Cutthroats make comeback in Jackson
JACKSON, Wyo. – The Hoback River originates south of Jackson Hole, flowing 55 miles before merging with the Snake River. It’s not the best river for fishing, because the shallow river flows rapidly and often has buildup of slushy ice called frazil, which can kill fish.

For many years, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide, the river was stocked annually with hatchery fish. But like other rivers in Wyoming, state fish and game started weaning the river of its hatchery fish in the 1990s. In their place have come the native species, the Snake River cutthroat trout.

The cutthroats are not only more populous, but also bigger, perhaps because they’re better suited to the harsh winters of the Hoback River, a biologist tells the newspaper.

Deep-pocket diving for performing arts
MT. CRESTED BUTTE – Fund-raising has started for a $23.5 million performing arts center that boosters say could be a game-changer for Crested Butte.

Backers expect that the Mt. Crested Butte Performing Arts Center will have 500 seats, double the largest existing venue, and will have a large stage and other infrastructure suitable for performers accustomed to the world’s best. As well, there is to be a 2,000-square-foot meeting room, suitable for weddings and conferences, plus rooms where such things as photography workshops can be held.

“It’s a total game-changer, no doubt about it,” William Buck, mayor of Mt. Crested Butte, told Mountain Town News. He called it a “nonskiing and year-round amenity” that would shore up the shoulder seasons.

The model is the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts, which has a 500-seat theater and a much bigger arts and education pavilion, 41,000 square feet altogether.

So far, $10.3 million has been pledged, of which $6 million comes from Mt. Crested Butte and the ski area operator, some of it in the form of 1.8 acres of land.

The town has partnered with a private nonprofit, the Crested Butte Music Festival, to develop the venue. Together, they have hired a Texas-based fund raiser, Franklin & Associates.

Fund raisers are courting donors with the ability to give at least $500,000. “You can be out there all day long collecting $10,000 donations, and you just can’t get to a project of this size,” says Woody Sherwood, executive director of the center. But organizers stress that all dollars will be welcome.

Sherwood tells the Crested Butte News that the venue will allow more opera and other productions, which in turn will yield an extended tourist season.

Raising money can be problematic. Consider Beaver Creek’s Vilar Center. While the theater is exquisite, the funding was troubled. Part-time resident Alberto Vilar in the 1990s endowed the lion’s share of the venue, one of many halls for the fine arts around the world to which he gave large sums.

Then came the handcuffs. He had over-invested in technology stock, and after the tech-sector crash of 2000, he raided the funds of investors to continue his lavish and philanthropic lifestyle. He was convicted of fraud (read more about it in the New Yorker’s “The Opera Lover: How Alberto Vilar’s Passion for Philanthropy Landed Him in Jail.”)

In the end, Vilar’s name remained on the venue at Beaver Creek, but not without some discomfort along the way.

Icicles and antacid coming up in Breck
BRECKNERIDGE – Breckenridge elected officials are welcoming two new attractions next winter that were previously located in nearby towns.
Ice Castles, a name that pretty much describes the attraction, drew 56,000 people last winter to Silverthorne. The for-profit business that created it hopes for even more people at Breckenridge, but also colder temperatures. Breckenridge is 1,000 feet higher in elevation.

Less effusively, Breckenridge is accepting a high-octane three-day music festival called the SnowBall. The Summit Daily News notes that 100 arrests were made last winter when the festival was held in Avon, mostly for drug and alcohol offenses.

Give it a whirl anyway, advised Mike Dudick, a Breckenridge councilman. “We’ve all heard of the X Games in Aspen. There was probably a lot of heartburn on that one, and look where they are now.”

Park City-Deer Valley gondola floated
PARK CITY, Utah – There’s serious talk, if not yet concrete plans, about installing a gondola between Park City’s old Main Street area and Deer Valley, the ski area several miles away.

Bob Wheaton, the general manager of Deer Valley, said the gondola connection would set Park City apart from other ski destinations. Not one other downtown has immediate access to two different ski areas. The other would be Park City Mountain Resort.

The Park Record notes that a gondola from Main Street was also considered about 15 years ago, but ultimately deemed unworkable, as then proposed.

