Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mountain Town News


Park City has 2 hotels in top 100

PARK CITY, Utah—Two hotels at Deer Valley and a third at nearby Sundance ranked among the top 100 hotels in the world, according to a poll conducted last winter by Travel + Leisure magazine.

The Stein Eriksen Lodge came in at No. 37, while the St. Regis, which opened in late 2009, was ranked No. 71. Sundance Resort, also in Utah, was No. 99.

Several other ski-resort destinations ranked in the top 100 of the world. The Four Seasons Resort in Jackson Hole, was 36, Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont was 73 and the Ritz-Carlton at Beaver Creek was 89.

But these glamorous, elegant resort hotels were far down the list. The top four hotels were in Africa and the fifth was in India, and even a hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, came in at 38. The top U.S. hotel was the C Triple Creek Ranch at Darby, Mont.

Full results can be found at or in the issue of Travel + Leisure to go on newsstands Aug. 23rd.

Meanwhile, Park City's newest—and also upper-tier—hotel is the Montage Deer Valley, which opened last winter. It has obtained LEED certification at the silver level, the second of four levels. A hotel spokesman said that many of the things that earned the hotel points would have been done regardless. The hotel is 19 percent more energy efficient than Park City's requires.

Hiker in Banff fined for lack of bear spray

BANFF, Alberta—A person caught hiking without bear spray on a trail around Lake Minnewanka, located in Banff National Park, has been fined $400.

The hiker, a student from Korea, was also found guilty of hiking without being in the company of at least three other hikers. That requirement has existed previously, but the mandate to have bear spray is new this year. The fine was $400.

The requirements were instituted because of a history of encounters with grizzly bears. Mountain bikers have been banned entirely from the trail during summer, because they can more easily surprise grizzlies than hikers. Parks Canada officials explain that bears are drawn to the berry patches, and are distracted while eating berries. That results in an increased likelihood of a bear being surprised by humans—and charging.

Telluride tries to decarbonize gondola

TELLURIDE, Colo.—Can even one-fifth of the electricity needed to move the 2 million passengers each year on the gondola at Telluride be provided by locally generated renewable energy?

That was the goal set in 2008 by something called the Green Gondola Campaign. To do so, organizers will need to generate 250 kilowatts. With $20,000 from contributors, organizers now intend to get started on that grand ambition by installing a 2- to 10-kilowatt array of photovoltaic cells on the roof of a gondola station.

Those contributing to the effort can sponsor gondola cabins in return for getting name recognition on those cabins.

Most of the electricity now used for the gondola comes from burning coal.

Driving and dialing illegal in Whitefish

WHITEFISH, Mont.—Whitefish has put the kibosh on making cell phone calls while driving within the city. It's legal to talk on a wireless telephone while driving, but illegal to handle it.

This drew an aggrieved dissent from Shannon Hanson, who pointed out that it's still legal to apply makeup, eat a sandwich or have a dog sitting on the driver's lap while driving.

"Whitefish City Council and the others on the bandwagon apparently feel the need to point pitchforks at cell phone use and to ignore so many other dangers," she wrote in the Whitefish Pilot.

Coloradans thinner but getting thicker

BASALT, Colo.—Again in this year's report about obesity, Coloradans were the slimmest of them all. Fewer than 20 percent of Coloradans are considered obese. Worst in the United States was Mississippi, with 34 percent of the residents considered obese.

But Colorado has steadily been getting tubbier.

Basalt physician Glenn Kotz told the Aspen Daily News that adolescents in particular are rapidly becoming more obese. He also noted the high proportion of obesity among the Latino children he sees. He attributes this to ethnic staples of rice, beans and tortillas. Switching to more vegetables and fruits presents not only a cultural hurdle, he said, but a financial one, because of their higher cost.


Chain big box to give locals run for money

SILVERTHORNE, Colo.—Another big-box store, the hardware and lumber merchandiser called Lowe's, is set to open a 94,000-square-foot store next year in Silverthorne.

Summit County already has a big Wal-Mart plus a Target, and a study predicts this new big box franchise will impact 100 businesses directly or indirectly, with losses of up to 12 percent, reports the Summit Daily News.

The newspaper quoted Stacy Mitchell, author of "Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses." She said there's no tried-and-true approach for a small business trying to compete with the franchise giants.

Customer service helps, but businesses should also emphasize to customers the effect of where they spend their dollars, Mitchell said. Money spent at big stores, she noted, leaves the community.

Bicycling legend goes on the grill in Aspen

ASPEN, Colo. -- Bicycling legend Lance Armstrong got a standing ovation after being grilled at a session in Aspen last week. Some of the questions were marshmallows, such as how long it took him to hike a local trail. He responded that he had climbed Aspen Mountain in 43 minutes, 40 seconds—provoking applause.

