Tom Chapman has earned quite the reputation in Colorado's mountain communities, especially in Telluride, where stickers reading "Tom Chapman is a Douchebag" can be spotted around town. The developer from tiny Paonia, Colorado has had a long history of buying abandoned mining claims and other remote properties surrounded by pristine wilderness and threatening to develop them unless the Forest Service, conservation groups, or locals pay him the "fair market value." Now, Chapman has announced that he has scrapped plans for a private ski area in Telluride and will instead be building a private home.
Chapman has a way of pissing people off with his antics, whether in ski towns or in Gunnison National Park. This trend continued in 2010 when Chapman bought a 100-odd acre splattering of old mining claims adjacent to Telluride Ski Resort. The property separates the popular backcountry ski zone Bear Creek from downtown, and Chapman quickly enraged local skiers by limiting access to their favorite expert runs. Then, in January 2013 Chapman announced plans for a 1,300 acre private ski area hastily named Bear Creek at Telluride Ski Resort. An experts-only oasis, it was supposed to have a warming hut, heli and cat-skiing, and avalanche control.
While an isolated few praised Chapman's efforts, most in Telluride viewed the potential plans as a thinly-veiled attempt to charge backcountry skiers for accessing free land. This week, Chapman announced that after his plans were met with "stony silence" by government officials, the Telluride Ski & Golf Company, and the local ski community, Bear Creek at Telluride Ski Resort is dead in the water.
Instead, Chapman asserts that he will build a "stunning" (but less than 1,000 square-foot) private home in the middle of Upper Bear Creek Basin. Allegedly, final architectural plans will be available in a few weeks and Chapman will apply for the building permit shortly.
Chapman's assertions aside, this "stunning" home in Bear Creek will probably never happen. Based on Chapman's previous development history, it seems likely that this is just another ploy to get top dollar for his 100 acres in Bear Creek. As Outside Magazine put it way back in 2011, Chapman's strategy is simple: "gain leverage by threatening to destroy something priceless, then cut a deal." Love or hate Chapman, Curbed Ski thinks the latest episode in the Tom-Chapman-Drama will inspire some seriously good bumper stickers. Any suggestions?
· Chapman: ski area project scrapped, new plans for single-family home [Telluride Daily Planet]
· All Tom Chapman Coverage [Curbed Ski Archives]
· Backcountry Monopoly [Outside]