Cheese fills bleachers but not cash registers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS –
The String Cheese Incident, a Grateful Dead-type band that was
born in Crested Butte a decade ago, was the marquee attraction
at Steamboat's July 4th celebration. Bookends were James Brown,
the soul singer, and Earl Scruggs, the bluegrass icon.
That rainbow coalition of
musical talent drew 11,000 people and produced $9,000 in sales
taxes for municipal coffers, even if it didn't fill many high-end
hotel rooms. Still, the Steamboat Springs City Council definitely
wants a different headliner for next year. According to the
Steamboat Pilot, a jazz festival, country music or even full-fledged
bluegrass affair were all mentioned at a recent council session.
The String Cheese crowd, council members indicated, could have
been more respectful to the community and, according to at least
one, Bud Romberg, could have left more money. Only one council
member wanted to see String Cheese return.
"We do provide a lot
of culture and activities for the older and more well-to-do
demographic," said Councilman Paul Strong. "But we
do not provide a lot of culture for our younger and less-affluent
demographic. String Cheese is a part of that culture."
For the record, the concert
promoter defined "mainstream" as being exemplified
by Dave Matthews, Train and Sheryl Crow.
Tahoe ski resorts expecting big snow
LAKE TAHOE, CALIF. – Ski resorts
at Lake Tahoe are being told to expect snow, and plenty of it
for the next two winters. El Niño, the tropical weather
phenomenon that originates in the South Pacific, is gaining
Still, next winter's weather may not be
nearly as severe at the Sierra Nevada resorts as the last time
El Niño came through, 1997-98, or even as 1982 or 1986,
reports the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
Ultra-endurance wilderness race to attract
CANMORE, ALBERTA – Although
it started out small, organizers of an ultra-endurance wilderness
bicycle race held in Alberta this summer project they'll attract
10,000 bikers within five years.
The event, called the TransRockies Challenge,
is modeled upon a similar bicycling stage event in the Alps.
The 200 participants in Canada vied for a $20,000 prize purse.
The big-stakes nature of these new made-for-TV sweat-soaked
backcountry events is illustrated by the financing. The TransRockies
race cost at least $300,000 to stage, and organizers don't expect
to break even for at least four more years. But they insisted
they'll return for at least five more years. They point out
that after starting out with 220 teams just four years ago,
the European race now attracts 6,500 entrants, according to
the Canmore Leader.
Concerns about impacts to wildlife and
other resources caused bicycle riders to be diverted briefly
onto the crowded TransCanada Highway. Racer organizers say that's
unacceptable in the future. Local officials rave about the publicity
possibilities of the race. Canmore Mayor Glen Craig called the
event an opportunity to get on a world stage "to further
enhance our image of being a Mecca for sports tourism."
Located downstream from Banff and its nearby Lake Louise ski
area, Canmore is described as a community of "outdoor,
athletic, healthy people."
Mushroom collecting in a year when there are
TELLURIDE – Mushroom scavenging
in the drought-plagued Southern Rockies is described as being
somewhere between grim and mediocre. Mushrooms need moisture,
both early and late, and there's been a paucity at both ends.
Still, some mushrooms can be found in the
forests. Would it be acceptable to harvest them? Or should they
be left alone?
Two knowledgeable sources in Telluride
suggested to the Telluride Watch that it's OK to get the 'shrooms,
but show some restraint. Collecting too many mushrooms in one
spot is the most damaging, says Art Goodtimes, a Green Party
member who is also a commissioner in San Miguel County.
John Sir Jesse agrees. "Too many people in an area leads
to compaction," he says, causing less water and oxygen
around the underground elements of the mushrooms. He admits
to having worried about over-picking by restaurants, commercial
picnickers and recreational gathers, and he favors limiting
commercial picking. However, he notes that in years with weather
conducive to mushrooms, they thrive even in areas that have
been heavily picked.
Both men recommend mushrooms be filed
cleaned – using a knife at the site to shake off some
of the spore, causing additional propagation.
Plucking the entire mushroom is like taking
all the apples from a tree. Some seed should remain.
Vail considers $50 million conference center
VAIL – Town voters in Vail
will be asked in November to approve $5 million in debt in order
to build a conference center that, according to one study, will
result in 70,000 additional lodging rental nights by the fifth
year of operation.
For nearly 20 years, the town has debated
whether to build a convention center. The largest existing space
in town is 8,300 square feet, located in a hotel. This conference
center would have 40,000 square feet. A Minneapolis-based consultant
confidently reported a break-even in operations by the third
Struggling with flattened sales tax revenues,
caused largely by a flat ski market, the Town Council is almost
unanimous in supporting the proposal. Members argue it's an
antidote for economic stagnation, and they also think that town
voters may well support the issue. Twice before, ideas have
been killed by voters or by evidence that they would.
What may be crucial in this debate
is who gets the money. At the outset, it looks like the ski
area operator, Vail Resorts Inc., is priming the pump handsomely.
It has offered $9 million for the hotel site. Moreover, because
of the larger land mass, the building need not rise as high,
and hence costs will be kept a little lower.
But this donation is not exactly philanthropy.
Vail Resorts last year bought a nearby hotel, the Marriott,
which would stand to benefit most from the adjacent convention
center, as Diana Donovan, a resident skeptic, pointed out to
the Vail Daily. She also questions whether airports are close
enough to make the optimistic projections realistic. Denver
International Airport is more than two hours away, and Eagle
Country Regional Airport is at least 30 minutes. Convention-goers
are thought to favor places where they can hop off and on planes.
