By Allen Best
Aspen seeks Xtension
ASPEN, Colo. – It’s a contractual given that somersaulting snowmobiles and other air-loving X Games tricksters will return in January to Aspen Buttermilk for the 11th year. Beyond that, it’s all – well, up in the air.
The Aspen Daily News reports that the ESPN is listening to proposals from other venues that wish to host the events after the contract with the Aspen Skiing Co. expires in January. “We have been in negotiations over a year at this point, and we don’t have a deal,” John Rigney, vice president for events with the ski company, told the newspaper.
“There is a palpable nervousness in the community,” he said.
By all accounts, the X Games have been a big hit in Aspen. The number of spectators last winter pushed to 114,000, easily besting the previous record of 84,000. There were, of course, long lines for restaurants stretching out into streets on a weekend that, prior to the arrival of X Games in 2002, was a trifle somnolent.
As well, Aspen leaders see the X Games as part of their strategy to reinvent themselves as a mountain resort, introducing themselves to a new generation of visitors and, perhaps, real estate buyers.
“It’s critical for the city,” said Aspen Mayor Mike Ireland. “This is how they become familiar with the sport.”
The city government is committed to chipping in $100,000 to host the X Games. The Daily News did not report the broader community package, but Rigney did say that ESPN asks for a “significant increase in support.”
Breckenridge celebrates 50
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Breckenridge ski area’s inaugural opening. As reported by the Summit Daily News, relatively little commotion was made of the date. Two of the people who rode the first lift on Dec. 16, 1961, got on the first lift on the same day in 2011, accompanied by an individual who had been born on that day in 1961.
The origin of the ski area has some interesting twists. The town of Breckenridge, one of Colorado’s first, was “receding into the wilderness,” in the words of Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen, during the 1950s. Mining had largely played out, and creation of interstate highways lay in the future.
Into this void stepped Bill Rounds, who had a lumber business based in Wichita, Kan. He formed a new company and asked the Forest Service to look into a permit. The Forest Service at that time was eagerly assisting the ski industry to meet booming public demand.
But not everybody wanted to see Breckenridge skiing – at least right away. Across Vail Pass, Pete Seibert was trying to bring Vail online, with an anticipated opening of late 1962. He didn’t want to see any other competition in the area until after Vail had been open at least a year.
Bob Berwyn at the Summit County Citizens Voice explains that the Forest Service told Seibert not to expect much sympathy. Berwyn notes that even then, the connection of real estate development with ski areas was an issue.
Finally, the Forest Service rejected Vail’s argument – and Breckenridge opened in 1961. Lift tickets were $4 per person, $2.50 for youngsters. The resort recorded 17,000 skier days that first season. Ironically, the ski area is now owned by Vail Resorts, the successor to the company that Seibert founded.
$105 lift ticket
AVON, Colo. – Going into Christmas, Vail and Beaver Creek had the highest sticker prices in the ski world.
Not that many people will pay it, but walk-up customers at the Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas will pay $105 this season. The Aspen Skiing Co. is charging $104 for a last-minute, single-day lift ticket. That’s the same benchmark the ski company established last February, during the President’s Weekend.
Deer Valley, a traditional leader in pricing, is at $96 – but that does not include Christmas week. The resort’s website didn’t specify the Christmas week rate as of last weekend.
Few people pay such prices, of course. All resorts offer package incentives for multi-day purchases, and the Vail Resorts season passes, in particular, offer huge discounts for pre-season purchases.
Revelstoke plots to extend runway
REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Revelstoke town officials are taking small steps to improve the local runway in hopes of landing charter air service and hence strengthening the local tourism economy.
The existing 3,000-foot long runway would be lengthened by about 200 feet. To accommodate commercial service would require 6,500 feet, says Mayor David Raven. “Although as much as that would be desirable, I just don’t see that at this time,” he told the Revelstoke Times Review.
Sitting at the bottom of a narrow mountain valley lined with alpine peaks, the airport is physically constricted and, in winter, frequently socked in with fog or low clouds, says the newspaper. Nearby Castlegar does have commercial flights, but the frequent fog cover there has earned the airport the nickname of “Cancelgar.”
Fewer seats, fewer passengers
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Four hours from Denver by car in good weather, Crested Butte remains vitally dependent upon airplanes delivering visitors from Houston, Atlanta and other distant cities into the airport at nearby Gunnison.
Those flights are subsidized and, during recent years, at an increasingly higher cost. To reduce the deficits, the resort community reduced the flights. This year, there are 11 percent fewer seats available. But after Christmas, the number of purchased seats has declined by 12 percent, reports the Crested Butte News.
Airline flight consultant Kent Myers tells local authorities that lodging reservations are soft across the Colorado Rockies.