Resort town exodus yet to hit

AVON – When the Great Recession arrived, and the real-estate sector of ski towns slowed, predictions began of a mass exodus of people dependent upon real estate and construction.

That was in late 2008, and it may happen yet. But, so far, there is no evidence of streets suddenly vacated, as has happened in the past when energy and mining booms in the West have suddenly gone bust.

In fact, enrollment in public schools of the Eagle Valley – an area that includes Vail, Avon and Eagle – grew substantially this year. That may have included some students who had previously been attending private schools in the valley, but theVail Daily notes that the programs designed for children of immigrants who don’t speak fluent English grew by 250. Total enrollment increase was 450. Enrollment has increased every year since 1997.

The paper also talked with consultant Denny Hill, of Strategic Resources West, which projects enrollment for school districts. Hill told the newspaper that he suspects people haven’t left because there’s really no compelling reason to do so. Every other place out there is in just as bad a shape. While cost of living remains higher in mountain valleys, residents tend to hang on just a little bit longer for fear of losing money when they sell houses and condominiums.

But there is some evidence of decline. Births last year at Vail Valley Medical Center declined by about 100, to 620. Automobile registrations in Eagle County dropped by nearly a thousand, to about 52,000.

What does the future bode for the Vail area and other mountain valleys? “I wish my crystal ball was clear, but this economy has me scratching my head,” says Hill. “There were some places that I didn’t expect to grow, which did, and some others that declined a little bit more than I expected.”

Aspen weathers real estate slump

ASPEN – Although Aspen and Pitkin County were the only ski town markets to post more than $1 billion in sales last year, it’s been a rough ride. Many real estate companies have closed down, and some long-term veterans think that more consolidation is on the way.

“A lot of people (at smaller firms) are holding on, anticipating a quick recovery,” long-time agent Brent Waldron told theAspen Times. Once they realize that isn’t coming, he added, they will likely sign on with larger firms or put their real estate license in the closet and rely on another job.

Another agent, Craig Morris, said he is already seeing real estate agents getting other jobs. “I’ve definitely seen more realtors wearing their (Aspen Skiing Co.) uniforms and waiting tables at night than ever before.”

But in this distress, Marcos Rodriguez sees opportunity. He was born in pre-Castro Cuba, arriving with his family in Miami just before the 1962 Missile Crisis. His father had only $10 to his name. But the family prospered nonetheless, eventually amassing a string of radio and TV stations.

Rodriguez sold the stations in the late 1990s and, at age 40, retired to Switzerland. But he missed America, moved to Aspen, and got entrepreneurial – buying up several radio stations. But, seeing that real estate was a much bigger industry, he got involved in that.

Now, he hopes to pair real estate with his electronic media. “So much of real estate marketing right now is trapped in the 20th century,” he told the paper. “Almost all brokerages seem to be advertising similarly. I’m racking my brain almost daily: ‘How can we reinvent this.”

The Times observes that others in the real estate sector seems to regard Rodriguez with curiosity, but are waiting for him to prove he has something new.

Swimsuit Olympians stir the pot

MINTURN – Four of this year’s U.S. Olympians were featured in theSports Illustratedswimsuit issue, and two of them – Lindsey Vonn, 25, and Clair Bidez, 22 – are from the Vail area.There’s snow in these photos, as they were taken at Whistler. But there’s not a lot of clothing.

Vonn, the odds-on favorite to medal at Whistler moved to Vail when in high school for better training. Bidez, a snowboarder, grew up in Minturn, an old railroad and mining town around the corner, where her father had an electronics store.

The mother, Patty Bidez, accompanied her daughter to Whistler for the photo shoot. “The people were fantastic,” she told theVail Daily. “I think it’s great, and they’re great pictures, but (Clair’s dad) Earle’s jaw dropped when he first saw them. But now even grandpa’s happy.”

The paper also talked with Bidez’s younger brother, Dylan, a competitor on the Dew Tour this winter.

Asked if he’d seen the photos, he replied the way a little brother should: “I looked at about three, and I’d seen enough,” he said.

Immigrants press for legal reform

GRAND JUNCTION – Hundreds of immigrants, including many from ski towns of Colorado, gathered to press lawmakers for immigration reform. They asked for legislation that keeps families together, creates pathways to citizenship for immigrants, and protects workers’ rights.

The Summit Daily News reported that a dozen from Summit County attended.

“As people of faith from across the state, we denounce as inhumane the enforcement measures that have resulted in the separation of families and increased fear in our faith communities,” Ricardo Perez, of the Hispanic Affairs Pastoral Project, told the newspaper.

“Many of the people from Summit have been living here for years and years,” said Brendan Green, of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “They’re valuable employees; they pay their taxes. They’re ready to be part of the political system, and it starts with learning how to do it.”


Micro hydro on the rise in Colorado

BASALT – Town officials in Basalt have been looking into the potential construction of a small hydro plant to produce electricity from the town’s existing water supplies.

Several other towns in Colorado have also been looking into the potential to tap the power of falling water inherent in mountain topography for electricity. Among those towns are Aspen and Telluride. Cortez will soon put online a small hydro plant that taps the power of water coming from a reservoir into the town’s water-treatment plant.

In Basalt, the plant would harness the power of water from a spring that provides the town’s drinking water. The water falls 500 feet from a mountain behind the town, notesThe Aspen Times.

Bill Kane, the town manager, reported that the plant could supply enough electricity to meet the needs of 30 average-sized homes. Whether the town pursues the project seems to depend upon whether it gets a $350,000 grant from the State of Colorado.


Revelstoke base village takes shape

REVELSTOKE, B.C. –  Although the first base village at the new Revelstoke Mountain Resort has yet to get fully developed, a set of brothers are talking about another base village, this time on the north side of Mount MacKenzie, a nearby ski mountain.

“The Greely Creek (the north side) is a passion of ours to see the resort into a European-style ski resort with different villages and to add real character to the whole resort,” brothers Brydon and Jason Roe told theRevelstoke Times Review, teaming up to create one rather unwieldy sentence.

The brothers grew up in Ontario, where their father was a ski school director and they both spent time at ski resorts in Europe and New Zealand. In Revelstoke, they own a variety of properties and vow to stick around for the long haul – which they recognize will be necessary if they hope to see their vision through.

But they like Revelstoke and the new energy there. “You definitely notice a change even in the last five years in Revelstoke, but we’re not even close to seeing what’s going to happen,” said Jason. “We’re just glad to be part of it all.”


Rapid transit on tap in Aspen

ASPEN – A vision of the future is taking shape in Aspen and outlying communities in the Roaring Fork Valley. There, transportation officials are putting together plans for an expanded bus service called bus-rapid transit. Buses are intended to move faster, and riders are to get 14 bus stops where they can wait inside, get real-time electronic indicators about where the bus is located on its route and more niceties. Voters in 2008 approved $25 million in bonds, and the federal government may provide a $24 million grant.

– Allen Best


In this week's issue...

May 11, 2023
Digs for dirt bags

New hostel offers hikers, skiers and other frugal fun hogs place to hang their hats

May 4, 2023
Saving the cemetery

Proposed apartments spur efforts to preserve historical burial grounds

May 4, 2023
Rico reprieve

Small mountain hamlet to remain resort-free, for now