Friday, March 28, 2008

Mountain Town News


Recycling lags in West because of its big spaces

ASPEN, Colo.—Aspen city officials are calculating how they can nudge the recycling rate upward. About 16 percent of solid waste is diverted into recycling, which is far higher than the rate in Colorado, but well below the national rate of 30 percent.

Why is the land of Denver and John Denver so so-so? The Aspen Daily News explains that it is, relatively speaking, a place of wide-open spaces, which means that it costs less to dump trash. Even in the Roaring Fork Valley, one of Colorado's priciest neighborhoods, the cost is $50 a ton at the landfill. It can be three times as high along the East Coast.

In the neighboring Eagle Valley, nobody keeps track of the recycling rate from Vail and outlying towns, although one knowledgeable figure estimates 10 percent.

In Wyoming, however, the story is much, much higher. Teton County—which his nearly synonymous with Jackson Hole—last year diverted 32 percent of trash, concrete and construction debris from the landfill. That's twice as good as Aspen, probably three times as much as Vail.

Why so much better in Jackson Hole? The landfill tipping fee is only $50, but it is located 90 miles south of Jackson, near Pinedale. That adds on transportation costs, although it may speak to a greater environmental ethic in Jackson Hole.

Snowfall records drop at Jackson, Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.—If not a record season for snowfall at ski areas in the West, it's been a very, very good winter.

At Steamboat Ski Area, it is a record—at least compared to recent years. More than 450 inches of snow have fallen, surpassing a record set in the winter of 1996-97. However, it's unclear whether this is the snowiest winter ever, even in ski area history. There, as in many other places, snowfall totals are recorded for different periods of time and, in some places, at different locations.

By one measuring stick at the Jackson Hole Mountain Record, more than 500 inches of snow has been recorded through mid-March -- the most ever through that date. By other measuring sticks, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide, it was shaping up as either the second or third snowiest winter for the resort, which has operated since 1961.

Elsewhere in Colorado, Aspen has about 400 inches of snowfall for the season. That's not a record, but within striking distance of a season record, should spring become particularly snowy.

At Telluride, the prodigious snowfalls of mid-winter have slackened to virtually nothing in March. "Just a dusting, I think," said Marta Tarbell, editor of The Telluride Watch.

Winter started off similarly with a whimper. In Steamboat Springs, the temperature hit 65 degrees on Nov. 20, too hot even to allow snowmaking. Soon after, explains the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the pelting began: 26 of 31 days in December with some measurable snowfall, and the third most snowfall on record, followed by more steady snowfall through January and February.

Crested Butte plans to revamp winter flights

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Crested Butte is restructuring its direct flight program in an effort to better appeal to destination skiers.

The ski area operator and its partners from local governments, who levy a sales tax to subsidize transportation, had taken a heavy hit in revenue guarantees two years ago when airlines too frequently carried fewer passengers than is necessary to meet costs. The subsidized flights were primarily to Texas markets and also Denver.

This year, Crested Butte took a breather, offering fewer flights, but hopes to return next winter with a substantially revised program to a variety of new cities, including to Delta Airlines headquarters in Salt Lake City, and also Chicago, Atlanta, and other major markets.

Nearly $2 million will be offered to airlines, to ensure they don't lose money on the new flights. To make this possible, the ski area operator, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, will pick up a large portion of the tab, $1.2 million, should the planes not fill to at least 75 percent of capacity.

Crested Butte also expects to cut back its shuttles from Denver.

Non-skiing economy growing in Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C.—Hard numbers are lacking, but Whistler's economy seems to be losing some of its overwhelming dependence on winter and skiing. As a result, employers are laying off fewer employees after winter. The mountain biking park at Whistler-Blackcomb, the ski area, seems to be a strong drawing card for summer vacationers.

"We actually found employers were saying last summer that they almost had a more difficult time finding employees in the summer then they do in the winter," said Louise Lundry, president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce. Skiing is a draw to employees in the winter, but mountain biking less of a lure to summer employees.

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