Manitou's future

by WAYNE HEILMAN wayneh@gazette.com - Updated: May 2, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Ski Manitou?

It could happen.

A Colorado Springs businessman wants to build a synthetic ski hill on the west end of Manitou Springs as part of a $10 million plan to add more zip lines, a mountain biking trail and off-road Segway tours to an existing zip line operation.

Greg Wellens, owner of Adventures Out West, is seeking approval from Manitou Springs officials for the first phase of the expansion, which includes up to five additional zip lines, a 1/2-mile mountain bike trail and a course for Segways specially built for off-road use.

The ski hill, to be built from giant rolls of plastic, is part of a later phase that would open in the fall of 2015 starting with a 10,000-square-foot beginner run that includes slope-style rails and jumps, and a 500-foot tubing run. Later phases include ski lifts, a slalom course and a longer run.

The Manitou Springs Planning Commission is scheduled to consider Wellens' request May 14 for a conditional use permit to operate a multi-recreational use facility called Mt. Manitou Adventure Park on 30.15 acres at 1335 Manitou Ave. If the commission approves the permit, it would go to the Manitou Springs City Council June 3.

Wade Burkholder, Manitou's planning director, said he will recommend the permit be granted, but additional approvals would be required before the ski hill, ski lifts and other later phases could be built.

Wellens declined to comment Friday until Manitou officials have given the OK, but a summary of the plan on Adventures Out West's website said Mt. Manitou Adventure Park would "place Manitou Springs at the forefront of the tourism industry" and "help promote year-around excitement" in the city.

Burkholder called the plan "ambitious" and said Friday that city officials would need more information about the height of the ski hill, lighting plans, traffic forecasts and other specifics before the commission or council could consider approving later phases of the project.

The project initially included horseback rides, lots to sell pumpkins and Christmas trees and a 1,000-seat amphitheater for concerts and other events up to 10 times a year, but those elements were dropped after neighbors raised concerns about noise and traffic at two community meetings last month.

Adventures Out West - which operates hot-air balloon flights and hiking, Segway, van and Jeep tours in Arizona, California and Colorado - has had four zip lines on the site since 2012.

The company estimates the project would attract 50,000 people a year, generate more than $2.5 million a year in revenue and employ 10 to 20 people full-time when all phases are completed in five to seven years, according to the summary.

The Segway course would open by early fall and the additional zip lines and mountain bike course would open next spring.

The ski hill eventually would include a mixed-use retail and residential base complex built over several years, according to the proposal.

Synthetic ski hills can be used year-around and have been built in the U.S. and Europe, including a 5,000-acre complex built on the Liberty University campus in Virginia, the proposal said. The surfaces are designed to mimic the qualities of snow-covered ski slopes.

The closest ski resorts to Colorado Springs area are more than 100 miles away. Ski areas operated on Pikes Peak and near The Broadmoor hotel until the late 1980s and early 1990s, but they closed because of a lack of consistent snow cover and competition from larger and better-financed mountain resorts.

Wellens spent 10 years living and working in Snowmass and has owned recreation businesses in ski towns, operated businesses on ski area properties and is a ski instructor, according to the proposal.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

Facebook Wayne Heilman

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