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Mountain Town News

Allen Best

By early April, ski instructor Mark Eakin had done descended Corbet’s Couloir, the notoriously steep and narrow chute at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, 214 times. Included in that staggering number is a single-day mark of 32 descents.The Jackson Hole News&Guide describes the couloir as a run so vertical that it requires a controlled leap to enter. The average steepness down the 500 vertical feet is 40 degrees.Eakin, a native of Virginia, said he was drawn to Jackson Hole by the late Doug Coombs, a famed alpinist who died in a fall in France a year ago.”This lady told me it made her sick just to look in there,” he said of the couloir. “It’s made me feel that way too. I hear some people talk trash, but then they don’t go in it.”

Home rental costs surged 14 percent in the last year in Teton County.A state survey found that the average rent for a two- to three-bedroom home jumped from $1,464 in January 2006 to $1,767 this January, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Walgreens is moving into Dillon, and Silverthorne has just approved something called the Silverthorne Lifestyle Center, a 100,000-square-foot retail center consisting of five junior anchor stores.With these and other business expansions in Summit County, questions continue to percolate about who will work all these new jobs. The Summit Daily News cites a report from the Center for Business and Economic Forecasting that Summit County, which last year had 23,800 jobs, will have 41,600 jobs by the year 2025.Linda Venturoni, an economic analyst, says the numbers verify that Summit County and other resort valleys are heading into a tighter workforce vice. The proportion of people from 45 to 60 is growing rapidly, owing to an influx of retiring baby boomers. The proportion of people aged 25 to 40 bracket, is declining.Summit County is looking outside its borders for help, but the situation immediately to the west, in Eagle County, is probably more severe yet.

Vail town officials are now requiring affordable housing of all new building projects. In developments in the town’s more dense and commercial areas, particularly at the base of the ski slopes, 10 percent must be affordable. Developers of commercial space must provide housing for 20 percent of the new jobs they create.These proportions are a compromise. Town officials had first proposed 30 percent, but met strong opposition from builders and portions of the real-estate sector. But town officials are adamant that the regulations are necessary if the town is to meet its goal of having at least 30 percent of employees live in the town. The town figures that by 2020, almost every worker will live in some type of deed-restricted affordable housing, unable to afford free-market housing prices.Unaffected by the new law is a surge of redevelopment with a combined value of more than $1 billion. Those projects, which are already underway, are expected to add 1,500 permanent jobs. In addition, new development downvalley in Avon and Edwards is expected to add another 7,370 jobs in the next few years. Vail is also considering several other major redevelopment projects.Vail began its affordable housing program 10 years ago, but lags far behind Aspen and Telluride, according to affordable housing experts. “We’re really a leader in the whole resort industry, except when it comes to housing,” said Steve Lindstrom, who owns a chain of movie theaters in the Eagle Valley. But a representative of the Vail Board of Realtors, Asher Maslan, said the formula used to determine housing requirements is unfair. It says that real estate offices create more jobs than other kinds of businesses. “We view it as very, very unfair,” he said.An associated ordinance mandates that employee housing must be a minimum of 250 square feet.

April 2 dawned quietly in Granby, but by mid-morning winds were gusting and a fire at a log-processing area near the town was spreading rapidly.Firefighters extinguished the blaze within 12 hours, but local fire chief Dave Boyes said the story might have been much different had the fire occurred in mid-April, after the snow line had receded.The Sky-Hi News reports apprehension prevailed in Middle Park, where bark beetles are killing up to 90 percent of lodgepole pine forests. “Fire is the main fear for locals and second-home owners. A major fire could wreak havoc on our local economy. It could take lives. It would be ruinous,” said the newspaper.

The election of three new city council members in Durango is being widely interpreted as a signal for less development and redevelopment.”It looks like this represents a sea change in Durango,” Leigh Meigs, the top-vote getter, told the Durango Herald. But the affordable housing advocate Connie Imig fears the consequences. “I’m very concerned about affordable housing, because no-growth doesn’t go with affordable housing.”Durango itself is not growing rapidly compared to many amenity-laden towns in pretty places of the West, but population growth and development have been lightning-rod issues.

Owners of snowmobiles and dirt bikes are feeling picked on in Mt. Crested Butte, the town at the base of the Crested Butte ski area. A new community plan proposes to require indoor storage of all recreational equipment.”Tightening up on this restriction seems to be an unnecessary infringement on the lifestyle of those few RV enthusiasts living in the town,” said Don Janney.Mayor Chris Morgan indicated the town has been hearing comments on both sides of the issue for eight years.

