Friday, May 6, 2011

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Even a few homes below $500,000!

JACKSON, Wyo. -- A new report in Teton County finds 13 homes listed for under $500,000, one of them at just a hair below $300,000. When is the last time that happened, asks David Viehman, co-editor of The Hole Report.

Most sellers have realized the market has dropped 20 percent to even 50 percent in some locations.

However, not all prices have dropped.

"We're still seeing some people living in la-la land," he told the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Vail Resorts reports big revenue increases

BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- It was a very good winter for Vail Resorts. Skier visits were up 3.9 percent at the company's resorts, which now include four in Colorado and two in California. Ski school revenue rose 8.4 percent, dining revenue 9 percent and retail and rental revenue 8.3 percent.

Mammoth efforts to tap Earth's heat

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. -- Potential development of geothermal resources in and around Mammoth Lakes continues to be explored.

One boutique hotel, called Mammoth View, aims for a reputation as a lodge grounded in sustainability. To that end, developers have drilled to 1,500 feet below the surface, with the goal of locating temperatures of 150 to 170 degrees. The hope is that winter heating from other fuel sources can be substantially defrayed.

A company called Ormat Technologies has even grander ambitions in an area near Mammoth Lakes called Shady Rest Park. There, on the Inyo National Forest, the company has drilled two exploratory wells. It seeks rights to develop up to 16 wells and create a 33-megawatt geothermal power plant to supplement existing geothermal power-production in the area.

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Aspen sorts out the nuances of energy

ASPEN, Colo. -- In ways large and small, Aspen and Pitkin County are at the front trickle of what might be called the Great Energy Transition.

This is a familiar position for the community. Since the 1980s, the community has been in the forefront, first trying to reduce its dependence upon electricity from coal plants because of the nitrous oxides and other, unsavory aspects of coal, but now because of the greenhouse gas emissions.

But the path to cleaner energy sources has plenty of bumps. Currently, Pitkin County commissioners are grappling with what limits to place on solar panels.

In one prominent case, a house in the Aspen exurbs has suffered with solar glare reflected from panels on a neighbor's sharp-angled roof during certain times of the year. To block the glare, the homeowner has installed $19,000 worth of trees, but with just partial success. Cloudy days seem to be the better answer.

County officials are struggling how to address that sort of issue, as well as height limits for solar panels installed on poles.

Yet another policy question is whether homeowners required to install renewable energy at their homes should be allowed to meet their requirements in other, down-valley locations.

Both Aspen and Pitkin County have a law that says if you build giant homes of more than 5,000 square feet, or have outdoor snow-melt systems, you have to mitigate the extravagant energy use by erecting solar panels, installing geoexchange heat pumps, or other devices.

So far, officials in Aspen haven't decided, but Pitkin County, in what was described as a "strong cultural message," says mitigation should not be farmed out to down-valley locations.

Ritz-Carlton drawn into financial pit

AVON, Colo. -- One of Beaver Creek's highest-end hotels has gone into foreclosure. Miami-based Gencom, owner of the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, owes $61 million, reports the Vail Daily, citing records in the Eagle County Treasurer's Office.

The building and land itself are worth $24.2 million, according to the county assessor. But a more comparable indicator of the value is that of another hotel at Beaver Creek, the Park Hyatt, which in 2007 sold for $69 million.

Citing a Wall Street Journal report, the Daily says that much of Gencom's financial trouble stems from its deals with Lehman Brothers. After Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, other banks acquired Lehman's mortgages. Swedmark, the Swedish bank, acquired the loan for the Ritz-Carlton. The Vail Daily says Gencom could still end up with the hotel at Beaver Creek.




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