Mountain News: Great Recession taking toll 

TELLURIDE, Colo. - The rubble of the Great Recession continues to grow as restaurants close and buses shrink schedules in mountain valleys of the West. But here and there are glints of optimism.

At Minturn, located just around the corner from Vail, a restaurant called Chili Willy's has closed after 27 years of operation. Owner Al Brown said he had been making a little money, but at the expense of too many 16-hour days during the last two years.

"If I thought (the economy) was going to turn around quickly, I might have kept it going," Brown told the Vail Daily .

At Snowmass Village, a similar story was told. "I ran out of money," explained Butch Darden, proprietor of Butch's Lobster Bar for the last 18 years. He estimated that business was "probably 60 per cent of what it once was."

Darden may have compounded his problems by opening another restaurant last year at Basalt, a down-valley town. It, too, has closed, reports the Aspen Times .

In the Vail area, the Economic Council of Eagle County found that about a third of local businesses had job openings last winter, down from about two thirds two winters before. Most local businesses also slashed benefits and hours, said Tsu Wolin-Brown, executive director of the Vail Valley Salvation Army.

With construction of two major resort complexes in Vail now ended, 200 retail-sector jobs will be added. But the jobs are apples to oranges, notes Jim Lamont, executive director of the Vail Homeowners' Association. "A construction worker could get $50 an hour whereas a service worker is lucky to get $15 an hour," he said.

Operators of bus services in resort valleys have also been hammered. Most depend upon sales tax collections by local governments. With their decline, the bus agencies have jacked up fares and cut back service.

That's the same strategy being pursued by operators of the bus service that knits together Crested Butte with two other local towns. Previously free, the service will now cost $2 per ride. And instead of 10 buses a day, only six will be offered.

"This is a temporary solution to a temporary problem - we hope," said Leah Williams, the mayor of Crested Butte.

Governments have also been struggling. In Colorado's Summit County, elected officials must figure out what will be cut next year to correspond with a projected $4 million to $5 million shortfall in revenue.

In Wyoming, officials in Jackson and Teton County - the area known as Jackson Hole - are moving toward a proposed lodging tax to shore up government revenues.

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