Monday, December 31, 2012

Lots of Fireworks on Tap for Tonight

New Year's Eve just wouldn't be the same without fireworks. What better way to ring in another year than to fill the sky with bright, colorful, sparkling explosions? Summit County offers several different options to watch fireworks displays against a beautiful mountain backdrop.


Explosive Copper

Properly titled En Fuego, Copper Mountain Resort's celebration starts off with a glowlight parade for children and a torchlight parade by Copper Ski & Ride School instructors. The real pyrotechnics start at 7 p.m. over West Lake. This is a specially designed close-proximity show, due to the tight location of the mountain. It will consist of 14 separate types of fireworks. Some will be loud, booming reports while others are aerial mines, which look like shotgun blasts.

Following this pre-show is the main display taking place at the base of the American Eagle Lift at 10 p.m. Nearly one thousand pounds of pyrotechnics will be used, which will start out with 20 heavy bomb Titanium Salutes to catch everyone's attention.

Following the salute will come 150 designer three-inch shells ranging from crossed rings to draping willows to gold palms, which will travel more than 300 feet in the air. Shells of color- changing peonies and gold spiders will shoot 400 feet high, while shells of bees, colored waves and silver kimuros will reach at least 500 feet. Newly featured this year is the addition of 25 multi-shot boxes that fire more than 2,500 low-level rounds which are designed to fire directly underneath the larger aerial shells. Adding to the light display will be fish and whistle tourbillions, which make a distinctive whir and whistle sound.

The grand finale will be fired after a short pause in the main show. More than 300 shells will be fired off in a period of 30 seconds for a true bang.


Colorful Keystone

Keystone Resort will also feature a torchlight parade by its Ski & Ride School as well as two fireworks displays at Lakeside Village at 6 and 10 p.m. Each show will consist of 35 cases of all types and styles of pyrotechnics, lasting from 15-20 minutes.

“With two displays this year we hope to offer all of our guests a chance to enjoy a spectacular show, whether they're ending their evening or just getting started,” Laura Parquette, senior communications manager at Keystone Resort, stated in an email.

Later in the night, guests can enjoy live music and a midnight balloon drop at the Tenderfoot Lodge. Additionally, Keystone plans to continue its fireworks display each Saturday at 7 p.m., viewable from River Run and Lakeside areas, all the way up to March 23.


Blazing Breckenridge

Breckenridge Ski Resort will host a glow worm parade for children and its annual torchlight parade descending from Peak 9. Breckenridge will put on its own fireworks show at 9 p.m. between peaks 8 and 9, which on a clear night can be visible from many spots in town.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Frisco's Peak 1 memorialized in new book

As a child, Dutch immigrant Jon Anton Vierling loved to hike Peak 1 near Frisco, Colorado. It was the mid-1950s and his father, whom the kids called “Pop,” worked as a mining engineer at the molybdenum mine in Climax while the family of nine made their home in a self-built log cabin on Bill's Ranch in Frisco.

Later, Vierling served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He earned a Doctorate of Science and a Master of Science from Harvard University, among other degrees. In his career, he wrote 27 professional books — but it was not until “Peak One: The Journey Up” (The Waterfront Press, 2012) that he had the opportunity to document his formative journeys to the top of the local peak.

In “Peak One,” Vierling takes the reader on a visual and narrative trip up to the peak's summit, starting at the trailhead at the south end of 2nd Avenue in Frisco. Along the way, the armchair enthusiast is invited to experience local flora and fauna, the Masontown mining ruins and remains of a primitive ski jump above Zach's stop.

Eschewing what he calls “a lack of consistency in the findings” and “vastly different conclusions” on Masontown, Vierling opts for a first-hand account of his experiences there and on other stops along the hike.

The full-color, landscape-oriented 8x10-inch softcover book features photographs by Karin Prescott, formerly of Dillon. Prescott, who worked as a photographer for the Summit Daily News from 2000-03, now lives on the south side of Hoosier Pass near Alma. Her photographs have appeared in Women's Day, Christian Science Monitor and The Mountain Gazette, among others. A dedicated humanitarian, Prescott has traveled to Uganda and Jordan to photograph for nonprofit organizations.

She shot the photos for “Peak One: The Journey Up” over the course of six months in 2012. Colorful, captivating and rendered in large-scale throughout, the images are among the book's strongest features.

Throughout the journey up, Vierling weaves facts, stories and reflections, including a section on beetlekill followed by a section on Hester's Log and Lumber Mill in Kremmling, which processes beetlekill wood for building. Vierling highlights Hester's, he writes, because he used the mill's products in his Frisco house, what he calls a “period home” that dates to the “2005 invasion of beetles.”

The story arrives at its finish above treeline, past lichen-covered rocks and along the steep hogback ridge to the peak, where on a clear day, Vierling recounts, “Copper Mountain Ski Area, Keystone Ski Area, Mount of the Holy Cross, Tenmile Peak, Buffalo Mountain, Mount Baldy and of course, Lake Dillon” are visible.

“Peak One: The Journey Up” is geared toward all lovers and would-be lovers of Peak 1 — those who have already hiked it, those who wish to hike it and those who just want to live vicariously through the author's experiences.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Summit County Animal Shelter Makes a Difference

“I've always wanted to have a dog of my own.”

This statement could be attributed to hundreds of people throughout Summit County and even more statewide. On Wednesday, it was Jenny Ackers, who spends her spare time volunteering for the Summit County Animal Shelter.

She said she started volunteering at the shelter “with the idea in mind that some day I'd walk in there and the perfect dog would be waiting for me.” A month passed, and then one day there was Harvey, a border collie-Anatolian shepherd mix.

“I just walked into the kennel area and he was sitting there and he just looked up,” she said. “He didn't bark or anything and I said, ‘You want to go for a walk?' and he stood up and wagged his tail.”

That one walk was enough to cement what could become a lifelong companionship.


All creatures great and small
 

Harvey's story is just one of many that come out of the animal shelter every day. Though the shelter isn't near its maximum capacity of 46 dogs and more than 40 cats, it does fair trade in adoptions from month to month. If it happens that there is a lull, they will take in transfers from other shelters in nearby counties.

“When we get low on dogs, instead of saying we only have a couple of dogs up for adoption, we go to other shelters that are in need — a lot of times (those are) kill shelters — and transfer over dogs that are already vaccinated, neutered and ready to go and then we get them up for adoption over here,” said Meg Leroux, operations manager at the shelter. “We're (also) creating more selection.”

In addition to the usual dog and cat options, the shelter also periodically houses rats, guinea pigs, rabbits and other such pets. For feathered and reptile friends, they work closely with nearby rescue groups.

Animals come to the shelter in a variety of ways. Some are found as strays after becoming lost or simply abandoned. Others are surrendered by owners who can no longer keep them, whether because they can't afford to feed them, spend time with them or have encountered another reason such as a newborn with allergies.

Owners surrendering pets can bring the animal right into the shelter, where they can fill out paperwork and give the history of their pet. Another option is the “drop box,” a door near the front of the shelter with access to empty kennels and space to leave the animal and also helpful paperwork.

“We have a drop box, so anybody who has an unwanted pet can put them in the drop box at night, and it's gonna be safe in there from predators, it's not going to be at large near cars,” said Leroux.

