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Mountain Town News

Californias Kirkwood Mountain Resort is hoping for a major installation of wind turbines.Plans call for an array of 20 turbines that altogether will be able to deliver 600 kilowatt hours daily. Later, if all goes as planned, the blades on the turbines will be retrofitted, allowing the turbines to convert more wind into electricity (2 megawatts altogether).In comparison, Massachusetts Jiminy Peak last year installed just one turbine. It is, however, much taller, and produces 1.5 megawatts of power.Jiminys turbine has a maximum height of 375 feet, but it is below the summit. Those at Kirkwood would also be somewhat hidden, but they would be much shorter at 100-feet-high. Kirkwoods situation is unusual. It is off the electrical grid that connects most of North America. Instead, electricity is produced by burning diesel. As such, the wind turbines are competing against high-priced fuel instead of the coal-fired electricity market, such as is the case in the Rocky Mountain states.Reno-based Synergy Power Corp. is the developer and is to sell the power to Kirkwood. The area has strong winds year-round, says Synergy Vice President Greg Jones, a skier who grew up cutting turns at Kirkwood. He told Mountain Town News that the turbines operate at an optimal performance of not quite 10 mph.Higher on the mountain, winds can sometimes be ferocious reaching 190 mph twice last season. In such blasts, blades on the turbines designed by Synergy can lie back, parallel to the ground. Kirkwood officials claim they will be able to eliminate fossil fuel generation for all but four months a year. We could go almost eight months carbon-free as a resort community with 600 to 700 residents, chief executive Dave Likins told the Sacramento Bee.Kirkwood has signed a deal with a California company to improve the energy efficiency of that power plant, to capture waste heat.Wind turbines are also being studied at Snowmass and Vail.

Summit County Sheriff John Minor is angry about the increasing number of illegal immigrants he has to feed while waiting for federal immigration officials to arrive. It is, he says, just not right.According to the Summit Daily News, he has held 54 illegal immigrants through the first half of the year, and they can stay up to three days. During that time it costs him $25 per day, even after reimbursement from the federal government.At the current rate, hell have to shell out $8,000 this year for what is the federal governments responsibility.

Ski area operators are describing labor issues with the sort of language usually associated with drought.The specific source of anxiety, reports the Reno Gazette-Journal, is the cap on H-2B visas, which was reached last October. Ski resorts recently learned that the U.S. government will reject all additional applications unless Congress removes the quota.Its kind of a nightmare for us, Ed Youmans, general manager of Diamond Peak, a ski resort at Incline Village.Bob Roberts, executive director of the California Ski Industry Association, said the cap could bar 200 of the 1,500 to 2,000 foreign workers at California resorts. As well, the cap affects snowmaking experts, ski patrollers, and food-and-beverage workers.



Deep in the heat of summer, the marketing team for the Intrawest ski resorts is at work in Steamboat Springs, plotting out how to confront a weak economy and rising oil prices that have made flying more expensive.One plan being rolled out for flights to and from Steamboat is a promotion in which kids fly free, and so do bags. Our mechanism is basically to be giving people a card precharged with that amount of money to take care of their bags at check-in, Andy Wirth, Intrawests vice president for marketing, told The Steamboat Pilot & Today. American Express has given us a very smooth mechanism for this.If the deal works well during the first 45 to 60 days of operation, the baggage promotion could expand to other Intrawest resorts, Wirth said.The games won or lost in spring or summer, Wirth told the newspaper. Even though its 85 degrees outside, weve very much in the heat of battle for the dead of winter.

California is talking about ways to tax people in rural areas for the cost of fighting wildfires. The cost is huge, about $950 million in the last year. And the state has a budget deficit of more than $17 billion, reports the Wall Street Journal.Christine Kehoe, a state legislator from San Diego, tells the newspaper that frenzied building in rural areas increases the burden on state firefighters to defend homes and property. Defending homes substantially increases the cost of firefighting. She says that people who choose to live in exurban, rural areas must shoulder more of the firefighting costs.Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed an insurance surcharge on all property taxes. But the states Legislative Analysts Office says the tax would be unfair to people who dont live in rural, exurban areas. It instead wants the tax levied only in areas protected by the states firefighting agency, called CalFire.The issue again highlights the long-simmering dispute about rights and responsibilities of development not just in California, but across the mountainous West. The Journal points out that local governments that approve the development bear little fiscal consequences for the cost of fighting fires.Local land-use approvals for residential development in the backcountry should be tied to the future cost of firefighting, says Kehoe, the legislator. If they want to approve a new development, they should be required to plan for ongoing fire prevention; otherwise, this problem will continue without interruption.




