Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mountain Town News


Window-shopping bruin pays high price

TRUCKEE, Calif.—A 200-pound female bear called Butterscotch by locals because of her blondish fur found an open window and climbed through it, looking for food. In so doing, the bear caused damage. Worse, somebody was in the house.

According to the regulations followed by California wildlife authorities, that infraction warrants a death sentence. The Sierra Sun reports that many locals were outraged. A Facebook page maintained by a group called the Bear League had more than 200 comments.

Ann Bryant, the group's president, said the state violated its own policy that states all avoidance tactics are to be pursued before a bear is killed.

"Isn't simply closing a window a pretty easy avoidance tactic?" she asked.

Info highway doesn't run through Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C.—Though it'll sully the resort's image with a few visitors, leaders in Whistler have concluded they can't justify spending $500,000 to provide universal WiFi through the resort.

Customers expect WiFi, but they want to be able to stream video and they want to be able to do that when the resort is at its busiest, explained Bob McPherson, general manager of corporate and community service. That would require a very wide information highway.

Pique newsmagazine says 68 signals can be found at Mountain Square, the resort's central plaza, and 12 of them are open signals. But there's no ubiquitous, free, seamless experience.

Business as usual, despite the acrimony

PARK CITY, Utah—Park City Mountain Resort, one of three ski areas at Park City, now has assurances that it will be open next winter.

Talisker Mountain, owner of a rival ski area, Canyons, owns the land on which much of Park City operates. At issue is whether Park City's lease for the land would be renewed. A lawsuit was filed some months ago by Park City. The lawsuit alleges that Talisker is trying to force it out of business.

A recent statement issued by Talisker pledges terms that will allow Park City to remain open and earn a tidy profit, reports The Park Record. What is the quarrel truly about? The newspaper, and other periodicals, so far have been unable to peel back the onion.

Real estate sales rise, but not so the prices

VAIL, Colo.—In Vail, as in many other resorts, the pace of real estate sales has been picking up. Prices have not.

Land Title Guarantee Co. reports more sales in May than in any month since July 2008, just before the Great Recession hit destination mountain valleys.

But for construction hands used to making $50 an hour, the good times haven't returned. Jim Flaum, president and managing broker of Slifer, Smith & Frampton Real Estate, told the Vail Daily that prices are only creeping upward. Before new construction can be justified, he said, prices must go much higher.

As is, much inventory remains unsold in Vail's new hotels, the Daily reports. The Ritz-Carlton Residences has sold more than half of its 71 units, and at an average cost of $1,368 per square foot. A quarter of the 228 fractional ownership interests at the Four Seasons have been sold. Prices there dropped by more than 20 percent last year. More than half of the 79 residences at the Solaris have been sold. The top asking price there is $19.2 million.

In nearby Summit County, a report in the Daily News finds evidence to produce good cheer.

"With six months of data confirming it, the market seems to be in solid recovery," says realty agent Chuck Leathers.

He reports that land prices are also increasing and new construction is beginning to happen.

In Steamboat Springs, the Yampa Valley Data Partners reports a stabilizing of the median listing prices of homes in Routt County, after a 23 percent decrease from the peak in the market in October 2008.

Whitefish pursues Los Angeles flights

WHITEFISH, Mont.—Business interests in the Flathead Valley of Montana are angling toward a $500,000 federal grant that would help enable them to secure flights from Los Angeles by Allegiant Air. Allegiant added service to the Bay Area at the beginning of the year.

But there are 68 applicants for the money, reports the Whitefish Pilot, and if it's awarded, the locals must pony up $500,000 of their own.

Silver lining seen in Olympics decision

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—Three resort areas of the American West had been putting together their plans to bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. But the U.S. Olympic Committee last week announced it would entertain none of the bids because it wants to move its focus on securing the 2024 Summer Games and the 2026 Winter Games.

The reaction in all three resort regions seemed to be that it's just as well. Park City Mayor Dana Williams said hosting the Games in 2022 seemed to be a "long shot" for Utah, which hosted the 2002 Olympics.

Lake Tahoe also saw a silver lining.

"We have laid the groundwork for a return of the Olympic flame to this region and to our very own Olympic Valley in the future," said Andy Wirth, chair of the Lake Tahoe Winter Games Exploratory Committee and chief executive at Squaw Valley. Squaw Valley hosted the Olympics in 1960.

In Colorado, too, added time is seen as a blessing, at least by one skeptic. Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll points to the subsidies for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler in arguing for a more sober analysis of the cost to Colorado than was conducted by a 22-member exploratory committee.

He writes: "So Colorado would have needed four new event venues, three in decidedly exotic sports, as well as two athlete villages, and the best the committee could do is admit they would 'likely require some public financing to construct?'"


Snowmass next to look at plastic ban

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo.—Add Snowmass Village to the list of Colorado towns that have or are considering a ban on plastic bags.

The Aspen Daily News reports that the town council in Snowmass will likely consider asking voters in November whether to ban plastic bags, as the nearby communities of Aspen and Carbondale have done. Grocery stores in both towns do sell paper bags, but at a cost of 20 cents each.

Snowmass Mayor Bill Boineau said he has mixed feelings, but was moved by the movie "Bag It!," which documents the environmental destruction posed by proliferating plastic shopping bags. The town has just one grocery store.

Mining not to blame for all acidic rivers

OURAY, Colo.—Degraded water in mining districts is justifiably blamed on old mining practices, and that's still the case in the San Juan Mountains. There, the water quality of the creeks on Red Mountain and on other mountains still is problematic because of mining for gold and silver.

But a report by the Colorado Geological Survey bolsters claims by miners that surface water was highly acidic for thousands, perhaps millions of years.

The Telluride Watch says officials familiar with the report say the findings do not absolve mining companies of the need for continued efforts to improve water quality. But neither is there any hope that trout will soon be flip-flopping in the creek. One state water-quality official describes "irreversible man-induced conditions."

A few more cooks needed in Jackson

JACKSON, Wyo.—Sous chefs and even line cooks are in short supply this summer. The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports that a third of job listings in the newspaper's classified section during June were for cooks.

The listings suggest a growing economy, but then indoor jobs during summer never are all that attractive in Jackson Hole.

"Hiring in the summer is always hard for us as a restaurant group, because people come to Jackson to work outside," explains Justin Henry, who directs operations for Fine Dining Group, which has four restaurants.

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