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Mountain News: The new normal for mountain resorts



KETCHUM, Idaho - In the old days, cash registers rang. Not anymore, of course, but were their computerized equivalents kept busy this past week in ski towns?

It's still too early for reports, but reservations seem to have picked up through December in most locations.

"Reservations in the last 10 days have really picked up," said Sun Valley spokesman Jack Sibbach, speaking just before Christmas. "Every time it snows, we get 30 per cent more calls."

But bookings for the duration of ski season were up and down, he told the Idaho Mountain Express . Some weeks surpass last year's figures, but others lag.

Going into winter, the Aspen Skiing Co. projected flat skier visits this year, starting out more slowly than last winter but finishing strong. In contrast, last winter ended with a thud.

In December, the Mountain Travel Research Program reported rising occupancies at hotels but dropping rates. "Consumers and resorts seem to be settling into a new normal - a situation where consumers have fewer discretionary dollars, but recognize that this is a buyer's market and have shifted their spending from conspicuous consumption to cautious consumption," said Ralf Garrison, the director.

"Consumers can be enticed to book reservations and take trips, but the resorts are having to compete with offers that represent their best values," he added.


Cemetery defines locals

CANMORE, Alberta - Canmore officials have decided that when it comes to being eligible for interment in the community cemetery, a person needs to have lived in the town for at least 15 consecutive years to be buried at the locals' rate of $1,985. The rate for non-residents, notes the Rocky Mountain Outlook , is $4,168. That said, town officials report no rush of people wanting to die in Canmore.


Beetles survive cold

BANFF, Alberta - The cold snaps of October and again in early December were fit for neither man nor beast, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook . Bark beetles, however, seemed to survive well enough.

Temperatures dipped to 51 below in northern Alberta, but didn't stay there, but instead rose to daytime highs of 22 below, too warm to kill many of the bugs. In Banff, the lowest temperature was only -28 degrees.


Record demand for power

SUN VALLEY, Idaho - Cold temperatures in December also caused Idaho Power to produce more electricity than ever before. Temperatures in the Sun Valley/Ketchum area remained below zero for days at a time. The utility has tiered rates, charging more money per kilowatt hour to consumers who use larger quantities. That, in turn, encourages consumers to adopt energy efficiency measures.