By Allen Best
Vail turns 50, Snowmass expands
VAIL, Colo. – In anticipation of its 50th winter of operations, Vail is completing installation of a new gondola, using the same alignment as the original gondola when operations began in 1962.
The similarities end there, however. Each car on this new gondola will have heated leather seats and Wi-Fi access. It’s also the fastest of its type in the world.
Meanwhile, the Forest Service approval of a major ski area expansion at Breckenridge has been appealed by two groups, reports the Summit Daily News. One of the appeals contends that habitat for lynx will be fragmented by the ski area operations.
The Aspen Skiing Co. will be allowed to go forward with its 230-acre expansion in an area of Snowmass called Burnt Mountain. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that that a Wyoming group was out of order in its objection, and should have noted its argument at the proper time. The expansion will make Snowmass the second largest ski area in Colorado, behind only Vail.
Utah group: bid for 2026 Olympics
PARK CITY, Utah –Salt Lake City should bid to host the 2026 Olympics, an advisory group has recommended to Utah Gov. Gary Hebert and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
Park City hosted half of the athletic events when Salt Lake City hosted the Olympics in 2002. The report says that Canyons, one of the ski areas at Park City, should host events if Utah gets the event again.
The group estimates cost of bidding for the Olympics at $25 million to $30 million.
Since Park City hosted the Olympics before, the number of rooms has increased 28 percent. Included are three top-tier hotels.
Some things you just can’t do
TAOS, N.M. – The rule on naming things seems to be that others can name things after you, but to name things after yourself is self-aggrandizing or worse.
In Taos County, the five commissioners voted to name three public buildings at the county’s $46 million judicial, administrative and detention complex after themselves. The Taos News reports that the chairman, Joe Mike Duran, justified the naming because the commissioners had “gone through a lot.”
But after the plan got broad attention, much of it with sharply unfavorable comments, the commissioners backed off, explains the News. Instead, the buildings will remain unnamed—and the commissioners will get recognized on a bronze plaque noting their roles in overseeing the construction.
Will cell tower disguise fit in?
WHITEFISH, Mont. – With the arrival of smart phones, existing cell phone infrastructure is getting taxed. To help the situation in downtown Whitefish, Verizon Wireless wants to erect a 100-foot cell phone tower. While there are many concerns about safety and aesthetics, the company wants to disguise it as a faux pine tree, snuggled amidst a row of 80-foot-tall poplars, reports the Whitefish Pilot.
Backcountry hut called “stunning”
ASPEN, Colo. – A new backcountry hut has been installed in the Elk Range between Aspen and Crested Butte. Called Opa, the German name for grandpa, it honors Alfred Braun, who emigrated to the United States in 1928 from Germany and arrived in Aspen during the early 1950s. He operated a ski lodge and earned a reputation as a skilled alpinist and promoter of the mountain lifestyle. He was known as Opa to his family and friends.
In 1967, he took over operations of a hut system and added more, building them himself with help of his family and friends.
This new hut, however, may outdo all others. The Aspen Times describes it as “stunning,” as it’s tucked into a granite-lined niche at 12,000 feet, with jagged peaks riveting one’s gaze from left to right.
“Like all huts in the Braun system, Opa’s won’t be for the casual backcountry traveler,” explains the Times. “Nearly all the routes to Braun huts cross big avalanche paths. The huts also can be difficult to find. There are no trail signs.”
The 10th Mountain Division huts of the Aspen-Vail-Breckenridge area are more forgiving of mistakes. Routes generally detour well away from avalanche paths and the trails are nearly as well marked as city streets. That said, even they can be difficult when the snow is falling hard, it’s getting dark, and temperatures plunge.
Localities want to regulate drilling
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Natural gas drilling and some potential for oil continues to be in the news at many ski towns in Colorado. The drilling potential is not in any of the ski towns proper, but rather in outlying areas, including some favorite forested playgrounds.
Such drilling has been happening for decades south of Durango. But the rigs are relatively new near Steamboat. Local officials want to be ready, to ensure impacts are limited.
Some landowners would just as soon government keeps its nose out of such affairs. Writing in Steamboat Today, Vonnie Frentress says some land and mineral owners see the oil and gas industry as business partners. “Diversified revenue sources can increase the financial strength of area agricultural operations.”
From Aspen and its suburbs in the Roaring Fork Valley comes a different tune. There, the dominant worry has been of impacts to treasured spots from drilling.
The Forest Service owns much of the land west of Carbondale, including the site of the Sunlight Mountain ski area. For whatever reason, the Forest Service plans had allowed drilling rigs on the ski slopes. That oversight has been corrected.
Now, the Forest Service is proposing to reduce the acreages where leasing by oil companies would be allowed by 33 percent. The Aspen Times reports that the oil and gas industry is none too happy. But neither are environmental and conservation groups. Peter Hart, spokesman for the Wilderness Workshop, said his group favors removing all lands not now leased from future leasing.
Squamish gondola almost reality
WHISTLER, B.C. – Provincial authorities in British Columbia have given permits for a sight-seeing gondola in the Squamish area, down-valley from Whistler. Jason Faulkner, project manager for the Sea to Sky Gondola, said more work remains, including securing of financing.
Real estate stabilizes
PARK CITY, Utah – Real estate sales continue to improve in Park City and Vail. If still far from a boom, the market has improved dramatically in the last three years.
In Park City, property sales were up 4 percent during summer and median property prices rose 11 percent from the year before.
“It’s a slow but steady improvement,” said Mark Seltenrich, the statistician from the Park City Board of Realtors. “The biggest trend is that the really cheap properties, the low-priced condos or low-priced lots, are not there anymore.”
The Board’s Executive director, Curt Singleton, told The Park Record the rebounding market is reflected in the expanding roster of sales agents affiliated with his organization.