Ski resorts search for silver linings

VAIL – You need go back to only 1998 to find a winter that began more slowly than this one in Colorado. Thanksgiving that year offered prime conditions for climbing 14,000-foot peaks. Snow remained scarce until well into December.

Still, this is a year to remember. The Aspen Skiing Co. provided porkchop dinners for new-hires who hadn’t yet got a paycheck under their belts – and won’t for at least another week, due to the dearth of snow. Such dinners, the company’s Jeff Hanle said, were not available for the part-time ski instructors who sold real estate.

For people who sell real estate, the lack of snow was a silver lining. In Vail, for example, one real estate agent said he was the busiest he’d ever been. People, explained the agent, who wanted to remain anonymous because he feared it would sound like bragging, who can’t ski have more time to shop for real estate.

Vail had ribbons of snow, thanks to snowmaking. After previous drought years, the resort invested heavily in additional snowmaking.

There have been plenty of snowless Novembers in the past. Vail had soup lines for unemployed workers until almost Christmas during the great drought of 1976-77.

The winter of 1980-81 was not only snowless, but also warm.The Denver Posthad photos of lift operators at Steamboat in lawn chairs and Hawaiian shirts.The Breckenridge Journal jokingly ran a photo of somebody skiing on talus with no hint of snow. It wasn’t far from the truth.

But unlike in the past, there may be a new element of jitteriness this year. In drought winters past in the Rockies, global warming was not necessarily embraced. Now, there’s a tendency to ascribe every anomaly to global warming, despite the warning of scientists against ascribing one weather event to the effects of increased greenhouse gases.

If ski towns this year mostly shrugged off the snowless Thanksgiving, there will be increasing jitteriness if the skies stay blue, as is forecast by the National Weather Service, as Christmas approaches.

‘Aspen’ developer double rejected

ASPEN – There’s plenty more talk about a new resort called Aspen – the one in Utah, south of Park City. The developer, a veteran of 30 years of real-estate development in Arizona, says it’s an honest name, given that the property near Heber City is thick with aspen trees.

But the proposal by the developer, Dean Sellers, and 34 other landowners to incorporate the town called Aspen has been rejected by Wasatch County. He tells thePark Record there may be a lawsuit.

Meanwhile, other residents of the affected area are trying to annex into another town, called Daniel, to make sure their land cannot be condemned should Sellers ultimately prevail with his incorporation plans.

One of those aggrieved property owners, Kasey Bateman, called Sellers a “greedy man who wants to make a billion dollars and ride off on his white horse while using us as stepping stones.”

In Colorado, editorial writers forThe Aspen Times had a feast with the initial announcement of a duplicate Aspen.

“The next time you see a fake Rolex dealer, think of the developer of Aspen, Utah,” the newspaper advised. But, added the editorial, there would be problems:

“First off, what will the paparazzi do when they learn they booked a trip to Aspen, Utah? Unless he’s embroiled in a scandal, photos of Donny Osmond sipping a decaf latté at the corner coffee shop won’t pay the bills forUsandPeople magazines.”

Of course, there are already plenty of Aspens – 444, according to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which keeps track of every named meadow, wash, stream and reservoir in the nation. As for populated Aspens, there are only two, however, with the lesser-known Aspen being in the interior of Virginia, too small even to warrant its own website.

Design up for debate in Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C. – A plan to construct a new building in a wooded area of Whistler in anticipation of awards ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics is drawing fire. It is, saysPique columnist Michel Beaudry, an example of Whistler not walking its rather loud sustainability talk.

In fact, the town already has a plaza that will accommodate 18,000 people, and if it’s in the outdoors, so what? Umbrellas make more sense than an expensive building of limited use, he says.

Beaudry also objects to the design of the roof, described by supporters as “iconic.”

For support, he turns to Eldon Beck, the now semi-retired landscape designer from California who is credited with contributing some of the best design that went into Whistler (and many other resorts).

“Good mountain-town design is all about experiencing the senses,” says Beck. “Successful mountain communities celebrate their environment. They find ways of connecting with their natural surroundings – rather than trying to overwhelm it.” That identity for Whistler, he says, is of a village in the forest.

Beck concurs with the assessment of Beaudry (and others) that Whistler’s green talk is less impressive when viewed through the lens of reality. “I’ve heard a lot of talk (about sustainability) in Whistler,” he says. “But so far I’ve seen little action.”

Black Friday lands in Silverthorne

SUMMIT COUNTY – Can there be any doubt that Summit County is becoming ever more like a city? Although it has had factory outlet stories since the 1980s, last year those stores in Silverthorne began participating in the Black Friday phenomenon, when shopping begins well before sunrise.

The first opening was at 5 a.m. last year. This year sales began at midnight, and soon nearly all parking spaces in the vast shopping mall were occupied, reports theSummit Daily News.

The biggest draw for midnight shoppers/skiers was the giveaway of 100 ski passes to nearby Loveland Ski Area.

As for the skiing itself, it has been distinctly marginal, as Thanksgiving skiing is wont to be, with most base existing primarily from snowmaking.

Banff deals with elk infestation

BANFF, Alberta – The elk population around Banff is growing once again, with 220 counted this year compared with 93 only three years ago. The worry is that the elk will, in turn, draw wolves and lions.

This is not new. In the 1990s, elk leisurely congregated in Banff streets and occasionally attacked people – an average eight times a year, notes theRocky Mountain Outlook.

Such problems led to the relocation of elk about five years ago. The working theory now is that the elk are returning to the town’s perimeter in hopes of seeking safety from mountain lions and wolves. If so, it doesn’t always work. Earlier this year, a cougar killed an elk near a playground.

Wildlife officials are doing their best to keep elk in the hinterlands. A 6-foot fence is being erected along the Trans-Canada Highway in an effort to keep the elk north of the town, where they are more likely to be killed by the predators. Jesse Whittington, a wildlife specialist with Banff National Park, says opinions are divided whether 6 feet is enough to contain elk.

Baby boom takes shape near Aspen

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The population continues to rapidly increase in Garfield County, and with it has come a boom in babies. But statistics on about the mothers suggests troubles ahead.

Garfield County serves as a bedroom community for Aspen and, to a lesser extent, Vail. It is also a base for the boom in gas and oil development.

The number of births last year increased 16 percent from the previous year, reports theGlenwood Post Independent.But nearly a third of those giving birth last year had fewer than 12 years of education, and 27 percent were unmarried.

“Moms who have less than a high school education and who aren’t married have a tendency to have greater difficulty in terms of finding the personal assets and the financial assets to raise that baby,” said Sandy Swanson, director of the Family Visitor Programs.

Those statistics were greater for Latino mothers, and less for Anglos. Overall, 44 percent of births last year were to Latinos, and 53 percent to Anglos.

Steamboat lifts demo moratorium

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Several months ago, the Steamboat Springs City Council declared a moratorium on demolition of buildings older than 50 years. But the moratorium was seen by many as a taking of private property rights, and it became a pivotal issue in city elections.

–Allen Best



In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

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