Mountain Town News: Crested Butte questions Epic Pass, dire predictions for Eastern snow and flooding in Sun Valley
April 2, 2018
Heartburn in Crested Butte about terms of the Epic Pass
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Crested Butte Mountain Resort has thrown its lot in with Vail Resorts and its powerful Epic Pass. But there's heartburn in Crested Butte, in the town at least, where many seem to think that the local ski area operator sold out.
The terms of the deal allow Epic Pass holders to ski at Crested Butte for seven days for free. As for season pass holders at Crested Butte, they only get half-price passes at the Vail properties.
Telluride is also a partner with Vail Resorts on the Epic Pass, and on the same terms.
Fifteen years or so ago Crested Butte famously ran a marketing campaign that took potshots at Vail, if not in so many words, but at least the I-70 resorts, four of which are owned by Vail. The gist of the ads was that Crested Butte was a real ski town, the places to the north more like retirement villages.
That would characterize Aspen as much as Vail, maybe more. But there seems to be a warmer spot in the heart of Crested Butte for Aspen.
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"This is about losing ski culture, not just a cheap pass. My heart breaks," wrote one person on Facebook, according to the Crested Butte News.
Erica Mueller, vice president of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, told the News that the ski area managers were a little surprised at the hard edge of the backlash. But she also thinks locals were misguided with their criticism.
"What many may not know is that the majority of Epic Passes are sold outside Colorado, so while I think this will draw some people from the Front Range, like the Rocky Mountain Superpass did, it will expose us to a broader audience and not be as drastic of a change as some may be thinking."
She also pointed out that Crested Butte is not an easy drive from metropolitan Denver. In good weather, it's 4.5 to 5 hours. Visitors using the Epic Pass are almost certain to stay overnight, and Crested Butte has only so many places to stay.
"The Epic Pass won't draw day-trippers or people who read the snow report in the morning and decide to come ski for the day in Crested Butte. That is not our reality here, and that is in part what makes and will always make this place special."
The main point of the pass, she added, was to "fill the hole that we would lose when the Rocky Mountain Superpass went away. We want people to come here in the winter."
Crested Butte Mayor Jim Schmidt was provoked by another matter that had locals riled up, but he might as well have been speaking about the kerfuffle about the Epic Pass when he said, "We have this love-hate relationship in town with tourism and tourists…"
Sky's not falling but there will be less snow in spring
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Even the lowest of the four ski areas in Summit County, Colorado has an elevation of more than 9,000 feet, which provides a bit of cold comfort in the discussion of climate change impacts that can be expected in coming decades.
That said, it's getting warmer. It was 45 degrees in Frisco, one of the county's six towns, on a recent evening as a storm was about to arrive. That's too warm for snow, of course.
How does this compare with what might be called average? There's no real way of knowing. There just aren't good records. Breckenridge has had weather observations for well more than a century, but with giant gaps in the temperature record.
Dillon has a more complete record, but again, it's inadequate. When a dam was completed in 1963 to create Dillon Reservoir, the old town was moved from the valley floor to the new town site on a hillside 100 feet higher. Such shifts can matter greatly in temperatures.
"Climate Change in Colorado," a 2014 report to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said that statewide annual average temperatures have increased 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 30 years and 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 50 years. The nightly minimums have increased even more. In other words, nights aren't as cold as they used to be.
The same document reported that snowpack, as measured by April 1 snow-water equivalent, has been mainly below average since 2000 in all of Colorado's river basins. As well, the timing of snowmelt and peak runoff has shifted earlier in the spring by one to four weeks.
Klaus Wolter, a research scientist at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, was in Breckenridge recently to talk about what he thinks Summit County can see in coming decades. The warming in the western United States is clear and very, very strong, he said. And 2017 was the warmest year on record in Colorado in the last 120 years.
For high-elevation ski areas, including those in Summit County, the sky is not completely falling. High-elevation inland ski areas will still get snow in 2050, just not as much as Easter Sunday rolls around.
In a talk covered by the Summit Daily News, Wolter said models suggest 10 percent less snow on the ground by early spring by around 2050 as compared to now. The changes are baked into the system, so to speak, because of the greenhouse gas emissions already accumulated.
Winter will shrink at both ends, but it will remain.
Later, in an interview with Mountain Town News, he said that New England ski areas will have far more problems than Colorado. "We don't have the same problems. We have a problem of people stupid enough to try to open on the first of October," he said.
That may be a stretch. Some ski areas, with the artifice of snowmaking, try to open by Halloween, however.
In Colorado, he said, Steamboat might have more trouble than others because of its lower elevation. The base area is about 6,800 feet and the mountain faces west. As such, they're more likely to be blasted by spring afternoon sun. Top elevation is 10,400 feet — three hundred feet lower than the base area for Arapahoe Basin, one of the four ski areas in Summit County.
Sonja Macys, a member of the Steamboat Springs City Council, recently told Colorado Public Radio that the changing climate poses a question of how to create a permanent, year-round economy that supports jobs that are less dependent on snow.
That has long been a quest of many ski towns, but the warming climate makes it more urgent for at least some of them.
Sun Valley hit by hard rain, flooding on spring equinox
KETCHUM, Idaho – It rained hard in Sun Valley and Ketchum on the first day of spring this year, resulting in flooding of basements and crawl spaces of homes.
