Compromise afoot in Crested Butte

Mt. CRESTED BUTTE – Ski area officials in Crested Butte seem to finally be accepting that they’re not going to build a ski resort on Snodgrass Mountain, at least not the traditional type with multiple lifts.

For nearly 30 years, the ski area operators have been trying to expand Crested Butte Mountain Resort, using the moderate slopes of Snodgrass, located across the valley from the existing ski area. Community opposition and inertia by the operators themselves twice before foiled the expansion plans.

A decade ago, ski area owns began pushing again for the expansion. They insisted they needed more intermediate terrain to be able to compete with places like Aspen, Summit County and Vail. For visitors, most of whom had intermediate-level skills, the ski area was boring after a few days.

But the community remained divided, and the Forest Service last year said it didn’t want to get involved in the spat. To the indignation of the ski area operators, the agency refused to accept the proposal.

Now, after meeting with the agency’s representatives recently, ski area officials seem to accept there will be no “traditional” lift-served resort on Snodgrass, reports theCrested Butte News.

“The Forest Service made it clear they don’t foresee traditional skiing on Snodgrass, but in the end they are open to looking at new options with us,” said Ken Stone, the chief operating officer at the ski area.

“We are going to look at this through a new set of goggles,” Stone added. “We want to separate ourselves from other resorts.”

Stone went on to say that the ski area sees alternatives, including gravity-fed mountain biking, snowcat skiing, and some sort of expanded backcountry skiing.

“Longer term, alpine touring is a growing part of the ski market, and we can bring that in more,” said Stone. “We do think there are still ways to get intermediate skiers over on Snodgrass. There is a lot of intermediate terrain over there.”

The News says it’s still possible a ski lift could be built on the mountain, although the circumstances are not clear.

Meanwhile, ski area officials have now turned their attention to carving additional intermediate terrain out of the existing ski mountain, which is laden with black-diamond and double black-diamond runs.

Aspen hydro plant stalled by concerns

ASPEN – Aspen officials have at least temporarily slowed their review of a small hydroelectric plant. The hydroelectric plant, as originally proposed, would save Aspen $41,000 a year in electricity costs and expand the carbon-free portfolio from the existing 75 percent to about 80 percent.

But people who live along the creek say that the amount of the water diverted would be unacceptable. Waterflows for a 2.5-mile segment of Castle Creek would be reduced to just 14 cubic feet per second for half the year, instead of the current two months per year. TheAspen Times reports that city officials are now talking about a compromise, no less than 19 cfs.

The project had seemed like a low-impact way to reduce the city’s carbon footprint – and also a return to roots. Aspen had a hydroelectric plant from 1893 - 1958 but ceased operations when coal-fired generation as well as power from big dams became somewhat cheaper.

But Ken Neubecker, former president of Colorado Trout Unlimited, cautions against assuming small hydropower projects have no impacts. “Hydropower has a long history of good intentions now standing in the middle of decimated rivers,” he says. “You just have to point at the Columbia (River), for crying out loud, not to mention all the others.”

He added: “Hydropower – yeah, it’s renewable. But it does a lot of damage if you don’t do it right.”

Lodging decline sinks airline seats

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – After room rates ratcheted down, lodging tax collections declined 35 percent in Steamboat Springs over the last two years. And that means fewer plane seats available to future customers.

The lodging tax is a key funding source for the airline program. Like several other resorts, including Vail and Telluride, Steamboat Springs provides money to airlines if the airlines do not carry enough passengers.

Last year Steamboat cut back the number of available seats by 13 percent, and a similar cut is planned for this coming winter. But Sandy Evans-Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, warns against cutting back too much, because fewer tourists will then mean less lodging revenues, and hence a downward spiral.

TheSteamboat Pilotreports that local officials are considering whether additional tax revenues can be lined up. The marketing district, which arranges the flights, is using $500,000 of its $1 million reserve fund for this winter’s flights.

Schwarzenegger vetoes ski safety

TRUCKEE, Calif. — California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed legislation that would have imposed the toughest ski safety standards in the United States.

The law would have mandated ski resorts to prepare annual safety plans. Proponents say the move would have given consumers more information in deciding whether to ski and snowboard.

“By obtaining data specific to the ski resorts, individuals and families would have been able to make informed decisions about their own snow sport experiences,” said Dr. Dan Gregorie.

Schwarzenegger, according to theSierra Sun, said that the bill might “place an unnecessary burden on resorts, without assurance of a significant reduction in ski and snowboard-related injuries and fatalities.”

Banff starts sorting through trash

BANFF, Alberta – Commercial properties in Banff will have to start sorting their garbage if they want to save money. The municipality has instituted a new system for businesses, allowing them to sort their waste into separate containers for food matter, cardboard and general trash.

Businesses will be charged the most for trash that must be hauled away. The cost of hauling away food will be 20 percent less, and cardboard 40 percent less.

The lesser costs reflect the fact that they don’t have to be put into landfills but can instead be used for composting or recycling. What is left – the true garbage – must be trucked an hour away to a landfill near Calgary, explains theRocky Mountain Outlook.

A lodge manager, Frank Denourden, tells the newspaper that finding space for processing and storing the waste is the largest challenge. Getting staff buy-in was easiest. “If you take the time and work through it and explain to them, it’ll work,” he said.

Vail real estate continues to struggle

EAGLE – The changed fortunes of the economy of Vail and Eagle County are evident at every turn. Just last year, an 11,000-square-foot home at the Cordillera Valley Club, located 10 miles west of Vail, was on the market for $9.5 million. Last Thursday the house was sold by auction. The winning bid was $4.6 million.

For homeowners, thinking they were sitting on bonanzas of ever-escalating property values, this has all come as a shock, of course. But now the waves have hit local governments, who must figure out how to reduce services and costs in response to reduced revenues. Eagle County’s appraised valuation has dropped from $3.5 billion two years ago to $2.5 billion this year.

Whistler now 86% of way to build-out

WHISTLER, B.C. – Already a good-sized place, Whistler can still add another 8,000 beds before it reaches its self-imposed limits.

Municipal planners estimate that the community is 86 percent of the way toward the cap of 61,000 bed units that was drawn up long ago.

But it does seem to be a soft cap.Pique Newsmagazine tells of multiple rezonings over the years that have effectively increased the cap.

– Allen Best


In this week's issue...

March 17, 2022
Critical condition

Lake Powell drops below threshold for the first time despite attempts to avoid it

March 17, 2022
Uphill climb

Purgatory Resort set for expansion but still faces hurdles

March 10, 2022
Mind, body & soul (... and not so much El Rancho)

New health care studio takes integrated approach to healing