U.S. News and World Report named Breckenridge the 15th best small town to visit in the county. The Best Vacation Destinations rankings were released Tuesday.
Breckenridge joined Colorado towns Telluride (No. 1) and Steamboat Springs (No. 8) on the list. Jackson Hole and Lake Tahoe rounded out the top three.
U.S. News ranked the towns after compiling travelers’ opinions and expert and editor analysis, according to a news release. Each destination was scored in 10 categories, including sights, culture, food, nightlife, adventure, romance and more.
Breckenridge’s beloved trail troll, Isak Heartstone, is ready to receive visitors at his new home.
The 15-foot tall wooden sculpture reopens to the public Tuesday after closing in fall 2018 when nearby residents complained about too much traffic and noise from thousands of visitors.
“Its popularity was beyond all exceptions,” Breckenridge town manager Rick Holman said. “That’s why we felt it was important to bring it back.”
After it was dismantled, artist Thomas Dambo reimagined the troll — using its original head, heart, hands and feet — and rebuilt it in May in a new location near the Stephen C. West Ice Arena and Illinois Gulch trailhead.
A ribbon cutting is at 2:30 p.m. at Trollstigen trailhead. Visitors are encouraged to take the bus or walk 15 minutes from the Breckenridge Welcome Center to reduce traffic at the site.The celebration is the culmination of months of planning by a relocation committee and trail work by the town’s open space and trails department.
“We put together a community committee … to find a new location for the troll to bring him back in some reimagined form,” Breckenridge Open Space and Trails manager Anne Murphy said.
The committee — which was composed of Breckenridge residents, town council members and town employees — worked to find a location that was accessible and adventurous, offered an outdoor experience for visitors and could sustain a high amount traffic. The committee also searched for a site that had parking and no residential areas nearby.
The new site “checked all the boxes for us,” Holman said.
The new directional Trollstigen trail — which was built by a six-person team from the trails department along with a local contractor — features a rock-lined path, 200 feet of wooden boardwalk and a flagstone area in front of the troll for photos and selfies, Murphy said.
We decided this trail has to sustain a lot of foot traffic for a very long time to come,” Murphy said.
She said the town hopes to keep Isak for as long as possible, planning for a 10-year timeframe.
Holman described the new viewing area as “unbelievable,” saying town staff went above and beyond in creating Isak’s new home.
“I don’t think anyone ever dreamed it would be as popular as it was,” he said.
Lower Mortgage rates are proving to be a boon for home shoppers this summer. The 30-year fixed-rate loan has stayed near a 3.8% average for the third consecutive week, after consistent declines in late spring.
“While the continued drop in mortgage rates has paused, home buyer demand has not,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “This is evident in increased purchase activity and loan amounts, indicating that home buyers still have the willingness and capacity to purchase homes. Today’s low rates, strong job market, solid wage growth, and consumer confidence are typically important drivers of home sales.”
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending June 20:
30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.84%, with an average 0.5 point, up from last week’s 3.82% average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.57%.
15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.25%, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 3.26% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.04%.
5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.48%, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 3.51% average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.83%. Source:
Contact the Summit County Animal Shelter at 970-668-3230.
LEND A HAND
Darth, the cat, has not found a home and his foster dad is going away for three weeks. The animal shelter is looking for someone, without dogs, to help for three weeks only. Hopefully we’ll still find his forever home soon!
Marley, the dog, is at Boulder Humane Society and needs a ride to the Summit County Animal Shelter. To help with either animal please contact the animal shelter directly.
CATS MISSY, 8 years, domestic mediumhair, tortie, spayed female
LARRY, 3 years, domestic longhair, orange and white, neutered male
FRANKLIN, 4 years, domestic shorthair, black and white, neutered male
MISS KITTY, 7 years, Norwegian forest cat, tortie and apricot, spayed female
CATALONIA, 7 years, domestic shorthair mix, white and gray, spayed female
PENELOPE, 2 years, domestic shorthair, gray tabby, spayed female
MR BISCUIT, 7 years, domestic shorthair, gray tabby and black tiger, neutered male
BINX, 10 months, domestic shorthair, black, neutered male
POOFY, 10 years, domestic mediumhair, gray, neutered male
LEO, 5 years, domestic longhair, orange tabby, neutered male
DEXTER, 5 years, domestic mediumhair, black and white, neutered male
TANK, 1 year 6 months, domestic shorthair, black and white, neutered male
TYLER, 10 months, domestic shorthair, gray tabby and white, neutered male
BOBO, 6 years, domestic mediumhair, dil calico, spayed female
GINGER, 10 weeks, domestic mediumhair, orange and white, spayed female
LADY, 5 years, German shepherd dog, black and tan, spayed female
ZENA, 5 years, Labrador retriever, chocolate, spayed female
To people who don’t live near the mountains, that might seem extraordinary. For those of us who do live at high elevation, summer snow is still a bit of a novelty, especially following a bone-dry, hot and fiery 2018.
