Telluride pushes for more skiers

TELLURIDE -Telluride, where the Horning family bought the ski area least year, is reporting things just aren't as good as they should be. Like with rival areas like Crested Butte, the story is that there is a minimum threshold for ski area operations.

"Telluride is about the size of Steamboat, in terms of what it takes to operate," Ken Stone, the new executive vice president for marketing for the Telluride Ski & Golf Company. He explained that Telluride needs about as many employees to operate as Steamboat, but Steamboat has regularly had more than 1 million skier days, and Telluride has had 360,000.

Among the other ski areas in what might be called the "million club," nearly all are operated by Vail Resorts, Intrawest or the American Skiing Co.

Ski area administration, however, seems to be in disarray. Ray Jacobi, the ski area chief executive, has been booted after only 10 months on the job. No replacement has been named, although Stone will be part of an interim working group supervising operations.

Sun Valley plans on spiffing up

KETCHUM, Idaho -Sun Valley also thinks it must create a bigger, more modern ski area in order to make sufficient money for Earl Holding, the owner.

Despite being the oldest destination ski resort in the West, Sun Valley's skier days have been hovering at around 400,000 a year for the last decade. More skiers are needed to make some economic sense, says the resort's general manager, Wally Huffman.

To that end, Sun Valley is planning two new bottom-to-top gondolas and several detachable quads to replace existing fixed-grip lifts. As well, there is to be more terrain for beginners, intermediates and experts, although no major whole-sale expansions, unlike what is proposed at Crested Butte. The resort also proposes to plow some money into snowmaking and upgrade or replace some of the on-mountain restaurants.

All of this will make Sun Valley more like Vail, Aspen and the rest of the industry leaders. The improvements are to occur in the next 10 years, Forest Service and BLM willing.

Still in the "dream" stage, reports the Idaho Mountain Express, is an expansion of the skiable terrain onto the backside of Baldy Mountain.

Thompson suicide reverberates

ASPEN - The same day that a story appeared in The Aspen Times mentioning a plan in Sun Valley and Ketchum to conduct a festival devoted to the novelist Ernest Hemingway, writer Hunter S. Thompson killed himself near Aspen. As Hemingway had done in Ketchum in 1961, shooting himself, Thompson committed suicide by putting a .45-caliber handgun into his mouth. He was 67.

Friends said they were surprised on several counts. First, he killed himself with both his son and grandson in the same house. And second, he had seemed unusually upbeat recently.

With dozens of reporters buzzing around, Gaylord Guenin, a friend who lives nearby, told The Aspen Times that he still can't come up with an explanation. "I could see him driving into a river or overdosing on some bizarre drug, but not this way. To lose a friend is tough. But we didn't lose him. He ran away from us," Guenin said. "The weird thing was in the last few weeks he had been really upbeat."

Jimmy Ibbotson, a longtime neighbor and friend, said the author had been quite ill and had undergone three or four operations in the past few years. "He lived his life by his own rules, and he took his life by his own rules. Why he did it with his son and grandson in the (home) ... that's the part that no one can get."

Hybrid and biodiesel use on rise

SUMMIT COUNTY - The first hybrid vehicle - powered by both gasoline and electricity - to be owned by Summit County government is now at work. The Ford Escape is being used by Summit Stage, the countywide bus operator, which eventually wants to operate hybrid buses. The agency had looked at biodiesel-operated buses but has not gone that route. Breckenridge did begin using biodiesel, but has had some problems.

Meanwhile, Park City is also investigating biodiesel for use in its Old Town trolley. Doing research, city staffers learned that Crested Butte has had problems with biodiesel gelling during winter, but Telluride has had no problems. Jackson also uses biodiesel in some municipal gear.

Park City ponders trash can ban

PARK CITY, Utah -A former Connecticut resident says governments in the East do not allow people to leave trash cans out on the streets. In Park City, where she now lives, they do.

That could be changed if the City Council adopts a law Rosemary Sweeney is pushing. Cans would have to be removed from the street and driveways soon after being emptied. "Where do you go and see the barrel sticking out all over the place?" asked Sweeney. "You don't."

Enforcing this matter of aesthetics will cost $1,500 to $4,000 a month, city officials tell The Park Record.

Dalai Lama to speak in Sun Valley

SUN VALLEY, Idaho - The Dalai Lama is scheduled to give a two-hour lecture in Sun Valley on the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. His appearance is expressly to send a message of peace to those who lost loved ones in the attacks, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne formally extended the invitation to the Dalai Lama, but instrumental in the invitation seems to have been Kiril Sokoloff, a financial researcher from Ketchum, who is a personal friend. He is president of 13D Research.

Aspen pushes controversial housing

ASPEN - The Aspen City Council has voted to move forward with the first phase of an employee housing project that is expected to ultimately house 1,100 people.

The project, the Burlingame Ranch, has been a source of contention for seven years, and the debate may not be dead. Opponents promptly filed a petition that could lead to another election. Opponents describe the project as "massive sprawl" and also allege widespread abuse of the city's affordable housing. The agreement with the Zoline family (of Telluride, who lived in Aspen previous to starting the ski area in Telluride) is that they can build 12 homes of up to 18,000 square feet as part of the deal.

Ski areas reach for spring breakers

VAIL - From Aspen to Whistler, lots of ski areas have been trying to drum up younger customers while also slowly easing their addiction to baby boom consumers. To that effect, they have been hosting events specifically oriented to those below 40.

Among those taking this hedged bet is Vail, which in mid-April will put on a show by Snoop Dogg. The two-week schedule also features Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys, Toots & the Maytals, and Maceo Parker.

- compiled by Allen Best




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