The Last Resort

How an ambitious but troubled plan to create an exclusive skiers’ paradise may revive—or cripple—one of Colorado’s last authentic mountain towns.

June 2011

Minturn remains in limbo, and its residents are alternately resigned and upset. “It was too good to be true,” Frank Lorenti says. “They promised $180 million and it makes your hair stand up. This is a nice town, but we are desperate. We need the infrastructure. You look back, and what has it done for the town? Nothing.”

Floyd Duran, a lifelong Minturn resident who’s worked just about every job in the area—from the Eagle Mine, to the public works department, to his current trucking business—believes the project is inevitable. “The resort will probably go in eventually,” he says. “When you put $32 million into a piece of land, the person who invested that much is not just going to let it go. And it’s beautiful up there— the views are amazing. We’re just frustrated. What are we going to get out of all those promises?”

While it waits for a payoff that may never arrive, Minturn is refocusing on building its economy and attracting tourists. Nine new businesses have opened since last Christmas; one of the most successful is a secondhand store named Holy Toledo. And more than a century after its founding, the town finally is getting its first “Welcome to Minturn” sign this month. “If [the resort] doesn’t come, Minturn still has to operate and function,” says Jim White, the town manager. “We’ve done it since 1904 and we’re not going away. We’ll scratch and claw for new businesses. We’re telling the people who are spending their weekends in Avon and Vail, ‘While you’re at the resort, come see our real town.’ ”

As Battle Mountain’s boots-on-the- ground, it’s soft-spoken Mike Jackson—not Kleinkopf or Crave or Lubert-Adler—who gets buttonholed most often by aggrieved Minturnites. “Some people express frustration, so I listen to them,” he says. “I respond by telling them, ‘Well, it’s taken longer than we thought, but it’s definitely moving forward.’ Many are just encouraged that we’re still here and that the community will see the benefits from it.”

Still, on a Thursday night last February, Minturn is dead quiet. Inside the Minturn Saloon, only a few patrons are eating in the dining area. The bar is nearly empty, with eight drinkers hunched over on their stools. A middle-aged man with a head of dark, curly hair hits on two young women, their cheeks still pink from the slopes. The bearded bartender tosses back whiskey shots—served in plastic condiment cups—with two regulars.

It just 8 p.m., not a soul is in sight along Main Street. The stores that remain in business are closed; the rest sit empty. Down the street, inside Kirby Cosmo’s BBQ Bar, the only table of diners is packing up. At the Minturn Inn, there are no lights on upstairs. The only places open are the gas station and liquor store, its facade strung with Christmas lights.

Earlier this morning, Minturn and its neighbors, Vail and Beaver Creek, awoke to eight inches of fresh powder, a siren call to skiers and snowboarders. But tonight—while Vail and Beaver Creek are bustling with diners pouring out of white-tablecloth steak houses and into cocktail lounges and artificially divey bars—Minturn once again turns off its lights early, and waits.

Patrick Doyle is a senior editor of 5280. Email him at [email protected].