Friday, March 18, 2011

Mountain Town News


Winter ebbs none too soon in Breckenridge

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. -- At about 9,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies, a long-standing belief among old-timers was that the pivot between winter and spring occurred on St. Patrick's Day. Before that, snow piles kept growing. Afterward, new storms only added to the snow depths temporarily. The longer-term trend was melting.

That's a good thing in Breckenridge, which has a base elevation of 9,600 feet. Impatience has set in with icy sidewalks, rising roadside berms and alleys lost under the winter coating.

Part of the annoyance has to do with reduced snowplowing service. While the network of roads has expanded in recent years, the amount of staffing devoted to clearing them has declined. Town officials say they have reduced their Cadillac-level services to those of a Subaru.

"When we go back and look at what we think is sustainable financially, those are some of the realities that have come about in trying to be financially responsible," explained town spokeswoman Kim DiLallo.

Jackson Hole vertical greenhouse sets roots

JACKSON, Wyo. -- Proponents of a vertical greenhouse adjacent to Jackson's three-story public parking garage have first dibs on the land. The plan embraced by Jackson town officials would use innovative technologies to lengthen the notoriously short growing season in Jackson while employing local residents with disabilities. Vegetables and other produce from the greenhouse would be sold to local restaurants and stores.

Though the Jackson Hole News&Guide says the Town Council gave the nod to the greenhouse proposal from a group called Vertical Harvest, details must still be worked out and money raised.

As with most things, there was a loser. An affordable housing group wanted the land to build 14 rental units with a ground-level space that could have been rented out for commercial purposes, delivering ongoing revenue for future housing projects. The two proposals were like kittens and rainbows, said one councilor, referring to the beneficial aspects of both projects.

The News&Guide, in an editorial, endorsed the idea, proclaiming, "Ready, set, grow."

"Vertical Greenhouse supporters have a tall row to hoe, but there's little doubt that the energetic group, which draws from a spectrum of interested talent across the valley, will develop a project that can put this town on yet another map, one that charts sustainability, efficiency, new ideas and compassion," the paper stated.


Raze-and-rise project proposed in Park City

PARK CITY, Utah -- Despite the lingering economic downturn, developers in Park City have submitted plans for a project with 940,000 square feet. The plan calls for demolition of existing buildings to make room for five-story buildings, perhaps even 10, but definitely more density than now exists. They would house a multiplicity of uses: residences, offices, stores and possibly medical offices. The Park Record reports that it would be the largest redevelopment ever within the municipality.

Guests loosen pockets as Vail Resorts lays out plans

BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- Vail Resorts did very, very well early in the ski season. The corporation reported improving revenues as visitors at its six resorts—four in Colorado and two in California—spent more money.

"Revenue is outpacing growth in lift ticket revenue and visitation," explained Rob Katz, the chief executive, in a recent conference call with analysts in which the Vail Daily listened in.

He said mountain-related earnings were up $47.3 million over the same period last year. That includes $30.1 million in revenue from Northstar-at-Tahoe, the resort it purchased last year. Bundling ski passes to Heavenly, its other California resort, and Northstar proved a hit, he said.

As for the future, Vail will continue to reinvest in its resort projects. Last year it spent $80 million in upgrades, and it plans $83 million to $493 million this year—not counting another $30 million at Northstar.

With this strategy, Vail Resorts will continue to have the new-car smell at its resorts—and continue to draw the highest-income and most free-spending visitors. And over time, it intends to reduce its discounting and last-minute dealing, returning to a more traditional approach to pricing.

At Northstar, the company plans to increase skiable terrain by 10 percent this year and add a 500-seat on-mountain restaurant. Both can be done with a minimum of fuss, as the resort is located on private land, unlike most resorts in the West.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.