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Mountain News:

Telluride hopes to get more of LA on slopes

Compiled by Allen Best

TELLURIDE, Colo. — The avowed goal in the offices at Telluride Ski & Golf this winter is to hit 400,000 skier days, or 20,000 more than the resort’s previous high. And the company’s chief executive offer, Ray Jacobi, is guaranteeing snow by Thanksgiving.

Whether Jacobi can order snow like you would a meal from room service remains to be determined. What is clear is that the ski company, under new ownership of the California-based Horning family, is tracking a somewhat different course than was the case previously. Among the new initiatives is a binge of magazine advertising that promotes Telluride as "Fantasy Mountain," or about as perfect a ski town and mountain as can exist.

Telluride is also hoping that it can better exploit the Los Angeles market. In the past, Southern California has accounted for 5.6 per cent of Telluride’s skier days. But new direct flights from LAX may push that percentage higher.

Early season indicators look good, reports The Telluride Watch. Season pass sales are up 5 per cent, and group sales are also strong.

Glaciers becoming battle ground

TYROL, Austria — Climate change is pushing ski areas into hitherto pristine glaciers in the Alps, provoking protests from environmental advocates. The disagreement, reports Nature magazine, has been sparked by a proposal to open the second largest glacier in the eastern Alps – the Gepatsch glacier in Tyrol, Austria – to skiers.

Snow lines are rising in the Alps, with some small ski resorts having snow for very short times during winter. In response, many ski resorts hope to expand onto glaciers at higher elevations. Environmentalists respond that ski areas produce harmful waste, grease, lubricant oils and salts. If the proposal for Gepatsch goes through, they say, the door will open for similar projects in other parts of the Alps. They want the resort companies to restrict their activities to lower-elevation areas, thereby producing less effect on high-elevation wilderness areas.

A study released by the United Nations last winter projected that within a few decades, the warming climate that is causing snow lines to rise will cost the Swiss tourism industry $1.6 billion US per year. Leisure companies such as Compagnie des Alpes, the French market leader that Intrawest has an interest in, are now focusing investments on high Alpine areas.

Columnist decries ‘creeping elitism’

ASPEN, Colo. — A columnist in The Aspen Times, Michael Cleverly, who seems to have several decades of residency in the town, has some prickly things to say about what he charges is "creeping elitism in a Dorian Gray town."

The town’s celebrated cultural events are becoming steadily and disturbingly elitist, he charges. Community programs can have good intention, he says, but the trend is unrelenting.

"Every year Aspen’s population seems to get a little grayer it also seems to be getting more exclusive, more elitist," he writes.

"Years ago, when I started reading my old buddy Mary Hayes’s column (in The Aspen Times), it was a parody of big-city newspaper society pages. After a while, it became what it beheld. This is where you find the VIPS from Jazz Aspen and the members of the board. Now it seems like a gallery of botched face-lifts in some medical journal. Oscar Wilde would have loved it. Aspen’s decaying soul is beginning to show. Dorian Gray’s in there somewhere."

Another trailer park disappears

CANMORE, Alberta — Another trailer park in a resort area is about to bite the dust. Developers have been given authority in Canmore to replace the Restwell Trailer Park with a project called Spring Creek Mountain Village.

The new project will have 1,200 residential units altogether, a quarter of them vacation homes and a sixth of them short-term units.

As for those living in the existing trailers, they’ll have an opportunity to buy 1,200-square-foot homes at a rate of $200 per square foot ($157 US), which compares favourably with the $350 per square foot ($275 US) that seems to be the market rate.

After approving this new project, the Canmore council heard from one member who seemed to be feeling guilty about the redevelopment nudging out lower-income residents and wanted a study of what could be done to promote a trailer park elsewhere in Canmore. The council considered such a study without much enthusiasm.

Mayor miffed

REVELSTOKE, B.C — Developers of the Mount Mackenzie ski area have backed away from installing a new chair lift for the 2005-06 ski season. Revelstoke Mayor Mark McKee described the non-action as unacceptable.

However, the mayor was quick to say that this latest wrinkle in the sometimes-rocky road to getting the resort off the ground will not endanger its eventual development into what has been described as a major destination resort.

"There will be a ski hill development up there but it may not come as fast as we had wanted," he told the Revelstoke Times Review.

Retail edges forward, but real estate racing

ASPEN, Colo. — Retail sales in Aspen were up only one month this summer, although the year through August is tracking 6.6 per cent ahead of last year. Meanwhile, the real estate market is exploding, with tax collections on real estate transfers up by about 50 per cent, reports The Aspen Times.

Burning of Bush signs reported

AVON, Colo. — Partisanship is running high across the country this election season, and that includes the Eagle Valley. The Vail Daily reports that Bush-Cheney signs have been cut down and burned at several locations. No similar destruction of Kerry-Edwards signs has been reported.

One prominent Republican, a famously loose canon, likened the actions to the burning of crosses in the South and the perpetrators to Hitler’s brown shirts. A Democratic candidate, although likewise criticizing the actions, thought that comparison inappropriate and vaguely insulting to the real victims in those previous cases. Bush, he said, should fear no personal violence as a result of the burings.

Meanwhile, a landowner who had leased his space to Republicans for the signs has posted a $5,000 reward. "This is extremely uncivilized behavior," said Magnus Lindholm, who was developer of the new Home Depot and Wal-Mart complexes.

