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Mountain News: Heartburn about terms of the Epic Pass



CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Crested Butte Mountain Resort has thrown its lot in with Vail Resorts and its powerful Epic Pass. But there's heartburn in Crested Butte, in the town at least, where many seem to think that the local ski area operator sold out.

The terms of the deal allow Epic Pass holders to ski at Crested Butte for seven days for free. As for season pass holders at Crested Butte, they only get half-price passes at the Vail properties.

Telluride is also a partner with Vail Resorts on the Epic Pass, and on the same terms.

Fifteen years or so ago, Crested Butte famously ran a marketing campaign that took potshots at Vail, if not in so many words, but at least the I-70 resorts, four of which are owned by Vail Resorts. The gist of the ads was that Crested Butte was a real ski town, and the places to the north more like retirement villages.

That would characterize Aspen as much as Vail, maybe more. But there seems to be a warmer spot in the heart of Crested Butte for Aspen.

"This is about losing ski culture, not just a cheap pass. My heart breaks," wrote one person on Facebook, according to the Crested Butte News.

Erica Mueller, vice president of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, told the News that the ski area managers were a little surprised at the hard edge of the backlash. But she also thinks locals were misguided with their criticism.

"What many may not know is that the majority of Epic Passes are sold outside Colorado, so while I think this will draw some people from the Front Range, like the Rocky Mountain Superpass did, it will expose us to a broader audience and not be as drastic of a change as some may be thinking."

She also pointed out that Crested Butte is not an easy drive from metropolitan Denver. In good weather, it's 4.5 to five hours. Visitors using the Epic Pass are almost certain to stay overnight, and Crested Butte has only so many places to stay.

"The Epic Pass won't draw day-trippers or people who read the snow report in the morning and decide to come ski for the day in Crested Butte. That is not our reality here, and that is in part what makes and will always make this place special."

The main point of the pass, she added, was to "fill the hole that we would lose when the Rocky Mountain Superpass went away. We want people to come here in the winter."

Crested Butte Mayor Jim Schmidt was provoked by another matter that had locals riled up, but he might as well have been speaking about the kerfuffle of the Epic Pass when he said, "We have this love-hate relationship in town with tourism and tourists."

Housing directors to get tougher with scofflaws

ASPEN, Colo.—Fines are being assigned for bad behaviour by people living in the 3,000 units of affordable housing administered by the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.

Last year, 154 violations were investigated, reported The Aspen Times. They include people not working full time in Pitkin County, people not living in their units, and people owning property elsewhere in the Aspen area in violation of restrictions.

Mike Kosdrosky, executive director of the housing authority, said it's just plain wrong to cheat the system when so many families and individuals need affordable places to live, including himself.

"As a person who pays a free-market mortgage, there is nothing more insulting than having a tax-subsidized unit being rented out," he said. "They are getting a subsidy and then turning it into income."

The fines being planned would range to $500, depending upon severity.

Students in mountain towns protest lack of gun controls

BEND, Ore.—Mountain towns of the West had many marches of students to protest the continued shootings in schools and elsewhere.

Brand Roberts, 15, was among more than 3,000 people who turned out in Bend, Ore., located near the Mt. Bachelor ski area. He hoisted a sign that said, "Your AR-15 is not equivalent to my safety," the Bend Bulletin reported. "I can vote in 2020, and you bet I will vote in 2020. So be ready for that," he said.

Another marcher, Natalie Lawton, 15, had a sign with a line from the popular play Hamilton. It read, "Don't be shocked when your history book mentions me." Said Lawton: "Our generation is going to change the world."

In Vail, several hundred people assembled at Lionshead, at the base of the ski area. One hand-scrawled sign said: "We'd rather be Skiing Powder. Stop taking money. Start making Common Sense Gun Laws."

Wrote Vail resident NewNew Razon Wallace on a Facebook post, "I've never seen a bigger, more enthusiastic turnout in my 34 years here!

