Friday, July 15, 2011

Mountain Town News


Electric cars plugged in Summit County

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo.—Will electric cars make any headway in ski towns? Aspen for several years has had charging stations at its town parking garage. Vail and Whistler have a few charging stations, too.

But even if towns and shopping complexes install charging stations, will people use them? That's been a broad question across North America. Auto dealers tell the Summit Daily News that while plenty of people want improved fuel efficiency, there's been no demand for electric cars. Just the same, a local dealer plans to take possession of Ford's all-electric car, the Focus.

Electric cars cost significantly more, and they have limited range, typically 40 miles. It takes about eight hours to fully recharge a depleted battery using the 120-volt plugs used in homes for stoves and refrigerators. Aided by a federal program, San Diego, Portland and other cities have been busily installing new 240-volt and 440-volt stations, and Vancouver, B.C., now requires that new developments be outfitted with the infrastructure for charging stations.

Grizzly bears expand far from Yellowstone

JACKSON, Wyo.—Grizzly bears have significantly expanded their range from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Some bears have been seen hundreds of miles away, south of Lander, Wyo., and at Dillon, Mont., even in the desert country of the Bighorn Basin, located southeast of Yellowstone.

Bear biologists tell the Jackson Hole News & Guide they think the Yellowstone region now has 1,000 grizzlies, compared to an estimated 224 in 1975. The range has nearly quadrupled. They also say they suspect most of the bears in the more distant outposts are young males.

Conservationists hope for even more expansion of terrain. Mark Pearson, conservation program director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said ultimately populations of grizzly bears in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks should be connected.

Who knows what will replace the pine forests?

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo.—There's been little talk lately about the bark beetle epidemic that is expected to kill up to 90 percent of lodgepole pine forests in Colorado. Maybe that's because people are accustomed to the sight of rusty red and then gray forests.

But what will come next? Since the epidemic began in 1996, "next" is already arriving in many places of northern Colorado, in the area around Winter Park, Summit County and Vail.

And the answer, says Kristen Pelzm, a doctoral candidate at Colorado State University, is that there is no one thing. She arrives at that vague answer after having studied the transitions after a bark beetle epidemic in the early 1980s in Colorado.

"Understanding the future forest condition has a lot of variables on whether the seed germinates and whether trees grow," she said recently at a luncheon covered by the Summit Daily News. "There's not a simple answer."

In some areas, meadows have formed where lodgepole pine forests once were. Other areas have seen conifers.

The bottom line: More diversity in species will start to occur once this outbreak calms, and as trees are removed or the dead trees simply fall down.

Also pertinent may be wildfire. While there's no more danger of fire now with standing dead trees than there is with a green forest, that will change as the trees fall. If the deadfall burns, the intense heat could potentially sterilize the soil or make it hydrophobic, meaning not much will grow for a long time. But even if there is no fire, the thicket of logs could prevent much from happening.

Aspen real estate sales continue to accelerate

ASPEN, Colo.—Aspen's real estate market continues to recover, but especially at the high end. That said, those properties that are moving typically are discounted 10 to 15 percent, some as much as 20 percent.

Andrew Ernemann of B.J. Adams & Co. tells The Aspen Times that one of every four sales of single-family homes in Aspen so far this year has been for $10 million or more. He reports a 51 percent increase in transactions during the first half of this year and a 44 percent increase in dollar volume as compared with the first half of 2010.

Bob Starodoj, of Mason Moore Real Estate, said many buyers are from Europe, and not all are Russians. He further identified buyers from Mexico and Brazil, as well as Australia and New Zealand—all drawn, at least in part, by the exchange rates that favor them.

Sales activity at Snowmass Village, a few miles away, lags that of Aspen by six months to a year, Ernemann estimated. "Prices have slipped further from 2010 levels, but are showing signs of leveling," he said.

A further lag effect is noted farther away in Basalt. The rate of foreclosures this year there and in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs is nearly the same as last year, the Times reports. In short, prices are still dropping.

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