Colorado losing destination
DENVER, Colo. Is Colorado in danger of
losing its title as the pre-eminent region for skiing and
snowboarding in North America?
Colorado's decline in
destination skiers was already well known, but a study commissioned
by Colorado Ski Industry USA put numbers to the loss: more than 1
million destination-skier visits during the last six years. While
there are many reasons drought, recession and war, to name a few
the bottom-line conclusion is that "something isn't working for the
state's once mighty ski industry," said The Denver Post , in reporting about the
Most losses have been to Utah, which
has had a 12 percent gain in destination business since 1999, and
to Canadian resorts, which have increased the number of American
visitors by 127 percent in recent years, owing at least partly to
exchange rates favorable to Americans.
Colorado's skier days overall have held
up because low-priced lift tickets at resorts close to the state's
burgeoning Front Range population. The greatest drops among resorts
have been at Colorado's outlying resorts, particularly Aspen,
Crested Butte and Telluride. But even at Vail and Beaver Creek,
destination-skier days have declined by about 40,000.
In British Columbia, Whistler's
Pique newsmagazine had two different
reactions. First, it said this provides evidence that British
Columbia can take away from Colorado the crown of being the
pre-eminent ski and snowboard region in North America. The
provincial government there is aggressively favorable toward
development of new resorts, and Whistler/Vancouver will host the
2010 Olympics. Growth in customers must be accomplished to pay for
that expansion, the newspaper said.
But Pique also argued that something must be
done to create more snow-sliders, and hence also future purchasers
of recreational real estate. Why? Intrawest, to cite one example,
probably doesn't want to steal market share from its resorts
in Colorado or California to produce gains at Whistler, where
it operates the ski area. Other businesses likewise have operations
in various resort towns.
Politician objects to ski report card
TELLURIDE, Colo. So, if a ski area
screws up, how long should it have to pay for its sins? That's the
fundamental issue in Telluride, and perhaps elsewhere, in the
matter of an environmental report card for ski areas issued by the
Ski Area Citizens' Coalition. The coalition believes in "spare the
rod and spoil the ski area," or at least a liberal application of
D's and F's. Sure to earn bad scores are base-area real estate
development or terrain expansions. The coalition argues there is no
reason for expansions at destination resorts, where business has
been essentially flat.
In the case of Telluride Ski &
Golf Co., which this year received a D, a local politician is
objecting loudly. Art Goodtimes, a San Miguel County commissioner,
argues that the report card unfairly judges the Telluride ski area
for its past, not for its present actions. "No, they don't deserve
an A yet. Maybe a B- or a C+. But they have shown some real
significant improvement," he writes in The Telluride Watch .
"So let's give credit where credit's
due. Telski is trying harder," says Goodtimes, a Green Party member
who is usually trying to build coalitions. "All told, a fair
Environmental Report Card would take some note of the improved
conditions if the evaluators were truly measuring the dynamic
nature of the industry and not just damning ski areas for their
Old-timers help defeat new
VAIL, Colo. At least for awhile,
Vail's famous back bowls will be spared the more-and-faster routine
that some think improves the snow-riding experience. Bowing to
public opinion, Vail Resorts has shelved a proposal to increase its
uphill lift capacity.
Vail's original back bowls are served
only by one ski lift, an aging three-seater that is clogged by lift
lines of up to 45 minutes on powder days. The ski company talked of
replacing this old lift with two detachable quads, in effect nearly
quadrupling uphill capacity.
But despite popular
sentiment for at least some more-and-faster changes, the sentiments
of a few old Vail hands seem to have tipped the scale. "If you
increase the number of high-speed lifts in this area, this very
special area will be skied out in one hour," wrote Pep Gramshammer,
71, a former Austrian ski champion who was among Vail's first
A former mayor, Kent
Rose, had similar comments protesting changes that would have
shortened the already ephemeral but pure powder skiing experience.
Instead, the change would bring on more "snowmaking, groomed
slopes, hardpack and moguls," he said.
Vail Resorts officials
indicated they may yet replace the triple with a high-speed quad,
but when the triple needs substantial repairs.
Yellowstone snowmobilers distressed
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo.
Snowmobile outfitters on the periphery of Yellowstone National Park
were reporting deep financial distress in the wake of a federal
court ruling that limits the number of snowmobiles inside the
Illustrating the effect
is the story of Jackson Hole Snowmobile Tours. The company had had
80 permits. Then, under the Clinton administration, the National
Park Service had planned to allow only 15 permits. When George W.
Bush became president, the number was increased to 35. Now, it's
back to 15.
What that means, office
manager Stacey Chapman told the Jackson Hole News & Guide , is that the company now has 22
"useless" four-stroke snowmobiles on its hands. The machines, she
said, are too heavy to perform well in national forest terrain,
where the company also runs tours. They are suited for the groomed
trails on roads in Yellowstone.
The four-stroke engine snowmobiles,
which are quieter and cause less air pollution, cost $6,000 each,
compared to $3,300 for two-stroke snowmobiles. Ironically, the
Clinton administration plan now once again in effect had not
required the newer and more costly four-stroke engines.
Another snowmobile operator, Old
Faithful Snowmobile Tours, has spent $123,000 to buy 21 four-stroke
snowmobiles, an investment he could only recoup by operating under
permit numbers approved by the Bush plan.
Snowmass unveils extreme skiing
SNOWMASS, Colo. A new 35-acre section
of cliffs and glades at Snowmass is X-rated. "These sections have
mandatory air your feet are going to come off the ground. There's
no easy way down," explained John Brennan, Snowmass snow safety
The Aspen Times says that although free riders have
been finding cliffs for several years, this is the first time any
of the Aspen Skiing Co.'s four mountains have opened sections
exclusively for those of the extreme set. Even so, the section will
be opened only after storms and only on guided
The idea was triggered by the
unexpected success of the Colorado Free Ride Series at Snowmass.
"It surprised me that so many people were into that kind of stuff,"
said Doug Mackenzie, general manger at Snowmass.
Real estate continues surge in Vail
EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. The real estate
economy during November showed the fourth consecutive month of
recovery in Eagle County. Of particular note was a flurry of sales
in homes of $1 million and more, the sector with more than 60
percent of the dollar volume, notes the Vail Daily .
However, year-to-date sales of $1.2 billion still lagged substantially
behind the $1.7 billion in the record year of 2000.
Healthy Forest Initiative criticized
PARK, CITY, Utah Congress has now
passed the Healthy Forest Initiative, which is supposed to manage
national forests to reduce potential of catastrophic fires. But
several environmental organizations insist that even after
compromises it remains the wrong solution.
For example, the
California fires this past fall were cited by some Congressional
advocates as a good argument for the law. But Matthew Kohler of the
Native Forest Network writes that the majority of the California
fire burned on private lands, and more than 90 percent of the land
was chaparral and brush, not forests that can be trimmed back by
Writing in The Park Record , Koehler argues that there is no
proof that the logging contemplated by the new law will reduce fire
threat, and some evidence suggests that it will increase fire
potential. This latter, counterintuitive argument is that
commercial logging, by focusing on larger diameter trees, does not
remove the ladder fuels that contribute to fire
-compiled by Allen Best