Colorado tells tale of two winters

WOLF CREEK – As is so often the case, it’s shaping up as a tale of two winters in Colorado.

Along the I-70 corridor and north at Steamboat Springs, the stories have been about the abundance of snow. Snow shovelers and plowers are making a good living, although some places are running out of places to dump it.

This snow, along with everything else, has produced what was described in several resort locations as a banner holiday period. At Beaver Creek, the manager of Charter Sports told theVail Daily that more skis were rented during Christmas week than had ever been rented before there — or any other Charter Sports store. Somewhat similarly, the number of cars parked along the frontage road in Vail was up substantially.

A similar story comes from Aspen, where the Buttermilk ski area set a “modern-day record” for users, some 3,163. But all four of the local ski areas at Aspen were reporting gains, none more significantly than at Highlands, where a new double-black-diamond area is drawing visitors. Again, the biggest story seems to be good snow.

In Southern Colorado, the story is an all-too-familiar one of recent years. Wolf Creek Ski Area, which often leads the state’s ski areas with an average snowfall of 435 inches, had received only 82 inches by early January. Snowpacks in that part of the state are reported to be 35 to 50 percent of normal, echoing readings of the early part of the 21st century.

T-ride restored one stone at a time

TELLURIDE – Brick by brick, Telluride is being restored.The Telluride Watch tells of the town’s Nugget Building, which was originally built in 1892, at the height of the town’s mining boom. The building, located on a prominent corner in the town’s business district, is being restored in a five-year project that is described as a labor of love.

More curious is the restoration of what is unremarkably called the Old Stone House. It is similarly described as a “small, square, gray-stone building.” It isn’t even a designated historic building in a town that reeks of history.

Despite this lack of designation, the house has been dismantled, brick by brick, because the mortar had elevated levels of lead, as was common in buildings of that era. Moreover, the soil beneath the building is being treated, and then the house is being reassembled in the same way.

Fraser and Winter Park consolidate

FRASER – The towns of Fraser and Winter Park, which sit cheek by jowl, are talking about consolidation. Already, they share a border and also police officers. They will soon share building inspectors. And, says theWinter Park Manifest, it would make sense for them to share land-use planning. The newspaper even foresees the day of the two sharing a name.

What name would that be? Fraser is the older of the two communities, with a history dating to the post office that was established there in 1876, even if it was not incorporated until 1953. Winter Park began life as a railroad camp in the 1920s, but very quickly became something of a ski resort that, after World War II, was known as Hideaway Park. It was incorporated in 1978 and given the name Winter Park, to create a common identity with the ski area of the same name.

Three bears take a stroll in Aspen

ASPEN – Three bears were roaming Aspen in early January, but wildlife biologists tellTheAspen Times that bears occasionally come out of hibernation during winter.

One roamed in Silverthorne last year, and avalanche blasting at Steamboat has occasionally flushed groggy bears from the three dens found at the ski area. Wildlife officials do not suspect warmer temperatures or that hunger aroused the bears in Aspen.

More likely, the bears didn’t find a good den early enough and hunkered down for winter under a tree or shrub that may be too close to a road. The bears were expected to return to hibernation within a few days.

Plug pulled on Sustainable Slopes

LAKEWOOD – After three years, the Sustainable Slopes Day that has been held at U.S. ski areas in February has ended. The sponsoring group, the National Ski Areas Association, did not

explain why the event was pulled. However, the group’s Geraldine Link said the organizations will continue with its “Keep Winter Cool” campaign. That campaign aims to direct attention at global warming and how people can incorporate energy-saving methods into their lives.

TheSummit Daily News says that one ski area, Arapahoe Basin, plans a special Climate Awareness Day in February, with activities similar to those in the past. The newspaper reports that 2005 is expected to be the second-warmest year on record by the Switzerland-based World Meteorological Organization.

Park City downtown laundry thrives  

PARK CITY, Utah – Like so many ski towns, Park City has its roots in the mining era. As such, Main Street first was a place of grocery, hardware and other such stories.

Main Street now serves a different clientele, of course, but curiously sandwiched between two art galleries is an old-fashioned Laundromat, where it’s $1.25 a load.The Park Record doesn’t say exactly why the owner hasn’t cashed out, except that the place seems to thrive – partly because it’s so close to the bars. For some, a load of laundry is just enough time to get a quick beer.

Health club building goes green

HAILEY, Idaho – A health club being built in Hailey, 10 miles west of Ketchum and Sun Valley, is taking the concept of wellness one step further. The developer intends the building itself to be healthy.

The 19,000-square-foot facility will have active and passive solar heating, European “breathing walls,” nontoxic building materials, and natural daylighting and ventilation, reports theIdaho Mountain Express.

The building’s “claristory” windows and large overhead glass-covered atrium will let in abundant natural daylight, thereby reducing dependence on artificial lighting. The overall effect of the natural lighting will be to create a healthier environment more conducive to working out, said architect Dale Bates.

The editors ofNatural Home and Garden magazine recently named Bates one of the top 10 green architects in the country.

Ski area solicits for open space

CRESTED BUTTE – Operators of the Crested Butte ski area have begun asking patrons of its restaurants and retail stores for a 1 percent donation to the local open space program. Some 60 businesses in the Crested Butte area participate in the program.

“Open space is a huge part of this valley and the drive for people to come here, explained the ski company’s Ethan Mueller. He added that few other ski resorts have the open space, views and serenity that Crested Butte has. “The I-70 resorts either never had it, or lost it and will never regain it. It’s important to preserve the reasons locals came to live and guests came to visit.”

Real estate market drops in Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C. – Real estate valuations dropped 2 percent at Whistler, a downward trend that is reflected in everything from houses to condos to townhomes.

“Our market peaked in 2002, and it’s been basically pretty steady since then,” said Mike Wintemute, general manager of Re-Max Sea to Sky Real Estate. He toldPiquethat he believes the flattened market was a result of fewer guests during the last two years. It had been spurting upward for a number of years.

The story is different from that in Vancouver, where assessment increases of 10 to 20 percent were reported. Whistler’s tourism economy has actually declined in the last four years.

Taos celebrates difference

TAOS, N.M. – Only four ski resorts in the United States remain truly that: allowing only skis, and one of them is Taos, which is now in its 50th season.

“We see it as something that differentiates us from other ski areas,” General Manager Gordon Briner said in a story distributed by the Associated Press.

Of the other three ski areas, one is Vermont’s Mad River Glen, and two are in Utah: Alta and Deer Valley.

Snowboarding last season accounted for 28.7 percent of national lift ticket sales.

– compiled by Allen Best

Jackson digs out from six feet

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – An eight-day sequence of storms left 6 feet of snow in Jackson Hole. The storms caused nearby Teton Pass to close and forced the closure of the ski area’s Bridger Gondola when a tree fell on the cable line. Two avalanche deaths were reported during the sequence, one of a skier and the second of a snowmobiler.

–compiled by Allen Best