Friday, November 5, 2010

Mountain Town News


More ice-age bones uncovered

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo.—Bones of ice-age behemoths continue to emerge from layers of peat and silt at a small reservoir being constructed near Snowmass Village.

As of last weekend, bones and tusks from at least four mammoths had been identified after a bulldozer operator first noticed something unusual on Oct. 15. The tooth of a mastodon has also been recovered.

Both are rare. Just 103 bones of mammoths had been recovered in Colorado prior to the Snowmass discovery, and just three of those belonged to mastodons.

So far, no evidence of human activity has turned up at the ice-age cemetery.

Curators from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science took ownership of the bones, but agreed with the local water and sewer district to create a cast replica of each of the bones. If there is a full skeleton, it is to be displayed in Snowmass Village.

Because of the unusual soil composition—a deep layer of peat sandwiched between silt and clay—the bones had not fossilized.

Initiative hopes to boost support for bison

BANFF, Alberta—A new initiative called Bison Belong has been launched to help lend support for reintroduction of bison to Banff National Park.

Bison, also known as buffalo, were last documented in Banff in 1858. But Parks Canada, the park administrator, believes that the southern part of the park could accommodate a herd of 100 bison reintroduced from the plains of Canada.

"We are creating some excitement, and we want people to know that Parks is getting closer to doing this," Julia Lynx, outreach coordinator for the Eleanor Luxton Foundation, told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. "It is not a guarantee, but it is pretty close."

Even discounted price of house was very high

ASPEN, Colo.—Prices may be down considerably, but some very high-end real estate continues to get sold in Aspen and Pitkin County. The Aspen Daily News reports a house has been sold for $31.5 million. That's well below the list price of $60 million when it was completed in 2008 and also below the more recent list price of $47.5 million.

Still, that makes it the most expensive single-family home sale in Pitkin County this year, and one of the highest ever. In past years, sales of $43 million, $37.5 million and $37.3 million have been recorded, while earlier this year a $24.5 million sale was documented.

The house being sold has nearly 15,000 square feet, not including a guesthouse and the eight-stall horse barn.

Vail Resorts creating a critical mass at Tahoe

TRUCKEE, Calif.—Vail Resorts has added another ski area, Northstar-at-Tahoe, to its portfolio, paying $63 million. With this ski area, Vail now has four in Colorado, two in California, plus a lodging operation in Wyoming.

The largest real estate developer at Tahoe also comes from the Vail area. East West Partners has 1,000 housing units planned, and after finding a new financing partner, managing director Harry Frampton tells the Vail Daily, he believes that the partnership with Vail Resorts will now take Northstar to a higher level.

Despite the economy, Northstar had a substantial increase in business last winter.

Doubts expressed about Whistler IPO

WHISTLER, B.C.—Vail Resorts talked about buying part of the Whistler-Blackcomb ski area last year, but couldn't cut a deal with the owner, Intrawest and its parent company of Fortress.

Now, majority ownership of the ski area is available through a public stock offering as Fortress tries to sooth the pain of its ill-advised debt of $1.5 billion incurred in 2006, at the height of the real estate boom at Intrawest's various resorts.

With the IPO, Fortress hopes to raise $300 million. But Whistler's Pique Newsmagazine reports that at least some stock analysts are discouraging investors. The newspaper cites writing by Will Ashworth, a Toronto-based financial analyst. In an article published on Investopedia website, he warned investors to "avoid Whistler's big coming-out party."

The wrap on buying stock in Whistler? It's a profitable resort—but with not much potential for growth. There's no real estate to develop, and the ski market isn't growing like gangbusters.

Intrawest and Fortress have already sold a bundle of their other resorts.

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