Mountain News 

Mountain News: It’s the American dream, but happening in Mexico

Compiled by Allen Best

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — Walking through Keystone’s Summit House is a little like riding a Disneyland ride called "It’s a Small World," says the Summit Daily News. On an average day at the ski lodge, you’ll find Mexicans and Colombians, plus West Africans, Jamaicans, and Eastern Europeans, and not least, Australians and Kiwis.

In Summit County, a place that even a decade ago was nearly as English and white as the driven snow, a rainbow of skins colours and a stew of languages have become common. But while the Kiwis and Aussies are in Summit County to have fun, most all other immigrants are there to make money. By various reports, many immigrants spend between 50 and 80 per cent of their paycheques home, either to support relatives or to buy real estate in preparation for their own returns.

Steve Schwartz, general manager of the Summit House, said he happened to make a Western Union money transfer on payday. Ahead of him in line were three of his dishwashers and four of his busers. He estimated that of the $600 left to them after their housing is paid for, they send $500 home.

Schwartz said many of his employees are buying houses in their native countries, or buying plots of land with intentions to build. "It’s the American dream," he said, "but it’s happening in Mexico with money they’re earning here."

Isidro Jimenez, a waiter, sends $200 a month to his mother in Mexico. His 11 siblings scattered across the United State also send $50 to $200 each month.

"Some of the families we work with send 60 to 80 per cent of their pay home," says Christina Carlston, director of the Family and Intercultural Resource Center. "It’s not only the Hispanic population, but a lot of the West Africans, too."

At Safeway, front-end manager Fito Martinez reports thousands of dollars are wired abroad every week, especially to Africa and Argentina, but also Guatemala. Employees often send half of each paycheque.

However, political and economic instability in their home countries is causing many immigrants to plant roots in the U.S. instead of returning home. "The economic conditions in some of the former Soviet republics sound like they’re even worse than in a lot of the Latin American countries," said Schwartz.

Big-house owners may pay more taxes

CAMORE, Alberta — Owners of larger houses and vacant lots may be taxed at a higher rate under a proposal being considered by Canmore.

The changes would affect tourist homes, homes larger than 3,000 square feet above the basement level and vacant, serviced residential lots that people are holding onto for speculation. Town officials say the income would be used to provide low-cost housing.

Tourist homes are already taxed at a commercial rate, notes the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Their inclusion in the proposed bylaw is a housekeeping amendment.

Swank Four Seasons hotel opens in Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Four Seasons has opened its first mountain resort, a 124-room hotel with a workforce of 350. Those who attended the grand-opening bash everywhere along the way saw walls hanging with the likes of Miro, Alberto Giacometti, and Grant Wood, reported the Jackson Hole News & Guide. The hotel, said the newspaper, "adds another level of class to the valley." Four Seasons also plans hotels in Vail and Whistler.

Office Depot latest of franchises in Vail Valley

AVON, Colo. — Office Depot, the national office-supply chain, is the latest among national franchises to open up shop in the Valley Valley. The Vail Daily reports that the store has signed a lease to move into space next to Gart Sports and Pier One stores.

The Vail Valley and Summit County, both bisected by Interstate 70, seem to be in a race as to which one will become exurbanized, suburbanized and urbanized first. Although sliced by another highway, Interstate 80, and adjacent to a different metropolitan area, Summit County, Utah, seems to be in the same race.

Keep Wal-Mart out, says publisher of newspapers

GRANBY, Colo. — Although certainly on the rise, the Winter Park-Granby-Grand Lake resort area does not appear to have the demographics to support a Wal-Mart.

Good, says Patrick Brower, publisher of the Sky-Hi News and Winter Park Manifest. All the better to create the legal mechanisms, such as design guidelines that prohibit big-box buildings, to keep this particular big box out.

Consumers do gain with Wal-Mart’s lower prices, concedes Brower. And so would the town treasury. But when Wal-Mart moves into a town, it typically displaces five local businesses within the first year. Also, Wal-Mart employees are typically offered wages below those prevailing in an area. Finally, he says, Wal-Mart would kill the existing downtown.

Or maybe not. The downtown area isn’t particularly thriving as is – most people drive to Denver, about 75 miles away, to shop at big-box stores, as one reader pointed out.

Four ski areas respond to market differently

DURANGO, Colo. — The market for destination skiing is flat, as everybody except for Rip van Winkle knows, and has been flat for a decade or two. But four ski areas in Southwestern Colorado, all of them largely dependent upon destination skiers, are responding in very different ways that mirror changes across the West.

Durango Mountain Resort, a.k.a. Purgatory, is building base-area real estate, and lots of it – 1,649 units over the next 20 years, plus a hotel, shops, and all the rest. When people own a condominium, they want to use it occasionally – and go skiing.

But baby boomers reaching their peak years for buying vacation homes is only one part of the story. Another part of the story is that of attracting their kids, echo boomers, which nearly all resorts in Colorado are doing with new or updated terrain parks. Durango has one, Paradise Park.

Meanwhile, at Telluride, the $14 million Prospect Bowl expansion was created with one primary motive – attracting destination skiers with its intermediate skiing. As well, Telluride is putting money into making itself more accessible to busy far-away skiers with improved direct flights.

