By Allen Best
Locavores need slaughterhouses
JACKSON, Wyo. – Wendell Berry, a writer from Kentucky, was in Jackson Hole recently to give a lecture. He’s first and foremost a writer, and also a teacher. He is broadly known as an essayist because of his deep connections to his native landscape as a part-time farmer.
In advance of his visit to Wyoming, Berry told the Jackson Hole News & Guide that the proliferation of farmers’ markets and community-supported farms encourage him.
“I am very much interested in and excited by the awakening among consumers toward fresh, local, healthy food,” he said. “We have been slow to make a connection between health and food, food and farming … ”
But there are challenges, he added. Local food efforts need small-scale local slaughtering and meat-processing facilities, so that people can have locally grown fresh meat as easily as they get locally grown fresh vegetables and fruits.
“It would mean livestock would be better treated,” he added. “They wouldn’t have to be hauled all over the country or mashed into feedlots. They would be healthy. It would just be better for everyone except the food corporations.”
Ski area or Disneyland?
WHISTLER, B.C. – Critics have often accused ski areas and towns of both artificiality and mass culture, hurling “Disneyland” as a pejorative. Expensive real estate has also provoked resentment, as has the profusion of pampering and privilege. “Skiing has lost its soul,” detractors said.
In Whistler, this debate has centered on the new Peak-to-Peak gondola, called P2P, between the tops of the Whistler and Blackcomb ski areas. The gondola provides sheer thrills, as at times the cars are several thousand feet above terra firma, but has less utility for skiing.
To many, the gondola crosses the line, causing Whistler to further detach itself from the grunt and sweat at the core of recreational skiing.
Nonsense, says a letter-writer in Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine. Eric Callendar accuses detractors of wrong-headed elitism. In fact, he says, the gondola has been a hit with visitors – and it’s good. Some 67 percent of summer visitors said the gondola contributed to their decisions to visit Whistler.
If only those visitors with great skiing skills and proof of magazine subscriptions were allowed, he added, Whistler would be focusing on 5 percent of the market. And it would be on its way to becoming a ghost town.
La Niña: blessing or snow job?
VAIL, Colo. – Who will get the snow this year? It being a La Niña cycle in the Pacific Ocean favors the more northerly resorts. In Sun Valley, they’re already girding for a long, hard winter.
On the flip side, this isn’t something Telluride should cheer. And normally, Vail will lose during a La Niña winter, although the 2007-2008 La Niña winter was one of the most blessed powdery ones in memory.
While duly noting that exception, climate forecaster Klaus Wolter of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration doesn’t expect much for the ski resorts of Colorado’s I-70 corridor. He tells the Vail Daily that although he’s a skier, he didn’t buy a season pass this winter.
IPO reveals Whistler profitability
WHISTLER, B.C. – Intrawest’s flagship property of Whistler Blackcomb is now very publicly for sale. A preliminary prospectus has been filed with the Toronto Stock Exchange that would open the door to investors to buy a large portion of Intrawest’s existing 77% stake.
The resort had long been thought to be highly profitable, and the prospectus reveals hard numbers: profits of $52 million, $60 million and $53 million in the last three years. Lift operations provided about half of revenue, with 85 to 91 percent of that revenue coming during winter months.
Intrawest sold itself to Fortress Investments in 2006 in a highly leveraged deal that assumed continued robust development of real estate.
Ski areas court tourism, skiers
VAIL, Colo./CANMORE, Alberta – Vail Resorts this year has put more energy into courting destination skiers, including those from other countries.
Adam Sutter, marketing director for Vail Mountain, said the resort should have more than 70 percent destination skiers. He tells the Vail Daily that the company sees the potential for strong growth among visitors from Canada, Mexico and Australia.
While Vail always has had many wealthy Mexican skiers, it lately has adopted a Spanish-language camp for children. That program aims to keep Mexicans in Vail next spring for an extra week, in conjunction with the Easter holiday.
“We have to do everything we can not to take that business for granted,” Sutner said. “We have a unique footprint in Mexico, and we ought to do everything we can to nurture it.”
… And with municipal elections just around the corner, council candidates in Canmore were being asked about efforts to bolster the tourism economy.
Incumbent Mayor Ron Casey suggested that marketing dollars could be raised through a levy on commercial property. “It is extremely difficult to take taxpayers’ dollars and turn them over to a third party agency unless in fact there are clear deliverables and accountability,” he said.
Another candidate said Canmore can promote tourism by ensuring it remains an authentic town and community. He said the pride of locals in their homes and their lifestyles will be reflected in the delivery of services to visitors on a one-on-one basis.
Resorting to more taxes?
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Voters in least three ski towns — Aspen, Breckenridge and Jackson — will either approve or reject proposals for new or increased lodging taxes. In several cases, the added revenues would supplement sagging town budgets while also boosting efforts to market the communities as tourism destinations.
In Breckenridge, the proposed 1% tax increase seems to have broad support from the lodging and restaurant communities, reports the Summit Daily News. The tax would boost the existing $1.68 million fund to $2.2 million.
In Wyoming, Jackson voters are being asked to adopt a tax that would yield $1.5 million for the diminishing town treasury and $2 million for marketing.
Examining arguments by both opponents and proponents, business analyst Jonathan Schechter finds both sides presenting bogus arguments.
Those supporting the tax have cited the loss of 2,000 jobs – implying that the lodging tax will restore them. However, that argument assumes all jobs are equal. Not true, he points out, as the average tourism job pays 40 percent less than the average construction job.
Opponents miss the same point. They say that tourism will increase traffic congestion and otherwise sully the quality of life, Schechter points out. But the tourism economy has stagnated over the last 15 years, while congestion and other problems have worsened.
“My conclusion? For the past 20 years, Teton County’s growth industry has been growth itself, particularly growth in our well-to-do population. This ‘industry’ has treated us very, very well, but it’s also an industry we know very little about,” Schechter says.
“Now’s a good time to ask whether we want to continue hanging our economic hat on growth or instead look to something different. And if we decide the latter, we need to figure out what that something is. If it’s tourism, the lodging tax’s $2 million a year might provide a catalyst toward that new future. Or it might not.”