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Mountain News: Not enough snow to create lucrative business in March in some U.S. resorts

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CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Western resorts got blanketed with snow during the weekend. Telluride rejoiced with 43 cm In Vail, people were reporting the conditions were actually pretty good.

But Crested Butte got only 13 cm of snow, so skiing remains largely limited to those runs with manufactured snow. The extreme stuff, for which the resort is noted, is still thin.

"The five inches (13 cm) we picked up this weekend didn't change the world here," said John Norton, the executive director of the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association and a former executive at ski areas, both Crested Butte and Aspen.

Like many other ski towns this winter, Crested Butte's bookings held up well through Christmas, despite the absence of snow. But in the last month the numbers have faltered significantly.

Norton recently issued a memo in which he reported that March bookings "continue to suck. It used to be the biggest and most reliable winter month. Now it's falling out of bed. March continues to be a puzzle."

In a phone conversation this week, Norton confirmed his continued confusion about why March is becoming the end of ski season, even in good snow years. People, even without children in schools, favoured March because it was warmer, on some days pleasant enough to have a beer outside between runs.

Now, March is soft and February is the last strong month for bookings, reported Norton. He speculates that perhaps lodging during March has become too high for many people.

Others wonder whether March has been too warm. It's not because of temperatures at ski areas. Ski areas still commonly lose customers long before they lose their snow. Rather, it's the idea that spring is coming in places like Chicago and Atlanta earlier, causing people to stay home instead of flying to Crested Butte to ski.

Experimenting with dock-less bike program

ASPEN, Colo. — Dock-less bike programs have been sweeping the country in the last year, and Aspen will likely give the idea a fling this summer.

Seattle, Washington D.C., Dallas, and several dozen other cities, mostly large ones, have embraced the dock-less bikes. So has the Denver suburb of Aurora. The idea comes from China and had spread to other Asian countries before arriving in the United States.

The idea is that bicycles are available for rental. But unlike other programs, there is no place where they have to be returned. When you're finished using them, just leave them there.

With its three-month mobility lab, Aspen wants to experiment with ways to provide alternatives to the cars that pack the city's streets, especially during summer. The basic idea was to encourage people to use an alternative to the personal car to get around.

The lab had been budgeted for US$7 million, with the bulk of the money coming from automobile manufacturers and technology companies. Donations have been slow, although city officials said they've attracted enough interest for the mobility lab to be conducted in 2019.

This summer's more limited program, called Aspen Shifts Gears, will also feature e-bikes that can be rented at the intercept lots three kilometres from the town's core.

City staffers, subject to council approval, also wanted to create barrier-protected dedicated bikeways through the downtown core. In this way, there would be some greater constriction to cars.

Colorado law shields ski company from damages

DENVER, Colo. — Colorado's law that shields ski areas from lawsuits has been upheld again in a case involving a doctor who broke her leg while learning to ski at Keystone.

The Vail Daily reported that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Dr. Teresa Brigance could not sue Vail Resorts. By signing her ski school waiver and by buying a lift ticket, she was barred from suing the ski company as a result of the broken femur she suffered.

The doctor broke her femur while trying to unload from a beginner chair.

Citing legal precedents, the court ruled that skiing is "recreational" and not "practically necessary" and therefore does "not rise to the level of essential public service contemplated by Colorado law."

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