"Democracy in action—led by the local kids. There is hope!"

In Durango, Colo., 1,300 marched. The Durango Herald said many speakers called on Congress to pass stricter gun control laws, while others singled out the National Rifle Association. "I really don't think it's a Republican vs. Democrat issue," said 17-year-old student Aubrey Hirst. "Gun culture has taken over America itself, and it's preventing us from making a change. It's kids like us that are going to step forward and make that change."

About 1,000 people marched in Park City, Utah, while the tally was put at 250 in Jackson, Wyo. Down-valley from Aspen, Colo., the side-by-side towns of Basalt and Carbondale both had rallies that attracted a few hundred people each.

More protests are planned. April 20 is the ignominious anniversary of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in suburban Denver. In Aspen, students plan to take to the streets that day to protest gun control policy in the United States.

"We chose April 20 because it really highlights how we haven't made any progress since Columbine," Zoe Cramer, a junior at Aspen High School, told the Aspen Day News. "We students are tired of standing by and watching so much violence unfold in schools across the nation."

In many locations around the country, including Aspen, students walked out of classes on March 14 for 17 minutes—one minute each for the lives taken in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Banff sorts trash

BANFF, Alta.—Town officials in Banff hope to figure out a way to boost the level of recycling and organic diversion. A recent analysis showed that 46 per cent of the garbage in the community gets recycled, leaving 54 per cent for the landfill.

A consulting company that sorted through garbage sent to the landfill found that 65 per cent of it might also be diverted. One-third of food and food-soiled paper could be diverted from the landfill.

Banff's 46 per cent diversion rate significantly lags behind the Canadian cities of Vancouver, Guelph and Halifax, where municipal officials report 61 to 63 per cent diversion of waste.

Bitcoin payment OK for seller of high-end home

ASPEN, Colo.—Bitcoin has arrived in the world of resort real estate. The seller of a home in one of Aspen's high-end neighbourhoods is offering to accept bitcoin or another form of cryptocurrency.

Asking price for the six-bedroom home in Starwood, the gated community, is US$5.35 million, reports the Aspen Daily News.

It's the first known Aspen property to be advertised for sale with the stated offer of accepting an alternative digital currency. However, Erik Berg, a real estate agent involved in marketing the property in Aspen, said bitcoin was used as payment last year for two US$2 million houses in Park City.

Berg told the Daily News the reason the sellers will accept bitcoin is because they see it as a currency that's not going away.

William Small, a financial advisor in Aspen, concurs about the staying power of bitcoin. He also pointed out that it's a smart marketing move on the part of the seller and its agents because of the attention it will attract.

Small also suggested cryptocurrency real estate purchases won't remain a novelty for long.

Electric bus tested through April

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—Until the end of April, an electric-powered bus will be plying the streets of Breckenridge. It's possible that the town will purchase one of the Proterra 11-metre buses at a cost of US$800,000.

Electric motors powering the buses are four times as energy efficient as a regular diesel bus. They get the equivalent of 21 miles per gallon, compared to the four to five miles of diesel buses, explained the Summit Daily News. The newspaper says that sitting inside the cab of the electric bus is like being inside the cabin of a commercial airliner.

Vail is also testing out an electric bus, courtesy of a federal grant, and the Roaring Fork Transit Authority, which serves Aspen and outlying communities, also received a federal grant.

Sun Valley hit by hard rain

KETCHUM, Idaho—It rained hard in Sun Valley and Ketchum on the first day of spring this year, resulting in flooding of basements and crawl spaces of homes.

A Sun Valley homeowner reported half a metre of water on a road that spilled into his basement. "All that water came in like a fountain," Latham Williams told the Idaho Mountain Express. "My basement is destroyed."

It had also rained the week before the vernal equinox, the Express noted.

Rain afflicted ski towns of Colorado, too. "Nothing is quite right with super-thin snowpack and rain in the forecast," said Mark Reaman, editor of the Crested Butte News.