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Mountain News: Aspen evaluates water needs

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ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen continues to evaluate how much water the city will need 50 years from now, a time when accumulating greenhouse gas emissions will likely have more clearly changed the climate.

Aspen Journalism several months ago reported that city officials have maintained water rights for small dams on Castle and Maroon Creeks for about 50 years. If built, the dams could back up water into the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area.

Why would the city want to do that? One scenario is increased demand, such as that caused by population growth. Aspen continues to grow, if far more slowly than during the 1960s, when the plan was conceived.

Climate change also poses great uncertainty. To what extent will rising temperatures cause earlier runoff and longer, hotter summers — and hence more need for stored water? About 60 per cent of Aspen's municipal water use goes to outdoor use, such as for lawns and also a golf course.

Aspen Journalism reported that economist George Oamek of Headwaters Corp. finds a range of risks. Much depends upon whether demand increases but also how much the climate warms. But in all cases, it appears Aspen will be hard-pressed to leave enough water in the two creeks to meet targeted instream environmental flows while also meeting all municipal water demands.

Storage needs also depend upon whether the city is willing to let its golf course dry up in the case of a deep, extended drought.

City officials have continued to maintain that some form of increased storage will be needed. Stepping back from their original idea, they are now pursuing the idea of new reservoirs along Woody Creek, well away from wilderness boundaries.

Might Aspen be eyeing purchase of Sun Valley?

ASPEN, Colo. — The new ski industry team of KSL Capital Partners and Aspen Skiing Co. has now consummated purchases of 10 mountain resorts, including six properties previously owned by Intrawest and four in southern California.

In Colorado, the Intrawest holdings include Steamboat and the long-term contract to manage Winter Park, which is formally owned by the City of Denver. The sale also includes Mont Tremblant in Quebec and Stratton Mountain in Vermont, among others. The US$1.5 billion purchase included debt obligations.

The announcement was expected, but what maybe was a surprise was that two other Tahoe ski areas, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are now part of the new partnership. They were previously owned by KSL. The Aspen Skiing Co.'s four ski areas at Aspen, however, will not be included in the new partnership.

Will the Aspen Skiing Co. buy more ski areas? One rumor in Aspen has held that the company wants Sun Valley. The company built a 99-room hotel in Ketchum that opened in December. An Aspen hotelier told the Times that the only way the US$70 million investment made sense was if Aspen also ran the ski area there.

The Aspen Skiing Co.'s Mike Kaplan laughed off the rumor, telling the Times that no purchase is being pursued. "That rumor has been out there for a long time," he said.

Eleven of the 14 condos at the Limelight in Ketchum have sold for anywhere form US$1.5 million to US$3.9 million. That writes down the capital investment. A professor of real estate at the University of Denver said that if Aspen Skiing has finance-free cash flow, other investments might make sense.

Sun Valley was purchased in 1977 by Earl Holding, who died in 2013. His surviving family retains ownership. Holding made his fortune in oil in Wyoming and in real estate. The Aspen Skiing Co. has been owned for several decades by the Crown family, which made a fortune in Chicago's 20th century industrial grime.

Sales unrivalled since the first half of 2008

VAIL, Colo. – Boosted by the $145 million sale of the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, total real estate sales in Eagle County surpassed US$1 billion in the first half of 2017. That level of sales has not been breached since the first half of 2008, noted the Vail Daily.

In September 2008, sales dramatically plunged amid an economic meltdown that had the two presidential candidates — Barack Obama and John McCain — suspending their campaigns to scurry to Washington D.C.

In California, home sales around Lake Tahoe exceeded $500 million in the first six months of the year. The Tahoe Daily News made no comparisons of this year's sales figures to those of the pre-Recession period.

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