Friday, October 28, 2011

Mountain Town News


Who benefits from airline programs?

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.—Who benefits the most from subsidized airline flights? That seems to be the crucial issue in a proposal now being debated that would increase the sales tax in Steamboat Springs to enlarge the kitty for flight revenue guarantees.

Steamboat's direct flight program, one of the oldest in the ski industry, has been hit hard by the recession. A $1 million reserve fund has been depleted as the community has been forced to pay more to cover losses by the airlines. With fewer people flying and airlines wanting more money to cover higher costs of fuel, Steamboat has reduced the number of airline seats by 27 percent in the last three years.

"Never in the 25-year history of the program have we seen this kind of reduction," writes Chris Diamond, Intrawest's chief executive at the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

Denver-based Intrawest has pledged to contribute a minimum of $1.1 million annually for the next five years, the term of the proposed tax. That's the average donation it has given to the revenue guarantees in the last three years. A lodging tax collected in recent years also goes to the revenue guarantees, as do scattered other donations.

The proposal would increase the sales tax in Steamboat by one-quarter of 1 cent. Diamond and other supporters promise restored airline seats and expansion into new markets.

Opinions as expressed in the Steamboat Pilot letters section are divided. Proponents argue that the direct flights bring tourists who spend money in ways that benefit nearly everybody in Steamboat, directly or indirectly, as is the case of increased sales taxes that are used for streets, parks, and so forth. Opponents describe it as a subsidy for the ski area operator and its hedge fund owner.

Man takes tour in 'wreckreational vehicle'

JACKSON, Wyo.—The line between paradise and Hades can be a thin one indeed, as Marvin Bass can attest to when his first vacation in five years was cut short.

A Floridian, he had borrowed a 42-foot motor home from his best friend for a three-week vacation. Traveling across steep Teton Pass into Jackson Hole, the vehicle began struggling. He parked it at a pullout, unhitched the truck that he was towing, and drove down to Jackson Hole to get fluid. Returning, he was trying to hitch the truck to the back of the RV when he mistakenly locked himself out.

That wasn't the end of the world. He figured out how to squeeze into the RV through the driver's window. But as he did, his body unleashed the brake, and the RV began rolling toward the precipice.

Bass got out to save person injury. But the RV is probably dead after having tumbled 225 feet down the mountain side. "Obviously, I'm not going to Yellowstone in it," he told the Jackson Hole News&Guide.


Steamboat to study Howelsen subsidies

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.—Steamboat Springs city officials will be examining the subsidy of the locally owned ski area, Howelsen Hill, and the adjoining rodeo arena. The subsidy this year was nearly $1 million, and next year it is projected to decline to $800,000.

The city has subsidized operations since 1977, when it took on a joint-use agreement with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. The Steamboat Pilot & Today notes that operations at the ski hill include the jumping complex that has been the training site for many world champions, helping establish Steamboat's claim to fame as the source of more Winter Olympians than any other town.

Some bloggers on the newspaper's website question why the subsidy for this recreational amenity should be challenged, while that of other parks and venues maybe aren't.

Fido off-limits at events in Breck

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. -- What's a mountain town without dogs roaming around? Breckenridge is finding out. The town had adopted a law that specifically sets the procedure by which pets can be excluded from events. Signs will have to be posted at the events, reports the Summit Daily News.

Citing a town memo, the Daily News notes that more and more events held in Breckenridge ban animals, usually due to the presence of food or large crowds of people. While most people have been compliant, authorities have recently had people challenging the policy.

Two big projects in the Vail area

EAGLE, Colo.—Two big projects in the Eagle Valley, one at Vail and the other in Eagle, got key approvals last week.

In Vail, the Town Council approved an amendment to the community master plan needed for Ever Vail, a $1 billion project at the base of the ski mountain, to move forward. This would become the third or fourth major access point to the ski mountain. That said, Vail has no clear idea of when it will start building. It also needs several more permits.

In Eagle, the local planning commission unanimously recommended approval of a giant retail shopping complex called Eagle River Station. A similar plan of the same name was rejected by town voters last year, as was another major development plan several years before. The Eagle Valley Enterprise suggests s distinct shift in the town outlook, but also hints that the development could once again became a consuming community issue in town elections in 2012.

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