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Mountain Town News

The slowed economy is having an effect on forests near Ketchum and Sun Valley.U.S. Forest Service rangers tell the Idaho Mountain Express that twice as many permits for firewood have been sold this year as compared to recent years. As well, the permits for Christmas trees were snapped up this year.At Crested Butte, the slowed real estate economy is evident in a story about a school district project. Local electricians, plumbers and other subcontractors are eager to get a shot at some of the $1.4 million in work, reports the Crested Butte News. Just a few years ago, it was all hands on deck there, because of the press of work.During that time of frenzied real estate sales, Crested Butte also drew up an ordinance that severely restricted the location of real estate and other office-type businesses along the towns main shopping district, Elk Avenue. A landlord is now pleading for a reprieve. Its horrible out there right now, said landowner Chuck Cligett. The council, reports the Crested Butte News, appears to be bending at least a little.

Lake Louise is considering a composting facility to process food waste from hotels. Such a composting facility could eliminate half the waste stream to a landfill near Calgary, more than an hour to the east. Jasper and Banff already have composting structures, notes the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

The home in which Elaine Weston lives was built in 1882, when Crested Butte was a supply town for silver and coal mines. She bought it in 1994, decades after the town had been reinvented as a ski resort.In the back of her house is a chicken coop, which is no longer used. But, according to a law passed by the Crested Butte Town Council, Weston will be responsible for making sure the chicken coop doesnt fall over.The same law applies to 200 outbuildings, which are among 420 structures in Crested Butte listed as contributing historic buildings. The entire town is designated as a National Historic District, and the council agrees that the old outhouses, coal sheds and chicken coops contribute to that antiquated feel.We need to address the whole fabric of our past, and that includes protecting the historic outbuildings we have in town, Bob Gillie, the towns building officer, said at a recent meeting.The Crested Butte News reports that Gillies proposal elicited strong dissent from several property owners, including Weston. It galls me to have to support an old chicken coop when I cant have a chicken, Weston said.Another homeowner, Karen Anderson, said she bought her house in 1986 for the house, not the outbuildings. I didnt buy it for the smoke house or the chicken coop or the other buildings out back, she said. I think the town is asking a lot of my private property. I dont have the inclination or the money to do this.The towns new law requires property owners to take the necessary measures to ensure that the old outbuildings dont fall over. It doesnt require the outbuildings to be gussied up. As such, town officials think a few two-by-fours here and there, properly located, will bolster the outbuildings during times of wind and heavy snow.The new law offers small stipends of $200, sufficient to buy a bit of lumber, to property owners, but reserves a stick to swat property owners who dont keep the outbuildings standing upright.Councilwoman Leah Williams suggested the community overall has a broad interest in retaining direct links to its past. I love the old sheds. I love the alleys. Its part of why we are all here, she said. Its not to penalize anyone, but it is to help Crested Butte keep its character.

Like most of America, Durango has several extremely big-box stores on the edge of town. At the same time, the historic downtown district is holding its own. The downtown accounts for nearly half of the communitys revenues collected from sales taxes, reports the Durango Telegraph.Tourists are no stranger to the district, which is filled with wonderful restaurants and stylish clothing stores, although the must-have items like hardware are now out in the burbs.Tourists spend an average $91 per day, compared to the average $30 spent per visit by local residents. However, locals still account for far more downtown business traffic, according to a study by RRC Associates, a consulting firm from Boulder, Colo.

As a Santa Claus slithered 60 feet down a rope, 2,000 people whooped in approval as Jackson Hole Mountain Resort unveiled its new tram cars. The new $31 million tram has opened after nearly two years without a tram to whisk skiers 4,139 vertical feet to the top of Rendezvous Mountain.The tram cars, says the Jackson Hole News&Guide, are sleek, with the bucking bronco logo that is omnipresent in Wyoming adorning the sides. Its interior resembles what one might expect in contemporary European transit train slick and functional, reports the newspapers Angus M. Thuermer Jr.In an editorial, the newspaper hailed the new tram and saluted the old one. From Yellowstone geysers to the Grand Teton, Mother Nature shines here like nowhere else, said the newspaper. It is improbable that a man-made contraption could rank next to such marvels, yet the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram has taken its place in the valley pantheon.The newspaper further noted that the gondola was critical to the operation of the ski area, which is what gave Jackson Hole traditionally more reliant on summer tourism a year-round economy.

Vail always has had a reputation for an uncanny ability to get regular dollops of snow. Others may get bigger dumps of powder, but Vail rarely loses out entirely.Why is this? Joe Ramey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, tells the Vail Mountaineer that Vail and its sibling ski area, Beaver Creek, are in an orographically favored area. He also called the ski mountains snow hog microclimates.Elevation and the shape of your mountains helps lift the air, he explained. The lifted air is more likely to then disgorge its precipitation in the form of snow.Vail and Beaver Creek have been well blessed during the last two weeks, but so has virtually every other ski resort in Colorado. After an extremely slow start, both Sun Valley and the Tahoe-Truckee area have also been doing well.

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Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News, a regular feature of the Aspen Times Weekly. He can be reached at allen.best@comcast.net.

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