Vail reaches new heights at $71

Vail Valley – Vail Resorts will charge $71 for lift tickets at its two flagship ski areas, Vail and Beaver Creek, beginning at Christmas. That’s the highest price ever charged by a ski area.

Close behind is Deer Valley at $69, Telluride and the four ski areas operated by Aspen Skiing Co. at $68, Breckenridge at $65, and then Snowbird-Alta, Keystone, and Steamboat, all at $64.

However, relatively few people pay the lift ticket price at Vail or other resorts. “You kind of have to trip and fall down and hit your head to pay $71,” Martin White, Vail’s Resorts’s senior vice president of marketing and sales, told the Associated Press. Vail estimates only 15 percent of visitors pay the full fare.

White compares ski industry pricing to airline fares. Last-minute purchasers will pay a premium, but those searching out deals well in advance will find plenty of them. Christmas day lift tickets can be had for $45.

Radar used to help slow roadkill

Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. – Radar is being installed along a one-mile segment of highway near Yellowstone National Park in an attempt to see if the real-time reporting of wildlife along roadways will cause motorists to slow down.
During the last decade, 107 elk, 11 coyotes, seven mule deer, three moose, two wolves and one bear have been killed on the three-mile segment of Highway 191 in Montana.

The Jackson Hole Guide (Oct. 24-30) reports that an experimental animal detection system will be erected in one of those three miles. The continuous radar beam runs along the highway. When wildlife approaches the road, the animals break the beam, which activities flashing lights on warning signs posted along the highway. The signs warn motorists of the possible presence of wildlife.

Although 8-foot-tall fences, if properly maintained, minimize roadkill, fences are expensive. Other techniques, including sonic whistle-type devices and signs, do not work. In this case, researchers hope that the flashing lights that indicate the presence of animals will, over time, be taken more seriously.

Whistler endorses Olympics bid

Whistler, B.C. – In a four-to-one vote, the Whistler municipal council has endorsed the bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, reports Whistler Pique newsmagazine (Oct. 24). But amid calls for a plebiscite, critics continue to question how the Games will benefit Whistler as a sustainable resort.

Whistler seems generally supportive but with reservations. A poll conducted by the municipality revealed only 57 percent of residents support hosting the games, with 35 percent opposed and 8 percent undecided.

Ken Melamend, the council’s lone dissenter, said the legacy package – the promises to the community if the bid is landed – is lacking. “The Games legacy package seems more like a business-as-usual approach to growth and investment while those of us who are advocating for a paradigm shift look for scraps of sustainability to fall off the table,” he said at a meeting attended by 400 people.

Another critic, Eckhard Zeidler, conceded policies and guidelines that will “moderate the considerable environmental impact of the games” but said the main effect of hosting the Olympics would be to spur construction of new buildings. That, he said, is not an environmental legacy but just more development.

But supporters counter with talk about the cultural opportunities of the Olympics. They also suggest that the legacies package can be tinkered with.

Aspen sees housing vacancies

Aspen – Aspen’s publicly subsidized stock of housing for seasonal employees is usually spoken for by early November. Not this year.

Half the units remain available at the Marolt Ranch, which has room for about 200 people. At Burlingame/MAA, 70 of the 82 two-bedroom units were still available on Halloween. Both complexes fill up with music students during summers and ski-season employees in winters, explains The Aspen Times (Nov. 1).

“I don’t know what’s up. It’s weird,” said Ed Sadler, assistant city manager. “Who isn’t hiring, or are they hiring later?”

Prices of Aspen’s free-market condos and apartments have dropped with the past year’s economic downturn but probably not to the level of the subsidized housing, notes Mike Henry, property manager of one of the two projects. Also, the Aspen Skiing Co. hasn’t added housing stock in the past year, which would have reduced demand for public housing. The ski company is the valley’s largest employer, with 2,000 additional winter employees, half of them new faces.

At the Hotel Jerome, general manager Tony DiLucia told the newspaper that the hotel is no longer constantly searching for employees.

Races could spell fame for Fernie

Fernie, B.C. – Fernie Alpine Resort hopes to assume the title as being among the elite resorts of the world as a result of hosting the World Cup Freestyle competition in January. The precedent was set in Whistler, which in 1990 was modestly sized and relatively new, although already acclaimed. Whistler hosted its first World Cup Freestyle event in 1990, and in 1997 submitted a bid for the World Championships.

According to John Paone, president and director of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Federation, that 1990 freestyle competition was the first major event at Whistler, and it was a catalyst for growth. He sees the same opportunity for Fernie, according to the Fernie Free Press (Oct. 28).

