Around the mountains: Oregon hot-spot now trying to tighten belt |

Around the mountains: Oregon hot-spot now trying to tighten belt

special to the daily

BEND, Ore. – Bend has been a poster child of the amenity-based West for the last decade. A one-time timber town, it has a ski area on Mt. Bachelor, flyfishing in the Deschutes River, and famous rock climbing. Located just east of the Cascades, it also has sunshine and, of no small matter, a significant airport to allow lone ranger entrepreneurial types easy access to the outside world.

But the days of rapid growth have been upended. The New York Times notes that the unemployment rate, at almost 16 percent, is one of the highest of any metropolitan area in the nation. Luxury furniture stores are going out of business, San Francisco chefs have fled. And, of course “for sale” signs dot still-unfinished subdivisions.

“Economists say the city’s sudden abundance of investment income and housing equity from newcomers made Bend seem more secure than it was,” reports the Times. Much of that new wealth was derived from California.

Symbolic of the changed circumstances are two magazines. Bend Living, a now defunct magazine, was supported by advertisements for high-end homes and luxury furniture. The editor, Kevin Max, described the magazine as being “about Bend’s emergence into 24-7, go-go-go, irresponsible construction and people living beyond their means.” A magazine he is now planning he describes as something else. “It’s about Oregon, so it’s all about sustainability.”

ASPEN – Aspen has started to talk again about its open-pit hearth. Located on a downtown street near the ski slopes, the hearth was created in a response to the economic slowdown early in the century.

But then, in 2005, the town went very public with its vows, encapsulated in the Canary Initiative, to knock back carbon emissions. But how can a community that has vowed to take greenhouse gas emissions seriously condone burning of natural gas in the great outdoors, just so people can gather to see the flickering of flames?

The Aspen Times explains that town officials tried to figure out a compromise, keeping the hearth but burning something other than a fossil fuel. Some suggested burning candles or, because Aspen has so many, dog poop. Other options examined were to create a solar source or deliver hydrogen fuel. None were satisfactory.

Kim Peterson, who now directs the Canary Initiative, sees the hearth as a non-issue. “I honestly don’t think the fire heater is our problem in Aspen. It’s such a tiny part of our carbon output here.”

The hearth, during winter, undeniably adds a cheery ambiance to the downtown mall. Alas, reports the times, some of those who congregate in the fading light of winter afternoons are not the cherubic faces of children toasting marshmallows. Instead, says the newspaper, a “decidedly seedier elements often congregates there,” flinging profanity, drinking in public and several times allegedly engaging in unlawful sexual contact.

CRESTED BUTTE – After many years of talking about it, Crested Butte Mountain Resort has officially submitted formal notice of its wish to develop a new ski area adjacent to the existing area. The expansion onto Snodgrass Mountain, as is now being proposed, would include 262 acres of lift-served ski terrain, of which 118 acres would be of intermediate-level difficulty.

Operators of the ski area have long insisted that in order to enjoy efficiency of operations and hence profitability, they need to have 500,000 to 600,000 skier days annually, a sharp increase over current levels.

That increase, they say, needs to come primarily from destination skiers, who favor intermediate-level terrain. As it is, they may tire of Crested Butte’s skiing after two or three days. Accordingly they often don’t return for a second year, and hence marketing costs for the resort are higher than at a Vail, Breckenridge, or Snowmass.

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