Friday, November 4, 2011

Mountain Town News


Gondola one key to a longer summer season

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- A movement is underway to expand operations of the gondola that connects Telluride with its sibling town of Mountain Village. Adding two or three weeks in autumn, and perhaps a week in spring, would cost the two towns $50,000, reports The Telluride Watch.

However, just keeping the gondola operating is not the only key, speakers said at a recent meeting. There must also be events and other programming, such as an Oktoberfest. And, not least, stores and restaurants would have to stay open longer in the shoulder seasons.

Momentum gains for Wasatch ski connect

PARK CITY, Utah -- Momentum seems to be building for a lift or gondola connection across the crest of Utah's Wasatch Range, linking two ski areas, Solitude and Canyons.

At a recent forum, Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, declared that 90 percent of people support the interconnect, maybe even 99 percent. The potential, says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Area Association, is huge. "What we're seeing at Canyons now is a game-changer."

Another tantalizing prospect is the interconnection of Park City Mountain Resort and the Alta and Snowbird ski areas, also located close in proximity. "Six miles as the crow flies, Alta and Snowbird are winning accolades for terrain. What if you could connect them? You'd create a pretty compelling product," said Rafferty.

Fewer jobs available this year at ski area

JACKSON, Wyo. -- Just 166 jobs are up for grabs at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, compared to 200 last year. Human-resource personnel at the ski area tell the Jackson Hole News&Guide that the economy, combined with the wonderful snow, has a lot of employees returning for another year. The resort has 1,300 peak-season employees, down from 1,500 at the start of the recession. Seasonal jobs pay between $8.40 and $9.94 an hour, the latter for shuttle drivers.

Jackson slowly makes dent in energy efficiency

JACKSON, Wyo. -- Oh, what a challenge it is to make good on the Mayors' Agreement on Climate Change vow, which many ski towns were signatory to. The agreement commits the towns to reducing their carbon footprint in line with the Kyoto Treaty goals.

Jackson was among those towns, and a delegation from the staff went to Aspen in 2006, returning home enthused to change its energy use.

But it's been a greater challenge than most anybody had expected. The town and Teton County governments shrank their combined energy use by 10 percent in a program called 10 X (20)10. But in achieving that goal, the local governments got huge help from Mother Nature. The winter of 2009 and 2010 was a marginal year for snow, and so the amount of plowing was minimal.

Still, the local governments keep plugging away. The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports that they have appropriated $10,000 for three energy retrofits at local wastewater treatment plants, which consume large amounts of electricity. The money is leveraging other sources of funds from Bonneville Power, the electrical provider, for a total project cost of $57,000.

Third Big Sky private ski area goes broke

BIG SKY, Mont. -- One private ski area in Montana's Big Sky complex is emerging from bankruptcy, but another one has entered bankruptcy.

Moonlight Basin, which has 1,900 acres adjacent to Big Sky's 3,600 acres, has reached an agreement with Lehman Brothers to transfer ownership to the investment bank and move the resort from bankruptcy. Officials with both told the Bozeman Chronicle that the plan will provide stability for Moonlight.

The Chronicle explains that the court order settles years of court battles between Lehman and Moonlight over two loans totaling $170 million. The loans became due in 2008, and Moonlight filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Two steps remain before the bankruptcy is formally concluded, the newspaper says.

Spanish Peaks, another private ski, golf and real estate complex, has closed and entered Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It reports $50 million in assets and $500 million in debt. It also boasts of vast ski acreage, bigger than Vail, North America's largest, and more vertical than Jackson Hole. Both claims assume terrain at the Big Sky ski area, to which the private ski areas are connected.

The Yellowstone Club, the third private ski area adjacent to Big Sky, also went bankrupt.

Peeves revealed in skateboard proposal

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. -- In September, a young man was skateboarding in Mammoth Lakes when he hit a pothole and tumbled. He died as a result of his injuries.

Should Mammoth Lakes regulate skateboarders? The village council ultimately decided to leave well enough alone, but the conversation reported by The Sheet suggests plenty of pent-up peeves.

"Just be aware that cars don't know what to do with you," said Mayor Jo Bacon.

Skip Harvey, a council member, surprised the young skateboarders in the audience when he told them that back in the day he had been a skater, too. In fact, he had run a skate shop.

"I can relate to the fun and sense of freedom you feel," he told a delegation of skaters who had testified in opposition to new rules. "Plus, it's a great physical workout, which is what we're all about up here. But you need to police yourselves and set examples for other riders. Don't just go blowing through stop signs."

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