Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mountain Town News


Breckenridge celebrates ski area's 50th birthday

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Breckenridge ski area's inaugural opening. As reported by the Summit Daily News, two of the people who rode the first lift on Dec. 16, 1961, got on the first lift on the same day in 2011, accompanied by someone who had been born on that day in 1961.

The town of Breckenridge, one of Colorado's first, was "receding into the wilderness," in the words of Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen, during the 1950s. The mining had largely played out, and creation of interstate highways lay in the future.

Into this void stepped lumber man Bill Rounds. He formed a new company and asked the Forest Service to look into a permit.

But not everybody wanted to see Breckenridge skiing—at least not right away. Across Vail Pass, Pete Seibert was trying to bring Vail on line, with an anticipated opening of late 1962. He didn't want to see any other competition in the area until after Vail had been open at least a year.

Bob Berwyn, at the Summit County Citizens Voice, explains that the Forest Service told Seibert not to expect much sympathy. Berwyn notes that even then, the connection of real estate development with ski areas was an issue, as is clear from correspondence with the Forest Service.

Finally, the Forest Service rejected Vail's argument—and Breckenridge opened in 1961. Lift tickets were $4 per person. Ironically, the ski area is now owned by Vail Resorts, the successor to the company that Seibert started.

Stein Eriksen tells about the skiing life

ASPEN, Colo.—With the possible exception of Jean-Claude Killy, no other name looms as large in the sport of skiing as that of Stein Eriksen. A generation of skiers who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s emulated his light-as-air technique, born of his training as a gymnast and skier in Norway.

Eriksen was in Aspen to celebrate his 84th birthday. The Aspen Daily News reports that he met with more than 200 friends and admirers in a packed ballroom at the Hotel Jerome. They heard him reminisce about being the first skier from outside the Alps to win a gold medal in alpine skiing, which he did in 1952, taking the giant slalom and earning a silver in the slalom.

They also heard his memories about growing up in Norway when it was occupied by Germany.

"We trained in the summertime, up on the glaciers, while the Germans were occupying Norway."

The war had split friends. Before the war, German skier Willy Bogner had stayed with the Eriksens off and on for 10 years. Stein Eriksen credits Bogner with his success as an alpine skier.

"We couldn't meet during the war," he told Hilary Stunda of The Aspen Times. "He fought for his country; we protected our country. After the war, we could meet him again. There was no animosity there. He had to fight for his country."

After the war and his skiing success, Eriksen first accepted a job in skiing at Boyne Mountain in Michigan for $10,000 a year, later moving on to Sugarbush in Vermont, Heavenly in California and then Aspen and Snowmass. He remained in Aspen until 1981, when he moved to Park City to establish a five-star hotel at Deer Valley.

The Times notes that Eriksen, with his flips, was something of a forerunner of the freestyle movement. It came from his background in gymnastics. Skiers from the Alps, in contrast, had a foundation in mountain climbing.


Revelstoke plotting to extend airport runway

REVELSTOKE, B.C.—Revelstoke town officials are taking small steps to improve the local runway in hopes of landing charter air service and hence strengthening the local tourism economy.

The existing 3,000-foot-long runway would be lengthened by about 200 feet. To accommodate commercial service would require 6,500 feet, says Mayor David Raven.

"Although as much as that would be desirable, I just don't see that at this time," he told the Revelstoke Times Review.

Sitting at the bottom of a narrow mountain valley lined with alpine peaks, the airport is physically constricted and, in winter, frequently socked in with fog or low clouds, says the newspaper. Nearby Castlegar does have commercial flights, but the frequent fog cover there has earned the airport the nickname of "Cancelgar."

Banff continues to talk about franchises

BANFF, Alberta—The Banff business community continues to be stirred up about plans by a chain franchisee of tea to set up shop in Banff. The community already has a locally owned purveyor of tea.

If with different contexts, Banff has been struggling with the issue of how to retain its individuality in the face of the franchise restaurants and retailing business for much of a decade. Locals seem to be happy to have a Safeway and also gas stations. But they're more leery of Subway and McDonalds, which they also have, and other such chains.

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