Mountain Town News
By Allen Best
Investors pull plug on golf course
SQUAMISH, B.C. – In the 1990s, golfing was on the rise. New courses, most lined with expensive homes, were being laid out everywhere.That was then. Now, golf seems like tennis, a fad from yesteryear. Oh, people are still golfing. But supply exceeds demand – as has become evident at the Garibaldi Springs Golf Resort, located at Squamish, about a half-hour drive from Whistler. Pique Newsmagazine reports that investors have pulled the plug on continued subsidies. The course needs 20,000 rounds annually for solvency, but has been getting 7,000 to 12,000 rounds.
Development of new course has stalled across North America because of the collapse of the housing market, which in the past has subsidized construction of new courses, explains Pique. And those self-centered baby boomers, so svelte and flush just a few years ago, have been quitting the sport because of cost and various health reasons.
Olympic party causes heartburn
WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler’s community leaders continue their efforts to leverage the Olympics into more people staying in hotels. As was long planned, the community now plans an early July celebration that is described as a post-Olympic party. There will be Olympics marching in the street, music and more, all at a cost of $96,000.
The point is to drum up business, explained Tom Thomson, the acting mayor. “It is a business opportunity, and building our tourism economy is one of the main reasons we chose to host the Games,” he said.
But in Whistler, none of these broad background issues has undercut a smoldering resentment of the powers-that-be. Many people in Whistler opposed hosting the Olympics in the first place, and now that same vituperation is evident in letters opposing this staged “We Did It” party. One reader wrote, “We don’t need the muni to tell us when, where and how to party and then send us a bill.”
Private club allows public puffing
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – In Utah, until recently, if you wanted to drink wind or hard liquor in public, you had to join a club. Now, a business in Breckenridge aims for the same concept with smoking marijuana.
The business is called Club 420, using the numerical moniker for the drug. The Summit Daily News reports that the club opened April 20 and is operated by Collette Wilson, a former math teacher. She said club members have the opportunity to use vaporizers, which she said is significantly healthier alternative to direct smoking. No cannabis is sold at the club.
Breckenridge took the unusual step last year of decriminalizing the drug without allowing public consumption. The Daily News says the club appears to operate within the law, as consumption is not allowed in a “place of business generally open to the general public.
Consultant says Aspen can
have cake and eat it, too!
ASPEN, Colo. – In what surely cannot be regarded as a surprise, a consultant paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration has concluded that a longer airport runway in Aspen will produce more tourists but not spur new building.
The study holds that the longer runway – 8,000 feet, compared to the current 7,000 feet – will be able to accommodate planes that currently have to leave seats empty, because of weight restrictions in the thin air. Aspen is at about 8,000 feet. As such, it’s easier to get to Aspen than to leave – and so some passengers have to drive to other airports, including Denver and Eagle, to leave.
If all these seats currently sitting empty could be filled, according to the study, 11,000 additional people can be accommodate in Aspen annually, leaving the community $29 million wealthier.
The Aspen Times notes that in reaching this cake-but-eat-it-too conclusion, the consultants navigated a tricky community discussion. The public has long been leery of runway expansions. One proposal promoted in the 1990s was soundly rejected by voters of Pitkin County.
Telluride gets money for airport
TELLURIDE, Colo. – The Federal Aviation Administration has handed over another $3 million, giving boosters of the Telluride Regional Airport the $20.4 million they need to complete improvements to the facility.
The airport, although not the highest, may well by the most picturesque airport in the United States. It sits on an mesa just outside of Telluride, drop-offs at either end of the runway and sharp mountains in the distance. The runway used to have a butterflies-inducing drop in the middle that last year was corrected with $23 million of heavy dirty lifting and moving.
With these additional improvements to the aprons and taxiway, plus other work to the terminal, Telluride supporters believe the airport can become an important link to the outside world – and a vital conduit to money-laden tourists.
Currently, most Telluride visitors arrive at an airport in Montrose, 65 miles but about 90 minutes away. Because of these improvements, this closer-in airport will be able to accommodate planes like the bombardier Q400 that have a larger payload than the Dash 7 planes most popularly used before, 76 passengers vs. 32.
Recession stripped wages
JACKSON, Wyo. – Wages in Teton county decreased 14 percent and the number of jobs shrank 8 percent in the year after the economic collapse. The figures come from a report by the Wyoming Department of Employment.
Build it, but will they come?
BASALT, Colo. – Build it – but will they get financing? That’s the pivotal question in Basalt, a community 18 miles down-valley from Aspen. The Aspen Times reports that developers have approvals to build 440 to 500 additional housing units. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of warehouse space have also been authorized in addition to 313,000 square feet of commercial space.
The problem is that nobody has been building – and none seem intent on pouring footers.
“We don’t need to put infrastructure in the ground and just look at it,” said one developer and general contractor, Briston Peterson. “Until it [the economy] turns around, I won’t put a shovel in the ground.
The Basalt Town Council has currently put a halt to all project approvals.
Ski business soars
KETCHUM, Idaho – Go figure. The economy still struggles, snowfall was lousy for much of the season, but Sun Valley did extraordinarily well during ski season. The resort hosted the second most skiers ever, a history that extends to 1936.
Elsewhere in Idaho, reports the Express, the story was similar: Brundage, a small ski area near McCall, had its best season ever, despite snowfall that was 33% below normal. At Schweitzer, in the Idaho Panhandle, snowfall was down by nearly 50%, but skier visits were up 7.5%.
The National Ski Areas Association reports nearly 60 million skiers, close to the record of two years ago. More than two-thirds of ski areas reported increased business this season.