Mountain News 

Canyons wants out of lease

PARK CITY, Utah — The owner of The Canyons, one of the several ski areas at Park City, continues to try to end his lease with American Skiing Co., the operator and developer.

In the latest wrinkle of this on-going story, Kenny Griswold told The Park Record that he had gone to Colorado to discuss options with several potential investors. He had specifically mentioned Vail. "Vail would do brilliant things," he told the newspaper.

Vail Resorts denies any meeting or negotiations. Griswold did not mention any other Vail-area organizations, although East West Partners, a development company with interests in Park City, also has close ties with Vail Resorts.

The story is rife with lawsuits and counter-suits. Griswold’s company had operated the ski area, but in 1997 leased the land at the ski area to the American Ski Company. The 50-year lease has a 150-year option. That arrangement also specified that the American Ski Co. was to build a golf course by 2002.

That golf course has not been built, but the reason why is a matter of contention. Clearly, the American Skiing Co. was in financial trouble several years ago when it unloaded Heavenly on Vail Resorts. Now, it is shopping Steamboat, but insists that it’s not motivated by financial duress. And The Canyons has "had three record years, both where skier-days and revenues and profits are concerned – three years in a row," said Tim Vetter, spokesman for the Canyons. The company also says it is not building the golf course now because Griswold won’t surrender the land.

Griswold maintains that American Skiing Co. is in financial trouble, and he wants to sever the relationship before the company defaults. "You cannot disguise the trouble that they’re in," he tells the Park Record. He also says that the American Skiing Co. is trying to buy him out.

Fractional real estate questioned

ASPEN, Colo. — The updated and upscaled form of time-share called fractional ownership has been taking the ski towns by storm. Developers claim fractionals will put people in town throughout the year.

For most ski towns, this is welcome news. Conventional tourism has been stagnant or even in decline. Ski towns have instead become the places of a) retirees, b) people for whom skiing is only an amenity, and c) second-home owner.

But in Aspen, there are increasing questions about whether fractional ownership really puts people on the streets the way that developers say it does. City officials have begun a study, reports The Aspen Times. "Assertions were made in the application process about economic activity. We’re testing those assumptions."

For example, city officials are skeptical how much time and hence money owners of fractional units spend in Aspen. It has been suggested they would spend more during their trips because they don’t have a big lodging bill at the end of the stay.

Even if fractional projects like the Ritz-Carlton deliver what the developers promise, some community members might want something else again. "Those of us who live here need off-season," said Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud. "There may be a diminished off-season due to fractionals."

The Times notes that the fractional projects are commanding extremely high prices. A three-bedroom condo at the Residents at Little Nell is going for $1.37 million. The Ritz-Carlton say its members have net income of $300,000 or higher, with a net worth of $3 million or more. That’s good enough for the top 1 or 2 per cent of the market.

‘Green Team’ cleans from inside

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — A team of employees within the Steamboat Springs city government continues efforts to green the city from the inside out. Or, to quote Gavin Malia, a supervisor of the Green Team, "We thought we should clean our house before we tell others how to clean theirs."

Formed in 2005, the Green Team Energy aims to boost alternative energy and also energy conservation. The team persuaded the city to buy $5,000 worth of renewable energy certificates for wind power for electrical use at a city building.

The presumption is that the buildings will last for 50 to 75 years, and that in later years energy will be much more costly. As such, it makes sense to spend more money in the short term to reduce long-term energy costs.

But architecture that reduces energy costs doesn’t necessarily cost more money, Malia told The Steamboat Pilot and Today. For example, the current designs for the new community centre include rooflines to help shade the building during the summer but allow more natural light during winter. "These things "don’t necessarily cost more money, but you need to do it up front," Malia said.

Smoke aids bank robbers

BANFF, Alberta — The word "smokescreen" ceased to be metaphor and was the literal device used by robbers of a bank in downtown Banff.

Witnesses in a nearby tavern said they noticed a thick, yellow smoke, which smelled like burning plastic, coming from the building. Just how much the robbers made off with while emergency personnel attended to what was presumed to be a fire was not disclosed.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that at about the same time police investigated a suspicious suitcase left outside the nearby Hudson’s Bay Company. The suitcase held no bomb, and apparently had been left by a tourist. The possibility of a bomb – the bank has been target of three bomb threats in the last year – muddied the situation for police.

Revelstoke wants bigger museum

REVELSTOKE, B.C. — As part of its effort to transform itself from a town premised on resource extraction to that of tourism and place-based real estate development, Revelstoke wants to improve its forestry museum. The plan, reports the Revelstoke Times Review, has been seven years in the making.

The current museum is to be expanded almost five fold. The new museum is to be open year round, instead of just summers. The museum will tell about logging camps, the flumes and steam trains used to transport logs, and the sawmills, among other topics. Total cost is pegged at nearly $10.6 million.

Aspen hospital may link with Cleveland

APSEN, Colo. — Having recovered financially, the Aspen Valley Hospital is now negotiating a possible affiliation with the Cleveland Clinic, a multi-specialty centre considered one of the top medical organizations in the United States.