While drop-offs can be anonymous, it's very helpful for those working at the shelter to have the paperwork and more information about the animal.

“The more information we have on the animals the better, because then we can do a better job of placing that animal in a more successful home,” said Donna Corcel, humane educator and administrative clerk at the shelter.


Make me a match
 

Knowing the background of an animal, both medical and behavioral, is immensely useful in finding a successful match with a new owner, Corcel said.

The adoption process starts off when a person walks into the shelter with the intention of finding a pet. By discussing lifestyle, experience, wants and needs with the potential owner, the staff can make a recommendation based on their knowledge of the animals available and their breed, temperament and history.

For example, said Leroux, if a highly active person came in and requested a less active breed such as a mastiff, she might suggest a different dog that could better meet that person's active lifestyle. Conversely, a couple that is older or more sedentary may not be happy with a breed like a husky that requires extensive exercise.

“We're just trying to help them find the right match for what they want,” said Corcel. “We don't' want to set them up to fail. Our goal is we've got an animal here (so) we're going to try to find the best match for them.”

Although staff works hard to make sure the best combination has been made between owner and pet, the adoption papers allow an animal to be returned within three weeks if need be. Without knowing an animal's history, behaviors such as trash digging or cat chasing may surface at home that were not readily apparent in the shelter. If an animal doesn't work out, however, Leroux said, the shelter is perfectly willing and able to take it back and try again.

“We want the dog or cat back at our shelter,” she said. “We don't want (the adopters) to just give it away or do whatever. We want the animal back here.”

Once the animal is back at the shelter, the process to find just the right owner can start again, perhaps this time with a bit more knowledge and understanding. Adopting from a shelter can carry an unknown factor which potential adopters should be aware of.

“It takes commitment,” Corcel said. “It's a commitment when you're adopting a shelter animal.”


Happy beginnings


Although sad cases of abandonment and abuse periodically come through the animal shelter, they don't stay that way. Hard work from the staff and adopting owners create plenty of happy endings to those hard stories. Or, as Corcel and Leroux prefer to look at it, happy beginnings with new families and new lives ahead.

“It's been great,” Ackers said, echoing many others who have brought a shelter animal home. “We feel so lucky.”

You can contact the shelter at 970-668-3230 or visit them online at http://www.co.summit.co.us/animalcontrol

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Business is good in Summit County

The wait was worth it. Despite a slow start to the season, snow came to Summit County and with it skiing, holidays and a bumper crop of business.

The holiday season has been strong for local businesses, even for those that just got started during the slow shoulder season.

“I'm new in town, (but) more people are coming in,” said Chad Schultz, who opened his winter apparel store Moosely Hats in October on Main Street Frisco.

The colder temperatures have also helped Schultz, not only in selling out of scarves and beanie hats, but in bringing more traffic to his door.

“(The snow) has been helping a lot,” he said. “There are more people visiting the area, skiers and snowboarders. I get a lot of them in.”

Holly Stein of Flourish in Breckenridge has also seen an increase in business.

“As we have more snow and more people are in town, these are certainly better days,” she said. “The weather has the greatest swing on it. It's staring to snow and the holiday is here.”

Flourish sells jewelry and artistic items made mostly by Colorado artists. Though these items aren't seasonal, they are selling well.

“The products are changing all the time,” said Stein. “There are a variety of things that we've had to reorder because we sold out. … We're adding new work all the time in all different kinds of media. We're trying to keep the store fresh on a regular basis.”

As the streets of Breckenridge fill with snow enthusiasts and sightseers, local businesses prosper.

“It was definitely a slow start and I think that we all felt it,” said Jennifer Hopkins, owner of the Worldly Traveller in Breckenridge. “My number of transactions per day has doubled in the past few days and I think a lot of that is the run-up to Christmas shopping.”

Breck is certainly busier than it was a month or even a few weeks ago.

“The welcome center is pretty busy,” said Eitan Chinitz, an information specialist at the Breckenridge Welcome Center. “We're doing a significant amount of booking for people for activities (like) sleigh rides, snowmobiling, zip lines and tours.”

Tourists aren't the only ones shopping in Summit County, however.

“A lot of locals have mentioned that they want to do their shopping at their local businesses and I appreciate that,” said Hopkins.


Looking ahead

Holidays always draw a crowd and the important question for local businesses is whether or not their profits will continue. Though there's no way to be sure, the general feeling is one of optimism.

“It looks good. Every day it's steady traffic,” said Schultz. “There are slow periods but then I get busy again. It's a successful season and it will be better next season.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Local Celebrations for the Holidays

Breckenridge Ski Resort is celebrating today's holiday with the most terrain offered in the county: A total of 1,201 acres, with a large spread of advanced and expert terrain, is now open.

The ski area's back bowls — Adios, Amen, East Snowbird, Hombre, Lobo, Middle Snowbird, No Name, Quandary, Solitude, Too Much, Upper Psycho and West Snowbird — are all fair game today.

“We are the place to be right now for both beginner and expert terrain,” said Alysa Hetze, spokeswoman for the resort. “Christmas at Breckenridge this year is going to be really epic — we're watching this storm that's supposed to be coming in very closely and we're looking forward to a snowy Christmas morning.”

Keystone Resort is celebrating the holidays with festivities for children, including the Snow Fort.

The resort offers 1,169 acres of terrain, with newly opened advanced and expert trails on Badger, Black Forest, Coyote Caper, the North Bowl, The Grizz and Timberwolf.

Copper Mountain opened the Rendezvous Lift along with Wheeler Creek and Union Park trails Monday.

Today, the ski resort will have the Lumberjack lift and the following trails open: Upper Roundabout, I-Way, Easy Feeling, CDL and the new Jeep Adventure Trail. Coppertone, See and Ski, Easy Road, Lower Sluice, and Timber Ridge are serviced by the Sierra Lift.

The NASTAR course also opened Monday afternoon on Copperopolis, said Austyn Williams, spokeswoman for the resort.

“We have a lot of variety on the mountain,” Williams said. “It's all weather dependent, so our ski patrollers and snowmaking teams are working hard everyday to get more terrain open.”

Arapahoe Basin opened Lenawee Parks, Humbug, Cornice Run, West Wall and Powerline on Monday. The ski area now offers 20 trails with 242 skiable acres.

Chief operating officer Alan Henceroth said Arapahoe Basin will offer a relaxed setting with a variety of terrain for the holiday.

“We have a lot of families that spend Christmas Day at A-Basin year after year because we have a really laid-back approach to the holiday,” Henceroth said. “It's just a great day of skiing and with the snow coming supposedly, it will be magical day.”

Loveland shifts their focus this Christmas Day to Front Range commuters, said John Sellers, spokesman for the ski area.

“With snow likely to be coating the roads, Loveland will be a great place to go for Christmas Day,” Sellers said. “We catch a lot of people who don't want to continue on through the Eisenhower Tunnel and we're going to have great conditions for the holiday.”


Celebrating the holidays in the county

Resort areas are also offering other holiday options after a day on the hills.

For families spending the day in Breckenridge, The Doubletree Hotel is hosting a Christmas Buffet Dinner from 4-8:30 p.m. at the 9600 Grill.

Offerings include a chef-attended prime rib carving station, slow roasted pit ham,and butternut squash. After dinner, guests can enjoy desserts like white and dark chocolate fondue and eggnog bread pudding.

