Mountain News: Will Main Street pot scare mom and pop? 

click to enlarge Fraught pot talk
  • Fraught pot talk

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — An argument is underway in Breckenridge, to be resolved by voters in early December. At issue is whether the stores that sell marijuana will be allowed on Main Street, the town's main shopping and nightlife district.

Main Street has had one marijuana store since 2009, called the Breckenridge Cannabis Club, but other marijuana dispensaries are located in an outlying, service-oriented area that few visitors see. The issue was too hot for the town council to decide itself.

The local lodging association opposes marijuana stores on Main Street, at least for now, until impacts to the Breckenridge "brand" are understood, according to a letter published in the Summit Daily News.

Three former mayors, with a combined tenure of 16 years, also posted a public letter warning of "big risk, little upside. The town should watch marijuana evolve in Colorado and the nation carefully while continuing to encourage retail and medical marijuana sales (in the service area)," said the letter signed by Chuck Struve, Sam Mamula, and Ernie Blake.

"When marijuana goes mainstream," they added, "our Main Street may then be ready. But not now, not yet."

The staff and owners of the Breckenridge Cannabis Club are having none of these arguments. In their letter, they point to hypocrisy by those — including the mayors and lodging proprietors — who condone alcohol sales at bars and restaurants but sniff at cannabis sales.

"Being one of the first communities in the world to take on the historic task of ending marijuana prohibition is scary," the letter declared. "But scary is interesting and it is that pioneering spirit that enchants visitors and created the history we have."

In the November election, Oregon, Washington D.C,. and Alaska also legalized recreational marijuana sales, joining Colorado and Washington.

That small-town coffee favorite? It's Starbucks

PARK CITY, Utah — When Vail Resorts bought Park City Mountain Resort a few months back, company representatives said they intended to honour Park City's authenticity and small-town atmosphere.

When it comes to coffee, however, it's big business. The company has informed a local coffee vendor that had been delivering the daily perk to the ski hill operations for several years that his 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of beans won't be needed. Instead, Vail will do business with its official partner, Starbucks.

"I'm kind of bummed out. I know business is business," coffee vendor Robert Hibl told The Park Record.

The newspaper, in an editorial, declared that Park City's toughest challenge during the next few years will be to balance two realities. Beginning next year, when Park City Mountain Resort and the Canyons are linked with a chairlift, it will boast of being home to "biggest ski area in the country." Yet, can it maintain the small-town character?

That is not an entirely new challenge for Park City. It has gone from being a mining town to a ski town, and then, when it hosted the Olympics, from being a mid-sized mountain resort to joining the big leagues with Aspen, Breckenridge and Vail, but also Whistler and Jackson Hole.

Along the way, locals have pushed back at corporate branding efforts. A pizza chain was refused a red roof. A burger joint had to tame its golden arches. And, notes The Record, a local activist tried to block construction of a big-box retailer by chaining himself to a bulldozer.

The Record, itself part of a corporate chain that includes the Salt Lake Tribune and Denver Post, said it understands Vail's interests in striking marketing partnerships and achieving economies of scale.

"We understand," added the paper. "But for those of us who want to ensure that our mountain town has its own flavour, one cup of coffee for all is a real concern."

Mashed spuds on Wolf Creek Pass

PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. — When a truck carrying groceries overturns on Wolf Creek Pass, what do you call the load?

Mashed, in the case of a truck that was ferrying 132,000 potatoes down the steep, west side of the pass. The Pagosa Sun explains that the driver overheated the brakes, which became useless. The truck rolled at 113 kilometres per hour.

Salt Lake drops USA from its ski boasting

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Steamboat Springs and Salt Lake City are linked by U.S. Highway 40, but they are very different places.

Steamboat for decades has called itself Ski Town USA. Several months ago, a promotional group in Utah began promoting Salt Lake as "Ski City USA." In September, it announced the tagline: "Once you've stayed in Ski City, you'll never stay in a ski town."

