Mountain Town News | AspenTimes.com

Mountain Town News

Allen Best

Everything remains on schedule for the Dec. 22 opening of Revelstoke Mountain Resort. The ski area is to have the longest vertical run in North America at about 7,000 feet.Revelstoke is located along the Columbia River, about 400 miles from Vancouver and 260 miles from Calgary.Don Simpson, the Denver-based principal developer, told the Revelstoke Times Review that $75 million has been invested so far, with another $50 million committed by next spring.The first 59 condos sold immediately, and later this month the project will put 25 single-family home lots onto the market. Of them, five will be permitted to have private helipads. Listed prices are $650,000 to $1.5 million.

Restrictions on Australians who work in Whistler have been loosened, to the cheers of employers. An estimated 2,000 Australians work in Whistler each year.The Canadian government has extended holiday visas to make them valid for two years instead of one. The federal government also increased the cap on visas allotted to Australians each year, and Whistler is expected to be a primary beneficiary, reports Pique.In addition, the process for hiring temporary foreign workers for specified jobs, such as ski instructors, has been streamlined. Previously, employers had to prove that they had conducted a cross-country search without success. Now, employers are told to expect a decision within a week.But Bob Barnett, the newspaper’s editor, warns that these loosened restrictions are not the whole answer for Whistler’s labor shortage. Still to be solved is where to put the employees once they are found.

Officials in both the town of Jackson and Teton County are preparing to elevate affordable housing requirements of developers. Currently, developments must have 15 percent of housing units devoted to deed-restricted housing. The governments are looking at 25 percent.”We had 1,500 to 2,000 jobs this summer that didn’t get filled, and we have to ask ourselves why,” said Jackson Mayor Mark Barron, who owns a dry-cleaning business. “I don’t think we can sit on our hands any more.”The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports that the Town Council is not uniformly convinced, but the comments offered by councilors suggest they will ultimately up the ante. The county commissioners ordered that all applicants in their jurisdiction be informed of the possible increase.Jackson Hole began its affordable housing program in 1994; it now has 361 deed-restricted ownership units and 458 rental units. “That’s not bad in a community of less than 19,000 people,” said Barron.Still, Barron described the problem as one of crisis proportions.

Another hotel is being proposed at Mountain Village, the midmountain, slopeside town at Telluride. Proponents claim the project, called Mountain Village Hotel, will offer “reasonably priced rooms.” Altogether, 127 rooms are planned, plus a smattering of affordable housing by a Dallas company, Juno Development, reports The Telluride Watch.

A former town manager in Vail once likened ski area operators and the local governments to two convicts handcuffed together in the jungle.In fact, no matter what town, whether Aspen, Squaw Valley or Winter Park, the locals often are at odds with the ski area operator, no matter how much of a destiny they share.And at the moment, the relations between the Vail Town Council and its chained-for-life companion, Vail Resorts, are a bit on the testy side. At least, that’s what town officials are saying.While there seems to be some causes below the surface for testiness, the stuff getting daylight has to do with the employee housing obligations by the company. The company is on the hook, as the Vail Daily notes, to build 144 employee units.The company has offered to buy a major affordable housing complex in Vail purchased by the town government for $22 million – the amount the town paid for it. The complex, which dates to the early ’70s, is getting rundown. And with today’s economy, the site can be redeveloped to become a major affordable housing village. It currently has 600 rental beds, but Vail Resorts proposes to double or triple the number of beds.One alternative is the company could pay the town $17.3 million to satisfy its affordable housing obligation.

The proposed molybdenum mine on Mount Emmons, the mountain almost literally in the backyard of Crested Butte, is now being called Lucky Jack. It was first proposed about 30 years ago, and the idea then was about as popular as skiing on rocks.It laid dormant after the market for molybdenum sank in the early ’80s, but it has roared back to life with the global boom that has put everything from cement to steel in high demand, skyrocketing the price of molybdenum. Among other uses, molybdenum hardens steel.A representative of the mining interests was in Crested Butte last week to meet with 100 not-so-welcoming locals and a few guests. Among the questioners was Linda Powers, a shop owner and former mayor. “Why aren’t you looking at other locations like China, where the product is most likely to end up?” she asked.Clyde Gillespie, the project manager for Kobex Resources Ltd. and U.S. Energy Corp., replied that he didn’t speak the language. “We don’t own property in China. This is the project we are planning to develop.” The Crested Butte News says that the mining interests hope to submit detailed plans to the Forest Service by the end of the year.

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It’s been another big year for construction in Park City. Building volume through August was just shy of the record of $173 million. A permit for another hotel at Deer Valley is expected to push Park City to a new record.

With the 48,000-acre fire that flickered to the edge of Ketchum on her mind, Kitty Durtschi is an evangelist for metal roofs. It provides the greatest protection in case of wild fire – although it is banned by many homeowner associations.”For some reason, shake-shingle roofs are seen as ‘better,'” she writes in a letter published in the Idaho Mountain Express.”Forbidding Western homeowners from building fire-safe homes is as ridiculous as forbidding Southern homeowners from installing hurricane shutters or Midwesterners from excavating storm cellars. The lives and safety of the entire community are put at greater risk for no logical reason.”Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at allen.best@comcast.net.

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