Telluride begins to lose its bed-base

TELLURIDE – The ski area operator at Telluride has started a property management business. The purpose is not to take business away from existing property managers, said an executive with Telluride Ski & Golf. Instead, the company wants to staunch the erosion of the bed base by working directly with the new owners of hotel rooms that are being condominiumized, persuading them to retain the condos in a rental pool.

“We’re really just trying to get some more active bed base,” said Ken Stone, vice president for sales and marketing.

Rooms at the Peaks Hotel, Hotel Telluride, and the Ice House are being condominiumized. The Telluride area has only about 400 hotel rooms.

Stone calculated that the loss of one room from the rental pool can, based on previous winter occupancy of 68 percent, cause a loss of $107,000 to local businesses.

Aspen and Vail have also been challenged by the loss of bed base during the last 20 years, although both resorts are now taking measures to add new beds.

Telluride is also trying to redefine itself more carefully as a destination-oriented boutique resort. The rebranding of Telluride now focuses on the “exceptional experience” available to visitors. To that end, the owners are putting more money into on-mountain restaurants and other peripherals to the ski experience.

The ski area itself has a capacity to accommodate 10,000 people a day, but it averages 3,000 a day.


Snowmass gets a major makeover

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Call it an extreme makeover. The Aspen Skiing Co. is in the midst of a giant re-do of the Snowmass ski area.

The most immediate functional change is a $13 million gondola that is to debut in mid-December, the largest single part of $46 million in upgrades to the skiing infrastructure at Snowmass, explainsThe Aspen Times.

But an even bigger change is under way at the base of the mountain, where a project called – what else – Base Village is the mother of all hard-hat zones. When complete in four years, the project will add roughly 1,100 bedrooms to Snowmass Village – and perhaps make Snowmass competitive once again with the newer kids on the resort block, particularly Colorado’s Beaver Creek and Utah’s Deer Valley.

While Ajax, the mountain immediately adjacent to the town of Aspen, is the Aspen Skiing Co.’s best-known product, much of the terrain is too difficult for easy intermediate skiing. For the masses, Aspen has Snowmass.

But from a million skier days more than a decade ago, Snowmass has skidded to less than 800,000 skier days most years. This re-do is expected to reverse that slide, putting Snowmass back into the million club within possibly four years. Vail and Breckenridge are firmly in the club, and so are Mammoth and Steamboat. Others sometimes hitting the million mark have been Keystone, Copper Mountain and Winter Park.

Aspen reaches its greenhouse goal

ASPEN – Aspen’s Canary Initiative is moving right along. Last year the town conducted an audit, inventorying all of its activities that caused emissions of greenhouse gases. In October, it held a well-regarded conference that is already prompting action from other ski towns.

But to lead, Aspen figured it must walk its talk – and first within the municipal operations. The declared goal was to reduce emissions 1 percent below the baseline, and in the first year it succeeded and then some – a 10.5 percent reduction.

Most of that reduction was attributed to Aspen Electric, the city-owned electrical supplier, which made wind another 16 percent of its portfolio. The utility is city-owned.

City departments also reduced their greenhouse gas emissions. Cops reported 20,600 fewer air miles. The recreation staff bought a scooter for around-town errands. The parks department installed timers on microwaves, printers and other equipment to shut off all power between 6:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. Vending machines were similarly outfitted with devices to shut off the lights so that the candy display, for example, isn’t lit all night.

One particularly dedicated employee even takes a Greyhound bus when going to conferences in Denver, thereby eliminating use of a car.

For meeting the carbon-reduction goal, all 262 employees are getting $100 bonuses. Those within the 13 departments that individually reduced their carbon emission get another $100.


Telluride gondola now a decade old

TELLURIDE – The gondola that connects Telluride, the town, with its sibling town of Mountain Village has now been in operation for 10 years, the first and only such free conveyance. It also provides transportation to some of the ski slopes.

