Mountain Town News
By Allen Best
Vail hopes for buyers
VAIL, Colo. – Several hundred high-end housing projects in Vail will soon enter the market. These aren’t your grandpa’s condos. In fact, one of the projects, called Solaris, was getting $3,000 per square foot in pre-construction sales before the real estate bubble started hissing air.
Another project, called the Ritz-Carlton Residences, wants $2.2 million to $9.1 million each for its spacious, base-area units.
One real estate salesman said it was a matter of upgrading the real estate to match the on-mountain experience.
“Vail got to the point where people were saying the accommodations weren’t keeping up with the experience on the ski hill,” said Tye Stockton, of Ascent Sotheby’s International Realty, the listing broker for the Ritz residences. “Now the accommodations are on par with our skiing.”
Ah, but will the developers get anywhere near that kind of money?
Informed speculation in Vail has it that this flood of inventory will take several years to sell and may need new configurations.
Dust causes loss of snow
SILVERTON, Colo. – Forget about global warming … beware of dust! One June day in the late 1990s, budding scientist Tom Painter hiked up a 14,000-foot peak near Aspen with his father. Pausing along the way, they observed a spot of darkness on the snow.
Returning late that afternoon, they observed the dark spot had melted out while white snow had melted very little. His curiosity piqued about what this could mean on a broader scale, he teamed up with Silverton’s Chris Landry in 2002 to begin study in a remote and pristine basin between Silverton and Telluride.
Specifically, Painter has studied how dust dropped onto snow during spring windstorms can accelerate melting. Snow, he found, melted up to a month earlier as a result of the dust blown in from deserts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.
Study of sediments from an above-timberline lake in the area by scientist Jason Neff further revealed that levels of dust deposition during the last thousand years had been more or less steady until about mid-way through the mid-19th century – or about the time that large-scale livestock grazing began in the desert country. Then, the dust levels spiked sixfold. Later, after the federal government reduced livestock grazing on federal lands in the 1930s, the amount of deposition receded to one-fifth what it had been prior to American settlement.
Now, extrapolating results more broadly across the upper Colorado River Basin, a region that includes Colorado, Utah and Wyoming with a bit of New Mexico, Painter and other scientists have concluded that this accelerated melting may be causing the loss of 5 percent of the Colorado River’s water by the time it reaches the Grand Canyon.
Bones of mammoth found
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. – A bulldozer operator scraping out a reservoir near Snowmass Village had been instructed to stop immediately if he came across anything unusual.
He did as he was told. The bones first looked to be those of a cow. “But then we found a jawbone that was enormous, to say the least,” said Kent Olson, the construction superintendent. “It was something we had never seen before. That’s when the excitement began.”
Scientists confirmed the bones were that of a woolly mammoth, estimated to be 10,000 years old. Mammoth bones have been rare but scattered, although few have been found so high: 8,000 feet.
Mammoths were common as the last ice age ended. Although adapted to survive cold climates, they did not survive. Some scientists believe that killing by humans caused the mammoths to go extinct.
Developer accused of murder plot
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – A real estate developer in Steamboat Springs, Brooks Kellogg, was arrested at Denver International Airport last week after giving $2,000 to an undercover FBI agent posing as a hit man.
The Steamboat Pilot reports that Kellogg, 73, a managing member of Chadwick Real Estate Group in Steamboat and owner of a business building in Steamboat, said the intended victim was a Floridian who had recently settled for $2.5 million in a lawsuit against businesses owned by Kellogg and a partner.
Kellogg is a member of the local Rotary Club and owns “office buildings and shopping centers in Chicago and Steamboat Springs,” according to the company’s website.
Citing court documents and the FBI, The Pilot tells a seamy story: A woman received $13,000 in wire transfers from Kellogg beginning in July. But unbeknownst to him, the FBI was listening in on one of their phone calls. He then met the undercover FBI agent at Denver International Airport and gave him $2,000 in expense money for the murder.
PARK CITY, Utah – Ski areas this year don’t have many new lifts or terrain to talk about. But just the same, they continue to tinker.
The Aspen Skiing Co., for example, will keep limited terrain open until sunset on Fridays beginning on March 18. The company has four ski areas in and around Aspen.
The Sun Valley Co. will offer free same-day skiing for people who arrive on flights from Seattle, an offer expected to be extended to other fly-in customers.
An exception to the small-margin changes is in Utah, where the Park City resort now called Canyons has a new lift, a new reservoir under construction that will allow snowmaking to be doubled, and finally 300 new acres.
That increment allows Canyons to brag that it’s the third biggest ski area in the United States, as measured by terrain, behind only Colorado’s Vail Mountain and, on the California-Nevada border, Heavenly.
Foreclosure begins on two hotels
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE, Colo. – Foreclosure proceedings have begun against the developer of Telluride’s new five-start hotels. The hotels, which are actually in the slopeside town of Mountain Village, are the Capella Telluride and the Inn at Lost Creek. “There aren’t enough stars in the constellation to describe the Capella,” said Telluride Watch publisher Seth Cagin when the hotel opened two years ago.
The hotels will continue operation this winter, and officials tell The Watch that reservations point to a strong season.
But the developer, Robert Levine, of RAL Mountain Village Lodging, says that condominium sales have been insufficient to cover the construction debt.
In a letter to town officials, he explains that the troubles began with the bankruptcy of his firm’s lending partner, Lehman Brothers, and were compounded by the weakened market in tourism and leisure travel
The dispute between the lender and the developer, he added, “doesn’t have any affect on the hotel operations.”