Front Range ski area to reopen

IDAHO SPRINGS –The long-closed Squaw Pass Ski Area is now firmly scheduled for re-opening this year. The ski area is located 35 miles west of downtown Denver and a few miles south of Interstate 70, not far from the road to Mt. Evans.

It will be the closest ski area to Denver, although Loveland is only 53 miles from downtown.

This re-opening represents the continued expansion of the ski industry after about 20 years of consolidation. Doing particularly well have been smaller ski areas close to cities. A model for other ski areas – apparently, including Squaw Pass, is California’s Mountain High. Located 90 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, Mountain High has been able to post 500,000 skier days annually while appealing to teens and twentysomethings.

What’s astounding is how little terrain they use. With many terrain parks, Mountain High has only 220 acres, the same as at Squaw Pass. That’s 30 percent of the business of Vail but with just 4 percent of the terrain.

But Squaw Pass has several major challenges. While Mountain High can draw on a population of 18 million residents in the Los Angeles Basin, Squaw Valley can draw on 2.4 million people in metropolitan Denver. Moreover, while L.A. snowboarders have few close-in options, Denver residents are within an hour or two of some of the continent’s best ski areas.

Squaw Pass must also compete in prices. Skiing has become incredibly inexpensive in the last few years as Intrawest and Vail Resorts have battled for customer loyalty with season passes that only cost $300 while offering great variety. Remaining independents have similarly dropped their rates.

Finally, Squaw Pass must prove to have dependable snow, another Archilles heel that led to its closing more than 25 years ago. While the ski area is high enough, with a base area of 9,300, or the same as Keystone, it is located on the Eastern Slope, far from the Continental Divide. As such, snow tends to be sparse and uneven. The new owner, Less Pettit, who purchased the ski area for $200,000, has installed snowmaking. Remaining to be seen is whether it’s enough.

Squaw Pass will have a new name, to be announced later this week.

Bush boosts new resort in Idaho

DONNELLY, Idaho – Tamarack Resort, the new ski area and real estate development project about 100 miles north of Boise, got two major boosts last week.

First, President George W. Bush spent two days at the resort, mountain biking and cruising the waters of Cascade Lake while talking about such things as access to public lands, potential revisions to the Endangered Species Act and, of course, the war in Iraq. He was reported to be in excellent condition. But then, just the week before, he was pedaling with Lance Armstrong.

The other “bright” for Tamarack was an announcement by a development group that includes former tennis stars Andre Agassi and Stefie Graf, to build a 175-room hotel. The brand of the hotel has not yet been identified, but a consultant from San Francisco told theIdaho Statesman that the quality of the hotel would put it in the same league as Aspen, Vail-Beaver Creek, Deer Valley and Jackson Hole.

To keep pace with these resorts, the hotel had better be a Ritz-Carlton or a Four-Seasons, said Bill Drake, president of a Boise, Idaho,-based advertising and marketing company called Es/Drake Inc.

Dalai Lama to bless prayer wheel

KETCHUM, Idaho – The Dalai Lama is to visit Idaho’s Wood River Valley for several days to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. He is scheduled to speak to up to 10,000 people at a local school and then, in a private ceremony the next day with local Buddhists, bless a new prayer wheel.

The 800-pound bronze prayer wheel was made in India during the last several months and shipped to Ketchum, where it is being located in a new “Garden of Compassion” in the Sawtooth Botanical Garden. Flowing water is to power the turning of the temple-sized prayer wheel. In the theology of Tibetan Buddhism, prayer wheels – most of them little larger than a kitchen utensil – are turned in a constant appeal for healing light to energize the planet.

CNN, the cable television company, plans to broadcast the Dalai Lama’s address.

$12 million raised for open space

EDWARDS – The Vail Valley Foundation has come up with the $12 million necessary to preclude development of a 72-acre parcel at Edwards. The property, some of which was formerly used as a gravel pit operation, is the largest undeveloped portion of land along Interstate 70 in the upper Eagle Valley.

Half of the money comes from the coffers of Eagle County government, with the balance from private donations secured by the foundation, a group traditionally known for its role in landing and hosting World Cup and other ski races. A key figure in the foundation is Harry Frampton, the managing partner in East West Partners, a Beaver Creek-based developer of high-end homes from Summit County to Truckee.

The property is to be given a new name, Eagle River Preserve. Trails, picnic grounds and perhaps a shelter will be allowed on the site, but ball fields and other such improvements will not.

Cops call for affordable housing

MT. CRESTED BUTTE – The real estate market is going crazy in Crested Butte. Agents are making money hand over fist. Town governments are ladling in transfer taxes.

And now comes the other side of that sword – the affordability of housing for key personnel, like town cops. Hank Smith, who is the police chief in Mt. Crested Butte, the slope-side town located two miles from Crested Butte, told his Town Council that people making $30,000 to $45,000 per year – the pay range for cops in the two towns – cannot afford to move there. “When you hire an outside person, he can’t come here and buy a $600,000 home,” he said. The alternative is to hire people already living locally, and then train them – an expensive proposition in its own right.

Favorite bear hit by train in Banff

BANFF, Alberta – For an animal known by a number, Bear 66 seemed to be awfully close to a community pet. A 10-year-old sow, she spent much time near the town of Banff, particularly the golf course, and was often seen using the highway crossing structures. She even strolled down Banff’s main street three summers ago, sending tourists and locals alike scurrying for safety. And while this summer she did nip the butt of a youngster while he was sleeping in an area off-limits to campers, that was the extent of her threat to people.

But Bear 66 is no more. She was killed recently by a train on the Canadian-Pacific tracks as she grazed in an area thick with berry bushes. It was the fourth bear to be killed by trains in the Banff-Canmore area during the last five years.

Newspapers report that the bear’s death, at a time when biologists think the grizzly population is endangered, caused shock and provoked questions about responsibility. Bruce Pissot, executive director of Defenders of Wildlife Canada, proposed that trains slow down or advance cars be dispatched to fire rubber bullets.

Telluride Ski & Golf unveils slogan

TELLURIDE – The Telluride Ski and Golf Co. has unveiled a new “brand.” This latest message to the outside world is not easily explained, but it does frequently repeat the following phrase: “Rugged. Refined. Real.”

The Telluride Watch reports that this latest brand was delivered after a more methodical approach than those used in the past when selecting the resort’s message. Ski area officials hope it helps deliver 385,000 skier days. Last year, the ski area registered 411,000 skier days, but Telluride enjoyed both wonderful snow conditions and national booming economic conditions.

Hemingway house to be closed

KETCHUM, Idaho – Ernest Hemingway spent portions of his later years in Ketchum, where he committed suicide in 1961. In 1986, his fourth and last wife, Mary, willed their house there and the 13-acre property to the Nature Conservancy of Idaho. The plan was to renovate the house, turn it over to another nonprofit group called the Idaho Hemingway House Foundation, and open it for public tours.

However, neighbors raised a ruckus, arguing the public house would violate zoning as well as their privacy, and in the end the Nature Conservancy capitulated. The group decided that managing the Hemingway house cost too much and was outside its mission of protecting wild lands, reports theIdaho Mountain Express.

– compiled by Allen Best

In this week's issue...

July 21, 2022
Wildlife success or deal with the devil?

Land swap approved in Southwest Colorado, but not without detractors

July 21, 2022
Tapping out

The latest strategy to save the San Luis Valley's shrinking aquifer: paying farmers not to farm

July 14, 2022
Hey, good environmental news

Despite SCOTUS ruling, San Juan Generating Station plans to shut down