Aspen property prices drop

ASPEN – Although the greater Aspen area may end the year with an increase in real estate transactions, the price paid per square foot has been dropping.

As of Dec. 1, the record gross sales were $976 million, ahead of last year, although possibly lagging behind the record from two years. But all realtors quoted by The Aspen Times (Dec. 6) agreed that, with a few anomalies, buyers are paying less per square foot, a trend expected to continue into next year.

“I just sold a house in the West End that is about 5,000 square feet, and it sold for $400 per square foot furnished,” said Heidi Houston, of Houston and O’Leary. “You tell me when was the last time that happened? Buyers are getting some deals.”

$100 bonuses have airport workers smiling a lot more

EAGLE COUNTY – For those working at Eagle County Regional Airport, a smile this winter could be worth a hundred bucks.

The county commissioners have allocated $10,000 to be distributed in the form of $100 bonuses to employees who are friendly to travelers. The bonuses are eligible to 300 employees at the airport, from those in retail shops to baggage handlers. Officials said they want travelers to notice smiles, something they say makes a difference in their own travels after 9/11.

Eagle County’s government is aggressively pushing its airport, which primarily serves Vail and Beaver Creek, and to a lesser extent, the Aspen/Snowmass resorts. The county is buying $60,000 in magazine advertisements with the hope of filling existing daily flights. Beginning in about 1996, nearly half the skier days at Vail and Beaver Creek were funneled through the airport.

Eagle County hopes to see more flights. It is working on getting a 120-foot control tower, and also is aiding an effort to get a federal customs agent to accommodate international flights. Finally, the county has advanced $150,000 in seed money to guarantee summer flights.

Starbucks greeted with chilly reception in state’s icebox

FRASER – Even as Intrawest prepares to start developing real estate at the base of Winter Park, bumper stickers saying, “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks,” are showing up in anticipation of a Starbucks opening at the local Safeway.

The Winter Park Manifest (Dec. 4) reports some residents believe Safeway is betraying local residents by not only importing an inferior brew, but also competing with existing, nonchain coffee shops. The Fraser town staff even looked into whether national chains could be barred, an obvious irony given that Safeway is a national chain.

Safeway Manager Mike Gray thinks the issue is simple: “This being America, our economy is based on free will. I don’t interfere with free will.” And if people want locally owned coffee shops to remain, he said, they should practice what they preach.

Meanwhile, Starbucks is also going into a Safeway in Frisco, creating two Starbucks within a few blocks. The Summit Daily News (Dec. 5) reports the chain has discovered that proximity of Starbucks to one another does not hurt sales.

Tetons greet SLC travelers

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – When travelers arrive at Salt Lake International Airport, they see a picture of towering, rugged mountains superimposed with the print: “Welcome to Salt Lake City.”

The mountains, however, are not the nearby Wasatch Mountains or even the more distant Uintahs or Henrys. They’re the Tetons of Wyoming.

A worldwide advertising agency puts generic scenic shots into spaces it doesn’t sell, which is how the Wyoming photo ended up in the Utah airport. Photos of the Maroon Bells near Aspen and Mount Sneffels near Ridgway also have a habit of ending up in the wrong places, if there can ever been a wrong place for such gems.

Man wins car, sells it and donates money to ministry

KETCHUM, IDAHO – Before going to a benefit raffle, Ben Young told himself that if he won he’d sell the grand-prize Subaru and give a portion of the money to Young Life, a nondenominational Christian ministry that reaches out to adolescents.

Young won and he did, giving $10,000 to the organization while pocketing the rest. He told the Idaho Mountain Express (Nov. 27) that he saw the money as a gift and hence, also a responsibility.

As for the portion he kept, the 28-year-old figured he’d take buddies out for an extravagant night on the town or go traveling around the world.

Lake Louise may erect fence to keep grizzlies out of town

LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA – Parks Canada has set a goal of conceding one loss to the grizzly bear population from human contact in Banff National Park each year. The average for the last several years has been three. Another five deaths were noted farther down the Bow River Valley on the way toward Calgary.

One cause of grizzly bear deaths is being hit by cars or trucks and another is the result of them getting too close to towns or villages. One of the villages within Banff is Lake Louise, the ski area base, where park officials have studied the idea of a fence around the town to prevent grizzlies from traipsing through.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook (Dec. 5) reports that several of Lake Louise’s 1,700 year-round residents told Parks Canada to wait on the fence, but if they do build it, then consult with the locals to make it as unobtrusive as possible. There are to be gates, for people to leave the resort in order to hike into the surrounding national park.

Thanksgiving meteor may have hit near Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE – On Thanksgiving night, people across several states saw a large fireball in the early evening. Videotapes from new all-sky cameras recently installed across Colorado, including one at a middle school in Gunnison, suggest the meteorite exploded somewhere between Crested Butte and Gunnison.

“We think it’s a meteor,” said Julia Taylor, from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. “And it was a big one.” Experts estimate the meteor was the size of a filing cabinet, huge by standards of interstellar space. It exploded 10 to 20 miles above the ground, reports the Crested Butte News (Dec. 6).

Eisenhower Tunnel hits 10 million earlier than expected

EISENHOWER TUNNEL – Car and truck counters at the Eisenhower Tunnel hit 10 million on Dec. 5, the earliest ever, and numbers are expected to hit 11 million before the year is over.

Even at the smaller count, noted the Summit Daily News (Dec. 6), that’s enough traffic that, if all were Subaru Outback Wagons placed bumper to bumper, they would wrap around the equator 1BC times. They’re not, of course. Most cars and trucks on Interstate 70 are actually bigger.

Traffic volumes exceeded forecasts almost as soon as the Eisenhower Tunnel and its companion bore, the Johnson, opened in 1973 and 1978 respectively. “Our projections went out the window 10 to 15 years ago,” said Mike Salamon, tunnel supervisor.

Particularly on summer and ski-season weekends, the highway clogs, sometimes slowing to a snail’s pace. That gridlock prompted creation of a cable television channel in Breckenridge called I-70 TV, which allows travelers to watch traffic flow before they set out.







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