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Mountain News: Revelstoke resort limping financially

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Financial troubles are slowing the work at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, the major new ski area that was opened last year.

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Financial troubles are slowing the work at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, the major new ski area that was opened last year. While the details are still being sorted out, marketing director Ashley Tait told the Revelstoke Times Review, the Nelson Lodge is still to be completed, but the timing has shifted. Some staff members have been shed.

Control of the project has been assumed by the Northland Properties Group, a Vancouver-based company that invested a reported $10 million into the project a year ago. Previous control of the project had been held by Don Simpson, a Denver-based developer of housing.

“What you need to know is that we were overspent and in a very tough position,” Rod Kesleer, chief operating officer, told the Revelstoke City council at an Oct. 27 meeting.

At Canmore, meanwhile, the $135 million Solar Resort & Spa has gone into receivership. Construction had stopped in September after the K2 Developments was unable to secure the final $3 million in financing. Of the 214 units, 50 remained for sale, sources told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.


Bigger airport to serve resorts

CRANBROOK, B.C. – The ribbon has been cut on an airport at Cranbrook that is now bigger and better — and beginning in December will have flights connecting to Salt Lake City, hub for Delta Airlines.

Tourism officials hope that Cranbrook becomes a major portal for the emerging resorts of the Kootenays. Resorts that may benefit include Fernie, Revelstoke and Panorama, plus summer resorts in the lake-laden Kootenay region.

“The Kootenay region is only half a day away for more than 65 million travelers from the U.S. alone, and now, opportunities for overseas flights are increased as well,” said Bill Bennet, the minister for tourism, culture and the arts in British Columbia.

The runway was extended by 2,000 feet, to 8,000, explains the Revelstoke Times Review. Terminal buildings are now able to handle international flights. The cost was $12.5 million, financed by local, provincial and federal governments.


No clotheslines in Canmore

CANMORE, Alberta – The Rocky Mountain Outlook accuses the Canmore council of getting “their knickers a bit knotted.” One council member had wanted to allow outdoor clotheslines in a new condo project. Other council members disagreed, arguing that it is an aesthetic issue — “as if somehow property values would plunge should the neighbour’s unmentionables get a proper airing,” said the newspaper in an editorial.

“Rather than discouraging the use of outdoor drying, Canmore should be encouraging such energy saving measures — infinitely cheaper than and just as effective as such things as solar panels and hybrid cards,” opined the newspaper.

One U.S. organization calculates that clothes dryers account for 6 per cent of all electricity consumed by U.S. households, behind only refrigerators and lighting. “Cumulatively, there would be a heck of a lot less coal burned and rivers dammed to produce power if we all just stopped tumbling our clothes,” said the Outlook.

As well, it added parenthetically, imports from China could be significantly reduced as well, as the cheaply made clothing gets rapidly chewed to bits in clothes dryers.


Utah ski areas may be connected

PARK CITY, Utah – The idea of connecting ski areas of the Wasatch Range is being talked about in Utah once again. The concept has been around for a while, because of the proximity of the ski hills. Park City has three ski areas, and relatively close, but on the other side of the range, are Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude. The Park Record says that Gov. John Huntsman supports the interconnections, saying it will make Utah a more attractive skiing destination while also possibly reducing car traffic. However, he does not support spending government funds to achieve this.


Sewage plant to heat streets

AVON, Colo. – Heat from a sewage treatment plan in Avon is going to be diverted to melt snow on future streets and sidewalks in the emerging downtown area. The heat might also be used to heat the swimming pool at the Avon Recreation Center. Key to making the project work is a   $1.5 million grant from the Governor’s Energy Office in Colorado.


Rebates lower cost of solar

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – Solar collectors are becoming more common in Eagle County, partly the result of a so-called Robin Hood program.

That program, modeled partly on an older program developed in Aspen and Pitkin County, charges homeowners who want to put in snowmelt systems of more than 200 square feet. Homeowners have the option of installing their own renewable energy systems or to pay an in-lieu fee of $16 per square foot.

Homeowners in the Beaver Creek, Cordillera and other high-end residential areas of unincorporated Eagle County paid more than $200,000 last year, the first full year of operation for the program. This year the program is expected to take in $150,000.

The money, in turn, is offered to local homeowners to defray the cost of installing solar hot water systems or photovoltaic. The county pays up to 50 per cent of the cost of a hot-water generating system, up to $4,000 per household. As well, the rebates of $2 per watt of generating capacity are paid for photovoltaic systems, which produce electricity.

“While we recommend conservation measures like compact fluorescent bulbs, efficient appliances, improving insulation and sealing leaks as a first step, there has never been a better time to take the next step and invest in solar power for your home,” said Adam Palmer, the green building specialist for Eagle County.

So far, $72,000 has been paid out in rebates to 22 homeowners for solar systems.

The financial package is especially attractive in the Minturn and Red Cliff communities, located south of Vail. Those areas are serviced by Xcel Energy, which is now offering $3.50 per watt of installed capacity in rebates. That, with the Eagle County rebates, gives homeowners of smaller systems of 2 kilowatts or less $5.50 per kilowatt. Combined with federal tax credits, that reduces the payback to 13 years at current energy prices.


Skiing couple up to 505

KETCHUM, Idaho – John and Jewel Andrew, who are well into retirement stopped by Sun Valley recently. Twelve years ago they decided to ski all the alpine resorts in North America, and so far they’ve accomplished that at 505 ski hills from Alaska to Georgia.

“Hill” might seem like an exaggeration for some of these ski areas, observes the Idaho Mountain Express. For example, New York’s Sawkill Family Ski Center has only 70 vertical feet. The average in North American is 948 feet.

