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Blame game

Gary Lindstrom

It is the drought. Or maybe it is the bad economy. How about the governor announcing to the entire world that Colorado is burning.

I know. It is the perpetual backup on Interstate 70 between here and Denver. Maybe the terrorists? Yeah, that’s it. The terrorists and Sept.11. That is what we can blame.

My calendar says there is a full moon tonight. I wonder whom we can blame for that. All that light shining through the window all night long interrupting the opportunity for a good night’s sleep. The nerve of someone.

I have an ingrown toenail. I did not have an ingrown toenail before Sept.11 of last year. Therefore, I can blame my ingrown toenail on Sept. 11.

In my travels around Summit County, I hear the damnedest things about Sept. 11. We did not have a drought before Sept. 11. The economy did not totally crash before Sept. 11. Sales tax revenues were not down before Sept. 11. Lake Dillon was full before Sept. 11. I was a year younger before Sept. 11.

If we think long and hard enough, we can blame just about anything including growing older on Sept. 11.

The truth is the economy would have gone sour regardless. The drought had been coming for the past three years. We had been riding up a 10-year growth curve in sales tax, and it was bound to turn downward at some time.

Maybe we can blame something good on Sept. 11.

You already know I love the news. I also love numbers. The skier numbers in particular. According to last Saturday’s Rocky Mountain News, “Copper Mountain, Breckenridge and Telluride were the only major Colorado ski resorts to post an increase in skier visits during the 2001-2002 season.” Way to go Roger McCarthy and David Barry.

Don’t know if it is true, but someone told me once that Roger was David’s mentor as David was learning the ski business. Sounds as if the student learned well.

Vail was off 7 percent but was still the busiest in the nation. No. 2 was Breckenridge, and No. 3 was Keystone. Vail Resorts owns all three of the top three, and two are in Summit County. Arapahoe Basin, with no snowmaking, had the biggest percentage decline in the state. It is difficult to compete on a less-than-level playing field.

So what are we going to point to on these success stories? Sept. 11?

I suppose we could say it is because two of the ski areas posting increases are within a short driving distance of Denver. But what about Telluride? Not an easy drive from Denver. I would like to suggest another answer.

I feel all three areas focus on providing a quality ski experience on the mountain. That is what they are trying to achieve. Many of the other areas are focusing on selling real estate. Skiing is just an amenity that comes with the condominium. The mountain, in many cases, is just something the property owner can see from the window of his unit.

After all, it is a business. After all, the profits in real estate are huge and relatively immediate. You have to sell a ton of lift tickets to realize the same profit as you would from the sale of one condominium in the village next to the mountain.

So maybe the skier numbers are not that important. Maybe it is no longer the best way to keep track of being successful in the ski business. Maybe it is the percentage of the profit that comes from real estate.

That’s it. We can blame the accounting practices for the entire thing. Both the failures and the successes. I know that you have never heard that before.

Gary Lindstrom is a Summit County commissioner and regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.


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