Affordable housing dynamic shifting

FRISCO – As real estate prices have dropped, the one-time frantic demand for affordable housing has receded but not entirely disappeared.

“It’s not the frantic demand it was for anything within the attainable price range,” said Jennifer Kermode, using the term that in Summit County is favored over “affordable.” She directs the Summit Combined Housing Authority, and she said demand remains high for people who have incomes at 100 percent of the area median income. In Summit County, that’s $85,100 for a family of four.

Demand has declined among those in the 120 to 140 percent, she told theSummit Daily News, as people have left Summit County – or possibly, think they may be able to buy housing that is not deed-restricted.

The target in Summit County, which includes Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne and other towns, is to augment the existing 770 attainable housing units with 2,500 more.

Several projects hope to nudge Summit County toward that goal, theDaily News reports. Breckenridge has a 42-unit project called Valley Brook, which will be available to people who make 80 to 120 percent of the median income. Young start-up families are responsible for most reservations.

A larger project in Frisco of 72 duplexes and single-family homes aims for an even broader income spectrum, up to 160 percent of median income. The contract gives the land to the development team, which includes David O’Neil, developer of the New Urbanist-style Wellington Neighborhood in Breckenridge.

The town has also agreed to waive certain fees, to keep costs down. Town officials hope for ground-breaking in April. The development team more cautiously asks to be given 10 years to complete the project, instead of the four years normally allowed when a development is authorized.

Ski resorts segregate uphill skiers

WHITEFISH, Mont. – Ski area managers at Whitefish Mountain Resort intend to restrict uphill travel.

The new policy will likely designate a so-called “summit route” on one of the ski area’s most popular groomed runs, reports theWhitefish Pilot. The policy would also allow uphill climbers only from early morning until the final sweep by ski patrollers.

Ski areas officials tell the newspaper that in crafting this policy, they are seeking to strike a balance in reducing the risk to skiers while still providing mountain access to the uphillers.

The policy mirrors that of one recently adopted at Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor, where a designated summit route was established. Use can be restricted because of grooming, avalanche control and other reasons.

“The amount of uphill traffic has grown rapidly in the last few years,” said Alex Kaufman, a spokesman for Mt. Bachelor. “More uphillers equal more conflicts with downhill traffic that may not see or anticipate them. Also, there were conflicts and safety concerns with winch-cat grooming and avalanche-control operations.”

The newspaper interviewed Tim Thomas, from a shop in Whitefish that sells free-heeled ski gear. Sales, he said, have spiked in recent years.

“I think there is a large demographic that doesn’t want to invest in a ski pass and who spends most of their time in the backcountry,” he said. “But when they are short on time, skinning up Big Mountain is a very convenient thing to do. They have 2,500 vertical feet of skiing at their fingertips.”

Uphillers interviewed by the newspaper were of mixed thoughts. “It would stink,” said one skier. But another, Alyssa Jumars, saw the reason for restrictions. “On a day like Presidents’ Day, when it was busy and foggy, skiing up maybe isn’t the smartest thing to do,” she said.

The educated ski bum makes a return

ASPEN – Echoing stories done in 2002, the New York Times heralds the return of the well-educated ski bum. The newspaper tells of an investment banker, an information technology specialist and an international marketing manager who respectively are now selling ski school lessons, monitoring chairlifts, and serving vegetarian fare.

“For well over a decade, many of the people operating lifts and ladling soup into bread bowls at restaurants in Aspen and other resorts had come from Australia, Europe and South America,” says theTimes, seeming to have forgotten about the economic slowdown in 2002-03 when employee housing sat empty and people with master’s degrees were also schlepping coffee and brooming off chairlift seats.

But the change from the last two years is undeniable, and the paper cites statistics: Only 15 percent of Aspen’s staff is from overseas this winter compared to 26 percent in a previous season. Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has six employees from overseas this winter compared with 200 just two years ago. And Vail Mountain has 60 percent fewer foreign employees.

Some of the highly educated are jazzed to be in Aspen, but others are … well, they’ll be glad to return to their cubicles and visiting Aspen and the other ski towns as well-heeled tourists.

Ouray librarian reflects on Salinger

OURAY – As it turns out, there was a connection between the late fiction writer J.D. Salinger and the mountain town of Ouray.

That connection runs through a former librarian in Ouray, Mary Anne Dismant, who in 1975 was recoiling from the tumult of the 1960s with thoughts of leaving her husband and becoming a nun.

She did neither, as she confides toThe Telluride Watch columnist Peter Shelton, but she did write to Salinger, imploring him to continue his writing, which gave her some comfort.

Salinger responded with a letter, in which he wrote, “I wonder, though, if it mightn’t do, amount to a little something in the right direction, if I tell you straight out truthfully that about all I seem to know for sure about my professional writing is that it tends to get done in its own time and possibly no other way. The whole thing has baffled me mightily, sometimes almost unbearably, ever since I started out. I work, I can tell you, and I care very much how it goes. Thanks very much for your letter.”

As for the former librarian Dismant, she stayed with her husband, continued to journal, and now has a book calledGrowing Up in Denver 1944-1957: A Memoir.

Ridgway enjoys lack of light pollution

RIDGWAY – Ridgway, with its hay fields set against the grand views of the San Juan Mountains, is one of the prettiest places in the West. And, because of its relative distance from ski resorts (Telluride is about an hour away), interstate highways, and airports, it still has a relatively small population.

Still, like everybody, the locals would like to grow their economic pie. TheTelluride Watch says that economic consultant Deanne Sheriff recently told the local chamber that one thing Ridgway and nearby Ouray have going for them is that very lack of development but also regulations limiting light-pollution.

“Did you know there are three universities looking for a place for observatories,” she asked. “You have an advantage.”

Noon whistle may return to Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – At least since the 1920s, Steamboat Springs has had a whistle that blew at noon and sometimes for other purposes, such as to summon volunteer firefighters.

Two years ago, though, the whistle was removed because the supporting post was rotting. Now, Steamboat hopes to have a whistle again. “It’s part of our community character,” said Tracy Barnett, executive director of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs.

The group has raised $5,000, enough to buy a whistle that sounds like a train. But the group hopes to get a larger kitty in order to get a more authentic steamboat whistle, which has a lower pitch, reports theSteamboat Pilot & Today.

Locals tell the newspaper that they believe the whistle was originally designed to summon firefighters, who thought a noon-hour venting would be appropriate in order to daily test whether it was working. In the 1950s, the use of the whistle was changed to an ear-shattering siren and used to practice Cold War-era drills.

Distilleries popping up in Park City  

PARK CITY, Utah – Several months ago a whiskey-maker called High West Distillery opened in Park City. Now, plans are being reviewed for a business that wants to create a vodka distillery.

The distiller would be at a restaurant and health club called Club Lespri. The goal, said club founder Scott Rogers, is to create a vodka that is far superior to mass-produced vodkas. “The smaller the still, the more hands-on, the better product you’ll get,” he toldThe Park Record.

– 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