By Allen Best
VAIL, Colo. – Resort-based western mountain towns are in a recovery.
Vail had its biggest-ever haul of sales tax collections during last winter, despite the poor snow, an increase of 3.9 percent over the previous winter. The $1.15 million also surpassed the previous winter record set in 2007-2008.
In Wyoming, Jackson had a 5.3 percent increase in sales tax collections last year. Park City reports a surge in permits for new building, and not just upgrading the existing buildings, as occurred during the recession.
But the national and international news tell a different story of stalled economic recovery. The unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high. The stock market stepped backward. President Barack Obama has felt compelled to defend his record.
“Are we leading or lagging? I don’t know,” says Suzanne Silverthorne, Vail public information officer.
Destination ski towns, because they cater to the world’s elites, tend to go into economic declines later and emerge more rapidly than many economic sectors. But in this case, that means they could be on either side of a trend: slow to reflect the new decline or more sure barometers of the U.S. economy.
Scientist retreat in Telluride?
TELLURIDE, Colo. – Talk continues in Telluride of creating dedicated facilities that could be used by scientists for retreats. The town currently draws nearly 1,000 scientists annually, mostly during summer for small meetings of about 100 people at the town’s middle school.
But the Telluride Science and Research Center would like to construct a top-flight 30,000-square-foot facility that would have year-round use.
The Daily Planet reports that town officials are cautiously supportive but reluctant to commit to a public-private venture at this point. Boosters point to the economic impact of drawing scientists. The Aspen Center for Physics and the Keystone Symposium, both in Colorado, boast of strong economic boosts to their communities. Even larger numbers are reported for Woods Hole, a retreat in Massachusetts for oceanographers and other scientists.
Cowboy era come & gone
CANMORE, Alberta – The cowboy era has ended. So says a homeowner who hopes to sell a castle in Canmore.
The 11,000-square-foot home was built by Blair and Kristin Richardson. An executive with Morgan Stanley, he and his partners bought and developed a real estate project in Canmore called Three Sisters in 1999 and sold it in 2008. Now, with the kids grown, and everybody living in Denver, they want to sell the mansion. They’re asking $11.9 million (Canadian) or $11.6 million U.S, or about as much as they spent on the land, construction, and furnishings.
For the Wall Street Journal, Kristin Richardson says almost everything, “all the light fixtures, chandeliers and drapes,” was sourced in the U.S. partly because “we didn’t want it to be all the cowboy stuff. That was so 1990s.”
Angle, Old Maid are casualties
SALIDA, Colo. – Each year, as warmer temperatures arrive on the slopes of Mt. Shavano, a 14,229-foot peak in central Colorado, the snow recedes in the central gully on the mountain’s eastern face to reveal a few snowbanks that the religious-minded long ago interpreted as a kneeling figure. Most years, the angle of Shavano can be discerned until mid- to late summer.
Not this year. The casualty of premature summer heat and too little winter, the snow from the couloir had almost already disappeared by last weekend. Readings taken June 1 by the National Resources Conservation Service show the snowpack was almost completely melted. In the Arkansas River Basin, where Shavano is located, the snowpack was just 4 percent of last year.
In Steamboat Springs, the Yampa River was running at 202 cubic feet per second on Sunday afternoon. That compares to an average 2,200 cfs for that date, reports Steamboat Today.
In the Crested Butte area, the story was the same. There, a snow formation called the Old Maid that commonly persists through summer has only disappeared twice before in recent memory: 1977 and 2002. In the San Juan Mountains, restrictions on outdoor fires were instituted.
Mud races proliferate
TRUCKEE, Calif. – Obstacles races with names like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Muddy Buddy have proliferated during the last decade.
As their names suggest, many have a component of mud as well as the usual sweat. But the obstacles seem to come from the same minds that created reality TV shows.
A competition planned for July 14 at Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort will include tree stumps, truck tires and a mud pit among the obstacles.
“To an increasing number of people, adding an extra level of punishment to the equivalent of a half-marathon is all part of the weekend’s plan,” reports the Sierra Sun. “This segment of the market has just blown up,” explains Sean Sweeney, an organizer of a mud-run event called Sierra Recon.
In Colorado, obstacles at a race at Beaver Creek included “Shocks on the Rocks,” an icy pool stocked with 45,000 pounds of ice in what is called an “Arctic Enema.” Another leg required participants to scale an oil-slicked wall on “Everest,” while another was to swing across 300 feet of monkey boars [?]over a muddy pit in “Funky Monkey.”
Tough Mudder will hold dozens of events around the world this year after an inaugural event last year at Beaver Creek that drew 10,000 participants. Across Vail Pass, a Mudder one at Copper Mountain drew 17,500 participants and 9,000 spectators. This year, Copper expects the numbers to rise.
The Denver Post explains that this is good business for resorts.
“I think it exposes our resort to a whole new group of people who may or may not have come here before,” said Doug Lovell, chief executive of Beaver Creek.
The obstacle races also fit with a new effort by ski areas to develop their non-skiing economies under federal legislation approved last year that gives them greater authority for summer-time use of national forests.
Photograph confirms wolverine
TRUCKEE, Calif. – Further evidence has arrived of a wolverine in the Sierra Nevada, east of Truckee. Although it was nearing dark, and photography tricky, a hiker was able to photograph the animal on the shores of Beyers Lake, reports the Sacramento Bee.
A wolverine was last confirmed in California in 1922. But in 2008, a wolverine was discovered in the area north of Truckee. DNA of hair samples show that it closely matches that of wolverines in the Sawtooth Range of Idaho.
Idaho town reports shrinkage
HAILEY, Idaho – With the aid of several grants, most substantially $472,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency, Hailey is well on the way toward reducing its community carbon footprint 15 percent by 2015.
That goal was articulated after the mayor of Hailey, located near Sun Valley, signed the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement in 2007. Part of the effort to shrink the carbon footprint is a new building code, now voluntary, which might become mandatory, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.