VAIL, Colo. — Is the Vail resort complex oversupplied with golf courses? You could make that argument, as several of the valley's 17 public and private clubs have struggled enormously in the wake of the Great Recession.
But don't paint with too broad a brush, warn several resort leaders in the Vail Valley.
"They're not all the same," said Johannes Faessler, owner of the Sonnenalp Resort of Vail and a companion golf club downvalley at Edwards. "There are different reasons why things happen to different clubs," he told the Vail Daily's Lauren Glendenning.
Even in the 1980s, a columnist for a now-defunct newspaper in Vail joked that someday it would be possible to golf continuously from Vail to Glenwood Canyon, a distance of nearly 80 kilometres.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, developers seemed determined to make that come true. There was even a proposal to build a golf course atop an abandoned landfill. At another location, a developer proposed to cap an old pile of mine tailings and create a golf course, as was done at Anaconda, Mont.
Then golfing, as had happened with tennis in the 1970s and skiing in the 1980s, started losing its luster. The growth flattened, nationally as well as at mountain resorts.
Those golf courses that suffered most substantially in the Vail area were those farthest from the ski slopes and resort centers of Vail and Beaver Creek. Brightwater, a project located south of Gypsum, about 72 kilometres from Vail, is now in bankruptcy. A beautiful course called Adam's Rib, south of Eagle, reportedly sold very few memberships and has revised its fees.
Then came news that only one of four courses at Cordillera, a resort about 16 kilometres from Beaver Creek, would remain open. There are countersuits between the owner of the golf courses, David Wilhelm, and club members, who own property adjacent to the courses.
"Don't let the Cordillera fiasco overshadow the fact that each one of these courses is doing better," said Harry Frampton, managing partner of East West Partners. The Avon-based company most typically has built golf course-based higher-end real estate.
Frampton, an avid golfer, says there's no better place to play golf in the United States than the Vail area. But there are two problems. First, the season lasts only three or four months. And second, he thinks too many of the golf courses are too hard for the average golfer, taking four to five hours to play, too much commitment when there are dozens of other things to do.
He also told the Vail Daily that in a survey of his company's high-end real estate buyers, 20 per cent had been driven by golf. It's still important, he said, but golf does not drive the economy of the Vail Valley.
What does during summer? Unlike winter, there is no dominant driver. The Vail Daily sites research done for the Vail municipal government that showed hiking was the top activity of summer visitors.
The percentage of summer visitors who had or planned to golf while in Vail had declined from 32 per cent in 2005 to less than 12 per cent in 2012.
Ski interconnect debate heats up
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The debate about a gondola called SkiLink that would link ski resorts, Canyons and Solitude, located on opposite sides of the crest of the Wasatch Range, has been heating up.
Democrats, environmentalists, and Salt Lake City seem to be on one side of the argument, and Republicans and at least some of the ski areas are on the other.
Proponents want to take the federal government out of the decision-making. To that end, U.S. Rep. Bob Bishop, a Republican who represents Park City, has introduced a bill in Congress that would require the Forest Service to sell the two ski areas, Solitude and Canyons, 30 acres of land.
A counterpart from the Democratic party, Rep. Joel Briscoe, of Salt Lake City, says the bill before Congress "subverts the democratic process — and process matters. It sets an awful precedent for other public lands in Utah."
If the bill goes through Congress, the decisions would be made by local officials in Summit County, where Park City is located, and in Salt Lake County.
Salt Lake City is distressed by the bill. The city gets its water from the canyons of the Wasatch area, including those that contain the ski areas of Alta, Solitude, Snowbird and Brighton. Those canyons were heavily mined, and it has taken 100 years to restore them, says Salt lake officials.
"Are we about ready to lose 100 years of restoration?" said Jeff Niemeyer, the public utilities director for Salt Lake City.
Opponents see the SkiLink as a Trojan horse for future ski area expansions. A map of proposed and rumored ski-resort expansion shows the terrain near the top of the Wasatch canyons not currently used by ski areas would be consumed by the ski areas.
Salt Lake City is particularly distressed by the proposal. "It would transform the Wasatch into developed ski-resort areas on an action-by-action, piece-by-piece basis," said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, who was an environmental planner before gaining public office.
