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Mountain News: Flat. Out. Awesome — or unacceptable

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New ski portal

PARK CITY, Utah — Deer Valley has been talking with local landowners and county authorities about creating a new portal, one outside of Park City. Bob Wheaton, the general manager for Deer Valley, says that the new portal from the east would include several hundred acres of new ski terrain serviced by at least two new lifts. As well, reports The Park Record, the expansion would include a substantial but still unspecified component of real estate development.

Key link to Chicago coming

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — So rural and so remote — and so dependent on big cities. That's the story in Crested Butte, located four to five hours away from Denver by mostly two-lane highway. In the early 1980s, it engineered the first direct flight program.

But that program has always been expensive and difficult to maintain. Now comes silver-lining news that 10 weekday flights to Chicago have been added for next winter, on Saturdays, but just during Christmas and the spring-break periods.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort communication manager Erica Reiter confirmed that United Airlines will be guaranteed revenue, as is the usual practice, but did not disclose the precise terms. The 66-passenger jets will provide nearly 500 seats, and resort officials tell the Crested Butte News that they're confident they can fill three-quarters of them.

About 20 airline miles to the north, it's a whole different world in Aspen. There, United Airlines will be flying 10 times a day from Denver, with as many as 12 on Sunday, this summer. As well, reports the Aspen Times, there will be daily direct flights from Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles.

Time to eat, drink and absorb big ideas

ASPEN, Colo. — It was a time to eat, drink and be merry in Aspen last weekend. The 31st annual Food and Wine Festival was held, and it expected to occupy 80 per cent of Aspen's hotel rooms and more than 50 per cent of hotel rooms at nearby Snowmass Village.

"Many locals have dedicated this week to figuring how they will get into the Wagner Park tent for one of the five 'grant tastings,'" reported the Aspen Daily News. The newspaper explained that "hundreds of exhibitors pour thousands of favourites of some of the world's best wines into glasses that keep getting refilled."

Ticket sales for the festival are capped at 5,000, and they don't come cheap: $1,150 per head. Even so, the event was sold out this year by April, as is the usual.

It's not all sniffing fine wines. There's food, too. Carolyn Sackariason, editor of the Daily News, confided that she has a weakness for macaroni and cheese: "It can make me fat and really happy," she wrote. To that end, she intended to get direction from Laura Werlin, "the best and foremost authority on mac and cheese that I have ever come across."

Meanwhile, the Aspen Center for Physics, which is something of an extension of Harvard, MIT and other high-brow academies, had a lecture focused on the physics of cooking. Other lectures in the series are devoted to quantum computing and "Beauty and Blemishes in the Universe."

Aspen is chock full of other festivals this summer, too. It already had the Summer Words Literary Festival, which featured a Pulitzer Prize winner, Paul Harding, mountain-based writer Pam Houston and a few dozen others, including a large contingent of Chinese writers and writers about China. Next week is the Ideas Fest and then the Aspen Security Forum. Both festivals are relatively new and already draw major attention from the chattering classes of New York and Washington D.C.

Not every talk-fest in Aspen is a home-run, however. The Environmental Forum of the last five years has been suspended due to insufficient underwriting and corporate and foundation sponsorship, the Daily News reports.

In general, the tourism business looks hopeful in Aspen. The Aspen Times say the $151 million in retail sales from June through August last year was a record, and some local officials seem to think this one might be better, or at least bigger.

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