By Allen Best
JACKSON, Wyo. – A gender-bent elk has been identified among the 7,000 that winter in the National Wildlife Refuge near Jackson. It’s not clearly a female, but neither is it clearly a male.
The Jackson Hole News&Guide explains that staff at the refuge, as well as visitors, have noticed that it has stubs of antlers, what are called eo-antlers. Eo-antlers are found in mostly older females because of hormonal imbalances. The animal’s hide has the coloring more akin to that of a cow.
But it’s of larger size, suggesting a male, and then there’s suggestion of appendages. “The guys on the sleigh rides say that they can see male parts,” said a spokeswoman for the refuge.
One final bit of evidence: it hangs with the bull elks.
A record winter – for snowmaking
WHISTLER, B.C. – It’s been a record year for snowmaking at Whistler Blackcomb. Pique reports that 265 million gallons of water have been converted into snow, eclipsing the old record of 225 million gallons.
Before Christmas, Whistler got so little snow that the ski area operator lent snowmaking equipment to the municipality, to fluff up a plaza in the town’s interior with the white stuff.
Whistler Blackcomb, the ski area operation, now has $60 million in snowmaking infrastructure, a third of it installed in time for the Winter Olympics. With global warming expected to cause the snow line to rise, ski area operators expect to expand their investment in coming years.
Another tree-well death
WHITEFISH, Mont. – The body count was high this past week at ski areas across the West. Mostly people died after smacking into trees, but Whitefish had the more unusual tree-well inversion.
The 54-year-old was reported to have been skiing with his son between black-diamond runs. When the son arrived at the bottom and his father failed to show up, the son returned to the top and retraced their route. Eventually, he saw his father’s skis sticking out of the tree well, says the Whitefish Pilot.
Whitefish has had 6 inversion deaths since 1978, but this is the third in three years. Two people died two years ago. In the aftermath of one of those cases, the parents of the 16-year-old victim filed a wrongful death lawsuit that accuses Whitefish Mountain Resort of negligence.
Development plan pared by 30%
TRUCKEE, Calif. – An effort is underway to incorporate Olympic Valley, where Squaw Valley is located. The Sierra Sun reports that a major step forward in that effort occurred during December when a group called Incorporate Olympic Valley submitted a formal application that outlines town boundaries and public services.
“At the end of the day, incorporation is about control of tax revenue and improved services for residents, visitors and homeowners,” said Peter Schweitzer, chair of Incorporate Olympic Valley. “It’s also about control of land use and development.”
The background for the incorporation effort is the purchase of Squaw Valley by Denver-based KSL Capital, which heralds significant investment in the ski product but also real estate development.
Colorado developers have been busy remaking the Tahoe Basin resorts into more destination-type resorts similar to what are found in the Rocky Mountains. Booth Creek Resorts and East West Partners, both based in Vail, were first into the California market, more recently joined by Vail Resorts and KSL Capital Partners. The latter is composed of ex-Vail executives.
KSL’s plans to remake Squaw have been stoutly opposed by locals, and in December KSL announced it was scaling down plans by 30 percent. Bedrooms have been trimmed from 2,184 to 1,493 and hotels have been shelved. From eight stories, the maximum height has been lowered to seven stories, according to a report in Moonshine Ink.
Locals stoutly resist the sort of infrastructure that is now common at destination resorts. For example, Squaw currently has aboveground parking lots. The plan called for underground parking for day skiers.
Chevis Hosea, vice president of development with the Squaw Valley Real Estate, a subsidiary of KSL, expressed contrition in his remarks with Moonshine Ink.
“We did not anticipate that this would be a concern; we were surprised by that,” he said. “It sends a subliminal message that Squaw Valley no longer wants day skiers; only destination skiers. That is so far from the truth.”
Other objections had to do with plans to replace the Members Locker Room with a 25,000 to 35,000 square foot members club such as is found in Vail and Aspen. “We learned from that. It was one of the strongest cultural things in Squaw. We shouldn’t disturb that,” he told Moonshine.
Yet a third objection was about the renamed Mountain Adventure Camp, which the public thought was too big and too focused on indoor activities.
In response, KSL shaved off 42,000 square feet, bringing it down to 90,000, and added a one-acre feature of outdoor pools and water facilities. The activities center would offer kayaking, paddle boarding, and rafting, but also zipline, and rock climb.
But KSL continues to argue for the need for more bed base. North America’s top-six ski resorts strive to have 1.3 bedrooms per skiable acre, said Hosea. Vail, for example, has 1.6 bedrooms. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are only at 0.3 bedrooms per skiable acre.
Squaw’s previous proposal would have increased the ratio to 0.6 bedrooms per skiable area, while the revised plan brings it down to 0.5.
Pining for a superhighway
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Being remote, four to five hours from Denver when the roads are good, and always at the end of a plowed road, Crested Butte has undeniable charm. But in one key respect, locals would like to be hard on the Internet equivalent to a four-lane highway.
What will it take? That discussion about increasing broadband width has been underway for several years, with no clear resolution. By late summer, that bigger information highway could arrive.
For that to happen, however, several transmission towers must be built, and at least one would infringe upon land already staked out by Gunnison sage grouse. That would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conclude that the Gunnison sage grouse should not be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
More “free” concerts
VAIL, Colo. – Vail is adding another free music series to its summer schedule in its attempt to draw visitors.
This newest addition is to be a series of mid-week concerts by bluegrass musicians at Lionshead, a commercial hub of the town that gets a little less traffic than the original Vail Village. The town subsidy is $50,000.
Since at least the 1980s, Vail, both the town government and community organizations, have funded free mid-week concerts and the more high-brow (and costly) dance and orchestral events.
Since 2008, however, the town government has added financial heft to free special events. The ploy seems to have worked, at least in part, as witnessed by the busy summers and record sales-tax collections.
But is this too much of a good thing? That’s the implied argument of the Vail Homeowners Association, which tends to reflect the interests of the best-heeled second-home owners. The group’s December newsletter suggests “Vail’s marketing results have become too dependent upon budget-conscious day visitors, particularly on weekends. This, and the increase in the frequency of large mass events, are causing the perception of overcrowding.”