Whistler looks for Olympic spirit

WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler’s Mayor Ken Melamed will go to Greece soon to help retrieve the Olympic flame in preparation for the Winter Games scheduled for Whistler and Vancouver next February. ButPique Newsmagazine reports that the community has a lot of work cut out for it in the intervening four months.

For one thing, Whistler and Vancouver have yet to secure several thousand people to drive buses, cook hamburgers and perform all the other tasks that will be needed when a lot of people descend on their communities. In all, 10,000 workers will be needed to put on the Olympic Games. Many jobs will begin this January, ending when the Olympics close Feb. 28.

The Canadians plan to recruit Australians – which, from newspaper accounts in Colorado, will likely be more available, as the Colorado resorts have dramatically cut back their trans-Pacific recruiting.

But not all Whistler residents are eager to see the Olympics. An incident, seemingly trifle, got broad Canadian attention recently when an Olympic competitor from Calgary got a cold shoulder and little more at a Whistler business.

Bob Barnett, publisher ofPique, said the case at least got Whistlerites thinking about how they feel about the Olympics. For many, he says, the Olympics just haven’t resonated with them.

“We are past the point where Whistlerites can afford to be indifferent to the Olympics,” he writes.


Dollars decline all over the West

VAIL – Double-digit revenue declines continued through the summer in many mountain towns. In Vail, sales tax revenues were down 24 percent during August. In Aspen, retail sales were down 16 percent. In Jackson, Wyo., the decline was 21 percent.

“I think the most important question in all of this is where’s the bottom,” said Bob McLaurin, Jackson’s town manager. “At some point we’re going to have to decide whether to look at additional revenue or if we can live with reduced services. But that’s a decision that’s above my pay grade. That’s a community-wide decision.”

In all these towns and others, the fundamental story has been that visitor numbers are good, even great. But people have been spending less money.


Luxury hotel gets real in Aspen

ASPEN – It’s a sign of the times. For six years, Aspen has negotiated with a developer about the size of a major new hotel at the base of the ski mountain. A major sticking point has been size and mass.

Now there is a new iteration of the proposal. This schematic calls for 140,000 square feet, or 35,000 square feet less than what was proposed in January. There are to be fewer hotel rooms, and those rooms will be just 450 square feet instead of the previously proposed 500. There will also be fewer parking spaces and fewer fractional units.

And finally, Aspen Land Fund II, the developer, describes a different price point. “We’ve changed our minds about what kind of hotel this is … it’s not going to be a five-star hotel, but something lower in category,” said John Sarpa, the development principal. “It’s not going to be the highest of the high.”


Parents object to dual immersion

HAILEY, Idaho – Some parents with children at elementary schools with dual-immersion programs have been moving their children to private schools.The Idaho Mountain Express, after talking with the parents, says some object to Spanish being spoken at the school, while others object to what they consider to be a non-American culture.

Of the 363 students, 160 this year are in the dual-immersion program, in which students are taught in both English and Spanish. Some 61 percent of the students are Hispanic. The newspaper suggested that many of the Hispanics speak Spanish.

“I’m just fed up with dual immersion. We don’t need to speak Spanish. This is America. I may sound like a racist, but that’s too bad.”

As you might expect, the newspaper’s website had a long list of bloggers expressing opinions.


Aspen debates longer runway

ASPEN – Aspen and Pitkin County are starting to debate the merits of extending their airport runway by 1,000 feet.

The airport manager, Jim Elwood, says having a longer runway will allow existing planes to carry more passengers and gear. Planes taking off from the airport must limit the number of passengers when the temperature is 80 degrees or above. But even in winter, because travelers on skiing vacations tend to carry more weight, the number of passengers must sometimes be limited.

Currently, the average “load factor,” or percentage of sold seats, hovers around 70 percent for flights in and out of Aspen, explainsThe Aspen Times.

The newspaper also notes that in the early 1990s, local residents voted against allowing runway work that would have allowed larger aircraft to use the airport.


Whistler opposes rival ski resort

WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler community leaders continue to speak out against a proposed ski resort that would be located near Squamish, about a half-hour to the west. Town leaders want the provincial authorities to go slow, allowing Whistler to rebuild its economy and allowing other resorts in British Columbia to get firmer legs under them, reportsPique Newsmagazine. In a sluggish economy of recent years, Whistler’s hoteliers have deeply discounted their rates


Ketchum limits idling to 3 minutes

KETCHUM, Idaho – Ketchum has adopted a law limiting cars and trucks from idling more than 3 minutes unless stopped at traffic lights, when in construction zones, or in other conditions over which the driver has no control. The city’s aim, reports the Idaho Mountain Express, is to improve air quality.

– 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