Mountain News 

Temperatures rising

By Allen Best

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – The Columbia River Basin, which includes Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, and Panorama resort areas, has warmed 1.5 degrees Celsius during the past century, compared to the average global temperature increase of about 0.6 degrees Celsius, according to a new report.

The report, which was commissioned by the Columbia Basin Trust, found that the greatest increases in temperatures occurred during winter months, and particularly during nighttimes — as predicted by the theory of global warming.

“Summers are becoming a little warmer, but winters are becoming a lot warmer,” said the report. “In this sense, it could be said that the Basin has become less cold rather than warmer.”

Glaciers have diminished dramatically since 1985, by an average of 16 per cent — but with far more loss of ice in individual areas.

“Whether you are involved in building a house, a new water system, or constructing a new school or highway or considering a far-reaching change in land use, the possible implications of a different set of climate conditions in the future should be considered,” the report advised.


Canmore Hotel saved

CANMORE, Alberta – The 116-year-old Canmore Hotel, the oldest building in the town and also the oldest wooden hotel in Alberta, will be not razed, as some had feared. Instead, a Calgary-based firm, Heritage Property Corporation, which specializes in restoration, has purchased the structure.

“We look at all of our projects as children — special and endearing in different ways,” said Neil Richardson, president of the firm.

Why keep old buildings alive?

“It really is a landmark structure for Canmore and very much a symbol of a Canmore that is long since passed, and so it is very much of an icon for the long-term resident,” said Canmore Mayor Ron Casey, alluding to Canmore’s past as a coal-mining town. “If we were to see the Canmore Hotel removed from the landscape, it would be almost the last piece of our history going out of the door.”

Age alone makes the hotel significant, but use makes it meaningful, a local heritage activist, Cathy Jones, told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Richardson, the developer, agreed: “The bricks and the mortar and the wood and the windows are interesting, but there is a whole history and stories behind them,” he said. “Everyone talks about the facade, as long as we preserve the face we’ll be happy. But that’s not enough.”

Just how that building as a whole will be updated into the future is not clear, but will take a combination of economics, historical preservation, and safety upgrades, with the latter most important of the three, said the developer. The hotel has done a desultory business during the last couple of decades.


Bigger, better, more

VAIL, Colo. – Cranes continue to tower over Vail, which is in the midst of at least $1 billion redevelopment of base area lodging and commercial areas. But town officials have aggressively been seeking to spur even more redevelopment, offering the Lions Head Parking Structure as the site.

The town hopes to get another hotel, more parking spaces, and also some conference space out of the deal. Town voters three years ago authorized a lodging tax to pay for a conference center, but when projected operating costs escalated, they balked at taxpayer subsidies. In response, town officials then asked for proposals from developers.

Two developers remain as candidates for the new project. East West Partners, which is based locally, has been doing major projects from Denver to Truckee. New to the Vail scene as a developer is Open/Hillwood. The company is reported to be directed by Ross Perot Jr. Both Perot and his father, H. Ross Perot Sr., a presidential candidate in 1992 and 1996, have had homes in Vail for long periods.

The Vail Daily said both projects that are finalists would exceed $500 million in cost, and the two would add either 350 or 455 new parking spaces to the existing 1,150. East West already has an alliance with Hyatt on a project to the west, at the base of Beaver Creek, and it proposes a 150-room called Hyatt on Vail Mountain. Room rates would average $275.

Perot’s company proposes 240 hotel rooms, to be operated by W (at a cost of $423 per night) and St. Regis ($383 per night).

Both proposals also call for a variety of timeshare, condos, and shops, plus various wellness centers, recreation centers, a bus station, and conference space of some sort.

The timeline calls for construction in 2008, completion in 2010.


Democrats gain across west

Democrats continued to make inroads in courthouses of the West’s resort valleys on Nov. 7. Election results demonstrate growing dissatisfaction by voters with rapid population growth and distended economies that increasingly make mountain valleys unaffordable to lower and even middle-income workers.

In Eagle County, where Vail is located, Democratic candidate Sara Fisher was elected, joining two other Democrats who have been aggressively addressing impacts of rapid population growth. It was the first time that Democrats owned the courthouse since the mid-1950s. Voters, however, rejected home-rule by a margin of 54 to 46 per cent.

In Jackson Hole, two of three candidates elected to the Teton County Commission are Democrats. One of them, Ben Ellis, 39, has a doctorate in natural resource economics and advocates Teton County become carbon-neutral within four years.

In Idaho’s Blaine County, where Ketchum and Sun Valley are located, the two Democratic candidates for commissioner both won by landslides of 60 per cent. One of the losing candidates, Mickey Garcia, was philosophical but sour. “One thing about liberal Democrats who come up here is they become ‘environmentalists’ after they buy their house,” he told the Idaho Mountain Express. “They’re phonies. They just use it as an excuse (to close the door on future development).” One of the Democratic victors, Sarah Michael, disagreed. Blaine County’s intention, she said, was to ensure that “development fits within our values and within our ability to provide services.”

