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Mountain Town News

Crested Butte, Colo. Mine foes gain a heavy-hitting allyOpponents of a molybdenum mine being planned on the outskirts of Crested Butte now have a big bat in hand.The Red Lady Coalition, an opposition group, has retained DLA Piper. It is the worlds largest legal firm and, more important, one with a high profile in Washington, D.C.The firm is providing its services for free. Chairman of the firm is George Mitchell, former majority leader in the U.S. Senate. Among the figures employed in the firms Regulatory and Legislative Affairs Group are both Dick Gephardt and Dick Armey, both former majority leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives. Gephardt was a Democrat from Missouri and Armey a Republican from Texas.We will explore all appropriate avenues both legal and political to make sure that the Red Lady retains its character as one of the countrys treasured natural landmarks, said Lisa Dewey, a partner in DLA Piper.The Red Lady is the nickname for Mt. Emmons, the mountain located immediately to the west of Crested Butte. It is within that mountain that the molybdenum deposit owned by U.S. Energy is located.Opponents told the Crested Butte News that DLA Pipers vast public policy experience and extensive capacity in environmental litigation will help ensure that the case of the opponents is presented credibly and effectively before Congress, but also the Forest Service and other federal agencies, as well as state and local governments.Crested Butte town authorities are also gearing up for a formal proposal. The town in 1978 adopted regulations that address impacts to the municipal water supply. The mine would be in the watershed that supplies the towns water.Montezuma, Colo. Summit County considers mine cleanupThe heyday of the Pennsylvania Mine is now more than a century old, but its still causing problems in Summit County. At this point, reports the Summit Daily News, some people think a Superfund designation may be necessary.The mine is located along Peru Creek, near the town of Montezuma and several miles upstream from the Keystone ski area and resort. Mining of silver, gold and other minerals began in the 1870s but petered out in the 20th century.The problem is that the mining exposed rocks that allow water to run over them, picking up heavy metals such as zinc. Such acid-mine drainage is a problem in many areas of hard-rock mining in the West.If this was a problem before, it became much more so last summer after an intense rainstorm apparently changed the way water flows through the mine. Since then, zinc concentrations downstream have doubled. Downstream at Keystone, the surge of tainted water killed hundreds of trout that had been stocked in the Snake River.A listing under the nations Superfund legislation could attract federal money, but water specialist Lane Wyatt tells the newspapers Bob Berwyn that there are also downsides.For one, Superfund designation attaches a stigma. French Creek, which flows through Breckenridge, was literally turned upside down by dredges in an effort to recover gold dust. However, Breckenridge did not want the notoriety of a Superfund cleanup and thus the cleanup is occurring far more slowly.Gypsum, Colo. Vails airport may get a new nameSo much depends upon what you call it. It, in this case, is the airport located in the town of Gypsum, 37 miles west of Vail.It was formally proclaimed the Eagle County Regional Airport in the late 1980s, when it was expanded to accommodate major jets, which now routinely deliver passengers for Vail, Beaver Creek and Aspen. But the airport also serves the oil and gas industry that is now feverishly at work to the west.Some call the airport Vail-Eagle, or sometimes just Vails airport.But consultants who have been paid $90,000 to create a brand suggest something altogether new: Colorado International Airport.The chief executive of the firm, Jim Adler, said both Vail and Eagle are too limiting. The name Eagle doesnt mean much beyond Colorado. Much more broadly known is the name Vail, but it is limiting in that the airport serves many other resorts.Genesis came up with Colorado International Airport because of how, among many people, Colorado evokes images of mountain beauty and outdoor lifestyles. As well, there is the potential for the airport to cater to international flights, with customs officials located at the airport.The recommendation is not a slam-dunk. Vail, the town, demands that the airport be named Vail. Moreover, so do some of the county commissioners. The Vail name has huge power and cachet, said Commissioner Peter Runyon.Still at issue is whether the airport deserves to be called international. Less publicly visible, Vail Resorts is working to expand its lucrative business among international travelers who are finding the United States much more affordable than it used to be. Vail does not officially control the airport, but unofficially does so, as it arranges for most of the commercial flights.The controversy about whether an airport in Gypsum could be called Vail, some local wag suggested a composite: Vail International and Gypsum Regional Airport. If you figure out the acronym of that, then you will understand the proposed motto: Its an up-and-coming facility.Steamboat Springs, Colo. Snowfall records drop at Jackson, SteamboatIf not a record season for snowfall at ski areas in the West, its been a very, very good winter.At Steamboat Ski Area, it is a record at least compared to recent years. More than 450 inches of snow have fallen, surpassing a record set in the winter of 1996-97. However, its unclear whether this is the snowiest winter ever, even in ski area history. There, as in many other places, snowfall totals are recorded for different periods of time and, in some