Mountain Town News
November 2, 2007
Twenty-five years ago Norwood was about as remote as you could get in the Colorado mountains and still have your foot on pavement. Located a half-hour-drive west of Telluride, it was beyond the reach of Denver newspapers.
It was, however, very affordable, and even then was attracting refugees from Telluride. It still is ” although times, and prices, have changed. The Telluride Watch tells of a building that began life as the Oddfellows Hall and is now converted to other uses, including a Manhattan-style loft. The asking price for the 1,800-square-foot unit is $450,000.
The argument continues about whether another ski resort is needed, or wanted, in the Whistler area. Proponents of the proposed ski area called Garibaldi at Squamish, located about a half-hour west of Whistler on the road to Vancouver, project skier visits in British Columbia will rise from 6 million this year to 10.1 million by the year 2015. The report was assembled by the SE Group, a consulting company based in Park City, Utah, and Frisco, Colo.
But Intrawest, which operates the Whistler-Blackcomb ski area is skeptical. A spokesman told Pique newsmagazine that there are reasons ” such as the continuing flatness of the ski industry in North American ” to be cautious.
Whistler’s largest crowd has been 27,000, short of the theoretical daily capacity of 30,000. However, normal business is much, much less. There is no need to take the pressure off weekend and holiday periods in Whistler, says Doug Forseth, senior vice president of mountain operations. Instead, he suggests the focus of efforts in British Columbia should be to take market share from elsewhere in the world, and to tap new markets.
The dialogue continues to sharpen in Revelstoke as housing prices rapidly increase. The problem of rapid change is such that one letter-writer, Cornelius Suchy, proposes a go-slow approach to authorizing new development, such as at the new Revelstoke Mountain Resort, until existing problems have been addressed.
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The community is not getting what it needs from the developer of the new ski resort, he says. “The simple formula is: no affordable housing, no development permit ” a practice common in most resort communities,” he contends. He says that the affordable housing requirement for the new resort was scrapped, “letting the developers off the hook.”
He also takes issue with the conversion of existing house stock into vacation homes for “Albertans, New York millionaires, and European wannabe eco-tourists.” He argues for confining recreational housing to specifically zoned resort areas, plus heavier taxes on nonresident property ownership.
In scouting out its future, he says, the Revelstoke municipal council studied other resort communities, who warned that affordable housing would be the city’s single-greatest challenge. “Why Council decided to disregard these and other warnings and push ahead with the maximum-size resort development remains a mystery,” he says.
The conversation is under way in Truckee about whether more energy-efficient building should be mandated or voluntary. Among those arguing for a mandate is Bob Johnston, a retired professor of environmental science and chairman of the town’s planning commission. He cites the impacts of global warming on Truckee in arguing for more efficient use of energy, but says better buildings will reap energy savings that will in turn benefit developers, builders, and then tenants. Taking the opposite viewpoint is Nevada County building inspector Ted Owens, who is himself a contractor. He argues that market forces are encouraging green-building, and that’s how it should stay.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort wants to expand and also building more base-area housing. Bud Klein, a founder and principal shareholder in Mountain Springs Holding Co., says he foresees 8,000 to 9,000 people at the mountain’s base. But the Tahoe Daily Tribune says that a protesting environmental group called the Foothill Conservancy thinks that’s way too many people, because of traffic congestion and the resort’s dependency on burning diesel fuel to create electricity.
Vail Resorts got a free advertisement on the front page of The Denver Post business section. The story was about Arabelle, the new boutique hotel in Vail that is being completed. It has 36 hotel rooms and 67 condominiums.
Arabelle oozes with the ornate architecture described as Old World, the theme currently sweeping the resorts. Some $250 million of real estate altogether, it’s modeled after buildings in Prague, Innsbruck and Munich.
Vail is thick with five-star lodging properties, but Vail Resorts claims a distinction at Arabelle. Rooms during midwinter will cost $1,300 to $1,400 per night, and $450 to $500 in summer. And for this, guests will get butlers or, to be more precise, personal concierges.
But where will these butlers come from? As required by Vail town authorities, the company is responsible for providing 144 beds of employee housing, notes the Vail Daily. The company has offered to buy one existing employee housing complex or, if that fails, to pay an in-lieu fee of $17 million.