Sunday, October 30, 2005

Snow Guns on Full Blast

Warm temperatures over the past couple of weeks have slowed snowmaking efforts, but that’s not stopping ski areas from opening in early November.

Mild temperatures and high humidity prevented Arapahoe Basin from opening on its planned date of October 21, but a dip in temperature allowed it to open two days later. As of Friday, it planned on opening a second run today — Ramrod — according to Peggy Hiller, assistant general manager,

Breckenridge, Copper and Keystone resorts have been consistently making snow for at least the last week, and each say they’re in good shape for opening day.

Keystone spokesperson Amy Kemp said Keystone’s snowmaking system allows the resort to efficiently make snow, quickly turning guns on and off when temperatures are optimal — the usual among high-tech modern resorts.

It snowed Friday night (approx. 2 inches) and it's been snowing off-and-on over the weekend. Expected additional accumulations are in the 3 - 5 inch range by tomorrow morning.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Mountain Thunder Lodge Density Transfer

The Breckenridge Town Council approved a density transfer of 60 single-family-equivalency units from the Mountain Thunder Lodge development on Park Avenue to the Peak 7 development area.

The Breckenridge Ski Resort is in the final stages of working out a development plan for the Peak 7 area with the Breckenridge Planning Commission. That process will determine how the 60 new units will fit in with the already approved 125 units, said Alex Iskenderian, vice-president of development for Vail Resorts Development Company (VRDC).

Most of the development on Peak 7 will be residential, with skier services and other commercial development to be added at a later time, when the Peak 8 base area is redeveloped. The Peak 7 project will include a stop for the gondola planned to run from town up to the ski area.

The Peak 7 development plan could soon gain final approval. Iskenderian said the hope is to start working on roads, bridges and utilities as early as May 2006, with the actual development beginning in the spring of 2007.

"We're very excited about the real estate market in Breckenridge," Iskenderian said, referring to sales at the Mountain Thunder project and the overall record level of property sales in town and the rest of the county in recent months.

The sales at Mountain Thunder helped Vail Resorts move ahead with the new Skyway Skiway project, giving skiers/riders direct access back to the in-town parking lots. Similarly, development and sales at Peak 7 are closely linked to the timing of the gondola construction.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Another Real Estate Record Set

Another record was set for real estate in September. Transactions reached an all-time high of 445 "actual recorded deeds" for the month, according to information gathered by Land Title Guarantee Company.

This follows a record-setting month of August, when transactions also reached an all-time high.

“More people are investing in real estate versus the stock market, and they’re trying to buy in before interest rates go back up,” said Brooke Roberts, sales and marketing director with Land Title Guarantee. Roberts also attributes the rise in transactions to an influx of more locals buying in to the market, as they “realize the importance of buying real estate as an investment,” she said. As proof, Land Title reports that county properties priced below $200,000 had the highest number of transactions for the month, at 107.

Breaking down the transaction numbers further, Land Title reports that the average median transaction price (or the number at which half the transactions were priced above and half below) fell to $276,800 — just below August’s median mark of $293,000.

Breckenridge continued to rack up the most number of transactions by area; Breckenridge had 180 transactions. Keystone, Frisco and Wildernest were next on the list, with 53, 35 and 34 transactions each, respectively.

Looking at year-to-date data, Summit County is poised to surpass the real estate totals recorded for last year. Through September, total real estate sales volume is up 133 percent over last year, and transactions are up 128 percent year-to-date.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Silverthorne Outlet Stores Sold - Again

In what the purchaser called a difficult and complicated procedure, the Outlets at Silverthorne will be sold again, less than one month after local Sam Brown agreed to purchase the shopping center from its majority owner.

Newport Beach, Calif.-based Craig Realty Group has entered into an agreement with Brown to purchase the three-village outlet mall, company president Steve Craig said Monday afternoon.

Brown entered into an agreement with TGS North American REIT (TGS) in late September to purchase TGS' 60 percent share of the stores. Brown already owned 40 percent of the shopping mall.

Craig said the deal is set to close on or before Dec. 1. He could not disclose a purchase price.

"We think we worked out something that everyone will be a winner, everyone could walk away saying they would be fine," Craig said of the pending deal.