A Sun Valley homeowner reported a foot and a half of water on a road that spilled into his basement. "All that water came in like a fountain," Latham Williams told the Idaho Mountain Express. "My basement is destroyed."
It had also rained the week before the vernal equinox, the Express noted.
Rain afflicted ski towns of Colorado, too. "Nothing is quite right with super-thin snowpack and rain in the forecast," said Mark Reaman, editor of the Crested Butte News.
Bitcoin payment OK for seller of high-end home
ASPEN, Colo. – Bitcoin has arrived in the world of resort real estate. The seller of a home in one of Aspen's high-end neighborhoods is offering to accept bitcoin or another form of cryptocurrency.
Asking price for the six-bedroom home in Starwood, the gated community, is $5.35 million, reports the Aspen Daily News.
It's the first known Aspen property to be advertised for sale with the stated offer of accepting an alternative digital currency. However, Erik Berg, a real estate agent involved in marketing the property in Aspen, says bitcoin was used as payment last year for two $2 million houses in Park City.
Berg told the Daily News the reason the sellers will accept bitcoin is because they see it as a currency that's not going away.
William Small, a financial advisor in Aspen, concurs about the staying power of bitcoin. He also points out that it's a smart marketing move on the part of the seller and its agents because of the attention it will attract.
Small also suggested cryptocurrency real estate purchases won't long remain a novelty.
Aspen housing directors to get tougher with scofflaws
ASPEN, Colo. – Fines are being assigned for bad behavior by people living in the 3,000 units of affordable housing administered by the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.
Last year, 154 violations were investigated, reports The Aspen Times. They include people not working full time in Pitkin County, people not living in their units, and people owning property elsewhere in the Aspen area in violation of restrictions.
Mike Kosdrosky, executive director of the housing authority, said it's just plain wrong to cheat the system when so many families and individuals need affordable places to live, including himself.
"As a person who pays a free-market mortgage, there is nothing more insulting than having a tax-subsidized unit being rented out," he said. "They are getting a subsidy and then turning it into income."
The fines being planned would range to $500, depending upon severity.
Students in mountain towns protest lack of gun controls
BEND, Ore. – Mountain towns of the West had many marches of students to protest the continued shootings in schools and elsewhere.
Brand Roberts, 15, was among more than 3,000 people who turned out in Bend, Oregon, located near the Mt. Bachelor ski area. He hoisted a sign that said, "Your AR-15 is not equivalent to my safety," the Bend Bulletin reported. "I can vote in 2020, and you bet I will vote in 2020. So be ready for that," he said.
Another marcher, Natalie Lawton, 15, had a sign with a line from the popular play, "Hamilton." It read, "Don't be shocked when your history book mentions me." Said Lawton: "Our generation is going to change the world."
In Vail, several hundred people assembled at Lionshead, at the base of the ski area. One hand-scrawled sign said: "We'd rather be Skiing Powder. Stop taking money. Start making Common Sense Gun Laws."
"I've never seen a bigger, more enthusiastic turnout in my 34 years here!" wrote Vail resident NewNew Razon Wallace on a Facebook post. "Democracy in action – led by the local kids. There is hope!"
In Durango, Colo., 1,300 marched. The Durango Herald says many speakers called on Congress to pass stricter gun control laws, while others singled out the National Rifle Association. "I really don't think it's a Republican vs. Democrat issue," said a 17-year-old student, Aubrey Hirst. "Gun culture has taken over America itself, and it's preventing us from making a change. It's kids like us that are going to step forward and make that change."
About 1,000 people marched in Park City while the tally was put at 250 in Jackson, Wyoming. Down-valley from Aspen, Colorado, the side-by-side towns of Basalt and Carbondale both had rallies that attracted a few hundred people each.
More protests are planned. April 20th is the ignominious anniversary of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in suburban Denver. In Aspen, students plan to take to the streets that day to protest gun control policy in the United States.
"We chose April 20th because it really highlights how we haven't made any progress since Columbine," Zoe Cramer, a junior at Aspen High School, told the Aspen Day News. "We students are tired of standing by and watching so much violence unfold in schools across the nation."
In many locations around the country, including Aspen, students walked out of classes on March 14 for 17 minutes – one minute each for the lives taken in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Jackson moves toward law about LGBTQ discrimination
JACKSON, Wyo. – Elected officials in Jackson are moving forward with an ordinance that formally prohibits discrimination against the LGBTQ community. This acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.
The town has had a non-discrimination resolution since 2014, the first in Wyoming to do so. But the resolution lacks the force of law.
The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports qualms on the town council centered around the fear of increased cost of enforcement, forcing existing commitments to be discarded. But the mayor, Pete Muldoon, would have none of it.
"I've had people come and tell me they've been mistreated and discriminated against in housing and in jobs because they're gay," Muldoon said. "If we think that people's civil rights are being violated in the town of Jackson, that's the No. 1 budget priority."
Banff sorts trash to see what could be diverted from landfill
BANFF, Alberta – Town officials in Banff hope to figure out a way to boost the level of recycling and organic diversion. A recent analysis showed that 46 percent of the garbage in the community gets recycled, leaving 54 percent for the landfill.
A consulting company that sorted through garbage sent to the landfill found that 65 percent of it might also be diverted. One-third of food and food-soiled paper could be diverted from the landfill.
Banff's 46 percent diversion rate significantly lags behind the Canadian cities of Vancouver, Guelph and Halifax, where municipal officials report 61 to 63 percent diversion of waste.
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