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Mountain Town News

Crested Butte, Colo. Powerful case made for removal of snowThe snow in Crested Butte this winter is so deep that trash trucks in the alleys are in danger of hitting power lines.Out in the streets, the snow has compacted to about 2 feet deep in places. Crews will skim off the snow, but areas dedicated to snow storage are almost at capacity. But at homes running out of space, pitching it into the street isnt the answer, either, said town marshal Peter Daniels. You just have to stack it higher; thats where it has to go, he explained.Failure to keep ahead of snow shoveling was illustrated in the painful lesson of the Crested Butte Brewery. Just hours ahead of the Super Bowl, a portion of the roof buckled. Eight to 9 feet of snow had been allowed to accumulate. In Gunnison, located 29 miles downvalley, a roof on the library at Western State College collapsed. No one was hurt in either case.Truckee, Calif. School canceled because of snow-clogged roadsIn the Truckee-Lake Tahoe area of California, students have received three snow days so far this year, pushing classes into mid-June. The last two cancellations, school officials tell the Sierra Sun, were caused by roads that had become too narrow for students to wait safely at bus stops. The buses also would not be able to travel on the narrow roadways, said Nanette Rondeau, director of transportation in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.Telluride, Colo. Town claims first LEED house in Western Colorado Certification by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, was expanded last year to include single-family homes. Before, it had been limited to offices, schools, public buildings and residential complexes, such as a base village at Californias Northstar ski area and an on-mountain restaurant at Aspen.Only three homes have been certified in Colorado under the new program, and the first one on the Western Slope, where nearly all the ski areas are located, is at Telluride. The home has a silver rating, which is the second highest of four categories.The home has a deck made of mahogany wood certified as sustainability harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council. It has blown-foam insulation, which reduces heat loss, and most appliances are Energy Star-rated for efficiency.Yet LEED is still not-quite mainstream, even in places like Telluride, where the least expensive single-family home sold last year for nearly $1.1 million.LEED is a great idea, said Ben Humphrey of One Architects, but the weakest link is the subcontractors and the contractors. It comes down to communication with the contractors and their excitement about being part of the green building movement.Tackling the same subject, Ski Area Management magazine found that experts discount the notion that green building is more expensive. A LEED-certified building designed to minimize its environmental impact need cost no more than about 3 percent more than other buildings, building experts said. What is undeniable is that green homes cost less in subsequent years because of generally improved energy efficiency.Important in designing a green home, experts told the magazine, is for the architects, builders and developers to hold meetings at the outset, as the most important aspects of green building must be incorporated into building design.Mammoth Lakes, Calif. LA-Mammoth flights now considered highly likelyThe Sheet reports that it now seems highly probable that the Federal Aviation Administration will clear commercial air service between Los Angeles and Mammoth for next winter.Horizon Airlines, which also services Ketchum-Sun Valley, wants to begin twice daily flights. The FAAs Chuck Cox, who is overseeing the environmental impact statement, said there appear to be no significant environmental issues.Mammoth, located five to six hours from Los Angles via mostly two-lane highways, has for years wanted to boost its air link to major cities, similar to what Aspen, Vail, Steamboat and other destination resorts have done. However, environmentalists have fought expansion of the airport and its intrusions on nearby Yosemite National Park.What has emerged is a compromise. Horizon is proposing to use the Bombardier Q-400 Dash 8 turbo-prop plane. Thats the same plane as is to be used by Frontiers Lynx Aviation for flights from Denver. It can be configured for 70 to 78 passengers.Turbo props like the Q400 are much more effective at high altitudes than piston-driven planes, Cox said. He said that a Piper Cherokee can climb 500 feet per minute. But the Q400 can fly 3,000 feet per minute. Heck, it can climb at 1,500 per minute with one engine. Its just an excellent aircraft for this airport.While direct flights from Chicago and Houston are unlikely anytime soon, flights from Las Vegas or San Francisco remain possible.Whistler, B.C. New home sale record is $17.5 millionA home in Whistler originally designed for the singer Seal is expected to sell soon for $17.5 million. The price will eclipse the resort communitys previous record of $13.3 million, which was set a year ago. Real estate agent Pat Kelly, who is representing the buyer, said the sale proves that although theres some uncertainty in the North American economy, it doesnt affect the higher end luxury market. that market is strong and, in fact, appears to be strengthening.Eagle County, Colo. Real estate sales nearing $3 billionThe real estate market in some mountain towns quit panting last year, but not so in Eagle County, which is anchored by Vail and Beaver Creek. There, another record was registered in real estate sales last year at $2.96 billion. The old record, $2.8 billion, was set in 2005, reports the Rocky Mountain News.Pitkin County, home to Aspen, last year had sales of $2.52 billion, down slightly from the previous year. In both cases, the push is coming in the very high end. Len Gardner, a real estate agent in Vail, points out that condos in the Arabelle project, located at the base of Vail Mountain, that initially sold for $1,100 per square foot have been reselling at between $1,500 and $2,000 per square foot.Steamboat Springs, Colo. Area real estate sales surge to $1.58 billionReal estate sales continued to swell last year in Steamboat Springs and Routt County. Total sales were $1.58 billion, a 141 percent increase from the previous year. At the same time, there were fewer sales.The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that the largest number of sales were in the $300,000 to $500,000 range. However, the median sale price of townhomes jumped from $450,000 to $630,000 last year. Breckenridge, Colo. Is ski expansion needed for skiing or real estate?The Breckenridge ski area wants to expand onto Peaks 6 and 7, adding one new chairlift and 450 acres. Statistical comparisons show Breckenridge as having among the highest density of skier per acre of any ski area in Colorado. The ski area owner, Vail Resorts, says the expansion will disperse skiers and shorten lift lines elsewhere on the ski hill.But Ellen Hollinshead, an avid backcountry skier and a columnist for the Summit Daily News, thinks theres something else up. It is my contention that Vail Resorts hasnt confessed to the Forest Service all of its motives, she says.The full story, she suggests, has to do with marketing real estate associated with the ski area expansion. She asserts that added skier capacity can be better provided by new trails and better lift placement within the existing ski area, not by extending the ski area boundaries. Expansion of the ski area on National Forest land, she maintains, will displace wildlife, which is already cramped for space.Meanwhile, the Breckenridge Town Council wants the Forest Service to assess whether the town has the carrying capacity to accommodate the 1,000 new skiers that Vail Resorts estimates will result from the expansion. Parking remains difficult, even with a new parking-lot-to-ski-trails gondola. As well, the town wonders if Vail Resorts shouldnt be required to build more affordable housing.The towns letter also questions whether the congestion cant be helped within the ski areas existing footprint, reports the Summit Daily News.Ketchum, Idaho Town sweetens pot for hotel developersKetchum wants a hotel badly enough that it has agreed to partially waive the affordable housing requirement for a project to be called Hotel Ketchum. In addition to 73 hotel rooms, the building as proposed would include six penthouse residences.Theres been a change in the political and community climate, said Lisa Horowitz, Ketchums community and economic development director. Theres been a recognition of a need and support for hotels.Last fall, five developers were in line with proposals, but one of them, Mark Masater, who has a major proposal in Vail, withdrew from Ketchum. Only two are now before town officials.The Ketchum Hotel, described as a four-star property, would cost $60 million to $65 million to develop, and would be operated by the Piazza Hotel group, which operates the Hotel Healdsburg in California.The developer, Jack Bariteau, told the Idaho Mountain Express that the collapse of the debt market in recent months is changing everything as it relates to the potential debt financing of hotel properties nationwide. The high capital costs of entry for a hotel such as Hotel Ketchum will create significant barriers to getting the project out of the ground and open.While that project is more than three years away from opening, another and even larger project called Warm Springs Ranch Resort is even further from happening. The proposal calls for 77 hotel rooms, 45 condominium suites, 30 fractional ownership units, and up to 35 additional residences. All of this is to be included on an expansive plot of 77 acres at the base of Bald Mountain, where additional free-market and affordable housing are planned. The property is envisioned as a five-star hotel operation. The developer is Park City-based DDRM Greatplace.Ketchum, Idaho Sun Valley dining to be aided by new gondolaSun Valley is launching into an upgrade of its mountain operation. The first phase is to gussy up its on-mountain restaurant, Roadhouse, which was built in 1939. Now only open for lunch during ski seasons, it will be open nights and in summer. All of this will be enabled by the addition of a new eight-passenger gondola to be built this summer, part of a new master plan recently approved by the U.S. Forest Service.Park City, Utah Town, developer spar about housing timelineCity officials and developers of high-end housing at Deer Valley are reported to be at odds. The cause of the friction is the citys requirement for affordable housing. The developer, Talisker Deer Valley, took over the property at an old mining site called Empire Pass in 2003. The city planning commission wants Talisker to post $2.2 million to guarantee the worker housing gets built, and it also wants a hastened effort to deliver the affordable housing, reports The Park Record.The strongest criticism of Talisker on the planning board came from Rory Murphy, a developer who spent much of his Park City career at Empire Pass. The firm he was formerly involved with, United Park City Mines, sold the property to Talisker in 2003. He told the developers they should have realized the work-force housing was required.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at

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