Utah puts pinch on risque brewery

PARK CITY, Utah – Greg Schirf owns the Wasatch Brewery and Wasatch Brew Pub in Park City, and he promotes himself with what The Baltimore Sun describes as naughty billboards and advertisements that tweak the state’s majority 60 percent Mormons.

For example, visitors to the 2002 Winter Olympics saw a freeway billboard of a blond, blue-eyed “St. Provo Girl” bursting out of her bustier with the caption “Nice Cans!”

But not all Utah legislators were amused. This winter they considered a tax that would add $1.80 tax per keg onto the existing $11 tax, among the highest in the nation. While the bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Michael Waddoups, denied retribution, he promised to point out the billboard to any legislators who were waffling about the tax. “It’s flat-out bad taste,” he told The Salt Lake City Tribune.

Schirf likened the beer tax being levied by a Mormon to a gasoline tax in an Amish-controlled Pennsylvania legislature. Meanwhile, he brewed up a vat of his newest creation, the First Amendment Lager, and was reported to be planning to pour several kegs of it into the brine of the Great Salt Lake. “It’s give me liberty or give me a cold one,” declared Schirf, who was dressed as Benjamin Franklin for his lakeside happy hour.

Crested Butte on the brink of failure

CRESTED BUTTE – John Norton is shooting for 600,000 skiers annually. Anything else, he says, and the ski resort he is operating may not survive.

Mounting evidence suggests that Norton might not merely be crying wolf. Just weeks ago, Norton’s resort, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, had to give up its Sheraton Hotel, which it had built in 1994, to creditors.

It hasn’t had a big year in business since 1997-1998, when free, early-season skiing boosted numbers to 549,660 skiers. Since then, numbers have averaged 350,000. The resort was widely known to be for sale, but all big companies in the ski industry came looking, and reportedly bottom feeders as well, and none stuck around.

Last year, Crested Butte’s owners hired Norton from Aspen to bail out the sinking ship. He quickly made energetic moves to get the resort off dead-center, particularly with a humorous advertising campaign that compared Crested Butte with Vail Resorts properties. Still, they looked to be signs of desperation.

Norton confirmed as much at a recent community meeting covered by the Crested Butte News (April 10). “No one has lost business like us; our performance stands alone,” he said. “CBMR is not sustainable at this level,” he added later.

To get Crested Butte’s skier numbers up, Norton’s stated strategy is to get more skiable terrain, particularly of the intermediate type. Lack of intermediate trails he says is largely to blame for Crested Butte’s poor repeat business. Also, he wants a base village. Both ideas involve Snodgrass Mountain, an expansion area that the company has been working toward since 1982.

Aspen witnesses shortened winter

ASPEN – It rained in January this year in Aspen, an uncommon thing. But it’s all part of a trend toward shorter, warmer winters.

Lee Cassin, the town’s environmental health officer, said record keeping began in 1949. Since then, the number of days in spring, summer and fall when the temperatures don’t drop below freezing has increased by about four days each decade. That leaves a smaller window of winter.

Winter Park finally pays property tax

WINTER PARK, Colo. – With Intrawest now running the show, the Winter Park ski area will for the first time pay property-based taxes to Grand County and other local jurisdictions. The bill is estimated at $250,000.

This tax issue has been a sore point with local residents for years. Because Denver owned the ski area, as another government, it was exempt from property-based taxes. Courts consistently ruled in Denver’s favor beginning in 1989 on this issue. Given that Denver also exports a large amount of water from the Winter Park area, a certain amount of hostility was evident among locals who saw Denver as a colonizer.

Grand County still has no power to levy a property tax, but instead has authority under Colorado law to charge a possessory tax on lifts and other improvements that the resort has on federal land. The possessory tax is determined based on payments made to the U.S. Forest Service, administrator of the land, explains the Winter Park Manifest (April 9).

In contrast to Intrawest’s estimated $250,000 tax bill at Winter Park, the possessory tax paid in Eagle County by Vail Resorts for 2002 for its holdings on Vail and Beaver Creek mountains totals only $175,538, according to Mark Chapin, deputy county assessor. It’s not clear why Vail’s bill for two big ski mountains is smaller than Intrawest’s for one mountain.

Trout duke it out in Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Jackson Lake is popular among anglers because of its huge lake trout. Those lake trout, however, are not native to the ecosystem. The National Park Service dumps 36,000 trout annually into the reservoir, which is located in Grand Teton National Park.

In contrast, at Yellowstone Lake, located in nearby Yellowstone National Park, the federal agency is spending $300,000 annually to kill lake trout.

What’s the difference? The Park Service says plenty. The agency says it is authorized to stock artificial fish in water bodies such as Jackson Lake that are altered by humans, and if it has done so historically. The stocking began in 1937. Neither is the case at Yellowstone.

But according to the Jackson Hole News & Guide (April 9), the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s Scott Bosse said the dumping of an exotic species both harms native fish, namely Snake River cutthroat trout populations, and runs counter to Park Service policy.

In dispute is whether the lake trout actually harm the cutthroat population. One theory is that stocking the big lake trout reduces fishing pressure on the smaller cutthroat trout.

Aspen offers incentive to hybrid cars

ASPEN – In what came down to a lesser-of-evils argument, the Aspen City Council recently had to decide how to recognize the relative virtues of the new hybrid vehicles.

While able to burn conventional fuel, hybrid vehicles primarily use electric power, thereby emitting less carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases. Just a few people in Aspen now have the Toyota Prius and other hybrid vehicles, but manufacturers are gearing up to produce more, including hybrid-powered SUVs.

Aspen’s city council had three choices: 1) Give hybrid vehicles free metered marking, 2) Give all hybrid vehicles a $100 rebate on license registration; or 3) Give just smaller hybrid vehicles that rebate.

The majority didn’t like the free parking for two reasons. First, Aspen’s most immediate problem is small particulate matter, called PM-10, which is caused primarily by sand spread on streets being kicked up by car tires. By whatever power, hybrid vehicles kick up sand. Second, free parking for a particular type of vehicle still encourages automobiles, and the city wants to lessen emphasis on automobiles.

In any event, the council members agreed that they will offer the $100 license rebate only to owners of small hybrid cars that have earned the “ultra super low emissions vehicle” rating.

The Aspen Skiing Co. this year offered free parking in its lots to hybrid vehicles.

Telluride hockey donors ask for fame

TELLURIDE – To get a full-sized Olympic ice-skating rink with all the niceties, private groups have pledged $450,000. But one of those funding groups wants special recognition, with plaques showing names of its contributors, as well as a bust of namesake Andy Hanley.

The town council compromised, reports The Telluride Watch (March 21), allowing recognition of private donors as well as taxpayers and even a sign calling it “Hanley Rink,” but no bust on the building’s exterior.





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