Craig Realty Group purchased the Outlets at Castle Rock and the Outlets at Loveland from TGS in August and had expressed interest in purchasing the Silverthorne stores at that time. Craig's vision for the Outlets includes finishing the $13 million renovations started last year by TGS. Work on the new Trout Village was completed over the summer and is now 100 percent occupied. The Buffalo and Ptarmigan villages are set to undergo exterior renovations next spring.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

2nd Colorado Ski Area Opens for the Season

Arapahoe Basin ski area officials announced that Sunday would be its opening day for the 2005-2006 ski season.

Friday night's snowmaking efforts were exceptional, readying the ski area's opening for today. The Exhibition chair will open to the public at 8:30 a.m. today and skiers and riders can look forward to a 12- to 20-inch base on the High Noon run. Adult lift tickets on opening day will be $38, youth tickets age 15 to 19 will be $35, and child tickets age 6-14 will be $17.

Ski and board rentals, food and beverage, the 6th Alley bar and retail shop will be open and available to the public. Ski school lessons will begin when the Molly Hogan Learning Center opens later in November.

Local radio station KSMT will be on site in the base area with a live remote, playing music and handing out give-aways.

Pass sales for A-Basin's Bonus Pass program are available while supplies last for $239. The Bonus Pass holder receives unlimited skiing or riding at A-Basin for the 2005-2006 ski season and five non-transferable ski days at Keystone or Breckenridge. One of those days can be used at Vail or Beaver Creek (some restrictions apply on the Vail/Beaver Creek ski day).

A-Basin only passes are also available by calling 1-888-Arapahoe or online at

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Halloween in Breckenridge

Breckenridge is getting ready for Halloween. Just take a look at Fatty's Restaurant on the left.

The Great Pumpkin is here!

Every year Fatty's puts up great holiday decorations, such as the Halloween decorations you see here.

The aspen leaves are gone, we've had over 30 inches of snow on the mountain and the skiing/riding will begin in just a few weeks.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Southwest Airlines Coming to Denver

Southwest Airlines will resume service in Denver next year after a 20-year absence. Good news, indeed, for everyone wanting to visit Colorado.

Although Southwest has shunned Denver International Airport for more than a decade because of its high costs, the Dallas-based carrier - in the midst of an expansion - reconsidered because those costs have declined.

It will compete head-to-head against United Airlines as it emerges from bankruptcy and Denver-based Frontier Airlines, which combined have about 75 percent of DIA's market. Frontier's stock dropped 29 percent on the news, closing at $7.68 a share on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Representatives of both United, which operates the low-cost carrier Ted, and the low-fare Frontier noted they already face Southwest in other cities and that they will be competitive on ticket prices when Southwest is in Denver.

Southwest will start small with plans to expand as the traffic builds. Details on when it will start, schedules, fares and gates will be released next week.

"We've been concerned about the costs at DIA in the past but they have done a remarkable job in getting their costs downs to levels that make sense to Southwest Airlines," Southwest Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said. Another factor was current ticket prices at DIA, which he called high. "We'll have a modest start in Denver early next year and we'll just have to take it from there," Kelly said during a conference call with the news media.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Breckenridge and Keystone on National TV

The national spotlight is coming to Summit County this winter when competitions at Breckenridge and Keystone will receive a primetime stage.

The U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix is slated to take place at Breckenridge Dec. 13-17. The event, which Breckenridge has hosted three out of the last five years, will be televised on Christmas Day at 3 p.m. by NBC. Although the event is televised every year, it has not previously been given such an optimal time slot.

Breckenridge is one of only three stops for the U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix, which also touches down in New Jersey and Oregon. One of the most popular features of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) event is the downtown rail competition which takes place Dec. 17 at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. The rail jam will be televised by the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) at a time that has yet to be determined.

Keystone will be hosting a national event of its own when the Sports Illustrated for Kids Next Snow Search event comes to town Jan. 27-29.

The weekend event will be a special All-Star edition featuring young competitors from across the country, and will be televised by NBC as part of its Winter Olympics coverage on the opening day of the Turin Games. According to a Sports Illustrated press release, the Next Snow Search is a national talent search to find young athletes who best represent the next generation of extreme skiers and snowboarders.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Weather Outlook for this Winter

Timed perfectly to arrive just after Colorado's first significant fall snowstorm, weather experts with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Wednesday released their outlook for the winter, predicting above-normal temperatures and near-normal precipitation for much of the U.S.

There are no clear indications whether Colorado might experience the longed-for big winter. In fact, in NOAA's outlook, chances are equal for above-average, near-average or below-average precipitation in Colorado.

The NOAA forecasters said they don't expect either La Niña or El Niño to play any significant role this winter. Without those large-scale patterns, the forecasters are looking to other short-term factors that might help predict winter conditions. That includes the so-called North Atlantic Oscillation.