The buffet is $40 for adults, $15 for children and free for kids under five. Call (970) 547-5555 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (970) 547-5555 FREE end_of_the_skype_highlighting for reservations and more info.

Served from 5-9 p.m. tonight, Sevens Restaurant in the Grand Lodge on Peak 7 in Breckenridge is serving up a classic Christmas dinner.

Featuring entrees like “Duck Duck Goose!” which includes a slow-roasted duck confit, seared herb encrusted duck breast, and a fois gras medallion, and desserts like Figgy Bread Pudding with a Breck Bourbon Sauce, this menu could inspire a new family tradition. Call 970-496-8910 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 970-496-8910 FREE end_of_the_skype_highlighting for reservations and more information.

Copper Mountain Resort celebrates the holidays with lots of cheer, more snow, open terrain and family events. With the help of Mother Nature, Copper Mountain has open 487 acres for holiday powder turns. Copper Mountain has received 19 inches of new snow in the past 7 days.

Copper Mountain is offering festivities to ring in the New Year with a fireworks show slated at 10 p.m. Dec. 31 at the base of the American Eagle Lift.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Whole Foods a go for Frisco

With the developer reworking a number of architectural and logistical details since the Whole Foods project entered a lease agreement with the town in June, Frisco's planning commission approved a commercial complex that will be anchored by the popular store.

Set for the Lusher Court parcel at the Summit Stage Transfer Center behind Safeway, the 105,000 square-foot commercial complex's groundbreaking is slated for spring 2014.

The Dec. 20 planning commission meeting included the vacating of a right-of-way to add another 45,000 square feet to the parcel, on a total of 10.4 acres.

Developer David O'Neil, of Brynn Grey X LLC, said the project's high visibility from Interstate 70 will create “a new feel for Frisco and Summit Boulevard,” bringing new commercial traffic from the “15 million cars that drive past Frisco every year.”

O'Neil is known for developing the Wellington Neighborhood in Breckenridge and Peak One Neighborhood in Frisco.

“While we're not shopping center developers per se,” O'Neil said. “I think we know as much about place as just about anybody.”

The project has a proposed park in the midst of the parking area, outdoor seating, including outdoor dining space at Whole Foods and a restaurant elsewhere on the property, and elements such as a firepit at the gateway building and a buffer of trees on the interstate side.


Excitement outweighs concerns

And so far, it has had a mostly open-arms response from locals, according to Jocelyn Mills, director of community development for Frisco.

Calling the project a “catalyst” for new commercial activity, Mills said, “I would say the general response by the community has been very positive ... I would say 99 percent positive.”

Thursday's vote earned a “yes” from each of the planning commissioners present, but a few concerns and comments remained.

Commissioner Donna Skupien said she was excited about the project overall, but expressed some dismay about Whole Foods looking “flat” and the gateway building having a top-heavy appearance.

“I guess this is as good as it's going to get,” she said, expressing disappointment that a previous rendering of a more rustic, barn-like design had not been pursued for Whole Foods.

Thursday's meeting included several modifications to the buildings to address concerns by the commission. While there is no definitive “Frisco feel” for architecture, there are now more wood details to the front of Whole Foods.

The inline building has more horizontal and vertical elements to provide more visual interest, and the gateway building, which has an overall cabin look, is less bulky than originally planned, according to O'Neil.

Frisco Town Council will take up the conditional use permit for 10,000 square feet of office space Jan. 22.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Breckenridge Guest Numbers are Up


The long wait for snow this year, on top of last year's disappointing winter season, has affected tourists' plans for their holiday vacations. In general, resort bookings are down as potential visitors remain cautious.

Occupancy at 16 mountain resorts has decreased by 12.3 percent in December as compared with last December, according to data gathered by the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP). The trend continues with on-the-books occupancy for December through May down by 2.8 percent.

But in Breckenridge, it's another story.

Research done by MTRiP shows that December on-the-books occupancy has increased by 2 percent in Breckenridge as compared with last year. The picture looks even better from December through May with a 7 percent increase.

“Last year was a relatively slow snow year, so consumers have been reluctant to engage this year until there's a big snow message that convinces the reluctant consumers that the resorts are back in Mother Nature's favor,” said Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP.


Brand, location, variety

While low snow affects the resorts across the board, certain aspects at Breckenridge lend it a distinct advantage. Elevation, reputation and location are all working in favor of Breckenridge.

“The resorts who have high elevations and a good reputation and have a strong local following are picking up faster than other resorts are,” said Garrison. “A big brand is like a magnet — the bigger the magnet, the more it can attract.”

In addition to its tall mountains and good name, Breckenridge is conveniently located for visitors who are driving from nearby states and the Front Range. When snow comes late, short-drive travelers flock and Breckenridge benefits.

“It's a little bit of a fickle consumer environment now,” said Tom Foley, operations director at MTRiP. “The recent snow is doing everybody a ton of good and Breckenridge is on that list. Consumers are anxious to get out and ski and enjoy themselves.”

However, it's not just the snow that's calling visitors to Breckenridge.

“It used to be that skiing was the only thing you did at the resort. Nowadays there's an overall winter resort festive party,” said Garrison. “The more non-mountain things there are to do, the more the guests are assured that they're going to have plenty of options for their vacation time regardless of the natural snow.”

Breckenridge has more to offer than just ski slopes and the fact that visitors realize that shows in the numbers. Rachel Zerowin of the Breckenridge Resort Chamber cites shopping options and the vibrant art scene as further draws to the town.

“We can accommodate the whole range of traveler,” Zerowin said. “The artistic district is doing great things (and) between shopping and dining in town, a diverse group of people can come to Breckenridge and enjoy it.”


Looking ahead

Whether numbers were up or down at the time of the report, increased snowfall will provide positive effects.

“The snow conversation is going to carry on, no matter what happens over the short term,” Garrison said. “We're going to catch up over December, but not fully recover. Now it's what's going to happen in the second half of the game.”

In addition to hoping for snow, the resorts, particularly Breckenridge, can thank their current visitors for strengthening the season later on.

“The guests who come for Christmas go home with messages that have a lot to do with end of season,” Garrison said. “Nowadays anybody that has a smart phone has the equivalent of a broadcast studio in their pocket. With social media, they start conveying the message for the resorts. It's all about momentum. A good experience at Christmas communicated through social media … will have a lot to do with a positive balance at the (end of the) season.”

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2013 Pro Challenge Details

Breckenridge will host both the Stage 2 finish and Stage 3 start of the seven-day USA Pro Challenge bike race in August 2013, race organizers announced Wednesday.

“It's very exciting,” Breckenridge Town Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said. “It's a great early Christmas present for the town of Breckenridge.”

The race, which drew millions of spectators in its first two years, will start its third year in Aspen, with teams touring through Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs, Beaver Creek, Vail and Loveland-Fort Collins before heading into Denver for the Stage 7 finish.

“Riders now know there is no race in America like the USA Pro Challenge, and these host cities help ensure cycling's world stage returns to Colorado for seven days of grueling competition,” Pro Challenge CEO and co-chairman Shawn Hunter stated in a release announcing the host cities. “Each of these communities will be on an international stage as we partner with them to ensure the USA Pro Challenge takes its place as America's greatest race.”

The race has earned a reputation for being one of the most challenging, sending teams up to two miles in elevation as it crosses the Colorado Rockies.