He said the impacts need to be considered comprehensively and decisions made in the long-term interest.
Boomers decline, millenials increase
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Baby boomers are starting to retire, and many are moving to mountain towns for their golden years. No news there, right?
But Patrick Phillips, president of the Urban Land Institute, downplays the economic impact of that phenomenon. Instead, during a recent presentation in Steamboat Springs, he said that boomers as a group will be challenged to achieve their ultimate retirement lifestyle. Many will be cash-strapped and unable to make the big move to the mountains.
Instead, Phillips advised Steamboat to continue to focus on making room for millenials, the children of baby boomers, and otherwise being attractive to investment capital.
How to do so? According to a report in Steamboat Today, Phillips urged Steamboat to continue to invest in amenities.
He also urged continued attention to using technology, particularly mobile devices as a tool to achieve more effective delivery of resources, including management of heating and cooling systems in larger buildings.
Climate change like subprime mortgages
BOZEMAN, Mont. — Speakers on a panel in Bozeman recently observed that climate change and the subprime mortgage crisis share two trends: they had early signs that some people ignored or denied, and they can strain the economy, reported the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
Speakers representing sportsmen and environmental groups on a recent panel said that climate change is a threat to Montana's economy and way of life.
"We believe that sportsmen are actually among the first to recognize climate change, even if they don't say the word," said Bill Geer, who has spent 39 years with fish and game organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Paper-bag charge challenged
ASPEN, Colo. —Aspen's ban on plastic grocery bags is being challenged by the Colorado Union of Taxpayers. Specifically at issue is the 20-cent fee that groceries are required to levy for use of paper bags given to shoppers who have forgotten to bring their own bags.
Since the ban went into effect in May, about 324 paper bags a day have been given out at the city's two grocery stores, producing $3,950 in revenue, reports the Aspen Daily News.
The taxpayers' group, which is based in the Denver-Boulder area, says that this 20-cent charge is a new tax, and under a constitutional amendment adopted in Colorado in 1992, all new taxes must be approved directly by voters.
Aspen city officials say it's not a tax, as the money collected must be used for specific waste-reduction purposes. "I think we are within our rights to charge a fee to regulate a nuisance, which plastic bags are," said Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland. He added that raising revenue is not the point and hence the charge is not a tax. "If we don't collect any money, we would reach our aims," he said.
Pig entrails smell up Trans-Canada
LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — Talk about a slimy, unpleasant stretch of highway. The Rocky Mountain Outlook tells about a truck that was taking the offal of butchered pigs from British Columbia to a meat-rendering plant in Calgary, Alberta. As the container heated, it caused the contents to swell over the top of the truck and spill onto the highway.
"It was just awful, utterly disgusting," said Omar McDadi, a spokesman for Parks Canada. "It smelled just awful."
The truck was stopped as it crested the Continental Divide between Field, B.C. and Lake Louise, Alberta. Officials were quick to dispatch crews to get the entrails off the pavement, lest bears and other wildlife be drawn to feed on the carrion.
Resort real estate prices percolating
SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — News continues from mountain resort areas of recovering real estate sales — not big, and maybe not everywhere, but in many places.
"I think that we've maybe hit the bottom, and it's starting to rebound, but slowly," Mark Wadsworth, data analyst at the Summit County (Colorado) Assessor's Office, told the Summit Daily News.
In the same newspaper, real estate broker Chuck Leathers reported average condominium resales have increased nearly 24 per cent in July compared to the same month last year.
In the Steamboat area, Land Title Guarantee reported a 5.74 per cent increase in dollar volume during July compared to the same month the year before.
Veep candidate Ryan quite a peak-bagger
DENVER, Colo — If his homes are in Washington D.C. and Wisconsin, Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan is no stranger to Colorado. The Denver Post reported that Ryan has climbed 40 of the 53 peaks in Colorado above 4,200 metres.
John Andrews, a Republican activist and Denver Post columnist, said Ryan told him his favorites peaks were two near Aspen: Capitol and Pyramid. Both are considered to be among the black diamond or double-black-diamonds among Colorado's non-technical highest peaks.
If ropes are discretionary on both, each has plenty of dangers and exposure.
Who knew such synergy existed between arcane tax policy and testosterone-and-sweat mountaineering?
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