"Under these conditions there tends to be more variability in winter weather patterns across the nation, especially in the Great Lakes region and the northeast U.S.," the agency indicated on its website.

Warmer temperatures are expected across much of the central and western U.S. Including Alaska and Hawaii, while the odds are equal for warmer, cooler or near-normal temperatures in the Midwest, along the Southern California coast and on the East Coast.

Precipitation is forecast to be higher than normal across Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and northeastern Texas, with drier-than-normal conditions across the Southwest from Arizona to New Mexico. Drought conditions across the country have eased, with about 20 percent of the U.S. experiencing some level of drought, compared to 30 percent at the same time last year. Drought remains a concern for the sixth year in a row for the Northwest and the northern Rockies.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Loveland Ski Area Opens Tomorrow

If this week's storm hasn't already spurred you to wax your boards, the news from Loveland Ski Area should add some incentive.

Marketing director John Sellers said the ski area will fire up one chairlift this Friday, Oct. 14, for one of its earliest opening days ever.

“We got 18 inches out of this storm and they're making snow like crazy,” Seller said, adding that Loveland will open with its usual offering of one top-to-bottom, 1000-vertical-foot run, comprised of three connected trails; Catwalk, Mambo abd Homerun.

Loveland has been the clear leader in the ongoing opening-day derby, at least during at least the past 10 years, but A-Basin has become a factor since installing a top-to-bottom snowmaking system a few seasons ago. A-Basin previously announced a scheduled opening day of Oct. 21. No word was available as of Wednesday morning whether the early October storm might push up that date.

Other ski resorts around the county are set to open in November.

Seller said that one group of skiers and boarders has already set up camp in Loveland's parking lot, planning on being first on the chair come Friday morning. He wouldn't discuss how many people have showed up in the past for opening day but said last year marked one of the best openings ever. Tickets on opening day will be $38. Call Loveland at (303) 569-3203 for more information.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

30 Inches of Snow in Breckenridge!

Breckenridge Ski Resort reported more than 30 inches of new snow Monday morning.

Copper Mountain reported 20 inches at the top of the lifts. Keystone’s measurement came in at 17 inches. Arapahoe Basin didn’t have an official tally, but marketing manager Meisha Lawson estimated well over a foot of snow had fallen.

Loveland Ski Area reported 11 inches, which will help the mountain open earlier, said marketing director John Sellers.

“It’s complementing our snowmaking very nicely,” Sellers said. “It looks very much like winter up here.”

Sellers said the mountain doesn’t yet have a set opening date and needs an 18- to 21-inch base with side-to-side coverage before the trails will be ready.

A-Basin’s targeted opening date is Oct. 21, Copper will open Nov. 4 and Keystone and Breckenridge open on Nov. 11.

Crews from the Poma lift company and Breckenridge resort worked through the snow on Monday to continue construction of the Imperial Express SuperChair at Breckenridge, said Breckenridge spokesperson Katie Coakley.

The helicopters have finished flying in all the major components for the high speed quad, the towers are in place, the roofs are on the terminals and there is heat in the work area.

“They’ve got the people and the equipment to finish this thing,” Coakley said.

Crews expect to be finished with what will be the highest lift in North America in 10 days, Coakley said.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Big Snowstorm In Progress

Whew! Let me tell you we have had some snow today.

Just look at the photo I took of my deck and back yard a few minutes ago.

I just drove to the local grocery store and cars were sliding all over the place, people walking down the middle of the road, throwing snowballs at each other.

Winter in Breckenrige has begun.

The Breckenridge Town Works department was not planning on having this much snow today, that's for sure. The streets are a mess of snow and slush almost 12 inches deep.

I would estimate we have had at least 12 inches of snow today as of 6 p.m. Mountain Time today and it's still snowing.

I checked the National Weather Service site a few minutes ago and they were forecasting 18 - 24 inches by this time tomorrow.

Yes, the ski/ride season will be underway very soon. I wouldn't be surprised if both Loveland and Arapahoe Basin opened for the season tomorrow!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Breckenridge Ponders Budget

Cautious optimism was the theme Tuesday as the Breckenridge Town Council and department heads spent the day grappling with a budget for fiscal year 2006.

Lingering economic uncertainty in Colorado and nationally, especially in light of sky-high energy prices, led town manager Tim Gagen to present what he called a conservative $37.2 million budget, holding the line on spending in most areas.

