Mountain News: Two ski areas to become one? 

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  • MEGA RESORT

PARK CITY, Utah — The long-standing drama in Park City ended last week when Powdr Corp. announced it was selling its lifts, water rights, and other assets in Park City Mountain Resort to Vail Resorts.

For its $182.5 million, Vail Resorts also gets the name of the ski area. Just how it will use the name remains speculative. It will retain the name for the existing ski area, but will it also connect Park City with the Canyons and use one name for both resorts?

When he spoke with reporters in Park City, chief executive Rob Katz talked about linking the two resorts with a lift. With this interconnecting lift Vail could then have bragging rights to a single ski area of 2,954 hectares — the largest ski area in the United States.

For a long time, that distinction went to Vail Mountain. After its expansions at the turn of the century, Vail ended up at 2,140 hectares. One skier tried several times to ski all the named runs, and it took him about a week.

But then came Montana's Big Sky. By amalgamating various smaller ski areas, including Moonlight and the Yellowstone Club, Big Sky now has captured the bigger-is-better sweepstakes with 2,327 hectares

That's just the United States. The title of biggest in North America goes to Whistler Blackcomb with 3,307 hectares.

Remains of treeline town get stabilized

SILVERTON, Colo. — Abandoned mining towns litter the high country of Colorado, but few match Animas Forks for sheer audacity. The one-time town is located between Silverton and Lake City at about 3,400 metres in elevation, just a few hundred metres below treeline.

The Wikipedia entry says Animas Forks's first log cabin was constructed in 1873 and had a hotel, a general store and, from 1882 to 1886, a newspaper. One winter it also had 7.6 metres of snow.

As the mining slackened, so did the town. Now it's a curiosity for travellers on a network of gravel roads called the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway. It's accessible to high-clearance cars, but ATV enthusiasts now comprise many of the 600,000 annual travellers, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The Telluride Watch reports that nine structures remain in Animas Forks, and efforts to preserve those remains got a much-needed grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund two years ago.

Big butterflies, giraffes, and a Bud Light party

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Did you hear about Crested Butte's big party, the one sponsored by Bud Light that brought in 1,300 contest winners to "Wherever" for a night of revelry?

There was considerable heartburn before the event, and some indigestion still remains. But Mark Reaman, editor of the Crested Butte News, says it was otherwise close to a home run.

"This was (really) fun," he reports. "It wasn't all unicorns and sunshine (but pretty close both literally and figuratively)."

Models were dressed like giraffes and butterflies, a Mariachi band played, the sun shone on Vanilla Ice, the drummer from Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show band played in the pizza parlour, KC and the Sunshine Band were there, as was DJ Stella and many, many others.

What had caused the angst was, in part, the idea of essentially renting out three blocks of the town's main street, Elk Avenue, to Anheuser-Busch, the brewer of Bud Light.

Was this really so bad? "We in essence lease it to the Pro Challenge (bicycle race) but pay them a lot of money," he observes.

Reaman also noted the greatest surliness coming from what he calls the mid-timers, as distinguished from the old-timers and the new residents. He says he doesn't buy into the idea that the Crested Butte "brand" was damaged by letting a multi-national corporation into "our little mountain village."

"We don't live in a brand, we live in a valley filled with people who like to be outside the mainstream and try new things," he says. "This even fits that bill and it brought in people who understand the mindset."

The deeper issue that divided Crested Butte, he says, was what he describes as a "middle-school clique scenario." The town council had worked with merchants, and they were all in the know. But general townspeople were not until just two weeks beforehand. This was, he says, analogous to the cool kids and the nerders who weren't invited to the dance.

"Remember that keeping secrets never works," he says. "And continue to be a community that should be open to new experiences — and fun."

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