ASPEN, Colo. - Relatively speaking, Aspen has done well this year in terms of visitors. Traffic at the local airport was up by more than 25 per cent in December, skier visits at the four ski areas at Aspen and Snowmass were up 2.5 to 5 per cent during the all-important Christmas holidays, and bookings look strong through Presidents' weekend.
What hasn't been up was the snowfall. It's an El Niño year, and that almost always means sub-par snow for the north half of Colorado. This year is no exception. Powder days have been sparse.
At a recent community meeting covered by the Aspen Times , condo-hotel manager Warren Klug reported that he had admonished employees to keep complaints about the lack of powder to themselves. "I didn't hear a single complaint from our guests," he said, as they loved the blue skies and corduroy.
March remains the big question mark. Last year, Aspen emptied out during the most important economic month of the winter. After reporting the many bright spots this season, reservations guru Bill Tomcich at the recent meeting conceded some apprehension. "There's a lot of rooms that can be filled in late February and early March," he said.
In Telluride, meanwhile, town officials have reported a better year for 2009 than they had feared, thanks partly to a late pickup in real estate sales, reports The Telluride Watch. But town manager Frank Bell noted that any increases this year will be compared against 2009, which was a "really crummy year."
Added Bell: "Saying things are 10 per cent better is like being the best dancer in Laredo, Texas. That isn't a real milestone."
Wolves' deaths felt
BANFF, Alberta - Two wolves have been killed on highways near or within Banff National Park in recent weeks, leading some locals to call for stern measures to slow drivers.
In a case from early January, a 68-pound wolf pup was thrown 20 metres, suggesting that the driver was speeding.
Taking stock of the situation, the Rocky Mountain Outlook called for use of photo radar. The speed limit in Banff is 90 km/h, but speeds of 120 to 130 km/h are common. One letter-writer even proposed to close down a highway at night, when wildlife is hardest to see.
Interviewing a wolf biologist, the Outlook explains that wolves howl when pack members disappear, and in recent nights people in Canmore could hear howling from the woods adjacent to the town, where roughly 15 wolves live.
In-bounds slide kills local