For Breckenridge, the Pro Challenge has become a headline event of the summer season, continuing to draw spectators numbering in the tens of thousands.

This year, hosting a start and a finish, riders will spend the night in Breckenridge and the town will organize both evening and morning festivities around the event.

Breck officials said the town requested a back-to-back stage start and finish in this year's bid. Breckenridge hosted a weekend stage finish two years ago during the inaugural race and a stage start last summer.

“I think we've brought out as many or more people for our first-year finish and last year's start than almost any other town,” Wolfe said. “And our proximity to the Front Range makes us a good location to kind of connect this race together.”

A number of criteria are considered in selecting host cities, including lodging, volunteer recruitment, marketing, local tourism and the capability to host the athletes and promote the state, race organizers stated in Wednesday's release.

“The USA Pro Challenge has created an entirely new audience for our state,” Gov. John Hickenlooper stated in the release. “Not only is it the best American competition, it's essentially a week-long advertisement for our state with 128 of the best cyclists in the world acting as tour guides.”

Breck also approaches the race as a long-term event marketing investment.

Details regarding the exact locations of starting and finish lines as well as the exact route of the 2013 race will be announced in the spring, according to the statement.

All of the cities and towns selected for next year are returning hosts with the exception of Loveland and Fort Collins.

Next year's race will run from Aug. 19-25 and is again expected to draw upwards of a million spectators to the sidelines.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Breck Lands Start AND Finish for 2013 USA Pro Challenge

Breckenridge will host the Stage 2 finish and Stage 3 start of the seven-day USA Pro Challenge bike race in August 2013, race organizers announced Wednesday.

“It's very exciting,” Breckenridge Town Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said. “It's a great early Christmas present for the Town of Breckenridge.”

The race, which drew millions of spectators in its first two years, will start its third year in Aspen, with teams touring through Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs, Beaver Creek, Vail and Loveland-Fort Collins before heading into Denver for the Stage 7 finish.

“Riders now know there is no race in America like the USA Pro Challenge, and these host cities help ensure cycling's world stage returns to Colorado for seven days of grueling competition,” Pro Challenge CEO and co-chairman Shawn Hunter stated in a release announcing the host cities. “Each of these communities will be on an international stage as we partner with them to ensure the USA Pro Challenge takes its place as America's greatest race.”

For Breckenridge, the bike race has become a headline event of the summer season, continuing to draw spectators numbering in the tens of thousands.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Vail Resorts Buys Ski Areas

To reach the large Midwestern market of skiers and snowboarders, Vail Resorts announced Thursday the addition of two Midwest ski areas: Afton Alps and Mount Brighton. What's more, Summit locals with the Epic Pass, Epic Local, Summit Value and Epic-7-day have instant access at the newest ski areas.

As part of the acquisition, Vail Resorts plans to enhance both the on-mountain and base area experience at each ski area.

“We plan to bring state-of-the-art racing, terrain parks, coaching and technology to the guest experience. We also will connect these urban ski areas to our world-class resorts in Colorado, California and Nevada with new season pass offerings, providing the chance to experience the best skiing and riding locally and in the West,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

These enhancements will include redesigned and updated terrain parks, coaching and instruction for all levels of skiers and riders, dedicated racing programs, expanded dining and entertainment options at the base area and integrated technology and social media programs like EpicMix, EpicMix Photo and EpicMix Racing.

Summit County's Minnesotan population, many of whom grew up riding and skiing at areas like Afton, are looking forward to the convenience from the additions.

Kelly Harber of Breckenridge said the addition is convenient since she still visits the state often, though “it will be strange to feel Vail's presence at the small, local spot” she skied at as a child.

“It will be really convenient for me as a native Minnesotan to have access to Afton,” Harber said.

“Last winter I was riding Afton, looking forward to moving out to the mountain — to Vail territory,” Harber said. “Now when I go back to Minnesota, we'll have a little piece of it there. Part of Afton's appeal for me was always its shabby, homey feel and I'm sure people will miss that, but it could definitely use some infrastructure in certain areas — it will be fun to see how (Vail Resorts) will update the parks.”

Matthew Fredericks, who moved to Breck from Lakeville, Minn. five years ago, said he is excited for his friends back home.

“I think it will be sweet for my friends back home to be able to buy the Epic Pass and be able to come out here and use their passes while they're on vacation,” Fredericks said. “I think that Epic Mix will do really well there too because that mountain really doesn't have anything like that.”

Vail Resorts has entered into agreements to purchase the two ski areas for $20 million, said Kelly Ladyga, spokeswoman for VR.

Both Afton and Brighton serve major snowsports markets in the Midwest with more than 468,000 active skiers and snowboarders in the nearby Minneapolis, St. Paul and Detroit metropolitan areas, according to a press release.

“We are thrilled to welcome Afton Alps and Mount Brighton to the Vail Resorts family,” Katz said. “These acquisitions are part of a new strategy for Vail Resorts to drive season pass sales and build broader guest loyalty by looking at premier smaller ski areas located near major urban markets.”

Getting to know the new ski areas
 

Afton Alps, nearing its 50th anniversary, is the largest ski area near a major city in the Midwest with 48 trails on nearly 300 acres, 18 lifts, four base areas, night skiing and riding, tubing and an 18-hole golf course.

The ski area is located 33 miles from more than two million people and more than 161,000 skiers and snowboarders in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, according to the press release.

Open since 1960, Mount Brighton features 26 trails on 130 acres, six lifts, night skiing and riding and an 18-hole golf course. The ski area is located 43 miles from Detroit and is within reach of more than four million people and more than 307,000 skiers and snowboarders in the Detroit, Lansing and Ann Arbor metropolitan areas.

Effective immediately, Afton Alps and Mount Brighton season pass holders will receive a 25 percent discount off the window rate on lift tickets at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A-Basin to Consider Bio-Fuels

A nonprofit environmental group is teaming up with Arapahoe Basin to explore the idea of using bark-beetle affected timber as an energy source.

A-Basin chief operating officer Alan Henceroth called the alternative fuel source “fascinating.” However, before moving forward, A-Basin will conduct an energy audit and feasibility study, he said.

The Blue Knight Group, a nonprofit specializing in alternative fuel infrastructure, promotes biomass as a sustainable and economically feasible solution to the surplus of timber.

“The U.S. Forest Service doesn't know what to do about the dead timber — they're talking about burning these piles of timber when we could be utilizing it as an energy source,” said Rich Dziomba, director of the BKG.

Dziomba, Henceroth and Rob Davis, president of Forest Energy Corporation, toured a biomass setup Wednesday at Fairplay High School, a 120,000-square foot building heated entirely by biomass.

“We're on a fact-finding mission,” Henceroth said. “A few things have caught our eye: The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and our reductions in heating costs are very attractive, and I think anything that can take advantage of locally produced or available resources is good — there appears to be no shortage of biomass available in Summit County.”

The biomass system at Fairplay High School, which was installed in February, has been successful, according to school officials.

“We're looking at a seven-year payback on the initial investment,” said Foss Smith, the Park County School District facilities committee member. “It's the economic advantage of biomass versus propane that makes this a great energy source — plus it's all local forestry being utilized.”

Part of the biomass broiler installation requires a feasibility study and energy audit through which businesses may be required to add insulation and other energy-saving features to ensure maximum efficiency.

