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Mountain News: What’s the solution for ski industry?

KETCHUM, Idaho. - The snow sports industry, says the Idaho Mountain Express , is missing the boat. Instead of trying to entice visitors to luxurious lodges set among beautiful landscapes, ski areas and ski towns need to reach out more.

KETCHUM, Idaho. - The snow sports industry, says the Idaho Mountain Express , is missing the boat. Instead of trying to entice visitors to luxurious lodges set among beautiful landscapes, ski areas and ski towns need to reach out more.

"Snow sports are often viewed as only for the young, the rich, the incredibly fit and those who don't mind risking their lives going 90 mph down a hill," says the newspaper in an editorial. "Shredding this baggage will require the industry to reach out with new programs for people of all ages and fitness levels."

The newspaper cites several strategies, although most of them bring to mind past efforts by... well, the snow sports industry.

One of the bloggers on the newspaper's website also took this position. "The ski industry is not missing the boat," wrote the blogger. "Plain and simple, the heyday is over."


Fewer overseas workers this winter

ASPEN, Colo. - Echoing stories done in 2002, the New York Times heralds the return of the well-educated ski bum. The newspaper tells of an investment banker, an information technology specialist and an international marketing manager who respectively are now selling ski school lessons, monitoring chairlifts and serving vegetarian fare.

"For well over a decade, many of the people operating lifts and ladling soup into bread bowls at restaurants in Aspen and other resorts had come from Australia, Europe and South America," says the Times , seeming to have forgotten about the economic slowdown in 2002-03 when employee housing sat empty and people with master's degrees were also schlepping coffee and brooming off chairlift seats.

But the change from the last two years is undeniable and the Times cites statistics: Only 15 per cent of Aspen's staff is from overseas this winter compared to 26 per cent in a previous season. Wyoming's Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has six employees from overseas this winter compared with 200 just two years ago. And Vail Mountain has 60 per cent fewer employees.

Some of the highly educated are jazzed to be in Aspen, but others are... well, they'll be glad to return to their cubicles and visiting Aspen and the other ski towns as well-heeled tourists.


Uphillers being segregated

WHITEFISH, Mont. - Ski area managers at Whitefish Mountain Resort intend to restrict uphill travel.

The new policy will likely designate a so-called "summit route" on one of the ski area's most popular groomed runs, reports the Whitefish Pilot . As well, the policy would allow uphill climbers only from early morning until the final sweep by ski patrollers.

Ski areas officials tell the newspaper that in crafting this policy, they are seeking to strike a balance in reducing the risk to skiers while still providing mountain access to the uphillers.

The policy mirrors that of one recently adopted at Oregon's Mt. Bachelor, where a designated summit route was established. Use can be restricted because of grooming, avalanche control and other reasons.

"The amount of uphill traffic has grown rapidly in the last few years," said Alex Kaufman, a spokesman for Mt. Bachelor. "More uphillers equal more conflicts with downhill traffic that may not see or anticipate them. Also, there were conflicts and safety concerns with winch-cat grooming and avalanche-control operations."

The newspaper interviewed Tim Thomas, from a shop in Whitefish that sells free-heeled ski gear. Sales, he said, have spiked in recent years.

"I think there is a large demographic that doesn't want to invest in a ski pass and who spends most of their time in the backcountry," he said. "But when they are short on time, skinning up Big Mountain is a very convenient thing to do. They have 2,500 vertical feet of skiing at their fingertips."

Uphillers interviewed by the newspaper were of mixed thoughts. "It would stink," said one skier. But another, Alyssa Jumars, saw the reason for restrictions. "On a day like Presidents' Day, when it was busy and foggy, skiing up maybe isn't the smartest thing to do," she said.


New strategy for branding

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - Police in Breckenridge have decided that no crime was committed when a college student from Texas Christian University submitted his bare butt to an impromptu branding iron during a trip of fraternity members.

The branding iron - really, just a hot clothes hangar - was used to create the Greek letters of the man's fraternity as well as a sorority. "All the evidence suggests that Amon Carter III was a willing participant and the branding was not part of any fraternity initiation, as he is already a full member," a press release stated.

The Summit Daily says that the man received second- and third-degree burns, and plastic surgery will be necessary to repair the damage.


FRISCO, Colo. - As real estate prices have dropped, the one-time frantic demand for affordable housing has receded but not entirely disappeared.

"It's not the frantic demand it was for anything within the attainable price range," said Jennifer Kermode, using the term that in Summit County is favored over "affordable." She directs the Summit Combined Housing Authority. Kermode said demand remains high for people who have incomes at 100 per cent of the area median income. In Summit County, that's $85,100 for a family of four.

Demand has declined among those in the 120 to 140 per cent, she told the Summit Daily News , as people have left Summit County - or possibly, think they may be able to buy housing that is not deed-restricted.

The target in Summit County, which includes Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne and other towns, is to augment the existing 770 attainable housing units with 2,500 more units.

Several projects hope to nudge Summit County toward that goal, the Daily News reports. Breckenridge has a 42-unit project called Valley Brook, which will be available to people who make 80 to 120 per cent of the median income. Young start-up families are responsible for most reservations.

