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Mountain Ñews: Ski towns making cuts

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ASPEN, Colo. - As evidence continues to arrive of a more severe recession than expected, city halls continue to trim their budgets. The current wave of cuts is most directly affecting employees of ski town governments.

As was expected, Aspen has cut another $1 million, on top of $2.4 million already. The budget as it now stands is at not quite $23 million.

The new cuts are resulting in an average $1,700 reduction in benefits to employees. If necessary, the next round of cuts will be to the health, dental and vision plans for employees.

Steve Barwick, the city manager, said the government can't afford increased health insurance costs at a rate of 8 per cent a year, when the general fund revenues are only growing at 1 to 2 per cent annually.

Cuts made so far amount to 11 per cent decrease in the general fund for 2009. Citing city officials, The Aspen Times reports that tax revenues are expected to drop 12 per cent this year.

Telluride, meanwhile, has begun laying off city employees, six altogether. "Generally speaking they have known that something like this could happen for a long time," said Stu Fraser, the town's mayor. The Telluride Watch reports that the job cuts will save the town $400,000 through the year - but the town is still short $2 million.

Breckenridge is also eyeing a second tier of cut that include delaying an affordable-housing project. A third tier would include cuts to the staff.

Skier count down 20%

KETCHUM, Idaho - The skier count at Sun Valley Resort was down 20 per cent through March. The recession, so-so snow conditions and a reduction in commercial airline air service were all fingered as causes of the decline, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.

Skier numbers flat, revenue down

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. - Skier days have been flat from last year, but revenue for Intrawest at its Mammoth Mountain operation has been down 5 per cent, with significant drop-offs in both retail outlets and ski school, reports The Sheet.

Rusty Gregory, ski area manager at Mammoth, told a forum recently that getting financing has become much more difficult. Before the recession, a ski area operator could borrow up to five times its cash flow. Now, that's been reduced to three times cash flow - but only for those who have a track record. Those without a credit history won't be able to get money.

It's quieter than usual

ASPEN, Colo. - Winter was retreating last week in Aspen. On the south side of Smuggler Street, in the shade of the Victorians and their modern replacements, shoulder-high snowpiles lingered from the onslaught of early winter. Across the street, like a nicely turned ankle, the south-facing lawns were showing slips of green.

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