Along with a broiler, a business needs a wood chip storage bin. Available space at Arapahoe Basin is the main concern with a biomass energy makeover, as the ski area's base area is limited.

Jan Burque, the forest vegetation program manager for the U.S. Forest Service, said the availability of timber suggests such biomass systems are indeed sustainable in the long term.

“Trees are renewable, but at a slower rate,” Burque said. “There are a lot of potential products for these types of projects. What's good about biomass energy is that broilers can burn parts of the tree that are not typically useful, so there is actually a lot of sources for biomass-energy projects to be sustainable for the long term — it may take creativity and pursuing a variety of sources.”

Davis said such small, start-up biomass projects, like the proposed system at A-Basin, would alleviate economical barriers in forest health management.

“If someone would pay for this available material, it would help the Forest Service's economics and allow them to do more work as opposed to having to pay someone to do work and then it just gets piled into teepees on Swan Mountain Road,” Davis said. “Now we have someone that would give us something for the timber, and that enables the Forest Service to do more in their management plan.”

Forest Service officials say mitigating bark beetle-affected timber and creating a market for trees removed for forest thinning will bolster current efforts of the agency.

“The bark beetle epidemic has sparked a lot of creativity among environmentalists and entrepreneurs that are in a hurry to utilize the timber,” Burque said. “It's great food for thought.”

Henceroth still has his reservations though.

“It's very impressive equipment and there's obviously a lot that can be done with it,” Henceroth said. “But it appears to be complicated.”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rail for I-70?

The days of traditional trains and railroad tracks may be long gone.

When transportation officials asked for mass-transit models connecting the Front Range to mountain ski resorts, industry experts came back with designs for elevated guideway systems, powered by magnets, electricity and air, that can travel hundreds of miles per hour, ferry cars or transport passengers in individual cars summoned with smartphones.

“We're looking at the full range of qualified technologies for the corridor,” stated Division of Transit and Rail director Mark Imhoff in a release from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Eight private companies presented distinct models for advanced guideway systems (AGS) — the modern-day equivalent of a previous generation's rail line — at a technology forum Thursday in Jefferson County. Two other firms have also submitted plans that meet CDOT's criteria for the corridor.

Though different, all of the systems are clean, safe, fast and designed to traverse the Rocky Mountains.

“I flew in from Pittsburgh,” said Colorado MagLev Group project manager David O'Loughlin, whose company is proposing an energy-efficient magnetic levitation rail system. “The idea would be, I have my skis with me on the plane. They just put them on the MagLev vehicle and I can be in Vail in an hour. That's possible with this technology.”

Other technology providers, like SkyTran, are proposing personalized rapid transit systems that would transport smaller groups of people on demand rather than on a schedule.

“SkyTran is a point-to-point transit system,” SkyTran CEO Paul Williamson said. “It only goes at the time you need it, 24/7. You get on a vehicle and say, ‘I want to go to 10th and Broadway,' and it takes you from that point to 10th and Broadway. You don't have to wait for anybody else.”

The computer-controlled system, powered by solar and hydrogen, would be able to transport passengers from the Front Range to Keystone in 45 minutes.

Another model re-envisions the century-old suspended rail car, combining passenger coaches with on-demand personal vehicles. Another would combine passenger trains with a vehicle transport component, allowing drivers to park their car on the system and be jetted up to the mountains at a rate of 125 mph.

Built for Colorado
 

All of the AGS models presented Thursday are designed to handle the specific challenges — including steep grades and extreme weather — of the I-70 mountain corridor while traveling faster than a car.

Some systems are designed to follow the highway, or within CDOT right-of-ways eliminating the need to acquire additional land. Most feature elevated systems, curbing environmental impacts and making the systems better able to handle snow, wind and ice than traditional train models.

Most of them are also far less expensive than existing rail systems.

But transportation officials aren't signing any contracts yet.

“None of us have extra money right now,” CDOT rail manager David Krutsinger said. “If we're going to use taxpayer dollars we have to be very sure that what we're buying on behalf of the public is a good use of money.”

While firms are proposing public-private partnerships, best estimates indicate ticket sales for an AGS would only cover operational expenses, leaving taxpayers on the hook for several billion dollars in construction costs, officials said.

CDOT's annual budget for the entire state, by comparison, is $1 billion.

With the help of the private sector, CDOT officials are looking to develop possible funding strategies and determine the likelihood of raising the money for an AGS next year.

Visions of transit
 

The name: American Maglev Transit

The concept: An optimized maglev (elevated) system that uses electric linear induction propulsion. The system is able to traverse steep grades in wintery conditions using frictionless traction. Cars will carry roughly 200 passengers.

The price tag: $19-$25 million per mile

The speed: Designed to travel at an average speed of 76 miles per hour. Total travel time from Golden to Eagle County Regional Airport is roughly 2 hours 13 minutes.

The edge: The system will be designed with airplane amenities in mind, rather than train service, according to developers. Only one vehicle accelerates from the station at a time, minimizing spikes in power consumption.

The name: Flight Rail's VECTORR

The concept: This light-weight elevated transit system uses vacuum/air pressure to propel passenger vehicles. The train operates without power.

The speed: Up to 200 mph on flat terrain; an estimated 100 mph on a 7 percent grade, like those in the I-70 mountain corridor.

The edge: Cars lock onto the rail with alloy steel wheels, allowing the train to take sharp curves at a high rate of speed. The wheels are also designed not to use traction, allowing the system to accelerate faster and handle steep hills more efficiently.

The name: General Atomics/Colorado Maglev Group

The concept: The system uses maglev technology and track-mounted power source to move elevated train cars. But the track uses power only in the sections where the vehicle is located, reducing energy consumption as well as wear-and-tear on the system itself, developers said.

The price tag: $58 million per mile

The speed: 150 mph

The edge: The model is based on $40 million in federal and privately funded research, and similar technology is being used to power planes for the Navy. A $14-million test track of the system has been constructed in California and proved to work.

The name: MegaRail's MegaWay System

The concept: An elevated multi-purpose system that electrically powers a family of rubber-tired vehicles, which would operate similarly to road vehicles on traditional highways.

The price tag: $20 million per mile for a starter system

The speed: 120 miles per hour

The edge: Some train vehicles are designed to carry pedestrian passengers, others freight and others, through a lock-in system, private cars with the drivers still sitting inside them.

The name: Public Personal Rapid Transit Consortium

The concept: A system featuring elevated pod-cars, holding up to four adults each, propelled on a fixed guideway by an air-lifting mechanism integrated with magnetic induction propulsion. The cushion of the air generated underneath the pod car takes the place of maintenance-intensive wheels, according to developers.

The price tag: $24 million per mile

The speed: Up to 200 miles per hour.

The edge: The system is described by designers as an on-demand, non-stop high-speed transportation system. Cars wait at stations to take passengers directly to their destinations.

The name: SkyTran

The concept: The system uses an automated transit network to provide non-stop, point-to-point service in two-passenger vehicles on an elevated track.

The price tag: $15 million per mile

The speed: Up to 150 mph

The edge: Developers say the system will leverage smartphone technology for payment as well as calls for on-demand service

The name: Swift Tram, Inc's Suspended Coach Automated Rapid Transit

The concept: A new take on the existing model of a hanging train, the electric-powered system would employ a combination of standard scheduled train service with on-demand pod service.

