Ritz-Carlton pampers its patrons

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. Pampering is clearly what the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain has in mind with its new slope-side hotels and time-share projects at Aspen Highlands and Beaver Creek's Bachelor Gulch.

Walking in ski boots? Not necessary. Storing your skis for the next day? Done, reports the Vail Daily in a story about the "Skiing Made Easy" program available to time-share buyers. Among the perks of the arrangement is easy access to private jets, for about $100,000. Such service may be valuable to those who, in the aftermath of 9/11, are leery of commercial air service.

About 55 percent of the timeshare units at Bachelor Gulch have been purchased, and about 5 percent of the buyers are from other countries.

Apartments empty in Aspen and Vail

ASPEN, Colo. They sound like interest rates from the early 1980s 18.1 percent and 17.1 percent. In fact, those are the vacancy rates for apartments in Aspen and Eagle County (Vail) from late summer.

In Steamboat Springs and Gunnison, the apartment vacancy rates were a more modest 11.3 percent, and in Summit County 7.3 percent and in Durango 5.3 percent.

What's going on in the megaresorts? It looks like a classic example of boom-and-bust, the sort of thing that various prophets of "new economies" of the West said would not occur again.

One theory: With the national recession, the push in high-end and particularly speculative real estate evaporated. That meant fewer construction hands renting apartments. Also, with lower interest rates, more people were buying homes of their own.

In the case of Eagle County, all of this is happening in a year when a great quantity of new, lower-end housing is coming on line, most of it a mandate when the market was still drum-tight.

Curiously, if the state's numbers are correct, landlords don't drop their prices when there's a glut, as the textbooks say they do. Rents in Eagle County and Aspen are higher now than they were when vacancies were 1 percent.

Squaw still struggles after 55 years

SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. Are there pots of gold at the end of the rainbow of ski area development? No, says Alex Cushing, who has 55 years experience in testing that proposition.

Cushing began building Squaw Valley from a one-lift ski hill in 1949, and by 1960 the resort held the Winter Olympics. Today, at age 90, he still lives within walking distance of Squaw's chief base-area ski lift. He was recently inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame.

"I've been doing this for 55 years, and what you really get out of it is that there's no reward at the end of the rainbow," Cushing told the Sierra Sun . "It's the day to day; that's what you get out of it. That indicates that if you're smart, you do everyday that you really like to do, if you can."

Snowblind Love' art exhibit opens

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo."Snowblind Love" is the name of an exhibit being featured at the Teton County Library.

"The love for snow in this town is absolutely unconditional," said curator Jill Anderson. "Despite the expense, all the ACL injuries, all the risk, the cold weather, the avalanches, people love their skiing. In that way, it's so blind, but it's definitely love."

Exhibits tell the story of skiing from the early ranchers, who made skis of red fir with elk skin on the bottoms, to the first person to snowboard down the Grand Teton.

Moths hit after Rainbow Gathering

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah Two gypsy moths were discovered near where the Rainbow Family of Living Light met last summer. The two happenings, state officials told The Park Record , probably were not coincidental.

"We believe when 10,000 people come in from all across the United States and gypsy moths turn up after that, there's a cause and effect," said Larry Lewis, of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

The moths, which have killed large swaths of forest in the Northeast, are not indigenous to Utah. When 94 moths were discovered in Salt Lake several years ago, the state spent $750,000 to eradicate them. If temperatures drop more than 20 below, the cold could prevent any reproduction.

Telluride cracks down on poaching

TELLUIDE, Colo. Telluride's ski area is open for the year, but 46 people won't be skiing there this year. These 46 were all caught skiing in closed areas, and hence had skiing privileges denied for two years. Among them, reports The Telluride Watch , were 15 who ducked ropes to ski a run called Killer Slide unaware that explosives had just been deposited in the slope in an attempt to force unconsolidated snow to avalanche. No one was hurt.

Massive landslide threatens Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C. Whistler has something of a Damocles sword hanging over its head. For decades the community has known about an unstable mass of land about the size of seven football fields and about 100 feet thick that is located 2.5 kilometers above the town on Whistler Mountain.

During the last two years the rocks and soil have sagged about 7 feet. While dikes afford the town some protection, concern remains that a torrent could roar down into day-skier parking lots between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. One woman from Washington State was so concerned that she has pulled her two daughters from the ski-racing teams.

The municipal and provincial governments, reports Whistler's Pique newsmagazine, are tossing the hot potato of responsibility for addressing the danger back and forth.

Ketchum reports brisk business

KETCHUM, Idaho An informal survey of businesses by the Idaho Mountain Express suggests that the business pace in the Wood River Valley is picking up.

To wit, Sun Valley Lighting is 75 percent ahead of last year. Hawley Graphics posted receipts for October that were 20 percent over any month in the past three years. And Jo Murry, a public relations consultant, reported more work in three weeks of November than in 11 of the 12 preceding months.

Tourism is also believed to be on the upswing, although the proof of that is in the January lodgings.

Crested Butte scores broadband

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. Add Crested Butte to the list of remote mountain towns where computers can now gulp down buckets of data from the Internet.

Before September, most residents relied on satellite television packages, T-1 lines, or wireless connections using antennas and small dishes. Soon, however, there will be two companies offering broadband. The Crested Butte News reports that the Internet connectivity could make the community more attractive for business relocation.

compiled by Allen Best





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