By Allen Best
Feast or famine
DENVER, Colo. – It’s feast or famine this winter at North American ski areas. Whistler-Blackcomb received 135 inches of snow during March alone, Crested Butte hasn’t surpassed 200 inches for the winter.
Last year, an already healthy winter motored through April and then May. At Steamboat Springs, the Yampa River didn’t see peak runoff until July. This year, the peak seems to have already occurred, water officials tell the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
In Colorado, two small ski areas – Cooper and Monarch — announced they are closing early. Others are sticking it out, but like a teenager with acne, trying desperately to cover their blemishes. Vail had huge swaths of dirt even high on the mountain, and crews were moving snow from forested area to cover the ski runs. Steamboat had closed 20 percent of its trails. These are surely not alone.
In Idaho, the Big Wood River through Ketchum and Sun Valley was bulging with early and high runoff due to unseasonable warmth and heavy rains. The snow line was at 6,500 feet in elevation but expected to rise up to 8,500 feet with a surge of weekend heat, the Idaho Mountain Express reported.
Jackson sets sights on foreigners
JACKSON, Wyo. – Like many other mountain communities, Jackson Hole is looking to expand its appeal to the world’s wealthiest residents.
With a $44,000 grant from new lodging proceeds, local chamber delegates plan to visit large international trade shows in Berlin and London this fall. Also, airport officials are seeking to improve airline connections so that Jackson Hole is only “one stop away” from any airport in the world, according to Mike Gierau, president of the Jackson Hole Air Improvement Resource.
In 2011, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, the number of international visitors visiting the United States increased by 2.4 million.
In other news reported by the Jackson Hole News&Guide, Teton County was named was one of only seven destinations in the world selected for the Sustainable Tourism Destination Early Adopters Program. If the county pays $30,000, it will be evaluated by United Nations-affiliated group for its efforts to conserve resources and reduce pollution.
With an increasing number of travelers selecting their destinations based on sustainable practices, being a part of this group could be a boon for the valley, says Tim O’Donoghue, executive director of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile, Jackson has also directed some of its new lodging tax dollars in another direction entirely. The community allocated some hotel rooms and $70,000 in lodging-tax proceeds to help underwrite filming of a reality show television show. Some in Jackson Hole question the expense. While the TV show may have an audience, it’s unlikely to attract anyone with values aligned with those of people in the outdoors-anchored Wyoming valley.
Ireland to China … for Alberta
JASPER, Alberta. – Richard Ireland, mayor of the resort community of Jasper, is to visit China this month to help promote Jasper as a destination resort. The trip is costing Jasper $74,000, the local newspaper reports.
Who should pay for rescues?
BANFF, Alberta – Spirited words are being expressed in the pages of the Rocky Mountain Outlook in the wake of an expensive helicopter rescue of snowboarders who left the Sunshine ski area to seek out powder in the adjacent territory.
Their rescue, located in Banff National Park, involved a helicopter and snowmobiles, and also involved threat to the rescuers. Winds were high and the terrain was tricky. In the end, all turned out well.
Or did it? Alvin Shier, in a letter published in the newspaper, notes that helicopter used in a mountain rescue costs $2,000 per hour – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“There’s no question those in trouble should be rescued, but should the costs be borne by the taxpayers of the land,” he asks. “It’s long overdue that those taking part in extreme sports carry insurance to pay all costs if they need to be rescued.”
Josh Briggs, writing the next week, finds that misleading and also philosophically uncharitable. In fact, those who pay park user fees pay for rescues.
But he also wonders about casting stones. “Personally, I am unwilling to judge one person as foolhardy and another as a victim of bad luck – accidents happen to good people with good intentions.”
A story of highs, lows
VAIL, Colo. – Real estate through February was sold in the Vail area at the greatest volume since 2008, before the recession hit.
Dollar volume for the two months was $197 million. That compares with $331 million in 2008, reports Land Title Guarantee Co. Nearly a quarter of sales volume occurred at the valley’s high end, in Vail Village. One sale, in the new Solaris project, was for $2,218 per square foot.
In the lower valley, in the Eagle and Gypsum communities, there’s also considerable activity, but more of it is due to bank sales.
In Aspen’s down-valley communities, sales activity occurred at a furious pace. But, reports the Aspen Times, much of this breathless pace was spurred by foreclosures and short sales.
Prices are down 30 to 40 percent in the Basalt and Carbondale areas, but the newspaper reports a sense among real-estate agents that the tide has now turned in the Basalt, which is a little closer to Aspen, but not quite yet in Carbondale.