Telluride gently pushes new terrain

TELLURIDE – Remember the fire at Vail Mountain in 1998 and the protests about the ski area expansion? At about the same time, Telluride was preparing to do the same thing, if in somewhat smaller increments during the last decade.

Granted, Telluride has edgier terrain, while Vail has been more accommodating to intermediate skiers. But taken together, they represent bookends of the commercial skiing experience that was being called “backcountry lite.”

Now, Telluride continues to gently push for another expansion, this one into an area called Delta Bowl, in the Bear Creek drainage.The Telluride Watch reports that the ski area operator, Telluride Ski and Golf Co., has included a thumbs-up, thumbs-down type question in its online survey.

There’s a fly in the ointment of this expansion plan, however, in the form of an old mining claim. Notorious developer Tom Chapman bought the claim earlier this year and made it known that he wasn’t going to allow skiing on his property.

Chapman has emphasized his point again, insisting that lift-aided skiing operations will inevitably cause people to cross his property, creating a liability issue.

A well-known figure in Colorado, Chapman has been playing this private property rights game for about 20 years, becoming best known for purchasing national forest inholdings; threatening to develop the pristine parcels; and then trading the pieces to the Forest Service for more developable acreage.  

Vail Resorts acquires another ski area

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Vail Resorts has added another ski area, Northstar-at-Tahoe, to its portfolio, paying $63 million. With this ski area, Vail now has four in Colorado, two in California, plus a lodging operation in Wyoming.

The purchase gives Vail Resorts an upper hand in the Truckee-Lake Tahoe area another way to appeal to the 18 million residents of the Bay Area, located only three hours away.

As it has done in Colorado, Vail Resorts offers its Epic Pass for the two California resorts it owns plus another one, Sierra-at-Tahoe. The primary competition for these new linked arms is Squaw Valley.

In all this, California almost seems a colony of Vail. Northstar-at-Tahoe was previously operated by Booth Creek Ski Holdings, a company based in Vail. Sierra-at-Tahoe still is.

The largest real estate developer also comes from the Vail area. East West Partners has 1,000 housing units planned, and after finding a new financing partner, managing director Harry Frampton tells theVail Daily that he believes that the partnership with Vail Resorts will now take Northstar to a higher level.

Despite the economy, Northstar had a substantial increase in business last winter.

Resort valleys push energy upgrades

HAILEY, Idaho – Communities in ski towns and mountain valleys across the West continue to ratchet up expectations for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Hailey, located down-valley from the Idaho resort towns of Sun Valley and Ketchum, has adopted voluntary green-building codes for new homes and remodels.

The recommended upgrades in Hailey would advance conservation and other efficiencies by 10 percent beyond those mandated by the new 2009 International Building Code now being adopted by municipalities and counties.

Hewing to the recommendations would increase the cost of a $300,000 home by $12,000, planners say. But that investment can be recouped within nine years because of lower energy costs.

Is adhering to this recommended code practical?The Idaho Mountain Express consulted one architect, who sees it as cumbersome. But another local architect described it as just a “small baby step” that still falls far short of what needs to be done.

In British Columbia, each resident of Revelstoke pays $3,000 per year in energy costs, according to the study of a consultant. The community has started looking into the idea of providing bio

mass, ground-source geoexchange or other types of renewable fuels for what is called district heating in denser neighborhoods, eliminating the need for each building to have its own heating unit.

Locators start to creep into wilderness

VAIL – When is technology appropriate in wilderness settings? That question has been asked for decades and in various contexts, including the long-standing bicycle/wilderness debate.

What about devices that enable communication with the outside world? A backpacker from Chicago named James Nelson chose to forego any possible communication when he set out on a 31-mile circumnavigation of Mount of the Holy Cross. From conversations with other backpackers in Chicago, he seems to have deliberately chosen not to carry a device called a personal locator beacon, or PLB. Whatever happened to him, nobody knows. Possibly, had he carried a PLB, the story might have been different.

The devices, first authorized in the United States in 2003, have started to become more popular among outdoorsmen, reports theDenver Post.

One outdoorsman compares the devices to the compass. “That not only allowed people to be able to navigate where they couldn’t, but probably also caused a lot of people to get lost because they overstepped their bounds,” says author Mark Scott-Nash, author ofColorado 14er Disasters. “You could draw a similar analogy here.”

Mammoths still surfacing in Snowmass

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Bones of ice-age behemoths continue to emerge from layers of peat and silt at a small reservoir being constructed near Snowmass Village.

As of last weekend, bones and tusks from at least four different mammoths had been identified after a bulldozer operator first noticed something unusual Oct. 15. The tooth of a mastodon has also been recovered.

The discoveries are rare. Just 103 bones of mammoths had been recovered in Colorado prior to the Snowmass discovery, and just three of those belonged to mastodons. Also rare is the elevation: 8,960 feet, the highest ever for the extinct ice-age species in Colorado.The Aspen Times described the find as a “treasure trove.”

The mammoths weighed up to 11 tons and stood 13 feet tall, or about 2 feet taller than elephants in Africa, and had pairs of spiraled tusks.

Curators from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science took ownership of the bones, but agreed with the local water and sewer district to create a cast replica of each of the bones. If there is a full skeleton, it is to be displayed in Snowmass Village.

 Because of the unusual soil composition – a deep layer of peat, sandwiched between silt and clay – the bones have not fossilized.

‘Discounted’ home fetches $31.5 million

ASPEN – Prices may be down considerably, but some very high-end real estate continues to change hands in Aspen and Pitkin County.The Aspen Daily News reports the recent sale of a home for $31.5 million. That’s well below the list price of $60 million when it was completed in 2008 and also below the more recent list price of $47.5 million.

Still, that makes it the most expensive single-family home sales in Pitkin County this year, and one of the highest ever. In past years, sales of $43 million, $37.5 million have been recorded, while earlier this year a $24.5 million sale was documented.

The house being sold has nearly 15,000 square feet, not including a guest house and the eight-stall horse barn.

– 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