A larger project in Frisco of 72 duplexes and single-family homes aims for an even broader income spectrum, up to 160 per cent of median income. The contract gives the land to the development team, which includes David O'Neil, developer of the New Urbanist-style Wellington Neighborhood in Breckenridge as well as the former Elitch's amusement park site in North Denver.

The town has also agreed to waive certain fees, to keep costs down. Town officials hope for ground-breaking in April. The development team more cautiously asks to be given 10 years to complete the project, instead of the four years normally allowed when a development is authorized.


Salinger wrote at own pace

OURAY, Colo. - As it turns out, there's a connection between the late fiction writer J.D. Salinger and the mountain town of Ouray.

That connection runs through a former librarian in Ouray, Mary Anne Dismant, who in 1975 was still recoiling from the tumult of the 1960s with thoughts of leaving her husband and becoming a nun.

She did neither, as she confides to Telluride Watch columnist Peter Shelton, but she did write to Salinger, imploring him to continue his writing, which gave her some comfort.

Salinger responded with a letter, in which he said he had little that could be said quickly. Then he added:

"I wonder, though, if it mightn't do, amount to a little something in the right direction, if I tell you straight out truthfully that about all I seem to know for sure about my professional writing is that it tends to get done in its own time and possibly no other way. The whole thing has baffled me mightily, sometimes almost unbearably, ever since I started out. I work, I can tell you, and I care very much how it goes. Thanks very much for your letter."

As for the former librarian Dismant, she stayed with her husband, continued to journal and now has a book called Growing Up in Denver 1944-1957: A Memoir.


Hot snowmobiles get hotter

REVELSTOKE, B.C. - Thieves made off with a pickup and trailer with seven high-performance snowmobiles, the Nytro Turbo models of 2009 and 2010. The theft comes on the heels of a truck carrying six snowmobiles, valued altogether at $100,000, being stolen in Revelstoke. In that case, reports the Revelstoke Times Review, the truck and trailer were found later that same day near Falkland, B.C.


Telluride bakery now toast

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Baked in Telluride, the town's oldest continuously operating eatery, got baked itself earlier this month.

Investigators concluded that the bakery's huge oven - it measured seven feet by nine feet - had slowly, steadily warmed the ceramic tile below it, eventually drying out the plywood and other wooden supports below. After 20-hour heat, 364 days a year, the wood eventually dried to the point it could no longer absorb more heat.

The Telluride Watch reports that firefighters tried to cut a hole in the floor, to get at the source of the smoke and hence the fire, but were stymied by a difficult flooring structure. Firefighters theorized that the structure had once been a livery and had been fortified to support the weight of horses.

The building was a complete loss, but Baked in Telluride hopes to reopen. It has been in business since 1976, nearly as long as the ski area.


Vodka distillery considered

PARK CITY, Utah - Several months ago a whiskey-maker called High West Distillery opened in Park City. Now, plans are being reviewed for a business that wants to create a vodka distillery.

The distiller would be at a restaurant and health club called Club Lespri. The goal, said club founder Scott Rogers, is to create a vodka that is far superior to mass-produced vodkas. "The smaller the still, the more hands-on, the better product you'll get," he told The Park Record.


Steamboat hopes to get whistle back

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - At least since the 1920s, Steamboat Springs has had a whistle that blew at noon and sometimes for other purposes, such as to summon volunteer firefighters.

Two years ago, though, the whistle was removed because the supporting post was rotting. Now, Steamboat hopes to have a whistle again. "It's part of our community character," said Tracy Barnett, executive director of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs.

The group has raised $5,000, enough to buy a whistle that sounds like a train. But the group hopes to get a larger kitty in order to get a more authentic steamboat whistle, which has a lower pitch, reports the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Locals tell the newspaper that they believe the whistle was originally designed to summon firefighters, who thought a noon-hour venting would be appropriate in order to daily test whether it was working. In the 1950s, the use of the whistle was changed to an ear-shattering siren and used to practice Cold War-era drills.


MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. - The Sheet, a newspaper in Mammoth Lakes, tongue-in-cheek went out to interview Christine Lozoski, who is 56 and, after years of working in a library, now works at a bakery. The newspaper was intent on knowing whether the woman is actually as cheerful as she always seemed, or whether it was just a guise. The newspaper found no evidence that the woman put on a special game mask when she went to work. But she did allow that she tried to sell sweets to customers so she didn't eat them herself.


Universities looking for dark-sky places

RIDGWAY, Colo. - Ridgway, with its hay fields set against the grand views of the San Juan Mountain Range, is one of the prettiest places in the West. And, because of its relative distance from ski resorts (Telluride is about an hour away), interstate highways, and airports, it still has a relatively small population.

Still, like everybody, the locals would like to grow their economic pie. The Telluride Watch says that economic consultant Deanne Sheriff recently told the local chamber that one thing Ridgway and nearby Ouray have going for them is that very lack of development but also regulations limiting light-pollution.

"Did you know there are three universities looking for a place for observatories," she asked. "You have an advantage.