Mountain News: Reaction to Vail purchase of Whistler Blackcomb 

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VAIL, Colo. — How will the Vail Resorts purchase of Whistler Blackcomb affect ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains?

One obvious answer is that it puts even greater importance on the Mountain Collective. Launched by the Aspen Skiing Co. in 2013 in response to the Epic Pass, the Mountain Collective now includes Jackson Hole, Lake Louise, Squaw Valley, and a bunch of others. Last week, it was expanded to include Telluride and Revelstoke.

How will Vail's purchase of Whistler affect Aspen? John Norton, a former No. 2 at Aspen Skiing, sees little impact. About 20 per cent of skiers at Aspen/Snowmass originate from outside the U.S. Norton said he doesn't think the Vail-Whistler alliance will threaten Aspen's international "sex appeal."

However, resorts such as Aspen, Jackson Hole, and Sun Valley are going to have to hammer home the qualities that make them distinctive in ways that the "big mountains are not," he told The Aspen Times.

Without naming names, he said that the ski areas that are really hurt by Vail's move are big ski areas that don't have a lot of character and that don't rely on a well-rounded experience.

Mike Kaplan, chief executive of Aspen Skiing, said the purchase won't affect pass prices this year, but it could next season, because of the need to be competitive. "We're not just going to sit back," he said.

In Park City, Chamber chief Bill Malone said the deal would put Canadians on the local slopes. There haven't been many. There are, however, a lot more Australians at Park City following Vail's acquisition of Perisher, the largest ski resort in Australia.

In Vail, die-hard skiers greeted heartily the prospect of their Epic passes now including Whistler. "Finally, they bought a real mountain," Pete Seibert Jr. son of the resort's co-founder, told the Vail Daily. "There's nothing like it," said another local of Whistler Blackcomb.

But one of Vail's longest-tenured residents found little to like. Byron Brown, a resident since the 1960s, said that the company "should spend some of their money to solve the parking here. And housing, too."

Ice at Icebox to get boost

FRASER, Colo. — This story out of Fraser rather drips, shall we say, with irony. The town where President Dwight Eisenhower camped out in the 1950s while trout fishing is known for its extreme cold during winter. For a long time, it sat secure in its claim of being "icebox of the nation." (After a 50-year battle, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office registered the title instead with International Falls, Minn.)

Of late, the town has become site of an ice rink suitable for organized hockey. It's called the Icebox Ice Rink. But the cold just isn't reliable enough for this icebox. The Sky-Hi News explained that the recreation district that sponsors the ice rink plans to install a refrigeration system. The fundraising is expected to take some time, organizers told the newspaper.

Republicans in Aspen blame politicians, media

ASPEN, Colo. — You think that Aspen has only Democrats? You're wrong. The Lincoln Day Dinner was held there recently, and it drew Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard executive who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for president.

She lost to Donald Trump of course, and Trump is none too fond of Fiorina's looks. Rolling Stone accompanied Trump on a flight last year, and when Fiorina came on a TV news report, he was recorded saying: "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?"

Republicans at the meeting in Aspen talked their usual lines: personal responsibility, freedom, liberty, allowing government to do only what it has do to and only be as big as it needs to be to serve the people, in the words of one local Republican officer-seeker.

Messengers were blamed for the Republican disarray. "Don't believe the noise or the polls," said Darryl Glenn, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Colorado this year.

Fiorina urged the bums be tossed. "Politics is way too important to leave to the politicians, no matter how good they are."

Laura Glendenning, who covered the event for The Aspen Times, noted one curiosity at this very Republican affair: the name Trump was rarely mentioned.

But Trump himself will be in Aspen later this month, if only to meet with those who pay US$2,700 for the privilege. Photos cost $10,000, and couples "donating" $25,000 will get personal meetings. All of this will be held at a new home capable of holding hundreds of people.

The Aspen Daily News quizzed the local Republican Party leader, Bob Jenkins, about Trump's propensity to say outrageous things. Jenkins admitted that he wished Trump would have his wife, Melania, or daughter Ivanka standing close by to kick him in the leg when he "misspeaks."

The local Democratic Party leader was all too happy to have Trump speaking unfiltered. "I think (Trump) is doing fine by himself," said Howie Wallach.

Trump used to be a regular visitor to Aspen. In the 1980s, he tried to gain control of the slope-side land that eventually became the five-star St. Regis Aspen Resort. "He was outfoxed by another real estate developer," the Daily News reported.

But then there was that nasty confrontation at Christmas 1989 that made the cover of People magazine. Trump's then-wife, Ivana, clashed with Trump girlfriend Marla Maples at an on-mountain restaurant. Maples became wife No. 2, but now has been replaced by No. 3.

Wolves look for food in all the wrong places

BANFF, Alta. — Parks Canada officials are worried about the sloppiness of residents living within the park and are contemplating filing charges against a resident in Banff, the town within the park of the same name, for leaving food that has been drawing a grey wolf.

"Wolves, like many animals in Banff National Park, have learned how to exist in and around humans," Parks spokeswoman Christina Tricomi told the Outlook. "However, we need to help them retain their natural fear of people so that they do not become used to human contact that puts ourselves and them at risk."

A wolf that had made a habit of approaching campers to get food was killed earlier this month. That was the second such case this year. This is in addition to six wolves whose deaths have been documented from other causes. Among them were four pups-of-year that were struck and killed by trains.

Grizzly bears nabbed

WHITEFISH, Mont. — Wildlife managers captured two grizzly bears in Whitefish last week, prompting agency specialists to remind residents to pick their fruit trees and secure other attractants like garbage and pet food. Both bears were outfitted with GPS devices and then released. One of the bears, a 72-kilogram two-year-old, was nabbed in a cherry tree.

Domestic chickens have been a particularly serious problem the past few years, wildlife managers tell the Flathead Beacon.

Real estate sales slow

ASPEN, Colo. — Real estate sales in Aspen and Pitkin County are off this year. The Denver Post reports a 42-per-cent reduction in sales volume through the first half of 2016 as compared to last year.

"Sales in the Aspen-Snowmass market in the first half of the year were the bleakest since the first half of 2009, and inventory soared to levels not seen since the recession," the Post reported. The newspaper reached out to a handful of people to find explanations, but there was no single — or convincing — answer.

But the story does draw to mind the account in the Aspen newspapers 12 to 18 months ago. A pair of real estate analysts at a public presentation said that the boom cycle then firmly underway could be expected to get wobbly.

Their time frame? Within 12 to 18 months, they said.

Pick your possessions

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — There's some interest in tiny homes in Crested Butte. The town has been hammered by the absence of affordable housing and, like virtually every other place, is questioning the need to put limits on Internet-based, short-term rentals of homes.

But can tiny homes help meet a need? They're defined as places of less than 1,000 square feet, with many much smaller. Even after the recession, the average size of homes in the U.S. continues to increase, reaching 2,662 square feet in 2013. The Crested Butte News told of several residents who have pursued tiny homes. One of them belongs to Tessa Jonson and Callum Curley.

"We travel a lot and have moved to a lot of different countries, so we are used to keeping our belongings to a minimum," explained Jonson. I think everyone could do it, but I don't know if everyone would enjoy it. It's a great experience. The less clutter you have in your life the more focused and intentional you can be."

Jonson's tiny house has 160 square feet and cost $12,613 to build.

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