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Mountain Town News

Allen Best

Boosters in Vail are hoping to host the World Alpine Ski Championships once again in 2013. Vail and Beaver Creek previously hosted the championships in 1989 and 1999. The selection will be made next spring at the FIS Congress in South Africa. In reporting the bid proposal, the Vail Daily does not say whether this proposal could damage a bid being assembled for Colorado to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

There were lines at the coffee shop, lines at the restaurants, and lines of cars. But the longest lines, thanks to an exceptional snowstorm, were of people waiting to ride the Silverton Mountain Ski Area’s lone chairlift.Lines may be common in Silverton during warm-weather months, when the narrow-gauge train arrives, unloading hundreds of passengers for mid-day ramblings. Otherwise, even lines for the women’s restroom have been virtually unheard of since the last mine near Silverton closed several years ago.What’s going on? The Silverton Standard explains that the ski area got nearly 4 feet of snow, far more than other areas, resulting in a record crowd of 500 people showing up at the four-year-old ski area. The ski area could accommodate only 300 with avalanche gear, which is requisite on Silverton’s steep, steep slopes.

Crested Butte is likely to pay out $900,000 in revenue guarantees to airlines providing flights during the past winter. Airplanes this past winter averaged half to two-thirds full, whereas they need to be three-quarters full for the airlines to avoid losses that the community must cover.”We have to fill some seats. That’s the bottom line,” said Kent Meyers, the aviation consultant who helped assemble the flight program. Flight guarantees for American Airlines were capped at $500,000. The airline flew 126 round-trip flights into the valley this past winter, from Houston, Dallas and other cities. “When you fly these aircraft up here for $30,000 a throw [and they’re partially empty], that’s an expensive ordeal,” Myers said. “We need to move the load factor from 67 percent to 75 percent.” United Airlines is the other major carrier, and it provides mostly shuttles from Denver. Those were on average only half full.A valleywide transportation district, funded by a 2 percent sales tax, will bear the brunt of the loss, about $750,000. The ski area operator, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, will pick up the additional $150,000.While Myers called the report “kind of sobering,” Regional Transportation Authority director Scott Truex saw a silver lining. The Club Med operation at Crested Butte was sold last year, and the resort consequently saw few Club Med visitors this winter. The resort, he suggested, was lucky to tread water. Plans are being made to put the Club Med property back into use.

Resort communities in Alberta – including Banff, Canmore and Jasper – want authority from the provincial government to levy new taxes.The current funding formula used by the provincial government is based on full-time population, ignoring both tourists and owners of vacation homes.Banff Mayor John Stutz said Banff’s population is 8,300 people, though the actual population averages between 16,000 and 20,000, with spikes of up to 35,000 people. The local ambulance district has a population of 10,000, but actually serves about 40,000 people, including people at the ski areas who are at higher risk for injuries.The Rocky Mountain Outlook says amusement, tourism and proper taxes could be included, as could special gas and vehicle registration taxes. One thing the resorts are adamant about, however, is that the taxes cannot be temporary.

Revelstoke has a carshare cooperative, in which 10 people share one car. It costs $500 (refundable) to join, and then the cost of using the car is $1.50 per hour and 20 cents per kilometer. That includes insurance, maintenance and gas. If the car is in use, and somebody else needs a car, the co-op allows for a cab or car rental, whichever is cheaper. The program, explains the Revelstoke Times Review, is operated through an organization called Nelson Carshare. Whistler has a similar program. The theory of such co-ops seems to be that they force prioritization, reducing costs and pollution.

Eagle County officials are looking to do another major affordable-housing project somewhat similar to Miller Ranch, a New Urbanist-type development at Edwards. The county hopes to find a 30-acre site by December, reports the Vail Daily.The problem is a familiar one. Despite a major binge of new deed-restricted lower-end housing built during the last five years from Vail to Gypsum, free-market housing prices continue to escalate. The median price of condos, townhomes and free-standing houses has increased from $400,000 to $550,000 in just the last 18 months. A moderate income for a family of three is defined as $73,000.

A plan to pump water from Green Mountain Reservoir nearly to Breckenridge has been shelved, although perhaps not permanently.Despite all of the snow that falls there, the upper Blue River drainage, where Breckenridge is located, is a place where supply and demand are bumping up against each other on the sidewalk. Both Denver and Colorado Springs divert large amounts of water from the basin, and demands by resort towns, including water for snowmaking at ski areas, has been steadily growing.This means there is more sewage. It also means less water in the stream with which to dilute the treated effluent. Now come new federal standards for sewage treatment.Directors of the Breckenridge Sanitation District spent $500,000 toying with building a $10 million pumpback from the reservoir, located about 25 miles downstream, to provide more water for dilution. The plan has snagged on opposition from the town. The sewage district will now focus on spending more money in technology to achieve a higher quality of effluent.Ironically, the Summit Daily News reports interest by Breckenridge town officials in reviving the project, but with different operating parameters. What exactly city officials would do differently was not disclosed.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at bestallen@earthlink.net.


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