Mountain News: Telluride expecting big drop in revenues 

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Telluride’s real estate economy is seriously in the tank. The town during November collected $18,000 in real-estate transfer taxes. That compares with an average $387,000 for the five previous Novembers, a 95 per cent decline.

Although sales tax collections haven’t dropped as severely, town manager Frank Bell is calling for reductions in spending by town employees that assume a 25 to 50 per cent drop in revenues this winter. Bookings for the winter are currently running 25 per cent below last year’s banner ski season, notes The Telluride Watch.

For employees at town hall, credit cards will be reined in, travel will require special approval, and overtime pay will be banned, except for emergencies and snow removal. Presumably, lack of overtime for snow removal would provoke an even greater emergency.

 

Vail aims for next gen skiers

VAIL, Colo. – From all the construction cranes in Vail, you wouldn’t know a major recession is underway. A new Four Seasons hotel is rapidly rising, as is a condominium project called Solaris. Both were conceived during sunnier economic times during the last decade, but with each one requiring a number of years to get approvals, financing, or both.

Meanwhile, Vail Resorts seems to foresee an end to this recession. For several years it has been acquiring property in parcel on the fringes of the main resort areas. There, it intends to construct a new gondola to Vail Mountain and create a major, 11-acre project called Ever Vail.

John Garnsey, co-president of the company’s mountain division, told a group in Vail recently that Ever Vail represents his company’s effort to create a real-estate product for people who are now in the 25- to 35-year-old range.

“Vail is the best ski mountain and the best ski town,” he said. “But everyone is trying to figure out how to capture the next generation. We’re going to be left at the curb if we don’t, and Ever Vail will help us do that.”

The company is investing heavily in new, green-thinking designs. Company officials in the past have said they intend to create a project able to get platinum designation, the highest of four levels of certification under the LEED program.

The Vail Daily reports that two traditional issues, affordable housing and parking, worry town officials as they inspect the company’s plans for the $1.5 billion project. The officials worry that the project won’t provide enough of either.

 

Economy trumps climate change

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions has been called the greatest challenge of our times. But at least in Canada, it will have to wait.

“We will not aggravate an already weakened economy in the name of environmental progress,” said Jim Prentice, minister of environment for the Canadian government.

Prentice spoke at a forum held in Lake Louise in conjunction with the World Cup ski races. The theme this year, as last, was climate change, and Prentice acknowledged climate change is the “pre-eminent environmental issue of our time.” What is needed, he said, is an “acceptable balance between measurable environmental progress and steady economic growth and prosperity.”

The Rocky Mountain Outlook says that former California Governor Pete Wilson also spoke at the forum, and he said that California’s front-edge politics regarding energy use have gone too far. “There is a need for a kind of realism to be expressed, but California is not waiting,” said Wilson.

Wilson advocates nuclear power, but is dubious of carbon-sequestering technology, which would allow the abundant coal resources to continue to be used. Sequestering of carbon, however, has so far defied efforts to do it in any broad, large-scale way.

Marlo Raynolds, executive director of the Pembina Institute, a climate action group active in Canada, told reporters that a carbon tax is badly needed. Former U.S. President Al Gore, in an interview in Newsweek, is calling for the same thing, to be balanced by a reduction in payroll taxes.

 

Ketchum draws bio-tech company

KETCHUM, Idaho – While Ketchum continues its efforts to rebuild a tourism economy, it has taken a step in another direction. A company that creates reagents and antibodies for scientific researchers has set up shop in the town in quarters once occupied by Scott, the ski equipment manufacturer.

Most of the company’s 23 employees already lived in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, said the company’s founder, Dr. John Stephenson. “We have no problem finding people here, and by hiring locally it means less turnover because they already know they like the area,” he told the Idaho Mountain Express.

With his wife, Brenda, he has a house in Ketchum and has been visiting for more than 20 years to ski and hike. He expects to get in 100 days of skiing this winter. As for housing costs for employees, he says the costs are no higher than in San Francisco and San Diego, where his competitors are based.

 

Fuming resumes over I-70 congestion

SILVER PLUME, Colo. – Without even looking out the door, you can tell it’s ski season in Colorado. The complaints are rising once again about the congestion of Interstate 70 between Denver and Summit County.

“Visualize tail lights,” says Rob Witwer, a retiring state legislator in Colorado. Writing in The Denver Post, he says it’s questionable whether Colorado could mount a credible bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2018 given existing conditions. “Do we really believe the International Olympic Committee would favor a location with such an overburdened infrastructure?” he asks.

On a snowy weekend, with traffic backed up for miles to the twin bores through the Continental Divide called Eisenhower and Johnson, there’s no end of blame to go around. Breckenridge resident Bill Doig blames cars without good snow tires. “Ticket and fine heavily the bozos who slide around on bald and inadequate rubber,” he fumes in a letter published in the Summit Daily News.