Built at a cost of $16 million, it was modeled on the gondola at Zermatt, Switzerland. The goal was to reduce automobile use, and while there are many complaints about congestion in Telluride, all evidence suggests the gondola has succeeded. It carries upwards of 2.5 million passengers a year. The alternative to the 12-minute ride is a broadly looping drive of about 5 miles.

The gondola, reportsThe Telluride Watch, is a democratic transportation system. “There is not one economic class, age group, social class or type of visitor that doesn’t use the gondola,” says Michael De Leon, a marketing associate with the town of Mountain Village.

Although Mountain Village has been caricaturized as a modern-day ghost town, because of its high proportion of second-home owners, it is now far more lively than it was in the early 1990s, residents tell The Watch.


Golf courses challenged in Jackson

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Columnist Jonathan Schechter says he has nothing against golf. He plays once or twice a year. But he sees the proliferating golf courses in Jackson Hole producing no long-term good.

Whereas one golf course existed 20 years ago, today there are seven, with several more planned. This baffles Schechter, who points out that golfing is stagnant as a sport. Nationally, more golf courses actually closed last year than opened. The only premise for golf in mountain valleys is as a conduit for selling real estate.

OK, so what’s wrong with that? Because, like so many other things, the valleys on both sides of the Teton Range “seem to be hell-bent-for-leather to make ourselves increasingly like every place in America,” says Schechter.

“We’re allowing – if not encouraging – the rapid development of those same get-‘em-anywhere amenities that you can, by definition, get anywhere, without really asking ourselves about the consequences. For instance, if we approve a zillion golf courses, can we claim to be shocked when our community character starts being informed by a country club mentality?”

Three lanes land on Berthoud Pass

WINTER PARK – After seven years, the highway across Berthoud Pass is now three-laned all the way from Winter Park to where it connects with Interstate 70 about a half-hour west of Denver.

Daring drivers can gain 20 to 30 minutes now that they can scoot past trucks and other slower-moving traffic on the 11,315-foot crossing of the Continental Divide. Equally important is the perception of reduced difficulty when traveling the hairpin-turn knotted highway.

Winter Park and other Grand County interests had lobbied for decades to widen the highway. The pass had been the original highway from Denver to the Western Slope, and it was also the first Continental Divide crossing in Colorado to be kept open through winter, beginning in 1938. A ski area at Berthoud Pass and then another at Winter Park were among the first in Colorado.

With the I-70 corridor now both expensive and crowded, developers have turned their attention to the Winter Park-Granby area. Intrawest is expanding the base-area condominiums and shops at the Winter Park ski area.


Banff broadens ban on idling cars

BANFF, Alberta – The anti-idling restrictions for commercial vehicles in Banff are being expanded to the entire townsite. Before, the restrictions applied to just a few small downtown areas.

Municipal councilors adopted the ban in response to complaints from residents. How they will enforce the ban, however, is another matter. One dissenting councilor called it a “feel-good thing,” but the broader view was that the town should do what it can to preserve environmental quality.

Both Whistler and Jasper have idling restrictions applicable to commercial vehicles. Aspen and Telluride also have all-encompassing idling restrictions, three to five minutes in the case of Aspen.

Ideas Festival already half sold out

ASPEN – The Aspen Ideas Festival last July was a big hit. One household name after another stopped by to chat about big ideas: the Clintons, Colin Powell, Katie Couric, newspaper columnists, CEOs, and on and on.

Indeed, the six-day festival was such a success that it’s already half-sold out for next summer. Organizers, reportThe Aspen Times, expect up to 1,300 passholders to hear thoughts about the energy future, China and the arts, among a few dozen other topics. A four-day event pass goes for $2,000.

Quartz trumps granite countertops

TELLURIDE – Granite countertops have been de rigeur for high-end homes for many years. But theTelluride Daily Planet reports it’s not enough at a spanking-new house that bills itself as “high-tech Telluride.”

There, countertops are made of quart and the entry is keyless. Lights are operated by a matrix-like keypad. And flat screens seem to be on every wall and in every corner. “This is the home of the dedicated technophile or, quite possibly, Captain Kirk,” notes the newspaper.

– 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