Mountain News 

Superlative early season a double-edged sword

CARBONDALE, Colo. — While memories do tend to be suspect when forced to examine the minutiae of decades past, the skiing of early season is being described as among the best ever in Vail, Steamboat and several other resorts in Colorado.

A more empirical test, amount of snowfall, would suggest the memories could be correct. Vail, for example, was reporting 141 cumulative inches of snow atop Vail Mountain as of Dec. 5, surpassing the previous record set in autumn 1985.

School closings also seem to confirm the unusualness of this winter’s start. Mountain districts rarely close, but schools closed for the first time in eight years in the Roaring Fork School District, located down-valley from Aspen. Schools also closed in the South Routt School District, south of Steamboat Springs.

Unlike eight years ago, when the Internet was not yet in broad use, parents this time got explanations of the closings by e-mail. The advance notice was by radio.

Because there are no radio broadcasts in Spanish in the very early mornings, school officials are trying to figure out how to inform parents in the burgeoning Spanish-speaking community of the closings. Well more than half of student bodies in some schools in the district are composed of students for whom English is a second language.

Public money sought for tram

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — The 40-year-old tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is scheduled to be disassembled next spring, and it’s unclear what will replace it.

Officials at the ski area say their first option is to spend $25 million on a replacement tram. That tram would carry up to 520 skiers per hour, 160 more than the existing tram. A second option is a shorter, smaller capacity tram with a somewhat smaller price tag of $16.6 million.

A third option is a gondola at a cost of $15.6 million. While it would reach the top of the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Peak, high winds would prevent its use 20 per cent of the time.

But key to any of this, says the Kemmerer family, which has owned Jackson Hole for the last 13 years, is outside, public funding. The family does not want to take on private investors because of what a resort spokesman described as operational reasons. Instead, Jackson Hole has enlisted local business and government leaders, as well as a lobbyist in Washington D.C., to solicit possible money from local, state, and federal governments. The resort is willing to spend only $5 million of its own money.

Jerry Blann, president of the ski area, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide that the ski area has been a major loss for the Kemmers. They have invested $56 million for improvements, getting an annual return that has averaged only $27,000. The resort is selling a three-acre parcel at the ski area base for $10 million in order to proceed with a tram replacement and other on-mountain improvements.

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