By Allen Best
Telluride won’t back down
TELLURIDE, Colo. – Telluride in the last decade has twice taken very ambitious vows, pledging to reduce its carbon footprint as a community. Now, it’s groping through the hard work of concrete action that will be necessary if the community has any hope of achieving those great ambitions.
The first vow came circa 2005, with a sign-on to the Mayors’ Agreement on Climate Change. That agreement specifies that communities will work to reduce their carbon emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels – by 2012. With the possible exception of Seattle and a few others, it now appears that few of the more than 1,000 towns and cities that signed on will achieve that target.
Then, in 2009, Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser announced a goal of becoming carbon neutral in its electrical supply by 2020. He said improving energy efficiency was an important first step.
But the devil is in the details. After a half-dozen public meetings in the last year, the council reviewed a proposal to substantially tighten the community energy code. Following a model first created in Aspen a decade ago and then copied with revisions in the Eagle/Vail, Crested Butte, and other areas, it creates a penalty for what is considered profligate energy use, such as for big houses, snowmelt systems, and outdoor tubs.
The Telluride Watch reports angry denunciations at a recent meeting. “You’re driving your building costs up very substantially,” said a builder. “Let’s just make it so your average millionaire can’t even build a house here,” he said.
A hot tub vendor advocated instead the banning of heated sidewalks, which he said would achieve the same level of reductions.
The majority of council members voted to proceed immediately in adopting the energy/green building code. They also scrapped some exemptions that had been recommended.
“If Telluride really wants to reduce its carbon footprint like it says it does, it’s time to stop making excuses and to begin reining in its energy use – even if it means higher costs or less convenience,” said the Watch.
GUNNISON, Colo. – Interest continues in developing high underground heat in the mountains of Colorado to produce electricity.
The Crested Butte News reports the potential for leasing 9,000 acres of federal government lands near Tomichi Dome, between the Monarch and Crested Butte ski areas. That underground heat is already manifested in a surface expression called the Waunita Hot Springs.
Some of the same lands had been leased to Mobile Oil Corp. in 1974, but the leases lapsed in 1991 with nothing ever having come of it. Now, there is new interest in geothermal heat, as it has the potential to provide round-the-clock electrical production, unlike wind and solar.
Renewable energy is not without its controversies, however. At issue in the Gunnison-area will be whether geothermal development will impact long-held water rights and the Gunnison sage grouse, a species considered for protection under the federal government’s Endangered Species Act.
Thin air takes down young man
VAIL, Colo. – Unlike many ailments, breathing difficulties from lack of oxygen don’t necessarily exempt the young and stouter individuals. Such is the case of high-altitude pulmonary edema, in which the lungs of people ascending in elevation fill with fluid, in effect drowning the person. That affliction disabled a would-be climber of 14,005-foot Mount of the Holy Cross. The Vail Daily reports the 27-year-old climber was removed by helicopter from his camping spot at a lake located at about 11,500 feet in elevation.
Pesticide ban extension
REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Municipal councilors in Revelstoke will likely expand an existing ban on cosmetic pesticides in public parks and fields to include private properties.
Cosmetic pesticides are chemical or biological substances used to destroy insects, plants, and fungi to enhance the appearance of a lawn or garden, according to the Canadian Lung Associate website.
The Revelstoke Times Review reports controversy about how deep and pervasive the ban should be. Mayor David Raven said people were “polarized very, very significantly” on the issue. “Unfortunately, it’s not clean science in some cases,” he said.
Both bankrupt and pricey
ASPEN, Colo. – Another bankruptcy has made the news in Aspen, although it remains a very expensive place.
The owner of a trio of parcels in downtown has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the height of the real estate book, the parcels had been advertised for $41.5 million. The list price now is $28 million.
It was the third time since March that a landlord in downtown Aspen has filed for bankruptcy, notes The Aspen Times.
But elsewhere comes news that a spec home near Aspen completed last year has sold for $24.5 million. The 13,000-square foot house sits on 9 acres.
Whitefish doing just fine
WHITEFISH, Mont. – Once known as Big Mountain, the Whitefish Mountain Resort had another big year last winter. At 122,000 skier days, it’s no rival to a Whistler or Breckenridge. But financially, it was a hit, reports the chief executive, Dan Graves.
Graves told the Whitefish Pilot that the ski area made money for the third straight year and cut its $8 million debt in half.
How can this be? Hasn’t this been the Great Recession?
Graves, who became chief executive in 2007, said that Whitefish Mountain had become too reliant on real-estate sales. In fact, the resort hasn’t sold a unit since December 2007.
“Real estate was such a key component within the ski industry that I think people forgot their way,” he said. “At some point, you have to get back to your resort operations.”
But how does he make resort operations pay? It seems to be by keeping expenses down. He shuns the expense of a high-speed quad. At $5.5 million, that would take 137,000 skier visits to pay for. Instead, he’s going to buy a used fixed-grip lift.
Bigger, better emerges from ‘70s
VAIL, Colo. – In ski towns, as across America, buildings from the 1970s now seem dated. Such was the case in Vail, where a retail and housing complex called Crossroads Mall was razed two years ago.
In its place has come Solaris. It’s bigger, and at more than 100 feet, the tallest building in Vail. It’s also expensive. Two years ago, during the height of the real estate boom, the project set what appeared to be a benchmark for resort real estate prices at more than $3,000 per square foot, surpassing anything in Aspen, Park City or Jackson Hole by a considerable margin.
Solaris will be coming on line in coming months, revealing both old and new. The movie theater will simply replace what was there before, but the new complex will also have a bowling alley, a first for Vail. Adopting a now familiar theme in winter resorts, the new complex will also have an outdoor skating rink that will double, with modifications, for other purposes, particularly concerts. Parking will all be underground.
Steamboat scales down softball
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – City officials in Steamboat Springs were planning to extend their contract with Triple Crown Sports, which has put on softball and baseball tournaments since 1982. The new contract would make Steamboat a host until 2020, but at a reduced level. Instead, Triple Crown will be staging more events at such places as Park City, Utah, and Lake Tahoe, Calif.
The softball tournament was seen by many in Steamboat as a mixed blessing. While providing a stronger summer economy, the softball players were noisy and created crowded streets, sidewalks and restaurants.
To swing the deal, Steamboat will pay Triple Crown up to $80,000/year and promises to invest $75,000/year in maintenance and upgrade of the softball fields.