The other two ski areas in the Four Corners area visited by the Durango Telegraph are among only three in Colorado – Ski Cooper is the other holdout – without snowmaking. Wolf Creek rarely needs snowmaking, as it routinely gets the most snow of any resort in Colorado. Lately, it invested in a high-speed quad, as well as hike-to-ski terrain expansion. Otherwise, it’s skiing as it used to be for the Texans and Oklahomans that it attracts.

Finally, there’s Colorado’s newest ski area, Silverton Mountain, a place of unrelenting steeps. Because of the avalanche threat, owner Aaron Brill can accommodate only 80 ski tourers a day, each of whom gets a Sno-cat skiing type of experience. That’s where his market clearly is – and the future of the market, as far as he’s concerned. "As the younger skiers move into their 20s and 30s and start having expendable income, they’re also just getting better, largely because of improved equipment," he said.

City says no Humvee at Sundance FilmFestival

PARK CITY, Utah — The Park City Council had ruled that a General Motors Humvee cannot be prominently displayed at a local shopping complex during the Sundance Filmfestival.

Is P.C. getting P.C., rejecting gas-guzzling conspicuous consumption?

Nah, it’s more complicated than that. A GM competitor, Volkswagen, co-sponsors the film festival, and the city believes that displaying the Humvee would amount to ambush marketing, and hence harmful to the city’s interests.

Owners of the plaza had been promised what they described as a "significant amount of money" to display the Humvee, reports The Park Record. They charged that the Sundance Institute, which puts on the festival, has too much influence over the city. "We believe it is inappropriate for the city to limit corporate sponsorship of activities on private property during the Festival to a select list determined by Sundance," they said in a letter.

The city’s response was summarized by Councilman Fred Jones, who said the city must regulate such advertising or else there would be more in the future. "This is not about one Hummer in one plaza," he said. "We just have to be extremely careful about commercialism."

Hay hay, bye bye; Safeway’s gonna try

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. — By the slimmest of margins, 9 votes among 941 cast, Silverthorne voters have rezoned a hay meadow into land that will eventually be occupied by a Safeway and other stores. To those opposed, the development represented sprawl, when infill development closer to I-70 made more sense. To supporters, the issue was of orderly development – including a bigger chunk of sales tax receipts for town government operations.

Three wolves killed on roads in the Bow Valley

CANMORE, Alberta —Three wolves have been killed on roads in the Bow Valley, and the Bow Valley pack may be down to one animal, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook. There are 12 packs in the Central Rockies portion of Canada.

Wildlife biologists say the deaths illustrate the precariousness of the wolf population there. "This area is protected for wolves. It is a wild land park. You can’t rifle hunt in this area. Banff National Park is right next door. And yet they are still at great risk of mortality by humans," said Dr. Carolyn Callaghan, of the Central Rockies Wolf Project.

Sun Valley planning to require shielded lights

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Add Sun Valley to the list of towns enacting laws intended to reduce light pollution and trespass. The law has been in the works for two years, but the Idaho Mountain Express indicates no likely opposition when the measure hits the city council early next year.

Except in specific cases, the proposed law would mandate that all exterior lighting in the city will be "downcast and fully shielded."

Tamarisk makes way toward Vail, other resorts

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — River runs of the West have long known about tamarisk, the shrub which was introduced from Eurasia in the 1880s and now hogs the streambanks of the Colorado River and other desert rivers and creeks.

But without natural predators, the species is spreading. This year, tamarisk was found at Edwards, about 10 miles from Vail. Tamarisk was also noted near Kremmling, on its way toward Winter Park and Summit County.

The Vail Daily notes that both state and federal governments have considered allocating money to control tamarisk, but control is not easy. Hand-cutting and herbicide application can cost up to $5,000 per acre, while burning the stands only seems to cause them to redouble their growth.

As well, there is now another issue, in that a bird that is imperiled has begun using the tamarisk for nests, since the bushes it formerly used are now gone.

Sellers near airports must disclose zone

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Beginning in January, a new California law will require people trying to sell homes near airports, including the Truckee Tahoe Airport, to notify potential buyers that the property is within an airport influence zone.

Airport managers hope the law will, in the long run, reduce complaints about noise, says the Sierra Sun. Real-estate agents believe the law will protect both buyers and agents from litigation concerning noise and safety.

Unclear from the story is how the law governs increasing airport use. In other words, can property owners expect noise to increase in volume, or airport hours to expand?

New ski could make ‘shoers into XC skiers

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — So why do so many people want to walk across snow in snowshoes when they could be skiing?

That has perplexed people at Steamboat’s Nordic Touring Center, as well as elsewhere. But in Steamboat they’re paying attention to a new ski, the Nordic Cruiser, from Fischer. They’re following the shorter and wider theme of alpine, telemark, and backcountry skis, which in turn provides more control. The new ski, reports The Steamboat Pilot, is as much as 35 centimetres shorter than more traditional cross-country skis. As well, technology employed in the waxless kick zone doesn’t sacrifice as much speed and gliding ability as old-school waxless skis.

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