Friday, January 14, 2011

Mountain Town News


Tree wells a greater danger in some areas

WHITEFISH, Mont. -- For all of its gratifying wonders, glade skiing poses inherent risks. You can knock yourself silly on a tree, and a helmet helps only to a point. Or you can fall into a tree well, hung upside down, unable to claw your way out, and suffocate.

The latter is what killed two people in separate incidents recently at Big Mountain, the ski area just outside Whitefish, Mont. Reporting the news, the Whitefish Pilot noted that five other people have died at the ski resort since 1978 after getting trapped in tree wells. One was a former ski patroller.

Some trees wells are more than 10 feet deep, the newspaper noted. It points out that trees wells are less of a danger in mountain ranges that have the wetter snow of maritime climates.

Christmas, Sundance spending on the rise

PARK CITY, Utah -- Customers resumed their free-spending ways at Christmas, and now corporations appear ready to do the same as the Sundance Film Festival returns to Park City.

"Last year they would have a glass of wine; this year a bottle," said Steve McComb, owner of three dining outlets in Park City, observing holiday visitors.

More telling yet, people were reserving tables at multiple restaurants, a tactic to ensure choices more commonly seen during the Sundance Film Festival. One steak-house restaurateur told the Park Record that business was what it was last year.

Sundance will begin Jan. 20, and it could be the rollicking affair reminiscent of old, given the evidence that corporations will restore allowances for high-profile presences to showcase products and services.

One agent of such parities estimated the number of festival lounges or other venues will increase 15 percent from last year, approaching the level reached in 2008, shortly before the recession free-fall.

"Companies who hadn't had places recently are spending money again. They're back to spending money," said Christopher Ryan, the Los Angeles-based agent.

Jackson Hole notches terrain, visitor records

JACKSON, Wyo. -- In the first two months of ski season, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort set two records.

The day after Thanksgiving, all of the ski terrain -- top to bottom and wall to wall, in the words of Jerry Blann, the ski area president -- was opened. This was a first for November in the resort's 44 years of operation.

Then, in November, the ski area set a record for skier days. Season-pass prices slashed by 25 percent was at least partly responsible, but so was the abundant snow of 240 inches by New Year's Day.

Evidence at every turn of growing economy

ASPEN, Colo. -- From the judge of records for November, real estate in Aspen and Pitkin County continues to grow. Through November, the real estate market is up 15 percent as compared to 2009. This is as measured by total dollar sales, $1.14 billion, according to a Land Title Guarantee Co. report summarized by The Aspen Times.

Meanwhile, the town finance department reports sales tax receipts were up 5 percent during November, another indication of a livelier economy.

In what has been a sharper indicator yet, The Times reports surging interest in leasing of retail locations. "I think everything is moving in a very positive direction," said Karen Setterfield, who has been leasing local retail and office space for 25 years. "There's a lot of energy in retail in downtown Aspen right now."

But in none of these cases are costs and revenues remotely close to the benchmarks of the last decade. In the case of commercial space, rates ranged between $90 and $240 per square foot. Now, the rents range from $45 to $125 a square foot, said Ruth Kruger, a real estate broker.

Unlucky arrhythmia luckily was on ski lift

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- Tanya Buhman had no idea she had a heart condition, and neither did her husband, Dion. But in retrospect, Dion believes it was their great fortune that she had her first potentially lethal arrhythmia on a chair lift at Steamboat.

"If it would have happened in an airplane or while driving down the road, she wouldn't have had a chance," he told the Steamboat Pilot & Today. "It really happened in the best spot possible."

The newspaper explains that Dion and their daughter were riding together in a chair, and in the next chair were Tanya and their 15-year-old son. She fainted. It was a chair without a safety bar.

The son held onto her, while the father yelled to lift attendants to stop the lift when they reached the top. He took off her skis, laid her horizontal on the chair, and started CPR. "I could see she wasn't breathing," he told the newspapers.

Within five minutes, "all kinds of guys from the Ski Patrol were there," he said. The ski patrollers used an automated external defibrillator to get her heart beating again. They have 14 such defibrillators spread across the ski area.

The 39-year-old woman was to be transported to Denver, to have an implant installed in her heart to prevent further arrhythmias.

Balancing the energy aspirations, realities

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. -- There are aspirations, and then there are realities, and Summit County is currently weaving its way between the two in its Energy Action Plan.

The Summit Daily News reports that that after visiting a couple of the county's towns, the community energy coordinator, Lynn Westerfield, is pulling up the hemline of the plan.

For example, the plan's original goal was for the county to have 30 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. But one town council member in Silverthorne insisted that such a goal needed to have a specific plan, including proposed cost and funding streams.

Also facing pushback is the idea of inserting the finger of government into the trash-hauling businesses, to eliminate redundancies and thence eliminate heavy traffic on streets. But council members in Silverthorne didn't want to interfere with the market place.

Also being questioned is a proposed mandate that a building's energy consumption be made available upon sale or lease of the property.

But Westerfield tells the newspaper that while compromises will be made, sometimes lofty goals are necessary to create the space for dramatic change.

Pedicab searches for niche in the thin air

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. -- At 9,600 feet and higher, Breckenridge has thinner air than most places. But two people have launched a bicycle-powered taxi service, called Pedicab, to shuttle customers around the town's business district for $10 per ride. And, notes the Summit Daily News, tips are always welcome.

Heather Olson, a co-owner, said no one will rent a car taxi or a horse-drawn carriage for shopping. But Kevin Holmquest, the other owner, said that pedaling 500 pounds of customers is taxing. "It's definitely a workout."

Do consultants excel in telling the obvious?

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. -- How much are consultants worth? From the measure of their fees, quite a lot. And local governments are often quite happy to pay.

But sometimes there is heartburn, as was the case when Mammoth Lakes commissioned a consultant to prepare a report about whether some services could be delivered by outside vendors at lower costs. The Sheet reports that the consultant was promised $9,500.

Hearing the report, one self-described "concerned local" stepped to the lectern at a recent meeting to dismiss the work as unworthy. "A consultant has been asked to look at your watch and then tells you what time it is," he said.

Newspaper price goes up

JACKSON HOLE -- The newspaper situation in Jackson and Teton County would be an anomaly in any number of ways. Despite a surging economy and a population of nearly 20,000, a daily newspaper never has made serious inroads. If you want to know what's going on, you have to read the weekly Jackson Hole News&Guide. And they get money for it—50 cents, the price since Ronald Reagan was still president.

The newspaper in its New Year's issue announced that that will soon change, as the price is going up to a buck per issue. The newspaper urges readers to subscribe, as it's just 83 cents that way. The News and Guide were dueling weeklies until a few years ago, when they combined.

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