"We saw some recovery this year ... not enough to add much new, but it's getting us back to where we were," he said, explaining that the 2005 rebound in tax revenues put the town back on track to match its previous best year in 2001.

Gagen said that 2005 sales tax revenue was up and the real estate transfer tax was "through the roof."

"As a rule of thumb, we need to grow 6 percent to add anything. Staff is stretched and stressed. They're taking on more," he said.

Gagen also pointed out that some of the town's major facilities, including the Riverwalk Center, rec center and town hall, could be in need of significant repairs in coming years. The town's elected officials and planners also discussed the phenomenon of the dramatic climb in revenue from real estate transfer taxes, trying to discern whether the trend is sustainable in the long term. Sales tax is still by far the biggest source of revenue for the town, at 37 percent, but the transfer tax now amounts to about 10 percent of revenues. In dollars, that revenue is projected to reach a record $4.6 million this year.

Town council members were a little more optimistic than Gagen in their assessment of the fiscal situation, acknowledged by the town manager as he launched a discussion on potential capital investments.

"What I'm hearing is, we're a little more bullish than my pessimism," Gagen said, asking the elected officials to present and prioritize a "wish list" of investments.

More information is available at

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Record Number of Skiers/Riders Visit Breckenridge

Strong earnings and skier visit numbers at Breckenridge and Keystone resorts last season helped owner Vail Resorts post a record financial year.

Breckenridge saw a record number of skier visits, totaling 1,471,000.

Keystone also posted a record, tallying a skier visit total that was more than 8 percent better than the year before.

“Keystone is back in the elite club of the few North American ski resorts with over 1 million skier visits,” said chairman and chief executive officer Adam Aron.

Aron also cited early returns on season pass sales, which he described as “robust” — up about 22 percent in dollars over last year. He did not comment on lift ticket pricing for the coming season, but he did say, “We are very proud of the quality of the product that we offer our guests, and historically, we’ve not exactly been shy in charging our guests for that quality.”

Aron specifically cited new high-speed lifts being constructed at both Breckenridge and Beaver Creek, and said Vail Resorts “would continue to spend significant amounts of capital on upgrading grooming equipment as well as improving our snowmaking systems in order to provide a world-class experience across our resorts for our guests.”

Aron also mentioned new upgrades to rooms at the Keystone Lodge as further proof of that commitment.

Aron also mentioned the success of Breckenridge’s Mountain Thunder condominium project. He said the company had pre-sold all 34 of the condo units taken to market starting in February 2005, and he expected closings to occur between July and November of 2006.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Silverthorne Outlet Stores Sold

The majority owner of the Outlets at Silverthorne announced plans to sell its share of the shopping center to mall co-owner Former TCE LLC, a Boulder-based company that lists local Sam Brown as its registered agent.

TGS North American Real Estate Investment Trust (TGS) entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Former TCE LLC, according to a press release.

“We are pleased to have reached a satisfactory buy/sell agreement with our co-owner at the Outlets at Silverthorne,” said TGS CEO Jeff Kohn in the release.

The purchase amount was not specified, although the negotiated price was directly associated with recent improvements to the Outlets, the release said.

The purchaser provided a $500,000 non-refundable deposit to secure the sale.

The purchase is expected to be completed on or before Dec. 1.

Silverthorne is approximately 12 miles north of Breckenridge.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Aspen Trees are at their Peak

Tourists head for the peaks above this historic mining town to see autumn leaves of gold and orange that turn a bit bolder each day amid the forest of thick, green pine.

Yes, the annual aspen tree autumn is at its peak right now.

People love to watch the aspens turn. Leaf-peeping, a nickname given to the tradition of viewing fall foliage, generates hundreds of millions of dollars every year from Maine to Washington state as tourists visit forests and surrounding towns, staying anywhere from a few short days to a week to watch the annual event.

Today, fall travel accounts for about 25 percent of all travel, up from about 22 percent some 13 years ago.

Among popular leaf-peeping sites are the Northeast, the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and North Carolina, the Rockies and routes through Midwestern and Western states, travel industry officials say.

In Colorado, the brilliant golden colors of the aspen trees can be seen across the Rockies, from Durango and the Maroon Bells area near Aspen to the Peak-to-Peak Scenic and Historic Byway from Black Hawk to Estes Park west of Denver.

Boreas Pass from Breckenridge to Como is an often listed "best" for viewing the aspen trees.

I think it's just a nice warm beautiful feeling when you are looking at the foliage.