Friday, March 7, 2008

Mountain Town News


World Cup races show missing Olympic piece

Whistler Mountain, British Columbia, hosted its first World Cup ski races in 13 years, and Pique Newsmagazine says the races were close to flawless and the skies uncommonly clear for Whistler. Still, the publication saw something to be desired in the event, in that many people could have spent the weekend in Whistler unaware that there were World Cup races taking place.

"If the goal is to build some interest and enthusiasm in these events among Whistler residents and visitors--perhaps even some national pride—the energy at the race courses has to be carried over to the village," said Pique, casting a sideways glance at the big shadow—the 2010 Winter Olympics that the resort will co-host with Vancouver.

Prescribed burns have tourism officials upset

Three wildfires near the Banff townsite in the past three years, one of them unnervingly close, have caused local fire managers to start plotting deliberate fires, to prevent out-of-control fire.

Parks Canada, which administers Banff National Park, plans to burn 1,330 hectares (2,226 acres) during the coming decades, most lasting just a few hours in spring months. Still, the idea of smoking up the Bow River Valley has some tourism officials sounding alarm bells, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Smoke in the valley would be "disastrous for the tourism industry," said Julie Canning, president and chief executive officer of Banff Lake Louise Tourism.

Proposed California resort has April financial deadline

Would-be developers of a real-estate, golf and ski resort northwest of Truckee, Calif., have until April 8 to come up with the $16 million that would preclude foreclosure. The Sierra Sun reports that financial troubles led the lender, California Mortgage and Realty, to issue a foreclosure sale notice originally slated for Feb. 4 to recoup nearly $16 million in debt. Opponents of the project, who say it would sully a large undeveloped area, have been fighting the project for seven years.

Planes nearly crash at Yampa Valley airport

Two planes nearly crashed into each other at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, located 25 miles west of Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Air traffic controllers in Denver had cleared a private, 9- to 12-passenger jet to take off without realizing that a commercial 66-passenger regional jet had not yet landed. Despite the miss, it was quite the scare for passengers and airport officials, reports The Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Airport manager Dave Ruppel said the incident underscores the need for radar coverage at the airport. Because of the mountainous topography, planes taking off or landing fly too low to be detected by radar in Denver. Such radar coverage is expected to be in place by late spring.

Giant real estate plan annexed into Minturn

The camel officially is in the tent. Last week, the Minturn (Colorado) Town Council approved annexation of 4,300 acres of former mining lands planned for high-end real estate development.

Not yet authorized are the 1,700 homes, ski area and golf course proposed by the Ginn Co., a Florida-based developer. The property is located south of Vail, and adjacent to a former mining town, Red Cliff.

The story goes back to the late 1980s, more than a decade after zinc- and lead-mining operations in the area were suspended. A trio of lawyers began buying the properties, many of which had been purchased for back taxes by speculators. Ginn purchased the property several years ago for $35 million.

There has been some grumbling in Minturn all along by residents who fear the impacts. Already, the town's Main Street becomes crowded morning and night with commuters headed to homes in Leadville, 35 miles away. There is no easy way to reroute traffic in the narrow valley.

The agreement between Minturn and Red Cliff calls for new sidewalks along Main Street, a recreation center, water-system upgrades and a large amount of affordable housing.

Because Minturn has very few sales, town officials for years have struggled with how to make ends meet. Had Minturn not embraced the project, the landowner would have been granted the right to build at least 179 houses, plus accessory units, under Colorado law. Some believe that Red Cliff, the other adjoining town, would have cut a deal with Ginn had Minturn not done so.

Cloud-seeding finally ends at Crested Butte

Cloud-seeding operations at Crested Butte, Colo., were suspended in late February because snowpack in the Gunnison River Basin is above 150 percent of average. The basin has been seeded every year since 2002 by a consortium of agriculture, water and resort organizations, the Crested Butte News reported.

Worries about snow that remains to drop

It's not just middle-age people who fear the effects of gravity. With so much snow to come down, officials in Aspen, Colo., are concerned about the potential for massive spring snowslides.

One area of slides in the past is just outside Aspen, in the drainages of Castle and Conundrum creeks. In 1994, a massive slide killed one man sleeping in a teepee along Conundrum Creek. Another slide, farther down the valley along Castle Creek, prevented rescuers from getting to the site.

The glut of snow in the narrow chutes has to come down either as water or as a potentially devastating snowslide, Pitkin County Undersheriff Joe DiSalvo told The Aspen Times. For now, officials are taking a do-nothing approach. No homes are immediately threatened.

South of Telluride, along Lizard Head Pass, mitigation of the avalanche threat last year caused the highway gates to drop for only 50 minutes. This year, it's been nearly 89 hours, reports The Telluride Watch. Up in the Telluride ski hill, Ski Patrol Director Pat Ahern estimated that patrollers have used twice the amount of explosives for avalanche mitigation this year as last year.

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