By Allen Best
Real estate stabilizes
JACKSON, Wyo. – Number-crunching economic analyst Jonathan Schechter finds that real estate prices in Jackson Hole have bottomed out at prices below those of 2001.
“… the crash has been so great that, corrected for information, it wiped out nine years’ worth of gains in mean prices,” he writes in the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
Studying numbers provided by realty firm Re/Max, Schechter found that mean prices in Teton County, Wyo., have stabilized at 38 percent below peak. West of the Teton Range, in Teton County, Idaho, prices are down 28 percent from their peak.
Similar to the observations of real-estate agents in several resort valleys of the West, he finds that sales bottomed out late last year and since then have been slowly rebounding. But, at the current rates, it won’t be until sometime in 2011 that sales volume attains the same level as in 2002.
Business stabilizes, too
ASPEN, Colo. – Last year, ski season in Aspen ended with a thud. March seemed like April.
Although a resurgence predicted for late in the ski season this year failed to materialize, at least the downward spiral ended.
And there are expectations of improvement, reports the Aspen Times. The newspaper notes a survey by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. Of respondents, 45 percent expected business to improve this year, compared to 15 percent at the same time last year.
William Small of Frias Commercial Real Estate concluded that the worst is behind Aspen in terms of both residential and commercial real estate. But Kurt Adam, president of Community Banks of Colorado, said he doesn’t expect 2010 to be anything but flat.
Meanwhile, the Aspen Skiing Co. reports that it expected a flat winter this year, but results were actually a little bit better. David Perry, the company’s senior vice president, described the results as a “slight improvement and stabilization.”
“We’re not celebrating by any stretch of the imagination,” he told The Aspen Times.
Visits increased slightly, business in ski school was stronger, and travelers’ wallets altogether “have loosened up,” he said.
Olympians were good guests
WHISTLER, B.C. – Olympic athletes left their housing in Whistler in good shape, and officials think they know why. Not only were the units well built, but officials also made the decision to have purchasers of the units — who will begin occupying the units later this year — post pictures of themselves and notes to their “guests.”
Some athletes, in return, left notes and gifts for the homeowners.
“I got comments back from people appreciating knowing that they were staying in someone’s home, that they were staying in a home that somebody actually owned,” said Tim Morrison, the managing director of the Olympic villages for the Vancouver Organizing Committee.
Massive aspen die-off tapers
DURANGO, Colo. – The die-off of aspen trees that began splotching giant swaths of forests in the San Juan Mountains four or five years ago seems to be slowing.
While mortality among aspen trees has always occurred, in 2006 foresters noted large swaths of aspen forests dying. By 2008, they were calling attention to the phenomenon, even giving it a name: sudden aspen decline, or SAD. The die-off was most pronounced in the San Juan Mountains, but evident elsewhere in Colorado and the West.
Now, all this is tapering off. “I think we’ve seen the worst of it,” said Mark Krabath, supervisory forester with the San Juan Public Lands.
Scientists at the time said the massive die-offs confounded them. Now, they point to a correlation with the severe drought of the early 21st century, possibly combined with warmer temperatures. That weakened the aspen trees, making them more vulnerable to a variety of insects and diseases.
Vail an Obamacare beneficiary?
BRECKENIRDGE, Colo. – Taking a measured view of the new national health care legislation, Vail Resorts has concluded that it’s good for the company — and should be good for tourism-based communities with seasonal economies.
In an essay printed in the Summit Daily News, company chief executive Rob Katz notes that the new law allows young adults to remain on the health care plans of their parents until they are 26. That, he notes, covers a large portion of the entry-level seasonal population.
But the plan also gives seasonal workers affordable options to off-season coverage beyond expensive COBRA coverage.
And it also mandates people carry coverage year round. “This latter point eliminates the incentive for employees to squeeze all their medical costs into one season,” he notes.
Train to Vail?
AVON, Colo. – In 1997, Union Pacific announced it had stopped running trains from Glenwood Springs, past Beaver Creek and Vail and over the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass. It’s a steep route, and the railroad figured it could move freight across the Rocky Mountains more cheaply by sending trains – about 20 daily now – through the Moffat Tunnel, near Winter Park.
Implications were obvious: What if locals could use this rail route? Union Pacific hasn’t formally abandoned the rail, but local eyes have continued to covet the rail.
The Vail Daily reports a new spurt of interest led by Vince Cook, a resident of Beaver Creek who had careers with both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and IBM.
Working with other former executives, he has been pounding the pavement to sell a vision of a local train service, with 11 stations between Dotsero and Minturn, and possibly an extension across the Continental Divide to Leadville.
In turn, more housing would be built up along the train tracks, near the stations.
A local transportation agency in Eagle County, called ECO Transit, has had the same idea, but with a vision of implementing it in about 2030, by which time Interstate 70 will get intolerably congested.
As is always the case, however, the question remains as to where the money will come from. Meanwhile, ridership on the buses connecting the Eagle Valley and Vail has dropped by 40 percent.