Mountain Town News
By Allen Best
Too many lights, not enough stars
WHISTLER, B.C. – LED lights have been praised profusely. The lights are brighter and more efficient than even compact fluorescents, and certainly more so than the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs.
But their deployment is having a perhaps unintended consequence in Whistler. Because they cost less to operate and are durable, why not put up more of them?
If saving energy is the goal, then that defeats the purpose. It also defeats the purpose of seeing the stars in the night sky.
“Many of our village trees are now decked top to bottom with Christmas lights through the winter with hundreds of thousand more bulbs than before in the build-up to the 2010 Olympic Games,” notes Pique Newsmagazine’s Andrew Mitchell. While these and other sources of illumination are truly beautiful, he says, “there’s also no question that all this electrical magic blots out the natural glamour of our night sky.”
Celestial twinkles are being suffocated by many other land-based lights, too. For example, lights designed to look like Olympic torches were erected along a trail in an area called Cheakamus Crossing. The torches light the paths, sort of, but also are directed skyward.
In some cases, there’s room for dispute about the proper balance. One transit stop that is used 22 hours a day is lit far too lavishly, say nearby residents. City officials cite the need for safety of travelers. At length, the bus agency has agreed to install shielding in fixtures to direct the lighting downward, at a cost of $200 per light.
It was once possible to see the Milky Way Galaxy from anywhere in Whistler. No longer, and a photographer who specializes in the night sky said it’s hard to completely get away from the glow of Whistler, Squamish and Vancouver.
Is there room for hope? A local amateur astronomer, who must now go elsewhere to view into outer space, points out that if energy becomes more expensive, it will be used more judiciously. That would mean pointing lights directly at what you’re trying to see, not wastefully in every direction, as is so often the case.
Canary chirps but not loudly
ASPEN, Colo. – In 2005, the city of Aspen released a climate-change manifesto, called the Canary Initiative, which vowed to slash community greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2020.
The charter document identified Aspen and other mountain communities as the canary in the coal mine for global warming. The goal asserted then was to aggressively reduce Aspen’s carbon footprint and to serve as a model.
In what could be viewed as a mid-term, Aspen certainly isn’t flunking but it has a ways to go. It has reduced greenhouse gas emission 6 percent as of 2011 when compared to the 2004 baseline. Elyse Hottel, the city’s environmental initiatives project coordinator, said the carbon footprint needed to be down 11 percent by now.
In the last four years, reports the Aspen Daily News, the major gains were recorded in reduced emissions of methane from the landfill and reduced electricity. However, the emissions caused by burning of fossil fuels for air and ground transportation were up, and so were the heating and other power needs of buildings.
Telluride economy toasts 40 years
TELLURIDE, Colo. – The old-timers are often seen as being in conflict with the newcomers in the ski towns of the West. But in Telluride, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a ski resort, the miners were very happy to see the ski lifts arrive.
Telluride’s mining history went back to the 1880s, and for a time the mining paid plenty of bills and built some fabulous-looking houses. By the 1960s, though, the town was on a downhill slide. The last bank had closed and the final few hundred residents wondered how long they could afford to stay. Ores were being depleted.
According to a story in the Daily Planet, those locals included William “Senior” Mahoney, who had grown up skiing and had his own ideas of starting a ski area. Such ideas had been floating around since the late 1930s, about the time that commercial skiing began at Aspen, Berthoud Pass and Winter Park.
But none of the ideas floated during the early post-World War II era got anywhere. They needed money. It took the persistence of Joe Zoline, a Chicago-born son of Russian immigrants, to make things happen. The executive vice president and treasurer for Hilton Carte Blanche, he was vacationing in Yellowstone National Park when he heard about Aspen.
In Aspen, he fell in love with mountain towns, so much that he bought a ranch adjacent to the town. Soon, he learned about the plight of Telluride. Lands used for sheep ranching were in danger of being subdivided into 35-acre ranchettes. Zoline resisted diving into a new project, family members tell the Telluride Daily Planet, but at length he agreed that somebody needed to make the ski area happen. He did.
Mahoney was the first company hire, and Johnnie Stevens, who had also grown up in Telluride, came soon after. Both remained as key figures in skiing and other resort operations until relatively recently, and they say it’s been almost entirely good.
“We were finally transitioning from a mining town,” Stevens says of that pivotal time in the 1970s. “We were living the dream.”
At times, there has been squabbling, but not about the long-term vision, says Stevens. And he stressed the teamwork needed to achieve success.
“I think on most counts we’ve done a very, very good job. A lot of people think this was luck, and it wasn’t luck. It was collectivism.”
For Mahoney, the ski area was what he had always wanted. “I’ve had a dream of having a ski resort here since school, and thank God we got one,” he said.
Posh hotels yield real estate sales
PARK CITY, Utah – Through the Great Recession, construction continued in Park City as several major high-end hotels were built or completed. As well, one previously completed condominium complex was converted into a Hyatt-branded hotel.
The Park Record explains that the flood of new guests at these top-dollar properties is yielding high-end real estate buyers.
“I do think we are impacting the local Park City real estate market in a positive way,” said Ed Rehill, director of sales for Montage Residences Deer Valley, which is associated with one of the new top-dollar hotels.
“There is this great synergy provided by the brands here, and collectively we are bringing in a lot of new buyers to Park City who otherwise would not have come. They would have gone to Aspen or Vail or somewhere else,” he added.
Branding matters, say developers.
“When we compared Park City to other similar quality places in Colorado and in Canada, we noticed there were a lot fewer branded projects than there are in some of those other places,” said Cory Williams, a partner in the SDI Realty Group, a Salt Lake City-based resort and commercial development company that allied its condominiums with Hyatt. “The market wanted branded residences versus the one-off boutiques like we had.”
Operators not only bring the brand names, but also have a sizable amount of money dedicated to marketing and advertising. Half of the people staying at the new St. Regis Deer Valley had never even been in Utah before.
“There is definitely significance, having these names in town,” said Bill Coleman, a Prudential Real Estate Broker and long-time resident of Park City, “especially when you put it into a larger perspective, the fact that we are a ski town trying to become famous, and world famous at that.”
He added: “In the 42 years I have been here we just didn’t have that added benefit. Now there is a whole new clientele we weren’t getting before. It was a big deal, and it still is.”