Friday, May 13, 2011

Mountain Town News


Mud, floods and slides as snow kept piling up

VAIL, Colo.—The final weeks of April were unusually snowy across northern Colorado, leaving snow depths at higher elevations at up to 220 percentage of average. That leaves plenty of skiing for those willing to earn their turns in the backcountry.

But all that precipitation on high must come down. In warning of what may lie ahead, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center last Friday noted an unusually large avalanche near the old mining town of Montezuma, located in Summit County along the Continental Divide. The slide ripped out 100-year-old trees, avalanche forecasters said, and disabled an electrical transmission line.

At Independence Pass, between Aspen and Leadville, the snowpack was the third highest since record-keeping began in 1937. North of Steamboat, at Buffalo Pass, the snowfall accumulation was 200 inches deep, with 72 inches of water in that snowpack.

As remarkable as this seems, there are some strong parallels with 1995, a year in which spring snowstorms returned again and again—even into mid-June. Alighting from a ski lift that year at Arapahoe Basin, the astonished editor of a ski magazine turned to his companion and said: "These are mid-winter conditions!" It was June 15.

In the valleys, there are now worries about floods and mudslides. The last big year for floods and mudslides was in 1984. It was the second of two big snow years, and the ground was thoroughly saturated with moisture.


(Small) home market on rebound by 2012?

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.—Conventional wisdom has been that the new market for real estate will embrace smaller homes. That's what a developer has in mind in Steamboat Springs. Charlie Sher has pulled building permits for two 2,400-square-foot spec homes in the community's older section.

"My program is to build homes that would work for families of any age: a retired couple or a couple with kids. They're two stories, have two-car garages, and the option of having an office or a fourth bedroom," he told the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He's planning to deliver the product by summer of 2012, and with a price point of around $900,000 to $1 million.

March relatively good month for real estate

VAIL, Colo.—March was a good month for real estate sales in Eagle County, the fourth busiest in the last 27 months since the hyperventilating real-estate market went into a coma.

Land Title Guarantee Co. reports the most vigorous activity in the very high and low ends. Some high-end residential in Vail had a selling price of $2,526 per square foot. But nearly a fifth of all transactions were sales by banks, and those units averaged $172 per square foot.

Assessments reflect drops of up to 60 percent

EAGLE, Colo.—Eagle County Assessor Mark Chapin usually hears from homeowners protesting that the county valued their property too high, thus increasing their taxes. But with the new assessments, reflecting values of the last two years, some property owners are complaining that he was too low.

In fact, real estate prices tumbled badly during the Great Recession. No news there. But the assessments being released by county officials more clearly show the roller-coaster trends in resort communities.

In Gypsum, located 37 miles west of Vail, home prices have dropped around 45 percent in the last two years. In Avon, at the foot of Beaver Creek, they're down 34 percent. And in Vail, 24 percent, reports the Vail Daily.

In the adjoining Roaring Fork Valley, similar trends were noted in Aspen and its down-valley suburbs. In Aspen itself, values were down 20 to 30 percent. But down-valley at Basalt, prices in some locations had dropped by up to 60 percent, reports The Aspen Times.

Better not to screw around with bears

ASPEN, Colo.—City officials in Aspen are dispensing helpful hints to property owners who want to avoid tangling with bears. The best single tactic is to keep trash in bear-resistant containers, as required by law—although one not universally obeyed. But those who want to avoid bruins cruising for free food are advised by bear specialist Dan Glidden of the Aspen Police Department to spray small amounts of ammonia or bleach around trash containers or patio doors.

Another idea, he tells The Aspen Times, is to place boards with nails sticking out of them near doors or waste containers. Being pricked by nails will usually startle the bear and cause him or her to leave. Screws, however, can break off inside the bear, making them angry.

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