Too much of a good thing in the Boat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The snow has been so wonderful in some ski towns this winter that it’s becoming problematic.

In Steamboat, for example, city officials plan in terms of “snow events.” They figure 25 such “events” a year, but this year they have had 26. What this means is that they’re out of places to dump the snow.

As of mid-January, 22 feet of snow had fallen this winter in Steamboat. The snowpack is about 135 percent of average.

City officials were considering hauling the excess snow some miles to an airport, where ample land is available, although the cost of hauling it would mount rapidly.

Meanwhile, Aspen is reporting a different variety of strong winter. Sometimes snow comes in big dumps, and other times in small increments. This year, it is of the latter variety in Aspen.

“We’ve had a lot of snow,” veteran weather observer Jim Markalunas toldThe Aspen Times, “but they’ve all been small increments, 4, 5 or 6 inches.”

Markalunas, who has monitored Aspen’s weather since the mid-1950s, tracks the number of “big dumps,” which he defines as anything in excess of 10 inches within 24 hours. By that standard, a three-dump winter comes along every 20 years in Aspen. He has recorded only one four-dump winter in a half-century, that occurring in 1984.

For the record, Aspen got its first big dump of this winter last week, a snow so light that on the ski hill, the Aspen Skiing Co. reported a 3-percent precipitation content, compared to the average 7 percent, according to Mike Kaplan, chief operating officer.

All in all, says Markalunas, “It’s the best snow conditions I can remember in one hell of a long time.”


Avalanches take toll in B.C.

WHISTLER, B.C. – In an astounding irony, a woman was swept away by an avalanche on a ski trail at Blackcomb Mountain even as the resort observed Avalanche Awareness Days

The woman suffered a broken leg after being carried about 1,000 feet (300 meters) in what was described as a Class 1 avalanche. Class 1 avalanches are described as being so minor, like sloughing of snow, and relatively harmless to humans. A Class 2 avalanche could bury or injure or person, while a Class 3 avalanche could bury a car and destroy a small building.

Whistler Mountain safety manager Dave Reid toldPique newsmagazine that Class 1 slides are seen occasionally on the mountain, especially during periods of continuous snowfall and wind, as has been experienced recently. However, injuries are rare.

The victim, Sandy Knapton, a mother of two, lost a ski immediately and then struggled to get rid of her second ski, but did not succeed before her leg was broken.

Whistler-Blackcomb does avalanche control on more terrain than any other resort in North America.

Heavy snowfall in recent weeks has yielded several avalanches in British Columbia. A patroller and eight skiers were caught in an in-bound avalanche at Fernie; all survived. At a cat-skiing operation near Fernie, called Island Lake Lodge, a 29-year-old worker was checking the weather station when an avalanche struck and killed her.

In early January, a snowboarder was killed in a Class 2 avalanche in a permanently closed area at Kicking Horse resort.


Latino births surge in Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The number of babies being born in Jackson is increasing sharply, surpassing 400 last year. And, while Caucasian births have remained flat during the last decade, Latino births have increased substantially. In 1990, there were none. Last year, a quarter of all babies were Latino.

“There is not really an increasing birth rate among the Caucasian population,” said Vida Day, director of EL Puente, an organization that helps Latinos access health care. “The primary population increase is due to the birth rate among the immigrant population.”

Day told theJackson Hole News & Guide that the first Latinos to move to Jackson Hole worked and sent money to families in Mexico. But, as the men established themselves, their wives relocated and couples expanded their families, Day said. Also, there are now more single Latina women.

These shifting demographics also portend changing demands for education and medicine, Day said. For example, Teton County School District enrolled the largest kindergarten class in history. Of the kindergarteners, 60 percent are Caucasian and 27 percent are Latino.


Odds improve for older, single men

VAIL – Everybody knows how bad the odds are for single guys in ski towns, right? But as baby boomers hit 60, the dynamic is starting to change. Ski towns are full of single women – although not exactly young things.

“There are a lot of older, single women up here, I’ve heard,” said Mary Jane Sloat, 62, who moved to Avon last year to be near her daughter. She said she retired early because she wanted to live in the mountains while she’s still vigorous.

The Vail Daily says the seniors in Eagle Valley can be divided into two types, those who get together for lunches and light activities, and other more active group who are out snowshoeing and doing pilates.

Eagle County is adding a new staff member who is to work with seniors, disabled adults and caregivers. It’s part of a rapid expansion in the outlay for welfare programs in the fast-growing county.


Direct air becomes selling point

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – While the direct flight programs in resort towns of the West are strongest during ski season, a real estate insert in theJackson Hole News & Guide also makes clear that it’s not just tourists who use the jets. Reliable, year-round air service is also crucial to selling homes.

“Truly, you can make the case that from a homebuyer’s standpoint, this is a big selling point,” says Mike Gierau, chairman of JH Air, a not-for-profit that uses subsidies to nurture and sustain Jackson Hole’s air service. The subsidy is $1.06 million.

A central goal of the program has been to boost year-round activity. “Two years ago, most airlines stopped coming after Labor Day,” Gierau says. “Each day past Sept. 15 helps visitors, but it really helps the locals. There’s not a large visitor rush in November, but it’s the time a lot of locals go on vacation. Second-home owners and other local folks now have more choices.”

The Town of Jackson, Teton County and the Wyoming state government all chip in on the subsidies, but three-quarters of the money comes from businesses. Those businesses include the ski resorts, the central reservations and realty agencies.


Airline gamble pays off in Butte

CRESTED BUTTE – Crested Butte this winter substantially increased the number of airplane seats available into the resort-area airport, and through December the gamble paid off. The jets were 86 percent booked.

But January is another matter. It always is. “We will lose money in January,” air consultant Kent Myers recently told transportation board members in the Gunnison-Crested Butte area. “It’s just a matter of how much we’ll lose.”

Low bookings last year cost the tax-supported agency $500,000 in January to the airlines, which require revenue guarantees. Myers acknowledged it could lose $600,000 this year.

To minimize the losses going into March, Crested Butte will be offering package deals that start at $169 a day. That cost includes lift tickets, lodging, airfare, and airport shuttles, according to theCrested Butte News.


Reality television hits Vail again

VAIL – For reasons not entirely clear, the Eagle Valley seems to have an affinity for reality television.

First, in 2003, there was Ryan Sutter, the football player-turned-Vail firefighter who successfully courted Trista Rehn on national TV. They are now living in Eagle.

Next, in 2004, Raj Bhakta, the managing partner of a lodge in Vail, entered Donald Trump’s board room, making it to episode No. 9 before being fired.

Now, reports theVail Daily, Dr. Travis Stork could be next. Now appearing on “The Bachelor,” the 33-year-old doctor is completing his residency in Nashville but has interviewed for jobs in both Vail and nearby Frisco.


Breckenridge invests in parking

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge at times is a sea of automobiles. Of course, lots of ski towns are. But Breckenridge has the distinction of having no municipal parking structure.

That will change this year as the town spends $1.8 million for a smallish parking garage. Each parking space costs $49,000, reports theSummit Daily News.

– compiled by Allen Best

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