Mountain Town News
By Allen Best
Colorado snowpack far below average
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Apprehension continues to grow in Colorado as snowfall, although improving, remains far below average. Coming on top of severe drought last year, water managers and fire marshals fear a hot, dry summer ahead.
By the measure of snow-water equivalent of snowpack, conditions are on-the-edge-of-your-seat scary. The Vail-based Eagle River Water and Sanitation District has a chart on its website that compares this winter with conditions in 2012, the terrible drought winter of 2002, and then the 30-year average. If average is Pikes Peak, this year so far looks like one of the foothills on the edge of Colorado Springs.
Dillon Reservoir, located between Breckenridge and Keystone, is one of the major sources of water for metro Denver, and it’s only now 66 percent full, compared to 90 percent on average this time of year, reports the Summit Daily News. A huge spring storm could yet help refill reservoirs. It’s happened before. For now, Denver officials have barred use of parks for soccer play, to prevent damage to fragile grass.
Others are thinking about fires. Colorado had three major wildfires last year, the first in March, and two more in June. Altogether, seven people died of flames or smoke, and hundreds of homes were destroyed.
“It’s just so dry here,” Tom Grady, the emergency manager in Aspen and surrounding Pitkin County, told the New York Times.
The Aspen area avoided significant fires, owing to the timely arrival of rain during the Fourth of July but also general observance of prohibitions against fireworks and open fires.
The Aspen Daily News explains that a new state law in Colorado puts a great financial onus on local governments to contain wildfires. There’s no big purse to pay for those costs in the state government any more.
Politicians look at real estate
ASPEN, Colo. – One of just a handful of small lodges remaining in Aspen goes to a foreclosure auction in March, and Mayor Mick Ireland wants his fellow council members to consider bidding on the 26-room bed and breakfast.
The property was purchased for about $8 million in 2006,reports the Aspen Daily News.
Ireland said he has no burning desire to operate a lodge, but he is concerned that the lodge will be razed, to make room for a single-family house or some other high-priced real estate that is inimical to the town’s resort economy. “I’m concerned about a viable business turning into a residential property,” he tells the Daily News.
DENVER, Colo. – Want to get high on reefer? You could go to Colorado, if Colorado legislators approve the recommendations of a task force.
The state’s voters in November approved a constitutional amendment legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. One of the thornier issues of implementing this wish is whether to allow non-residents to indulge, what has been called marijuana tourism.
The task force agreed that the constitutional amendment approved by voters says nothing about restricting use to Colorado residents, reports The Denver Post. If lawmakers agree, says the newspaper, visitors would be free to buy and smoke marijuana.
The reasoning of one task force member, Rep. Dan Pabon, a Democrat from Denver, is that imposing a residency requirement “would almost certainly create a black market for recreational marijuana in the state.”
But tourists might not be able to buy much, maybe as little as an eighth of an ounce per transaction.
Individual jurisdictions, including ski towns, have mostly imposed moratoriums on commercial sales until state lawmakers adopt regulations. With that in mind, Steamboat Springs recently banned clubs set up by businesses to allow marijuana ingestion. The constitutional amendment does not allow public use, only private use.
Senior facilities move forward
EAGLE, Colo. – Rules have been amended in Eagle, located 30 miles west of Vail, so that a 150,000 square-foot senior-care facility can be built. Local officials note that such a facility has been talked about off and on since the 1970s. “We won’t be a true community until we are multi-generational,” said Yuri Kostick, mayor of Eagle and a local planner.
Eagle County government has committed $6 million toward construction, and the county is applying for a $12 million grant. A Minnesota-based non-profit called Augustana Care, which has contracted to operate the facility, has pledged $1 million. That leaves a shortfall of $3 million.
The first phase of the project is to have 22 skilled nursing beds, 20 assisted living beds, 12 memory-care beds and 10 others.
The project will employ 60 people.
Meanwhile, a proposal to create a 148-unit retirement community in Basalt, located 18 miles down-valley from Aspen, continues to move forward, but with a potentially show-stopping question yet unresolved.
The plans by the Aspen Valley Foundation include 78 independent-living units and 18 cottages for seniors who need little or no special medical care, explains the Aspen Times. Another 28 units will have assisted living provisions, and 24 will have skilled nursing.
So far, so good. But what about the affordable-housing requirements of such enterprises, as is required of other residential developments? After all, even if you don’t include the units that include some level of medical care, the others are “skewed toward the wealthy,” in the words of one planning commissioner in Basalt. But increasing costs will be passed onto customers, potentially precluding those of lesser means, a developer representative said.
The Aspen Times says the planning commission approved the plans, but left this affordable housing question for the town council to decide.
Walk-up lift ticket: $129
ASPEN, Colo. – Which one is at the top of the heap, Vail or Aspen? Based strictly on single-day lift ticket prices for Presidents’ Day Weekend, Vail has that distinction with its $129 walk-up price, while Aspen jumped up to $117.
Deer Valley came in at $107.
Few people pay these prices. All ski companies push multiday lift ticket purchases through discounts. Vail Resorts sells a four-day ticket for $384 if purchased at least a week in advance, while Aspen Skiing charges $396 for its four-day package.
Of course, for not much more, $679, Vail Resorts sold a season pass this year good at 10 ski areas, and with benefits at other resorts in the United States and Switzerland. But the catch was that you had to commit early.