Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mountain Town News


Good snow isn't enough
to keep Vail open longer

VAIL, Colo.—There's plenty of snow in Vail, but there's not a chance that the bull wheels will keep operating past the scheduled closing of April 11. Business owners would like it, but Chris Jarnot, the chief operating officer for Vail Mountain, said it would be asking too much of his workers. As is, office personnel will be asked to bus tables and operate ski lifts, reports the Vail Daily.

"We're going to be in a real serious challenge over the next four weeks," said Jarnot at a town meeting.

Like many ski areas, Vail Mountain was unable to get as many foreign workers under the H-2B program. Fewer than 10 percent of the 14,000 workers employed at Vail Mountain and the four other ski areas operated by Vail Resorts are covered under the H-2B and J-1 visa programs.

1,200 Democrats turn
out in Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.—By the numbers, it was an astonishing show. Teton County, which is virtually the same as Jackson Hole, has about 20,000 residents, of which about 6,600 are registered Democrats.

About a third of them—1,200 people—turned out for the county convention. Four-fifths of them voted for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide didn't say the last time that many people showed up for a meeting—possibly, because it hasn't happened before. But usually, at county assemblies, only a few dozen people show up.

That Wyoming's few votes still matter in this year's exceedingly tight race primary between Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is itself uncommon. But clearly, Wyoming is enjoying being on the national stage, something other than fly-over country.

Park City bags it for
a possibly big runoff

PARK CITY, Colo.—The snowpack is now at 126 percent on the lee side of the Wasatch Range, but that's enough for city officials to take precautions against flooding during spring runoff. They usually get 5,000 sandbags, but this year ordered 10,000, at 30 cents each. Cost: $3,000.

"We would be fools not to," said Hugh Daniels, who manages emergency programs for the city. "Have you looked and seen how much snow is out there?"

The last time Park City had this much snow was only three years ago. There was not significant flooding that year. However, a great deal depends upon the timing of the warmth. A cool spring followed by sudden heat could result in swollen creeks, officials tell The Park Record.

Meanwhile, in Basalt, 18 miles downstream from Aspen, city officials are conferring with residents of two mobile home parks along the Roaring Fork River, reports The Aspen Times.

Telluride won't cater
to extremes of biking

TELLURIDE, Colo.—If you're a mountain biker at Telluride, there's no real place to throw the wheels down a steep fall line—not legally, at least.

That's not to say it doesn't happen. In fact, it's getting to be a real problem at the Telluride ski area. The Forest Service, which administers the land, says the trails tend to go straight down fall lines, resulting in erosion that removes the shallow forest earth down to bare rock. When that happens, mountain bikers go elsewhere, to repeat the scarring, erosive process. Thus created, the ravines tend to enlarge even more over time.

At some ski areas, such as at Whistler and Blackcomb, operators have catered specifically to extreme mountain bikers. That will not happen at Telluride.

The reason, said Dave Riley, chief executive officer of the Telluride Ski and Golf Co., is the lack of money to make it work. A major cost, a report in The Telluride Watch indicates, is liability.

Real estate expected to be
'flat, at best' in Durango

DURANGO, Colo.—The Durango-area real estate market continues to tread water. Bob Allen, a real estate analyst there, said home values in 2008 will be "flat, at best." This flies in the face of press releases issued by the National Association of Realtors, which continue to argue that the market has been stable or stabilizing. "It just keeps stabilizing and stabilizing and stabilizing," he said. The Durango Herald also notes that John Wells, of The Wells Group, sees fewer real-estate brokers locally by the end of 2008.

Feathers ruffled about
building in Mammoth

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif.—Like a lot of ski towns, Mammoth Lakes is atwitter about the height of a proposed 112-unit condo-hotel. The building would average 48 feet, topping out at 77 feet.

There are the usual complaints from adjoining property owners about disruptions of view sheds, impacts to traffic and also the light pollution. But The Sheet reports a new twist: A member of the Audubon Society warns about the impact to two species of birds, tree swallows and common nighthawks.

The birds eat insects, which can be found in the creek that runs through the site. The birds fly up to 100 feet on either side of the creek—and bam! Yes, he sees the birds flying into the building. "Putting a tall building with reflective glass so close to Mammoth Creek would cause a great threat to these birds," said Kent Wells.

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