Entrepreneur looks to build Clear Creek snowpark
With his plan for Eclipse Snow Park in Clear Creek County, Michael Coors would tap a different Rockies than his beer kin
By Julie Dunn,
Denver Post Staff Writer
Article Launched: 02/07/2007 01:00:00 AM MST
At age 25, Coors is spearheading plans to develop a new ski area near St. Mary's Glacier. His father, John K. Coors, paid $1.65 million for the 284-acre Clear Creek County site in late 2005.
An avid skier and mountain climber, Coors - a direct descendent of Golden Brewery founder Adolph Coors - said he was never interested in entering the beer business.
He was actively looking for a new opportunity when he stumbled on the dormant ski area. He immediately brought the idea for Eclipse Snow Park to his father, chief executive of CoorsTek.
"He was a little critical until we looked at the economics," he said. "Then we both agreed that this one could really make some money."
John Coors declined to comment for this story.
"I have no idea how to run a ski area, but my dad has pretty good business experience," Coors said. "It has been great to bounce financial things off him."
Coors believes that the project has garnered extra attention - and some public opposition - because of his family name, which he calls "a blessing and a curse."
"People keeping bringing that up, saying, 'The only reason you can do this project is because you are who you are,"' he said. "But I've grown up with that, so I'm used to it."
A start in window-washing
The younger Coors stresses that while this is certainly his most ambitious business endeavor, it isn't his first.
To help cover part of his tuition at the Colorado School of Mines - he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2005 - Coors started a window-washing business. It eventually grew to include 50 residential clients and a 700-window office building.
He then moved on to real estate, getting his broker's license and going to work for Kitz & Pike Real Estate in Lakewood at age 22.
"He works hard for what he gets," broker/owner Greg Kitzmiller said. "His dad doesn't give him any freebies. He doesn't tap into the name to take him to a different level."
Coors said that real estate experience led him to the St. Mary's ski area, located just northwest of Idaho Springs off Fall River Road, which had been closed since 1984.
"Skiing is blowing up again in Colorado," he said. "Last year (the state) added 700,000 new skiers, and 80 percent of those were from the Front Range. We think we can find a little market niche in there."
His plans for Eclipse have angered some locals who have concerns about traffic and noise, along with water runoff and waste issues.
And nearby Echo Mountain Park, which opened last spring, has complained that there isn't enough demand for two small ski resorts in the area.
"There are lots of negatives," said Steve Schultz, a critic and a member of Clear Creek County's planning commission. "There is no direct evidence to show that county government will realize anywhere near the economic benefits in the form of taxes that will offset the increased cost of maintenance on that road."
Coors counters that he has agreed to pay a percentage of Eclipse's lift ticket sales toward county road and emergency services, saying "the county will draw revenue."
He overcame a major hurdle last week when he won rezoning approval from the county's board of commissioners.
Eclipse still needs design and development approval from the county; a final decision is expected this spring.
"Get our feet wet slowly"
Coors has skied the area more than 30 times and hopes to open Eclipse by next winter. He estimates it will take at least $1.9 million to get the ski area up and running.
"We're going to start small enough that it shouldn't be too crazy," said Coors. "We want to get our feet wet slowly."
The SE Group of Frisco is busy working on the design of the ski area.
"I think his age is one of his strengths," SE Group principal Kent Sharp said of Coors. "He's got good business acumen, and he understands the younger demographic. He's passionate about it."
Coors and his wife currently live in Arvada but plan to relocate to Clear Creek County.
"My wife is a nurse, and I'm not making any money right now working at Eclipse, so we need her income; that's why we live down here," said Coors. "But we love it up there."
Staff writer Julie Dunn can be reached at 303-954-1592 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Coors file
What he's doing now: President, Eclipse Snow Park, planned northwest of Idaho Springs
Born: Nov. 20, 1981, Wheat Ridge
Education: D'Evelyn High School, Golden; Colorado School of Mines (B.S. in mechanical engineering, December 2005)
Hobby: Mountain climbing; has climbed 48 of Colorado's 54 fourteeners
Preferred ski brand: K2
Pets: Two golden retrievers
Favorite book: "A Brief History of Nearly Everything," by Bill Bryson