Four-year house drought in Basalt
BASALT – A few years ago, Basalt struggled with the rapid pace of real estate development. Now, at least according to a majority of council members, it struggles with the lack of growth.

Bill Kane, the town manager, said the town hasn’t processed one development application in nearly four years. “The inconvenient truth is we’re digging out at an almost imperceptible rate,” he said at a recent meeting covered by The Aspen Times.

Kane wants to ditch a scoring system created when Basalt was still booming with real estate development. That message, in what is now an “entirely different paradigm,” sends the message to land developers that “we don’t want you here.” A key portion of the regulations requires commercial developers of projects larger than 2,500 square feet to provide housing for 25 percent of the employees generated by the business.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt isn’t persuaded. She says it’s the lending policies of banks that have blocked development, not the town’s regulations. She points to 600 residential units approved but unbuilt in Basalt.

Hotels OK’d, but where’s the money?
KETCHUM, Idaho – Ketchum is North America’s first deliberately created winter ski town. Because of its railroad terminus, the Union Pacific Railroad chose the town to be the base for its new Sun Valley ski area. That was in 1935.

But as the 21st century arrived, one thing had become plainly evident: Ketchum – and Sun Valley – didn’t have all that many tourists. It was a great place for well-heeled locals. But places like Deer Valley and Beaver Creek and a dozen others had surpassed Ketchum. Pickings were slim in Ketchum for the discerning über-wealthy of the 21st century.

Ketchum set out to change that. Developers everywhere say they need taller, more massive, and fractional ownership models. After extended community discussion, Ketchum complied. Then, municipal officials approved five major new hotels.

Timing is everything in real estate, of course. All these approvals came just before the great economic collapse of 2008-2009. Not one has been built – and none give any evidence of planning to build anytime soon. Developers, when contacted by Mountain Town News in recent years, have optimistically explained that they believe they’re on the cusp of financing. But no news has come of it.

Hope remains. The 73-room Hotel Ketchum was to have been completed by October. It won’t happen now. Ketchum recently gave the developer a one-year extension, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.

“This project, if it were built, would be very successful in the current market,” said Mayor Randy Hall. Ketchum, he added, “can’t be a resort town if there aren’t hotels.”

Aspen sticks to its guns on hotel size
ASPEN – Aspen also wants a new hotel. For much of the last decade, the town has been talking with developers about what might happen at a slope-side location that has been decaying for decades.

But Aspen, more than most, has been insisting that supersized buildings just don’t work for the town. Developers are just as insistent that they need at least the giant size to make the numbers work.

This discussion returned recently, as City Council members encourage a developer called ASC Aspen Street Owners, which is planning to build a townhome, to instead build a hotel, otherwise known as a lodge.

“If we can go forward with a lodge, whose scale matches the current code, we’d be willing to make some concessions to make that happen,” said Mayor Mick Ireland.

The Aspen Times reports that true to form, the developer says it will be hard to make the numbers work with such a small mass.

Filipinos embrace Whistler offerings
WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler is becoming home to a burgeoning group of Filipinos. Pique reports one estimate of 450, up from just 150 a few years ago.

One of the seeds was planned by the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Prior to the Winter Olympics, it was looking for employees experienced in the service and hospitality sector. In the Philippines, it found that necessary experience. Now, the hotel operator has helped nearly 100 of them become permanent residents of Canada.

The Filipinos, as well as immigrants from other places, including Chile, Egypt, and Mexico, say they like the clean environment, the lack of crime, and the general lifestyle.

The melting pot – or stew – of nationalities celebrates their unique backgrounds and their new commonalities in a new weekend event, called the Intercultural Festival. The festival cost $20,000 to put on.

Romney passes hat in Aspen
ASPEN – Mitt Romney continues to rustle deep pockets in Western states, with recent stops in Utah, Wyoming and Montana. He also did some meet-and-greet in Aspen, where a $2,500 “contribution” was expected from those attending a reception. For a private sit-down dinner with Romney, the campaign tip jar expected $50,000, reports the Aspen Daily News.

Obama holds a distinct edge over Romney in contributions reported so far in Aspen, although presumably Romney’s evening has put him far ahead when the next tally is reported by a contribution-tracking website called

– 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