Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mountain Town News


Has Jackson hit economic bottom?

JACKSON, Wyo.—Economic analyst Jonathan Schechter seems to have correctly predicted last autumn the bottoming-out of the real estate market in the town of Jackson and Teton County—a bottoming that seems to have been occurring in other resort markets as well. More recently, he took on the challenge of the economy there more broadly. Given the challenge of predicting economic highs and lows, he says he might have more wisely quit while ahead.

But he plunged in, studying the classified advertisements of the Jackson Hole News & Guide, in which his analysis appears, going back to January 2005. Specifically, he measured two barometers: the column inches of help-wanted and rental housing listings.

The help-wanted ads suggest the economy crested in the winter of 2007-08, then began slowing in spring of 2008, around the time that investment bank Bear Stearns imploded. After that, he reports, things went into an 18-month free fall, finally stabilizing late last year.

Rental housing ads hit an all-time low in summer 2008, lagging a bit behind the peak in help-wanted advertising. Mirroring the help wanted ads, rental housing ads peaked this past fall, and since then have leveled out.

Using these and other statistical tools, he concludes that "starting in October or so, the tide seems to have turned, and at a minimum, the rate of decline has flattened out."

"Whether growth will occur anytime soon is anyone's guess." he said.

Whistler hopes to leverage spotlight

WHISTLER, B.C.— Tourism promoters in both Whistler and Vancouver are hoping to seize the season, boosting their marketing efforts for summer and again next winter.

"Clearly we know that the (Olympic) Games have grown awareness of Whistler as a winter destination as one of the icons of the 2010 Games," said Barrett Fisher.

Now the game is to boost Whistler as a destination for conferences as well as its more traditional leisure market, she told Pique Newsmagazine.

The time for this leverage will be brief, said Rick Antonson, chief executive of Tourism Vancouver. "It would be naïve for us to think that the world's attention is locked on us for the next year or two. It's not. It was locked on us for last month or two."

Whistler will push summer to broader markets than it normally does, but will limit its increased aggression during winter months to traditional markets: Canada, the U.S., the UK, Australia and Germany.

Agency hopes hunters will kill bears

ASPEN, Colo.— The Colorado Division of Wildlife wants to encourage hunters to kill more bears in the Aspen and Vail areas. Last year, 630 hunting licenses were available. But wildlife biologists propose to make 1,200 licenses available this year.

Why so many? Especially now that they cannot use dogs, bear hunters seem to have a very low rate of success. Last year, for example, only 33 bears were killed by hunters in the Aspen, Vail, and Glenwood Springs area, a success rate of just 5.2 percent, an agency spokesman told the Aspen Times.

In contrast, police and wildlife officers killed 20 bears in the Aspen area last year after various conflicts. Aspen more recently adopted regulations requiring wildlife-resistant trash containers and rules limiting the hours when trash can be placed outside. Vail and Snowmass Village have had somewhat similar rules for several years.

New avalanche rating scale to be instituted

REVELSTOKE, B.C. --A new North American avalanche danger rating system has been announced and will be put into use next winter.

The new rating system has five levels of warning, replacing the existing three levels. Also, avalanche forecasters say they believe the new system will more easily convey inherently complex information in a simpler, more unified format.

"The new system really spells it out in a very digestible manner using colors and numbers and icons," said Cam Campbell, forecaster for the Canadian Avalanche Center."

Growing season is fleeting

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Nolan Doesken, who was the sort of kid who grew wide-eyed with excitement at every turn of weather when growing up in Illinois, was in Steamboat Springs recently.

Doesken is now Colorado state climatologist, and while in Steamboat to speak to gardeners, he suggested it's a pursuit for the truly determined.

"You get this window almost every year from somewhere around the Fourth of July to somewhere around the end of August when you have pretty good weather, and it might stay above freezing—it won't for sure, but it might—for maybe five or six weeks. And that's what you call growing season," he said.

The Steamboat Pilot notes a surge of new community gardens there, similar to the profusion elsewhere in mountain towns and other communities.

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