Cheney & Kerry in thin air

JACKSON HOLE, Colo. — Distance runners have long favoured higher elevations when training for races. Something similar seems to be occurring this year in the U.S. election.

Dick Cheney, who grew up in Casper, Wyo., was reported to have repaired to his part-time home in Jackson Hole while preparing for his vice presidential debate. Jackson Hole is 6,000 to 7,000 feet high.

John Kerry, meanwhile, was expected to return to Denver, the mile-high city, to work on keeping his sentences short prior to his debates with President Bush.

Beetles may drive up taxes

WINTER PARK, Colo. — Residents in Winter Park are being asked to approve a small property tax increase to pay for removal of trees infested by bark beetles. Such cutting seems to be expensive. Recent removal of 965 trees cost nearly $1,000 a tree, reports the Winter Park Manifest.

Winter Park is part of a broader region where the beetles are in an epidemic stage. Although the beetles are naturally occurring, and struck the area 20 years ago, the aging forests thereabouts have also been weakened by several years of drought as well as continued aging.

If temperatures plunge below 40 degrees, the beetle population will return to inactive. However, winters have been warming steadily since the 1980s. Without such a winter, say etymologists, the beetles could continue to spread for 10 to 20 years.

In addition to the unsightly needles turning rust-coloured as the trees die, the dead trees also present a fire hazard.

New villages in the Four Corners

DURANGO, Colo. — New mini-towns at the base of ski areas have been much in the news lately in Southwestern Colorado.

At Durango Mountain Resort, the ski area located halfway between Durango and Silverton, long-standing plans to build six "villages" continue to advance. The latest instalment, the third such villages, has received conceptual approval by authorities in La Plata County.

The proposal, called Purgatory, which was the ski area’s previous name, includes up to 641 total residential units and up to 170,000 square feet of commercial space. The work is also to give the ski area base a face-lift. Ski area representatives say they have no plans to concentrate employee housing in one area, which surrounding residents had feared could create a problem with noise.

Meanwhile, well to the east of Durango at Wolf Creek Pass, a Texas-based developer and sports franchise owner, Red McCombs, was thought to be planning and end-around tactic. He wants to build a base village at Wolf Creek and has some private land for doing so, but needs some federal permits and a land exchange.

Opponents said McCombs wanted to bypass the federal bureaucracy and normal laws by getting congressional action approved in a rider to another bill. However, the proposal never materialized – which is not to say it was never planned. The possibility got lots of media attention.

The cost of sales

JACKSON, Wyo. — Itinerant vendors who want to sell their wares in Jackson could be forced to purchase licenses at a cost of $200 a day. At the same time, the city council members want to give a break to local businesses who want to sell their items at other sites. That fee would be $37. None of these planned fees would apply to vendors at events such as the Mountain Artists’ Rendezvous, which is considered an exposition, explains the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Students must get involved

KETHCUM, Idaho — The Blaine County School District is now requiring all students to participate in community service in a way that is aligned with each student’s social studies curriculum.

The intent, a school administrator told the Idaho Mountain Express, is to broaden the perspectives of students, give them opportunities to encounter new people, and encourage them to build an empathetic understanding of those around them.

"We want the students to see the importance and understand the importance of giving back to the community," said Mary Fervase, assistant superintendent. "Perhaps they will be more likely to do other service when they leave school and become citizens themselves."

The added requirement does not specify a number of service hours. Instead, teachers decide the appropriate amount of volunteer time for their students.

Granby women to pose nude

GRANBY, Colo. — It’s getting to be quite the fad, this business of the locals getting naked for photographers.

The idea seems to have originated in England, where friends of a cancer victim decided to raise money for her care by creating a calendar by posing in the buff (behind discretely placed objects). A similar calendar is about four years old in the Vail Valley, although it has included some men. Then, last year, a photographer in Jackson Hole persuaded dozens of locals of both sexes to pose for him in what became a well-publicized gallery showing.

Now, in Granby, local women have gone nude for a $20 calendar. In addition to indulging latent exhibitionism, the women hope to raise $40,000 to help pay for the town’s reconstruction after last June’s bulldozer rampage. Among the shots are a couple of mother-daughter photos, one on a Honda motorcycle and the other on horseback, notes the Sky-Hi News.

Crested Butte wants to be less bear-friendly

MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Town officials in Mt. Crested Butte want to make local homes and businesses less inviting to bears. Officials from the town, which is located adjacent to the ski slopes, are reaching out to officials from their counterparts in Crested Butte and in broader Gunnison County to talk about a unified strategy.

Because of an early summer frost that destroyed berries and other natural components of their diets, the bruins were looking for people food. People in Mt. Crested Butte were reported to be generally good about not leaving their trash out overnight and avoiding other sorts of behaviour that are akin to posting big yellow neon arches. However, dumpsters and other trash receptacle are not of the bear-proof variety. With so many bears around, say wildlife biologists, somebody will eventually get hurt.

Bar looks for way to accommodate smokers

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. —Earlier this year Breckenridge banned smoking in bars, restaurants, and other public places. But the town allows smoking in tobacco stores.

With that in mind, Jeff Cox, owner of Cecilia’s bar, plans to create a 530-quare-foot tobacco business in a corner of the bar’s dance floor. The shop would be accessible from both the bar and the outside, explains the Summit Daily News.

Although the business would be established under a different name and management than Cecili’s, the Breckenridge Town Council is concerned that the two businesses are too "connected." Ultimately, they fear, the tobacco shop could be used merely as a smoking lounge.