Brisk biz in the Butte
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Business has been so brisk in Crested Butte this summer that some locals say it feels like Breckenridge.
One restaurateur tells the Crested Butte News that he had to tell customers no tables are available after 5 p.m. or before 9 p.m.
With such anecdotal reports coming in, the newspaper says that last summer’s record collections of sales taxes, a barometer of tourism activity, almost certainly will be surpassed – and those were all-time records.
Elk Mountain Lodge last July had an occupancy rate of 95 percent, what then seemed the highest possible. This year it raised rates and went even higher, 98 percent.
At the base of the ski area, occupancies are also rising. “Room nights were up 36 percent from June to October,” says ski company spokeswoman Erica Mueller. “We have been booked at nearly 100 percent occupancy for our rooms every weekend in July.”
Similar to Telluride, the summer economy in recent years has surpassed the winter economy in Crested Butte.
“I think people forget winters in town are flat and surrounded by two off-seasons,” Mike Marchitelli of Marchitelli’s Gourmet Noodle told the News. “So let’s enjoy this time and figure out a way to increase business during the slower times.”
Transient tourists trip into town
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – What exactly is the difference between a transient and a tourist? The dictionary makes a thin distinction, defining a transient as one of brief duration and a tourist one who travels for culture or pleasure.
So how do you define people traveling between various gatherings of the Rainbow Family of Living Light? The followers commonly hold gatherings in remote but beautiful places of the West. Taking note of these “transients,” Steamboat Today reports some complaints about panhandling and illegal camping.
But a police sergeant had kind words for these transient tourists. “Personally, the ones I’ve contacted have been extremely nice,” said Sgt. Scott Middleton.
Car sleeping OK’d
JACKSON, Wyo. – Housing is so tight in Jackson and Teton County that the Jackson Town Council is preparing to adopt a law that allows people to sleep in cars for a maximum of one night.
The Jackson Hole News&Guide notes that the liberalized policy reflects not only the housing shortage but a desire to allow more leeway for visitors or residents from outlying parts of the valley.
The severity of the housing shortage is being debated in the community. Mayor Mark Barron says it doesn’t rise to the level of crisis. He tells the newspaper that he has seen a housing shortage every summer since he moved to Jackson in 1975.
Barron concedes the need for more robust public policies to address the shortage that has resulted in a steady flow of traffic by resort and construction workers to communities outside of Jackson Hole, especially across Teton Pass into Idaho, about a 45-minute drive away.
But Councilman Jim Stanford says the housing shortage is the most acute in his 22 years in Jackson. He sees evidence of a trend transcending the usual busyness that comes with being a portal to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
Various strategies are being debated. One idea is to create a permanent housing fund, similar to what some other communities have created. Barron has long advocated more vertical building in Jackson, with employee housing at upper levels financed by commercial development at the ground-floor level. Many Jackson residents have pushed back vigorously, suspicious that it represents a Trojan horse for development without delivering a true solution.
Unknot the bear jams
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – Go to Yellowstone at some time other than mid-winter and you have a good chance of seeing a bear. A survey found that 99 percent of visitors expected to see a bear on their visits, and 67 percent actually did.
Many of these sightings occur along the narrow asphalt roads in the national park, where first one car and then several pull over to rubber-neck at the sighting of a grizzly or brown bear. Pretty soon, the roads are like Wal-Mart parking lots.
These are called bear jams, and there are more such knots on Yellowstone’s roads than there are park rangers to unknot them, notes the Jackson Hole News&Guide.
The study published in the Journal of Environmental Management found that surveyed visitors indicated they would be willing to spend an average of $41 on top of the current $25 entrance fee to cover the costs of managing bear jams.
Bears suffer death penalty
WHISTLER, B.C. – Two more bears were killed in late July in Whistler, bringing the total to nine for the summer.
One of those slain by wildlife officers had a long history of breaking and entering. The behavior that yielded the death penalty was breaking through a home’s window, forcing a woman and her son to take refuge in a bedroom while the sow rummaged through the kitchen.
A second bear was killed because he refused to take the hint when shooed away from the community’s heavily trafficked village plaza.
KETCHUM, Idaho – Wow! What a lot of electricity gets consumed in the Sun Valley-Ketchum area.
The Idaho Mountain Express reports that average consumption in Blaine County, where those towns are located, is almost 20,000 kilowatts-hour annually. The national average is 12,000.
The electrical provider for that area has applied to erect a new high-voltage transmission line to stave off outages.
International flights a no-go
GYPSUM, Colo. – For decades, there has been talk about installing customs agents and other border personnel that would give Eagle County Regional Airport upgraded status as an international field.
But the time hasn’t arrived yet. A consultant has concluded that the gains still lag the costs.
The airport serves the Vail-Beaver Creek resort area and, to a lesser extent, the Aspen-Snowmass area.
“Although passenger demand patterns may justify three weekly round-trip frequencies to (Mexico City) during ski season, the operations and maintenance cost of an international arrivals facility render the opportunity infeasible,” the study says. Flights from Panama City were also evaluated.
Renovating the airport to accommodate international arrivals would cost $2.6 million, but even greater would be the ongoing costs.
The Aspen Daily News notes that Aspen Skiing Co. shared proprietary information for preparation of the study. The newspaper noted that the privately owned company normally keeps its most interesting statistics close to its vest.
“We don’t disclose such information publicly or to our competitors, but if it’s something useful for our business, then we would share it,” said spokesman Jeff Hanley. The company in the past has said that international visitors are responsible for about 20 percent of its business.
Consultant Kent Myers, of Airplanners, who has been involved with the Eagle airport since the late 1980s, pointed out that people have talked about flights from Europe, but that always was a stretch. The technology just doesn’t yet exist.
Latin America is doable, but 9/11 created additional disruptions in travel that now make all international travel more cumbersome. The airport in Montreal has the capacity to handle U.S. customs for outgoing travelers, and one such flight goes to Eagle County.
In other news from ski town airports, Jim Elwood is leaving Aspen-Pitkin County Airport to run the show at the airport in Jackson Hole. He moved from Eagle County to Aspen 13 years ago.