By Allen Best
Solar on-line in Breck
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Such a deal: Breckenridge now has photovoltaic panels at seven locations with a collective capacity of 468 kilowatt hours, or enough to offset 10 percent of electrical consumption by the municipal government.
Best of all, Breckenridge paid nothing upfront and will get electricity at rates significantly discounted from current costs, saving $900,000 during the next 20 years.
Breckenridge arranged the deal with a company called RSB Funds, taking advantage of now reduced rebates offered by electrical provider Xcel Energy and third-party financing.
“This plan includes an innovative financing arrangement, environmental and other benefits, as well as novel structure designs for solar in our high alpine environment,” said Mayor John Warner. “I am immensely proud of my community in pioneering this project.”
The Summit Daily News reports that Breckenridge is likely to invest more heavily in solar. Both projects would involve solar gardens, an idea gaining momentum in Colorado and many other states. In one case, Breckenridge will buy into a 500-kilowatt solar garden planned for a three-acre parcel near the Summit County Landfill.
The municipality has also committed to be the anchor tenant in a community solar garden within Breckenridge. Community members could buy into the garden, instead of going to the trouble of installing photovoltaic panels on their own roofs. The idea is seen as ideal for condominium dwellers.
Whistler hears schooling pitch
WHISTLER, B.C. – A consultant is telling Whistler that the resort is sitting on a “little gold mine” of opportunities connected to education.
Rob Skinkle, chief executive of Academica Group, recently told town officials they should consider establishing an Institute for Experiential Learning. He said students will pay $15,000 a year to support themselves while at school, not including tuition and books, while getting on-the-ground training from chefs, hoteliers and others at one of the biggest and most successful ski resorts in North America.
The consultant recommends a partnership with an existing educational business, such as Capilano University, based in North Vancouver. “We’re being inspired by the Aspen model, by the Banff model,” explained the university’s Chris Bottrill.
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed said the municipality is not interested in becoming a university itself, but is welcome to others, both in the private and public sectors, pursuing such a possibility.
Gutter talk in Park City election
PARK CITY, Utah – Main Street in Park City is steep year round and, it can only be hoped, snowy during winter. Should the sidewalks, curbs and gutters also be heated?
That question was put to candidates for city council, and The Park Record says they tended to express reservations, more about sidewalks than heated gutters. Their concerns: both costs and environmental impacts. Presumably, the heat will come from burning fossil fuels, and Park City is among those that have resolved to cut its role in greenhouse gas emissions.
Snowmass gets Westin brand
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. – At last, Snowmass has a hotel brand with broad name recognition. The former Silvertree Hotel will be renamed the Westin Snowmass Resort.
David Wasserman told The Aspen Times he expects the new brand to drive improved convention business at Snowmass Village and draw more tourists. He is principal of the ownership group that bought the Silvertree, the Wildwood Lodge and the Snowmass Conference Center for $42 million.
Under the Westin flag, the hotel is expected to have a ranking of 3.5 stars.
Ski company for tax increases?
ASPEN, Colo. – The Aspen Skiing Co. continues to become more engaged in community issues. The company, which operates four ski areas in the Aspen area, has now gone on record endorsing two tax increases, one for schools and the second for health and social services.
“From a company standpoint, it’s about helping create a healthy community for our employees and our guests and everyone else in this valley,” chief executive Mike Kaplan told the Aspen Daily News. “It all ties together. A healthy school system is at the center of that.”
Other community leaders are also standing up for the two tax increases, including hotelier Warren Klug, chair of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, County Commissioner Rachael Richards, and Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland.
“We are one of the wealthiest communities in the world, and I think we have a responsibility to help our neighbors,” Ireland said.
The social services initiative seeks to boost funding for senior and youth programs, support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, care for the terminally ill and their families, and drug and alcohol-abuse prevention and treatment.
Changing climate in Jackson
JACKSON, Wyo. – Radiocarbon testing of charcoal at an archaeological site near Jackson has provided new understanding of human habitation since the glaciers retreated about 12,000 years ago.
The dating shows human habitation 10,100 years ago, roughly the same as that found in mountain valleys of Colorado. Scientists have been able to confirm human presence in the Americas only at about 14,000 years ago, although some think people had arrived thousands of years earlier, even before the last ice age.
The archaeological site also yielded evidence of year-round habitation 5,000 to 7,000 years ago. Summers were warmer and wetter then, producing more forage for wild animals. Winters were colder, but less snowy. That meant the animals could browse more easily. The result, a highway archaeologist told the Jackson Hole News, was more food sources for people – and probably more people.
No slowing high end
BROOMFIELD, Colo. – Vail Resorts ended its fiscal year in relatively good shape. Chief executive Rob Katz told analysts that despite a “choppy economic environment,” the upper part of the market continues to have “more confidence.”
International business has been strong, and there are “good trends” in international bookings already for next winter, said Katz, according to a Vail Daily report.
Business from the United Kingdom has declined dramatically, he said, but has been more than offset by growth from Canada, Mexico and Brazil. Vail Resorts operates four major ski areas in Colorado, two in California, plus a lodge in Wyoming.
“Barring a real decline in economic confidence, we should see continued (growth),” he said.