The speed: Average speed of 80 mph

The edge: A faster system than existing model that is better able to sense changing weather conditions than its predecessors. Hanging cars are able to travel faster in a network system, according to developers.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Old CMC Building New Again

Art, history and the housing authority topped the Breckenridge Town Council's list of possible uses for the extra rooms and offices designated as community space in the future library planned for the old CMC building.

“This is very exciting,” Councilman Ben Brewer said. “It's shaping up to be an amazing center. Hopefully, there will be synergy there among the organizations.”

Town officials said they want to dedicate extra space in the century-old school building to tenants that will serve the community, fit with the building's historic character and draw people to the library and community center.

Of eight local entities who expressed interest in the space, the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance's proposal for an archive that would include meeting spaces and display cases featuring Summit County artifacts won the most support from the council.

“It's a natural fit,” Councilman Mark Burke said.

Town officials also talked about providing wall space throughout the building for the Breckenridge Art Commission to host rotating art exhibits, as well as possibly offering office and educational space to the Summit Combined Housing Authority.

The housing authority, which currently operates out of a smaller location in downtown Breckenridge, requested 2,000 square feet in the new library to be used for offices, file storage and a community room where buyer classes would be hosted.

“The majority of our work is done in the Upper Blue (River Basin),” director Jennifer Kermode said. “Our preference would be to stay in the Upper Blue to actually better serve more of the people.”

Breckenridge officials said they were interested in providing the housing authority space, but likely not the full amount requested.

Council members nixed requests for a yoga studio, storage and office space for the Backstage Theatre and exam rooms for the Community Care Clinic.

The council has not made any final decisions on use of the community space.

The old CMC building was constructed as a school at the turn of the 20th century. In later years it became the local Colorado Mountain College, earning its current unofficial moniker.

The town of Breckenridge purchased the building in 2009, intending to renovating it as a community facility. After years of debating different possible uses for the historic structure, the town partnered with Summit County government to refinish and transform the building into the new site of the south library branch.

The existing south branch, located near the justice center, is overcrowded and too small to meet the community's needs, according to library and county officials. The county was preparing to construct a new library building when Breckenridge officials suggested repurposing the old CMC structure instead.

“This partnership is in the best interest of our community at large, saving taxpayer dollars and protecting a Summit County historical icon,” County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said of the project.

The controversial renovation project is expected to cost approximately $7 million, with the better part of the bill to be split between county and Breckenridge coffers.

Work on the building is set to begin in July 2013 and finish the following summer.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Finally, some snow in Summit County Colorado

Skiers and riders, now is your moment. Most lifts start running at 9 a.m. and a layer of powder awaits. Today is the first significant snowfall of December, following a mostly dry November.

To the delight of local ski areas, snowmaking efforts this weekend are complimented by a piling of natural snow — 5-8 inches were forecasted overnight for Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin.

“Sunday is going to be a great day to be out on the mountain,” said Joel Gratz, a meteorologist reporting for Open Snow.

Terrain update
 

Breckenridge Ski Resort opens Bonanza to the Cashier trail to Lower American on Peak 9 today with access from the Beaver Run SuperChair. The ski area has six lifts running, with eight trails open — a total of 186 acres of skiable terrain.

Breck officials said with additional snowfall and snowmaking efforts, more terrain will open soon.

Keystone Resort is planning to opening North Peak before Christmas. However, the date has yet to be determined and will largely depend on the amount of natural snow in the county leading up to the holiday.

The resort leads the county with the most terrain available. Night skiing and tubing are also up and running. The Keystone A51 Terrain Park has beginner boxes on Scout Trail, intermediate to advanced jibs in The Alley and jumps on Park Lane.

Ice skating at Dercum Square and the Lakeside Ice Rink are open. Ski area officials said the resort's snowmaking efforts will continue throughout this weekend's storm.

Copper Mountain offers 240 skiable acres this weekend. The ski area is also the only mountain in the county with a 22' superpipe feature. Throughout the weekend, riders and skiers can join ski area staff to celebrate Copper's 40th anniversary.

“Based on skier visits, (Saturday) has been our busiest day so far this season,” said Katherine Bush, spokeswoman for Copper Mountain. “We don't have any new terrain scheduled to open (Sunday), but the snow will certainly help Copper open terrain over the coming weeks.”

Arapahoe Basin reported 4 inches of snowfall by Saturday afternoon. The ski area has 100 skiable acres and seven trails open.

“It just feels good,” said Alan Henceroth, chief operating officer of the ski area.

“This skiing (Saturday) was excellent, soft and fluffy,” Henceroth said. “We had a good night of snowmaking last night and are making headway on opening Lower Sundance.”

Loveland Ski Area officials reported an accumulation of 8 inches of new snow from the storm.

“More snow is on the way,” said Dustin Schaefer, from Loveland's marketing department. “Think snow.”

More snow on the way
 

With most of the county set to receive up to 8 inches by Sunday, more snow is forecasted, calling for up to 4 additional inches possible at high elevations.

After a break in snowfall Sunday night, more snow will hit the northern half of the state on Monday and Tuesday morning, Gratz said.

“Expect just a few inches total from this storm, though a few areas along the northern Continental Divide north of Interstate 70 could see more significant snow,” Gratz said.

Tuesday afternoon through Thursday morning will be dry, but another storm is forecasted to hit the High Country Thursday afternoon through Friday.

“This storm will likely favor the southern San Juans — they need it — but all mountains in the northern part of the state will see snow,” Gratz said.

Beyond Friday, only time will tell but the forecast is steering clear of sunny conditions with high temperatures ranging from 30 degrees down to the low 20s for the next week.

“The weather pattern beyond next week looks stormy, so hopefully your emotions are in a much better spot now than they were a week ago,” Gratz said.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Copper Mountain Celebrates 40 Years

Copper Mountain Resort celebrates its 40th season this weekend with discounted lift tickets ($40 of course) and a ‘far-out anniversary bash.' Revelers are encouraged to bust out the '70s threads (and lingo) and show up ready to ski and party.

The weekend
 

In true Copper style, the 1972 vibe will be rolling all weekend, and $40 lift tickets are available online now or at the lift ticket office today through Sunday. Also featured the entire weekend are: $40 Woodward Intro Sessions at the Barn; $40 Ski & Ride School lessons; $40 off youth group lesson packages; two sport ski or board rentals for $40 per day at Copper Sports Center; demo ski rentals for $40 per day at Copper Rocker; spend $40 at a Copper retailer and get a free commemorative koozie; and, when you dress in “full '70s attire” receive 25 percent off meals at any Copper restaurant. That's a lot of deals and some real motivation to bust out the costumes.

On Saturday, the festivities begin at 2 p.m. with cake and costume contests. Celebrate the vibe with Super Diamond, the Neil Diamond cover band, at 3 p.m., free in Burning Stones Plaza. Prizes and giveaways for best '70s costume include gear, skis, Copper Cash and passes. Also on Saturday is a scavenger hunt on the mountain — searching for a “ruby anniversary ring” and other prizes, and the Groovy Chase 5K Snowshoe Race (www.gobblerchase.com).

