Taos sets out on remodel
TAOS, N.M. – While nobody really questions the value of the mountain terrain, Taos Valley Ski Area is setting out on a 10-year project to reinvent its base area, to become more competitive with other resorts in the Rocky Mountains.
“Most people recognize that it’s been a long time since Taos Ski Valley has done a significant upgrade,” says Gordon Briner, chief operations officer at the resort.
The Taos News also talked with Ken Gallard, who lived in an uninsulated cabin with no running water when he moved to Taos. “We need to get back on the radar,” he said, presumably referring to recognition as a top ski area. “We’ve got about 60 years of Band-Aids up here.”
The family of Ernie Blake, the founder of Taos Ski Valley, earlier this year sold the ski area to Louis Bacon, a hedge-fund manager from the East Coast. Bacon has purchased extensive real estate in southern Colorado in recent years along the spine of the Sangre de Cristo Range. Taos is at the southern terminus of the same range.
Ketchum to court elite athletes?
KETCHUM, Idaho – Can Ketchum and Sun Valley horn their way into the growing and apparently lucrative market for high-level athletic performance testing?
That’s the intent of Sun Valley Economic Development. The organization seeks partners to create a 1,500-square-foot facility where testing for aerobic, anaerobic, strength, flexibility, and wellness performance can be conducted.
Harry Griffith, the group’s executive director, tells the Idaho Mountain News that he hopes to gain designation as a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training site. It already has such designation for Nordic skiing, but he hopes to expand the designation to include other snow sports.
In addition to elite athletics, another major market would be recreational sports athletes and health and wellness practitioners.
California river trumps Colorado
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – California, with its continued drought, trumped Colorado this year in the American Rivers’ annual listing of the nation’s most endangered river.
In announcing its list, American Rivers said the San Joaquin River was threatened by outdated water management and excessive diversions.
But for at least a decade, the organization has been raising alarms about further transmountain diversions from the headwaters of the Colorado River and its tributaries. Most of Colorado’s best-known ski resorts— from Steamboat to Winter Park, Breckenridge to Vail, Aspen to Crested Butte—are located in this arc of headwaters.
Several of these creeks and rivers are already heavily plumbed, to draw water across, under, and through the Continental Divide to cities from Fort Collins to Denver and Colorado Springs and the farms beyond.
Could Colorado’s cities get one more major transmountain diversion? That’s been the underlying tension in Colorado since the 1980s. It remains the quiet aspiration of some water developers even as it becomes more clear that very little water may remain in the Colorado River for development.
“It’s not that we’re being stingy about sharing our water,” says Ken Neubecker, of American Rivers. “Quite frankly, there’s not much water left to share.”
Still, the Yampa River presents an inviting target. In theory, at least, it still has unclaimed water – at least as Colorado meets commitments to California and Arizona. The river originates in the Flat Tops Wilderness and flows through Steamboat Springs on its way to Dinosaur National Monument, the water ultimately headed toward Lake Powell and, once upon a time, the Sea of Cortez.
“There are very powerful water interests that really want a new trans-basin diversion,” Matt Rice, of American Rivers, tells the Steamboat Today. “A multibillion dollar project is hard to comprehend in this economic climate, but as long as the Yampa has ample water in it, I would suggest it’s going to be a threat.”
Not business as usual
PARK CITY, Utah – While a spokeswoman for Park City Mountain Resort predicted “business as usual” for the next ski season, the Park Record notes a subtle shift in the packaging of pre-season ski passes that reflects a heating legal battle over use of the ski area.
Powdr Corp., owner of the ski area but not the land on which it operates, has been tussling for several years with Talisker, owner of the land as well as the nearby Canyons Resort. Talisker says Powdr failed to renew the lease for the land, described as extremely favorable to Powdr, and is now wrestling in the courtroom to control the land and hence the ski area.
Previous season-passes were sold with the proviso that passes would be refunded on a prorated basis if the resort is shut down for all or part of the season. For the previous two years, pass holders were also advised that Talisker Land Holdings had stated that it would not interfere with the ability of Park City Mountain Resort’s ability to operate.
That last sentence is absent this year – and small wonder. Talisker Land Holdings, now represented by Vail Resorts, last August served an eviction notice. Park City, meanwhile, has indicated in court filings that it will dismantle and remove most of its ski lifts if forced off the land.
Meanwhile, a delegation from Vail visited Park City, and Vail Daily editor Don Rogers returned home to confide to his readers that it looks like Vail Resorts has the better hand.
Powdr, he says, “sounds a bit desperate to my not quite unbiased ear. CEO John Cumming comes across like he arrived at a chess match thinking he’s playing a particularly blustery form of checkers.”
Rogers say that Powdr’s threat to remove chairlifts and other plans, should it lose the court case, has handed the figurative high ground to Vail Resorts.
“They get to give comparatively mild responses that such tough talk is not constructive to resolving the issue, and golly gee it’s not our fault you didn’t renew your lease on time, and oh by the way we’ll pay fair market value for that base area. Let’s be reasonable here.”
Anemic runoff expected
TAOS, N.M. – It’s another cracked-lips spring in northern New Mexico. Rivers and creeks in the Taos area are expected to be flowing at one-third of normal this year. One of them, the Rio Pueblo de Taos, is predicted to have a streamflow of just 10 percent of average between April and July, reports the Taos News.
In southwest Colorado, snowfall was heavier this winter, but not enough to bring jubilation to boaters. The Durango Telegraph reports that the Dolores River is delivering enough water into McPhee Reservoir to meet obligations to farmers, but not enough to release downstream to make the river boatable.
Farther north in the Rocky Mountains, the snowfall was heavier—but there’s an anomaly. In the Weber River Basin, where Park City is found, snowpack is 11 percent of normal. With that in mind, local emergency managers tell the Park Record that they expect a “normal” wildfire season.