Park City seeks slice of Moab action
PARK CITY, Utah – Tourism officials in Park City think their biking trails are good. But the marketing fell somewhat short. They intend to change that.

The Park Record reports that mountain biking this summer will be a much more dominant part of the resort’s marketing focus. Just maybe Park City can cut into some of Moab’s business.

“Park City has always been a bit of a cycling town, but the potential growth of cycling was untapped,” said Charlie Sturgis, executive director of the local nonprofit Mountain Trails Foundation. “Whether or not these increased marketing efforts work – well, I guess we’ll see.”

Aspen trademarks “Defy Ordinary”
ASPEN – “Defy Ordinary” is now a trademarked expression, owned by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

The Aspen Daily News explains that U.S. trademark regulations require owners to use or lose their branding phrase.

Steamboat has not made that mistake. It adopted “Champagne Powder” in 1968 and takes care to ensure that nobody poaches that expression. It has attorneys who regularly send cease-and-desist letters to anybody who uses it without connecting it to Steamboat.

Aspen’s chamber trademarked the expression “Defy Ordinary” because the promotional organization wants to use that for branding for years to come. “We want to protect it and not have another resort use it,” said Julia Theisen, vice president of sales and marketing.

The Aspen Skiing Co. has trademarked dozens of brands and slogans over the years. At one point, it trademarked “Epic” as it relates to providing facilities for skiing or snowboarding, but the company allowed it to lapse.

The ski company also allowed the trademark for other branding expressions to lapse, among them: “The Mountain Town” and “Just Plain Fun.”

Wariness in wake of low snowpack
ASPEN – As mountain towns in Colorado move into summer, they continue to consider what lies ahead as the result of the incredibly low snowpack this year. By some measures, the drought is far worse than the epic summer of 2002.

In 2002, says The Aspen Times, the Roaring Fork River was reduced to a “series of puddles connected by a trickle of water.” As a result, new legislation was adopted in Colorado that allows water-rights owners to donate their water to the river without fear of losing legal entitlements.

Administrators of the White River National Forest, which includes the Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge ski areas, warn of heightened risk from wildfires. “Everything’s lining up for a fire season that could be pretty severe,” forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams told local officials in Aspen last week.

Soil moisture in Aspen is at 5 to 10 percent, whereas average is at 60 to 70 percent, he said. Drought conditions are predicted for western Colorado through July.

At issue, too, is whether water agencies should ration supplies. Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, was quoted recently as saying that agencies should be more aggressive in restricting outdoor water use.

In the Vail area, the water district is urging conservation but is not taking additional measures. “Every customer can lessen the impact of the drought to our community by carefully considering their outdoor water needs,” said Linn Brooks, general manager of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

Paying big for airline guarantees
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Managers of Steamboat’s ski season flight program expects to spend $3.5 million this year to meet revenue guarantees to airlines that brought direct flights to the resort last winter.

The amount is a record, reports the Steamboat Today, and just short of the maximum allowed in contract with the airlines.

Poor snow across much of the country was blamed for fewer people flying to Steamboat for vacations. As a result, the number of airline passengers dropped 5 percent.

Airline officials estimate they typically have to spend $30 to subsidize each passenger, says the newspaper. But each passenger spends $1,100 during a winter vacation.

Next winter, because of the dropping numbers last winter and continued high fuel prices, Steamboat officials expect the airlines to require even higher revenue guarantees.

Terrible winter was still pretty good
TRUCKEE, Calif. – Last year was feast, and this year was famine as U.S. skier visits in the United States were down 15 percent. The National Ski Areas Association reported 51 million skier and snowboarder visits, the lowest total since the winter of 1991-92. This compares with a record number of 60.5 million in 2010-11.

Some were bigger losers than others. Vail Resorts reported a 24 percent decline at Northstar and Heavenly, both in California, and a 9 percent decline at its four ski areas in Colorado.

Loss of skiers does not necessarily equate to a comparable loss in revenues. Vail Resorts did just fine in early winter, thanks to pre-season sale passes. The Aspen Skiing Co. also seems to have survived well enough.

Aspen had marginally better snow this year than many other Colorado resorts. Visits by season-pass holders, especially locals, dropped, but the destination business seems to have held up. Overall, skier visits dropped only 1.8 percent at its four ski hills.

“Financially, we had a good year,” said Jeff Hanle, spokesman for the company. The ski school, restaurants and hotels all had a good year.

Whistler surges past 2 million skier days
WHISTLER, B.C. – Skier visits at Whistler-Blackcomb through April were 2.08 million, up from last year although still well short of the record of 2.23 million visits set at the start of the century.

The key to the resort’s success this winter was growth in destination visitors. Revenues were up 11 percent from the same period last year, said Dave Brownlie, chief operation officer of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc., operator of the ski area The company also reports ongoing strength in the regional market, including Vancouver and Seattle.

Electric car charging stations to come
WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler hopes to improve its charging infrastructure for electrical cars, thanks to financial aid from the provincial government. The resort already has two such stations, one of them delivering a 120-volt charge and the other a 240-volt charge.

The provincial government wants to build a province-wide network of 570 electric charging stations and is offering aid of up to $4,000 per station. For several years, Vancouver has required that new and remodeled buildings include the infrastructure for charging stations.

High and dry ideal for electricity
ALAMOSA – If you look at maps depicting the best places for solar radiation in the United States, the Mojave Desert of Arizona and California is colored burgundy. But, Colorado’s San Luis Valley is nearly as good. The valley is broad and high, bordered by the San Juan Mountains to the west and the Sangre de Cristo Range to the east. Clouds are rare at Alamosa, in the valley’s center, despite being plentiful at Wolf Creek, an hour west and usually the leader in snowfall among Colorado resorts.

All of this contributed to the decision by Cogentrix Energy to build a photovoltaic facility in the valley. The site is at 7,800 feet in elevation, and solar intensity is greater at higher elevations. The location can generate 1,000 watts per square meter, only slightly less than the solar gain at locations in the Mojave Desert.

Cogentrix Energy expects to produce enough power for 6,500 homes. A press release from the company points out that some of the technology employed at the facility was developed as part of the U.S. space program.

The company got a $90.6 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. Altogether, the agency has delivered $7.5 billion in loan guarantees to boost solar generation projects.

– Allen Best