Ski resorts prepare for another season

PARK CITY, Utah – This year, ski areas don’t have much in the way of new lifts or terrain to brag about. But they are continuing to tinker.

The Aspen Skiing Co., for example, will keep limited terrain open until sunset on Fridays beginning on March 18. The company has four ski areas in and around Aspen.

The Sun Valley Co. will offer free same-day skiing for people who arrive on flights from Seattle, an offer expected to be extended to other fly-in customers. That’s not what is commonly advised for people coming in from sea-level, because of the lack of acclimatization, but then Sun Valley has a base area of only 5,000 feet – not even as high as Denver.

An exception to the small-margins changes is in Utah, where the Park City resort now called Canyons has a new lift, a new reservoir under construction that will allow snowmaking to be doubled, and finally 300 new skiable acres.

That increment allows Canyons to brag that it’s the third biggest ski area in the United States, as measured by terrain, behind only Colorado’s Vail Mountain and, on the California-Nevada border, Heavenly.

Ski companies seem to believe that business will continue to improve this winter. After skier visits dropped 13 percent two winters ago, they rose 4 percent this last year at Aspen and Snowmass. The company projects an increase this winter of between 2 and 6 percent, reportsThe Aspen Times.

Speaking at a forum in Breckenridge, mountain travel industry analyst Ralf Garrison reported a glass half-full for mountain resorts – better he said than the glass half-empty for other sectors of the economy. He predicts a “modest recovery” during the next two years.”

Two Telluride hotels go into foreclosure

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – Foreclosure proceedings have begun against the developer of Telluride’s new five-star hotels.

The hotels, which are actually in the slope-side town of Mountain Village, are the Capella Telluride and the Inn at Lost Creek. “There aren’t enough stars in the constellation to describe the Capella,” saidTelluride Watch publisher Seth Cagin when the hotel opened two years ago.

The hotels will continue operation this winter, and officials tell the paper that reservations point to a strong season.

But the developer, Robert Levine, of RAL Mountain Village Lodging, says that condominium sales have been insufficient to cover the construction debt.

In a letter to town officials, he explains that the troubles began with the bankruptcy of his firm’s lending partner, Lehman Brothers, and were compounded by the weakened market in tourism and leisure travel that resulted in fewer customers and lower room rates.

The dispute between the lender and the developer, he added, “doesn’t have any affect on the hotel operations.”

High-end housing returns to Vail market

VAIL – Several hundred high-end housing projects in Vail will soon enter the market. These aren’t your grandpa’s condos. In fact, one of the projects, called Solaris, was getting $3,000 per square foot in pre-construction sales before the real estate bubble started hissing air.

Another project, called the Ritz-Carlton Residences, wants $2.2 million to $9.1 million each for its spacious, base-area units.

Touring these projects recently, theVail Daily found much to impress. One real estate salesman said it was a matter of upgrading the real estate to match the on-mountain experience.

“Vail got to the point where people were saying the accommodations weren’t keeping up with the experience on the ski hill,” said Tye Stockton, of Ascent Sotheby’s International Realty, the listing broker for the Ritz residences. “Now the accommodations are on par with our skiing.”

Ah, but will the developers get anywhere near that kind of money? Granted, the very wealthy seem to have survived this Great Recession with some cash still jingling in their pockets.

But these projects were conceived during the happy days of the last decade when it seemed that the real estate market had no boundaries. Informed speculation in Vail has it that this flood of inventory will take several years to sell and may need new configurations.

Developer accused of plotting murder

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – A real estate developer in Steamboat Springs, Brooks Kellogg, was arrested at Denver International Airport last week after giving $2,000 to an undercover FBI agent posing as a hit man.

The Steamboat Pilot reports that Kellogg, 73, a managing member of Chadwick Real Estate Group in Steamboat and owner of a building business in Steamboat, said the intended victim was a Floridian who had recently settled for $2.5 million in a lawsuit against businesses owned by Kellogg and a partner.

Kellogg is a member of the local Rotary Club and owns “office buildings and shopping centers in Chicago and Steamboat Springs,” according to the company’s website.

Citing court documents and the FBI,The Pilot tells the story: A woman received $13,000 in wire transfers from Kellogg beginning in July. But unbeknownst to him, the FBI was listening in on one of their phone calls. He then met the undercover FBI agent at Denver International Airport and gave him $2,000 in expense money for the murder.

Towns debate plastic bag bans

WHISTLER, B.C. – Following San Francisco and a string of other municipalities across the world, Telluride recently went ahead with plans to phase out plastic bags used at grocery stories. Other ski towns have similarly been calculating such moves.

In Whistler, municipal councilors agreed that they won’t regulate or tax, because of the imposition upon consumers, whether local or visitors. Instead, they favor education.

But the city’s environmental coordinator, Nicolette Richer, said education alone doesn’t get people to use reusable bags. A tax itself would cost money. She had recommended an outright ban.

In Aspen, city officials last year contemplated charging a fee of between 5 and 25 cents for use of paper or plastic bags at grocery stores. But the conversation died, and city staff members have been studying the potential for a biodegradable plastic bag,The Aspen Times explains.

But even if biodegradable bags don’t decompose when buried in landfills, the new thought prevails that they might be blended with composted food in a pilot experiment.

Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland tells the paper that the issue might ultimately have to go before voters.

Bones of mammoth found at Snowmass

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – A bulldozer operator scraping out a reservoir near Snowmass Village had been instructed to stop immediately if he came across anything unusual.

He did as he was told. The bones first looked to be those of a cow. “But then we found a jawbone that was enormous, to say the least,” said Kent Olson, the construction superintendent. “It was something we had never seen before. That’s when the excitement began.”

Scientists confirmed the bones were that of a woolly mammoth, estimated to be 10,000 years old. Mammoth bones are rare, and few have been found so high: 8,000 feet.

Mammoths were common as the last ice age ended. Although adapted to survive cold climates, they did not survive. Some scientists believe hunting helped drive mammoths to extinction.

County cutting jobs and library hours

BRECKENRIDGE – Two years ago, housing prices fell. Now, those governmental jurisdictions in Colorado that depend upon property tax collections for operating budgets are trying to cut expenses to correspond with decreased revenues. In Summit County, that means 10 people have lost their jobs in county government, and another 14 are impacted. Library hours are being cut, but County Manager Gray Martinez says that unless things worsen, snowplowing won’t be curbed.

– 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