Mountain Town News: Tobacco tax in Basalt, renaming Canmore, and British Columbia carries on the indie spirit
Park Record contributing writer
Jackson Hole’s last camera shop survives another day
JACKSON, Wyo. – When Bill Clinton was president, Jackson had seven photo shops, places where you could get film developed, buy a camera, or more. No surprise, given how many photographs are taken in Jackson Hole and the adjoining national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
But just one camera store remains and that store, DD Camera Corral, might have disappeared if not for employees, who went searching for a buyer.
“Jackson Hole needs a camera store,” manager Travis Lucas remembers telling William “Dinty” Miller. “People come from around the world to take pictures here. It’s crazy to not have a camera store.”
Miller, retired employee of British Petroleum, was persuaded. He already had a camera store in Casper, Wyoming. If almost no one still shoots film anymore, he told the Jackson Hole News&Guide he still sees value in brick-and-mortar locations. “It’s still a plus when people can see a bag, can touch it, hold a camera, feel it.”
The store will sell cameras and accessories, take passport photographs, and even develop old-fashioned film while printing photographs up to five feet wide.
Aspen hopes to figure out better ways to move people
ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen and many other ski towns have been wondering how to move people around without the too-often unwelcome, overbearing presence of sole-occupant cars and trucks. In typical fashion, Aspen is addressing this question head-on with its plans to conduct a mobility lab next summer.
Mobility labs have been done in other places, although perhaps never in a place as small as Aspen and assuredly never in a place with such unusual economics.
In Aspen, the goal is to provide incentives that would cause people to choose to arrive in Aspen by something other than their own car or truck.
“The lab will focus on high-occupancy vehicles, bicycle and pedestrian services and technologies and strategies to provide alternatives to single-occupant vehicle travel,” said Ashley Perl, the climate action manager for the city, in a memo to the city council members last week.
“It will identify which services, technologies and strategies are most beneficial to inform future transportation planning efforts and investments.”
The idea was proposed by Mayor Steve Skadron after talking with somebody from the Rocky Mountain Institute, a think tank with national operations that happens to be located near Aspen. The quality of life in Aspen is impaired, he says, by all the automobiles.
To pull this off, Aspen needs to come up with money – lots of it. As it has 50 billionaires who make homes or second homes there or close by, you’d think that perhaps the funding would be easy. But instead, Skadron and Perl have been reaching out to foundations and private companies. They also went to San Francisco in person last week to make their appeals. If they have found receptive audiences, at least as of last week no checks had been written.
Skadron and others have concluded they can pull off this experiment with a minimum of $1.5 million. However, a much better test of whether drivers can be induced into alternatives would be possible with a budget of $7 million. Perl told the Aspen Daily News that the experience of other cities has been that longer is better, even six months being preferred.
Part of the plan is to expand the pedestrian opportunities of Aspen including allocation of increased space for outside dining opportunities. In this sense, Aspen is trying to catch up with Vail – although in Vail, too, there are complaints that cars are over-bearing
In Park City, much the same conversation is underway, but without a mobility lab to test how people can be induced to get out of their individual cars.
“Improving transit to and from Park City is one the biggest issues facing our town, along with growth and affordable housing,” says The Park Record in an editorial. The newspaper notes that many residents believe that merely widening the highway — one option of the state transportation agency – will simply invite more congestion.
Another mountain town may consider a higher tobacco tax
BASALT, Colo. – Aspen is raising the age for legal purchase of tobacco to 21, from 19 today, and will soon be exacting a municipal tax of $3 on a pack of cigarettes, with increments to eventually raise it to $4.
At Carl’s Pharmacy, on Main Street in Aspen, a pack of cigarettes currently costs $7.39 or $8.36, depending on the brand. Come January, the cost will go up to $10.39 or $11.36.
Will Basalt, located 18 miles downstream from Aspen, be next? That’s the desire of one town councilman, Bernie Grauer, and he seems to have backing from fellow council members to put it on the town election ballot in April 2018, the next municipal election.
The desire to discourage smoking, especially by young people, drives Grauer, not the revenue. Tobacco taxes are traditionally levied by state government in Colorado.
“It has been proven repeatedly that, every time tobacco taxes go up, use goes down,” he told the Aspen Daily News.
That view is echoed by R.J. Ours, who is the Cancer Action Network’s government relations director for Colorado.
Major ink for one ski area that is taking on ‘the man’
ROSSLAND, B.C. – Rossland, a one-time gold-mining town, sits in the Monashee Mountains, above the Columbia River. This is just north of the border of British Columbia and eastern Washington state. The closest major airport is at Spokane, Washington, 2.5 hours to the south.
For skiers, the attraction of Rossland is Red Mountain Resort. A travel magazine this year called it Canada’s first and last great ski town.
The ski area has been in the news frequently this year because of an innovative marketing campaign by the owner, Howard Katkov. He created a campaign called “Fight the Man, Own the Mountain.” It’s intended to be a jab at Vail Resorts and, for that matter, Aspen, Jackson Hole, and other major ski areas with quad lifts, high-priced base-area lodging, and all the other accouterments of the most successful ski areas.
Katkov notes that three companies now own 39 resorts.
Part and parcel of this marketing is an equity crowd-funding effort, first to Canadians and then, on Nov. 1, to Americans. His ultimate goal is to raise $15 million from equity owners by Dec. 1, the cutoff date, reports Bloomberg.
Pique Newsmagazine reports that the venture recorded a single-day record in August with more than $500,000 in crowd-funding enlistments. Ahead of its U.S. launch, it had received more than 3,500 reservations for as much as $13.3 million, reported Bloomberg. Investments have been tiered from $1,000 to $25,000.
All this has yielded a lot of David-vs.-Goliath stories that position Red Mountain as authentic and small, true to its skiing roots—and affordable. “Vail is speaking to a certain demographic, I’m speaking to a different one,” he told Bloomberg. “The Whistlers, Vails, Jackson Holes, they’re catering to the 1 percent. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a young family can’t go to those resorts.”
Roger McCarthy, a consultant who helped design Sochi for the Russians, contrasted Red Mountain and Rossland with the “industrial ski experience” of the large resorts. “You walk into the restaurant or the day lodge and everybody knows everybody,” he told Pique. He lives in Whistler but managed Keystone and Breckenridge for Vail Resorts at one time.
What do investors get for their money at Red Mountain? Not a lot, suggested a commenter from Toronto on the Financial Post website. “Let’s see, no voting rights, no dividends, or no distributions in the ‘foreseeable future.’ Looks like you’re basically selling club memberships disguised as an in investment. And who’s going to be able to afford this type of investment/club membership?”
First Nations propose older names for Banff geography
CANMORE, Alberta – Canmore, at the entrance to Banff National Park, will have a different name if the Alberta Geographical Names Program approves the application of the Stoney Nakoda First Nations.
That new name, says the Nakoda bands, would be the old name: Chuwapchipchiyan Kude Bi.
And the Bow River, which flows through Banff and Canmore on its way to Calgary, would also have a different name: Ijathibe Wapta or Mini Thni Wapta.
The Rocky Mountain Outlook says that the Stoney Nakoda had claimed the area south of the Bow River and east of the Continental Divide as their native territory.
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S.R. 224 will fail in five years if no improvements are made, even if there is no more growth at the base area, according to an engineer.