Mountain Town News
By Allen Best
Fined for lack of bear spray
BANFF, Alberta – A person caught hiking without bear spray on a trail around Lake Minnewanka, located in Banff National Park, has been fined.
The hiker, a student from Korea, was also found guilty of hiking without being in the company of at least three other hikers. That requirement has existed previously, but the mandate to have bear spray is new this year. The fine was $400.
The requirements were instituted because of a history of encounters with grizzly bears. Mountain bikers have been banned entirely from the trail during summer because they can more easily surprise grizzlies than hikers.
More boxing in Colorado
SILVERTHORNE, Colo. – Another big-box store, the hardware and lumber merchandiser called Lowe’s, is set to open a 94,000-square-foot store next year in Silverthorne.
Summit County already has a big Wal-Mart plus a Target, and a study predicts this new big box franchise will impact 100 businesses directly or indirectly, with losses of up to 12 percent, reports the Summit Daily News.
The newspaper quoted Stacy Mitchell, author of “Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses.” She said there’s no tried-and-true approach for a small business trying to compete with the franchise giants.
Customer service helps, but businesses should also emphasize to customers the effect of where they spend their dollars, said Mitchell. Money spent at big stores, she says, leaves the community.
Ski towns gear up for bike race
MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – It’s anybody’s guess just how many people the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will draw to ski towns of Colorado. The itinerary starts in Colorado Springs, ends in Denver, but will tag Salida, Crested Butte, Aspen, Vail, Avon and Steamboat Springs along the way while passing through a passel of others.
Staging this tour is quite expensive. Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte together pitched in $40,000 in cash, plus staffing time, while the ski area operator, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, threw in hotel rooms and food.
In Aspen, as of mid-July, bookings for rooms during the two days most directly impacted by the event stood at about 42 percent. That’s up considerably from last year. However, a “very significant chunk” of the increase is due to the free and reduced price rooms hoteliers are giving race personnel, said Bill Tomcich, who directs Stay Aspen Snowmass, the central reservations agency.
Bookings may be aidfed, however, by confirmation that top Tour de France finishers (including winner Cadel Evans) will race in Colorado.
Spec mansions under construction
VAIL, Colo. – If times are hard for builders altogether, that’s doubly the case for builders of spec homes. But a few companies continue to build, bereft of certainty in buyers.
One such company is Triumph Development, which has nearly finished two homes near the ski slopes of Vail. The homes are priced at $10 million and $15 million.
Financing such castles is difficult, of course, and James Fangmeyer, the co-founder of Triumph, says many lenders recoil when they hear “spec” in a proposal.
“But we made a calculated decision to proceed,” he told the Vail Daily.
Obama kicks off her shoes
ASPEN, Colo. – Michelle Obama recently kicked off her shoes to hobnob with well-heeled supporters in Aspen.
The 150 people who attended ponied up anywhere from $1,000 to merely eat lunch and listen to her 28-minute speech, to $10,000 for those with greater privileges, such as getting their photographs taken together.
Audience members, who were mostly female, were “captivated” by Obama’s speech, The Aspen Times reported, although at least some couldn’t help but note she didn’t say anything about the debt crisis. Afterward, she kicked off her shoes and walked in the grass while mingling with supporters.
Earlier in the day, she had raised $420,000 for her husband’s re-election effort during a stop near Park City. The fundraiser was held at the home of an investor with Barclays Wealth. Donors delivered up to $35,800 each, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Colorado getting thicker
BASALT, Colo. – Again in this year’s report about obesity, Colorado was slimmest of them all. Fewer than 20 percent of Coloradans are considered obese. Worst in the United States was Mississippi, with 34 percent.
Physician Glenn Kotz told the Aspen Daily News that adolescents in particular are rapidly becoming more obese. He also noted the high proportion of obesity among Latino children he sees. He attributes this to ethnic staples of rice, beans and tortillas. Switching to more vegetables and fruits presents not only a cultural hurdle, he said, but a financial one, because of their higher cost.
Ketchum may ease housing reqs.
KETCHUM, Idaho – Ketchum has approved four hotels, but none of them are getting built. Should it back off some of its requirements for affordable housing?
That idea is being kicked around at city hall, but no consensus exists. A local resident, Mickey Garcia, told city council members that the city shouldn’t spend time tailoring policy to fluctuating economic conditions. The national economy plays a much bigger role than local policy, he said.
Still, a report in the Idaho Mountain Express indicated that the topic may come up again once a needs assessment for housing is completed this fall.
Blame the bank!
BOISE, Idaho – The finger is now being pointed at financier Credit Suisse in the case of two new and floundering ski resorts of the West.
The Associated Press says that Alfredo Miguel, a partner in Idaho’s Tamarack Resort, and Tim Blixseth of Montana’s Yellowstone Club want to join a lawsuit filed last year against the Zurich-based bank. The suit accuses Credit Suisse of using a predatory lending scheme to defraud them.
The original lawsuit claims Credit Suisse set up an offshore branch to skirt U.S. rules, appraise resorts at inflated prices, provide loans the properties could not repay, and ultimately take control of the resorts through foreclosure.
Poppycock! responds Credit Suisse. “For Mr. Blixseth, in particular, this is simply the latest attempt to shift blame to others and away from his own conduct,” said a spokesman.
Bank of America wants to remove and sell the ski lifts at Tamarack, an action which homeowners are trying to block. After the bankruptcy filing, ski area operations were suspended, but limited operations resumed last winter.
New care facility for Sun Valley?
HAILEY, Idaho – The Crow Canyon Foundation wants to build a $30.8 million, 75,000-square-foot facility to replace an existing skilled nursing facility in Hailey.
That existing facility is financially unsustainable and is being funded through a property tax. The new facility will include independent and assisted-care living quarters. Revenues will be used to help subsidize those needing more skilled nursing.
There would appear to be plenty of future business for such facilities. As the Idaho Mountain Express noted, the base lodges at Sun Valley have snidely been called “God’s Waiting Rooms,” a reflection of the baby boomer-and-older clientele at Sun Valley.
More evidence yet comes from a recent forum featuring Dr. Henry Lodge, author of a book called “Younger Next Year.” The lecture drew 500 people, most of them over 70. And all had the look of people active in outdoor recreation, the newspaper noted with pride – using the opportunity to jab at local calls for recruitment of a younger clientele.