A quieter March in Aspen | SummitDaily.com

A quieter March in Aspen

Allen Best

ASPEN Winter was retreating last week in Aspen. On the south side of Smuggler Street, in the shade of the Victorians and their modern replacements, shoulder-high snowpiles lingered from the onslaught of early winter. Across the street, like a nicely turned ankle, the south-facing lawns were showing slips of green.Winter stormed into Aspen in a major way in December, smashing at least one record for total snowfall accumulation at a local ski mountain. But March was entirely docile. Its been spring here for a month, explained a local resident, ignoring a brutish but brief storm sequence of a few days before.Aspen was also quiet, at least compared to what March is usually like. Advance bookings for last week were 53 percent, compared to 78 percent of capacity for the same week last year. The real estate margins might be sagging even more. Along Highway 82, which cuts through the towns middle, a resident of a small house that dates to the mining era said her house a year ago was worth $3 million. Today, its worth maybe half that, she said. The same house, if located in Denver, looks to be worth about $200,000. At the Aspen Institutes Energy Forum, a volunteer mentioned that he had been forced to spend a day at his condominium, getting it ready for a showing. He hoped to sell it, he said, and cut his losses. His mortgage payment was nearly $7,000 a month.He had gotten out of the housing market once before, he said. That was in 2006, and he had been spooked by the rapidly escalating prices. But then prices had kept on rising, so he jumped back in. A lot of people then were sure that the rules didnt apply to Aspen.At Explorer Booksellers, selected titles were reduced 40 percent in what was advertised as a locals sale.

RED LODGE, Mont. The tracks that used to carry the trains that connected the small towns of the West are mostly gone, the steel rails recycled decades ago. Gone, too, are the buses that once linked the towns. Greyhound sticks mostly to interstate highways now, focusing on stops in big cities.New efforts are seeking to fill this void. A new bus service in Colorado called the Mountaineer Route will connect Gunnison -and by extension, Crested Butte-with five-times weekly trips to Denver. Also linked on the 215-mile route are the mountain towns of Salida, Buena Vista and Fairplay.The Colorado Department of Transportation and eight local governments and agencies are underwriting the new bus service, hoping to begin creating a bus-based transportation network.There is similar news from the greater Yellowstone region. The Yellowstone Business Partnership, a group based in Montana, has announced plans for a tri-state transport system, to link towns in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.Its about closing the service gaps, said Janice Brown, executive director, at a recent meeting in Red Lodge. If someone tries to use public transportation from Billings, (Mont.) to Jackson, (Wyo.) there is no way to do it other than invest a lot of personal time and money. Greyhound sticks to the interstates now We havent made it easy for someone without a vehicle.Obstacles exist, notes the Carbon County News. Insurance policies commonly prohibit motor carriers from taking riders, although Fed Ex in Switzerland has moved past that limitation. Too, jurisdictions must be crossed, although again there is a precedent: the Jackson Hole-based START public bus system is now transporting riders to and from Teton County, Idaho, where many of Jackson Holes workers live.Ironically, Yellowstone National Park was developed partly in response to the railroads. From the depots in Bozeman and Livingston to the north of the park, visitors were transported to within the park. No such public transportation now exists.

JACKSON, Wyo. The Virginian is unique within Teton County. It is the only bar or restaurant in which a person can strike a match and then take a deep drag off a pipe, cigar, or cigarette. All other bars and restaurants have banned smoking.But by late May, the Virginian will also have to post a no-smoking sign. After hearing testimony for two years, the Teton District Board of Health has adopted a smoking ban for businesses in the county except for hotel and motel rooms, private clubs, and tobacco shops. Dr. Brent Blue, instigator of the rule, told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that he is excited. Tobacco is the single greatest cause of irreversible disease, he said.Mike Kraft, manager of the Virginian, pronounced disappointment. Customers have the choice of not patronizing a business should they not wish to inhale smoke, he said.