Mountain News: Telluride embraces visitor-based economy 

TELLURIDE, Colo. - After seeing the real estate-based economy crash, Telluride is ready to embrace a visitor-based economy. But just what that visitor-based economy looks like isn't entirely clear.

The Telluride Daily Planet reports that a task force has been convened to examine the options.

"Overdependence on a housing starts- and housing sales-based economy is not sustainable," San Miguel County Commissioner Joan May said at a recent gathering devoted to the community's future economic foundation. "It has not proved to be resilient or sustainable either for the community or the environment."

But tourism has its deficiencies, too. Mike Rozycki, planning director for the county, questioned whether tourism would furnish the community with enough high-paying jobs to live in Telluride.

Another question involves seasonality. Despite the best efforts for now two generations, most ski towns remain essentially just that. Summer business has perked up, and in some places, the shoulder seasons have become somewhat lively. But winter overshadows all else.

Seth Cagin, publisher of The Telluride Watch, says ski resorts within driving distance of major metropolitan areas are different than destination resorts such as Sun Valley and Telluride, which are well off the beaten path.

"Figuring out the model for high-end destination resorts in remote locations - I am not sure anyone has that completely dialed in," said Cagin. "But I think the recession has provided plenty of evidence that while real estate sales and development will undoubtedly be part of the solution in the long run, they can't be the dominant feature of your economy."

He also said that the dramatic economic decline in Telluride also proves that the community, contrary to its self-perception as a place of enlightenment, still has some things to learn.

Bob Delves, the mayor of Mountain Village, the slope-side town above Telluride, noted that the task force got together on the assumption that "our community is not broken, but it could be."

Will Europeans and Brits return?

VAIL, Colo. - Europeans shied away from Vail, Aspen and other international resorts last winter. Will they come this winter, now that the dollar sags so significantly against the pound and the euro?

It's an open question, says Ralf Garrison, co-owner of the Mountain Travel Research Program. A well-publicized snowstorm, however, would go a long ways to drawing the Europeans, he tells the Vail Daily .

Johannes Faessler, a hotelier in Vail, said improved exchange rates do boost business at his hotel, the Sonnenalp. But even European travellers have been mimicking their American counterparts in booking closer to the time they intend to travel, he said.


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