Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mountain town news


Teton County is country's richest in 2007

JACKSON, Wyo. -- Teton County had the highest wealth per capita in the United States during 2007.

That conclusion was reached by Jonathan Schechter, the numbers-based trends analyst for the Jackson Hole News&Guide. He studied the Bureau of Economic Analysis per-capita income measurements and also figures from the Internal Revenue Service, which measures income based on tax returns.

"By both measurements, in 2006, Teton County was, on a per-capita basis, the wealthiest county in America," Schechter writes. He says that for three straight years now, Teton County has bumped Manhattan for that distinction.

"Two decades ago, when I moved to Jackson Hole, the great concern was that we would become another Aspen. Today, we've left Aspen in the dust."

Perhaps surprising, the area around Pinedale, Wyo., the center of one of the nation's most frenzied drilling booms in recent years, also was one of the wealthiest counties in the nation based on per-capita income. By that criterion, tiny and rough-hewn Pinedale was more affluent than Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge and Vail, not to mention Park City and Sun Valley, Schechter reports.

Union will take up ski patroller's case

MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. -- The union representing ski patrollers at Crested Butte Mountain Resort is going to bat for Billy Rankin, a ski patroller who was fired by the resort company. Grounds for protest were not disclosed, nor did Rankin return a phone call seeking clarification.

Ken Stone, the chief operating officer at the resort, told the Crested Butte News that the resort will not choose outside vendors or suppliers or employ people "who have a conflict of interest with the company's vision or policies."

Rankin is a member of the Crested Butte Town Council, and in that capacity he voted to send a letter from the town to the Forest Service expressing concerns about the expansion of the ski area onto a new mountain, called Snodgrass. The letter also recommends that the Forest Service not allow the expansion.

The handbook signed by employees of the resort stipulates that employees agree not to take action against the company or put themselves into situations where conflicts of interest could arise. Rankin admitted to the newspaper that he had not read the handbook when he signed it.

I-70 corridor may get another big-box store

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. -- Big-box stories have popped up with great regularity along the Interstate 70 corridor in the last decade. Target, Wal-Mart Supercenter, The Home Depot and Costco have become nearly as conspicuous between Silverthorne and Glenwood Springs, a distance of 90 miles, as snow-capped peaks.

Next in line may be another Home Depot, this one in Silverthorne. Nearby Frisco rejected a Home Depot five years ago, heeding the warnings of opponents that the store would turn Summit County into a Denver suburb and put small, local retailers out of business.

Those same arguments, reports the Summit Daily News, are now being waged in Silverthorne, where The Home Depot proposes a 100,000-square-foot store. The proposal has the requisite zoning, but the Town Council could still rule that the proposed building doesn't fit into the community.

Aspen mayor survives tight challenge

ASPEN, Colo. -- Mick Ireland has been re-elected as mayor of Aspen, narrowly defeating challenger Marilyn Marks. Marks interpreted the close vote as a "huge voice for change," but Ireland saw the tally as a mandate to "stay with managing growth, not slowing it, creating affordable housing, protecting the environment and building an economy that's stable."

In an editorial, The Aspen Times indicated that the tight race was more an indictment of Ireland's style, not his substance. "He can be abrasive, even rude at times, but his record demonstrates an absolute focus on Aspen's health, as a resort and as a community. To us, Ireland's manners leave much to be desired, but his priorities as a public servant are never in doubt."

Real estate hopes still springing in Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- Real estate numbers across several resort areas in Colorado looked somewhat similar. Sales volume in the first quarter of the year for the Steamboat and Vail/Eagle Valley markets were only 26.9 percent compared to the same period last year. It was somewhat better, 36 percent, in Summit County, while in Grand County it was worse, just 18 percent.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today talked with Dennis Hanlon, a real estate agent in Park City, Utah, and founder and president of the Rocky Mountain Resort Alliance, which tallies these figures.

"The resorts have been affected by the economy, but they're not dead," Hanlon said. "Things seem to be improving."

He pointed to small gains in the stock market as evidence, which is what he said will "start restoring consumer confidence."

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