Friday, April 1, 2011

Mountain Town News


Vail success shown in price boost

BROOMFIELD, Colo.—Perhaps the most clear evidence of an improving economy can be found in the price increases announced by Vail Resorts. It debuted a good-everywhere, all-the-time Epic Pass in 2008 for use at its four Colorado resorts. The cost was $479, but a new price for next winter will push the total to $649. Before the Epic Pass, a similarly unlimited season pass cost $1,849, notes the Vail Daily.

In a recent call with analysts, Vail Resorts Chief Executive Rob Katz clearly indicated the company has done well this winter, and that his company intends to continue to reinvest in its product while commanding higher prices.

Other resorts continue to struggle more. Ralf Garrison, of Mountain Travel Research Program, said that broadly at resorts across the West, prices aren't back to normal. Prices have stopped dropping and the freebies many resorts were loading onto deals have stopped getting thicker. But the pendulum hasn't really started swinging the other way.

"While resorts haven't had to increase their bargains, they haven't been able to decrease them in any meaningful way," he told the Daily.

However, he did note that the Mountain Travel Symposium, which he has conducted each April for several decades, is sold out this year—and it wasn't last year.

Jackson starts to figure tourism strategy

JACKSON, Wyo.—Seven people have been selected in Jackson and Teton County to devise a strategy for use of $2.1 million annually in proceeds from a new lodging tax. The tax is to be used broadly for promotion of travel and tourism,

"I really felt, by and large, that most of the people got the big-picture idea that it's not just about bringing people in on airlines. It's about how we create an image of Jackson Hole," said County Commissioner Andy Schwartz. The tax, he said, is community revenue—not strictly a tax to benefit the hotels or the ski resorts.

A Jackson Hole News&Guide account mentions eco-tourism, geo-tourism and cultural tourism, plus the more predictable special events.

Developer expects no market until 2014-15

BASALT, Colo.—In what seems to be an indicator of the housing market in the Aspen area, a real estate developer has asked for an extension by the government jurisdiction for his plan to build 319 homes, a mixture of free-market, deed-restricted and resident-occupied, which the Aspen Times describes as a kind of hybrid.

The economic consultant retained by developer Ace Lane says the market for new homes won't return until 2014 at the earliest.

Affordable housing units nearly all gone

TELLURIDE, Colo.—Critics said it would sit empty, but an 18-unit project called Gold Run has sold 15 units, with two more under contract, reports The Telluride Watch. Something similar happened in the Vail area after 2001, when the real-estate market temporarily stalled. There was resistance to new worker housing. But by 2003 and 2004, it was back to the snare-drum story.

Incandescent bulbs mostly to be replaced

ASPEN, Colo.—With a few exceptions, the Aspen Skiing Co. is replacing its incandescent light bulbs with more-efficient compact fluorescents and LEDs.

The company estimates that lights account for about 15 percent of energy use at its hotels and office buildings. The replacement costs will run $100,000 to $150,000, but the new bulbs will save the company $24,000 to $35,000 in lower electricity costs in just the first year, with similar or even greater dividends each year thereafter.

Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability for the company, had written in his book, "Getting Green Done," of his first naïve attempt to get compact fluorescents installed in the Little Nell, Aspen's five-star hotel. He had expected open arms because the change would reduce energy costs, but was instead told by the hotel manager that such lights were unacceptable because they might dampen business.

That was revelatory in that, while he had the full support of the executive team, and Aspen was already picking up a reputation as a front-of-the-class innovator, it was still ruled by basic market forces that all other companies are subject to.

But part of the story, Schendler told The Aspen Times, is that compact fluorescents have improved considerably since he made that first effort. Now, there is little public objection to the light they produce.

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