Better Cell Service May Be Coming to Snowmass Village

Jan 23, 2014

Visitors relax at Base Village in Snowmass Village.
Visitors relax at Base Village in Snowmass Village.
Credit Elise Thatcher

  

Depending on where you are in Snowmass Village...and what phone provider you have, It’s easy… and frustrating… to lose a cell phone signal.  There are efforts underway to reduce the rate of dropped calls.  One obvious solution is to erect more cell towers. But that can be difficult to do.

Editor’s note: below is a transcript of reporter Elise Thatcher’s story. 

Reporter: Sloan Campi is a planner for the town of Snowmass Village. The cell signal problem-solving effort, he says, is a conundrum.

Sloan Campi: “The residents of Snowmass village value their views, and value their connection to nature. Yet at the same time, a lot of the tourists and a lot of residents, not all, but a lot of them, depend on their cell phones to continue businesses, to stay in touch with family and friends, even for basic internet.”

Reporter: Tension reached a high point recently when a lawsuit was filed against the town over plans to put up new cell towers there. Residents opposed to the towers say the structures would blocking their mountain views.

Campi: “There are a number of towers in Snowmass Village. Most of them are on the Westin Hotel right now. I know Verizon and Sprint are there. I’m not quite sure actually where the AT & T tower is, but obviously I have AT & T service so there’s a tower close by somewhere.

Reporter: And, how is that AT&T service?

Campi: “You know I’ve learned where the hotspots are and where they are not.  Going down Brush Creek Road, when you get to the 20 mph curve, I notice my cell phone will start to lose some reception there. And then pick back up again as it rounds the second curve towards the Rec Center and the Snowmass Club.”

Reporter: So, Campi adjusts by not making calls when he’s driving out of Snowmass Village. Not everyone has problems because cell phone users seem to have good or spotty coverage in different places across town and on the ski hill. In fact, it’s possible residents bear the brunt of inconsistent cell service while tourists on the ski hill may have better service. Earlier this week, we talked with some visitors hanging out at Base Village.

Gabriel Newcomer: “Gabriel Newcomer from Chicago. Cell service has been good. I haven’t had any had any problems, actually.”

Reporter: Newcomer’s cell phone company is AT&T. Another tourist echoed that experience.

Rosa Turnaur: “Rosa Turnaur, from Brazil!”

Reporter: She said her cell phone worked well during her visit to Snowmass Village. Of the people we talked to only one had had problems; Pete Gray, of Poughkeepsie, New York.

Pete Gray: “Kind of spotty in the condo for me, but just get near a window or outside and it’s fine.”

Reporter: Jeff Hanle is with the Aspen Skiing Company. He describes cell coverage on the Snowmass ski hill as not a big problem-- but says there are gaps in service. Ski Co believes better service would be a good idea.

Jeff Hanle: "We are working for it, with the county and some other entities looking at a tower to improve service."

Reporter: That could require permits from the Forest Service and others… and what Hanle calls a "significant financial investment" by Ski Co to purchase the towers. He wouldn’t say just how much.

Hanle: "It is customer service based, both for ourselves and for the cell phone providers, the service providers."

Reporter: And better service could help emergency services. Ski Co is looking at smaller towers to fill in gaps in cell coverage-- the mini-towers  would go up in all three of the company's other ski areas as well. The plan is to start building the towers next fall, if Ski Co gets approval. It might be that smaller sized and well camouflaged towers could help reach a delicate balance. Again, Snowmass Village Planner, Sloan Campi.

Campi: “It’s a very difficult challenge in the planning realm, to find places for cell towers or to decide if cell towers are going to be put in at all.”

Reporter: For now, Campi says it’s likely cell phone companies will upgrade their towers in the coming years. There are, however, no guarantees.