The affiliation would allow the hospital to piggyback onto the Cleveland Clinic’s state-of-the-art electronic record-keeping, and also diagnostic and consultancy technology. Creating its own would require about $6.5 million said John Jellinek, a hospital board member.

The hospital and clinic have been in negotiations for two years. Earlier, the hospital had attempted to forge a similar affiliation with the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York. What had killed that affiliation was Aspen Valley’s dire financial straights – it faced losses in the millions of dollars as the result of a failure to collect payments. Now, it has a cash balance of $22 million, reports The Aspen Times.

Crested Butte wants retail shops

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — The Crested Butte Town Council is again taking a hard look at stopping the proliferation of real estate and other non-retail offices in the downtown retail and restaurant district.

As drafted, explains the Crested Butte News, the law would also exclude new outfitters, travel agencies, and property management firms from ground-floor locations along Elk Avenue, Crested Butte’s main street. In yet another zone, beauty or barbershops would be excluded, as would spas, and art or dance studios.

The goal in all this is to push retail, a facet of the town’s tourism economy. Retail sales have been flat in recent years. Retail sales also provide the largest portion of taxes that support municipal services.

Other ski towns have had similar concerns. Vail in 1973 passed a law that banned new ground-floor real estate offices. Aspen followed in Vail’s footsteps two years ago. Park City, Steamboat Springs, and various other ski towns considered doing so, but took no action. In most places, retail sales have surged again, quelling such talk.

Second homes to become first homes

DURANGO, Colo. — The second phase of a study about second-home owners being conducted in Southwest Colorado finds that a majority of those owners intend to make the homes permanent.

The study echoes the findings of a survey done in northwest Colorado, in the Grand Lake-to-Vail-to-Aspen area.

If the Durango-Pagosa Springs area is not noted for its affluence to the same extent as are Vail and Aspen, vacation homes compose a large percentage of the housing stock. Tax records in La Plata County, where Durango is located, show 17 per cent of single-family dwellings and 55 per cent of condominiums have mailing addresses outside the county.

10 th Mountain vet passes on

ASPEN, Colo. — The ranks of surviving 10 th Mountain Division veterans continues to thin. Among the latest to pass on is Harry Poschman, who grew up in Pennsylvania before moving to San Diego, where he led trips into the Sierra Nevada during the Great Depression.

With the arrival of World War II, Poschman joined the 10 th Mountain Division, training at Camp Hale, near the Colorado town of Red Cliff. He then fought with the 10 th Mountain in Italy. After the war, he lived in both Utah’s Alta and in Colorado’s Aspen. In Aspen, reports The Aspen Times, he built and operated a lodge, built homes, sold real estate, and taught skiing. He died recently at the age of 93.

Members of the 10 th Mountain Division, called the ski troopers, were legendary for establishing the post-war ski industry at Aspen, Vail, and many other resorts.

Clean power promised

DURANGO, Colo. — Although it remains far from a done-deal, another coal-fired power plant has been approved for the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners area. That approval has communities in and along the flanks of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado questioning what the additional pollution will mean for them.

The Four Corners already has two coal-fired power plants, whose plumes of smoke have been observed by astronauts. The electricity goes to California, but also Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

This new $2 billion power plant, called the Desert Rock, would be different, with pollution controls mandated by the EPA that will make it among the cleanest in the world.

Coal plants are responsible for 37 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning of fossil fuels in the United States. In addition, while there is no confirmed link to the power plants, fish in at least one reservoir near Durango have high levels of mercury that this year caused Colorado health officials to warn against consumption by pregnant women and children.

The Durango Telegraph says that while activists laud the EPA for holding the electricity utility to higher standards, concerns remain. "There are times in the San Juan Basin when there are unhealthy conditions that people are already breathing," said Roger Clark, the air and energy coordinator for the Grand Canyon Trust. He wants to see cumulative effects analysis done.

Cleanups leads to ‘sense of place’

TRUCKEE, Calif. — So what exactly does "sense of place" mean? Not easily defined, it has to do with the preserved history of a town or valley, the natural surroundings, and also the culture. But it can mean more.

For example, Truckee holds something called the Truckee River Day, in which volunteers help clean up the river and its riparian area. That, says the Sierra Business Council, is one thing that helps define Truckee and give it a "sense of place."

Idling cars are Devil’s tools

ASPEN, Colo.–Motorists in Aspen are being reminded that "Idling Isn’t Cool," to quote cards that are being posted at various stores. Idling of more than five minutes became the city law 20 years ago, but publicity efforts were stepped up last year, reports The Aspen Times. While the reduced idling is also part of the new effort to contain greenhouse gas emissions, some business employees are happy to see it because they then have to breathe fewer fumes.

Golfer survives lightning strike

GRANBY, Colo. — Calvin Reeves went to play golf and had an extraordinary experience. He was hit by lightning.

