Friday, November 25, 2011

Mountain Town News


Real estate market gets a bit stronger

JACKSON, Wyo. -- The real estate market has continued to improve this year in Teton County. In their quarterly report, the Jackson Hole Report, researchers Devon Viehman-Wheeldon and David Viehman tell of continued strong sale of distressed properties costing below $500,000 but also construction in the valley's toniest neighborhoods.

"In the aftermath of 2009, real-estate watchers said the market was bouncing along a 'soggy bottom.' Recent activity points to improving conditions," says the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

The newspaper talked with Ed Liebzeil, president and chief operating officer of Jackson Hole Sotheby's International Realty.

"The market is stronger than in 2010, stronger than 2009," he said. "Buyers are looking for bargains. Sellers who have adjusted prices to reflect today's market conditions are having some level of success in selling their properties."

Donor pockets more shallow for candidates

JACKSON, Wyo. -- Sifting through legally required reports of political donations, Jonathan Schechter finds lackluster giving as compared with 2008 and other presidential election years.

Writing in the Jackson Hole News&Guide, he concludes that maybe local donors—keep in mind that Teton County routinely has among the highest per-capita incomes in the nation—find nothing that excites them.

"Local Democrats aren't wild about President Obama, but have nowhere else to turn. Similarly, local Republicans aren't wild about their choices, either. Even (Mitt) Romney has raised less local money to date than he did in 2008, and from fewer donors to boot."

Schechter also notes that last year's Supreme Court ruling allows big-ticket donors to political causes to be more shielded from public disclosure.

"As a result, we'll never know how much locals—or anyone else for that matter—are spending to support their favorite candidates and causes," he says.

Mammoth still hopes for H2-B worker visas

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. -- Blanked the first time, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is making another run at getting H2-B visas for 45 non-student foreign workers, mostly to work in the ski school.

None of this is particularly a surprise. With the unemployment rate edging above 9 percent, the U.S. government has been increasingly skeptical of claims that ski area jobs can't be filled by U.S. citizens. Indeed, Mammoth has trimmed its hiring of foreign workers a great deal already, as it once had 200 employees under the program working in everything from housekeeping to ski grooming.

Pam Murphy, director of human resources at the ski area, tells The Sheet that Mammoth will reapply to get visas for its employees, some of whom have worked seasonally at Mammoth for up to 15 years.

"We really believe in the program and believe in the benefit of what employees have brought, not only to the (ski) mountain, but to the community," she said.

For whatever reason, Squaw Valley, another resort in California, this year again got H2-B visas for certain employees. Other ski areas, however, quit applying several years ago. Such is the case at Aspen, while Deer Valley and Vail stopped this year.


Nordic-Track inventor built device for own use

MONTROSE, Colo. -- Ed Pauls died recently, and though you probably never heard of him, you've likely seen or even used his invention, the Nordic-Track.

In an obituary, The New York Times explains that he was working as a mechanical engineer in Excelsior, Minn., in the early 1970s when he got the idea. He was training for a cross-country ski race, running on roads around his house in the early evening. Slipping on ice, he imagined an indoor training machine that he could use to replicate the workout but without the risk of falling. At first, he had no intention of the idea being used by others, and when he did, he initially called it the Nordic Jock.

The product was renamed and broadly marketed to people who had no direct experience of cross-country skiing, and his family sold 500,000 before selling the company. He died of Alzheimer's disease at the age of 80 in Montrose, near Telluride, according to the Times.

Native trout to be reintroduced near Banff

BANFF, Alberta -- Non-native brook trout are to be removed from a creek in Banff National Park, to allow the reintroduction of west-slope cutthroat trout. The cutthroat were extirpated from Cascade Creek following construction of a dam near Banff in 1941.

Parks Canada says the dam reduced flows 99 percent in the creek, eliminating both the cutthroat trout and another native species, bull trout.

If all goes as planned, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, the brook trout will be eliminated through electro-fishing during the next year. That task completed, genetically pure west-slope cutthroat can be introduced.

Drilling seeks to find hot water for Aspen

ASPEN, Colo. -- Drilling is underway in Aspen, which hopes to strike pay dirt in the form of hot water. A preliminary analysis suggested that the water is 90 to 110 degrees, but temperatures of at least 100 degrees are needed to provide heat for buildings, explains the Aspen Daily News. That's what the drilling will determine. The geothermal testing is part of the city's ambitious effort to shrink its carbon footprint in a multitude of ways.

Time to backtrack on affordable housing?

EAGLE, Colo. -- Is it time to roll back some of the requirements for affordable housing enacted during the boom years?

Jon Stavney thinks so. Running for Eagle County commissioner in 2008, he supported regulations that required 35 percent of all projects to be dedicated for workforce housing. For years, he points out, the county—which includes Vail and Beaver Creek—had been growing 10 percent annually, with 40 percent of the workforce involved in building or development. Neither that pace nor portion was sustainable. Most developers didn't bother with providing lower-end housing.

Now he wants to reduce the onus on developers in the hope of encouraging more development. That, he suggests, will put people back to work.

The Eagle County Housing Authority recently began a conversation with developers and local jurisdictions about how best to reposition expectations.

"I believe those regulations established at the height of the market must be revised for the new reality," he says in an essay published in the Vail Daily.

Old-growth cuts at Whistler to continue

WHISTLER, B.C. -- End the cutting of old growth in the Cheakamus Community Forest? Not gonna happen soon, says Peter Ackhurst, who chairs a partnership that manages the 33,000 hectares of forest. The partnership consists of Whistler and two First Nations groups, the Squamish and Lil'wat.

"Right now, there is no second growth that's old enough to harvest," he said at a recent meeting. "There will be some old forest logging at least for 20 years. I would think it would be very difficult to maintain the harvest without logging the old growth."

Several readers of Pique Newsmagazine were aggrieved by the report.

"Every year, Whistler spends hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting itself as a model of 'sustainability.' At the same time, it continues logging its old-growth forests," wrote Van Clayton Powell.

Said another reader: "These forests are worth more standing than logged."

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