Mountain News: Park City boosting marketing to bikers 

click to enlarge BIKE BATTLE Park City wants to attract more mountain bike riders and the city has its sites on Moab's popularity as a mountain bike destination. Photo by John French
  • BIKE BATTLE Park City wants to attract more mountain bike riders and the city has its sites on Moab's popularity as a mountain bike destination. Photo by John French

PARK CITY, Utah — Tourism officials in Park City think their biking trails are very good. But the marketing fell somewhat short. They intend to change that.

The Park Record reports that mountain biking this summer will be a much more dominant part of the resort's marketing focus. Just maybe Park City can cut into some of Moab's business.

"Park City has always been a bit of a cycling town, but the potential growth of cycling was untapped," said Charlie Sturgis, executive director of the local non-profit Mountain Trails Foundation. "Whether or not these increased marketing efforts work — well, I guess we'll see."

Terrible winter was still pretty good

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Last year was feast, and this year was famine as U.S. skier visits in the United States were down 15 per cent. The National Ski Areas Association reported 51 million skier and snowboarder visits, the lowest total since the winter of 1991-92. This compares with a record number of 60.5 million in 2010-2011.

Some were bigger losers than others. Vail Resorts reported a 24 per cent decline at Northstar and Heavenly, both in California, and a nine per cent decline at its four ski areas in Colorado.

Loss of skiers does not necessarily equate to a comparable loss in revenues. Vail Resorts did just fine in early winter, thanks to pre-season sale passes. The Aspen Skiing Co. also seems to have survived well enough.

Aspen had marginally better snow this year than many other Colorado resorts. Visits by season-pass holders, especially locals, dropped, but the destination business seems to have held up. Overall, skier visits dropped only 1.8 per cent at its four ski hills.

"Financially, we had a good year," said Jeff Hanle, spokesman for the company. The ski school, restaurants and hotels all had a good year.

Aspen trademarks the phrase "Defy Ordinary"

ASPEN, Colo. — "Defy Ordinary" is now a trademarked expression, owned by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

The Aspen Daily News explains that U.S. trademark regulations require owners to use or lose their branding phrase.

Steamboat has not made that mistake. It adopted "Champagne Powder" in 1968 and takes care to ensure that nobody poaches that expression. It has attorneys who regularly send cease-and-desist letters to anybody who uses it without connecting it to Steamboat.

Aspen's chamber trademarked the expression "Defy Ordinary" because the promotional organization wants to use that for branding for years to come. "We want to protect it and not have another resort use it," said Julia Theisen, vice president of sales and marketing.

The Aspen Skiing Co. has trademarked dozens of brands and slogans over the years. At one point, it trademarked "Epic" as it relates to providing facilities for skiing or snowboarding, but the company allowed it to lapse.

The ski company also allowed the trademark for other branding expressions to lapse, among them: "The Mountain Town" and "Just Plain Fun."

Guess it just wasn't fun enough.

Wariness about water

ASPEN, Colo. — As mountain towns in Colorado move into summer, they continue to consider what lies ahead as the result of the incredibly low snowpack this year. By some measures, the drought is far worse than the epic summer of 2002.

In 2002, says The Aspen Times, the Roaring Fork River was reduced to a "series of puddles connected by a trickle of water" as it flows through Aspen. As a result, new legislation was adopted in Colorado that allows water-rights owners to donate their water to the river without fear of losing legal entitlements.

Administrators of the White River National Forest, which includes the Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge ski areas, warn of heightened risk from wildfires. "Everything's lining up for a fire season that could be pretty severe," forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams told local officials in Aspen last week.

Soil moisture in Aspen is at five to 10 per cent, whereas average is at 60 to 70 per cent, he said. Drought conditions are predicted for western Colorado through July.

At issue, too, is whether water agencies should ration supplies. Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, was quoted recently as saying that agencies should be more aggressive in restricting outdoor water use.

In the Vail area, the water district is urging conservation but is not taking additional measures. "Every customer can lessen the impact of the drought to our community by carefully considering their outdoor water needs," said Linn Brooks, general manager of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

Steamboat paying max for airline guarantees

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Managers of Steamboat's ski season flight program expect to spend $3.5 million this year to meet revenue guarantees to airlines that brought direct flights to the resort last winter.

