Crested Butte plays Telluride card

CRESTED BUTTE – Telluride is now being cited as evidence in favor of the ski area expansion in Crested Butte.

For the last five years the ski area has been arguing for an expansion onto Snodgrass Mountain, the better to attract and then retain destination skiers.

Right now, Crested Butte cannot compete with destination resorts that have 3,000 to 7,000 acres of intermediate terrain, says John Norton, the special consultant to the ski area. A survey done by Colorado Ski Country USA found Crested Butte ranks fifth from the bottom in intermediate terrain, sandwiched by Eldora and Monarch.

Crested Butte, said Norton at a recent public meeting covered by theCrested Butte News, “has performed more poorly than any other ski resort in Colorado because of the dearth of intermediate terrain.”

Backing up Norton at a recent community meeting was Ken Stone, the resort’s new chief marketing officer who previously was at Telluride. Stone said that Telluride has prospered because of ski area expansions that included intermediate terrain. That expansion, he said, has helped Telluride increase its market share within Colorado and insulated it from bad snow seasons.

“The real growth was in the longer length in stay and attracting a different customer,” he said.

Twenty years ago Crested Butte averaged 300,000 skier days each winter, while Telluride had only 175,000. Those numbers have flipped.

Unusual among ski towns, Crested Butte has a stronger economy in summer than during the winter. The perceived anemia of the ski economy seems to be a hot-button issue, as evidenced by the concerns expressed by Town Council candidates.

The town also recently took action to limit the proliferating real-estate shops on the town’s main retail drag. Whether the real-estate offices are symptom, or a cause, of the flagging economy, as one speaker in Crested Butte noted this past summer, it is notable that Crested Butte’s summer economy these days is stronger than its winter economy.

Firm goes on ski resort spree

RED LODGE, Mont. – The ski area and golf course at Red Lodge have been sold to San Francisco-based JMA Ventures. What this portends for Red Lodge wasn’t immediately clear, although the new owner clearly has the means to upgrade the ski area. Expansion of snowmaking is a top priority.

Rob Ringer, the ski area manager, told theBillings Gazettethat debt had been reduced to a manageablelevel, but the ski area remained undercapitalized. “This deal will raise capital and make those things happen. But it won’t happen overnight,” he said.

The ski area opened in 1960 as Grizzly Peak, then became Red Lodge Mountain. It is located at the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, about an hour’s drive from Billings.

JMA owns San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square and in the last year purchased two ski areas at Lake Tahoe, Alpine Meadows and Homewood Mountain. The company plans to upgrade Homewood and also build base-area real estate, including a boutique hotel and 120 multifamily and single-family residences.

The Gazette notes that the company, in a newsletter issued in June, stated its intentions to “raise the bar for responsible resort development in the Western United States.” There are no plans to develop beyond the existing footprint at Homewood, and plans include use of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

In Montana, skepticism about the change at Red Lodge was evident among anonymous bloggers on theGazette’s website. Some contributors saw the new investors as tainted by their California base. “I don’t like Kalifornians moving to our state and/or buying up pieces of our state,” said one. “Kalifornians do not have the same values or attitudes Montanans have.”

Others expressed fear the ski area would be upscaled, and the locals made unwelcome – the perceived path of Aspen, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, Vail and Park City.

But other bloggers were more accepting. “Ringer is right on when he says the hill has been crippled by debt and undercapitalized,” said one blogger. “So what if the new buyers are a California-based company? Their dollars are green, just like ours.”

Vacation and affordable clash

ASPEN – Christmas is just around the corner, at least for those in ski towns hoping to rent their homes during the lucrative holiday week.

In Aspen, that included a resident of one deed-restricted affordable housing condominium, who was discovered offering the unit for $5,000 per week in a website posting. Such short-term rentals are prohibited.

Officials were chagrined by this news in Aspen and Pitkin County, where building more affordable housing remains a top priority. That effort is damaged by the perception that existing affordable housing is being abused, notes theAspen Daily News. The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority manages 2,700 units of both rental and for-sale housing.

The rules are that the occupant cannot own another property in the Roaring Fork Valley, must live in the unit usually nine months or more per year minimum, and work in Pitkin County.

The agency is doubling its budget for enforcement, to $450,000 per year, but operates only on complaints. “We don’t do bedroom checks,” said Cindy Christensen, manager of housing office operations.

Boutique hotel aims for highest end

VAIL – Vail Resorts got a free advertisement on the front page of theDenver Post business section on Monday. The story was about Arabelle, the new boutique hotel in Vail that is being completed. It has 36 hotel rooms and 67 condominiums.

Arabelle oozes with the ornate architecture described as Old World, the theme currently sweeping the resorts. Some $250 million of real estate altogether, it’s modeled upon buildings in Prague, Innsbruck and Munich.

Vail is thick with five-star lodging properties, but Vail Resorts claims a distinction at Arabelle. Rooms during mid-winter will cost $1,300 to $1,400 per night, and in summer at $450 to $500. And for this, guests will get butlers or, to be more precise, personal concierges.

But where will these butlers come from? As required by Vail town authorities, the company is responsible for providing 144 beds of employee housing, notes theVail Daily. The company has offered to buy one existing employee-housing complex or, if that fails, to pay an in-lieu fee of $17 million.

Peak named in soldiers’ memory

SALIDA – After many years of work, Bruce Salisbury has realized his dream of having a mountain peak named to memorialize U.S. soldiers killed in action (KIA) or missing in action (MIA).

The new Mt. KIA-MIA is located on an 11,293-foot peak along the Continental Divide between Salida and Gunnison, explainsColorado Central Magazine.

Salisbury, a retired military officer now living in Aztec, N.M., first proposed to rename Sheep Mountain near Telluride, one of 29 mountains in Colorado so-named. Ute Indians of the region seemed to concur, but commissioners in San Miguel County, where the mountain is partly located, did not. The idea went no further. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which has say-so, normally seeks consensus for new names from local authorities.

Despite being on the Continental Divide, this new nomination is entirely within Saguache County. The peak previously bore no name – although nearby is another peak named – you guessed it – Sheep Mountain.

Everest skier heeds monk’s advice

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Last year, Kit DesLauriers skied from the summit of Mt. Everest. Others had done so before, but she was the first to ski from the summit of the high mountains on all seven continents.

But while traveling to the mountain, she had talked with a Buddhist monk, who gave her advice that stuck: “You must have the kindness of other beings at the root of your reason, for only then will you find continued success,” said the monk, Lama Gieshe.

She vowed after her success on Everest to help others less fortunate than herself pursue personal balance, worthy projects and self-fulfillment. Recently, using money from her own benefactor, who remains unnamed, she has awarded $18,000 to eight applicants.

Recipients include an 18-year-old who will get $500 for violin lessons and a Jackson Hole couple who got $4,000 for a Habitat for Humanity mission in El Salvador.

–  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