Revelstoke Mountain Resort is gearing up for its second year of operations as a major resort. This coming season, the ski area will have 5,620 feet of lift-served skiing, with a top elevation of 7,300 feet. The gondola will be extended to the base village, and a new high-speed quad chairlift will be ready for operation. Resort officials tell the Revelstoke Times Review that it will be the only resort in the world that offers lift-skiing, cat-skiing and heli-skiing from the village base.

Placer County officials are hoping that a federal appropriations proposal to help fund a biomass conversion project survives Congressional scrutiny. The current proposal calls for $1.5 million. County officials in December began researching the potential for a wood-chip power plant. The project, if constructed, would cost $9 million to $10 million, reports the Sierra Sun.

When wildlife biologists began transplanting Canada lynx into Colorado in 1999, one question mark was whether the new lynx population dynamics would be similar to those in the northern latitudes of Canada and Alaska. Those northerly populations of lynx wax when there are lots of snowshoe hare, the primary prey, but then crash when the snowshoe hare populations crash. The boom-bust cycle lasts eight to 12 years.That may explain why Colorados transplanted lynx, after producing bumper crops of kittens for several years, 116 altogether, may not have produced any kittens during the last two years. Colorado Division of Wildlife biologists say there could be more they just havent found any.The females, they say, may not be finding enough high-quality food to sustain pregnancy.Altogether 218 lynx have been released into Colorado since 1999. The last documented lynx killed by a trapper was in 1973, although there was lesser evidence of paw prints as recently as the early 1990s.

Mammoth Lakes is chattering anxiously about the emptying out of a commercial complex called the Village at Mammoth. Weve got two ghost towns now, said Rusty Gregory, the chief executive of the ski area at Mammoth. He was referring to the complex, and also to Bodie, the ghost town in nearby Death Valley.The complex was purchased by CNL Lifestyle Properties for $23.5 million, although Intrawest, which owns the ski operations, figures the property is worth $12 million to $15 million. In Gregorys telling of the story (as recounted by The Sheet), CNL has set rates that are unacceptable. Sources tell Mountain Town News that CNL refused for months to return phone calls from tenants in the 58,000-square-foot complex.The feeling in Mammoth seems to be that this is an example of the dangers of a real estate investment trust becoming a dominant player. There also is some speculation that CNL hopes to be rid of the tenants, who are mostly homegrown, and replace them with high-end chains, such as might be found on Rodeo Drive.Gregory said that Mammoth Mountain is feeling something less than powerful after the skier count dropped 35 to 40 percent below its record of 1.6 million. All this comes as Mammoth gets ready to finalize air service, with one flight per day from Los Angeles, beginning in December.

While the real estate market in Jackson Hole is holding up in value, if not sales volume, thats not the case on the west side of the Teton Range in Idaho. There, in Teton Valley, the market has cooled, with a few scattered projects potentially suspending sales efforts.Idahos Teton Valley can be called the poor mans Jackson Hole. High-end real estate buyers in Jackson Hole normally pay cash. In Teton Valleys fast-emerging resort real estate market, they usually need financing.There is a lot of inventory. A place of broad meadows, the valley was run by officials who vehemently disliked planning procedures that would limit the rights of private property for sales and development. As a result, explains the Jackson Hole News&Guide, 9,000 housing units have been authorized.Certainly the national economy is playing a factor, but that is not the whole story, said Jeff Klausmann, a project manager for Driggs-based Intermountain Aquatics. The broader story, he said, is that the market currently has too much supply for the demand.Jeff Russell, developer of J Lazy H, said Teton Valley could be looking at 20 to 30 years before demand catches up with supply. He predicts sales will worsen even more before recovery begins.Others, however, argue that if Teton Valley sales are sluggish, its worse elsewhere. Elsewhere was not defined.

Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at allen.best@comcast.net.


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