Ski area bill touted for job growth
WASHINGTON, D.C. –These days, it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs. Just consider the statement that Colorado Sen. Mark Udall made after Congress finally approved his bill, the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act.

“It’s a reminder to the American people that we can work together on common-sense jobs creation,” said Udall of the law, which was passed by unanimous consent by the U.S. Senate after similar broad support in the House. “It’s pragmatic, bipartisan, doesn’t cost one dime to the American taxpayers, and reduces government regulation, while allowing businesses to create more jobs.”

And the bill will produce more jobs for U.S. citizens, at the expense of foreigners, said Udall. By giving them more latitude for use of federal lands, according to ski area operators, they will be able to have more year-round economies, providing more year-round jobs, which will be more attractive to U.S. residents. That, in turn, will allow ski areas to do less recruiting of foreign workers from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and other countries for seasonal positions.

How different from 2008, when the legislation was first introduced and labor remained at a premium in most ski towns.
The fundamental problem identified by the 121 U.S. ski areas that lease land from the federal government was the vagueness of the previous legislation governing that use. Adopted in the 1980s, the law made no mention of snowboarders, only skiers. Not that this has ever caused the U.S. Forest Service any heartburn.

Summer was another matter. Lacking clear authority from Congress, the Forest Service was leery about authorizing zip lines, alpine slides and the sort of mountain biking courses as found at Whistler, which require significant earth-moving and structures. Ski area operators wanted clear authority.

What will come of this? Probably concerts at some locations, and rock-climbing walls. David Perry, senior vice president of mountain operations for the Aspen Skiing Co., mentioned the possibility of zip lines and alpine slides in a recent interview with The Aspen Times. Mike Kaplan, the chief executive, has talked about mountain biking.

But with perhaps a few exceptions, U.S. ski areas won’t be offering the equivalent of Whistler’s mountain biking, according to Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association. U.S. liability law exposes operators to greater financial risk than does Canadian law.

Two different bears meet similar fate
WHISTLER, B.C. – Ponder the lives of two bears, both iconic in their own realms, one in Whistler, B.C., and the other at Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Both died in recent weeks, but in very different circumstances.

Under a headline of “Farewell to an Old Friend,” Mammoth’s The Sheet tells about a large, cinnamon-colored bear that had become a familiar sight, hanging out along the local golf course. The bear’s sheer bulk, estimated at more than 500 pounds, frightened some, but because it never got into trouble, it was never named. It was found dead in September near a local home. Cause of death wasn’t clear.

Whistler’s most iconic bear, called Jeanie, was killed after wildlife agents decided she was becoming a threat to humans after escalating conflicts. “Specifically, she was breaking into restaurants,” explained Chris Doyle, who told Pique that she charged employees both inside and outside one local restaurant, was aggressive toward pedestrians and had broken into yet another restaurant.

To determine whether cancer or some other injury or illness would explain her unusual aggression, a veterinarian was planning to do a necropsy.

Big vacation goes down the tube
JACKSON, Wyo. – The line between paradise and Hades can be a thin one indeed, as Marvin Bass can attest when his first vacation in five years was cut short.

The Florida man had borrowed a 42-foot motor home from his best friend for a three-week vacation. Traveling across Teton Pass into Jackson Hole, the vehicle began struggling. He parked it at a pullout, unhitched the truck that he was towing, and drove down to Jackson Hole to get fluid. Returning, he was trying to hitch the truck to the back of the RV when he mistakenly locked himself out of the RV.

That wasn’t the end of the world. He figured out how to squeeze into the RV through the driver’s window. But as he did, his body unleashed the brake, and the RV began rolling toward the precipice. Bass got himself out in time, but the RV wasn’t so lucky, tumbling 225 feet down a mountain side.

“Obviously, I’m not going to Yellowstone in it,” he told the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Mountain towns face loss of mail
PHIPPSBURG – A forwarding address has not been posted yet at the post office in the old railroading town of Phippsburg, but a decision has been made to close it.

The post office, located south of Steamboat Springs, was among 11 identified for imminent closure this year by the U.S. Post Service, which is trying to stop the flow of red ink. But another post office, just 4 miles away at Oak Creek, will remain open.

Dozens of small post offices in Colorado, including those in Rico, Ophir and Red Cliff, were identified as among those subject to closure.

Steamboat to study Howelsen subsidies
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Steamboat Springs city officials will be examining the subsidy of the locally owned ski area, Howelsen Hill, and the adjoining rodeo arena. The operating subsidy this year was nearly $1 million, and next year it is projected to decline to $800,000.

The city has subsidized operations since 1977, when it took on a joint-use agreement with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. The Steamboat Pilot & Today notes that operations at the ski hill include the jumping complex that has been the training site for many world champions, helping establish Steamboat’s claim to fame as the source of more Winter Olympians than any other town.

Some bloggers on the newspaper’s website question why the subsidy for this recreational amenity should be challenged, while that of other parks and venues aren’t.

Fido off-limits at events in Breck
BRECKENRIDGE – What’s a mountain town without roaming dogs? Breckenridge is finding out. The town has adopted a law that specifically sets the procedure by which pets can be excluded from events. Signs will have to be posted at the events, reports the Summit Daily News.

Citing a town memo, the Daily News notes that more and more events held in Breckenridge ban animals, usually due to the presence of food or large crowds of people. While most people have been compliant, authorities have recently had people challenging the policy.

Two big projects move ahead in Vail
EAGLE – Two big projects in the Eagle Valley, one at Vail and the other in Eagle, got key approvals last week.

In Vail, the Town Council approved an amendment to the community master plan needed for Ever Vail, a $1 billion project at the base of the ski mountain. This would become the third or fourth major access point to the ski mountain. That said, Vail has no clear idea of when it will start building. It also needs several more permits.

In Eagle, the local planning commission unanimously recommended approval of a giant retail shopping complex called Eagle River Station. A similar plan of the same name was rejected by town voters last year, as was another major development several years before. The Eagle Valley Enterprise suggests a distinct shift in the town outlook, but also hints that the development could once again became a consuming community issue in 2012.

– Allen Best



In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale