Around the Mountains: Winter expected to be warm and wet
October 6, 2006
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Steamboat is expecting another solid winter based on the prediction of Jim Pringle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Pringle predicts a moderate El Niño episode, which means a relatively warm and wet winter. Unlike last year, when the southern half of Colorado tended toward dryness until late in winter while northern resorts bragged of early season records, this year the blessings of snow appear to be more evenly distributed, reports the Steamboat Pilot & Today.Wolf Creek also signs on the wind-power dotted lineWOLF CREEK PASS – Add Wolf Creek ski area to the growing number of resorts who are buying electricity created on wind farms, in this case in Wyoming. The Durango Telegraph reports that the lifts need an average of almost 146,000 kilowatts a month to operate. This is part of a major ski industry initiative organized by the trade organization, the National Ski Areas Association.Wolf Creek, one of Colorado’s most traditional ski areas, with not a stick of slopeside lodging, is also getting more modern with the addition of a new detachable quad. As for the future, ski area president Davey Pitcher is talking of leaving the door open for expansion on the west side of the pass, but does not have concrete plans.Vail rethinking needs for lower-cost housingVAIL – Vail municipal officials during the last decade has steadily erected more deed-restricted housing in an effort to ensure it does not become a de facto gated community. The town now has 624 deed-restricted homes, or 9 percent of all the housing stock. Town officials believe that 30 percent of the town’s workforce live in town, which is considered something of a minimum.But that may not be enough. The number of jobs is expanding, the town is redeveloping and construction has added 1,500 new jobs. According to projections by the town government, when the bigger, bulkier buildings are complete, the businesses and lodging in them are expected to generate an increase of 2,115 jobs.Meanwhile, plenty is happening outside of Vail’s borders that may well draw workers from the same labor pool farther down the Eagle Valley or in Leadville. About 8,300 jobs are predicted during the next two decades in the Minturn, Avon and Edwards areas.On the other side of the equation, town officials are predicting that two-thirds of homes occupied by people employed in the local economy could be sold to people not engaged in the local economy.All of this has Vail town officials again looking at ways to boost the housing stock for the workforce in a narrow valley where nearly all the land has already been developed. A measure of that concern is that the town council is scheduled to spend four hours on the topic next week.School numbers rising after several-year lullCRESTED BUTTE – The dip in school enrollment of the early 21st century seems to be ending. Several school districts in mountain resort areas are reporting marginally increased student enrollments this fall.In the Crested Butte-Gunnison Schools, enrollment was up by 83 students. However, this compares with a drop of 100 students since 2000. The school district in Steamboat Springs and an adjoining school district, South Routt, are also reporting a slight increase in enrollment.While public schools in most of the rapidly growing resort areas of the West swelled during the 1990s, enrollments leveled off or even dropped beginning in about 2000 – even as resort areas continued to grow. One reason is that the Gen Xers, who have been in their 20s and 30s, were small in number to begin with, as compared to Baby Boomers. High prices in resort areas contributed as well, causing many people to move to cities when rearing families.Park City mining messes continued to be tidied upPARK CITY, Utah – In Park City, as in so many other former mining districts of the West, the resort boom continues to remediate the mining boom of the last century.A former mining claim where silver was mined from 1920 to 1935 is being cleaned up by a development firm, called King Development Group, and also the city government. There was no cost estimate for the cleanup.”We have a thin veneer of resort over 100 years of heavily industrial mining activity,” observes Myles Rademan, Park city’s director of public affairs.Active mining continued until midway through the 20th century at Park City, whose silver lode was said to be second in the United States only to the Comstoke Lodge of the Sierra Nevada, and limited mining events persisted within the last 20 years, says Rademan.Today, Park city gets 40 percent of its water from abandoned mining tunnels, although the water has high concentrations of heavy metals, and hence must be cleaned up at great expense.Also involved in cleanup operations in Park City is Colorado-based East West Partners, which has removed hundreds of thousands of yards of polluted soil and other material to make an area at Empire Pass developable.Backcountry.com gets award from magazinePARK CITY, Utah – A small Internet-based business based in Park City has been named one of the top small, online businesses in the country by PC Magazine. The magazine was looking for innovative use of technology, and Backcountry has an internet site that makes it easy to buy outdoor gear.Jim Holland, chief executive officer of Backcountry.com, said one of the reasons for his company’s success has been the ingenuity of its online forums. Backcountry.com is the parent site of four others: Dogfunk.com (snowboarding specialty), Tramdock.com (“all things skiing”), Backcountry outlet.com (spotty sizes, but the best prices) and Steepandcheap.com (“The QVC model for gear”).Holland told the Park Record that the goal is to create an experience that is as devoid of friction as possible. “That’s what e-commerce is all about, making the navigation intuitive. We want something that anyone, even my grandmother, could figure out.”The company operates out of a space above a Bed, Bath & Beyond store, and Holland said the company was drawn to Park City because of the outdoor lifestyle. “It makes it easier for us to find excellent people, because people who are attracted to this sort of thing are in Park City already,” he said.Fans of Hemingway pay $1,000 to dine in his digsKETCHUM, Idaho – The second annual Ernest Hemingway Festival was held in Ketchum and Sun Valley in late September. Hemingway, a novelist, was a second-home owner in Ketchum in the 1940s and 1950s and indeed, committed suicide at his house there in 1961.The house is still very much as it was the day he died, with issues of Look and Life magazines from 1961 still in place. Hemingway’s wife, Mary, donated the house to The Nature Conservancy. That group has kept it as something of a museum, except that due to opposition from neighbors, it’s not really open to the public. But the upkeep is costing money, an estimated $50,000 so far.To help recoup the costs, a sit-down dinner at a cost of $1,000 was held at the house. Elsewhere during the weekend, the daughter of Gary Cooper, an actor and a close friend of Hemingway’s, was to give a talk, some movies based on his novels were to be shown, and there were to be tours of his favorite haunts.Climate change plan gets traction in Jackson HoleJACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – What might have seemed a hare-brained proposal a decade ago is getting at least a respectful reaction as candidates for the Teton County Board of Commissioners outline their visions of the future.One of the candidates, Ben Ellis, generates electricity for his house with solar power and uses biodiesel to partly fuel his car. He thinks the county in general should reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases to a point that is called carbon neutral. This, he says, can be done in four years.Ellis is among two Democrats and three Republicans running for the one at-large seat. When contacted by the Jackson Hole News & Guide, none of them outright called Ellis’s ideas starry, although the Republicans offered less ambitious ideas. For example, incumbent Commissioner Bill Paddleford said he wants to see the county move away from using foreign oil. Another Republican, Abe Tabatabai, currently a council member in Jackson, noted that he has pushed for high-efficiency light bulbs and use of biodiesel in town fleets, and had advocated green building designs.Hillary Clinton gets most bucks from Aspen giversASPEN – Hillary Rodham Clinton may not be an announced candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, but she’s already pulling in campaign contributions from Aspen. The Aspen Times reports contributions of nearly $44,000 this year through early September. The local congressman, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, who, like Clinton, is a Democrat, had received only $14,300. But also a significant beneficiary of Aspen money was a political action committee called Straight Talk American, which supports potential Republican candidate John McCain.Mammoth shooting to hit two million skier daysMAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – Back in the day – gulp, was it really 35 years ago? – Mammoth Mountain led the nation in skier days. Then Vail surged, Mammoth slipped a few notches, and that’s been the story pretty much ever since. Vail has been No. 1, Breckenridge No. 2, and somewhere down the list was Mammoth.But in the last several years Mammoth has been surging again. It has been aggressively reaching out for mid-week business, and the efforts are starting to show. While Vail reported it has held more-or-less steady at about 1.6 million skiers, Mammoth is now at 1.5 million skier days – and hopes to hit two million skier days annually, the ski area’s marketing director, Lynn Carpenter, told The Sheet.One strategy is a mid-week season pass offered at a cost of $700. The ski company hopes to see 9,000 to 13,000 skiers a day, but not peak days surging past 18,000. And to do that it hopes to improve the return rate of visitors.Dodge plans to make an SUV named after AspenASPEN – In the 1970s, Dodge manufactured a car called the Aspen that was designed to be more fuel-efficient. In the wake of the oil embargo of 1973, consumers cared about such things. Whether the car was all that economical is another matter. It didn’t survive long.Now, with gas prices marching upward again, this time backed by growing concerns about greenhouse emissions, consumers are again caring about fuel efficiency. And Dodge, which is now paired with Chrysler, is again issuing a vehicle called the Aspen, this time an eight-passenger SUV, reports The Aspen Times.The Detroit News Autos Insider reported last year that the company chose the name Aspen “to position the vehicle – like the Colorado ski town – as both rugged and upscale.”Another Colorado mountain town, Durango, is the namesake for another of its SUVs, and Lake Tahoe provides the identity for a SUV manufactured by GMC.Who knows, maybe the manufactures of the smart cars – which are about half or less the length of regular cars or pickups – may choose tiny mountain towns for model names. How about a Rico, a Silverton, or a Red Cliff, or a Tabernash, Blue River or a Woody Creek?