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Mountain News: Investigating paid parking

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CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, the side-by-side municipalities next to the ski area of the same name, seems to be broaching a new level of busyness as would require paid parking.

The Crested Butte News reported that town officials are talking with a firm called Interstate Parking, which manages 65,000 parking spots in seven states. Among them is Breckenridge. Interstate Parking promises to raise revenue for both Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte by using a smartphone-based paid parking system.

Michael Yerman, the town planner in Crested Butte, reported that an ad hoc parking committee concluded that one reason for traffic congestion in Crested Butte is because parking is "free and easy."

In Breckenridge, parking is now paid based on license plate numbers and can be done through a smartphone app or by credit card at solar-powered kiosk meters. The first hour costs 50 cents. Enforcement is provided by a team of "ambassadors," to use the company's phrase, who are paid $19 an hour. During winter, six a day are needed in Breckenridge but during summer only one or two.

The firm wants $77,000 to provide this parking management in Crested Butte.

How about a $1 lift ticket?

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Discounted season passes have worked wonders for the bottom-lines of Vail Resorts, the big, big ski company. So why can't a vastly discounted lift ticket help a small ski area like Howelsen Hill.

The ski area, located just a few blocks from downtown Steamboat Springs, was the original ski area there. But it has struggled in recent years. The city, which owns the small ski hill, has been investigating how to make it a more viable business proposition.

The latest idea is to offer US$1 lift tickets on weekends. The thinking is that the drastically discounted lift ticket prices might be offset, at least in part, by increased concession sales. And it could become a destination in its own right, drawing families from Colorado's Front Range looking for low-cost options for places to teach their children how to ski.

Steamboat Today explained that the ski area this year is projected to generate $185,000 in revenue from season pass and lift-ticket sales. About $72,000 of that comes from season-pass sales.

Ski numbers remain very flat

PARK CITY, Utah – Ski areas, at least some of them, remain greatly profitable. How else to explain the expansion by Vail Resorts and now the creation of the new but still un-named company that might as well be called UnVail (see page 28 for more), a combination of KSL Capital Partners and the Crown family of Aspen and Chicago.

This is despite the fact that Vail Resorts last year had 5.4-per-cent fewer visitors at its U.S. resorts. But it grew its visits by 20 per cent overall, obviously a reflection of Vail's acquisition of Whistler Blackcomb just before the start to ski season last year. It did 12 million visits altogether, or about what used to be the average for all of Colorado.

But then consider this statement from Park City: "Skiing is not a growing sport," said Jim Powell, vice president of marketing at the Park City Chamber/Bureau. The reason is simple: baby boomers are aging out and millennials simply do not ski or snowboard as much as their parents did and do.

In an event covered by The Park Record, Powell said it takes about two millennials to replace every baby boomer that hangs up his or her skis. Young adults between the ages of 20 and 36 tend to ski less during the season and they do not spend as much money.

Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, pointed out that millennials are at that point in life where they are inclined to step away from skiing while they start families, crank up their careers, or possibly buy a home. "Or maybe all three of those things," he said. "That distracts you, except for the most serious participants, from the idea that you might have time and the financial ability to be able to spend a weekend or a couple of days or even a day skiing."

Berry said that millennials will return to the slopes later. Baby boomers, in contrast, more often stayed on the slopes while pivoting into careers, homes, and families.

No employee housing in this single-family house

JACKSON, Wyo. — Q: How many people can live in a three-bedroom house? A: 15, at least in one house in Jackson.

The house had been outfitted with two beds in each bedroom and then more people in a converted living room. All but one were employees of the in-town ski area, Snow King.

That would have been OK if most of them had been related, but Jackson municipal regulations only allow three unrelated people per housing unit in that residential district, reported the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Snow King, the resort, paid US$9,000 a month for the lease. The general manager objected to turning out his employees in August, after the town issued the order. But the town said that Snow King shouldn't have violated the rules.

Renaming of Gore Range gathering local support

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Might less Gore be more in north-central Colorado? That's the proposal from Summit County, where part of the county line is defined by the range of 3,960-metre peaks. It's called the Gore Range.

There's a Gore Creek that flows through Vail and then farther north, a Gore Canyon, where the Colorado River thrashes its way through the range, the steepest five to six kilometres of descent in the river's 2,300-kilometre journey. There's also a crossing, Gore Pass, and a brass plaque haffixed to a granite boulder remembers an Irish baronet after whom all these Gores are named.

The baronet, Sir St. George Gore, travelled to the United States in 1854 and hired Jim Bridger, the famous mountain man and guide, to show him the sights and lead him to rich hunting grounds.

It was an extravagant expedition. His entourage included a valet, an expert at tying flies, a dog-handler, 20 greyhounds and foxhounds, 100 horses, 20 yoke of oxen, and four Conestoga wagons, each pulled by six mules.

Jeff Mitton, a professor at the University of Colorado, in a 2010 op-ed in the Vail Daily, further noted that Gore had an arsenal of 75 rifles, a dozen shotguns and many pistols.

There were also abundant creature comforts: a carpet, a brass bedstead, a carved marble washstand, and a big bathtub. There were also enough men, 40 altogether, to create the hot water needed to make a bath in the wilderness, a luxury.

If Lord Gore, as he was remembered colloquially, suffered few wilderness discomforts, he caused great pain to the wildlife that came within range of his armory during his three years in the West. He claimed to have killed 2,000 bison, 1,600 deer and elk, and 105 bears.

In his first summer, he ventured as far as today's Kremmling, but then spent the next two years in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas before returning across the Atlantic Ocean.

Shouldn't this princely geography be named for somebody more deserving? Or maybe something else altogether, perhaps a name given it by the Utes who lived there?

(Although it should be noted that when John Fremont travelled through the Blue River Valley in June 1844, he saw much evidence of Arapahoe Indians, too, and a few kilometres away, in South Park, turned down an invitation from the Utes to join in a battle with the Arapahoes).

Mitton, in his 2010 op-ed, proposed keeping the same name — but to honour a different Gore, as in the former U.S. vice president named Al, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts to heighten public awareness about climate change.

"All that we have to do is to mount a new plaque on the granite boulder on Gore Pass," he said.

Now comes the efforts of Summit County resident Leon Joseph Littlebird, who has persuaded county officials to take up the cause.

"It's one of the most beautiful and spectacular areas we have," Littlebird recently told the Summit Daily News. "Considering Lord Gore was a pretty bad dude — the stories are really horrible, really scary — it would be great to see it recognized as what it really is, instead of for a guy like that."

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