Utah ski area tangled in lawsuits

PARK CITY, Utah – The owner of The Canyons, one of the several ski areas at Park City, continues to try to end his lease with American Skiing Co., the operator and developer.

In the latest wrinkle of this ongoing story, Kenny Griswold toldThe Park Record that he had gone to Colorado to discuss options with several potential investors. He had specifically mentioned Vail. “Vail would do brilliant things,” he told the newspaper.

Vail Resorts denies any meeting or negotiations. Griswold did not mention any other Vail-area organizations, although East West Partners, a development company with interests in Park City, also has close ties with Vail Resorts.

The story is rife with lawsuits and counter-suits. Griswold’s company had operated the ski area, but in 1997 leased the land at the ski area to the American Ski Company. The 50-year lease has a 150-year option. That arrangement also specified that the American Ski Co. was to build a golf course by 2002.

That golf course remains unbuilt, but the reason is a matter of contention. Clearly, the American Skiing Co. was in financial trouble several years ago when it unloaded Heavenly on Vail Resorts. Now, it is shopping Steamboat, but insists that it’s not motivated by financial duress. And The Canyons has “had three record years, both where skier-days and revenues and profits are concerned – three years in a row,” said Tim Vetter, spokesman for the Canyons. The company also says it is not building the golf course now because Griswold won’t surrender the land.

Griswold maintains that American Skiing Co. is in financial trouble, and he wants to sever the relationship before the company defaults. “You cannot disguise the trouble that they’re in,” he tells the newspaper. He also says that the American Skiing Co. is trying to buy him out.

Aspen takes hard look at time-share

ASPEN, Colo. – The updated and upscaled form of time-share called fractional ownership has been taking the ski towns by storm. Developers claim fractionals will put people in town throughout the year.

For most ski towns, this is welcome news. Conventional tourism has been stagnant or even in decline. Ski towns have instead become the places of a) retirees, b) people for whom skiing is only an amenity, and c) second-home owner.

But in Aspen, there are increasingly questions about whether fractional ownership really puts people on the streets the way that developers say it does. City officials have begun a study, reportsThe Aspen Times. “Assertions were made in the application process about economic activity. We’re testing those assumptions.”

City officials are skeptical how much time and hence money owners of fractional units spend in Aspen. For example, it has been suggested they would spend more during their trips because they don’t have a big lodging bill at the end of the stay.

Even if fractional projects like the Ritz-Carlton deliver what the developers promise, some community members might want something else again. “Those of us who live here need off-season,” said Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud. “There may be a diminished off-season due to fractionals.”

The Times notes that the fractional projects are commanding extremely high prices. A three-bedroom condo at the Residents at Little Nell is going for $1.37 million. The Ritz-Carlton say its members have net income of $300,000 or higher, with a net worth of $3 million or more. That’s good enough for the top 1 or 2 percent of the market.


Steamboat “Green Team” cleans up

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – A team of employees within the Steamboat Springs city government continues efforts to green the city from the inside out. Or, to quote Gavin Malia, a supervisor of the Green Team, “We thought we should clean our house before we tell others how to clean theirs.”

Formed in 2005, the Green Team Energy aims to boost alternative energy and also energy conservation. The team persuaded the city to buy $5,000 worth of renewable energy certificates for wind power for electrical use at a city building.

The presumption is that the buildings will last for 50 to 75 years, and that in later years energy will be much more costly. As such, it makes sense to spend more money in the short term to reduce long-term energy costs.

But architecture that reduces energy costs doesn’t necessarily cost more money, Malia toldThe Steamboat Pilot and Today. For example, the current designs for the new community center include rooflines to help shade the building during the summer but allow more natural light during winter. “These things don’t necessarily cost more money, but you need to do it up front,” Malia said.


Jackson Hole stews over streaking

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Jackson Hole continues to stew about the future of the Demolition Derby, the concluding event of the Teton County Fair. The event draws huge crowds, sells lots of beer, and makes lots of money that helps subsidize other events at the fair.

But the party-like atmosphere has drawn streakers in recent years. Many people think the nudity makes the event unsuitable for children. And the way police have handled those streakers – with Taser electric stun guns and handcuffs – has angered others.

Instead of ending the event, as some have proposed, the governing fair board intends to stay the course, reports theJackson Holes News& Guide. Some board members think that stiff sentences for the two streakers at this summer’s Demolition Derby could go a long way to discouraging streaking at future events.

A streaker last year got off with 40 hours of community service. This year, one streaker is being charged with endangering children, among other crimes.


Golfer survives a lightning strike

GRANBY, Colo. – Calvin Reeves went to play golf and had an extraordinary experience. He was hit by lightning.

The lighting entered his head, ripped all of his clothes off, melted a portion of his hair, and left him unconscious on the golf turf. He remembers none of this, nor the subsequent helicopter ride across the Continental Divide to Georgetown and then the ambulance ride to Denver.

“I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else,” he told Granby’sSky-Hi News. One thing he wants others to understand is that you don’t have to be on a mountain top to get struck by lighting. Even in the mountains, lightning strikes in the valleys.

Reeves lost a portion of his hearing as a result of the strike, he suffers from paralysis on one side of his face, and there is some evidence of cataracts forming in his eyes. He is sore and has burn wounds healing, doesn’t sleep well, and suffers from alternating periods of anxiety, pain, and numbness. High blood pressure, never a problem before, is cropping up.

Reeves and his wife, Deb, want others to know that there are small, handheld devices that can tell a person how close the center of an electrical storm is. One such device is called Strike Alert.


Telluride steps into the dog debate

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Dogs being dogs was the central topic at a recent Telluride meeting. It’s most certainly a dog-loving town, but many owners let their dogs romp off-leash. And even when they are on leash, many dogs are permitted to defecate without their human companions bothering to clean up the mess.

All this has resulted in what one part-time resident says incredulously is a would-be world-class resort town with dog poop everywhere. Many locals seem to agree with that arched-eyebrow appraisal.

A veterinarian testified that the concern is motivated by more than just aesthetics. Dr. Christopher Capaldo said dog scat often carries both ringworm, which can stay in the soil for up to 20 years, and hookworm. Both intestinal parasites are easily transmitted to humans.

The Telluride Watch says the community was rare for the size of the crowd assembled with a singular focus. Many and varied ideas were mentioned, but no real resolution.

Whistler goes overseas for seasonals

WHISTLER, B.C. – Like the major U.S. mountain resorts before it, Whistler is finding it increasingly difficult to hire enough seasonal employees to staff its tourism economy. To that problem comes a traditional answer, hiring foreigners.

-compiled by Allen Best

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Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale