Friday, August 13, 2010

Mountain Town News


Vail cool to addition to wilderness areas

VAIL, Colo.—Several mountain towns in Colorado this year have been hotly debating a major proposal for new wilderness called Hidden Gems. Unlike previous additions of public lands to the nation's designated wilderness system, these proposed lands tend to be more marginal—in the sense that they are lower in elevation, and on the margins of both existing wilderness areas and development areas.

Breckenridge has endorsed the idea, but with reservations. They want the usual prohibition against chainsaws in wilderness areas lifted, in case of fire. They also want more concessions for mountain bikers.

Water providers have also been concerned in the Eagle Valley. The Vail Town Council split on whether to endorse the measure, with positions argued passionately on both sides.

No so the local water district. It wants more flexibility for management of federal lands than what wilderness normally allows. A down-valley town, Gypsum, also prefers the perceived flexibility of a lower-case wilderness in a creek drainage that delivers the town its water supply.

No acceleration in real estate in July

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.— Have the wealthy returned to their free-spending ways? While it seemed that was the case for a while, new reports suggest the rich have become a bit more tight-fisted again.

The latest report comes from Jackson Hole, where real-estate agent Clayton Andrews reports that July sales, although typically stronger than other months, were essentially flat with May and June.

Second-home owners and those individuals who have been sitting on the sidelines with plenty of cash are entering the market when they see a "true opportunity," Andrews told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

The New York Times in mid-July also reported belt-tightening among the affluent.

"Late last year, the highest-income households started spending more confidently, while other consumers held back. But their confidence has since ebbed, according to retail sales reports and some economic analysis," the newspaper reported.

"That cautious attitude stems in part from concerns about global instability, especially in Europe, and in part from the volatility of the stock market in recent months," the Times added.

The Times identified households earning $210,000 or more as constituting the top five percent of income-earners. On a per capita basis, however, Jackson Hole leads the nation in per capita income, as tabulated by the Internal Revenue Service.

Rooms fill, but at still-reduced rates

WHISTLER, B.C.—Whistler is like most other mountain resorts, except that it has a few more rooms than most, about 8,000 altogether. Even during the Olympics, there were rooms to spare. And now during the height of summer, they can be had for a relative song.

Taking stock of mountain resorts across the West, Pique Newsmagazine editor Bob Barnett notes that Whistler is far from alone. At Winter Park, rooms could be had for $64 for a single, and if you're splitting overnight rent, that's just $32 per person. Even Aspen has had $69 rooms.

Discounting and appealing to the regional market (Vancouver and Seattle, primarily) makes sense in the recessionary short-term, but Barnett advocates getting on with the task of figuring out a long-term economic strategy.

One of those long-term strategies often mentioned but never pursued was development of education as a complementary industry to tourism.

Steamboat tries freebie to drum up fall bookings

STEAMBOAT SPRIGNS, Colo.—Summer tourism peaked in Steamboat Springs during the first weekend in August with some expectations of up to 12,500 visitors. That would have found the resort town 82 percent full.

To encourage business into fall, the local Chamber of Commerce allocated $15,000 to give out to 50 parties willing to commit to three-night trips into fall. Chamber representatives said they expect the recipients will justify extra indulgences, like $150 dinners.

Vail has also been busy this summer, according to anecdotal reports, especially with families, young children in tow. Low lodging costs are believed to be drawing the families.

Telluride continues to talk about bagging it

TELLURIDE, Colo.—Telluride continues its conversation about what to do with all of its bag people. At the urging of a local activist, the town began talking about banning plastic and other bags three years ago. The idea was given considerable oomph this year when a movie describing the accumulating horrors of plastic use was shown at Mountain Film. The film, "Bag It!," explained that a swirl of plastic about the size of Texas has accumulated in the Pacific Ocean.

What to do? The latest proposal, to be voted upon in late August, would ban grocery stores from using plastic bags. They could still use paper bags, however.

An alternative, now on the back burner, would allow stores to give out plastic bags, but require they charge a tax when customers need those bags, reports The Telluride Watch.

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