Friday, July 9, 2010

Mountain Town News


2 bears killed in Banff National Park

BANFF, Alberta—Two more bears have been killed in Banff National Park. A black bear was killed on the TransCanada Highway, while a grizzly was killed by a train. The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that six grizzlies have been hit by trains in the past three years in the same two-kilometer segment, where hillsides and the Bow River tightly hem in the curving train tracks. In addition, the Jackson Hole News&Guide reports the death of two bears, both hit by traffic, in Yellowstone National Park.

Whistler eyes visitors from China

WHISTLER, B.C.—It's not clear just how much additional business Whistler will get as a result of China's decision to name Canada as an "approved destination status." What seems clear enough, however, is that Chinese citizens will more likely visit Whistler in summer and also as part of a visit to the much better known Vancouver. Tourism Whistler plans its strategy accordingly.

Crested Butte to have its own gay ski week

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Crested Butte next March will join a number of other ski resorts in welcoming gay skiers.

Aspen, Whistler and Telluride for a number of years have hosted gay ski weeks, and last year Vail joined them. Crested Butte next March will debut the Matthew Shepard Foundation Memorial Gay Ski Week.

Organizers said they were drawn to Crested Butte because of its native funkiness. They particularly noticed the costumes and revelry during the Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill Race.

Summer economy looks good in T'ride

TELLURIDE, Colo.—For whatever reason, the economy has been improving markedly in Telluride. Lodging occupancy reservations for June through November ranked tops among 11 ski-based mountain towns in the West monitored by the Mountain Travel Research Program. Occupancy remains low, just 20 to 30 percent, but average daily room rates have been increasing steadily and now are second among those towns. The real estate market has also been bouncing back.

Ritz-Carlton in works at Park City?

PARK CITY, Utah—Park City had a major, star-spangled hotel open last November at Deer Valley, and another top-crust hotel has been rising. Can it stand another?

A family with land on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort says they have discussed the potential for a Ritz-Carlton with hotel representatives. But the deal could be years off, notes the Park Record, which also mentions that putting the land into a conservation easement is another possibility.

Duplexes show signs of life in Breck

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—A few years ago, plans to build four duplexes wouldn't have ever gotten into the newspaper unless there were some great controversy about it. But that was then. Today, it's notable because it's the first new residential project in some time, local real estate agent Chris Johnson told the Summit Daily News. The real estate market there has been cautiously warming.

Biomass plant gets no help from feds

VAIL, Colo.—A biomass plant to generate heat and electricity in Vail may still get built, but it won't be with federal stimulus funds. The Connecticut-based company that proposes the plan had requested $26 million but more quietly insisted that the idea didn't need federal money.

Whether enough wood will be available to burn in the $46 million plant remains uncertain. The bark beetle epidemic has left plenty of dead trees, but pine trees begin rotting relatively soon after they have died, in most cases far sooner than the life of a biomass plant. The Forest Service intends to study just how much wood might be available in the long term for such a venture.

Jackson takes a soft stance on anti-idling

JACKSON, Wyo. -- Town councilors in Jackson have rejected an ordinance that would have made it unlawful to let cars and trucks idle.

"This would be a tool in the toolbox for police to use at their discretion," said a supporter of the ban, Greg Miles.

But the majority of council members warned of a backlash. They want a softer approach.

"I believe this is a cultural shift, not a legislative action," said a Councilman Mark Obringer.

It's already against state law in Wyoming to leave an unattended car or truck idling. This would have extended that ban to occupied vehicles. Instead, Jackson intends to work up an educational campaign.

A local resident, David Swift, advised the council that the threat of a proposed idling law would start the job of creating peer pressure to curb the habit of mindless idling.

"Tabling the ordinance with 'we'll trust people's common sense' is good PR, and conversely will starve the anti-government drama-queen crowd of their cherished victimhood status."

Slackline park put in atop Vail

VAIL, Colo.—A complex of slacklines has replaced a volleyball court atop Vail Mountain. Slacklines are often used for training by skiers, snowboarders, cyclists, climbers and gymnasts.

The Vail Daily explains that participants balance on a 2-inch-wide webbing. The park has 10 such webbings, running between 10 and 40 feet in length.

Aspen, Snowmass and Pennsylvania's Whitetail Resort plan to follow suit.

Whistler working on summer activities

WHISTLER, B.C.—Operators of the Whistler-Blackcomb ski area continue to experiment with the menu of summer activities there.

Last summer, the ski area offered ATV tours among the ski trails. That has been scrapped. So have the helicopter tours. But this year, Whistler will unveil alpine slides, also called a tube park.

Such slides have existed in Colorado at Breckenridge and Winter Park for 30 years. Meanwhile, the National Ski Areas Association has been trying to get clear authority to create such amusement park-type infrastructure on federal lands.

Taking stock of summer offerings in Whistler, Pique Newsmagazine Publisher Bob Barnett points out that much has changed during summer months in the past 20 years. He points out that mountain biking has become a major activity, and that last year's new Peak 2 Peak Gondola has also become a major draw.

"We need to recognize a significant part of our summer market is different from the winter market, and perhaps different from what we think it is," he said. "These visitors are probably not the golfers and tennis players envisioned as summer visitors two decades ago."

Summer visitors also remain less lucrative.

"That's little comfort to most hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers right now—but there are visitors in the summer," he said. "Understanding who they are and what they're looking for may be the best business Whistler can do right now."

Marmots not all same in geekiness

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—Those shrill whistles by marmots—it sort of sounds like "geek!"—may all sound the same, but they're not. So says Dan Blumstein, a biologist from the University of California at Los Angeles. He tells the Summit Daily News that marmots have different personalities, and they respond to threats in different ways. Those different perceptions are revealed in the alarm calls of the animals.

Some marmots worry a lot, and they respond to perceived threats accordingly. Others tend to be more laid back. Blumstein tells the Daily News that having a diversity of behavior in a species helps it adapt to changes in the environment, such as when a predator population grows. He also notes that this is not unlike how people tend to behave differently in cities versus rural areas.

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