Friday, March 25, 2011

Mountain Town News


$100 lift ticket barrier passed at Aspen, Vail

ASPEN, Colo.—Quietly this winter, a milestone was surpassed in the ski industry. Two ski areas have now charged more than $100 per day for lift tickets.

Vail was the first, during the Christmas holidays, charging $108. Then, on the Presidents' Day weekend, Aspen came in with a $104 price.

"It's been looming there for a long time," David Perry, senior vice president of the Aspen Skiing Co., told The Aspen Times. "Had the recession not occurred, the barrier would have been cracked more rapidly.

"The price increase has garnered little media attention and 'not one negative guest comment," he said.

But the Aspen Times does note that there had been an uproar in 1987 when the company announced an increase to $35 a day. By at least one measure, inflation would have turned that to not quite $68 today.

2 more victims of deep snow

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- Another person has died in non-avalanche deep snow this winter, this time at Howelsen Hill, a small ski area in Steamboat Springs. That brings the total to either six or seven in the United States, depending upon what the melting snow ultimately reveals in the case of a missing skier at Crystal Mountain in Washington.

In the latest case, 19-year-old Cooper Larsh decided to cap off a day at Steamboat ski area by exploring the smaller and older Howelsen Hill, an area close to downtown Steamboat Springs. It has night skiing, but after he failed to show up at the bottom of the ski area at closing time, 8 p.m., a companion notified authorities.

The victim was discovered 90 minutes later buried headfirst in deep snow outside the ski area.

"What it looked like to me is he hit a bump, went airborne, landed, hit another bump, ejected from his skis, went airborne, and went headfirst into a snow bank," Steamboat Springs Police Department Detective Nick Bosick told the Steamboat Pilot & Today. "It's an unfortunate accident."

In Washington, a skier disappeared on March 1 at Crystal Mountain, and Ski Patrol Director Paul Baugher believes the person got buried in a tree well.

"We searched this place with a fine-toothed comb," he said, but noted that the snow was 10 feet deep then, and it's now 2 feet deeper.

Ironically, Baugher was first to draw attention to what he calls non-avalanche related snow-immersions deaths. Like many others, he had thought it a fluke when the first happened at Crystal Mountain in the early 1990s, but when a second occurred a decade later, he set out to collect statistics, sketchy from 1970 but firm since 1990.

In most cases, the person gets hung up in a tree well. It can be virtually impossible to get out, and the person mostly commonly suffocates in very short order, perhaps 20 minutes. Snowboarders are no more vulnerable than skiers, despite the absence of releasable bindings. Four of the seven presumed victims this winter have been on skis.

"It's really not about their feet," Baugher said. "It's that their feet are up in the air and they can't get to them. They're compromised no matter what they have on their feet and can't get out."

Of this winter's victims, two each have been in California, Colorado and Montana, plus the one in Washington. Another two occurred in British Columbia.

Sweeteners needed to move high-end housing

VAIL, Colo.—High-end real estate has been moving in Vail, but not to the extent that anybody is talking about constructing more product.

In Eagle County, of which Vail is a part, $1.5 billion in sales volume was recorded last year, a 67 percent increase over the dark-of-night 2009. However, that figure lags far behind the boom years of 2006 to 2008.

Some sellers are getting buyers by dropping prices by 25 to 30 percent, or by sweetening the benefits, reports the Vail Daily. Such is the case with the new Ritz Carlton Residences. The 14 units sold last year had an average price of $1.379 per square foot. But the developer, Vail Resorts, also threw in two lifetime ski passes per unit plus membership in the private slope-side club.

Meanwhile, plans for the next big thing have moved to the town council in Vail. Proposed by Vail Resorts, the ski area operator, the project is called Ever Vail, and it calls for 381 units, nearly 1,500 parking spaces, a hotel and many other aspects that one would expect of a $1 billion project. As most of the details have already been worked out, observers expect a short review process. But company officials say they have no plans to launch construction even if the entitlement is awarded.

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