Freestyle skiers and others have been asking: “Where is Fernie?” But organizers there believe that if sufficient pre-planning is done, 360 hours of international television exposure in more than 30 nations should stifle that question.

Hunter S. puts in two cents

Aspen – Lengthen the runway of the Pitkin County airport in order to accommodate 737 jets? That idea was pushed in 1995, and in nearby Woody Creek the reaction was caustic: “There is some shit we will not eat.”

Now, an airport master plan is being created, revising both noise and expansion issues that have annoyed members of the Woody Creek Caucus. But a recent meeting between those members and airport representatives was relatively civil, reports The Aspen Times (Oct. 31).

Woody Creek residents asked hard questions and imagined worse-case scenarios, and Hunter S. Thompson, a neighborhood resident, told the airport representatives he had seen their kind before. “You people come close to being the oiliest group we’ve seen,” he said.

Airport representatives acknowledged studying the possibility of lengthening the runway by 1,000 feet, to allow commercial jets to take off with heavier loads during hot summer afternoons. However, they denied that the conclusions are foregone.
Caucus members grilled the airport representatives about the prospects of noise restrictions being accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration and whether it was possible to get more private jets to voluntarily comply with noise restrictions.

Architecture mimics mining style

Telluride – A theme of mountain architecture in recent years has been an attempt to mimic the mining era. That theme is particularly strong at Keystone’s base area, River Run, where one of the several lodges has a tin-type veneer, as if it had been hauled from a hillside above Leadville. Even Vail adopted the theme for its lift-top buildings in the new expansion area, Blue Sky Basin.

Now, at Telluride’s Mountain Village, there’s a report of a $5.5 million house built with aspects of 19th century industrial gold mining. It is, reports the Telluride Watch (Oct. 25), a “far stretch from the typical log-and-stone homes most commonly found in the Mountain Village.”

The 5,425-square-foot home has a scoured timber frame, rusted corrugated tin roof, heavy metal grating system, simple form windows and four-story entry tower. All this whispers “industrial” mining, notes the paper, while upholding a creative elegance.

“We looked at the project in the context of Telluride being an older mining community and took into account a lot of precedents that were set of how buildings were typically built on steep sites in the area,” said Doug Reinhardt, architect at Charles Cunniffe and Associates.

How do you instill weather-beaten character into brand-new wood? One trick is fertilizer. A finish made primarily of fertilizer (the kind of fertilizer was not specified) was scoured on the home’s timber frame to give it a darker, weathered appearance.

New firm offers to recruit seasonal foreign workers

Hailey – Kim Hayes previously was director of human resources for Sun Valley Co. In that capacity, she used specialty visa programs to recruit foreign workers for between three and 18 months. Now, she has set up her own business, offering to help local restaurants, shops and others do the same.

Primarily two types of visas are available. J-1 visas are available for students for up to 18 months. H2B visas are available for shorter times, but only when employers vouch that they have been unable to get qualified applicants by advertising in the United States.

Colorado ski resorts began using the programs extensively in the late 1990s. One whitewater rafting company near Vail, for example, hired New Zealanders, claiming guides with Class V boating experience could not be found. Ski companies have hired hundreds of ski instructors from Croatia, Argentina and elsewhere. Wendy’s firm routinely hires employees from Eastern Europe, while one grocery store chain in Colorado has a large number of employees from Africa. Newspapers have even used the program. One Colorado newspaper hired employees from Canada and Switzerland as reporters, claiming that U.S. citizens could not be found to do the work.

First $1 million home being built in town near Winter Park

Fraser – Construction of what will be the first $1 million home in Fraser is now under way. Located five miles from the Winter Park ski area, the town is an old railroad and logging community that is now slated for large-scale development by Koelbel & Co., a Denver-based real estate firm.

In the words of Dennis Saffell, a local real-estate agent and developer who is building that first $1 million home, a three-level affair of 3,500 square feet, “The higher up, the higher end the home.”

In Grand County, where Fraser is located, there is a nod to local history at every turn. This house is no exception. It will include a turret and one room encased entirely in stone, unlike the log-and-stone construction of the rest of the home. The stone is intended to make the room look like an addition, as occurred in many original houses.

“Before we put anything on paper, we reflected about what would have been built a hundred years ago, and how it could have been constructed,” Saffell told the Winter Park Manifest (Oct. 28). Even sheds built to accommodate water treatment equipment in the subdivision have the appearance of log sheds assembled a century ago by Swedish loggers.

– compiled by Allen Best





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