Many of the ski hills are operating on a shoestring. John, who is 77, says he insists on paying, even though most ski areas want to give him a free lift ticket when they discover his age.

Another 200 or so ski areas remain on the couple’s list, with 40 to 60 each in Ontario, Quebec, New York and Michigan. “Our goal of skiing all of North America may be forever elusive,” John Andrew told the newspaper. Still, he didn’t sound the least bit rueful about the quest. Sensible retired people, he added, went on ocean cruises.


Snow blanket tested

SNOWMASS, Colo. – The snowpack never completely melted this summer at the Snowmass ski area, where a mound of snow 20 feet high survived even the 80-plus days of summer. The mound is the remnant of a massive jump that was part of a snowboard terrain park built last winter.

Until early October, the snow was covered by a blanket produced by a Swiss company called Landolt. The product is called Ice Protector Optiforce, and it’s being used in European ski resorts, which tend to be lower and more vulnerable to the warming climate.

Rich Burkley, general manager of mountain operations for the Aspen Skiing Company, said the snow blanket is expected to be most useful in protecting snow or ice at critical connections or access areas, such as at ramps below chairlifts that get skiers to trails. One goal, he told The Aspen Times, is to reduce the energy consumption needed to make snow.

However, whether the blanket is cost effective is still being evaluated, he said. Also testing the blanket for effectiveness are the Vail and Telluride ski areas.


Cloud-seeding may be cut

GUNNISON, Colo. – After the 2002 drought, Gunnison County found religion. The next winter, and every winter thereafter, it has donated to a cloud-seeding effort. But this year, with revenues likely to be flat or decline, local officials are more hesitant. With cloud-seeding season drawing near, reports the Crested Butte News, the best they could offer Utah-based cloud-seeder Don Griffith is a maybe. The cost to the county and other Crested Butte-area organizations would be $100,000.


Trucks parking away from Vail

VAIL, Colo. – When Interstate 70 across Vail Pass closes because of stormy weather, as occurred 43 times last year, it can be hard to find a place to park a truck in Vail. There just isn’t much room, plus that means a lot of idling diesel engines in one place — not much fun for neighbours out for a stroll.

To reduce the congestion, Colorado transportation officials have come up with a strategy. First, truckers driving from the west will be alerted to conditions more frequently. Some $3 million has been spent to install 14 variable-message signs.

Those signs will tell truckers of what lies ahead — and what does not. In other words, they will be advised to snag parking spaces well away from the foot of the pass, even as far away as Dotsero and Gypsum, about 50 miles away. There will be 410 parking spaces for trucks along highways and frontage roads in this more distant location.


School first to get gold LEED

ASPEN, Colo. – Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification has been awarded to the Aspen Middle School. It is believed to be the first school in Colorado to get the gold certification, the third highest of four certifications in the LEED program.

To get this certification, explains The Aspen Times, the building has been designed to use 50 per cent less energy than its predecessor. This is predicted to save $200,000 in energy costs each year. The one-time upfront costs were calculated at $590,000, or about 2 per cent of the total construction cost of $23.5 million.

The new school has lights that turn off automatically when people aren’t in the room, and it also has solar collectors.

A non-profit, the Gore Range Science School, is reported to be planning a campus in Avon that would achieve a platinum LEED certification. Platinum is the highest level.


Dead tree kills logger

GRAND LAKE, Colo. – Foresters have been warning that beetle-killed wood will become ever more dangerous, now that up to 90 per cent of lodgepole pine trees in parts of Colorado have died. Dead trees, after all, have a way of falling over, and the root systems for lodgepole pine are particularly shallow.

Recently, that’s what happened near Grand Lake. Logging contractor Kevin Pellini, 43, was near his truck when wind pushed over a tree, causing massive head injuries.

“It just fell over,” Grand County Coroner Brenda Bock told the Middle Park Times. “The dead tree’s root system was so shallow that it didn’t take much for it to fall over.”


Historic preservation is aim

OURAY, Colo. – Ouray County commissioners are considering adoption of restrictions on the size of houses and other structures built on former mining properties. With mining from the 1870s continuing for a century, the county now has 1,200 such properties located in the San Juan Mountains, explains The Ouray Watch. County Commissioner Keith Meinert said the purpose of the proposed regulations is to preserve the historic character of the mining districts.


Mining company staying the course

LEADVILLE, Colo. – The world’s roiling economy has resulted in falling prices for metals, but mine operator Freeport-McMoRan says that it still plans to reopen its molybdenum mine between Leadville and Copper Mountain in 2010. The work is “continuing on schedule,” company official Eric Kinneberg told The Leadville Chronicle.

After taking a hard and extended look at the world molybdenum market, the company in 2007 announced plans to reopen the Climax Mine, located at Fremont Pass. The company is spending $500 million in renovations, which will make mining operations more efficient.

The reopened mine is to employ 350 people. More than 3,000 worked there at peak productions in about 1980 — shortly before plummeting molybdenum prices resulted in the mine being closed.


Activists seek clean air, not a ban on smoking

JACKON HOLE, Wyo. – Only two bars still allow smoking in Jackson Hole, but efforts continue to preclude smoking as a part of regulations governing food workers.

Activists insist they are not out to ban smoking — only to allow the right of individuals to breathe safe, clean air. “Breathing is a right, not a privilege,” writes Frieda Edgette, of the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

She had written to the Jackson Hole News & Guide to object to a headline that described a “smoking ban.” Her group, she said, is not out to ban smoking — only to prevent others from having to breath the tainted air.