By Allen Best
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Many ski valleys have been
mightily resisting vestiges of suburbanization. Regulations have been enacted
to restrict national franchisers, particularly big boxes, which are the symbols
of suburban sprawl.
But Steamboat Springs is increasingly a suburb — and many
other ski towns are, too, says Jonathan Schechter. “These are the new suburbs,
but they are virtual suburbs,” he told a group in Steamboat Springs recently.
People choose to live where they want to live, in part because of rapid growth
in technology that allows them to do so, but also because of rising incomes, he
These changes caused Steamboat and places like it to add as
many people in the 1990s as had lived there in 1960, before the arrival of
tourism. But even now, it is not a purely tourism-driven economy, he said.
What could change this trend? Schechter, a long-time Jackson
Hole resident, sees nothing to stop the masses — unless their arrival
fouls the nest. “The boom is not going to bust… unless we screw up the reason
people want to move here,” he said.
To that end, Schechter was the architect of an idea recently
implemented called One Percent for the Tetons. In the program, businesses give
1 per cent of revenues to a fund, which is dispersed in grants to projects
intended to help retain the environmental integrity of Jackson Hole. Some 50
businesses are participating, and $25 million has been raised.
More ski area sales ahead
MAMMOTH, Calif. – In it its Dec. 2, issue, The Wall
Street Journal took a broader view of ski areas, noticing the recent shuffling
of ownerships unrivaled since the consolidation phase of about 1997. “What’s
the must-have item this ski season? A resort,” says the Journal.
The newspaper noted the entry of private-equity firms such as
Fortress Investment Group, which in October completed the purchase of Intrawest
for $2.8 billion, but also purchases of California’s Mountain High Resort by
Valor Equity Partners and the sale of Mammoth Mountain last year to investors
led by Starwood Capital Group Global.
Analysts tell the paper that they expect more ski-resort deals
in months ahead. The intense interest is reflected in the stock price for Vail
Resorts Inc. Stock price rarely percolated above the $16 price of the IPO in
1997, but have now surged above $44 per share.