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The idea was triggered by the unexpected success of the Colorado Free Ride Series at Snowmass. "It surprised me that so many people were into that kind of stuff," said Doug Mackenzie, general manger at Snowmass.

Real estate continues to surge in Vail area

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — The real estate economy during November showed the fourth consecutive month of recovery in Eagle County. Of particular note was a flurry of sales in homes of $1 million and more, the sector with more than 60 per cent of the dollar volume, notes the Vail Daily.

However, year-to-date sales of $1.2 billion still lagged substantially behind the $1.7 billion in the record year of 2000.

Forests being thinned after beetle epidemic

KETCHUM, Idaho — Plans are being made to thin almost 25,000 acres of forests near Sun Valley where pine bark beetles are in epidemic stage. The goal is to reduce fire danger near homes and public recreation areas.

As well, foresters intend to douse pesticides on some trees already infested with beetles, to kill the beetles and hence prevent them from then moving on to other trees, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.

Yellowstone snowmobile outfitters deeply distressed

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — Snowmobile outfitters on the periphery of Yellowstone National Park were reporting deep financial distress in the wake of a federal court ruling that limits the number of snowmobiles inside the park.

Illustrating the effect is the story of Jackson Hole Snowmobile Tours. The company had had 80 permits. Then, under the Clinton administration, the National Park Service had planed to allow only 15 permits. When George W. Bush became president, the number was increased to 35. Now, it’s back to 15.

What that means, office manager Stacey Chapman told the Jackson Hole News & Guide, is that the company now has 22 "useless" four-stroke snowmobiles on its hands. The machines, she said, are too heavy to perform well in national forest terrain, where the company also runs tours. They are suited for the groomed trails on roads in Yellowstone.

The four-stroke engines, which are quieter and cause less air pollution, cost $6,000 each, compared to $3,300 for two-stroke engines. Ironically, the Clinton administration plan, now once again in effect, had not required the newer and more costly four-stroke engines.

Another snowmobile operator, Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours, has spent $123,000 to purchase 21 four-stroke snowmobiles, an investment he could only recoup by operating under permit numbers approved by the Bush plan.