But there were more probing questions, too, according to accounts in the local newspapers. His principal griller was Walter Isaacson, the former chief executive of CNN and managing editor of Time.

Now director of the Aspen Institute, the sponsor of the session, Isaacson asked Armstrong the status of the federal grand jury investigation into allegations that he had used drugs while competing in the Tour de France. "I don't know exactly," said Armstrong. "I only know what I read in the paper."

When Isaacson asked whether Armstrong had received a letter from the federal government saying that he is a target in the investigation, Armstrong said absolutely not. "The New York Times lands on my doorstep every morning. So if that counts as a letter, then yes."

According to an account in the Aspen Daily News, Armstrong pointed out that the alleged doping with which the U.S. government takes issue was based on cycling practices 9 to 12 years ago in France.

"What's next? Are we going to start policing cricket," he asked.

Armstrong also talked about cancer, which he suffered when he was 26, and his efforts to help raise $400 million so far for cancer research. And he applauded Aspenites for mostly leaving him alone when he's there. He's a second-home owner.

Few places in the world can ever be re-created, he said, and Aspen is one of them. "I wasn't born here. I wasn't raised here, but I got here as soon as I could," he added.

And he talked about the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, to be held in Colorado later this month. He said it's hard to tell whether it will prove to be as challenging as the Tour de France. The Alps are steeper, he said, but at lower elevation.

Ski towns gear up for big bicycle race

MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—It's anybody's guess just how many people the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will draw to ski towns of Colorado. The itinerary starts in Colorado Springs and ends in Denver. It will tag Salida, Crested Butte, Aspen, Vail, Avon and Steamboat Springs along the way while passing through a passel of towns.

Staging this tour is quite expensive for ski towns. Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte together pitched in $40,000 in cash, plus staffing time, while the ski area operator, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, put in hotel rooms and food.

In Aspen, as of mid-July, bookings for rooms during for the two days most directly impacted by the event stood at about 42 percent. That's up considerably from last year. However, a "very significant chunk" of the increase is due to the free and reduced price rooms hoteliers are giving race personnel, said Bill Tomcich, who directs Stay Aspen Snowmass, the central reservations agency.

No doubt, bookings will pick up as the race week approaches. Also helping will be confirmation that the top Tour de France finishers will also race in Colorado. The Denver Post reports that Cadel Evans of Australia, the winner in France, has now confirmed.

Can you really buy carbon neutrality?

WHISTLER, B.C.—Whistler had hoped to become the first municipality in British Columbia to become carbon neutral. Harrison Hot Springs got there first.

Whistler still is aiming in that direction. It can achieve that goal by reducing emissions, which it has done, such as by helping install a hybrid heating system at the Pan Pacific Mountainside hotel.

But the more conventional way is to buy offsets, allowing somebody else to figure out how to reduce emissions or increase absorption of carbon from the atmosphere, such as by planting trees.

That idea is getting some resistance at city hall, reports Pique newsmagazine. "I think some of the efforts are worthwhile, but spending our way out of the problem is not the best use of taxpayer money," said Ralph Forsythe, a councilman.

Tamarack owners blame the bank

BOISE, Idaho—The finger is now being pointed at financier Credit Suisse in the case of two new and floundering ski resorts of the West.

The Associated Press says that Alfredo Miguel, a partner in Idaho's Tamarack Resort, and Tim Blixseth of Montana's Yellowstone Club want to join a lawsuit filed last year against the Zurich-based bank. The suit accuses Credit Suisse of using a predatory lending scheme.

The original lawsuit claims Credit Suisse set up an offshore branch to skirt U.S. rules, appraise resorts at inflated prices, provide loans the properties could not repay, and ultimately take control of the resorts through foreclosure.

Poppycock! responds Credit Suisse. "For Mr. Blixseth, in particular, this is simply the latest attempt to shift blame to others and away from his own conduct," said a spokesman.

Both resorts went bankrupt. In the Yellowstone case, Blixseth has been ordered to pay $40 million to creditors. The AP says his fortune has collapsed from $1.3 billion to $200 million.

The Tamarack resorts case is muddled. Jean-Pierre Boespflug, the majority partner, has failed to show at court-ordered hearings, racking up fines of $5,000 a day since June.

Meanwhile, talks have broken off with an investment group from the Boise area that had wanted to pick up the pieces of the bankrupt resort. The investor group led by Matthew Hutcheson had originally offered $40 million for the $250 million construction loan from Credit Suisse.

The Bank of America wants to remove and sell the ski lifts at Tamarack. Homeowners are trying to block the removal of the lifts. Ski area operations were suspended after the bankruptcy filing, but limited operations resumed last winter.

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