Condomania takes over Telluride

TELLURIDE - Real estate activity through October in the Telluride market set a new one-year record of $511 million. That bests the old record set four years ago.

The story in Telluride has been condominiums, nearly all at $500,000 and up. "Lars Carlson, of Peaks Real Estate, told The Telluride Watch that a year ago there were 15 to 20 available below that price. Now, there are only four or five. "Small condos of no real distinction in Telluride are selling for $600 a square foot," said another agent, Jim Lucarelli.

Low interest rates explain some of the buying frenzy, but Mike Shimkonis, another agent, believes rates could double without slowing the parade. Part of what is going on, he says, is that people nearing retirement age are making Telluride a base of operation for their businesses. "It's now as much about a lifestyle as it is about living in a ski area." In other words, the surge in retiring baby boomers that has been talked about for so long is finally happening.

Stein Ericksen Lodge goes wind power

PARK CITY, Utah - Park City's Stein Ericksen Lodge has become among the most recent recruits to the wind-energy program. The resort purchased 100 blocks of electricity derived from wind energy. That will cost the lodge $2,400 more over the course of a year but will prevent 10 tons of carbon dioxide emissions - about as much carbon dioxide as the average car emits in 275,000 miles of driving - as compared to electricity created at coal-fired plants.

Park City hopes to get 15 percent of electricity users in the community into the wind-power program. Currently, 8.6 percent are signed up. Two of the three ski areas are in the program, as is the city government itself.

Utah projects big skier day growth

PARK CITY, Utah - Early season bookings were apparently so good that Kip Pitou, president of Ski Utah, a trade organization, predicts a 5 to 8 percent increase in skier visits this winter for Utah. He cited web site hits, bookings and ski pass sales as cause for his good cheer.

But the calendar will be challenging. Bill Malone, who heads the chamber of commerce in Park City, points out that Christmas Week will have weekend bookends, instead of straddling two different weeks. Easter, which is a mental bookend for many skiers, this year falls in March, instead of April.

Still the ski areas in and around Park City tallied a record 1.4 million skier days last winter, and a record crowd also dropped by during summer, causing Malone to echo Pitou's sunny optimism.

While resorts in Utah had good October snows, not much happened after that. Still that early season bragging got lots of publicity, not the more usual its-the-week-before-Thanksgiving-and-the-slopes-are-bare reality.

Winter Park enters the 21st century

WINTER PARK - It's been some years since you could drive your car to within a few yards of the ski trails at Winter Park. A hotel and assorted shops are found there now. The resort has quad lifts, expensive hamburgers and boundaries that make the ski area about half the size of Manhattan.

Still, Winter Park has the feel of a resort with at least one foot in the '70s. That is to change, soon. Two years ago, Denver, which owns the resort, leased the resort to Intrawest, with the understanding that Intrawest would reach deep into its pockets to gussy up the ski product while also building a base-area village. Plans call for 24 new shops and 1,500 dwelling units. Construction - if water for the project can be found - starts in two years.

The Winter Park Manifest , pondering the coming changes, says this coming ski season "might be one more for yesterday than today, one more for memories and nostalgia than dreams of tomorrow. Enjoy it."

Aspen off-season breeds community

ASPEN - Everybody is always talking about "sense of community" in ski towns. Roger Marolt, a columnist for The Aspen Times , says it's not something that can be quantified.

"It's not about how many people live here full time. It's not about a ratio of year-round residents to second-home owners. It's not even about ski-bums-turned-commuters," he writes.

But he says people know it when it's there. "Everybody knows sense of community was strong in the '70s. It was clearly diminished as the '80s wore on and became almost extinct in the '90s." That sense of community, he says, is most basically about the number of people that you recognize when walking the streets. "It occurs most often in the off seasons," he adds.

Yet even the off seasons are being squeezed - and at peril to the community psyche. "Between the crazy periods, we still need a little time alone to figure things out," he concludes. "Otherwise, our visitors and guests won't be able to follow our leads and get it sorted out either. And isn't that why they really come here, after all?"

Jackson Hole debates dog doo

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. - Where the estimated 5,200 dogs in Jackson leave their dog doo is at issue.

