Friday, December 14, 2012

Mountain Town News


Does steep help or hinder ski market?

TELLURIDE, Colo.—Chuck Horning, for the last nine years the owner of the Telluride Ski Co., has been asking hard questions about where the dollars are being spent. Such as:

( What really is the value of hosting World Cup races?

( Why does Telluride need its own very expensive airport when there’s a much larger, and safer one an hour away? 

( Is it really wise to show all those ads of steep, extreme skiing when most paying customers have intermediate skills, if that?

He tells The Telluride Watch that after getting all the answers, he gulped and said OK to the continued expense of hosting World Cup ski races, because of the international exposure it provides.

But from Squaw Valley, he learned that too much emphasis upon the expert skiers descending chutes and peaks can scare away potential customers. He’s also working at filling in the holes of Telluride’s winter season, but how he thinks that can be done isn’t entirely clear.

He does have a clear message for Telluride locals: “Sometimes we’re so much in love with Telluride, that it clouds our brains and makes us think we’re completely different (than other resorts). Maybe Telluride is not quite as different as we thought it was.”


Aspen keeps climate change options open

ASPEN, Colo.—Aspen city officials are moving forward with purchase of water rights that they say will best serve the interests of the community as the global climate shifts to warmer temperatures.

The City Council approved spending $511,000 to buy 400 acre-feet of water annually from Ruedi Dam, a U.S. government facility about 30 miles from Aspen.

Colorado’s water law is complicated, based on the idea that the oldest rights have first dibs, no matter where they are in a river drainage and no matter how much water the river is carrying that particular year. This stored water would allow Aspen to release water downstream, to meet the senior calls from farms and orchards near Grand Junction, while holding back spring runoff in its more local streams, called Castle and Maroon.

Why would any of this be necessary? Already, there is some evidence of long-term warming in Aspen. On average, peak runoff has moved to earlier in the year. 

Whether Aspen will get more precipitation during winters in the future, or less, is an open question. Climate models are inconclusive. But what all the dozens of computer climate models agree upon is a future of shorter winters and, overall, a greater propensity to have rain in place of snow. 


Community solar takes root in Utah

PARK CITY, UTAH—Several Colorado resort valleys now have what has variously been called solar gardens or solar farms, and there’s talk of something similar in Utah’s Summit County.

The basic idea is that while it’s fine to put solar panels atop your own house, it makes more economic and operating sense to pool resources with your neighbors at some shared location, such as on the edge of town. Buying in bulk, the panels come cheaper, and they can be maintained more easily. As well, the financing can be done in bulk.

The Park Records says a community solar project in Salt Lake City has 64 subscribers, and the idea is being studied in Summit County.

The first such solar garden in Colorado was at El Jebel, down-valley from Aspen. Breckenridge now has two, and others have been built or are planned west of Vail and near Telluride.


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