By Allen Best
Gas drilling faulted for foul air
JACKSON, Wyo.—Air in Jackson Hole remains of high quality, despite the proximity of one of the West’s great natural gas bonanzas just an hour to the south.
The American Lung Association tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide that Jackson Hole had just one day of bad air in the last three years. On that one bad day, ozone concentrations were high enough that young children, the elderly and people with respiratory diseases were advised to stay indoors. What caused that high level of ozone was not reported.
About an hour south, in the valley between the Wind Range and Wyoming mountain ranges, the air quality is far worse. Pinedale and Sublette County had 15 alert days, 14 because of ozone and one because of particulates.
The primary problem is the pollution caused by engines used to drill for natural gas. Some ozone, however, is natural, and can migrate great distances. Ozone from China, for example, could trip high-ozone days in cities along the West Coast into unhealthy days.
Future rail link to Park City?
PARK CITY, Utah – Cities in the Salt Lake Valley have an excellent light-rail system. Should light-rail someday be extended to what locals called the Wasatch Back, meaning Park City and other communities on the east side of the mountain range?
A planning group formed to look at transportation options has discussed that possibility, although participants tell The Park Record there’s no consensus. Daily bus service between Park City and Salt Lake City was instituted only last year.
X’d out, Whistler looks elsewhere
WHISTLER, B.C. –Whistler’s failure to become a host for the expanded X Games appears to have come down to two basic problems. One ties into a familiar problem at resorts: most years, skiers disappear long before the snow does.
The resort community had bid on hosting the X Games in April. But tourism officials say that ESPN, the sponsor of the X Games, had decided that it would be hard to keep up the momentum for snow during April. It already has two winter venues, Aspen and Tignes, France.
But Whistler’s second problem was that ESPN’s global sponsors were pushing to target markets beyond North America. Sites in Brazil, Spain and Germany instead got the nod.
Disappointed but not defeated, Whistler tourism officials vow to keep shopping for special events. Dave Brownlie, chief executive of the ski area, mused that maybe it’s time that Whistler got on the World Cup skiing circuit.
Barrett Fisher, director of Tourism Whistler, says that her organization has created a new staff position, for somebody to specifically solicit third-party event organizers to Whistler. She added that in addition to sports, it could be arts and culture or culinary, if they relate to Whistler’s brand and the core of its business.
Special events were also in the news in Aspen. Led in part by the city government, the resort community has actively solicited special events in the wake of the real estate bust of 2008-2009. Mayor Mick Ireland was a vocal proponent of that strategy. But in recent comments reported by the Aspen Daily News, he also noted the need for balance within a community
“You need some quiet time,” he said. “You need some times that aren’t Cirque du Soleil for the rest of the world.”
Eagle mulls shopping mall
EAGLE, Colo. – Nine years ago, when Laker star Kobe Bryant was accused of rape, metropolitan and national reporters who flocked to the county seat of Eagle, located 31 miles west of Vail, described the town as “tiny.”
And maybe it was. But the town of 6,500 has been growing far more rapidly than its businesses. Population grew 114 percent from 2000 to 2010. Sales tax collections have grown only 22 percent. Without improved collections, say some, the town will slowly, steadily fall on hard times. Sales tax revenue accounts for 40 percent of municipal operations.
To help rectify the situation, the town board this year approved a giant complex along the interstate that could yield 733,000 square feet of commercial space and 550 rental units. Developers expect the stores to draw shoppers from all along the I-70 corridor.
Town voters will decide whether the project goes forward on May 22. Early last year, in a narrow vote, they rejected a similar proposal, many on the grounds that the project would make Eagle seem like anywhere else.
Project supporters, however, point out that town residents must drive 20 or 30 miles for even the most simple of everyday items.
Vail reports strong pass sales
BROOMFIELD, Colo. – How much would the marginal-or-worse snow conditions of last winter affect expectations about next winter?
Apparently, not much, in the case of Vail Resorts. Rob Katz, chief executive of the company, says that sales of season passes this spring are expected to be even stronger.
Upticks in building, sales
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – From here and there come reports that suggest a quickening pulse to the building and real estate economy of mountain towns.
The Vail Daily reports a variety of construction projects planned this summer, most in Vail but some in down-valley communities.
Residential developer Patrick Chirichillo has been waiting for an improved economy since getting approval in 2007. “There’s been an uptick in the real estate market in the last month or two,” he told the Daily. “And we’re hoping the market keeps moving that way.”
But development consultant Lance Badger sees a slow restart. The cost of existing inventory is still far cheaper than the cost of new construction, he points out.
In Steamboat, units in a lodge were being auctioned off. Prices had dropped substantially. On units with asking prices of $1.3 million in 2009, bids were reaching only “$557,000, a realty agent tells Steamboat Today. But agents interviewed by the newspaper were encouraged by the bidding and the movement of real estate – they hoped leading to other sales.
Aspen won’t ignore the signs
ASPEN, Colo. – Following a trend reported in Vail and elsewhere, the Aspen Board of Realtors is asking members to refrain from posting for-sale signs on properties.
Too many signs in a single area send the wrong message that a city has a glut of properties, according to some directors. Others argue that agents can advertise their services through other means and don’t need to post the signs on property.
The recommendation does not apply to property-for-sale signs posted in businesses, notes The Aspen Times. The board, however, has no authority to tell members what they can do.