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Mountain Town News

Silverton, Colo.: Early January storm biggest in four yearsThe big story of early January was big enough to isolate Silverton for two days, cutting off highway access both north and south into the San Juan Mountains.It was probably the most powerful snow event in the San Juan Mountains in the last four years, according to Chris Landry, director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies. Landry is a careful man and not prone to exaggeration.Silverton Mountain Ski Area reported more than 5 feet of fresh snow out of the storm, and Colorado road crews reported avalanche paths that had never run before. Winter has firmly asserted itself once again, wrote the Silverton Standards Freddie Canfield. Those who had not already done so were advised to muck out their roofs, to use a mining phrase for shoveling.Crested Butte, Colo.: Shovels move at brisk pace in Crested ButteEven in places where its a disaster when it doesnt snow, snow season tends to take people by surprise.Witness the story in Crested Butte told by Ben Swietizer, who owns a hardware store. After a month of heavy snow, he told the Crested Butte News that there had been a run on snow shovels. We had 1,210 shovels in the last order. Theyre already gone, he said.Of such purchases, he said they are spur-of-the-moment. We dont sell a single shovel until we get several feet, he said.And Crested Butte has had several feet of snow this winter, and then some. The depth has town and county officials scratching their heads about the cost of snow removal. The problem, according to Crested Butte Town Manager Susan Parker, is that the snow has come in such big storms that its caused a lot of overtime work.The big snowfall this winter is also posing problems of where to put the white stuff. In Crested Butte, there are fewer vacant lots than there used to be. If the snow has to be hauled downvalley, it will further escalate costs, she said.Gunnison, Colo.: Deer feeding launched in the Gunnison BasinIn Gunnison County, where Crested Butte is located, this winter is being called the most severe in decades. The most apt comparison seems to be to the snowy winter of 1983. Its been cold, too, with temperatures in Gunnison dipping to 25 below for a couple of nights in a row.This winters deep and crusted snow concerned state wildlife biologists sufficiently that they have launched a feeding program for about 8,000 of the 21,000 deer in the Gunnison Basin.Deer and other big-game animals lose 30 percent of their body weight during a normal winter, according to state biologists. They expect to lose 8 to 15 percent of deer during any given winter, but fear much more severe losses this winter that will destabilize the herds.Biologists are reported also to be monitoring conditions in the Eagle and Roaring Fork valleys, among other locations, to assess whether feeding operations will be necessary.Silverton, Colo.: Mining inches closer to realityAn exploration and mine development company continues to assemble the pieces in San Juan County for what could result in the resumption of mining and ore processing.The Silverton Standard reports that Colorado Goldfields has signed an option agreement on certain royalties and net profit interests on the Gold King and Mayflower mines.Todd Hennis, who heads the firm, called it a milestone. The companys long-term strategy involves consolidating the major mining properties of the Silverton area, combined with the application of modern exploration techniques and scaled expansion of field operations on carefully selected assets.Summit County, Colo.: Montezuma Bowl makes A-Basin 80 percent largerWith one fell swoop, one of Colorados oldest ski areas, Arapahoe Basin, is now 80 percent larger.The rope was dropped on Montezuma Bowl earlier this month in whiteout conditions, opening 400 acres of blue-, black- and double-black-diamond slopes, including everything from cornices and chutes to glades and wide-open bowl skiing. The bowl also has some earn-your-turns skiing, notes the Summit Daily News.Opened the same year as Aspen, in 1946, A-Basin remained little changed for more than 50 years. In recent years, however, it has added snowmaking, allowing it to become the nations earliest ski area to open for the season, and updated on-mountain facilities.North Vancouver, B.C.: Errant skiers, boarders billed for rescue costsGrouse Mountain ski patrollers plucked two snowboarders a father and son from a high-risk avalanche area in waist-deep power. The two had ducked ropes to get to the terrain.Grouse Mountain chose to bill the father and son for the estimated cost of the rescue: $2,500. The season passes of the two were also rescinded.They knew going in there would come with some risk, said Andrea Scott, public relations manager for Grouse Mountain. Perhaps this [fine] is some incentive to respect the signage.At Whistler, some 90 miles to the north, the decision at Grouse is being applauded. I think its great, Bernie Protsch, manager of the Whistler Mountain Ski Patrol, told Pique. Its time this becomes the benchmark in the ski industry.Similar rescues in out-of-bounds areas by ski patrollers are becoming increasingly commonplace at Whistler. Even as Protsch spoke with the newspaper, he was supervising the third out-of-bounds rescue in two days.Brad Sills, manager of Whistler Search and Rescue, a community group, likewise complains of people not taking responsibility for themselves. He called them Dial-a-Rescues.Something similar occurred in Jackson Hole. There, snowboarders stopped at Togwotee Pass, near Yellowstone National Park, and cruised on snowmobiles into the backcountry. Then the snowboarders rode the snow off a peak without a ride back. At daybreak, they were able to hike up to a ridgeline and call 911 for help. A search team of 20 had been dispatched, including a medic aboard a helicopter.The two young men are to be billed $1,200 to $1,400 for the helicopter, reported the Jackson Hole News&Guide.Canmore, Alberta: Building expected to slow somewhatThe real estate market in Canmore appears to be slowing down. But all things are relative, and with the oil-patch economy of Alberta still booming, the increases projected for the year ahead are still brisk ones.During the last year, Canmores single-family homes rose an average of 25 percent in value. This year, the average cost of a single-family house in the former coal-mining town is expected to surpass $1 million.With land becoming more scarce, more building of multifamily housing units is expected, officials tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook. We do not have a lot of single-family lots left to build on, said Gary Buxton, the citys senior manager of planning and engineering.Park City, Utah: Another building record set in 2007Construction starts increased again last year in Park City, with a market of nearly $240 million. The previous record, set the year before, was $173 million. Building officials tell The Park Record that less building is explained by single-family houses. Instead, there were far more condominiums and townhouses. A few big projects, including hotels adjacent to the slopes at Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort, boosted the numbers, as did the start of a hospital.Crested Butte, Colo.: Big changes continue at ski area Crested Butte Mountain Resort continues to forge ahead with investment in its infrastructure, with hopes that it can soon have something to brag about beyond the worlds best grooming.The Forest Service willing, the ski area intends to add gondola cars to one of its main lifts, Red Lady Express, and also add new lifts, expand snowmaking, and assorted other on-mountain improvements.In a couple of years, the ski area hopes to have a new on-mountain restaurant, the 22,000-square-foot Red Lady Lodge, with a Vail-like dining area large enough for 230 people plus a fine-dining component large enough for 100 people.At the base of the mountain, much work has been done already in redevelopment, but more is coming. Among the new buildings will be a base-area cafeteria, with 95 condominiums in the upper stories and costing up to $1,500 per square foot.Bigger much bigger are plans ahead for what is essentially a new ski mountain, if only located on the other side of the town. While that project, called Snodgrass, is likely years away, much more imminent is base-area real estate. One of those two projects calls for 400 new residential units.The second real-estate base project envisions 1,000-plus units and a new town hall (currently located in pre-fab housing) and a post office. In effect, the new project, called North Village, aims to create a central focus at the base of the ski mountain. The municipality is called Mount Crested Butte, to distinguish it from the old coal-mining town two miles away.Similar to what has been happening elsewhere, this new real-estate pod is to be connected to the ski mountain via a gondola. Otherwise, the project would be separated by a road and other development.Although boasting of nearly 600,000 skier days a decade ago, when the resort offered lots of free skiing, annual skier days total tumbled to little more than 300,000 early in this century. This year, the resort aims to surpass 425,000 skier days.Revelstoke, B.C.: Tourism economy up 41 percentIf hotel and motel revenues are a barometer of tourism in Revelstoke, tourism business has increased 41 percent in the last several years. The Revelstoke Times Review says that tourism officials credit the surge to the creation of a formal marketing organization, with the responsibility of promoting the city. In winter, Revelstoke is considered a destination, with snow being the draw. It is perhaps the most noted place for helicopter skiing in North America. In summer, the city depends upon drive-through traffic on the TransCanada Highway. It is located about four hours west of Calgary, between the Purcell and Monashee mountain ranges.Allan Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at

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