By Allen Best
Energy disagreements very clear
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. – Election of directors for the electrical co-ops that serve much of rural America — including many of Colorado’s ski towns — got little attention 20 years ago. Co-ops prided themselves in reliably delivering electricity at low rates.
But a third standard has been added. Challengers argue that environmental considerations of power production must be factored into co-op operations. They want more less demand and more rapid embracing of renewable energy, even if it costs more.
Those issues can be found in this year’s elections of Holy Cross Energy, a co-op that serves Aspen, Vail and Glenwood Springs. Holy Cross is among the most progressive of electricity providers, but challengers want the co-op to accelerate the pace.
In the Aspen area, real estate agent Bob Starodoj, who has been a director of the utility since 1985, argues for caution, fearing spiked costs. In an interview with the Vail Daily, he advised flexibility.“There might be breakthroughs in technology, such as the portable hydrogen cell that may be economically viable [soon],” he said.
Challenger Dave Munk, who designs resource programs, says the 2 percent of the co-op’s operating revenues used for such things as energy audits for members and rebates for solar panels needs to be increased to 5 percent.
The Times notes that half of Holy Cross customers said they’d be willing to pay more for renewable energy. Slightly fewer said no thanks.
Grubbing for customers
WHISTLER, B.C. – Taking measure of debt-laden national economics plus ever more wearying loads of debt for health care and education, Pique Newsmagazine’s Bob Barnett warns against expecting boom times ahead for Whistler other resort towns.
“We’re not going to see the people or the spending that were around in the mid-‘90s or the mid-2000s because money and, increasingly, time aren’t as plentiful,” he says.
So where does that leave Whistler? “Is the answer more convention business? Cultural tourism? Day-trippers? Education? Catering to part-time residents in the hope that they spend more time here? Building interest among immigrants and ethnic groups that don’t come from a mountain culture?”Barnett said he doesn’t pretend to know the answer.
The geography of food
TELLURIDE, Colo. – Cooking usiing food from local sources sounds appealing in principle. After all, most food items now travel 1,300 miles or so. Eating local reduces shipping by trucks and planes, but living in a mountain town adds an incremental challenge to the eat-local principle. Farms tend to be farther away, and the local frost-free season far, far shorter.
Both Aspen and Telluride get serviced by farmers in the Paonia area, located about halfway between. Lucas Price, who operates La Cocina de Luz in Telluride often buys out of a truck. “I have the opportunity to develop a relationships with my purveyors. It feels so good to serve that food,” he said.
Voters to consider tax hike
ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen voters will be asked in November to double the existing 1 percent lodging tax. The increase would generate $450,000 for marketing and special events. Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland called it a chance for Aspen to “stand behind the notion of a sustainable tourism economy.”
At least they HAVE parking
VAIL, Colo. – Vail town leaders continue to talk about how to get the parked cars off the frontage roads paralleling the interstate highway that splices the town.
The town has two big parking garages, plus one of the best bus systems among ski towns in the West. Still, cars routinely line the frontage roads on busy ski days. Town officials fret about the potential for injury, but also worry that it sends the signal that the ski mountain is full. At North America’s largest, that rarely happens.
Various plans call for expanded parking, but all would require additional real estate development to buy-down the costs. The Vail Daily reports the town council thinks ski area operator Vail Resorts should be at the table with its checkbook.
Ready to spend some money?
BROOMFIELD, Colo. – Vail Resorts intends to plow between $75 million and $85 million into its various resorts this summer. Heavenly, on the California-Nevada border, will get an on-mountain restaurant. Vail Mountain gets a quad lift to replace the ancient three-seater that has served the Back Bowls.
Where the deals are …
ASPEN, Colo.— Real estate has been moving, but at prices sharply discounted from the peak two years ago. The Aspen Times tells of an office building located in downtown Aspen that was listed at $6 million in 2008, just before the stock market crash. It has now sold for $3.1 million. The ground-level space has been empty.
Ski area infrastructure forges on
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Work will proceed this summer on infrastructure work at the Steamboat ski area. Plans had suffered a couple of bumps in the road this year after the recession caused work to take a breather last year. But the Steamboat Pilot reports that the city council has agreed to allow $2.5 million in spending. Eventually, the town hopes to see a nice creek-side promenade in addition to a variety of new hotels.
KETCHUM, Idaho – Sharp words have punctuated recent discussions about building a new airport farther away from Sun Valley and Ketchum. The more distant airport would be able to accommodate larger planes, unlike the existing airport, which is located at Hailey, about a 15-minute drive from the resort. An hour’s drive will be too much for Sun Valley’s upper-crust customers, alleges one blogger on the Idaho Mountain Express.
“Sun Valley as a tourist spot will die a quick death if you can’t get there quickly from the airport,” the blogger insists. But would it? Aspen’s airports lies only minutes from town, but Vail’s portal lies about a half-hour distant.
The Butte expects fewer butts
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Crested Butte continues to evaluate its lifeline to the distant cities that provide its crucial winter customers.
Those flights need to be filled at least two-thirds full for the direct flights to work. This year, they were just 54 percent full, and the local community will have to pay $1.2 million to the airlines in revenue guarantees. Such revenue guarantees are not uncommon, and a representative of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, the ski area, reported at a recent meeting that Steamboat paid $2.4 million in guarantees this year.
Instead of 45,000 incoming seats, as was the cast this past winter, Crested Butte figures it can only afford to guarantee 40,000 seats. The Crested Butte News also notes that there has been talk of directing customers to flights into Montrose, which is the better part of two hours away, as compared to the current 30 minutes. Telluride underwrites the flights into Montrose.