places, at different locations. By one measuring stick at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, more than 500 inches of snow has been recorded through mid-March the most ever through that date. By other measuring sticks, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide, it was shaping up as either the second- or third-snowiest winter for the resort, which has operated since 1961.Elsewhere in Colorado, Aspen has about 400 inches of snowfall for the season. Thats not a record, but within striking distance of a season record, should spring become particularly snowy.At Wolf Creek, traditionally Colorados snowiest ski areas, its a good year, but not yet a record. As of Monday, 492 inches of snow had fallen since last September. However, Wolf Creek has a long ways to go to match the 592 inches that fell during the winter of 1978-79. However, the ski area will remain open through April, and could reopen in May.At Telluride, the prodigious snowfalls of midwinter have slackened to virtually nothing in March. Just a dusting, I think, said Marta Tarbell, editor of The Telluride Watch.Winter started off similarly with a whimper. In Steamboat Springs, the temperature hit 65 degrees Nov. 20, too hot even to allow snowmaking. Soon after, explains the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the pelting began: 26 of 31 days in December with some measurable snowfall, and the third greatest snowfall on record, followed by more steady snowfall through January and February.There was some of the lightest, deepest powder Ive ever skied in 68 years of skiing, fourth-generation Steamboat resident Ray Heid told the Pilot & Today.Vail, Colo. Vail Resorts takes new tack to enlarge marketTen years ago Winter Park Resort introduced mayhem in the ski industry with its decision to heavily discount its season ski pass. This step caused operators of other ski areas catering to the huge number of skiers from the Colorados Front Range to similarly discount their prices.Now, Vail Resorts has upped the ante. It has drastically reduced the price of admission at Vail and Beaver Creek, its top resorts, with a new pass called the Epic Season Pass. The cost of $579 for the season provides unrestricted access to Vail and Beaver Creek, but also Breckenridge, and Keystone, plus Californias Heavenly Mountain.Before, the company had offered a season pass to Breckenridge and Keystone, with 10 additional days at Vail and Beaver Creek.Seen as a business proposition in the highly competitive ski industry, the new season pass is expected to have two big waves. The first wave is to make life difficult for other ski areas that compete for Front Range skiers, especially Copper Mountain and Winter Park, which are both operated by Intrawest, but also several smaller ski areas, including Loveland and Eldora.Vail Resorts officials discounted the effect to the Front Range market. John Garnsey, chief executive vice president of the Vail Resorts Mountain Division, said the company expected to sell an additional 12,000 passes for next winter in Colorado. Denverites wont want to shell out another $150 for unlimited skiing at Vail and Beaver Creek, instead of just 10 days, Garnsey told the Vail Daily.Even so, Vail town officials are greatly concerned about increased traffic from Denver on I-70. The town already has a severe parking problem, although much of that problem is because of the growing number of so-called locals, and not skiers from Denver and other Front Range cities.Andy Daly, a former executive of Vail Resorts and now a town councilman in Vail, said 12,000 additional passholders would mean a 10 percent increase in cars. I think the parking situation is one that we cant leave to, Well, lets see how it works, and if we can sell more passes, then we can address it.But the new ski pass will ripple broadly across the ski industry, especially at resorts catering to destination guests who stay for one or more nights.The new pass is clearly intended to give Vail Resorts a competitive advantage against Intrawest, Aspen Skiing Co. and everybody else, adds Jerry Jones, a four-decade veteran of the ski resort sector with experience in the Aspen, Summit County and Vail markets.The essential strategy, he believes, is to get people to commit to one of the Vail Resorts ski areas early. In some cases, the customer may use the pass 60 times. But, as with existing discounted passes, many customers buy season passes and then barely use them.Either way, this provides increased income for the ski area operator including use of the money for the months between when it is purchased and when the skiing product is offered.But the core of the strategy is to get more people, and then figure out other ways to make money from them.You have to have the people to make the money, and Vail has more ways to make the money than almost anyone else: rooms, food and beverage, ski school, and rental and retail stores all over the place, Jones says.If they {the customers] are at Copper, Vail Resorts doesnt make any money. But if theyre here, you are making probably $150 to $200 a day off them.Jones called the pricing strategy gutsy. The only downside, he said, is that once youve rolled back the prices, its hard to raise them.He downplayed the extent to which the reduced season passes will hurt Aspen. How many people from New York and LA who fly private jets care about having an unrestricted $500 pass? he asked. I think it has very little effect on Aspen, probably very little effect on Steamboat and those areas that are out there by themselves and are total destination ski areas.However, said Jones, the new season pass may allow Heavenly to swipe some business from Squaw Valley in the Tahoe area. Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at


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