Mountain News: Pithy greeting to ski-town visitors 

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MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — Mammoth Lakes has decided that it needs a more conspicuous greeting to visitors on a monument to be erected at the town's entrance.

From the 100 or so entries, organizers have culled the following three finalists: 1) Welcome; 2) Gateway to the Heart of the High Sierra; and 3) "The mountains are calling...." John Muir.

In reporting this, The Sheet newspaper impishly offers its own proposal: "Please Spend Lots of Money."

Train traffic picks up

WHITEFISH, Mont. — In addition to being a ski town, Whitefish is a railroad town. It has a large railroad yard, and train crews on the BNSF Railway's Hi-Line Route switch there. The route connects Chicago with the ports at Seattle and Portland, shuttling cars of wheat and corn, televisions and vehicles.

Freight volume dropped 30 per cent when the recession hit, but it has returned to 90 per cent of the peak levels. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway purchased a controlling interest in the railroad in 2009 for $34 billion, and it looks to have been a good investment. Company officials tell the Whitefish Pilot that they expect traffic to return to pre-recession levels by 2013.

The railway is currently running more than 30 trains a day through Whitefish and Glacier National Park, and the resumption of business has spurred the hiring of 41 employees in Whitefish. Salaries for the jobs are relatively good, with a diesel mechanic getting $25 an hour, notes the Pilot.

Energy is the most significant component of BNSF's freight. Twenty-seven per cent of its freight is coal, most from Wyoming's Powder River Basin. The railroad is also picking up business hauling oil from the Bakken shale region of North Dakota, while delivering drilling equipment and fracking sand. BNSF also hauls turbines and other equipment for wind farms.

Sales taxes on rise in Aspen

ASPEN, Colo. — Sales tax collections in Aspen through October suggest a recovering economy, at least among the economic elites. Town officials tell The Aspen Times that retail sales were up 5.9 per cent. At least part of the increase was due to more people staying in hotel rooms.

High-end prices on rise

VAIL, Colo. — From Vail also comes news of increasing economic activity, this time in the real-estate sector. Land Title Guarantee Co. in its monthly report finds that the average price per square foot for a single-family home in Vail Village has gone up by one-third during the last year. The village encompasses the slope-side real estate.

However, the price per square foot of homes elsewhere in Eagle County has dropped an average 23 per cent. The raw numbers suggest that the rich are recovering nicely from the recession, and the foreclosures at the bottom and middle ends are working their way through the system.

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