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Mountain Town News

Complied by Allen BestAspen Times Weekly

Steamboat has been expanding its flight program rapidly in recent years. Last winter, however, there were too many empty seats on incoming planes. In response, ski area and other officials decided to scale back by 7 percent.But instead, Steamboat will have an 8 percent increase in passenger seats this winter, owing to the advent of new Frontier Airlines shuttles from Denver with its new fleet of Lynx Aviation Q400 turboprops. Scheduled are 24,000 round-trip seats, reports The Steamboat Pilot & Today. What happened?Steamboat Springs is expanding its bed base, but that expansion wont come on line for several years. The worry, says Andy Wirth, chief marketing officer for Intrawest, the ski area operator, is that expanded airline capacity will exceed the bed base this year. Later, when the new lodges are open for business, the air carriers may not all be around.

A delegation of 165 people from Colorado including Gov. Bill Ritter and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was scheduled to visit Vancouver, B.C., this week to talk about renewable energy and other topics, but especially the Olympics.Vancouver and Whistler are hosting the 2010 Olympics, and it will then be at Sochi, Russia, in 2014. But some in Denver have been talking about a bid for 2018. John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver Olympics Organizing Committee, said he would tell Coloradans that issues of logistics and financing should not take a back seat in Olympic planning.You want the Olympics to contribute to the city, but where it really contributes is to the human capital and as a nation builder, Furlong told The Denver Post. It has to be an event for everybody. You need to build unity around that vision and really make it shine out.Denver had won the right to host the 1976 Olympics, but Colorado voters in 1972 refused to continue subsidies, because of both rapid development then occurring but also because of fiscal mismanagement by the Olympic organizing committee.We wont run from 1976 its part of our history but were much different now than we were in 76, and the Olympic movement is much different now, said Rob Cohen, executive chairman of the Metro Denver Sports Commission.Dick Lamm, who later became Colorado governor and led the fight against the Olympics, says he is keeping an open mind about a new bid. The Vancouver committee projects a budget of $1.6 billion, not counting such infrastructure improvements as the $600 million expansion of the Sea to Sky Highway that links Vancouver with Whistler.Cohen told the newspaper he hopes the Olympics, if they come to Colorado, might stimulate public financing for improvements of Interstate 70. However, he doesnt believe that absence of improvements on the congested highway between Denver and mountain resorts will preclude the Olympics.

Always a ski area noted for its steeps, Telluride has been in expansion mode during this decade. It added four lifts in 2001, and then last winter opened up new terrain for those willing to hike. This year yet another chairlift is taking shape.But this latest lift in Revelation Bowl will eliminate much of the hiking previously needed to reach the Bear Creek Valley, an area long-favored by hard-core skiers. Its an area that is spectacular to ski, but equally dangerous, says The Telluride Watchs Martinique Davis, who is also a ski patroller.Four avalanche deaths occurred in the canyon during the 1986-87 season, and several more have occurred since then. For about a decade, the canyon was closed to skiers from the ski area.Davie Riley, chief executive of the Telluride Ski and Golf Co., told the newspaper he is open to exploring the possibility of expanding the ski areas boundary to include portions of Bear Creek, but not until Telluride community members give a reasonable indication they want the company to manage the canyon.How likely is that? The Watch observes that the notion of using explosives in Bear Creek for avalanche control makes some locals bristle, as does the idea of seeing even more people in an area designated as a nature preserve.Tellingly, the newspapers website had 39 comments on the story, both for and against. Usually, there are none. After all, Telluride is a ski town, said one commentator.

It seemed like a great idea. All those steel shipping containers used to haul widgets and other trinkets from China? It takes too much fuel to send them back across the Pacific, so why not use them for housing?But, while that is being done in at least isolated cases in California, its not going to happen in Whistler at least not in time for the 2010 Olympics.Pique Newsmagazine explained that employers were eager to subscribe to the plan, which would have housed 308 employees. Whistler, after being in an economic funk for several years, is thriving once again and is not quite sure where to find employees or where to put them.Presto: the idea of using the shipping containers, to be refashioned into housing quarters for a two-year period leading up to the Olympics. After the Olympics, the community will get use of the athletes village, as well as another project now in the pipeline. That plan ran aground on financing, however, with too little time to come up with a Plan B for winter.

Worries about the tourism economy are evident at Banff and Lake Louise. The concern is provoked by the collapse of a major tourist airline and travel agency, both in the United Kingdom, a major source for visitors to the Bow River Valley, and also the collapses on Wall Street.Already, some hoteliers have cut back staffing. Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has only 12 Jamaicans working in its laundry department, compared to 23 at this time last year. Visitors this year to the Fairmont hotels have stayed for shorter periods.Tourism numbers are expected to return to 2003 levels, officials tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook, when the declining U.S. dollar dampened interest from Americans.Declines in tourists from the United States are also reported in British Columbia. The decline in July continued a trend that began in late 2002, explains the Revelstoke Times Review. Two-thirds of B.C.s tourism traditionally has been from south of the U.S.-Canadian border.

By several very different measures, the opening of a new $500 million hotel in Avon last week at the base of Beaver Creek was a big deal.The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa is physically big and tall, with 210 rooms that range in size from studios to three-bedroom condominiums.It is also being branded as green. The developer, East West Partners, has applied to be certified under the lowest of four levels in the LEED (for Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design) program. If certified, it will be the first hotel in Colorado to get a LEED designation.Not least, the hotel directly links Avon via a new gondola to the ski slopes of Beaver Creek. With that link, Avon now claims itself as beachfront property, which boosters and planners think will add punch to redevelopment efforts in the town.The green measures at the Westin are sometimes obvious, as in the VIP parking spaces for hybrid vehicles. There will be recycling stations for guests on every floor. Less obvious is that more than half of construction waste was recycled or salvaged. Helping add points to the LEED designation are transportation connections that reduce the need for cars. Adjacent to the hotel is a new bus hub for Avon.One of Vails greatest strengths is its bus system, and now Avons getting there, Harry Frampton, the managing director of East West Partners, told the Vail Daily.As well, the hotel is along currently unused railroad tracks that transportation planners hope will be used for passenger traffic by 2030.Avon was incorporated in 1979, or 13 years after Vail. It struggled at the outset. A massive condominium project was stalled by the real estate bust from the mid-1980s well into the 1990s. Development was heavily car-centric and the sheen of resort development leapfrogged to Edwards, which became the center of activity for the emerging community of well-heeled locals and also second-home owners.Avon, though, intends to stay in the game with a major redevelopment that will create a pedestrian-friendly collection of businesses called Main Street in an area adjacent to the new Westin and other tall lodging properties.

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