By Allen Best
Old dogs, new tricks
GEORGETOWN, Colo. – Who is the oldest person ever to learn how to ski? That question comes to mind in reading about the 75th anniversary of the Loveland ski area, which is located on the east side of the Continental Divide above and around the Eisenhower tunnel complex.
For about two thirds of the time, Freddie and Rose Tronnier have worked at the ski area. Now in his 51st season at Loveland, he supervises the ski school. She’s in her 48th season and also works at the ski school.
Rose Tronnier tells the Summit Daily News that seven years ago she taught an 86-year-old bus driver from Baltimore how to ski.
“He said that before he died he wanted to learn how to ski,” she told the Daily News. “His entire family pitched in for his private lesson, and he stayed on the beginners’ hill. Tears were rolling down his face, he was so happy to learn.”
But, as per the ski industry mantra, did Loveland convert this never-ever into a return visitor?
Policing the sidewalks
MISSOULA, Mont. – Why build sidewalks if homeowners let them fill up with snow and ice during winter? That is the question that has been asked by the city government in Missoula.
The current policy, reports the Missoulian, is to notify people who haven’t shoveled their walks. Three-quarters of people then get after it themselves. For scofflaws, the city then dispatches its own crews to scoop the snow, and then sends out a bill of at least $62. Some elected officials would like to tack on fines, to up the rate of compliance.
Ice Castle rising
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – An ice castle will soon start rising in the base area of Mount Werner, the iconic big mountain at Steamboat Springs.
Brent Christiansen and Ryan Davis, who have a company called Ice Castles, had a castle in Silverthorne last winter, although repeated days of warm, sunny weather didn’t exactly help.
This year, they hoped to have a castle at Breckenridge, 1,000 feet higher, but that didn’t pan out. Instead, Steamboat solicited the pair to create something interesting, to round out the guest experience, a representative of the Steamboat Ski Corp told Steamboat Today.
Building picks up in Whitefish
WHITEFISH, Mont. – Like other resort communities, Whitefish is seeing an uptick in real estate sales and construction. The Whitefish Pilot reports 45 permits for new homes, compared to 33 for the same period last year and 14 during the depths of the depression. Home prices are also rising, the median being $270,000 during the third quarter, a 7 percent gain from the same quarter last year. The market surge is attributed especially to visitors from Texas and Canada.
Banff biz up, new flights may help
BANFF, Alberta – Tourism in Banff and in Banff National Park rose last summer, although not to the banner year of 2007-2008. The number of guests visiting the park from April through September increased 2.3 percent compared to the previous year.
With the ski areas from Lake Louise to Norquay now open or soon to open, winter tourism boosters also remain hopeful. Buoying their hope, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, is increased frequency of flights from Sydney, Australia, to Vancouver, and also flights from Tokyo to Calgary.
PARK CITY, Utah – Trends expert Daniel Levine told an audience in Park City that they should heed five trends, which he described as having more permanence than a fad.
First, personalize products, to allow consumers to tailor an experience or product. But also specialize, producing offerings for defined demographics One example from New York is of “men aisles” in grocery stores, which has items that might appeal more generally to men, according to an account in The Park Record.
Also, he said, be transparent: you can’t withhold information from customers (about lousy snow conditions, perhaps), because the information is available on the Internet.
And finally create memorable experiences but also be aware that people have become more value-conscious. “Authenticity is a big word we are using a lot recently, and it’s important. Be authentic,” said Levine.
Snowmass ponders Base Village
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. – What will be the new normal? That’s been the question since the real estate boom deflated like a helium balloon pricked by a 10-penny nail.
The answer is still being decided in Snowmass Village in regards to a bells-up project called Base Village. Originally developed as a partnership between the Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest, the project was to deliver one million square feet of condos, hotels and other bed base to allow Snowmass to compete with Beaver Creek, Whistler and Deer Valley. Snowmass is Aspen’s dominant skiing venue for the masses.
When the Great Recession occurred, the project had been sold to a development firm called Related Cos. It declared financial insolvency. At length, the lenders – mostly banks from Europe – sold the half-completed development to Related Cos. for $90 million, taking a significant loss.
What comes next? Dwayne Romero, Related’s representative, tells the Aspen Daily News that he and his staff may go before the Snowmass Village Town Council early next year to talk about the immediate steps. The staff, he said, is talking about price points, the project’s residential and commercial composition, and visitor desires in the new economy, but gave no clear idea what Related sees.
Among the plans that vanished with the recession were a Little Nell, a companion to the five-star hotel that sits at the base of Aspen Mountain.
Romero told the Aspen Daily News that Related has staying power. But Related will have to earn the community trust through its deeds. “Right now we’re not asking for people to turn and trust us implicitly. We’re asking for them to give us a little bit of time and elbow room to achieve some progress.”
In all this, Snowmass town officials have been studiously careful to say very little, lest it be interpreted as indicating the town is thinking of reneging on what it had approved. The shadow hanging over them is a case from California, where loose lips sunk the municipal ship of Mammoth Lakes.
WHISTLER, B.C. – With a proposal for three new backcountry huts helping frame the issue, Whistlerites recently debated the merits of expanded access to the backcountry.
Several speakers at a recent forum said no, that too many people disrespect what they have. One of the complaints is specifically against snowmobilers. One speaker mentioned that he used to see grizzly bear tracks at the Pemberton Ice Cap, but now finds abandoned snowmobiles, gas cans and belts, reports Pique Newsmagazine
But it’s not just the motorheads. Granola types have done some trashing of their own: beer cans, food wrappers and bags of salt were noted in one sidecountry area adjacent to the Blackcomb ski area where skiers and riders build jumps.
“I feel that we’ve already given lots of access to the backcountry and people aren’t respecting that,” said veteran ski patroller Wayne Flann.