By Allen Best
Looking eerily similar
DENVER, Colo. – It’s finger-crossing time at the National Ski Areas Association headquarters in suburban Denver. Unlike last year at this time, California is getting snow. But New Mexico and Colorado have been hot, or at least warm, and dry.
It’s too soon to get excited, says Michael Berry, president of NSAA, but he admits to some anxiety.
Winter often takes its leisure during December, but it’s hard not to remember last year. Ski areas in Colorado got enough snow to operate by Christmas, but only through prodigious efforts by snowmakers and expert grooming by trail crews. Skiing was pretty good considering the circumstances, said the charitable.
But in some places, there was no skiing. None. Idaho’s Bogus Basin didn’t open until Jan. 19, the latest opening since the ski area outside Boise opened in 1941.
Lodging reservations are starting to take a hit. Rob LeVine, general manager of the Antlers Lodge, told the Vail Daily that the week before Christmas would normally be 80 percent booked. This year, it’s at 30 to 40 percent.
In Aspen, hotel bookings were also down. “The weather is having an impact,” said Bill Tomcich, president of a central reservations agency.
What does the weatherman say? Don’t expect much in the short term, said Ryan Boudreau, forecaster at aspenweather.net, in an interview with the Aspen Daily News. The same high-pressure system that pushed most of the moisture from the Pacific Ocean to the north last spring is still in place, he said.
Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the official forecast sees equal chances of a wet or dry winter. But don’t give up hope. Twenty percent of storms make up 80 percent of the weather, meaning that a few heavy dumps will change everything for ski areas, he told the Daily News.
Shake-and-Bake tastes gooood!
VAIL, Colo. – From its start 50 years ago, Vail has been dismissed as being artificial. It wasn’t an old mining town or ranch town. It was a new town, based on what its visionary, Peter Seibert, had seen after World War II in the Alps. As a matter of record, it didn’t hurt that some of the original business people in Vail also came from the Alps. Still, it has often been dismissed as a shake-and-bake Alpine village.
But Vail Village, the original commercial enclave at the base of the ski mountain, works both commercially and aesthetically.
Why does it work? That’s the key question as the town contemplates continued redevelopment. To answer that question, the town has hired a local planning consultant charged with formulating recommendations about how to retain that successful character.
The Vail Daily reports a friendly if somewhat skeptical reaction from the town council. Said one: It ain’t broke. And another: was it municipal regulation or individual entrepreneurialism?
Mayor Pro Tem Ludwig Kurz, a native of Austria, cautioned against too much resistance to change. “I would caution ourselves to not be so locked into what we have at the moment that we can’t look at new and exciting and interesting things,” he said.
Salt Lake to bid for Olympics
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Salt Lake City wiull bid for the Winter Olympics in 2026 or after.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Utah leaders emphasize not only their willingness to host the Olympics, but also their argument that they’re the best choice.
“You can’t do this on the cheap. It’s an expensive proposition,” said Gov. Gary Herbert. “Utah is the smart and fiscally responsible place – we already have venues in place.”
The Associated Press also reports that in announcing its intentions early, Utah hopes to scare off rivals. Also remaining interested are Denver, Reno and Bozeman.
Utah’s exploratory committee estimated that it would cost $1 million to bid to become the U.S. candidate and, if that is secured, another $25 million to pursue the international competition.
Offended by Jesus
WHITEFISH, Mont. – A group representing atheists and agnostics has been allowed to move forward with its lawsuit that seeks to remove a Jesus statue near the Whitefish ski area.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation filed the lawsuit in February, reports the Associated Press. It argues that the U.S. Forest Service is unconstitutionally sanctioning the 57-year-old statue maintained by the Knights of Columbus. The statue, says AP, was originally conceived by World War II veterans who saw similar shrines while fighting in the mountains of Europe.
To move forward with the lawsuit, the group had to name somebody who could claim actual harm. To clear this legal hurdle, the group enlisted a self-proclaimed local atheist who says he has frequently skied past the statue, which he considers religious and hence offensive.
Whitefish v. Whistler
WHITEFISH, Mont. — It’s Whitefish vs. Whistler in Powder magazine’s “Ski Town Throwdown.”
Whitefish Mountain Resort’s marketing team has been priming voters for the past month with reasons for local favor: their town is more authentic because Whitefish built the ski hill, while in Whistler, the ski hill built the town. Whistler is crowded, and Whitefish is not. And so on.
Whoever wins this first round, explains the Whitefish Pilot, then faces two towns from British Columbia, Rossland and Nelson, in a March Madness-type bracket system.
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – The rapid expansion of outdoor lighting in the business district has been in the public discussion in Crested Butte.
The town council made it clear that winter lighting is acceptable from Nov. 15 to April 13. However, the dimmer switch is needed for the businesses that have been stringing up ever brighter strings of lights in their outdoor dining areas during summer in what was described as an escalating arms race of brightness. The council also wants businesses to point their lights downward, instead of into the sky. Unlike most cities, you can still see stars in Crested Butte.
Aspen most expensive
ASPEN, Colo. – Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the most exalted of all?
In real estate prices, Aspen comes out on top, according to Pollack + Partners Inc., a designer and high-end builder from New York City.
The company found Aspen the most expensive in terms of construction costs per square foot and overall project costs per square foot at $950 and $1,235 respectively among the seven resorts that were surveyed.
Town Construction cost Project cost
Aspen $950/sq. foot $1,235/sf
Big Sky $900/sf $1,170/sf
Telluride $875/sf $1,138/sf
Jackson $750/sf $975/sf
Vail $700/sf $910/sf
Park City $650/sf $845/sf
Whistler $550/sf $715/sf