By Allen Best
Wind poses latest challenge
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Could things get any worse at Steamboat – or, for that matter, other ski areas in the snow-poor resorts of the West?
Mud has become the dominant theme at many resorts, and not just at the last pitches. Although sticking to its commitment to stay open until April 15, Steamboat closed most of the lower portion of the mountain going into April. That forces customers to upload and download on the gondola, something that hasn’t been necessary in the waning days of ski season in 15 years, reports the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
The newspaper talked with several visitors, and they weren’t entirely happy. One had purchased a week-long ski pass some months back with no expectation that he would be looking at mud. “I’ll make the best of it,” said another, who was nonetheless thrilled to be in Steamboat.
Then, things did get worse. Winds howled across Colorado from Durango to Steamboat on Friday. Even the gondola had to close. The winds, says the Pilot & Today, were “wicked” and “brutal.” And the hot wind didn’t do the snowpack any favors.
Snowmelt system panned
PARK CITY, Utah – Owing to both costs and environmental concerns, businesses along Park City’s Main Street take a dim view of installing a snowmelt system.
City officials recently estimated the cost of installing the system at between $1.3 million and $3.6 million. The larger installation would be accompanied by annual energy costs upwards of $100,000 a year.
A survey of 55 businesses, reports the Park Record, found that 78 percent did not support the snowmelt system, an even higher margin did not expect it would help improve business, and 58 percent said they were very concerned about the environmental impacts. Presumably that impact has to do with the energy required, which in Utah means burning coal, producing the green house gas of carbon dioxide.
Canary in a coal train
BOZEMAN, Mont. – Utilities in the United States have been switching from coal to natural gas for electrical production, with many more coal plants expected to close. Instead, coal producers from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin are looking to export the coal to China and other Asian countries.
For Bozeman, Mont., located between the Big Sky and Bridger Bowl ski areas, that could mean a dramatic increase in coal traffic. Currently, 15 trains pass through the town daily. But increased export of coal from the West Coast could yield an additional 40 trains. Coal trains typically have 120 to 125 cars, making them a mile and half long.
The Bozeman Daily chronicle says the town needs to talk with the railroad and coal producers about helping pay for crossing structures, so that the trains don’t further divide the town.
Jasper lobbies for net-zero school
JASPER, Alberta – Students in Jasper are lobbying provincial officials to make their new school net zero. As the Fitzhugh explains, a net-zero building is one that achieves zero net energy consumption through a combination of efficiencies and independent power generation.
The newspaper reports that students and their faculty advisors left the meeting feeling as if their pleas had fallen upon deaf ears. The provincial officials expressed skepticism that the idea was practical, but did allow the students a month to submit a checklist of what would be needed and associated costs.
Tahoe to explore Olympic bid
LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – An exploratory committee has been formed by California and Nevada to investigate what it would take to secure the 2022 Winter Olympics. Utah and Colorado have formed similar committees. The Colorado report is scheduled to be out imminently. Also reported to be tinkering with a bid proposal are Bozeman, Mont., and Lake Placid, N.Y.
JACKSON, Wyo. – The economy continues to improve. The Jackson Hole Daily reports that apartment rents rose 2.7 percent and house rents 6.9 percent from2 010 to 2011. Meanwhile, the sales tax collections have also tallied better than projected.
Aspen lowers lid
ASPEN, Colo. – Reversing a policy adopted a decade ago to stimulate real estate development, elected officials in Aspen have lowered the ceiling for new buildings in the downtown core.
The old limit was 42 feet, plus 10 feet for mechanical elements. The new maximum is 28 feet, effectively limiting new buildings to two stories. Council members said there may be cases, such as historic renovation or overnight lodging, that justify three-story buildings, but they would be approached on a deliberative process, reports the Aspen Daily News.
The Aspen Times said the 3-1 vote was sure to send shock waves through the local real estate and development community. Among those criticizing the new limits was the former mayor, Helen Klanderud, who said it amounted to a moratorium on development.