Transceivers little help to slide victims
REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Several people in British Columbia died in avalanches in the final days of December.

Near Revelstoke, a 45-year-old Canadian was killed while heli-skiing in the Selkirks. Three of the people in his group were partially buried, but he was completely buried. When eventually located by avalanche transceiver, he was unresponsive, reported the Revelstoke Times Review.
Five helicopters and 10 guides, plus two physicians, were involved in the attempted rescue.

Near Pemberton, east of Whistler, a 30-year-old backcountry skier died after being swept 1,800 meters into a treed area. When his two companions located him, he was still alive but in critical shape. One went for help, while the other remained in the dark to continuously apply CPR. The victim was a ski patroller at Whistler/Blackcomb.

Avalanches were also reported at Kicking Horse, near Golden. A skier inside the resort boundary was partially buried but was rescued by a companion. No injuries or burials were reported in a skier-triggered avalanche outside the resort boundaries.

High-end real estate markets reviving
TELLURIDE –  Elements of the real estate market were clearly stronger in Telluride this last year, but the recovery was not uniform in all sectors. That same story played out at nearly all the mountain destination resorts of the West.

In Vail, for example, sales figures were up, and the price per square foot of properties increased significantly. Not so down-valley in Eagle and Gypsum, where prices continued to scrape bottoms established two years ago, agents report.

Ditto in Jackson Hole. The high-end market is returning, but across Teton Pass in Idaho, there’s a glut of real estate inventory in the Driggs-Victor area.
Across Colorado, mountain resort counties report that new foreclosures in 2011 were close to those of 2010.

In Telluride, there’s hope that the resort will follow in Aspen’s footsteps in about six months. Aspen and Pitkin County, observes long-time real estate broker George Harvey, were up by 15 percent in the number of transactions this past year and up 10 percent in the dollar volume.
For Telluride to successfully stay in Aspen’s footprints, he told The Telluride Watch, sellers will have to drop their prices further.

Across the border in Whistler, real estate sales increased in volume 15 percent 2011 over 2010. Residents of Vancouver are responsible for 65 to 70 percent of the purchases, but they buy an even higher percentage of the more expensive properties, those in the $1.5 to $2 million range. Other buyers come from the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, reports Pique Newsmagazine.

Overall, buyers seem to be becoming more tolerant of the world’s constant financial tremors – suggesting a more lively market in 2012. Maybe.

Towns looking for subterranean heat
PAGOSA SPRINGS – Several communities with geothermal resources such as hot springs continue to probe harnessing the heat for greenhouses, buildings or even electricity.

Pagosa Springs already uses hot to heat some of its buildings. Mayor Ross Aragon in recent months has been trumpeting the possibility of significant expansion. One idea is creation of three greenhouses. Another is development of aquaculture, i.e. fish farms.

A collaboration called the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership plans to work with university experts from the Colorado School of Mines in May to better determine the extent of the resource.

The Pagosa Springs Sun, however, reports that there’s some possibility that the geothermal greenhouses might not be heated by hot water after all. Instead, the residual heat of the earth – about 56 degrees at about 10 feet – might be tapped to grow cool–weather crops during winter.

In central Colorado, Salida’s Mountain Mail reports new mapping of the geothermal resource that delivers the water to the Poncha Hot Springs. No conclusions have been drawn. Study also continues of the hot springs at the base of Mt. Princeton, west of Buena Vista, and in Aspen.

Police not buying roofie excuse in Aspen
ASPEN – A 44-year-old woman was found sitting in an idling car in downtown Aspen at 3 a.m., with two top-shelf bottles of vodka and eating a grapefruit. How did this happen? Her lawyer told The Aspen Times she would be tested to see if she had the date-rape drug Rohypnol in her blood.
The Times explains that several people reported being slipped the drug in 2010. The same year, the Aspen Police Department and a nonprofit organization teamed to distribute 2,500 coasters. If color of the coaster changed after a few drops of drink were put on it, the drink had been spiked.
A police detective told The Aspen Times no bona fide case of the drug, aka “roofie,” had been reported recently. “We’ve heard a few reports of people being roofied, but it’s usually people with a high BAC (blood-alcohol content) combined with the high altitude,” he said.

In this case, police aren’t persuaded. They accuse her of driving while under the influence. A video surveillance from a high-end hotel shows her walking behind the bar and collecting the vodka bottles.

Tamarack Resort may be resurrected
DONNELY, Idaho – Is Tamarack, the resort north of Boise that went bankrupt in 2008, a bad dream or a good dream interrupted? Experts consulted by the Idaho Statesman in a late-November piece point toward the latter.

“You don’t need to be very big to be very successful,” said John Norton, formerly a ski executive in Crested Butte and Aspen. “You don’t need a million skier days to have a strong hold on some of your guests.”

Norton has teamed with Bill Ciraco, a trader at a New York-based investment fund, to serve as advisers for anyone looking to buy Tamarack. Planned for decades, the resort took off in 2004 after a key permission from Idaho authorities. Construction of homes, shops and other amenities followed. But in 2008, Tamarack defaulted on a $250 million note from Credit Suisse, which began foreclosure proceedings. In 2009, other creditors forced the resort into a bankruptcy.

The foreclosure process could be coming to an end. Creditors and potential investors await a judge’s order that could outline who is owed what and in what order, the Statesman reports. But even a sale might not be final. Idaho law allows the original owner up to one year to pay off the top bidder and take the property back.

“What’s left behind is so well done,” Norton said. “The lifts are in the right places, the buildings are well executed, the village needs completion.” He said there are no glaring errors other than the obvious ones that led Tamarack into its financial problems.

Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, said putting ski operations into experienced hands is the key to regrowing Tamarack. Even so, it will take awhile, he said.

But ski areas can be profitable. Nationally, the average return on investment for ski resorts is 21 percent in earnings before interest, taxes, deprecation and certain other expenses. Once Tamarack’s past is sorted out, a bidding war could ensue, said Berry.
Norton and Ciraco told the Statesmen that they have met with four prospective bidders in the last three years, including two high-net-worth families and a real estate fund with ownership in other ski resorts. There are also at least a couple of interested parties from the Boise area.

Sun Valley considers culinary institute
KETCHUM, Idaho – Talk is surfacing in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area of expanded offerings of culinary instruction. A group called Sustain Blaine has been talking with the College of Southern Idaho about a culinary institute that would have three components: professional training, destination cooking classes, and demonstrations and workshops.

Longer Aspen runway pulling own weight
ASPEN – The longer runway at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is paying dividends. Lengthened by 1,000 feet last summer, form 7,000 to 8,000 feet, the runway’s greatest payoff will come summer, when warmer temperatures provide less loft. The longer runway allows planes more time to get off the ground, and hence, to carry more weight – passengers.

The longer runway, however, doesn’t allow larger aircraft, because weight and wingspan restrictions remain intact.

– Allen Best

Tracy Chamberlin and Missy Votel