Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Growth blamed on ski industry


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

If you ask Telluride, Colo. resident Hal Clifford who is responsible for the incredible pace of growth and new construction in ski towns across the West, he is likely to try pinning it squarely on the ski industry as a whole.

In his 2002 book, “Downhill Slide,” Clifford writes that, when skier days flattened out in the 1980s, ski areas and resort towns turned from ski business to big business. He contends the repercussions of property development and ever-increasing populations have taken a severe toll on the social, economic and environmental fabric of small mountain towns throughout ski country.

Subdivided valleys, traffic jams, loss of wildlife habitat and sprawl are all clogging once-rural mountain towns.

Leading the charge is population growth and the development of new homes, second homes in particular.

“…If boomers buy vacation homes at the same rate as their parents, the numbers sold annually could jump by a third or more, rising steadily until 2013, when the youngest boomer is 49 years old and the buying binge is expected to begin a long decline,” Clifford writes.

In making his case, Clifford refers to British Columbia-based Intrawest, which owns 11 ski resorts across North America, including Copper Mountain, Colo. and Wistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia.

“What Intrawest and its imitators care about most is not skiing or the natural environment, but growth and income,” Clifford writes. “In that, they’re not all that different from other extractive industries on mountain lands. In this case, the corporate ski industry treats nature as a place to be mined, as much for real estate resources as recreation.”




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