The North Face Park & Pipe Open Series (PPOS) superpipe qualifying rounds will be taking place Saturday, culminating in the finals on Sunday. In addition, U.S. Freeskiing and U.S. Snowboarding athletes will gather at Copper Mountain on Saturday for the annual team-naming event at 2:45 p.m. in Burning Stones Plaza. Guests can enter to win a private meet-and-greet with America's snowboarding and freeskiing Olympic hopefuls at www.facebook.com/CopperMtn, www.facebook/US-Freeskiing and www.facebook.com/ussnowboarding.

Around the Village, take advantage of 72-cent beers outside Endo's from 1-5 p.m. and $40 bottle service at Escobar. Vintage candy is for sale at Sugar Lips plus $19.72 family packs including 24 mini-donuts with fancy schmancy toppings and two large hot cocoas. Lefty Lucy is playing at Jack's for apr├Ęs. McCoy's Mountain Market is offering free lollipop shot glasses with every $19.72 purchase, and 72-cent fountain drinks with any purchase. Funky Finds will have $4 rhinestone/sequin headbands and 72-cent hair accessories, plus other costume items for the concert.

Rooms are still available for this weekend through the Last Chance Lodging deal (www.CopperColorado.com).

The history
 

Chuck Froelicher and a group of 16 investors formed Copper Mountain Associates in 1968, purchasing the 280 acres at the base of Copper Mountain from Eugene Sanders, who was alleged to agree to the purchase only if Chuck Lewis would be in charge of developing the ski area. In a 1971 U.S. Forest Service study of 2,500 acres, the government said, “If there were a mountain that had terrain for skiing it would be Copper Mountain. It is probably the most outstanding potential ski area in the Arapahoe National Forest, and possibly Colorado. … The mountain has good snow and sparse tree cover created by old burns, which offers a tremendous opportunity to create natural-type runs that blend in with the surrounding countryside.”

Copper Mountain opened with snowcat operations in the winter of 1971. Construction of Copper's mid-mountain lodge, Solitude Station, began on July 4, 1972, and was completed by Copper's opening day in early December of that year. During the previous century, the junction between the Tenmile and Gore mountain ranges, where copper was discovered and miners and trappers traded with the Ute and Arapahoe, thrived under the inspiration of founder Judge John S. Wheeler.

According to old timers, Chuck Lewis was the real brains and vision behind Copper Mountain. “It is unbelievably amazing how closely the present-day Copper Mountain aligns with the original master plan,” said Chris Colman, Copper's director of planning, who served as a project manager for Solitude during the summer of 1972.

Colman said that, aside from a few modifications such as lift technology changes and an alternate location of the Shuttle Road, today's village area and mountain maps closely resemble the original master plan. “I think Chuck Lewis would be proud of what this place has become,” said Colman. Lewis formed the Thick and Thin Lumber Company to mill trees from trail cutting into the lumber that was used to construct the original buildings.

The cover of Copper's first trail map proclaimed: “Copper Mountain's for the Powder Buffs,” and described amenities that Copper planned to offer in the years to come: a complete village complex with condominiums, lodges, shops and restaurants, a ski school, an 18-hole golf course, convention center and more — and all of these amenities are available today and appeal to an enormous range of guests.

In the first year of operation, the daily lift ticket price was $7.50 and season passes went for $140; these accessed five lifts servicing 20 numbered runs (later they would be named through a trail-naming competition), and 120,463 skiers rode the lifts that year. Copper Junction was open for lodging and retail for the 1973 winter season.

Snowboarders wouldn't be allowed until 1987, beginning with the Copper Mountain Snowboard Series, currently the nation's longest-running amateur snowboard series.

Lewis served as president of the resort until 1982. Super Bee lift — Colorado's first six-passenger, high-speed lift — opened more of the east side of the mountain in 1988-89, and the resort installed Excelerator lift and built Copper Station and Copper Springs Lodge that same year. Copper constructed two more chairlifts, Mountain Chief in 1995 and Black Jack in 1997, adding 600 acres in Copper Bowl and Tucker Mountain.

According to the resort, skier visits jumped from 770,973 during the 1994-95 season to 967,074 during the 1995-96 season. In 1997 the resort was purchased by Intrawest. The construction of the Village at Copper in 1999 marked the beginning of the area's current landscape.

“For me it's really been about the people,” said Colman, who has 40 years of service at Copper. “It's [about] working with folks that are passionate about the mountain lifestyle,” he said. “The natural beauty of the place even today still kinda knocks my socks off.”

Timeline
 

Summer 1971- Mountain construction begins.

Winter 1971 - Copper Mountain Resort opens with only snowcat operations.

Winter 1972 - Copper Mountain opens for skiing (no riding until 1987) with 5 lifts and 20 trails.

Fall 1975 - First snowmaking at Copper Mountain Resort

Winter 1983-84 - Year of huge snow, 432 inches, 151 inches in December alone

Winter 1987 - Copper hosts the first annual Copper Mountain Snowboard Series, which currently stands as the nation's longest running amateur snowboard series.

Spring 1988 - First halfpipe at Copper Mountain built in Union Bowl

Winter 1995 - Copper Bowl opens.

Winter 1998 - Copper Mountain opens the Super Bee, Colorado's first six-passenger, high speed lift. Copper also makes significant snowmaking improvements and opens the Excelerator lift, Copper Station and Copper Springs Lodge.

Summer 1999 - Ground is officially broken on the new Village at Copper.

Winter 2002 - The opening of Passage Point marks the completion of the Village at Copper.

Winter 2004 - The Cirque opens, offering Copper's first quarter-share platinum-rated property.

Winter 2009 - The resort opens Woodward at Copper, a snowboard and ski training facility dedicated to park and pipe progression.

Winter 2011 - Copper partners with the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) to create the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center, an exclusive on-snow alpine ski racing venue designed to provide full-length downhill training by early November each season. This is the only training facility of its kind available worldwide during this time of year.

Summer 2011 - Copper upgrades the High Point Lift (1976) to the Union Creek High Speed Quad.

Summer 2012 - Copper installs the Alpine Rush Zip Line, where guests can soar 30 mph, 30 feet above West Lake year round.

Winter 2012 - The Grand Prix elevates to World Cup status, bringing international recognition in ski and snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle competition to Copper Mountain Resort.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Peak 8 Development Protested

Peak 8 base area residents turned out in force Tuesday night to oppose a development proposal for a 75-unit time-share resort they say would limit mountain views and access.

“This is devastating for our community,” Todd Stewart, who owns a unit nearby, said at a planning hearing. “These two buildings are absolute monstrosities.”

Opposition has largely originated from owners at two long-standing condominium complexes, Peak 8 Place and Ski Watch Condos, where views would be impacted by the new building.

Dozens of people packed the auditorium at Breckenridge Town Hall to weigh in on the project at an emotionally charged planning commission meeting Tuesday.

Despite heavy criticism from the audience, the revised and slightly smaller plan presented won considerable support among planning commissioners, who sent it back to developers for further tweaks before the next hearing.

Developers have met with concerned neighbors several times during the planning process and promised to continue to consider community input before coming back with a refined plan for the building at the next hearing.

“We feel very pleased with the progress that we've made through the planning process so far,” said Mike Millisor, co-owner of Breckenridge Grand Vacations, the company pitching the time-share. “We look forward to continuing to work with town staff as well as the community to create the finest resort ever built in Breckenridge.”

