By Allen Best
Decline as great as silver bust
KETCHUM, Idaho – Taking stock of the arched disagreement about air access to the Sun Valley and Ketchum area, the Idaho Mountain Express draws a stark comparison.
“The prospect of not having an adequate airport is the greatest threat to the area’s economic viability since silver markets went bust… and put local mining operations out of business,” says the newspaper in an editorial.
That silver bust occurred in the 1890s. Although mining continued for gold, lead and other minerals, for places like Aspen, whose mines produced almost exclusively silver, the bust was the start of a long, quiet period that lasted until the recreation economy picked up after World War II.
Ketchum was the seminal inspiration for most other resort towns of the West. Its initial access was by railroad. However, rails long ago were ripped up and the airport that serves the resort area falls far short in its ability to accommodate the sort of planes than serve Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat, not to mention Park City, just 45 minutes from a major international airport.
The existing airport, located at Hailey, down-valley from Ketchum, needs to expand if is to accommodate larger planes. The alternative was to build an entirely new airport, outside the mountains, which was the plan until the Federal Aviation Administration suspended environmental review, citing both ballooning costs and impacts to sage grouse.
The Express discerns three groups, each with simple answers – including the idea of expanding bus or van transportation to more distant airports at Twin Falls or Boise. But none, it says, are necessarily coming to grips with the grim situation. “No solutions will be perfect, but not finding a solution simply is not an option.”
Connecting Solitude, Canyon
PARK CITY, Utah – Momentum seems to be building for a lift or gondola connection across the crest of Utah’s Wasatch Range, linking two ski areas, Solitude and Canyons.
At a recent forum, Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, declared that 90 percent of people support the interconnect, maybe even 99 percent. The potential, says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Area Association, is huge. “What we’re seeing at Canyons now is a game-changer.”
Another tantalizing prospect is the interconnection of Park City Mountain Resort and the Alta and Snowbird ski areas, also located close in proximity. “Six miles as the crow flies, Alta and Snowbird are winning accolades for terrain. What if you could connect them? You’d create a pretty compelling product,” said Rafferty.
Canmore gets branding advice
CANMORE, Alberta – How is Canmore different from 500 other communities in western Canada that proclaim themselves to be fine places to live, work and play.
That is the essential challenge for Canmore, according to a consultant hired to guide the community into creation of an overarching “brand.”
“A brand is a perception. It is what people think of you, not what you say you are,” said Roger Brooks, from Destination Development Inc., at a recent meeting. He further clarified that community branding succeeds when it appeals to people’s emotions. This is distinct from selling a product. And a brand, he further explained, is not the same as a logo or a slogan.
Canmore, he suggested, could posture itself as “Canada’s mountain sports capital,” but said that was for Canmore to decide.
According to the Rocky Mountain Outlook, Brooks made many other points:
• An outstanding destination considers its own community first, and the visitors will follow.
• Other than its people, the heart and soul of a community is its downtown core. It must be a place where locals want to hang out – and then so will visitors, who typically spend 80 percent of their non-lodging expenditures for shopping, dining and entertainment in pedestrian-friendly downtown areas.
• Visitors look to spend 70 percent of their travel dollars after 6 p.m. – which hurts Canmore, because so many shops close after 6 p.m.
• Downtown areas benefit from entertainment, such as buskers, and outdoor markets.
• Signs are crucial for a positive experience for visitors, and creating signs is “as much a science as it is an art.”
• Baby boomers represent 33 percent of all North Americans but 80 percent of all travel spending. Boomers, says Brooks, value most of all culinary and educational experiences, followed by a vibrant arts scene and cultural events – and gardening, the fastest-growing hobby in North America right now.
Fewer jobs available in Jackson
JACKSON, Wyo. – Just 166 jobs are up for grabs at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, compared to 200 last year. Human-resource personnel at the ski area tell the Jackson Hole News&Guide that the economy, combined with the wonderful snow, has a lot of employees returning for another year. The resort has 1,300 peak-season employees, down from 1,500 at the start of the recession. Seasonal jobs pay between $8.40 and $9.94 an hour, the latter for shuttle drivers.
Private ski area goes belly up
SPANISH PEAKS, Mont. – Four days after issuing a letter to members that Club operations have been suspended and all staff had been released, the owners of Spanish Peaks Club filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Oct. 14 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. This according to the Lone Peak Lookout.
Unlike Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which involves the restructuring of debt, Chapter 7 involves the complete liquidation of a debtor’s property to pay creditors and wipe out remaining debts, giving the debtor what’s known as a “fresh start.”
According to the Club’s bankruptcy petition, its liabilities exceed $100 million while assets were less than $50 million.
In the days and months leading up to the closure, summer golf course employees said they were unaware of the upcoming bankruptcy. Many were planning on returning for the winter season to work at the ski area which included three lifts that accessed Big Sky’s Southern Comfort lift to ski Big Sky Resort.
Spanish Peaks is described as a 5,700-acre “private enclave in a very privileged neighborhood.” It includes a clubhouse, cabins, homes, home sites and a golf course with access to Big Sky Resort.