Democrats also registered a lopsided win in Routt County, where Steamboat Springs is located, and a narrow one in Gunnison County, where Crested Butte is. In San Miguel County, home to Telluride, the Democratic candidate, conservation group director Joan May, had no opposition. No Republican appeared in Colorado’s Summit County to challenge the two-year incumbent, Bob French, 75, who turned back the challenge of a Green Party candidate.

The election looked green in other ways as well. In Carbondale, voters approved what appears to be a no-brainer proposal, taking advantage of new federal tax incentives to pledge $1.8 million toward construction of solar collectors that will yield 250 kilowatts of power. That’s enough electricity to meet the needs of about 53 customers per year. Because of the federal aid, the cost of installation will be paid off in 15 years, compared to the more typical 20 years.

Open space remained popular. Voters in Basalt approved a new tax for open space preservation. In Pitkin County, they approved $20 million for open space funding, the fourth appropriation approved. Park City voters also approved $20 million in bonds, on top of two $10 million bonds approved in recent years. Also approving $20 million of indebtedness was Telluride, which is seeking to condemn a 570-acre parcel called the Valley Floor to ensure no development occurs. The land is expected to ultimately cost the town $40 million to $80 million.

Voters also showed they were willing to open their pocketbooks for schools. In the Eagle Valley, voters approved bonding of $128 million for high schools in the Vail-Gypsum areas. A major school issue was approved in Steamboat Springs. A library district was approved in Garfield County, a bedroom community for both Aspen and Vail. In Durango, 83 per cent of voters approved a small sales-tax allocation to help pay for a new library that town officials want to be built with green technology.

Colorado’s Summit County also approved tax allocations for a county-wide affordable housing team that hopes to build 50 affordable housing units per year.

But while there were clear trends in many places, results were clearly confusing in Wyoming’s Jackson. There, the two choices for the town council by voters were a study in contrast. Melissa Turley is both youngish and a newcomer, and she advocates the smart-growth policies of taller buildings and increased density, presuming that this can be used to reduce rural sprawl. The second-highest vote getter, Bob Lenz, is a long-time resident, older, and opposes growth — and certainly taller buildings.

In a way, this is the major issue that Jackson has argued about for several years — without resolution.

“People are undecided what should happen in Jackson,” explains Angus Thuermer, co-editor of the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “They see some merit to going up (in height), but yet they don’t want the town square to be in shadows six months a year because the buildings are so tall.”


Action on housing front

KETCHUM, Idaho – The Wood River Valley is rapidly taking action to respond to a growing shortage of affordable housing.

Ketchum, at the base of the Sun Valley ski area, recently approved linkages, requiring affordable housing when new residential and commercial projects are built. A down-valley town, Bellevue, within the last month has also passed both a linkage requirement and a companion law, called inclusionary zoning, which demands lower-priced housing whenever a subdivision is created.

Meanwhile, the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority is getting some legs, although how strong they are remains to be seen. The Housing Authority is being regionalized to the entire valley, but the Blaine County government and the City of Ketchum are providing the seed money. The thinking is that once on its feet, the group can begin developing property for affordable housing, and will no longer need specific assistance from local governments.

Just how this is to be done wasn’t explained by the Idaho Mountain Express, but the newspaper did quote one Ketchum city councilor to the same effect: “The whole picture to me is still a little muddied,” said Terry Tracy.

Ketchum City Council President Randy Hall said the early affordable housing dialogue was “pretty hostile.” He added: “Look where we are now. This community has embraced affordable housing as its top priority.”


Telluride promised the best

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE, Colo. – Mountain Village, the town located along the upper slopes of the Telluride ski area, has a swank hotel now waiting in the wings. The developer, Robert Levine, had promised a Ritz-Carlton or something similar as the operator, but that idea fell through, as did a proposal to have the hotel operated under the brand of St. Regis.

Now, reports The Telluride Watch, the town has approved an operator that purports to be the future name-brand for super-high-end hotel operations. The hotel, the first in North American for the new group, called West Paces Hotel Group, is likely to be called Capella Telluride.

The hotel operating company was founded in 2002 by Horst Shulze, former president and chief operating officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, along with other Ritz executives. They had noticed that the upper tier of Ritz customers was no longer satisfied with large hotels, but still wanted the best services and broadest array of amenities. The Capella brand is to have projects with between 670 and 100 rooms. The Telluride property is to be at the high end of that.

A West Paces Hotel Group representative told town officials in Mountain Village that the Capella-branded hotels will be “six star,” meaning that customers will find them even better than those currently described as having five stars or diamonds. Philip Keb, the company’s executive vice president of development, predicted that within five years the hotel group will be the standard-bearer for upper-tier hotels.

