‘Cultural tourism’ picks up speed

ASPEN – “Cultural tourism” has been a buzz phrase in Colorado tourist circles during the last couple of years. It’s defined as attracting visitors to arts, festivals, and museums and the like. While this is nothing new, proponents say that Colorado tourist towns could gain more by promoting “mind” attractions instead of just “sweat” things.

One such proponent, Nancy Kramer, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, points to Aspen as a shining star of cultural tourism. Aspen’s post-war life as a resort was one equally planted in skiing and in summer festivals. Best known of the latter is the 56-year-old Aspen Music Festival and School, which has a $13 million budget. It adds an estimated $52 million to the local economy.

Speaking at a conference reported byThe Aspen Times, Kramer said Aspen enjoys an 85 percent visitor return rate and a summer demographic of visitors who are older empty-nesters.

Cultural tourists have a higher income per capita than other travelers, on average spend up to 36 percent more than other travelers per visit ($623 versus $457), and stay up to 50 percent longer (more than five nights vs. three nights), she explained.

Creede was also cited by Kramer. A one-time mining town snuggled in the San Juan Mountains, it has a population of only 400. But the Creede Repertory Theatre manages to support 60 artists and staff members during summer months.


Boom continues in the town of Rico

RICO – Tiny Rico, located across Lizard Head Pass from Telluride, has been booming of late, with land prices reported to be four, five or six times as high as only a year ago.

All other things being equal, they can be expected to shoot up even more. Town voters, in the largest turnout in decades, approved construction of a sewage treatment plant and extension of sewage lines. State and federal grants cover well more than half of the estimated $4.4 million cost.

While the sewage improvements are expected to induce more development and population growth,Rico Bugle editor Eric Heil contends that the project is a good one. For all its growth, Rico hasn’t returned to the rich diversity of its mining days, and businesses barely hold on, he notes.


Coloradification hits Sierra Nevada

TRUCKEE, Calif. – People in the Rocky Mountains have long feared the sprawl of “Californication.” In the resort world, it’s the other way around. The Sierra Nevada is being changed in ways that are being called “Coloradification.” Trends 10 to 20 years old in the resorts along the I-70 corridor of  Colorado are now playing out in the Truckee-Lake Tahoe area.

For example, 10 years after Vail got a modern traffic roundabout, work is being completed on Truckee’s first roundabout.

Next, finishing touches are being applied to a pedestrian base village at Northstar-at-Tahoe, a ski area. As was done at Beaver Creek, it will have an ice-skating rink (using synthetic ice in summer) and many places to spend money. Over two-thirds of the 60,000 square feet of commercial space has been leased. As well, 100 condominiums are going on line in the first of several phases.

Project developers Booth Creek Ski Holdings and East West Partners both originated in the Vail area of Colorado.


30,000 square-foot house constructed

KETCHUM, Idaho – Ketchum recently was the site of a conference devoted to maintaining sustainable communities. While sustainability has been justified for everything under the sun, in this context it was about reducing environmental impacts.

After hearing former Aspen-area resident Hunter Lovins talk, one of the audience members, Steve Hogan, a restaurateur, was motivated to write an op-ed piece for theIdaho Mountain Express.

Noting the construction of a 30,000-square-foot house near Ketchum this year, he said it makes “absolutely no sense that we even consider allowing these types of nonsustainable homes in our high-desert valley.” He added that builders, architects and contractors he spoke with seemed to agree in their dislike of such extravagance, but that they must listen to what their customers want.

It’s not just a matter of private property rights, he went on to explain, but also of public pollution. “Consider that the average home produces three times more pollution than the average car,” he explained. “Now multiply that times a home that’s 15 to 20 times larger than the average one.”

He urged Ketchum and its suburbs consider mimicking the Green Points program adopted 15 years ago in the university city of Boulder, Colo.


Biomass heating gets mixed reviews

SUMMIT COUNTY – Interest is growing in Colorado and other states in the West about an evolving technology that converts trees and other vegetation into heat, electricity and other useful commodities.

Epidemics of bark beetles that, in Colorado, surpass even the previous epidemics of the 1970s and 1980s are spurring the interest.

One potential biomass project is in Colorado’s Summit County, where the county commissioners want to invest $2 million into a plant that will burn wood chips to heat county offices as well as a hospital now under construction. The goal, in addition to reducing heating costs, is to find a way to deal with the beetle-kill trees and reduce the threat of forest fires, said Steve Hill, special projects manager for Summit County.

“Our study showed it looked feasible from a technical as well as an economic viewpoint,” he told theVail Daily. The plant would cost $2 million.

TheVail Daily also reports interest in other places. For example, plans are afoot to heat a middle school in Leadville. It also is being talked about in Grand County, where the Winter Park and Grand Lake areas are among the hardest hit in Colorado by pine beetles.

However, theSummit Daily News reports that the biomass project in Nederland, located west of Boulder, is a royal bio-mess. The town’s administrator, Jim Stevens, said the town, after three years, is ready to get out.

“It’s the third year into this thing, and now, it’s like, let’s just cut our losses,” he told the newspaper. “We’re going back to a natural gas boiler.”


Steamboat Springs jump goes plastic

 STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – A new era dawned in Steamboat Springs on Sunday with the baptism of a 75-meter, all-weather ski jump at Howelsen Hill, the city’s 90-year-old ski jumping venue.

The Steamboat Pilot reported a loud “thwack” as the first jumper, Davis Miller, touched down on the green plastic surface and skidded into the wet sod beyond, followed quickly by a dozen young ski jumpers.

Program director Todd Wilson, himself a product of the Winter Park jumping program, was philosophic. “Would Tiger Woods be the champion he is if he’d only played golf six months of the year?” he asked in justifying the creation of a plastic jump.

John Fetcher, the 93-year-old founder of the Steamboat ski area, reported mixed emotions. “I’m sort of mad at the Europeans for making it necessary,” he said. “This is really a winter sport.” He added that he thinks youngsters should not be pushed to specialize in one sport.

And what would Carl Howelsen, who introduced Colorado to ski jumping, have thought? Ross points out that Howelsen was an all-season jumper himself. Turning from his vocation of brick laying, Howelsen got a job with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. There, working under the big tent, he demonstrated ski jumping from a 100-foot ramp greased with Vaseline – in all seasons.


Whitewater park gets expensive

GUNNISON – Mountain towns in Colorado, as well as others, have been busily trying to add to their all-around appeal – as well as their economies – by building whitewater parks. But doing so involves more than maneuvering boulders in the creek. To ensure water remains in the creek involves lawyers, and legal maneuvering always costs money.

For example, Gunnison town officials report spending $300,000 to build the park, but the legal bill has hit $500,000, saysThe Denver Post.

Part of the reason for the high cost is that laws governing allocation of Colorado water originally did not see recreation as a beneficial use. Although they have been modified in recent decades, both farmers and cities fear the revisions will harm their interests.

– compiled by Allen Best



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows