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Mountain Town News

Vail, Colo. Good snow isnt enough to keep resort open longer Theres plenty of snow in Vail, but theres not a chance that the bull wheels will keep operating past the scheduled closing of April 11. Business owners would like it, but Chris Jarnot, the chief operating officer for Vail Mountain, said it would be asking too much of his workers. As is, office personnel will be asked to bus tables and operate ski lifts, reports the Vail DailyWere going to be in a real serious challenge over the next four weeks, said Jarnot at a town meeting.Like many ski areas, Vail Mountain was unable to get as many foreign workers under the H-2B program. Fewer than 10 percent of the 14,000 workers employed at Vail Mountain and the four other ski areas operated by Vail Resorts are covered under the H-2B and J-1 visa programs. Park City, Utah Bracing for a possibly big runoff The snowpack is now at 126 percent on the lee side of the Wasatch Range, and thats enough for city officials to take precautions against flooding during spring runoff. They usually get 5,000 sandbags, but this year ordered 10,000, at 30 cents each. Cost: $3,000.We would be fools not to, said Hugh Daniels, who manages emergency programs for the city. Have you looked and seen how much snow is out there?The last time Park City had this much snow was only three years ago. There was not significant flooding that year. However, a great deal depends upon the timing of the warmth. A cool spring followed by sudden heat could result in swollen creeks, officials tell The Park Record. Meanwhile, in Basalt, 18 miles downstream from Aspen, city officials are conferring with residents of two mobile-home parks along the Roaring Fork River, reports The Aspen Times.Silverton, Colo. Hardrock mining outfit adds staffThe talk of renewed hardrock mining around Silverton continues. The Standard reports that Colorado Goldfields has hired two managers, for exploration and environmental affairs. The exploration manager, Dean Misantoni, has 27 years experience in small-producing underground operations in Colorado.Crested Butte, Colo. Analyst predicts mining firm to pull plugIs one of the partners that wants to develop a molybdenum mine near Crested Butte about to pull the plug? Thats the conjecture of John. A. Kaiser, an analyst who tracks high-risk Canadian securities in his review of Kobx Resources, a firm based in Vancouver, B.C. What they didnt understand is that the rules for permitting in Colorado arent mine-friendly, and this could be dragged on for some time, Kaiser told the Crested Butte News. Theyre now glumly aware that this is much, much more difficult.Kobex raised more than $28 million for the project, but has already spent $8 million in rehabilitating the existing Keystone Mine and must now decide whether to bore a $14 million tunnel, called a drift, 3,600 feet into the mountain, to get a better idea of the richness of the ore deposit.Reporting increasingly impatient stockholders, Kaiser said hes betting Kobex will withdraw from the project.Local opponents concurred that time is on their side at least in the short term. We all believe that Kaiser is right in concluding that this is a process that could go on for 20 or 30 years, or longer, said John Norton, special consultant to Crested Butte Mountain Resort, the ski area.Still, Kaiser wasnt willing to completely bet against the mine. It just might be a mine that Kobex may not be involved in. The prize is enormous, said Kaiser, who has a firm called Kaiser BottomFish Online. The core [ore] is worth $6 billion, and the overall value is $36 billion at todays prices. Even if Kobex withdraws from the project, landowner U.S. Energy Corp. may hold on, as it has much deeper pockets.Meanwhile, the Crested Butte Town Council is lying low. The town has ordinances to protect its watershed from the impacts of mining, and will thus serve as jury should an application be submitted. As such, it cannot show impartiality in advance.Not all townspeople understand this legal principle. I would really appreciate it if you would come out of the woodwork, one local residents complained to the council recently.Town Manager Susan Parker pointed to efforts by the Town Council to protect the community, to see a change in legislation governing mining on federal lands. Weve done more in the last 18 months than this community has done [for years], she told the newspaper.Telluride, Colo. Ski area wont cater to extremes of bikingIf youre a mountain biker at Telluride, theres no real place to thrown the wheels down a steep fall line not legally, at least.Thats not to say it doesnt happen. In fact, its getting to be a real problem at the Telluride ski area. The Forest Service, which administers the land, says the trails tend to go straight down fall lines, resulting in erosion that removes the shallow forest earth down to bare rock. When that happens, mountain bikers go elsewhere, to repeat the scaring, erosive process. Once created, the ravines tend to enlarge even more over time.At some ski areas, such as at Whistler and Blackcomb, operators have catered specifically to extreme mountain bikers. That will not happen at Telluride.The reason, said Dave Riley, chief executive