Western real estate starts to thaw

PARK CITY, Utah – More news is indicating that real estate markets are beginning to rebound. Through September, sales in the Park City area were down 34 percent from 2008. The picture looks much better than early this year when sales were down 75 percent, notesThe Park Record.

“We’ve made up some ground,” said Lincoln Calder, president of the Park City Board of Realtors. “But we’re not out of the woods yet.”

TheAspen Times reports much the same story in the Roaring Fork Valley. “The general mood in the valley is that things are improving, and the numbers are starting to confirm this,” B.J. Adams, co-owner of B.J. Adams and Co., said in a newsletter. From the peak in early 2007 to the trough in early 2008, sales activity fell 69 percent, said Michael Adams, president and co-owner of the same company. “Sales have now bounced back 23 percent.”

In Park City, the larger story was of a drop in prices, with a median sales price 30 percent less than last year. But prices of single-family homes have declined far less than condominiums.

Meanwhile, hope grows for the tourism sector. Ralf Garrison, head of Mountain Travel Research Project, said advance reservations for January and February look positive, if hotel room rates have been substantially discounted.

In Aspen and Snowmass, advance reservations have been picking up. Still, Aspen Skiing Co. officials say it will be “difficult” for the company to even remain flat with last year – and last year was down 7.3 percent. The company’s best hope is for a good snow year and a strong finish. The start of ski seasons looks like a fizzle.


Diversion debate continues in Fraser

FRASER – Another chapter heading was marked last week in the long-simmering conversation about the Fraser River, one of Colorado’s most coveted waterways.

The river drains the valley from Winter Park to Granby. After completion of a railroad tunnel in 1928, Denver began diverting waters from the valley, enabling the post-World War II boom in population.

But Denver’s diversion and smaller takes by other municipalities remove 50 to 60 percent of the native flows of the Fraser. Denver for several years has been contemplating taking more water. It has rights, under Colorado law governing water use, but activist groups say this increased diversion would mean more than 80 percent of the Fraser’s flows will be depleted.

Although Denver contends that latter statistic is inflated, the point remains that even less water will remain in an already heavily dewatered stream. And that, says Trout Unlimited and other advocacy groups, has consequences.

“Multiple water diversions have pushed the Fraser River to the brink of collapse,” contends Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “This is a river on life support.”

Trout Unlimited and other groups don’t oppose the additional diversions, but they do want modifications. Similar to what is now occurring in the Grand Canyon, they want to see sustained peak flows at key times of the year, to mimic what happened before diversions began. They also want limits to how much can be diverted at any given time, so as to ensure sufficient water for fish and the food that fish eat. “I don’t know that we’re necessarily married to any one thing,” said Becky Long, of the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

Long said Denver has done much to improve conservation of existing water supplies since the drought of 2002. Per capita use has declined 18 to 19 percent. But changes of a similar or even greater magnitude might well be possible, she said, diminishing the need for further diversions from the Winter Park area.

Denver also has outlined several mitigating initiatives.


Banff rethinking the role of parks

BANFF, Alberta – Banff has been asked to rethink both the role of national parks and the future of the tourism industry.

One prod for this deep-thinking is a proposal to host a triathlon within Banff National Park next year. Organizers expect 750 athletes the first year, and as many as 1,500 in coming years.

Banff already hosts dragon boat and bicycling festivals. Stuart Back, director of in-resort services for Banff Lake Louise Tourism, said the triathlon would be part of a series sponsored by Subaru.

Jim Pissot, Canada’s field representative of Defenders of Wildlife, said he doesn’t consider the event a coup. “The guidelines seem to be that if breathing people do it, and it can generate more local revenue, it must be an appropriate special event,” he told theRocky Mountain Outlook.

Tourism officials want to schedule more events at Banff and other national parks. Bruce Okabe, the new chief executive of Travel Alberta, recently warned that Alberta will face stiff competition from new resorts in British Columbia. Okabe, who formerly worked in British Columbia, said the resorts altogether would amount to $7 billion in development.

“These are all competitors to Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, and we have to stay in the game and level the playing field,” he said.

Andrew Campbell, director of external relations and visitor experience for Parks Canada, the federal agency that manages the national parks, told the newspaper that a new vision is needed for the parks. City dwellers and new Canadians do not see the relevance of the national parks, he said. As well, the number of Americans and other international visitors has declined, he said.

Exactly the opposite has been happening in the United States. Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, for example, reported record-breaking numbers of visitors this year.


Ophir nixes medical marijuana

OPHIR – Small, high and isolated, Ophir is also strapped for money. But the town has decided that it won’t attempt to increase revenues by becoming a dispensary for medical marijuana.

An off-the-cuff remark by a trustee in the town of about 100 people south of Telluride caused the town manager, Jason Wells, to follow up with research about just what would be entailed. At their most recent meeting, the trustees unanimously formally put the kibosh on the idea.

Ironically, the trustees decided they do want to replace Wells with a lower-priced model. Wells works full time for $52,000 a year, doubling as town attorney and town manager. But the trustees think they should be able to get somebody to do the job for perhaps $40,000, reports theTelluride Daily Planet.


Town considers crab apple fine

BANFF, Alberta – Banff town officials have been discussing whether to fine people who leave crab apples on their trees, attracting bears. Across the Continental Divide in British Columbia, the Village of Radium Hot Springs recently took the bold step of authorizing a $200 fine.

Banff has 30 to 40 crab apple trees and also a significant number of bears. Officials with Parks Canada, the federal agency that administers Banff National Park, said that bears are drawn by the apples, then hit the harder stuff – garbage.

For now, Banff officials seem to be content with what is called an educational campaign. But the field forces in that campaign say the results have been mixed when going door to door. Some people just don’t think it’s a problem.


Bars get bad news from Olympics

WHISTLER, B.C. – Will bars in Whistler be allowed to remain open until 3 a.m. during the Winter Olympics in February? Not unless somebody figures out how to provide security for the additional hour of merriment, reportsPique Newsmagazine. Editor Bob Barnett clearly thinks it’s a preposterous debate to be having, given that $900 million has been appropriated for security during the Olympics. “There’s been no expense spared to keep the skies, the sea, the highway and the backcountry free of missiles, amphibious landings, rock slides and ground force assaults,” he writes. “Yet Whistler bars may not stay open an extra hour. It boggles the mind.”

– 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