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Mountain Town News

Complied by Allen Best

A hydroelectric project big enough to deliver the electricity used annually at the Whistler and Blackcomb ski areas will be built in time to show off at the 2010 Winter Olympics.The turbine will be installed in Fitzsimmons Creek, which is located between the two ski areas. It will be capable of generating 7.5 megawatts of electricity, or 33.5 gigawatt hours of electricity per year.Intrawest, the owner of the ski areas, is not the developer, although it was integral in the planning process. Arthur DeJong, who is the environmental planner at Whistler-Blackcomb, tells Pique Newsmagazine that this is the most significant step the resort has made in terms of reducing climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.The turbine will be installed above the pond used for snowmaking at the two ski areas. There are some impacts, but they are relatively minor compared to other projects.DeJong said Whistler-Blackcomb is also looking into using existing snowmaking systems to produce electricity, such as is done at Snowmass. It is also looking into whether it can tap wind power.

After talking about getting a new high-end hotel for most of this century, Ketchum has finally authorized one. The 73-room, four-star hotel is the sort of thing that analysts have said that Ketchum, North Americas first destination ski resort, needs to put some zip back into its tourism economy.The question now is whether the nations financial turmoil will derail this plan. Hotel developer Jack Bariteau told city officials that financing will be difficult in the wake of the meltdown of Wall Street investment banks.The conventional debt markets for this type of project dont exist anymore, Bariteau said. The doors are closed. Well have to go to the private equity route, which will likely take more than a year.The Idaho Mountain Express explains that the hotel, called Ketchum Hotel, will be located in downtown Ketchum, a few hundred yards from the base of Bald Mountain, the key venue of the Sun Valley ski area.For several years various proposals have foundered on the issue of size and economics. Developers said they needed larger and taller buildings than were previously allowed, and they also needed the ability to sell units within the structures. Bariteaus partner is Paolo Patrone, owner of Piazza Hotels, which runs the Hotel Healdsburg in Californias Sonoma Valley.

Instead of wielding sticks, the U.S. Forest Service is offering carrots to motorized users who use the San Juan National Forest. The proof will be whether motorized users self-police themselves. If not, says the Durango Telegraph, the federal agency may get out the stick.A study several years ago revealed more than 60,000 miles of renegade trails throughout the nation which spurred Dale Bosworth, then chief of the Forest Service, to order motorized travel be confined to only those roads and trails specifically designated for use.In the Durango area, however, the Forest Service chose to include 52 miles of previously undesignated roads mostly old mining and logging roads in the new road network. Also, for motorcycle riders, there will be a sanctioned singletrack that probably started as a pirate trail.Grousing is being heard on both sides of the equation. The San Juan Trail Riders complain that terrain that was once multiple use is being restricted more and more. The Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers says that the Forest Service is failing to meet Bosworths mandate of limiting motorized use to restricted roads, let alone undoing the damage to the landscape incurred in the last 20 years.

The real estate market has slowed in the Truckee and Lake Tahoe area. As a result, theres more remodeling work and less new construction, says Mark Tanner, a building contractor. Last year it was like 90 percent new and 10 percent remodel, he told the Sierra Sun. This year its more like 50-50.

The state of the real estate market in Jackson Hole has been in dispute in recent weeks. A study by a California-based firm found that the median home price in Teton County had dropped 9 percent in the last year. But David Viehman, a local appraiser and real estate agent who has studied the market for number of years, says the Californians crunched the numbers in ways that dont necessarily make sense.As Viehman crunches the numbers, prices for single-family homes have actually increased in the last year by 2 percent. However, he discounts condos, townhouses and fractional ownerships which may have been included in the tabulation of a 9 percent decline.He says that locals continue to escalate their prices as if a boom were still occurring. As a consequence, lots of properties are on the market.Locals cant get over the fact that their property is not worth more than it was last year, Viehman told the Jackson Hole News&Guide. They wont come off their price. What has happened, several sources tell the newspaper, is that the real estate market is correcting itself after several years of extreme heating. As well, while there are still mortgages available for strong borrowers, no national companies are loaning for more than $700,000. Also, while vacationers to Jackson Hole might have been inclined to buy vacation real estate at other times, the national economic uncertainty at this time is keeping them in a less committed state.

Commuter buses are getting more crowded across ski country, and theyre also getting more expensive. Newspapers in Jackson Hole, Aspen and Telluride have all carried news in recent weeks of contemplated or approved increases in passenger fares to compensate for increased fuel costs. The bus linking Telluride and one of its bedroom communities, Norwood, will see a 100 percent increase in fare price. That leaves it at just $2 a ride, reports The Telluride Watch. Still, thats a good deal, as the drive is about a half-hour long.

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