Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mountain Town News


Eagle County real estate sales nearing $3 billion

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo—The real estate market in some mountain towns quit panting last year, but not so Eagle County. There, anchored by Vail and Beaver Creek, another record, $2.96 billion, was registered in real-estate sales last year. The old record, $2.8 billion, had been set in 2005, reports the Rocky Mountain News.

Pitkin County, home to Aspen, last year had sales of $2.52 billion, down slightly from the previous year. In both cases, the push is coming in the very high end. Len Gardner, a real estate salesman in Vail, points out that condos in the Arabelle project, located at the base of Vail Mountain, that initially sold for $1,100 have been reselling at between $1,500 and $2,000 per square foot.

Steamboat area real estate sales surge to $1.58 billion

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.—Real estate sales continued to swell last year in Steamboat Springs and Routt County. Total sales were $1.58 billion, a 141 percent increase from the previous year. At the same time, there were fewer sales.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that the largest number of sales were in the $300,000 to $500,000 range. However, the median sale price of townhomes jumped from $450,000 to $630,000 last year.

Is ski expansion needed for skiing or real estate?

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—The Breckenridge ski area wants to expand onto Peaks 6 and 7, adding one new chairlift and 450 acres.

Statistical comparisons show Breckenridge as having among the highest density of skier per acre of any ski area in Colorado. The ski area owner, Vail Resorts, says the expansion will disperse skiers and shorten lift lines elsewhere on the ski hill.

But Ellen Hollinshead, an avid backcountry skier and a columnist for the Summit Daily News, thinks there's something else up. "It is my contention that Vail Resorts hasn't confessed to the Forest Service all of its motives," she says.

The full story, she suggests, has to do with marketing real estate associated with the ski area expansion. She asserts that added skier capacity can better be provided by new trails and better lift placement within the existing ski area, not by extending the ski area boundaries. Expansion of the ski area on National Forest land, she maintains, will displace wildlife, which is already cramped for space.

Meanwhile, the Breckenridge Town Council wants the Forest Service to assess whether the town has the carrying capacity to accommodate the 1,000 new skiers that Vail Resorts estimates will result from the expansion. Parking remains difficult, even with a new parking lot-to-ski trails gondola. As well, the town wonders if Vail shouldn't be required to build more affordable housing.

The town's letter also questions whether the congestion can't be met within the ski area's existing footprint, reports the Summit Daily News.

Breckenridge hopes to crimp violence in bars

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—Breckenridge has a reputation for a lively bar scene. But there's also an unsavory aspect of that reputation: lots of arguments and violence.

Last year, reports the Summit Daily News, police responded to 517 calls of fights. There were another 388 cases of disturbances, and 117 drunken people were jailed. Late-night violence in and outside of bars during recent years has also included one death.

Police say they want to be called before arguments escalate into bloodshed. Furthermore, they hope increased patrols will discourage fights. "Everyone behaves a little better when there's a cop around," said Greg Morrison, the assistant police chief.

Fraser may have lost bid on icebox claim

FRASER, Colo.—Will Fraser, where a sign in the middle of town proclaims it as "the icebox of the nation," have to cross-out the "nation" and replace it with "Colorado?"

That's among the possible outcomes after International Falls, Minn., was given a certification from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for that title.

The dispute dates to the mid-1980s. International Falls had prevailed in claiming use of the title. But Fraser a couple years ago discovered that the Minnesota town had failed to renew its trademark. Fraser jumped in.

Still unclear, at least in Fraser, is whether International Falls has indeed triumphed, says the Sky-Hi Daily News. International Falls has evidence of using the slogan by 1948. So far, Fraser has offered no evidence of similar antiquity.

It takes a lot to impress skiers at Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.—Colorado-based ski writer Brian Metzler recently visited Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. While others may have more lifts, greater expanses of terrain, and better base facilities, Jackson Hole is almost without rival in the lower 48 states when it comes to pure vertical exhilaration.

Because there is so much vertical, he says in a report published in a Denver newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, Jackson Hole has some very good skiers. He illustrates his point by telling about watching a skier launch off a road in the Alta Chutes, smoothly landing a 30-footer.

"It was an impressive display of skill and bravado that not only made my stomach drop, but also put my own ski thrills into perspective," he writes. "Amazingly, no one on the string of chairs who witnessed it clapped, cheered, or so much as uttered a peep."

A local skier explained why. "This is Jackson, and people have seen some pretty wild stuff up here," explained Jay Bruener. "That was a nice effort, but you've got to do something pretty extraordinary to get a round of applause from these people."

5 minutes earlier, they would have been toast

SILVERTON, Colo.—Some people are in the right place at the right time. The inverse can also be true. Such was nearly the case with Dr. Bob Brokering and his wife, Terri, who own the Eureka Lodge, located 8 miles from Silverton which caters to ice climbers, backcountry skiers, and snowmobilers.

It was about midnight, and the couple had started to hike from their parked car to the lodge. The route crosses the runout zone for an avalanche. The Brokerings tell the Silverton Standard that they had started across the runout zone when they heard a roar. Looking up, they could see a snow cloud. They tried to flee, but only partly succeeded. He was pushed over by the wind that precedes major avalanches, and then knocked over by the debris, although not covered. Luckily for the couple, though, they were only on the edge of the runoff, and he was not covered.

"Five minutes earlier, we would have been in the middle of that (avalanche) field," Brokering told the Standard. It was, he said, a more personal experience with avalanches than he had wanted.

Powerful case made for removal of snow

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Snow in Crested Butte this winter is so deep that trash trucks in the alleys are in danger of hitting power lines.

Out in the streets, the snow has compacted to about two feet deep in places. Crews will skim off the snow, but areas dedicated to snow storage are almost at capacity. But at homes running out of space, pitching it into the street isn't the answer, either, said town marshal Peter Daniels "You just have to stack it higher; that's where it has to go," he explained.

Failure to keep ahead of snow shoveling was illustrated in the painful lesson of the Crested Butte Brewery. Just hours ahead of the Super Bowl, a portion of the roof buckled. Eight to nine feet of snow had been allowed to accumulate. In Gunnison, located 29 miles down-valley, a roof on the library at Western State College collapsed. No one was hurt in either case.

New Whistler home sale record is $17.5 million

WHISTLER, B.C.—A home in Whistler originally designed for the singer Seal is expected to sell soon for $17.5 million. The price will eclipse the resort community's previous record, which was set a year ago, of $13.3 million. Real estate agent Pat Kelly, who is representing the buyer, said the sale proves that "although there's some uncertainty in the North American economy, it doesn't affect the higher end luxury market. ... that market is strong and, in fact, appears to be strengthening."

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