Bears were raiding trash cans and Dumpsters in Crested Butte by early March this year, far earlier than usual.Just what provoked the bruins’ early appearance is not clear, but town officials are now discussing ways to make Crested Butte less inviting. They are talking about a rash of measures similar to those previously adopted in the Snowmass-Aspen and Beaver Creek-Vail areas.Already, the town has ordered 70 bear-resistant trash cans for use in business areas and parks. In addition, the town has ordered bear-resistant, steel-reinforced trash containers to be sold to town residents at $200 each.Still on the table is a law that would mandate wildlife-resistant containers, both for homes and businesses. Bear-resistant Dumpsters can cost more than $1,000. One alley behind Elk Lane, the restaurant-lined main street in Crested Butte, is called “fast food lane.”The Colorado Division of Wildlife urges community-wide measures. In addition, wildlife biologists urge that trash cans and recycling containers be frequently cleaned with ammonia to eliminate strong food odors.A bear’s nose has almost 100 times the number of scent membranes found in an average human’s nose. If the wind is right, it’s possible for a bear to smell your barbecuing steaks from three to five miles away.

A rancher near Picabo, located in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, shot and killed one of three wolves seen harassing his cattle in late March.Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials cleared the rancher of any wrongdoing, reports the Idaho Mountain Express. The investigators linked a dead calf to the same wolves and are now trying to capture them, to relocate them. Because of the area’s agriculture emphasis, say the state wildlife biologists, it’s unsuitable for wolves.

Ski-area operators are continuing to expand their non-skiing amusements for the public. Last year Park City Mountain Resort introduced an alpine coaster. This year, Vail Resorts is proposing to erect something similar at Adventure Ridge, its fun center at the top terminal of the gondola on Vail Mountain.The gravity-powered coaster would have steel rails that would carry two-person sleds on a 3,000-foot long track down 300 vertical feet, reported the Vail Daily. The elevated coaster would be used in both winter and summer.Aspen Skiing Co. is also planning to expand its non-skiing amusements with an expanded terrain park for mountain boarding, a cross between mountain biking and skateboarding. The Denver Post says Colorado’s Monarch Mountain is renegotiating its Forest Service use permit to include mountain biking.

After an economic downturn that lasted for about five winters, Whistler has had a strong winter again. Tourism Whistler reported a 16 percent increase in room nights booked during February.The basic story seems to be that Whistler got snow, some 42 feet of it, after some mediocre winters. Also, prices have dropped at many locations, making Whistler more attractive to Vancouver and also Seattle residents. Some officials also believe that more aggressive use of Internet marketing has paid off.The number of U.S. visitors increased 27 percent.

It’s becoming a trend. The nation of Ireland five years ago adopted a 15-cent tax on all plastic bags. San Francisco last year passed a law prohibiting grocery stores from using plastic bags in the next six months. Several Canadian communities have taken similar measures.Now, a councilor in Pemberton, a community near Whistler, is proposing a similar measure. “An alternative to plastic bags can be using non-petroleum based plastic,” said Jennie Helmer, who helps operate an organic farm. Another councilor, who also runs a grocery store, indicated his support. The town staff is now studying potential legislation, reports Whistler’s Pique newsmagazine.

Organizers of a street festival in Banff called Heat up the Rockies are taking aim at plastic plates and utensils and Styrofoam cups. They want to reduce solid waste and petroleum consumption. The offending cups were replaced by cups made from sugar cane and eating utensils and plates were similarly derived from biodegradeable commodities.If successful, reported the Banff Crag & Canyon, zero-waste products may become the template for future events.

Sharp words continue to be uttered in the wake of a move by Liberal Party politicians in the provincial government to fast-track a decision about the Jumbo Glacier ski resort.The measure being discussed would create a new local government, a resort region, removing the decision from the Regional District of East Kootenay, which had been presumed to be the final decision-maker. Directors of the East Kootenay district won’t protest the provincial action.Meanwhile, the Invermere Valley Echo continues to be a steaming bowl of conflicting opinions. Included in the last issue was a letter from Bill Bennett, who represents the area in the provincial legislature. He says the Jumbo Glacier resort has been the “most studied, carefully planned resort project in Canadian history.” He also rejected charges of opponents that the resort would violate a pristine area. It’s near Panorama, a fast-growing resort, and both logging and mining operations have occurred at Jumbo in the past.”As a politician, it’s easy to avoid controversy by doing nothing and refusing to make a hard decision. I refuse to be that politician,” he wrote. “We’ve dragged our feet on Jumbo for a decade and a half; it’s time we did something.”


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