Telluride shifts away from real estate

TELLURIDE – After seeing the real estate-based economy crash, Telluride is ready to embrace a visitor-based economy. But just what that visitor-based economy looks like isn’t entirely clear.

TheTelluride Daily Planet reports that a task force has been convened to examine the options.

“Overdependence on housing starts- and housing sales-based economy is not sustainable,” San Miguel County Commissioner Joan May said at a recent gathering devoted to the community’s future economic foundation. “It has not proved to be resilient or sustainable either for the community or the environment.”

But tourism has its deficiencies, too. Mike Rozycki, planning director for the county, questioned whether tourism would furnish the community with enough high-paying jobs to live in Telluride.

Another question involves seasonality. Despite the best efforts, most ski towns remain essentially that. Summer business has perked up, and in some places, the shoulder seasons have become somewhat lively. But winter overshadows all else.

Seth Cagin, publisher ofThe Telluride Watch, says ski resorts within driving distance of major metropolitan areas are different than destination resorts such as Sun Valley and Telluride, which are well off the beaten path.

“Figuring out the model for high-end destination resorts in remote locations – I am not sure anyone has that completely dialed in,” said Cagin. “But I think the recession has provided plenty of evidence that while real estate sales and development will undoubtedly be part of the solution, they can’t be the dominant feature.”

He also said that the dramatic economic decline in Telluride also proves that the community, contrary to its self-perception as a place of enlightenment, still has some things to learn.

Bob Delves, the mayor of Mountain Village, noted that the task force got together on the assumption that “our community is not broken, but it could be.”


New water diversions draw protests

GRANBY – Residents of Middle Park, the area around Winter Park, Grand Lake and Kremmling, where the Colorado River originates, were in no way happy at a recent hearing about potential diversions to metropolitan Denver.

“If you had the opportunity to live with a beautiful river in your back yard, wouldn’t you fight to save every stinkin’ drop?” asked Gary Redfield, referring to the Fraser River, a tributary to the Colorado. “The idea to kill the Fraser River for (Denver’s) future growth is the worst idea I have ever heard.”

Primarily because of its fast-growing suburbs to the south, Denver wants to dip its wick into the valley for an additional 18,000 acre-feet of per year through the Moffat Tunnel.

Already, more than half of the water originating in those headwaters is diverted over or through the Continental Divide to farms and cities from Denver through Boulder, Greeley and Fort Collins.

Redfield, who wants to preserve his backyard river, thinks the better solution is to impose drastic cuts in lawns, which consume the largest portion of municipal supplies. He figures 200 square feet of lawn, or a space of about 10 by 20 feet, should be sufficient for a house. That’s about what is allowed in Las Vegas.

At least some state officials have agreed with Redfield’s general idea, if not his precise limit. And, for the record, Denver has used various devices – a tiered rate structure, rebate programs and educational campaigns – to reduce water use by 22 percent. Denver Water representatives admitted that they can “always do better.” But, they said, Denver cannot simply outlaw lawns.

Lurline Curran, Grand County manager, points out that agreements worked out with Denver Water will actually mean guaranteed water flows, even if the city does take more. “The commissioners are at the table, in negotiations, which in my history with the county, we’ve never been able to have,” she said.


First dispensary opens in Breckenridge

BRECKENRIDGE – Medicine Man, the first medical marijuana dispensary in Breckenridge, has opened for business in an upstairs office along the town’s Main Street. The company offers an array of buds, hash and edibles, such as suckers and brownie balls.

Company employees tell theSummit Daily News that the store is the caregiver for about a half-dozen medical marijuana cardholders. Those strolling in to buy marijuana, however, will be required to fill out an application that is 10 pages long.

In response to the federal government’s decisions not to enforce laws against medical marijuana, Colorado towns have taken a wide array of actions. Some have permitted dispensaries within their towns, others have adopted moratoriums pending adoption of

state rules, while others have flat out banned dispensaries.

Winter Park has banned dispensaries. Town Manager Drew Nelson told theSky-Hi Daily News that this protects Winter Park while awaiting further direction from the state government.

Breckenridge allows dispensaries, but with conditions: none near schools or solely residential properties, and none on the ground floor of a downtown building.

Applications for two more Breck stores have been approved, and two more applications are pending, town officials tell theDaily News.


Five state hotel opens in Deer Valley

PARK CITY, Utah – The St. Regis, a five-star hotel in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods of Deer Valley, has now opened, and company officials insist it is more of an elite property than the St. Regis in Aspen.

How elite? Well, in Aspen, you can drive to the front door. But most visitors to the St. Regis at Deer Valley will be required to take a funicular from the parking lot. Although common in Europe, North America has few funiculars. The device is affixed to a cable and works well for transportation up steep grades.

“It’s not that much different than an elevator, but far more spectacular,” said Michael Zaccaro, managing partner of the ownership group Deer Crest Janna.

There had been some rumors in Park City last summer that the hotel might be in trouble. Like most hotels today, it’s also a real estate play. Zaccaro acknowledged the talk, reports thePark Record, noting that the condominium-hotel industry was “given a black eye by the start of the recession.” But, he added, the financial structure of the hotel is incredibly sound. The closings are now occurring at a rate that has soothed fears.

For Deer Valley, this is the third five-star hotel, with another still in construction. The oldest hotel, the Stein Eriksen Lodge, recently completed a 20,000-square-foot spa.


Whistler unveils low-energy house

WHISTLER, B.C. – The passive-solar house built by Austria in anticipation of the Winter Olympics has been completed and the public allowed inside.

Pique Newsmagazine explains that the house is made primarily of wood, but constructed in a way to prevent heat loss. Windows are triple-glazed, and the doors are more than 4 inches thick and oversized to completely cover the door frame when closed. The building uses geothermal field technology – in the states it’s more commonly called geoexchange or ground-source heat pumps – to heat the building.

The house was made of parts constructed in Austria and shipped to Canada. It’s more pricey than most homes, about $250 to $300 per square foot, but with that incremental cost recouped over time because of lower energy costs.

The Austrians will bequeath the house to Whistler after the Olympics.


Aspen reports high ozone pollution  

ASPEN – In terms of microscopic particulates, Aspen’s air quality is better than many other Colorado ski towns. A new report for 2008 shows Aspen having fewer particulates, called PM-10, than Durango, Crested Butte, Breckenridge or Telluride.

But several Front Range cities, including Boulder, Longmont and Colorado Springs have better readings, as do some sites within Denver itself.

Lee Cassin, Aspen’s environmental health director, said Aspen’s high PM-10 levels are caused almost exclusively by cars and trucks. Starting this winter, reportsThe Aspen Times, city officials will be monitoring ozone. Aspen Mountain showed the highest ozone reading ever measured on the Western Slope.

There may be some link between the ozone and drilling in the gas fields to the west of Aspen, although scientists in similar cases say they just need better data.


Europeans may return to the Rockies

VAIL – Europeans shied away from Vail, Aspen and other international resorts last winter. Will they come this winter, now that the dollar is sagging so significantly against the pound and the euro?

It’s an open question, says Ralf Garrison, co-owner of the Mountain Travel Research Program. A well-publicized snowstorm, however, would go a long ways to drawing the Europeans, he tells theVail Daily.

– 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