Around the Mountains: Backcountry skiers charge improper cozy relationship in Jackson Hole |

Around the Mountains: Backcountry skiers charge improper cozy relationship in Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. Even in Jackson Hole, untracked powder snow is at a premium, especially in the area adjacent to the highway that crosses Teton Pass. Each year more and more backcountry skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers are found in the backcountry there, leaving less quiet and less untracked powder.There also seems to be a potential for more people willing to pay guides to take them to what remains of the stashes of untracked powder. The ski area operator, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, has a permit from the U.S Forest Service to take guided groups into the backcountry at Teton Pass. The company seems to get little business, but wants a change in its permit that would allow it to use terrain with more vertical drop and also to shuttle clients back to the top.Locals are hopping mad that their best powder stashes will be invaded by commercial skiing, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide. Led by C. Stearney Stearns, who has skied for more than 50 years in Jackson Hole, 17 backcountry skiers called Powder to the People are attempting to overturn the Forest Service decision allowing the commercial activity.New ski area at Revelstoke to have 6,000 vertical feetREVELSTOKE, B.C. Protracted negotiations have yielded a key agreement necessary for the development of a major destination ski area at Revelstoke. The resort is planned at Mount MacKenzie, which currently has one 800-foot lift and a snowcat skiing operation.When completed in about 15 years, the new resort is to have 25 lifts servicing 5,000 acres of terrain, or about the same size as Vail. The ultimate skier capacity is projected to be 17,000, compared to the 19,600 that is the official target cap for Vail.The 6,000 vertical drop will be the most of any ski resort in North America, well more than the 5,200 feet at Blackcomb.Skiing is the key amenity for a giant real estate proposition. Some 16,000 bed units are projected by the Toronto-based developers. They expect to round up $270 million to plug into infrastructure and initial real estate construction, then use real estate sales to continue the rest of the development.Revelstoke is located a four-hour drive west of Calgary, and six hours from both Spokane and Vancouver. The nearest major airport, at Kelowna, is about a two-hour drive away.Aspen area real estate sales at $1.36 billionASPEN A new annual record for real estate sales was set in Pitkin County. With two months to go, $1.36 billion in sales were recorded. That eclipses the previous record of $1.27 billion set four years ago. The Aspen Times reports that $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion in total sales are expected by the years end.Real estate prices up 16 percent in Eagle CountyVAIL Real estate prices during the last year have jumped 16 percent in Eagle County, and sales this year are expected to top out at more than $2 billion, reports the Vail Daily.The biggest price jumps have been in areas closest to the ski lifts, at Vail Village and Beaver Creek, where average prices have jumped 65 and 52 percent respectively.However, the most activity has been at the bottom of the market, defined there as $500,000 and below. The number of properties listed for sale has dropped by 40 percent as inventory is absorbed. This reduced inventory of properties, combined with higher prices, is setting the stage for both new development in outlying areas and redevelopment in Vail, where $1 billion is expected to be spent in the next several years in tearing down and building new hotels and condominium projects.Eagle Valley planning more roundaboutsEDWARDS Yet more roundabouts are planned in the fast-urbanizing Eagle Valley, where the modern roundabout mania began 10 years ago in Vail. Three roundabouts are planned at Edwards, where the existing 17,000 trips per day on the spur road from Interstate 70 is expected to double within 20 years. With a population of 40,000 people, the Eagle Valley has 10 stoplights and 10 roundabouts.Chamber frets over the role of second homesASPEN Second homeowners have become a major part of Aspen and many other resort towns. But are they tourists? Or, as many of them prefer to think of themselves, are they semi-locals? Or something else entirely?In Aspen, theres confusion about just what role the Aspen Chamber Resort Association should have with its second homeowners. Various administrators and board members have tried for about a decade to create representation for second homeowners, but without success. They dont want to be special. They want to be one of us, explained Mike Taets, a board member.But again, thats not necessarily true either. While businesses might want to fill restaurants with tourists, second homeowners might prefer a quieter town. Tourist-dependent businesses might want an expanded airport, but part-time residents might not.A report in The Aspen Times suggests that while second homeowners should be better integrated into local discussions about such things as parking, the resort chamber wont offer to be their political advocate. Actor Bruce Willis offers land for airportHAILEY, Idaho Bruce Willis is offering to donate land for a new airport to service the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, but perhaps not incidentally the airport would also serve to boost business at a small ski area called Soldier Mountain that he operates.The 1,000 acres Willis apparently is offering is located near the small town of Fairfield, a 45-minute or less drive to Ketchum. The existing airport, located in Hailey, is much closer to the ski slopes of Mt. Baldy, but it cannot be expanded without taking out residential acres, and a newer and heavier generation of private airplanes cannot use it. As such, the Federal Aviation Administration has basically ordered the community to find a new airport site.

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