You can guess how the Steamboat folks reacted. Lawyers were enlisted, and the Salt Lake group has retreated. The Steamboat Pilot reports that the website for Visit Salt Lake now boasts of "Ski City" but has removed any reference to USA.

Rent a bike, skis, and why not a vaporizer?

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — In Steamboat Springs, you can rent skis and bikes. Why not vaporizers?

That's the thinking of a new entrepreneur who has launched a business called Steamboat420. Drew Koehler tells the Steamboat Pilot that vaporizers are healthier to use than smoking marijuana, because users are not ingesting the chemicals they would by using rolling papers. Too, they produce less odour.

Wal-Mart and Macy's and Tesla at Tahoe

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Electric charging stations are being installed in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and that probably shouldn't be a surprise. It's the closest major mountain resort to the Silicon Valley, home to Elon Musk's Tesla Motors.

The Sierra Sun reports that a local real estate firm, Oliver Luxury Real Estate, installed two stations suitable for Tesla cars.

"With San Francisco and the larger Silicon Valley region representing a large population of Tesla owners, Tesla's presence is rapidly growing in Tahoe," Darin Vicknair, a broker associate, said. "In order to accommodate clientele, we wanted to join in the act of 'electrifying' Lake Tahoe."

Squaw Valley installed four charging ports last September, the first ski resort in California to do so.

Another discussion is also underway in the Tahoe Basin. The fundamental question is whether the current bus system is up to snuff. A consultant, Gordon Shaw, principal of LSC Transportation Consultants, described the existing service in unflattering terms of a "Wal-Mart of public transportation." He urged a version of a Macy's.

The existing system costs $4.1 million, but upgrades of $2.9 million are urged by Sandy Evans-Hall, chief executive of the North Lake Tahoe Chamber/CVB/Resort Association. That additional money would double bus service, eliminate fares, and create year-round service to outlying areas. Increased sales taxes are recommended.

At the meeting, according to the Sierra Sun, Park City was cited as a model of Tahoe upgrades. But Evans-Hall, who spent many years in Steamboat Springs, might also point to Colorado's major destination resort areas for even more ambitious bus programs.

Telluride down to just one newspaper

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Telluride has become a one-newspaper town, more or less. The Watch, published since 1996, mostly as a weekly, has been purchased by the Daily Planet, a daily.

On its website, the Daily Planet announced that the Watch would continue to be published, but likely with a greater emphasis on features of a regional nature.

Newspapers, of course, have had a tough time of it in recent years. In 1985, Colorado's Eagle Valley had four newspapers, two edited and produced in Vail and two more in down-valley towns. Now it has one daily and a door-stopper publication, designed to be a repository for legal notices.

In Wyoming, Jackson Hole had two strong and healthy weeklies that merged a number of years ago. Across the Teton Range in Idaho, the Teton Valley had two weeklies, but one of them, the Valley Citizen, closed its doors in September. Mammoth Lakes, Calif., also has two newspapers, both weeklies.

Only in Aspen do you see a strong battle with two relatively vibrant daily newspapers, the Daily News and the Times.

Art Goodtimes has been writing for the local newspapers in Telluride since his arrival in 1980. Even after he was elected San Miguel County commissioner in the 1990s, he has penned a weekly column.

He says Telluride was a two-newspaper town for much of its existence. It began as a robust mining town, and around the start of the 20th century was the scene of a violent labour war between mine owners and union miners. Newspapers of the time tended to align with one or the other camp.

But while Telluride was able to make a smooth transition from a mining town to a mountain resort in the early 1970s, newspapers in recent years have had their own choppy waters. The Internet has sucked advertising sales from newspapers. Then came the recession that drew the wind from behind the sails of real estate.

The Watch tried to recreate itself as a regional newspaper with news from nearby Montrose and Ouray. To a certain extent, it may have succeeded. But Andrew Mirrington, publisher of the Daily Planet, said the Watch had not been profitable for years. In the announcement published in the Planet, he said he is confident it can be made profitable. The Daily Planet was struggling when his ownership group purchased it in 2008, and he implied it is now successful.

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