By Allen Best
Skier days approach record
ASPEN, Colo. – In Aspen as in Whistler, destination business seemed to be flat this winter. But as a whole, ski areas did marginally well – thanks both to good snow and proliferating discounted season passes.
The Denver-based National Ski Areas Association reported 60.1 million skier visits for the season, just slightly below the pre-recession record of 60.5 million.
Michael Berry, president of NSAA, attributed the strong numbers to widespread good snow conditions. But the snowfall was too much of a good thing in California, where it limited weekend travel.
“La Niña gave, and La Niña took,” he quipped in an interview with The Aspen Times.
Skier numbers generally have sagged well below population growth in the United States for the last 30 years. For whatever reason, skiing just hasn’t caught the imagination of younger and often more ethnically diverse populations as it did with the baby boomers.
Berry told the Times that skier numbers are bolstered by boomers, who have stuck to the slopes at ages when previous generations have departed.
The Aspen Skiing Co. this summer plans to invest $26 million in a new quad lift and restaurants at its four ski areas, which includes Snowmass.
And where would you think the top markets are for Aspen? New York, of course, but Denver and Colorado’s Front Range comes in second, followed by Chicago and Los Angeles, revealed Dave Perry, senior vice president for the company. Then it’s Australia, Miami, and Brazil.
In Whistler, skier visits are expected to top two million visitor days. Resort officials attribute the strong numbers to a strong pre-season campaign aimed at regional and local skiers. Numbers in that category were up 28 percent.
He said that Whistler Blackcomb set a record for the number of season passes and frequency passes sold prior to the first of the year. This is in line with NSAA statistics, which show that 36.2 percent of total skier visits this season came from season passes, up from 34.3 percent in 2009-2010.
But destination visitor numbers at Whistler Blackcomb from international markets have not returned to their pre-recession levels, said Dave Brownlie, president and chief operating officer.
Highs and lows
JACKSON, Wyo. – Teton County, which is largely the same as Jackson Hole, lives in rarified company. It is just one of three places in the U.S. with a per-capita income of more than $100,000. Tops is a county in Texas of just 45 residents that sits over an incredible amount of hydrocarbons, reports Jonathan Schechter, while the third is Manhattan. Even Aspen and Pitkin County are down the list a ways.
However, Teton County ranks above all others in the country in income per capita from investments, and in no other county do residents get a lower percentage of their income from pensions.
What does this say? In part, says Schechter, a long-time analyst of business and demographics for the Jackson Hole News&Guide, this means that the prices are set at the margins, which is to say the wealthy.
The gap between “wealthy versus working stiff” will likely widen in coming years, Schechter predicts. Builders and craftsmen enjoyed a middle-class lifestyle, but no more, no more.
Carving up Colorado
FRASER, Colo. – The Byers Peak Ranch has one of the most iconic views in the West. As seen from Fraser, the 12,804-foot peak has a classic profile, and in the foreground is the meadow, velvety green in summer, the scene altogether constituting what one writer described as “quintessential Colorado.”
Might another scene that has become quintessential Colorado soon appear? The Sky-Hi Daily News reports that developers propose 1,436 housing units and 350 short-term rental units on the 295-acre parcel, which they seek to annex into Fraser. And if Fraser refuses? A Grand County planner tells the newspaper that the land only has entitlement to 8 units under Colorado law.
The newspaper reports considerable statements of opposition at this still-early stage of review.
App for historic structures
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Everywhere, people are developing apps for Internet-connected cell phones. And that’s the plan in Crested Butte, where officials are persuaded that visitors will find it valuable to wander around the older part of the town and, when curious, link to a website that will provide information about old buildings of interest. Development of the app is expected to cost $2,000, reports the Crested Butte News.
A-Basin to pare days
DILLON, Colo. – As of mid-May, snow continued to fall prodigiously on mountain tops in Colorado. Still, Arapahoe Basin plans to stay the course, ending normal operations on June 7, but taking up three-day weekends as long as the snow and customers last.
“Having our greatest season in years, ideally we would like to stay open on weekends until the Fourth of July, but it’s too early to know what the conditions will be to make that call,” Alan Henceroth, chief operating officer of the resort, told the Summit Daily News.
Autopsies in Whistler
WHISTLER, B.C. – Three veterinarians have been examining the remains of 52 dogs that were killed after the 2010 Winter Olympics. Their mission: to determine whether the killings were humane.
A dog-sled operator ordered the dogs killed because of slack demand for sled rides. This thinning of the ranks appears common in such operations. But the co-owner and manager of the operation later claimed that he had killed the dogs in horrible ways, slitting the throats of some, clubbing others to death, and in general inciting terror. That does not seem to be common.
Pique Newsmagazine says the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports it “may have found evidence” of inhumane killing.
Parks Canada assess Banff limit
BANFF, Alberta – Parks Canada insists it will thwart any attempt to circumvent a cap on commercial development in Banff. Legislation adopted in 1998 asserted that 3.89 million square feet of commercial space then approved would be allowed, plus an extra 350,000. An element of uncertainty exists about whether the 1998 survey of commercial space was wrong, and hence a little more space might be added, according to the Rocky Mountain Outlook.