Mountain News: This year’s Grump larger than ever 

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. - Every fall, for 24 years running, Crested Butte has hosted a community celebration called Vinotok. A high point of the festival is a giant bonfire at which a creature called The Grump - actually, all the bad things - is burned.

This year, reports the Crested Butte News , the bonfire was exceptionally large, 30 to 40 feet in diameter, enough that the town marshal, Tom Martin, was worried that the embers might set other buildings on fire. His recommendation is that a bonfire a third to a fourth of that size might be appropriate.

Festival organizer Theresa Henry quipped that the "fire was so big this year because the Grump was so large."

Seasonal housing vacant

ASPEN, Colo. - Large chunks of employee housing remain unspoken for in Aspen as the year's first snows have winked at the town.

The town has huge amounts of housing for lower-income workers, some of it specifically earmarked for seasonal employees. But housing complexes that filled within hours of becoming available last year continue to sit largely empty and unspoken for.

But one property manager, John Michaels, is not worried. "The people will come. The snow will fly, and the lifts will open," he told the Aspen Times .

But many of the ski instructors traditionally retained by the Aspen Skiing Co. through the H2B visa program will not be returning this year. The company hired 109 foreign instructors through the program last year, but plans to use only 57 this season. A ski company spokesman attributed the decision to the recession, which has left many people unemployed.

But the Aspen Times also notes that a ruling by the U.S. Department of Labor in August will force U.S. employers to reimburse foreign workers for travel costs. The National Ski Areas Association is exploring how to best challenge the ruling.

The Aspen Skiing Co. wasn't clear yet whether H2B visas will be used to fill other positions, such as housekeeping jobs.


Construction totals lowest in years

PARK CITY, Utah - If not for a major new hotel at Deer Valley, construction numbers at Park City through August would be only 22 per cent of what they were last year.

The hotel, called the Montage at Empire Pass, is valued at $26.9 million, nearly half the value of the construction for which the city has issued building permits this year. Most of the rest consists of alterations and additions.

Even with this high-end hotel, notes the Park Record , the year-end totals will likely be lower than any time since the early 1990s.

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