Friday, June 15, 2012

Mountain Town News


Ski town indicators tilt against dour news

VAIL, Colo.—Hither and thither across resort-based mountain towns of the West come reports of economic recovery.

Vail had its biggest-ever haul of sales tax collections during last winter, despite the poor snow, an increase of 3.9 percent over the previous winter. The $1.15 million also surpassed the previous winter record set in 2007-08.

In Wyoming, Jackson had a 5.3 percent increase in sales tax collections last year. Park City reports a surge in permits for new building, and not just upgrading the existing buildings, as occurred during the recession.

But the national and international news tell a different story of stalled economic recovery. The unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high. The stock market stepped backward. President Barack Obama has felt compelled to defend his record.

"Are we leading or lagging? I don't know," says Suzanne Silverthorne, the public information office for the town of Vail.

Destination ski towns, because they cater to the world's elites, tend to go into economic declines later and emerge more rapidly than many economic sectors. But in this case, that means they could be on either side of a trend: slow to reflect the new decline or more sure barometers of the U.S. economy.

Telluride continues talk of retreat for scientists

TELLURIDE, Colo.—Talk continues in Telluride of creating dedicated facilities that could be used by scientists for retreats. The town currently draws nearly 1,000 scientists annually, mostly during summer for small meetings of about 100 people at the town's middle school.

But the Telluride Science and Research Center would like to construct a top-flight 30,000-square-foot facility that would have year-round use.

The Daily Planet reports that town officials are cautiously supportive but reluctant to commit to a public-private venture at this point.

Boosters point to the economic impact of drawing scientists. The Aspen Center for Physics and the Keystone Symposium, both in Colorado, boast of strong economic boosts to their communities. Even larger numbers are reported for Woods Hole, a retreat in Massachusetts for oceanographers and other scientists.


Angel among casualties

SALIDA, Colo.—Each year, as warmer temperatures arrive on the slopes of Mt. Shavano, a 14,229-foot peak in central Colorado, the snow recedes in the central gully on the mountain's eastern face to reveal a few snowbanks that the religious-minded long ago interpreted as a kneeling figure. Most years, the Angel of Shavano can be discerned until mid to late summer.

Not this year. A casualty of premature summer heat and too little winter, the snow from the couloir had almost already disappeared by last weekend. So has the rest of the snow in the high country of Colorado.

Readings taken June 1 by the National Resources Conservation Service show the snowpack was almost completely melted. In the Arkansas River basin, where Shavano is located, the snowpack was just 4 percent of last year.

Other river basins in Colorado were similarly in the single digits in terms of snowpack compared to last year.

In Steamboat Springs, the Yampa River was running at 202 cubic feet per second on Sunday afternoon. That compares to an average 2,200 cfs for that date, reports Steamboat Today.

"I've lived here for 78 years, and I can't remember a summer as dry as this one," said local rancher Dean Look.

Photograph further confirms wolverine

TRUCKEE, Calif.—Further evidence has arrived of a wolverine in the Sierra Nevada, east of Truckee. Though it was nearing dark, and photography tricky, a hiker was able to photograph the animal on the shores of Beyers Lake, reports the Sacramento Bee.

A wolverine was last confirmed in California in 1922. But in 2008, one was discovered in the area north of Truckee. DNA of hair samples show that it closely matches that of wolverines in the Sawtooth Range of Idaho.

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