Mountain News: Ski season should have been a bust… 

KETCHUM, Idaho - Go figure. The economy still struggles, snowfall was lousy for much of the season, but Sun Valley did extraordinarily well during ski season. The resort hosted the second most skiers ever, a history that extends to 1936.

Elsewhere in Idaho, reports the Idaho Mountain Express , the story was similar: Brundage, a small ski area near McCall, had its best financial season ever, despite snowfall that was 33 per cent below normal. And at Schweitzer, in the Idaho Panhandle, the snowfall was down by nearly half - but skier visits were up 7.5 per cent.

The National Ski Areas Association reports nearly 60 million skiers, close to the record of two years ago. More than two-thirds of ski areas reported increased business this season, despite the fact that most parts of the country received 20 to 32 per cent less snow. Of course, Houston and Dallas, two areas that are home to lots of skiers, got unusual amounts of snow this winter.

In Wyoming, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort told the same story. "During the first 55 days of the 128-day season, we had arguably the lowest recorded snowfall of the past 30 years," said Jerry Blann, president of the resort. Yet skier days were fourth highest since the resort opened in 1965.

Go figure.

Meanwhile, Colorado resorts have been issuing no such hosannas. But the Aspen Times does note that April was a miracle of its own, delivering the most snowfall ever within the town, if not necessarily on the local ski hills. Still, by early May, the local snowpack remained significantly below average.


Aspen can have cake and eat it, too!

ASPEN, Colo. - In what surely cannot be regarded as a surprise, a consultant paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration has concluded that a longer airport runway in Aspen will produce more tourists but not spur new building.

The study holds that the longer runway - 8,000 feet, compared to the current 7,000 feet - will be able to accommodate planes that currently have to leave seats empty because of weight restrictions in the thin air. Aspen is at about 8,000 feet. As such, it's easier to get to Aspen than to leave - and so some passengers have to drive to other airports, including Denver and Eagle, to leave.

If all these seats currently sitting empty could be filled, according to the study, 11,000 additional people can be accommodated in Aspen annually, leaving the community $29 million wealthier.

The Aspen Times notes that in reaching this cake-but-eat-it-too conclusion, the consultants navigated a tricky community discussion. The public has long been leery of runway expansions. One proposal promoted in the 1990s was soundly rejected by voters of Pitkin County.

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