Mountain News: 

From no-growth to smart growth, and back

WINTER PARK, Colo. — Harry Williamson is moving on after 11 years as editor of the Winter Park Manifest, and in a swan-song column he recalled his evolution – one that should be familiar to many.

When first in the Fraser Valley, he recalls, he teamed with gee-whiz-it’s-gorgeous enthusiasms for the peaks, forests, and streams. That gush of enthusiasm made him a borderline no-growther, until he was born again as a smart-growther. As a smart-growther, he championed the arrival of Intrawest to manage the ski area and build real estate. But after seeing the drought of 2002 and its aftermath, Williamson is back to square one.

"I’ve come to realize that all smart growth does is destroy the environment at a somewhat slower rate than with dumb growth," he writes. "Further, the concept of sustainable growth, at least if defined in economic terms, is an oxymoron. It is impossible for growth, no matter how well planned, to sustain our environment better than no growth."

Winter Park has several serious pickles. First, people have built among the forests that, after all, are prone to fire, all the while taking pride in the fact that their homes were hidden from public view. More immediately is the problem of water. There’s lots of water, but not much left for the taking. Denver diverts more than 60 per cent, and wants to take more just as the real-estate industry is cranking up.

Bigger numbers, but not dollars

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Crested Butte posted a big 12.8 per cent gain in skier days this year, among the best in Colorado. Still, don’t think the ski resort was rolling in the cash, says John Norton, a consultant and former president at the ski area.

Being open this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, something that has not occurred for several years, accounted for about three-fourths of the increase, but it didn’t really produce all that much revenue as compared to expenses. Increased use of season passes, because of the good snow, was responsible for much of the rest.

The bottom line didn’t improve much, says Norton, writing in the Crested Butte News, but the alarm bells haven’t sounded. Tim and Diane Mueller know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, he adds.

Airport traffic up 8 per cent

GYPSUM, Colo. — Traffic at Eagle County Regional Airport, a major portal for visitors to Vail-Beaver Creek but also Aspen-Snowmass, was up 8 per cent last winter, the second busiest winter on record. The only busier winter was 1999-2000.

However, winter is not the only story at the airport. Summer traffic is now building, with direct daily flights during the last two summers from Dallas, and daily flights to begin in June from Chicago.

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