Mountain News 

Ski towns ‘the new suburbs’

By Allen Best

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Many ski valleys have been mightily resisting vestiges of suburbanization. Regulations have been enacted to restrict national franchisers, particularly big boxes, which are the symbols of suburban sprawl.

But Steamboat Springs is increasingly a suburb — and many other ski towns are, too, says Jonathan Schechter. “These are the new suburbs, but they are virtual suburbs,” he told a group in Steamboat Springs recently. People choose to live where they want to live, in part because of rapid growth in technology that allows them to do so, but also because of rising incomes, he said.

These changes caused Steamboat and places like it to add as many people in the 1990s as had lived there in 1960, before the arrival of tourism. But even now, it is not a purely tourism-driven economy, he said.

What could change this trend? Schechter, a long-time Jackson Hole resident, sees nothing to stop the masses — unless their arrival fouls the nest. “The boom is not going to bust… unless we screw up the reason people want to move here,” he said.

To that end, Schechter was the architect of an idea recently implemented called One Percent for the Tetons. In the program, businesses give 1 per cent of revenues to a fund, which is dispersed in grants to projects intended to help retain the environmental integrity of Jackson Hole. Some 50 businesses are participating, and $25 million has been raised.

 

More ski area sales ahead

MAMMOTH, Calif. – In it its Dec. 2, issue, The Wall Street Journal took a broader view of ski areas, noticing the recent shuffling of ownerships unrivaled since the consolidation phase of about 1997. “What’s the must-have item this ski season? A resort,” says the Journal.

The newspaper noted the entry of private-equity firms such as Fortress Investment Group, which in October completed the purchase of Intrawest for $2.8 billion, but also purchases of California’s Mountain High Resort by Valor Equity Partners and the sale of Mammoth Mountain last year to investors led by Starwood Capital Group Global.

Analysts tell the paper that they expect more ski-resort deals in months ahead. The intense interest is reflected in the stock price for Vail Resorts Inc. Stock price rarely percolated above the $16 price of the IPO in 1997, but have now surged above $44 per share.

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