Telluride’s new owner struggles

TELLURIDE – The falloff in destination skiers is reported to be behind the decision of Hideo “Joe” Morita to seek an investor for the Telluride Ski Area or even to sell it outright.

Johnnie Stevens, chief operating officer, said Morita prefers to find a joint-venture partner, but it’s possible the company could be recapitalized reports The Telluride Watch (March 28).

Morita, the son of Sony Corp. founder Akio Morita, purchased Telski’s last development real estate in Mountain Village in May 1999, paying $12.4 million. A few months later he became a joint partner with long-time Telski principals Ron Allred and Jim Wells for an undisclosed price. He became the sole owner in 2001, and that same year invested more than $10 million in the ski area’s expansion into Prospect Bowl.

Although Telluride is expected to log 380,000 skier days, too many of those skier days were logged by regional skiers, the result of a successfully aggressive marketing of college, youth, and 5- and 10- day passes in nearby communities like Durango.

“The trend of a falloff in destination guests is affecting the entire ski industry, especially in Colorado,” Annie Kuhles, communications director, said.

Doctor of gonzo getting hitched

ASPEN – Hunter S. Thompson, the author who commonly holes up in the Woody Creek area north of Aspen, is getting married again at the age of 66. He met his 30-year-old fiancE9e three years ago through mutual friends in Aspen, and she volunteered to help him with his latest book. The Rocky Mountain News reported that the wedding is scheduled for this summer.

Mary of Nipple fame found

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – So Mary has been found, and she wasn’t a redhead after all. Nor a waitress at the Grand Targhee ski area. And certainly not a late-night streaker.

All of those ideas had been passed around in recent weeks after the ski area, responding to a new flurry of visitor complaints, scrapped the name “Mary’s Nipple” from two signs referring to a promontory at the edge of the ski area.

Outraged locals saw this as sure evidence that Grand Targhee had lost its soul. And it caused the Jackson Hole News & Guide, which had reported all of this, to seek out the namesake. Patrons of the ski resort’s Trap Bar supplied most of the theories about the waitress from the 1970s. But a 67-year-old woman from Idaho supplied a more authentic story. Mary, she said, was her grandmother.

Mary Goodworth Beard was the mother of 13 children and was married in the temple of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Logan, Utah. Her granddaughter, Gloria Beard Kimball, described her as “probably the most modest, self-effacing person you’d ever see.”She was also probably the first white woman to live in the area, where her family grazed cattle and sheep.

As for the nipple, the granddaughter doesn’t believe the word always had the hint of raciness to it. “I think it was just an old custom to call a certain shaped peak a nipple,” she said. She did allow, however, that her grandfather was something of a rascal. He may have well supplied the name.

Tires slashed in war protest

CANMORE, Alberta – American climbers are the latest targets in a growing number of crimes in the Bow River Valley believed to be directly linked to U.S. foreign policy.

Tires were slashed on two vehicles, all displaying Washington license plates, at two separate locations on March 29 while the owners were ice climbing. One was a Ford Expedition, and the other a Honda Civic. Ironically, both car owners opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Up the road in Banff, Mayor Dennis Shuler received threatening e-mails because the tourist town had failed to denounce the military action launched on Baghdad, reports Rocky Mountain Outlook (April 30). Meanwhile, the Small Business Association of Banff is providing decals for windows and up to 1,000 lapel pins depicting the Canadian and U.S. flags to show support for individual Americans who visit Banff. A spokesman said the goal is to counteract the impression of widespread anti-American sentiment.

BC avalanche deaths hit 26

WHISTLER, B.C. – With 26 avalanche fatalities as of April 1, British Columbia has had the most deadly avalanche season since 1965. The deaths in Canada have pushed the total for North America to 50 this season.

Of the Canadian deaths, 14 occurred in two separate accidents near the town of Revelstoke. In late March, there was another rash of avalanche deaths, mostly snowmobilers but also a heli-skier.

Evan Manners, operations manager at the Canadian Avalanche Association, said the lesson is not to stay out of the mountains. The lesson, he told Pique (April 4), is to take extra caution.

Most people in the recent fatal slides had taken all normal precautions before heading into the backcountry. They were aware of avalanche dangers and were wearing transceivers. However, some may not have understood what the phrase “considerable avalanche danger” means. It means natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered avalanches are probable. And if there is a big slide, all the avalanche gear in the world may not help.

This year’s avalanche toll was set up by mediocre snows in November, which left an unstable base. That base has not supported the heavy dumps of March, and instability could continue into spring even in the normally stable slopes of the coastal range.

With 10 avalanche fatalities in three years, Teton County, Wyo., now has the dubious title of most leading the United States in avalanche deaths.

Of the 10 deaths, 9 were men, and their average age was 31.3. Most had ventured less than an hour from the trailhead. In most cases, the fatalities occurred during times when avalanche danger was rated as considerable, meaning human-triggered slides were probable.

Avalanche forecaster Bob Comey told the Jackson Hole News & Guide (April 3) this is becoming the norm, and not just in Wyoming. It used to be that most people were caught in times of moderate hazard. Now, people are pushing their luck further. He also believes that equipment has contributed to easier access, as it has become easier for an accomplished alpine skier to jump into randonnE9e gear and access avalanche-prone terrain.

Mountain lion passes pool players

CANMORE, Alberta – A couple of girls who had just arrived in the mountains were playing pool at the Creekside Pub late one evening recently when a mountain lion, a.k.a. a cougar, strolled down the street.

The bartender that night went to ask if they had seen it. “Yeah, we saw a really large cat walking by,” they said. They admitted to being somewhat concerned, but didn’t say anything. They thought they were probably just overly paranoid girls from the prairie.

But indeed, even in Canmore, located in the Bow River Valley between Calgary and Banff, a cougar is a sight to remember. A wildlife researcher told the Rocky Mountain Outlook (April 3) that he wished he had known about the sighting, as there has been little snow this winter, making tracks hard to find and making it impossible so far to attach radio-collars to the cats in order to monitor their movements.

Vail gets more affordable housing

VAIL – In Vail, as in other ski towns, the unthinkable is happening. Rents are declining slightly and this past winter it was possible to find an apartment even after the lifts had started operating.

Still, Vail town officials are plunging ahead with investments in affordable housing. Their latest action is to offer $20 million to purchase a 198-unit apartment complex called Timber Ridge. If the deal is consummated, they intend to redevelop the site into something more modern, but also affordable. Located along I-70, about midway through the town, the project constitutes nearly half of the town’s dedicated, deed-restricted affordable housing. The Vail Resorts ski company has about 350 employees in the complex. For many years, the complex has been composed primarily of Hispanic immigrants.

The complex had been deed restricted, but two years ago the restriction came off, and the owner, John Marks, of Chicago, talked about redeveloping the site for a higher-end market. The $20 million offered by the town is $4 million less than the appraised price.

This action comes only months after town officials approved construction of Middle Cree, a town-subsidized 142-unit affordable apartment complex.





News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index