By Allen Best
Cutthroats can survive river
JACKSON, Wyo. – The Hoback River originates south of Jackson Hole, flowing 55 miles before merging with the Snake River. It’s not the best river for fishing, because the shallow river flows rapidly and often has buildup of slushy ice called frazil, which can kill fish.
For many years, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide, the river was stocked annually with hatchery fish. But like other rivers in Wyoming, state fish and game started weaning the river of its hatchery fish in the 1990s. In their place have come the native species, the Snake River cutthroat trout.
The cutthroats are not only more populous, but also bigger, perhaps because they’re better suited to the harsh winters of the Hoback River, a biologist tells the newspaper.
Deep-pocket diving for arts
MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Fund-raising has started for a $23.5 million performing arts center that boosters say could be a game-changer for Crested Butte.
Backers expect that the Mt. Crested Butte Performing Arts Center will have 500 seats, double the largest existing venue, and will have a large stage and other infrastructure suitable for performers accustomed to the world’s best. As well, there; is to be a 2,000-square foot meeting room, suitable for hosting weddings and conferences, plus rooms where such things as photography workshops can be held.
William Buck, mayor of Mt. Crested Butte, the municipality at the base of the ski area, agrees. “It’s a total game-changer, no doubt about it,” he tells Mountain Town News. He called it a “non-skiing and year-round amenity that we need to shore up the shoulder seasons.”
The model is the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts, which has a 500-seat theater and a much bigger arts and education pavilion, 41,000 square feet altogether.
So far, $10.3 million has been pledged, of which $6 million comes Mt. Crested Butte and the ski area operator, some of it in the form of 1.8 acres of land.
The town has partnered with a private non-profit, the Crested Butte Music Festival, to develop the venue. Together, they have hired a Texas-based fundraiser, Franklin & Associates.
Fundraisers are courting donors with the ability to give at least $500,000. “You can be out there all day long collecting $10,000 donations, and you just can’t get to a project of this size,” says Woody Sherwood, executive director of the center. But organizers stress that all dollars will be welcome.
Sherwood tells the Crested Butte News that the venue will allow more opera and other productions, which in turn will yield an extended tourist season.
Raising money can be problematic. Consider Beaver Creek’s Vilar Center. The theater is exquisite, but the funding was troubled. During the ‘90s, part-time resident Alberto Vilar endowed the lion’s share of the venue, one of many halls for the fine arts around the world to which he gave large sums of money.
Then came the handcuffs. He had over-invested in technology stock, and after the tech-sector crash of 2000, he raided the funds of investors to continue his lavish and philanthropic lifestyle. He was convicted of fraud, and you can read more about it in a New Yorker story titled; “The Opera Lover: How Alberto Vilar’s Passion for Philanthropy Landed Him in Jail.”
In the end, Vilar’s name remained on the venue at Beaver Creek, but not without some discomfort along the way.
Ice Castles, SnowBall
BRECKNERIDGE, Colo. – Breckenridge elected officials are welcoming two new attractions next winter that were previously located in nearby towns.
Ice Castles, a name that pretty much describes the attraction, drew 56,000 people last winter to Silverthorne. The for-profit business that created it hopes for even more people at Breckenridge, but also colder temperatures. Breckenridge is 1,000 feet higher in elevation.
Less effusively, Breckenridge is accepting a high-octane three-day music festival called the SnowBall. The Summit Daily News notes that 100 arrests were made last winter when the festival was held in Avon, mostly for drug and alcohol offenses.
Give it a whirl anyway, advised Mike Dudick, a Breckenridge councilman. “We’ve all heard of the X Games in Aspen. There was probably a lot of heartburn on that one, and look where they are now.”
Not one new house in 4 years
BASALT, Colo. – A few years ago, Basalt struggled with the rapid pace of real estate development. Now, according to a majority of council members, it struggles with the lack of growth.
Bill Kane, the town manager, said the town hasn’t processed one development application in nearly four years. “The inconvenient truth is we’re digging out at an almost imperceptible rate,” he said at a recent meeting covered by The Aspen Times.
Kane wants to ditch a scoring system created when Basalt was still booming with real estate development. That message, in what is now an “entirely different paradigm,” sends the message to land developers that “we don’t want you here.” A key portion of the regulations requires commercial developers of projects larger than 2,500 square feet to provide housing for 25 percent of the employees generated by the business.
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt thinks it’s bank lending policies that have blocked development, not town regulations, pointing to 600 residential units that were approved but never built.
Hotels okay, but where’s the $$$?
KETCHUM, Idaho – It might be North America’s first deliberately created winter ski town, but that was 1935. In the 21st century, one thing has become plainly evident: Ketchum – and Sun Valley – need more tourists. It’s a great place for well-heeled locals. But places like Deer Valley and Beaver Creek and a dozen others have surpassed Ketchum. Pickings were slim in Ketchum for the discerning über-wealthy of the 21st century.
Ketchum municipal officials thus approved five major new hotels.
Timing is everything in real estate, of course. All these approvals came just before the great economic collapse of 2008-2009. Not one has been built – and none give any evidence of planning to build anytime soon. Developers, when contacted by Mountain Town News in recent years, have optimistically explained that believe they’re on the cusp of financing. But no news has come of it.
Hope remains. The 73-room Hotel Ketchum was to have been completed by October. It won’t happen now. Ketchum recently gave the developer a one-year extension, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.
“This project, if it were built, would be very successful in the current market,” said Mayor Randy Hall. Ketchum, he added, “can’t be a resort town if there aren’t hotels.”
Aspen holds ground on hotel size
ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen wants a new hotel and has been talking with developers about a location at a slope-side location that has been decaying for decades.
But Aspen, more than most, has been insisting that supersized buildings just don’t work for the town. Developers are just as insistent that they need at least the giant size to make the numbers work. This discussion returned recently, as city council members encourage a developer called ASC Aspen Street Owners, which is planning to build a townhome, to instead build a hotel, otherwise known as a lodge.
“If we can go forward with a lodge, whose scale matches the current code, we’d be willing to make some concessions to make that happen,” said Mayor Mick Ireland.
The Aspen Times reports that true to form, the developer says it will be hard to make the numbers work with such a small mass.
Even Aspen is expecting to see ripples from the now-uncertain U.S. economy. While the city sales tax collections are up 6 percent this year, the city is budgeting a 4 percent increase next year.
“I think there’s uncertainty in the national economy, and we don’t know how that will affect us here,” explained Don Taylor, the city’s finance director.
Tax collections on real estate transfers are down 4.4 percent this year.