By Allen Best
Where’s the stash?
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Everybody loves the backcountry. Question is, who gets first dibs? As has been occurring for years now, some skiers and snowboarders are buying snowmobiles to eliminate the sweat and get first tracks on choice backcountry slopes.
One local skier recently complained about planning to ski the Slate River, north of Crested Butte, and encountering seven snowmobiles while strapping skins onto her skis.
“I almost threw up from the smell. I turned around and left,” said Melanie Rees.
“My opinion: turns should be earned. If you don’t want to earn them, ride lifts. I don’t understand how anyone could consider themselves to be an environmentalist if they use snowmobiles,” she says.
Parking fees still unpopular
WHISTLER, B.C. – Go figure. We’re willing to fork over plenty of money for skiing, imported beer & wine and fine dining. But pay for parking? Forget it.
Whistler now charges $8 in winter and $12 in summer to park at one of its paved parking lots. The idea was to raise money for a variety of good purposes, but also to nudge commuters onto mass transit and to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But mass transit within Whistler isn’t particularly good, says Pique Newsmagazine, and the idea of paid parking has been as popular as pepperoni-fueled 3 a.m. heartburn.
Solar panels help treat waste
TELLURIDE, Colo. – Some 500 solar panels have been installed on top of the wastewater treatment plant that serves Telluride and Mountain Village.
Public works officials say the panels will produce 200 megawatts annually, or about 10 percent of the electric needs of the plant, which is one of the single largest users of electricity in the region. The project cost $600,000.
Who pays for rescues?
TELLURIDE, Colo. – Someone needs rescuing. Okay, but who pays the tab? In Telluride the sheriff’s department has been called out twice in recent weeks to rescue skiers from Bear Creek, the tantalizing but sometimes dangerous drainage adjacent to, but outside the ski area.
“I’m going to run a ski area called Bear Creek. It’s a new career, I think,” Bill Masters, long-time San Miguel County Sheriff, joked in a conversation with the Telluride Daily Planet
Masters argues that the ski patrollers should be dispatched to Bear Creek to rescue in-trouble skiers. According to current policy, the ski patrollers have to punch out, then joining the rescue squad under the sheriff’s supervision.
“It’s wrong that the ski patrolmen have to go off the clock and rescue people who are side-country skiing.”
Dave Riley, ski area chief executive, said he understands the sheriff’s frustration, “but if the ski area is going to take responsibility for what’s happening outside our permit area, then the permit areas needs to be expanded … For anyone to say we need to step up and take a bigger role, my answer is, let us. But we’re not going to do it halfway. It’s either part of the permit area, or it’s not.”
The heavy price of collisions
KREMMLING, Colo. – The death toll of wildlife-vehicle collisions was in the news in mountain towns both in Colorado and Wyoming last week.
In Colorado, the Sky-Hi News announced that billionaire hedge fund manager Paul T. Jones, who founded Tudor Investment in 1985, has donated $805,000 with the goal of reducing the potential for collisions along Highway 9, a few miles south of Kremmling. He owns a ranch there along the Blue River, halfway between Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs.
Mule deer forage daily among the sagebrush hillsides above the highway during winter, venturing down to water at night. In 1985, a couple from a nearby ranch was returning home in their small car when the driver of an oncoming pickup truck swerved to avoid a deer and ran into them head-on, killing both.
Some say the narrow road needs shoulders, and others say drivers need to slow down. The posted speed is 65. But another idea is to build underpasses, to allow deer and elk safe passage.
In Wyoming, long-time hunting and fishing columnist Paul Bruun reports the winter toll. “Snowbanks littered with dead mule deer continue to blacken my winter mood,” he writes in the Jackson Hole News&Guide.
He argues that Jackson Hole, while always extolling its love for wildlife, doesn’t practice what it preaches. Hurriedness is at the core of the problem — and perhaps misplaced priorities. He takes aim, among others, at “workers in a hurry, mobile phone-chatting and – texting Gen X’ers, scheduled haulers, tourists and Suburban-wielding ice hockey and soccer player transporters.”
When rallying against more developments on hillsides, every Jackson driver adopts a pro wildlife stand, he said.
No money to build
KETCHUM, Idaho – About a decade ago, Ketchum decided to get back into the tourism business, revamping regulations and authorizing more innovative financing techniques. After a prolonged debate, it approved four different hotel projects during the last three years.
Together, the four hotels would represent $2 billion in investment. At least some of the properties would bring to Ketchum and its ski area, Sun Valley, the kind of elegant, four-star lodging found at Aspen, Deer Valley, and Jackson Hole, or Vail, Beaver Creek and Whistler.
So far, the four projects are stalled. Banks aren’t lending money for hotels and private investors are tepid as well.
Jack Bariteau, developer of the Hotel Ketchum project called Hotel Ketchum. He estimates construction costs of $65 million for the four-story hotel he plans in the resort city’s downtown area.
Lisa Horowitz, director of community and economic development in Ketchum, takes the same position. “I think we’re going to see all of these projects,” she said. “It’s just a question of when.”
Because of incentives from the city government, she believes a project called the Bald Mountain Lodge may be first to break ground. The city gave developers $6.6 million in incentives to break ground by June 2012 and have the hotel built by 2014. After that, the incentives drop sharply.
Two other base-area projects have been approved for large acreages. The Warm Springs Ranch would cover 77 acres. Helios Development, the owner and developer, has scaled back plans, making them “less ambitious and more realistic,”
The largest project is a 138-acre base village proposed by the Sun Valley Co., the owner and operator of the ski area of the same name. Wally Huffman, who oversees planning and development, said he’d like to start putting in streets, water sewer and utilities this year, but even that is uncertain.
He said the 19-acre hotel core is contingent on financing from outside partners. The development, as well as the ski area, is owned by the Holding family of Utah and Idaho.