The lighting entered his head, ripped all of his clothes off, melted a portion of his hair, and left him unconscious on the golf turf. He remembers none of this, nor the subsequent helicopter ride across the Continental Divide to Georgetown and then the ambulance ride to Denver.

"I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else," he told Granby’s Sky-Hi News. One thing he wants others to understand is that you don’t have to be on a mountaintop to be struck by lighting. Even in the mountains, lightning strikes in the valleys.

Reeves lost a portion of his hearing as a result of the strike, he suffers from paralysis on one side of his face, and there is some evidence of cataracts forming in his eyes. He is sore and has burn wounds healing, doesn’t sleep well, and suffers from alternating periods of anxiety, pain, and numbness. High blood pressure, never a problem before, is cropping up.

Reeves and his wife, Deb, want others to know that there are small, handheld devices that can tell a person how close the centre of an electrical storm is. One such device is called Strike Alert.

Rare tick disease reported

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Tick-borne relapsing fever is being reported at Lake Tahoe at what health officials say is an unprecedented pace.

Five cases were reported in the area last year, and this year there have been three. This compares to only 25 cases of the fever in the United States. The disease is endemic to high-elevation coniferous forests in the West, notes the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

People contract the disease from soft ticks, which live in the nests of small animals like mice and chipmunks. Rustic, rodent-infested cabins are often a source of the disease.

Jackson stews about streakers

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Jackson Hole continues to stew about the future of the Demolition Derby, the concluding event of the Teton County Fair. The event draws huge crowds, sells lots of beer, and makes lots of money that helps subsidize other events at the fair.

But the party-like atmosphere has drawn streakers in recent years. Many people think the nudity makes the event unsuitable for children. And the way police have handled those streakers – with Taser electric stun guns and handcuffs – has angered others.

Instead of ending the event, as some have proposed, the governing fair board intends to stay the course, reports the Jackson Holes News & Guide. Some board members think that stiff sentences for the two streakers at this summer’s Demolition Derby could go a long way to discouraging streaking at future events.

A streaker last year got off with 40 hours of community service. This year, one streaker is being charged with endangering children, among other crimes.

Base building would exceed 100 feet

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — A project described as a catalyst for redevelopment of the base area at the Steamboat Springs ski area has received the blessings of the city’s planning commission. As so often the case in base-area redevelopments, however, there was dissent about the size of buildings.

Developers of the project, called One Steamboat Place, have asked for a variance that would allow a building 104 feet tall. Existing zoning allows 67 feet in that location.

The Timbers Company, the Carbondale-based developer, says the additional height is needed to provide enough residential units – 85 in all, to go along with 15,000 square feet of commercial space – to create a profit. The architect on the project, Robin Shiller, of Basalt-based CCY Architects, said that the additional height would cause little additional view obstruction and reduction of sunlight reaching the adjacent Gondola Building. "The difference between that and our building is incremental," he said.

The 500,000-square-foot building was endorsed by the planning commission by a 5-2 vote. One of the dissenters, Nancy Engelken, described it as "just too massive. It doesn’t fit what, to me, is a village concept." The Steamboat Springs City Council was scheduled to take up the project on Aug. 8 and 22.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today also reports the council has approved another major project, this one also near the base of the ski area. That project, Wildhorse Meadows, will have 67 residential units, plus 35,000 square feet of commercial space, all on 47 acres.

The newspaper explains that both projects are tied financially to Whitney Ward, a landowner and partner in Resort Ventures West. After approval of the plan, the projects are to become separate entities, said Jim Wells, vice president of Timbers Company.

Telluride wrangles about dogs & poop

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Dogs being dogs was the central topic at a recent Telluride meeting. It’s most certainly a dog-loving town, but many owners let their dogs romp off-leash. And even when they are on leash, many dogs are permitted to defecate without their human companions bothering to clean up the mess.

All this has resulted in what one part-time resident says incredulously is a would-be world-class resort town with dog poop everywhere. Many locals seem to agree with that arched-eyebrow appraisal.

A veterinarian testified that the concern is motivated by more than just aesthetics. Dr. Christopher Capaldo said dog scat often carries both ringworm, which can stay in the soil for up to 20 years, and hookworm. Both intestinal parasites are easily transmitted to humans.

Quest for cross often results in lost hikers

MINTURN, Colo. — Tradition has been served. As has been the case almost without fail during the last 20 years or more, a hiker got lost while climbing Mount of the Holy Cross. The 14,005-foot peak lies near the Beaver Creek ski area, although the nearest town is Minturn.

The 54-year-old hiker, who comes from Minnesota, was found two days and about 1.8 miles from where had last been seen, very thirsty but with no major injuries, reported the Vail Daily.

The newspaper did not report what happened in this particular case, but what usually happens is that weary hikers going down the mountain lose the trail as it veers right and ultimately over Halfmoon Pass. Disoriented, they then wander around. In most cases, were they just to continue downhill, they would presently come to a different trail and then, a few hours later, a road or a highway.

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