The amount is a record, reports the Steamboat Today, and just short of the maximum allowed in contract with the airlines.

Poor snow across much of the country was blamed for fewer people flying to Steamboat for vacations. As a result, the number of airline passengers dropped 5 per cent.

Airline officials estimate they typically have to spend $30 to subsidize each passenger, says the newspaper. But each passenger spends $1,100 during a winter vacation.

Next winter, because of the dropping numbers last winter and continued high fuel prices, Steamboat officials expect the airlines to require even higher revenue guarantees.

Solar to cut natural gas use at rec centre

JACKSON, Wyo. — The Teton County-Jackson Recreation Center will be getting a new solar hot-water system.

Recreation officials say the solar system is supposed to reduce the amount of natural gas used to heat the pool and other components of the center by 35 per cent. That should reduce the annual cost of natural gas from $130,000 to $45,000, they tell the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

A majority of the money for the project comes from a state grant, but the county government also allocated several hundred thousand dollars of moneys paid by developers who don't use energy-efficient building practices.

High and dry makes for a lot of electricity

ALAMOSA, Colo. — If you look at maps depicting the best places for solar radiation in the United States, the Mojave Desert of Arizona and California is colored burgundy.

Colorado's San Luis Valley is nearly as good. The valley is broad and high, bordered by the San Juan Mountains on the west and the Sangre de Cristo Range on the east. Clouds are rare at Alamosa, in the valley's center, despite being plentiful at Wolf Creek, an hour west and usually the leader in snowfall accumulations among Colorado resorts.

All of this contributed to the decision by Cogentrix Energy to build a concentrating photovoltaic facility in the valley. The site is at 2,400 metres in elevation, and solar intensity is greater at higher elevations. The location can generate 1,000 watts per square metre, only slightly less than the solar gain at locations in the Mojave Desert.

Cogentrix Energy expects to produce enough power for 6,500 homes.

A news release from the company points out that some of the technology employed at the concentrated solar power facility was developed as part of the U.S. space program.

But the company also got a $90.6 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. Altogether, the agency has delivered $7.5 billion in loan guarantees to boost solar generation projects.

Little Nell no longer on table at Snowmass

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. — After the collapse of the real estate market in 2007-2009, there was much talk about just what would constitute the "new normal."

The recession had proved that there was indeed a limit to the parade of rich people to which all the destination mountain resorts of the west cater.

That question of what constitutes the "new normal" remains front and centre as town officials in Snowmass Village reconstitute plans for the half-finished real estate development called Base Village.

Snowmass is Aspen's money-maker, the place where 75 per cent of "Aspen" skiers ski. In a way, it is Aspen's answer to Vail Mountain. And Base Village, a joint project of the Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest when approved by local officials, was the answer to increasing competition from places like Deer Valley and Beaver Creek. The project aimed to deliver an improved lodging base as well as create greater economic vitality altogether.

Among the projects completed before work was halted in early 2009 was a major new hotel, the Viceroy, which aspires to four-star recognition. But a no-go was The Little Nell.

The hotel at Aspen is just one of three at mountain resorts in the west — Park City's Stein Eriksen Lodge and Jackson Hole's Four Seasons being the others — to get the absolute highest rankings. The brand had been licensed by the Aspen Skiing Co. for use at Base Village.

However, that license is now off the table at Snowmass, reports the Aspen Journalism Project, and it's unclear whether the deal will be revived.

Real estate professionals at Snowmass say that the Little Nell may be unnecessary. They point to both the Viceroy and a rebranding of another hotel into a Westin, where substantial upgrades are planned.

Tim Estin, a local real-estate broker, said the Little Nell was "very important" in 2005 to the future success of Base Village because it served "as validation or imprimatur of the quality of development" to which the project aspired. The Viceroy and the Westin are now delivering that validation, he suggested.

Aspen and Intrawest sold the project to a company called Related in 2007 for $167 million. The project in 2009 went bankrupt, and the four European banks that hold the notes now appear ready to sell the project back to Related. But how much of the original vision the banks and Related want to pursue is anybody's guess, and the Snowmass community is rife with speculation about what the new market for real estate justifies.

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