Vail courts the next generation

VAIL – From all the construction cranes in Vail, you wouldn’t know a major recession is under way. A new Four Seasons hotel is rapidly rising, as is a condominium project called Solaris. Both were conceived during the brighter economic times of the last decade. But each one has required a number of years to get approvals, financing, or both.

Meanwhile, Vail Resorts seems to foresee an end to this recession. For several years it has been acquiring property on the fringes of the main resort areas. There, it intends to construct a new gondola to Vail Mountain and create a major, 11-acre project called Ever Vail.

John Garnsey, co-president of the company’s mountain division, told a group in Vail recently that Ever Vail represents his company’s effort to create a real-estate product for people who are now in the 25- to 35-year-old range.

“Vail is the best ski mountain and the best ski town,” he said. “But everyone is trying to figure out how to capture the next generation. We’re going to be left at the curb if we don’t, and Ever Vail will help us do that.”

The company is investing heavily in new, green-thinking designs. Company officials in the past have said they intend to create a project able to get platinum designation, the highest of four levels of certification under the LEED program.

TheVail Daily reports that two traditional issues, affordable housing and parking, worry town officials as they inspect the company’s plans for the $1.5 billion project. The officials worry that the project won’t provide enough of either.


Traffic congestion returns to I-70

SILVER PLUME – Without even looking out the door, you can tell it’s ski season in Colorado. The complaints are rising once again about the congestion of Interstate 70 between Denver and Summit County.

“Visualize tail lights,” says Rob Witwer, a retiring state legislator in Colorado. Writing inThe Denver Post, he says it’s questionable whether Colorado could mount a credible bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2018 given existing conditions. “Do we really believe the International Olympic Committee would favor a location with such an overburdened infrastructure?” he asks.

On a snowy weekend, with traffic backed up for miles to the twin bores through the Continental Divide called Eisenhower and Johnson, there’s no end of blame to go around. Breckenridge resident Bill Doig blames cars without good snow tires. “Ticket and fine heavily the bozos who slide around on bald and inadequate rubber,” he fumes in a letter published in the Summit Daily News.

Michael Penny, the Frisco town manager, tells theRocky Mountain News of plans to make traffic information available on changeable signs at resort lift stations and by text messages to cell phones. The purpose, he says, is to allow skiers to decide to ski until traffic improves, or perhaps leave early to beat the rush back to Denver.

Are high-speed trains the answer? The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority is about halfway through its study of potential trains for both the I-70 and I-25 corridors in Colorado. Many different options remain on the table.


Climate takes back seat to economy

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions has been called the greatest challenge of our times. But at least in Canada, it will have to wait.

“We will not aggravate an already-weakened economy in the name of environmental progress,” said Jim Prentice, minister of environment for the Canadian government.

Prentice spoke at a forum held in Lake Louise in conjunction with the World Cup ski races. The theme this year, as last, was climate change, and Prentice acknowledged climate change is the “pre-eminent environmental issue of our time.” What is needed, he said, is an “acceptable balance between measurable environmental progress and steady economic growth and prosperity.”

TheRocky Mountain Outlook says that former California Governor Pete Wilson also spoke at the forum, and he said that California’s front-edge politics regarding energy use have gone too far. “There is a need for a kind of realism to be expressed, but California is not waiting,” said Wilson.

Wilson advocates nuclear power but is dubious of carbon-sequestering technology, which would allow the abundant coal resources to continue to be used. Sequestering of carbon,

however, has so far defied efforts of any broad, large-scale applicability.

Marlo Raynolds, executive director of the Pembina Institute, a climate-action group in Canada, told reporters that a carbon tax is badly needed. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, in an interview in Newsweek, is calling for the same thing, to be balanced by a reduction in payroll taxes.


Real estate sales tank in Telluride

TELLURIDE – Telluride’s real estate economy is seriously in the tank. The town collected $18,000 in real-estate transfer taxes during the month of November. That compares with an average of $387,000 per month for the five previous Novembers, a 95 percent decline.

Although sales tax collections haven’t dropped as severely, town manager Frank Bell is calling for reductions in spending and a 25 to 50 percent drop in revenues this winter. Bookings for the winter are currently running 25 percent below last year’s banner ski season, notesThe Telluride Watch.

For employees at town hall, credit cards will be reined in, travel will require special approval, and overtime pay will be banned, except for emergencies and snow removal. Presumably, lack of overtime for snow removal would provoke an even greater emergency.


CB tries to save sheds and outhouses

CRESTED BUTTE – Part of the charm of Crested Butte is its gaily painted Victorian storefronts. But to get a better sense of Crested Butte’s grimy past, you need to walk the alleyways and visit the empty lots, where a great many coal bins, outhouses and sheds, many of them graying and rotting, can be seen.

To ensure the manifestations of yesteryear remain, the town is now looking at incentives and penalties for property owners. The goal is to ensure the old buildings aren’t deliberately torn down, and that some efforts are made to keep them standing.

 “I think one of the things about Crested Butte that’s special is the outbuildings,” building official Bob Gillie recently told the Town Council. “Those buildings, like the coal sheds, say a lot about the history of Crested Butte.”

Council members, reports theCrested Butte News, are leery of over-reaching in their efforts to preserve the past. But they are also reminded that some other communities, such as Telluride, now wish more relics of the past had been preserved, and are keen on applying those lessons to Crested Butte.


Ketchum diversifies its economy

KETCHUM, Idaho – While Ketchum continues its efforts to rebuild a tourism economy, it has taken a step in another direction. A company that creates reagents and antibodies for scientific researchers has set up shop in the town in quarters once occupied by Scott, the ski and bike manufacturer

Most of the company’s 23 employees already lived in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, said the company’s founder, Dr. John Stephenson. “We have no problem finding people here, and by hiring locally it means less turnover because they already know they like the area,” he told theIdaho Mountain Express.

Stephenson has a house in Ketchum and has been visiting for more than 20 years to ski and hike. He expects to get in 100 days of skiing this winter. As for housing costs for employees, he says the costs are no higher than in San Francisco and San Diego, where his competitors are based.


Tahoe casinos ponder smoking ban

LAKE TAHOE, Nev. – Can casinos on the Nevada side of the border at Lake Tahoe tell their customers to butt out? One already has.

“This was a pure business decision,” explained Scott Tate, general manager of the Fernley Nugget, which opened Nov. 5. He told theTahoe Daily News that smokers have access to a patio. “I’m not a proponent of a smoke-free environment as much as I’m a proponent of choice,” he said.

Other casino operators, however, aren’t ready to ban smoking, which is still legal at casinos in Nevada. “From a personal view, I would be all for (a ban), but I don’t want to be the first kid on the block to try it,” said Bill Wood, general manager of the Crystal Bay Casino.

– Allen Best


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows