Friday, December 16, 2011

Mountain Town News


Ski area examining summer amusements

ASPEN, Colo. -- Like most other ski area operators, the Aspen Skiing Co. is considering how to best use its new authority from the federal government to generate additional non-skiing income from the four ski areas it operates.

"We think that enhanced activities like ziplines, for example, through the forest canopy would be a really wonderful addition," said David Perry, senior vice president for the company. "It's low impact. It would get people to appreciate the national forest for its beauty and its diversity and the ecosystem."

In an interview with The Aspen Times, Perry also said the company will consider an alpine slide. Though environmentalists have been wary of such amusements, Perry points out that it uses gravity.

"It's not a motorized activity, and it's people enjoying the outdoors in a family environment. So we think that's probably OK."

High-end prices on rise in Vail Village

VAIL, Colo. -- From Vail also comes news of increasing economic activity, this time in the real estate sector. Land Title Guarantee Co. in its monthly report finds that the average price per square foot for a single-family home in Vail Village has gone up by one-third during the last year. The village encompasses the slope-side real estate.

However, the price per square foot of homes elsewhere in Eagle County has dropped by an average 23 percent. The raw numbers suggest that the rich are recovering nicely from the recession, and the foreclosures at the bottom and middle ends are working their way through the system.

Healthy and wealthy but high in suicides

ASPEN, Colo. -- Two restaurateurs, one age 50 and the other 47, committed suicide in Aspen in recent months. Their deaths drew attention once again to the abnormally high suicide rate in Aspen and Pitkin County. The irony is that the county also consistently ranks among the highest in the nation for fitness and income, notes the Aspen Daily News.

More mountain towns weigh plastic-bag ban

JACKSON, Wyo. -- To the list of mountain towns considering bans on plastic bags add Jackson, Wyo., and Durango, Colo.

Greg Miles, a town councilor in Jackson, has urged adoption of a measure, still unspecified, to persuade shoppers at the town's grocery and convenience stores to use reusable bags.

"As a community trying to be sustainable in so many ways, it's high time we really start this conversation in earnest," said Miles, according to a report in the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

The newspaper notes that efforts have been underway through the last three years to publicize the issue of plastic bags. Most bags end up in landfills. The local Albertsons grocery store estimates it distributes 10,000 to 12,000 plastic bags per week.

The Jackson Town Council will likely be splintered when it takes up the issue in 2012. Mayor Mark Barron calls plastic bags "horrendous" but objects to imposing a municipal mandate.

In Colorado, a campaign called Bag It is seeking to create a momentum for a plastic-bag ban in Durango. Two local natural goods groceries already do not use plastic bags. A task force will make a recommendation to the City Council.

To assess how a plastic bag might affect local businesses, The Durango Herald contacted groceries in Telluride, which earlier this year banned plastic bags and imposed a 10-cent tax on paper bags at the town's two grocery stores and one hardware store.

Mark DeMist, general manger of Clark's Market, one of the two grocery stores, said that 75 percent of customers now habitually bring in their own bags. And he said that few tourists this past summer objected.

The catalyst for this concern about plastic bags is the swirl of plastic fragments trapped by ocean currents in the North Pacific. By some estimates, this Pacific Trash Vortex, as it is sometimes called, is twice the size of Texas.

Steamboat plants micro-grant seeds

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- In an effort to nurture economic vitality, the Steamboat Springs city government is awarding micro-grants of up to $5,000 to small businesses filling unoccupied niches.

Steamboat Today, in a story about the grants, cites the example of a business called Chocolate Soup, which needed help to buy equipment after getting a contract to supply milk chocolate almond macaroons and other tasty treats to Whole Food Markets in the Rocky Mountains.

Deb Hinsvark, deputy city manager, told the newspaper that grant recipients can't compete directly with existing businesses in Steamboat. A new coffee shop would get no hold.

"Really, what we're looking for are small incentives to new ventures," she said.

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