By Allen Best
Year of anniversaries
KETCHUM, Idaho – It’s a time for milestone anniversaries. Deer Valley, the resort in Park City, turns 30. So does Beaver Creek, the sibling to Vail. And off in a remote, forgotten valley of Idaho, the first deliberately created destination mountain resort in North America opened for business 75 years ago this winter.
Beaver Creek had a rocky beginning – literally. It was a severe drought winter. The ski area was opened – and then closed for at least several weeks.
The economy wasn’t so hot, either. An oil embargo caused skyrocketing oil prices that staggered the national economy. Then, oil prices cascaded, causing Denver’s oil-based economy to stagger. To the west of Vail, Exxon pulled the plug on its oil shale project near Rifle, throwing 2,000 people out of work.
Real estate sales at Beaver Creek stalled until 1987-88, when the new tax laws ushered in by the Reagan administration favored investment in second homes. Then, Beaver Creek took off – and it hasn’t stopped since.
Beaver Creek has been arguably the most robust resort in the West in the last 20 years as measured by growth in skier days, increase in terrain, and addition of bed base.
Many of the same things can be said about Deer Valley. And it continues to expand, with first the St. Regis last winter and now the Montage, both hotels glittering with stars.
When you look around the resort West, many of the new hotels at other resorts are a reaction to the coming-of-age of Beaver Creek and Deer Valley.
As for Ketchum, the story of Sun Valley sure is well known. Averill Harriman, chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, wanted to develop business on the passenger trains and sent out a scout to survey the West. Bald Mountain was usefully devoid of many trees, and at its base was an old mining camp that had become a headquarters for sheep grazing: Ketchum. And, most of all, it had a railroad – the UP, of course.
Almost immediately, Ketchum and Sun Valley became Aspen, Park City and Whistler all rolled into one. The actor Gary Cooper, the novelist Ernest Hemingway, and the ice skater Sonja Henie became regulars.
Many films were made there. Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall filmed “How to Marry a Millionaire” at Sun Valley, James Stewart was there for “The Mortal Storm.”
But the trains that made such filming possible were overtaken by planes and other equally scenic but more accessible locations. After World War II, Aspen became the middle of North America’s ski resort pond. Arguably, it still is.
Revelstoke growth tied to its resort
REVELSTOKE, B.C. – How much will Revelstoke grow in coming years? For planning transportation and other infrastructure needs, it matters a lot. But projections vary a great deal.
BC Stats, the provincial agency that conducts analysis, says to expect an almost imperceptible increase of 118 people during the next 16 years. Current population is just below 8,000. How about 11,000, wonders a local planning agency.
George Penfold, from Selkirk College, says it all depends upon the success of Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
Restaurateur forced to kill bear
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – The Sierra Sun tells of a restaurateur on the shores of Lake Tahoe who killed a 500-pound bear that charged him. The bear had broken into the restaurant repeatedly during the previous week, and the proprietors had sought help. One idea was to install electric bear wires around the windows and doors.
But then one morning just before Thanksgiving, the restaurant co-owner encountered the bear sleeping on the floor of the dining room. When he tried to chase the bear out, the bear charged him. Because of the break-ins, he had a loaded shotgun, which he used, killing the bear.
“The business owner was defending himself,” said Jason Holley, wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game. Holley told the Sierra Sun that no evidence was found that the restaurant had stored trash improperly.
Fisherman gives thanks
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – The movie “127 Hours,” about the predicament of Aspen resident Aron Ralston that caused him to cut off his arm while in the canyon country of Utah, has been playing at movie theaters across the country.
Another harrowing story of near-death was played out on a recent evening in Steamboat Springs. In early August, a geologist from Denver had gone fishing on the Snake River, located about an hour north of Steamboat. While walking through the river, he had broken his tibia, or shin bone.
At a reunion and thank-you dinner with his rescuers that was attended by The Steamboat Pilot, the geologist, Craig Horlacher, recounted how he chose to remain on rocks in the middle of the river: so he could better be seen. In trying to use the leg, he ran the risk of further injury and an acute medical issue.
So he settled into his surroundings, soothed by the sound of the running water. “My rational mind told the rest of them that this is the best hand I can play,” Horlacher said. “And it was a beautiful place.”
Although he was able to capture two rainbow trout, he started becoming hypothermic by the second day after slipping into the water. Even though it was high summer, he started shivering that night
He would have died, and at least one searcher told Horlacher that he thought he was looking for a dead body. “You changed my outlook on searches,” said Scott Scherer, a member of the Routt County Search and Rescue.
Although delirious when discovered, and just hours away from death when searchers found him after his fifth night out, Horlacher recovered after 33 days of hospitalization and then further treatment. His tibia has now been fused with nine screws and a metal rod.
Judge to determine Tamarack’s fate
DONNELEY, Idaho – Tamarack, the beleaguered resort 90 miles north of Boise, may reopen for limited skiing this winter, but the status of its bankruptcy remains in doubt.
The Idaho Statesman reports that lawyers representing Credit Suisse, the Swiss bank that is the primary creditor for the $300 million loaned to the resort, argued for moving Tamarack from Chapter 11 reorganization into Chapter 7 liquidation. That way assets within the resort could be broken up and sold, ensuring the bank gets at least some of its money back.
The bank wants developer Jean-Pierre Boespflug and his partner, Alfredo Miguel Afif, removed from resort management.
Boespflug, in court filings, responded that liquidation demanded by Credit Suisse would be “counterintuitive and perhaps senseless.” He argues that the resort has greater value as a whole.
After several abortive efforts over two decades, Tamarack was opened in 2004 and the next year hosted President George W. Bush on a mountain-biking trip. Tennis professionals Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi announced plans to develop a luxury property, later cancelled. The resort sold 531 properties for $359 million after its opening.
Majority owners of the resort filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2008.