Town police in Jackson want dogs leashed in all public areas. They also want dog-owners to be forced to scoop the poop. The director of the local parks department would even like to see canines banned from all athletic fields because of the mess. Town Council members, however, aren't so sure. Said one, "Dogs need some space to blow off steam."

Parallel issues are found on the surrounding national forests. The Forest Service wants to require that dogs be leashed along certain sections of popular trails to prevent the dogs from chasing wildlife. Also, Forest Service representatives say that dogs are compromising water quality by frolicking in the streams, increasing sedimentation and possibly leaving pathogens. The Forest Service estimates 80 pounds of dog doo are generated daily on two popular trails that are commonly used by dog-walkers.

Whistler experiences economic lull

WHISTLER, B.C. - Whistler is in the lull between two booms. After Snow Country magazine named Whistler the top resort in North America in 1991, the resort caught fire and even rainy days weren't enough to keep the crowds at bay. And, in the future, it will be hosting the Olympics in 2010.

But for the last two years, the wind has gone out of the resort's economic sails. Last year visits were down 5.7 percent, a decline that was palpable across the community, says Pique newsmagazine.

Various external reasons at least partly explain the decline. The Canadian dollar has been strengthening and the U.S. dollar declining, meaning that U.S. residents - the single largest market for Whistler - are paying more for vacations. Also, U.S. residents have been less inclined to travel in the wake of 9/11.

But talking with various business owners, Pique detects some internal weaknesses in Whistler. The resort community, say some businessmen, has become too contented, too sassy. "Nobody seems to know what direction to take," says Mario Enero, owner of one of Whistler's most popular restaurants, La Rua. "We don't provide the service we used to. We're content to just say we're number one." Another restaurateur claims that too many restaurants are essentially gouging customers, believing that simply because it's in Whistler, it's worth more.

Wi-fi Internet sweeps ski towns

FRISCO - Wireless fidelity, often abbreviated to wi-fi, is all the rage in ski towns. Whistler's town government partnered with a private entrepreneur last winter to introduce wi-fi in large chunks of the commercial area. Steamboat has wi-fi on its ski slopes this year. In Telluride, using one of the oldest networks in the country, there are 20 wi-fi networks

With wi-fi technology, computers with the proper equipment can join the Internet without a wire or telephone. The connection is 50 times faster than dial-up services.

Frisco has produced two wi-fi spots in the town's Main Street district, seeing it as an economic development strategy, reports the Summit Daily News . In doing so, says Mark Gage, the town's economic and community development director, the town has realized what many cities, hotels and restaurants already have, namely that it's a relatively inexpensive way to attract visitors.

Idaho airport dispute shapes up

KETCHUM, Idaho - People in the Sun Valley and Ketchum area are having a neighborly spat - about where to put a new and larger airport.

To expand the existing airport, which is located about a 25-minute drive south of Sun Valley, would require razing 70 homes, notes the Idaho Mountain Express .

The four sites still being reviewed would all be 60-something minutes from the ski slopes. That has Wally Huffman, general manager of the Sun Valley Co., arguing for something closer-in. The two airlines that now serve Sun Valley/Ketchum fear that passengers, if they have to drive that far, will elect to continue all the way to Boise to catch flights.

Crested Butte honors semi-native author

CRESTED BUTTE - George Sibley has issued a book, Dragons in Paradise: On the Edge Between Civilization and Sanity , a collection of essays that primarily describe his experiences in Crested Butte and Gunnison County during the last 40 years.

Most of the essays were originally published in Mountain Gazette , a monthly magazine in the 1970s that was restarted four years ago. The essays run the gamut from tales about his ski patrol days to a current archaeological dig. He told the Crested Butte News that he also explores the relationship between "old timers" and newcomers in mountain towns, and looks critically at the idea that the "simple life" can be obtained by moving to the mountains.

To commemorate Sibley's new book, the Crested Butte Town Council proclaimed Dec. 4 as George Sibley Day. Among other jobs, Sibley published a newspaper in Crested Butte and was on the ski patrol there. Currently, he is an instructor at Western State College in nearby Gunnison.

- compiled by Allen Best





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