Michael Penny, the Frisco town manager, tells the Rocky Mountain News of plans to make traffic information available on changeable signs at resort lift stations and by text messages to cell phones. The purpose, he says, is to allow skiers to decide to ski until traffic improves, or perhaps leave early to beat the rush back to Denver.

Are high-speed trains the answer? The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority is about halfway through its study of potential trains for both the I-70 and I-25 corridors in Colorado. A lot of different options remain on the table.

 

Boycott likely to fizzle

PARK CITY, Utah – Talk of a boycott of Park City’s Sundance Film Festival in January seems to be sputtering. The Park Record reports that the gay-friendly Queer Lounge intends to return. Ellen Huang, the founder and program director, told the newspaper that it is important for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community to use the opportunity for Sundance “to ensure their stories about our community reach a broad audience.” The boycott talk had materialized because of the role of the Mormon church, which is based in nearby Salt Lake City, in drumming up support for California’s Proposition 8, which outlaws gay marriage.

 

Vail switches legal notices

VAIL, Colo. – Vail’s town government has decided to forego publishing the full text of laws in the Vail Daily and instead post the laws on the town’s website. The move will save the town $20,000, town officials say. The Vail Daily’s publisher, Steve Pope, argues that the change is a bad one. He contends it is “unreasonable to expect that the common person” will regularly visit the town’s website, whereas 90 per cent of local residents scan his newspaper.

 

Moly mine still open

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – How quickly this economy has turned. Even last spring the news hither and thither across the West was of mines being reopened or at least being contemplated. Now, mines are being shuttered or, as in the case of a year-old molybdenum mine near Revelstoke, the expansion shelved. Scott Broughton, president and chief executive of Roca Mines, says his company will continue to mine, and he said he’s “keenly interested” in preserving the jobs of the 100 or so workers there.

“It’s not just goodwill and it’s not just philanthropic,” he told the Revelstoke Times-Review. “We want to be able to have this mine up and running and producing molybdenum when prices do go back up again.”

The newspaper notes that the price for molybdenum, an alloy in steel and iron often called simply “moly,” had been holding steadily at $30 to $35 US per pound, but has now skidded to $12 per pound.

 

CB looks to save sheds, outhouses

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Part of the charm of Crested Butte is its gaily painted Victorian storefronts. But that’s the show-business part. To get a better sense of Crested Butte’s grimy past you need to walk the alleyways and visit the empty lots, where a great many coal bins, outhouses, and sheds, many of them graying and rotting, can be seen.

To ensure the manifestations of yesteryear remain, the town is now looking at incentives and penalties for property owners. The goal is to ensure the old buildings aren’t deliberately torn down, and that some efforts are made to keep them standing.

“I think one of the things about Crested Butte that’s special is the outbuildings,” building official Bob Gillie recently told the town council. “Those buildings, like the coal sheds, say a lot about the history of Crested Butte.”

Council members, reports the Crested Butte News, are leery of over-reaching in their efforts to preserve the past. But they are also reminded that some other communities, such as Telluride, now wish more relics of the past had been preserved, and are keen on applying those lessons to Crested Butte.

 

Aspen responds to 4 deaths

ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen and Pitkin County are rapidly moving to adopt stricter laws mandating installment of carbon monoxide detectors in homes in the wake of the deaths of a family of four from Denver that had been staying at a home near Aspen during Thanksgiving.

A private engineering firm hired by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department cited a “combination of errors” in the home’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems as the possible cause of the spread of the deadly, odorless gas.

The city and county both began requiring carbon monoxide detectors in new homes and other buildings in 2003. This week the city announced detectors must now be located outside each sleeping area of a new home. City and council officials, reports The Aspen Times, are considering a requirement to retrofit older, existing homes with carbon monoxide devices.

 

New library achieves LEED gold

DURANGO, Colo. – After 101 years, Durango has a new library. It’s larger, with more places to read, and thanks to windows and skylights, much brighter, reports the Durango Telegraph. As well, the building has green credentials, scoring enough points under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification system to score gold, the third highest of four levels.

 

Tahoe casino butts out

LAKE TAHOE, Nev. – Can casinos on the Nevada side of the border at Lake Tahoe tell their customers to butt out? One already has.

“This was a pure business decision,” explained Scott Tate, general manager of the Fernley Nugget, which opened Nov. 5. He told the Tahoe Daily News that smokers have access to a patio. “I’m not a proponent of a smoke-free environment as much as I’m a proponent of choice,” he said.

Other casino operators, however, aren’t ready to ban smoking, which is still legal at casinos in Nevada. “From a personal view, I would be all for it, but I don’t want to be the first kid on the block to try it,” said Bill Wood, general manager of the Crystal Bay Casino.

Latest in Mountain News

More by Allen Best

© 1994-2019 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation