Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Construction is down sharply this year in California’s Mono County, where the Mammoth ski area is located.The Sheet newspaper doesn’t offer speculation as to the reasons, but does report that the slower market has caused developers to voice objections about new affordable housing mitigation requirements. When the regulations were being adopted, the market was strong, and they were silent. They claim they were blindsided by the mitigation fees, which have rendered projects unprofitable.In some cases, county authorities agree. The fees assumed a specified square footage of commercial space will yield X number of employees. But that one-size-fits-all approach was indeed too punishing to self-storage businesses, for example, where there are very few employees and lots of space.

Change is coming to Ophir, a mountainside town about 10 miles from Telluride, and the locals don’t much care for it.The old electrical transmission lines that run through Ophir, on their way to Telluride, are being upgraded. The wooden poles, which some residents had come to think of as being like dead trees, are being upgraded with steel plating and crossboards. “It’s an eyesore,” said Ophir Mayor Jon Gerona.For the moment, the power line is also Telluride’s Achilles’ heel. An avalanche near Ophir took down the power lines a couple of years ago, demonstrating just how vulnerable Telluride’s economy is to its electrical supply in the outside world. Tri-State Generation and Transmission wants to upgrade a more direct line into Telluride, but has been opposed by landowners on the mesas that the line would traverse. Those landowners want to see the power line underground as it crosses their property. Tri-State says that would be prohibitively expensive.

Surely the law of inverse proportions was at work in Hailey, located 18 miles downvalley from the resort towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley. There, town authorities have posted a speed limit of 25 mph on the highway through town. This is the same highway that connects Ketchum and Sun Valley with the outside world.Town authorities say the slower speed limit was posted to improve safety, not to inconvenience commuters or touristsBut an Idaho state legislator is so annoyed he intends to sponsor legislation that would remove authority from towns for setting the speed limits of highways that run through them. He, and many others, think the speed limit should be increased.Judging by the comments on the Idaho Mountain Express website, this is a very, very important issue to the locals.”The only thing they are protecting are the drunks stumbling from one bar to another across the highway,” wrote one blogger. “Bellevue has always marched to the beat of a different drummer,” said another blogger scornfully. “Get a life – aren’t there more important things to worry about?” questioned another.

Durango Mountain Resort, the former Purgatory ski area, has plans to grow bigger and better during the next 20 years.During that time, reports the Durango Telegraph, the ski area would like to expand its capacity by roughly a third, to 9,600 skiers a day. It also wants to expand its terrain by 22 percent, add 10 lifts and substantially boost its snowmaking capacity.The public doesn’t seem to have much to say about the ski area expansion, but there is a lot of comment about the impacts of the ski area’s development on private lands, says Richard Speegle, the recreation project manager for the federal land agency. The ski area is on U.S. Forest Service property, but a great deal of real estate development is occurring.One party skeptical of the expansion is Colorado Wild. “Our general concern is that ski areas should not expand unless there is a specific demand,” said Ryan Demmy Bidwell, the group’s executive director.

An upscale boutique condo-hotel of 35 rooms is being planned for Truckee. The goal is to retain some travelers who would normally go to the Squaw Valley ski area or Incline Village, an upscale town along the shores of Lake Tahoe, says Art Chapman, president of FMA Ventures. The Sierra Sun reports support from other businesses in rapidly upscaling Truckee.

Plans have been formalized in Steamboat Springs for a gondola that will link a real estate and commercial development about a mile from the ski area to the base area.The project, called Wildhorse Meadows, already has a commercial complex, and a large residential component is planned, with an abandon-the-car-and-walk emphasis. Construction is expected to be complete in time for the 2009-10 ski season. While more extensive use of gondolas has been discussed in ski towns for decades, their enormous cost has precluded them – until now. Breckenridge now has a gondola from its parking area near the town core, a considerable distance from the ski slopes. A new gondola is going into a place that will connect Avon with Beaver Creek. A gondola is also planned at Vail, to link a new real estate project called Ever Vail to the slopes.In Steamboat, the gondola will be a fixed-grip pulse gondola, with cabins accommodating six people. It will take gondola cars 4 minutes, 30 seconds to get to the ski area’s base. The gondola will be manufactured by Leitner-Poma, which has a manufacturing plant in Grand Junction.

The real estate market in ski towns of the West has been humming along, despite the shudders nationally. The high-end market seems unaffected.But the first evidence is coming in that the national woes are affecting the outlying areas. The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports that two speculatively built homes in Victor, Idaho, which is located across Teton Pass from Jackson Hole, have been sold for less than half of the asking price.

The idea of another ski resort in the Oquirrh Mountains, southwest of Salt Lake City, continues to be pursued. The proposed resort is on land owned by Kennecott Land, an arm of the same company that owns the world’s largest open-pit copper mine, which is located nearby. The base area would be 6,200 feet, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, rising up to 9,350.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at

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