The building will house 75 time-share units along with amenities, such as an aquatics area, spa and multiple movie theaters. It will replace the now-defunct Bergenhoff, a historic restaurant which was already set to be torn down.


Making it fit

The Peak 8 master plan, a guiding document for the development of the base area, demands that new buildings on the mountain be subordinate to One Ski Hill Place, another time-share which was intended to be the centerpiece of the area.

Opponents of the new time-share say it's too big and too tall to meet that requirement. Breckenridge Grand Vacations presented a scaled back proposal Tuesday — five units lighter than the original design — to keep the resort in line with the master plan and allay the concerns of neighbors.

“I think they're working in both the best interests of the community and the town,” planning commissioner David Pringle said Tuesday. “I've always said these are going to be big buildings.”

The proposed resort has sparked a community debate between those who see a new time-share as an economic booster — providing jobs for locals and beds for tourists — and people who claim the several-story building doesn't fit within the master plan.

Some residents also expressed concern the new building would carve into an existing ski run adjacent to the resort. However, Millisor said the most recent design shifts the building back from the mountain 30 feet, actually widening the trail in question.

The project is on a strict time line. With final approval from planning, developers hope to start utility work and the Bergenhof's demolition next summer. Full-scale building will follow, possibly starting as early as March 2014, with the first phase of time-shares available by December 2015.

As part of their continuing business plan, BGV executives say they need the construction of the new development to coincide with the projected sell-out of their existing resort, the Grand Lodge on Peak 7.

“It's kind of a machine,“ Millisor said. “On some Tuesday we'll close the Grand Lodge sales center and we'll bring in the signs and the model for the Peak 8 project. We might take a day off and then on Thursday we'll have our clients come in to tour that.”

Owners say the new development will protect existing sales jobs that would otherwise be lost when the Grand Lodge sells out.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Getting ready for the holidays!  Here is a photo of downtown Breckenridge, Colorado with (most) all of the Christmas lights on.


Wishing everyone Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Summit County Colorado Market up 15.5%


The Summit County residential sales market is up a solid 15.5% with the North Side of the county at a 21% gain and the South Side at an 8% gain. The number of properties for sale is currently down about 16%.

 

What is interesting is that the number of properties under contract today is the same as last year at this time - well, we have 1 more property under contract this year! Also the same, is the average sold price year to date for the county is $510k in 2011 and 2012. In fact, the South Side of the county is the same as last year as well with both years having an average sold price of $624k. The North Side is currently at a 2.5% improvement in average sold price.

 

Last year at this time the average asking price of the county’s residential properties for sale was $728k and this year that average is $705k - down 3%. If one looks at the average list price of the properties that are under contract today and assumes that they will continue the trend of a 94.5% sold price to list price ratio that we have today the $510k that we are at today will not change much by year end.

 

Learn more online at Http://WeeklyREActivity.com .

Monday, December 03, 2012

Running of the Santas

video

The Annual "running of the Santas!  In Breckenridge Colorado.  Just another zany event we do every year in beautiful Breckenridge Colorado.

Enjoy

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Breckenridge Peak 6 Expansion is a Go

The decision by the U.S. Forest Service to approve the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Resort has been upheld after rejecting two appeals, carrying endorsements by 45 individuals and environmental groups.

The Forest Service reviewed the appeals, which were filed Oct. 9, and concluded that the approval of the 550-acre expansion did not violate any federal laws, regulations or policies and recommended upholding White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams' decision.

The formal decision was made by appeals deciding officer Brian Ferebee, a deputy regional forester for resources based in Denver.

“We take the appeal process extremely seriously,” Fitzwilliams said. “It's a very strict process and we're harder on ourselves than often others would be on us.”

With the rejection of the appeals, Breckenridge has the go-ahead to implement the expansion.

The ski resort plans to add two new lifts, a ski patrol/warming hut and a restroom facility. New terrain will encompass seven below-treeline trails — totaling roughly 68 acres — as well as about 339 acres of lift-served intermediate, advanced-intermediate and expert skiing above treeline. Approximately 143 acres of hike-to terrain will also be added.

“I am delighted the decision was upheld and eventually I look forward to moving forward with implementation,” Fitzwilliams said.

Some Breck residents are less inclined to celebrate the expansion.

Rocky Smith, a forest policy consultant previously employed by Rocky Mountain Wild who championed the effort of the appeal, said the Forest Service didn't provide a strong argument to uphold the decision.

“This was a very poor review with very poor reasons they gave for rejecting the appeal,” Smith said. “It seems like they didn't read our appeal or they didn't understand it. They responded in a way that makes you shake your head and say ‘why would they say that?'”

The resort is required to wait 15 business days, allowing the implementation process to begin as early as Dec. 14, according to Peech Keller, with the Forest Service.

“We've been hard at work with construction planning so that we can begin implementation as soon as possible,” said Pat Campbell, chief operating officer of Breckenridge Ski Resort. “We are incredibly excited to begin work on Peak 6 and be able to bring to fruition a 23 percent increase in Breckenridge's terrain for our guests.”


Opposition considering legal action

Smith said he's already heard from some opposition affiliated with the appeal that they'd like to argue their case in federal court after review by the University of Denver Law Center.

“We're considering legal action, but we just don't know yet if we'll go forward with that or not,” Smith said. “I don't know what judges we would get and I could not articulate what I think the outcome would be. The lawyers tell us they think it's a case worth taking.”


A history of opposition

Though deciding official Fitzwilliams said the region around Peak 6 is already unable to meet federal standards for lynx habitat, opponents of the expansion say impacts are not weighed by the need to ease crowding.

“Lynx habitat is going to be hurt by fragmenting the area they travel,” Smith said previously. “The Forest Service seems to think that since the habitat is already so bad it's OK to make it worse. It has been affected, no question, by the existing ski area. Right now it is impaired somewhat, but it's not severed. This expansion might sever it.”

Fitzwilliams and researchers for the Forest Service looked at conservation efforts in the project area, but said they “found very few if any that would help lynx at all.”

Many Breck residents in opposition are concerned that the expansion will not ease crowding, but intensify it.

“Breckenridge is a brutally crowded ski resort,” said Chad Zanca, a longtime Breck resident who says he regularly rides terrain off Peak 6. “To make it bigger and bring more people will only make it worse. Once this boundary is maxed out, where do they go next?”

Additionally, opponents of the decision argue the proposed intermediate terrain is unsuitable for the average skier and would not divert traffic from other parts of the ski area.

“Most of the terrain that would be opened up on Peak 6 is not intermediate. It's too steep, would not be graded and it gets avalanche debris from above,” Smith said. “It's going to be tough for the average intermediate skier, some of it is just way too steep.”

But, Breckenridge officials say the new terrain will spread out skier traffic.

“We appreciate the strong interest and thoughtful input of the community, which has helped to make this a better project,” Campbell said. “The expanded terrain will help tremendously to spread out the large crowds we see today and alleviate long lift lines. Further, our guests will be able to explore and enjoy an entirely new skiing experience of high-alpine bowl skiing at Peak 6.”

Still, with the expansion approval upheld, those opposed feel the appeal process was an uphill battle.

“The Forest Service just wanted to affirm this in any way they could, it's very disappointing,” Smith said. “We thought there was a pretty good chance we would lose this because you just usually don't win against the Forest Service.”