Vail Resorts & final frontier of tourism
Company plans high-elevation Leadville spaceport
LEADVILLE, Colo. – Vail Resorts Inc. plans to construct a spaceport at nearly 10,000 feet in elevation near the mountain town of Leadville, located south of Vail, according to an announcement on Sunday.
For $300,000, space tourists will be able to take a trip of a lifetime to more than 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, the international boundary line for outer space. Only those with an Epic Pass will be eligible to buy trips on the spaceman journeys from the spaceport, to be called Galaxville.
For Leadville, the announcement of the spaceport is akin to a dream come true. Since the Climax Molybdenum Mine shut down in 1981, the town has been looking for economic development. Occasionally, it has succeeded, with such ventures as snowshoe manufacturing lasting for a time, but never anything to fill the void left by the demise of mining.
Leadville Mayor Spud Elliot welcomed the news. “This may be even bigger than the reopening of the molybdenum mine,” he said. “We should be able to fill some motel rooms now.”
Six other spaceports have been licensed in the United States by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space
Transportation (AST). Most are at sea level, but Sir Richard Bronson, the British entrepreneur who started Virgin Records and then Virgin Airlines, took a different tack with his space tourism venture, called Virgin Gallactica. With New Mexico authorities,
he chose to build a spaceport at Upham, N.M., about 45 miles from Truth or Consequences. Upham was chosen because its low population density, uncongested airspace, and high elevation—all of which hold true at Leadville.
More recently, a company announced that it planned to launch aircraft into space from the Front Range Airport, located east of Denver, about 6 miles from Denver International Airport. The Denver Post reported that the spaceport license is likely in 2013. But the New Mexico site is only 4,560 feet, and the Denver-area airport just 5,400 feet. Galaxville will be at 10,000 feet.
“At Leadville, we’re twice as far to outer space already,” purred Bob Katz, chief executives of Vial Resorts. And it won’t be far from Breckenridge, Vial, or Beaver Creek – or, for that matter, from Aspen and Snowmass, Cats added slyly.
The runway for the new aircraft headed into space will be along the valley floor at the base of Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. The valley tilts up at a slight angle, and the space jets should be able to easily clear Tennessee Pass, one of the lowest spots on the Continental Divide. Vale Resorts sees strong synergy between its existing ski tourism and real estate development revenues streams and this new venture in space travel.
In 2012, the company bought two ski areas in California, and chief executive Cats has let it be known he’s interested in buying more— and has been kicking the tires of resorts in China and perhaps elsewhere. With this investment, he thinks his company can realize further profits as it broadens its brand across the globe.
“Thomas Friedman had it right: The world’s flat,” he said. “But we think whether it’s Russian oligarchs or the new 1 percenters in China, we can persuade a fair number of them to come to Colorado to join the world’s 0.01 percent in this extraordinary out-of-the-world adventure.”
But for Vial Resorts and Deadville, there’s just one problem. Galaxville will be permitted to operate just a brief time each year: within one or two days of April Fool’s Day. – Reported by Allen Better.