officer of the Telluride Ski and Golf Co., is the lack of money to make it worthwhile. Some of the mountain bike parks in North American work best when they are near a large city, he went on to explain. If you can get a high level of participation, then you come close to breaking even, he said.A major cost, a report in The Telluride Watch indicates, is liability.I-70 Corridor, Colo. Plenty of talk about what to do with interstateThe ideas for easing congestion on Interstate 70 west of Denver keep on comin.The latest proposal, to charge a $5 toll at the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel Complex, comes from Andy McElhany, a top-ranked Republican in the Colorado Senate. He projects that the tolls would yield $40 million per year, enough to secure a $1 billion bond for widening the highway for 14 miles through Clear Creek County, between metropolitan Denver and Summit County. He sees the tolls eventually yielding a third bore through the Continental Divide.Clear Creek County residents bristle at the idea, notes the Rocky Mountain News. For 10 years, they have insisted that the answer to congestion is not widening the highway in an already narrow canyon, but to hold out for some form of rail-based transit.The idea-fest was launched this winter by another state senator, Chris Romer, a Democrat from Denver. Romer took the unusual tact of creating a website where people could propose ideas. He proposes congestion pricing, such as is now being done in New York City, but also reversing the flow of traffic on Sunday afternoons. The fees collected for cars carrying fewer than three occupants during congested times would be used to subsidize bus service, something now lacking.Bloggers have used words such as cockamamie to describe Romers proposal. And Dan Gibbs, a state representative for several of the mountain valleys, urges caution. He notes that five planning processes are currently under way. But Romer said Denver drivers are fed up with waiting in standstill traffic to go skiing. I didnt fill the powder keg, I just lit the fuse. And the mountain communities need to know this ones ready to blow, he told the News.Steamboat Springs, Colo. City looks down road for annexing tipsThe city of Steamboat Springs has not annexed land in 20 years, but it is now looking at 700 acres on the towns west end, with hopes that housing there will retain the communitys rapidly disappearing middle class.We need housing, said John Eastman. Housing, housing, housing. We need housing for our work force because otherwise were not going to have a work force I dont know if prices will get as high as at Aspen, but thats where theyre headed.As it looks to annex, and perhaps gain 2,000 homes, Steamboat is consulting others who have gone before. Granby, located 70 miles east along Highway 40, has gone on an annexation binge. Mayor Ted Wang told a Steamboat forum recently that Granby realized in the early 1990s that it had choices to make.It was either grow or die, he said. Since then, Granby has annexed 8,000 acres, nearly all of it land now being carved up into vacation homes that are being billed as lower-cost alternatives to those along I-70.As reported by the Steamboat Pilot & Today, Wang told the Steamboat audience that Granby made some mistakes in its first annexation, but got better in later annexations.Dont leave things out on the table during the negotiations, unless you really intend to leave them there, he said. Bargain hard. Dont be afraid to ask and dont be afraid to dig in your heels.The project in Steamboat seems a natural for both the town and the developer. If annexed into the town, the project can get urban densities that county officials are unlikely to award. The annexation was estimated to take 18 months.Durango, Colo. Real estate expected to be flat, at best in DurangoThe Durango-area real estate market continues to tread water. Bob Allen, a real estate analyst there, said home values in 2008 will be flat, at best. This flies in the face of press releases issued by the National Association of Realtors, which continue to argue that the market has been stable or stabilizing. It just keeps stabilizing and stabilizing and stabilizing, he said. The Durango Herald also notes that John Wells, of The Wells Group, sees fewer real estate brokers locally by the end of 2008.Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Feathers ruffled about buildingLike a lot of ski towns, Mammoth Lakes is a atwitter about the height of a proposed 112-unit condo-hotel. The building would average 48 feet, topping out at 77 feet.There are the usual complaints from adjoining property owners about disruptions of view sheds, impacts to traffics and also the light pollution. But The Sheet reports a new twist: A member of the Audubon Society warns about the impact to two species of birds, tree swallows and common night hawks.The birds eat insects, which can be found in the creek that runs through the site. The birds fly up to 100 feet on either side of the creek and bam! Yes, he sees the birds flying into the building. Putting a tall building with reflective glass so close to Mammoth Creek would cause a great threat to these birds, said Kent Wells.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at allen.best@comcast.net.