Mountain Town News | AspenTimes.com

Mountain Town News

Compiled by Allen BestAspen Times Weekly

Westgate Resorts, a timeshare developer, has been found guilty by a jury in Utah of using fraudulent promotional come-ons to get people to visit the project. Visitors to the spa were promised free trips to Anaheim, Calif., worth $500, but the travel vouchers were nearly impossible to redeem. The Park Record says that attorneys for the Florida-based company claim that Westgate was being picked on and plan to appeal the $1 million judgment.

Downtown Ketchum has plenty of empty storefronts, 30 altogether, according to a sidewalk tour by the Idaho Mountain Express.The story is partly the national economy, but the broader causes are more complex and not necessarily of recent origin. Despite being the nations first destination ski resort, Sun Valley has actually lost tourism business through the decades. Other resorts, with better air connections and newer lodging, have gained as Sun Valley has lost.But Ketchum has also lost residents. There are more part-timers, and the full-timers tend to live downvalley, in Hailey, Bellevue or even Twin Falls.As a result, retailers have a tough time of it. Sales for the general retailer have been diminishing year-in and year-out probably for the last decade, said George Kirk, of the Kirk Group. I think a big contributing factor is a change in the nature of our economy coupled with the demographics shift.

Summit County officials project a 5 percent decline in sales tax collections this year, which means no pay raises for sheriffs deputies and other county employees for at least the next six months. The shirt has to meet the pants, explains County Commissioner Bob French. The Summit Daily News says library hours may be cut, and training and all overtime pay has been banned.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now offering a $50,000 reward for four individuals accused of a string of fires in the West. Two of the individuals, who are both now believed to be in Canada, are accused of participating in the planning of the fire that caused the 1998 demolition of Two Elk, a restaurant atop Vail Mountain.Denvers Rocky Mountain News says that FBI agents are calling the suspects terrorists. Regardless of their political or social message, their actions were criminal and violated federal laws, said Michael B. Ward, deputy assistant director of the FBIs counterterrorism division.The FBI says Josephine Overaker and Rebecca J. Rubin were among seven members of a group called The Family a part of the Earth Liberation Front that plotted the arson on Vail Mountain. They were living in Oregon at the time. The fire was to protest the expansion of lifts and ski trails into an area previously identified as important lynx habitat.Rubin and three others built timers they planned to use as handmade explosive devices to start the fires, prosecutors contend. But most of the group including Overaker and Rubin decided the arson couldnt be done.William Rodgers committed the arson, while another member, Chelsea Gerlach, waited for him in a truck at the base of Vail Mountain. Rogers committed suicide after his arrest, while Gerlach is serving a prison sentence for her participation in that and other crimes.

In Summit County, plans are afoot to remove some of the mud from mud season. Funds are being collected for artificial-turf fields built on a base of recycled tires at Summit County High School.The most immediate savings will be in time. Currently, participants in lacrosse, soccer and other spring sports miss 26 hours of school while traveling to other venues because those competitions cannot be held at the high school. Proponents tell the Summit Daily News that the field would also save 8 million gallons of water annually while also diverting 30,000 tires away from landfills.Fundraisers report theyre about halfway to the $1.25 million cost. If they succeed, replacement will be needed in 10 to 15 years, although at a lower cost.

The U.S. Forest Services review of plans to build a major real estate development next to the Wolf Creek ski area is on hold. Rio Grande National Forest officials told The Associated Press they hadnt received a new or amended application from the developer, Texas billionaire Billy Joe Red McCombs. The plans have called for housing that theoretically could accommodate 10,500 people. Currently, there is no residential real estate at the site, which is surrounded by national forest.

With the deadline fast approaching, Whistler is scrambling a bit to find enough bedrooms to host all the workers, reporters and others expected to swarm there for the 2010 Winter Olympics.So far, 3,000 bedrooms in Whistler have been secured, compared to the 4,000 that the Vancouver Organizing Committee says will be needed for essential workers, volunteers and media.To help bridge the gap, Whistler is planning to allow homeowners to rent rooms, normally a violation of zoning ordinances banning short-term rentals, so long as the rentals do not displace local workers, reports Pique Newsmagazine.

Sometimes described as the poor mans Aspen, Telluride is certainly no slouch when it comes to high-end real estate. Now entering that constellation is a new hotel, called the Capella Telluride. There arent enough stars in heaven to describe the hotel, says Seth Cagin, publisher of The Telluride Watch. It is scheduled to open in February in Mountain Village, the slopeside town near Telluride. The Capella will be operated by Capella Hotels & Resorts, a chain created by Horst Schulze. Schulze achieved considerable success with his role in the 1983 founding and subsequent expansion of another high-end hotel brand, the Ritz-Carlton chain.

As is the case with the lodgepole pine in Colorado, the whitebark pine of more northerly latitudes is having problems. Some 20 percent of the trees in Yellowstone National Park and adjacent regions are infected with blister rust, which can make them vulnerable to mountain pine beetles. The warming climate is also making them more vulnerable, researchers said at a recent conference attended by the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Bob Keane, a Forest Service research ecologist, said he believes the stands of whitebark pine can be restored, but wildfires must be allowed more often. Were going to have to let some of these controversial fires burn if theyre going to save whitebark pine, he said. If we did nothing, whitebark pine would disappear off the landscape.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at allen.best@comcast.net.


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