Also potentially important are nonresident
property owners. They have become more aggressively involved
in town politics, opposing tax increases that do not benefit
their interests. However, the convention center would be paid
for primarily by lodging and sales tax increases, less directly
Winter Park looks to build an on-mountain
WINTER PARK – Winter Park is
looking to join the ski areas that have or are planning on building
on-mountain reservoirs for snowmaking. Vail already has some
on-mountain storage and is looking to expand that storage significantly
with a small reservoir near the top of the mountain. Snowmass
is also creating on-mountain storage.
The Winter Park Manifest reports that ski-area
planners there are studying potential for a reservoir that would
store 40 acre-feet. Discussions are reported to have just started,
and the Forest Service, which administers the land, is studying
the bigger picture of how the water would be used.
On average, Winter Park uses 58 million
gallons for its snowmaking, or about 171 acre-feet. By having
on-mountain storage, the ski area is buffered against limitations
on already dry streams. Research suggests that area streams
haven't flown this low since1851.
Town may seek another $10 million for open
PARK CITY, UTAH – Having now
spent the $10 million bond approved by voters in 1998 for open
space, government officials may ask for $10 million more in
Three-quarters of the money was spent last
year to buy a 424-acre property. City property owners are paying
for that original bond, the first of its kind in Utah, at the
rate of $18 per primary home or $33 for second homes and commercial
property, per $100,000 of assessed value. Unlike Colorado and
most other states, Utah has a "homestead" provision
that causes nonresident homes to be taxed at a higher rate.
Municipalities try to get off the gas habit
VAIL – The municipality of
Vail has added a hybrid Toyota Prius, which has both a gasoline
engine and an electric motor, to its fleet. The car cost $20,000.
It has a low-emission rating and gets 40 to 50 miles per gallon.
If successful, the town will add other hybrid vehicles to its
fleet of 300 backhoes, Saabs and buses.
Breckenridge, meanwhile, is converting
town buses and machinery to soy-based biodiesel fuel. Biodiesel
reduces cancer-causing emissions by up to 90 percent but costs
12 to 16 cents more per gallon. It also jells more readily in
Crested Butte wonders about real estate offices
CRESTED BUTTE – Crested Butte
has joined the ranks of ski towns, among them Aspen and Park
City, wondering whether street-level real estate offices are
dampening retail sales and hence the sales taxes that keep town
Seven real estate businesses and one property-management
firm are found on the ground level on Elk Avenue, the town's
dominant business street. The town has taken a look at excluding
those businesses from the street level, a concept called horizontal
As have newspapers when the idea came up
in their towns, the Crested Butte News went out to see what
people had to say. Some thought enough was enough already –
more retail diversity was needed. Others concluded that real
estate really is the primary product. And others remain leery
of government making business decisions. "There is potential
for socially engineering ourselves into a corner," said
one property owner, Brad Morton.
Jim Gebhardt, owner of Coldwell Banker
Real Estate, counseled patience and perspective in the 1970s,
he said, nobody would have expected a T-shirt shop to survive.
And, although real estate offices proliferate now, the market
could turn tomorrow and many could disappear.
It's eye for eye, two wolves for four cows
JACKSON, WYO. – The U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service has issued a permit to a rancher grazing
cattle in the Gros Ventre River area to shoot as many as two
wolves if he catches them attacking his livestock.
This is the first such permit issued in
the Jackson Hole area since wolves were reintroduced to northwest
Wyoming in the early 1990s, reports the Jackson Hole Guide.
Death of three calves and a yearling had been documented by
government agents. However, they have had difficulty figuring
out which wolves did the killing. However, federal wildlife
agents recently killed three wolves on a national forest elsewhere
in Wyoming in an effort to end chronic livestock depredation.
In Montana, meanwhile, federal agents have
authorized killing of wolves responsible for killing two llamas.
But it's a somewhat futile proposition, reports the Missoula
Independent. "We can't just have vulnerable animals standing
out there waiting to be killed, and then killing the predators,"
said Ed Bangs, coordinator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's
wolf recovery program.
Wolf proponents are helping llama owners
to erect electric fences. Also strings of fladry, which look
like Tibetan prayer flags, are being strung in the hope that
they will, at least for a time, discourage wolf attacks.
Lake Tahoe looks to cut visually intrusive
LAKE TAHOE, CALIF. – In fast-growing
mountain towns, it's a constant contest about which will hold
the human eye, houses or hills. In recent years, according to
the Tahoe Daily Tribune, the houses seem to be gaining the upper
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency says
that man-made structures are beginning to dominate the natural
environment there. This, according to staff members, is because
there's too much horse trading going on. The staff wants a more
black-and-white review process.
The system they propose would use numbers
to rate the contrast a home creates with the natural environment
at the shoreline. The less contrast produced by a structure,
the greater amount of lake view a property owner would be allowed.
For example, if somebody wanted to attach a deck to an existing
home, he or she might be required to paint it a darker earth
tone color before a permit is issued.
Opponents argue the new system has been
rushed and unstudied, and warn of dramatic economic consequences.
Owner says lease is too much for gallery
ASPEN – An art gallery owner
who has led the charge to revitalize Aspen's economy has succumbed
to the high lease costs that he says are part of the problem.
Barry Gordon has two gallery locations,
the first opened 18 years ago. The second, smaller, and off-main
street location has 1,100 square feet and costs him $7,000 a
month to lease, plus fees. That's too much, he says, and he's
closing the second gallery, although not the first.
The Aspen Times reports that Gordon
also has tried to reinvigorate Aspen's flagging downtown sector
by enticing chefs to put on demonstrations on Saturdays and
by enlisting stores to remain open until 10 p.m. on Fridays.
In addition, the organization of retailers he formed has lobbied
the City Council to limit real estate stores in Aspen. The council
resisted emergency action, although Gordon thinks the effort
may accelerate such a zoning reform.