All of this high-quality of service, of course, depends upon having employees, and that’s been an increasingly perplexing problem in the Telluride area. In Telluride, voters continue to insist that open space not be violated for housing of any kind. A proposal to build employee housing down-valley along the San Miguel River was rejected for environmental and other reasons.

Mayor Davis Fansler warned of the problem, but company officials said they are aware of the challenge, reported The Watch.


Architect has different ideas

EAGLE VALLEY, Colo. – Architecture in Tyrolean-style Vail may have a “yodely” flavor and in Jackson Hole it’s Lincoln Logs, but the broad theme in new building can be characterized as “sticks and stones.” Experimental architects don’t get much work in the resort valleys of the West.

But it’s time to change, say two developers in the Eagle Valley, who have retained famed architect Daniel Libeskind to design a condominium project somewhere “down-valley” from Vail. The site was not identified, pending a contract completion, but both Avon and Edwards would appear to be prime candidates.

Libeskind is steadily adding to his reputation of using alternative materials and off-centered geometric forms. All are found in the new addition to the Denver Art Museum, but other boundary-pushing projects designed by Libeskind are found in Toronto; Bern, Switzerland; and Dresden, German. As well, Libeskind was chosen to design the replacement structures at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.

Drawings for the 45 to 55 condominiums promise a 180-degree departure from anything previously built in the Eagle Valley, reports the Vail Daily.

“It will be art,” said one of the developers, Bob Hernreich, who lives in the Eagle Valley but who is a part-owner of the Sacramento Kings basketball team and the Arizona Rattlers football team. “People will be living in art.”

“We think it’s time for a change,” said Henreich’s development partner, Rick Mueller. “People want architectural diversity.”

The condominiums are to range in size from 1,800 to 2,600 square feet. The price per square foot will be around $500. Residential space has now surpassed $2,000 to $3,000 per square foot in some Vail locations, although down-valley locations tend toward lower prices.

“The market we’re looking at are people who have had it with 10,000-square-foot homes,” said Mueller. “People want to down-size.”

The developers do not necessarily expect the buyers to be part-time guests.

The condominiums will have various amenities: a concierge, transportation, and high-tech exercise rooms.


Taxes for childcare rejected

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – Generation X families are notably underrepresented in the resort valleys of the West. Part of this is because Gen Xers, with 44 million altogether, have been dwarfed by Baby Boomers, at 78 million strong at their peak, and by the latest generation, variously called Generation Y or Echo Boomers, who are at about 72 million.

But for now, Gen Xers are the main ones having babies — but they’re not doing it in the mountain valleys. Some evidence suggests they have found it too expensive, and so have veered toward more affordable urban areas.

One response has been a call for government-funded childcare programs, to help ease the strain on families needing dual incomes. In Eagle County, which includes Vail but also some of the Aspen suburbs, voters struck down one such proposal that would have yielded $3 million annually to pay for early childhood services.

But the county government may venture into child care nonetheless. With income from both property and sales taxes, the county is relatively flush. County Commissioner Arn Menconi, a primary architect of the plan, believes money can be carved out to at least start such a program. Because voters also rejected a home-rule measure that would have increased costs by $380,000. the thinking is that money can now instead be earmarked for the program.


Co-housing project planned

TRUCKEE, Colo. – Work is underway to begin a co-housing project in Truckee, reports the Sierra Sun. Co-housing is a cooperatively planned neighborhood of individually owned homes and communal spaces. At some co-housing projects, meals are periodically shared. Backyards and gardens always are.

“We have a mix of singles, parents with young children, and parents with children who have moved away,” Rick Mockler, vice president of CoHousing Partners told the Sierra Sun. “And there are all types of folks, including artists, entrepreneurs, chefs, a professor and retirees.”

In co-housing projects, homes tend to be smaller and more densely located. While most suburbs have densities of 4 to 6 units per acre, for example, the Truckee project is aiming at 8.5 units per acre. Home prices are projected to be from $300,000 to $600,000.


Kayaker’s body found

DURANGO, Colo. – The body of a 30-year-old kayaker who disappeared during spring runoff five months ago was discovered in Vallecito Creek, east of Durango, about five miles downcreek from where he was last seen.

The kayaker, Adam Matthew Barron, of Boulder, was found in a logjam, with his helmet still on. His life vest was nearby. The water was so cold when he disappeared that he would have lost control of his muscles within minutes, La Plata County Coroner Carol Huser told the Durango Herald.


Earwigs take shelter

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – You have heard the old expression “April showers bring May flowers.” Well, summer and early autumn showers at Crested Butte have produced an abundant crop of earwigs that have invaded homes in search of warmth.

The pincered insects, which are a half-inch to an inch long, are essentially harmless, and in gardens can actually be beneficial, as they feast on aphids, reports the Crested Butte News. Once in the house, they seek out kitchens and bathrooms, because they are moist. Extension agents have a variety of methods for removing the creepy-crawlers.

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