Friday, December 23, 2011

Mountain Town News


$105 lift ticket tops among all ski areas

AVON, Colo.—Going into Christmas, Vail and Beaver Creek had the highest sticker price in the ski world.

Not that many people will pay it, but walk-up customers at the Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas will pay $105 this season. The Aspen Skiing Co. is charging $104 for a last-minute, single-day lift ticket this season. That's the same benchmark the ski company established last February, during President's Weekend.

Deer Valley, a traditional leader in pricing, is at $96—but that doesn't include Christmas week. As of last weekend, the resort's website didn't specify the Christmas week rate.

Few people pay such prices, of course. All resorts offer package incentives for multi-day purchases, and the Vail Resorts season passes, in particular, offer huge discounts for pre-season purchases.

Vail tries to hold on to all of its parts

VAIL, Colo.—Because Vail lacks a Victorian opera house and other such relics from a former mining era, some commentators have said that it's not a real town.

In fact, the ski area and real-estate development were a package from the outset. Just the same, the town has schools, a hospital and, if not a cemetery in a traditional sense, at least a memory park, suitable for ashes and inscriptions honoring those who cannot imagine an eternity anywhere else.

But local officials want to retain all the parts of community infrastructure. Eyes were raised last week when the Vail Daily reported that school officials were examining the possibility of closing Red Sandstone Elementary, among other schools, in an effort to trim $5.5 million from the annual budget. Also an option: laying off teachers, who make an average $64,000 annually, when benefits are included.

Town officials are also not taking the local hospital for granted. Partly to help ensure it remains for another 40 or 50 years, they are looking at a public-private redevelopment that would yield a row of taller buildings along Interstate 70.

As for the town's biggest employer, town officials are still smarting that Vail Associates, when it became Vail Resorts and a corporate operator, moved first down-valley to Avon and then to a suburb of Boulder, Colo.

Group delegated task of studying Olympics

DENVER, Colo.—A 22-person committee has been appointed to explore the upsides and downsides of hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Colorado.

"We need to flush out every single issue involved with a potential bid," committee co-chair Don Elliman told The Denver Post. "The questions are what will be the benefits, and if there are downsides, pinpoint what they are."

The committee appointed by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper includes Harry Frampton, chairman of the Vail Valley Foundation, and Ernie Blake, former mayor of Breckenridge.

Reno-Lake Tahoe has already announced plans to pursue the U.S. nomination for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The basin's Squaw Valley hosted the Olympics in 1964, and Denver had secured rights to host the 1976 games. However, concerns about the environmental effects of rapid growth combined with a shoddy track record by Denver's Olympic Committee persuaded Colorado voters in 1972 to reject state taxpayer subsidies for the games, causing Denver to withdraw.

Aspen still seeks X Games extension

ASPEN, Colo.—It's a contractual given that somersaulting snowmobiles and other air-loving X Games tricksters will return in January to Aspen Buttermilk for the 11th year. Beyond that, it's all, well, up in the air.

The Aspen Daily News reports that ESPN is listening to proposals from other venues that want to host the events after the contract with the Aspen Skiing Co. expires in January.

"We've been in negotiations over a year at this point, and we don't have a deal," John Rigney, vice president for events with the skiing company, told the newspaper. "There is a palpable nervousness in the community."

By all accounts, the X Games have been a big hit in Aspen. The number of spectators last winter pushed to 114,000, easily besting the previous record of 84,000. There were, of course, long lines for restaurants stretching out into streets on a weekend that, prior to the arrival of X Games in 2002, was a trifle somnolent.

As well, Aspen leaders see the X Games as part of their strategy to reinvent themselves as a mountain resort, introducing themselves to a new generation of visitors and, perhaps, real estate buyers.

"It's critical for the city," said Aspen Mayor Mike Ireland. "This is how they become familiar with the sport."

The city government is committed to chipping in $100,000 to host the X Games. The Daily News did not report the broader community package, but Rigney did say that ESPN is asking for a "significant increase in support."

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