But this year, mud season has supplanted wildfire season in June, with flooding a much more real concern as runoff hit its peak this week.
The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook and winter weather advisory for Summit County and much of the central Rockies from Friday night through Sunday morning. The outlook calls for periods of snow that will pose hazards to travel and outdoor activities as a high pressure zone sits above the Rockies through the weekend.
On Friday, the longest day of the year, scattered thunderstorms will move through the area with a 70% chance of precipitation. A low of 33–36 degrees overnight means real snow is not expected to fall below 10,000 feet, but there may be periods of flurries overnight, with little if any snow expected to stick by Saturday morning.
The storm system will move through the High Country on Saturday, with cold showers falling throughout the day into night. Snow may be seen in areas above 10,000 feet, with up to 10 inches projected for some areas.
However, for most of Summit, the white stuff should not be seen until temperatures start dropping in the evening. Daytime temperatures will bottom out in the 40s, meaning there should not be any significant snow accumulation below timberline.
Hazardous conditions will still exist on the roads, meaning anyone hoping to get another weekend of turns in at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is advised to plan ahead and be wary of slippery conditions and low visibility.
Showers will persist through Saturday into the night, when things should get interesting. A low in the high 20s or low 30s means some snowfall is likely, with about half an inch expected to fall by Sunday morning. Winds may be strong at times, and travelers are urged to exercise caution making their way through the I-70 corridor.
Snow will taper off and turn into showers for the rest of Sunday, with a chance of thunderstorms through the day. Don’t expect bluebird conditions, but there may be periods of sun blinking through the clouds in the late morning and afternoon. For the most part, though, the weekend will end cool and wet, consistent with conditions over the past month.
And that’s where the good news finally comes in. As the storm system moves out of the area, moisture isn’t expected to come back for at least a few days. That means Monday through Thursday is expected to be dry, sunny and absolutely perfect for summer activities in the High Country.
Meanwhile, Summit’s waterways have just about crested from the spring runoff, and flooding may have been narrowly avoided this season. Streamflows peaked Thursday and started dipping Friday in Tenmile Creek and the Snake River, two streams that appeared on the cusp of forcing community action to shore up the banks and roll out flood mitigation measures.
As far as standing bodies of water, Dillon Reservoir is right on track to get full by the 4thof July. The reservoir, currently at 90% capacity, has an inflow of 2,255 cubic feet per second of water with 919 cfs draining back into the Blue River. At an elevation of 9,008 feet, there’s less than 9 feet to go before the reservoir is full and both marinas in Dillon and Frisco launch boating season.
With Arapahoe Basin extending its season into the last weekend of June and possibly into the 4thof July, Summit County will be experiencing the best of both seasons by the time America celebrates its 243rdbirthday. Residents should finally be able to say goodbye to this long winter and embrace a great summer after the storms pass this weekend.
Home improvement spending continues to trend upward, with the latest data from Harvard’sJoint Center for Housing Studiesputting the aggregate total at a new high of $424 billion.
That’s up 10% from 2015 and a whopping 50% from 2010’s low.
The home improvement sector can thank the Baby Boomers for that.
According to thereport, older homeowners are spending big on home renovations. Not only does this demographic have a high rate of homeownership, they also have the resources to pay for renovations, the study said.
“Homeowners age 55 and over have dominated the home remodeling market for nearly a decade, overtaking middle-aged owners as the primary source of home improvement spending,” the report notes. “Older homeowners are living longer and are increasingly willing and able to spend for home improvements that allow them to remain safely in their current homes.”
In fact, spending among older owners grew more than 150% to $117 billion in the last two years, the report noted, fueled by an increase in the number of older owners and an uptick in the amount they’re spending to improve their homes.
That means that households age 55 and over accounted for half of all home improvement spending nationwide.
And, the researchers said they don’t expect this trend to slow down anytime soon.
“As members of the Baby Boom generation age into their 70s and 80s, investments in home modifications to improve accessibility are expected to soar,” they wrote.
How are they financing these renovations?
Cash from savings remains the most common source of financing, followed by home equity loans, lines of credit and cash-out refinancing.
The researchers note homeowners are more likely to tap into their home equity to finance costlier projects, and when equity is tapped, they often end up spending more.
“Offering homeowners additional financing options could be a promising growth opportunity for the remodeling industry,” the study states. “Owners’ heavy reliance on cash savings to fund improvement projects limits the amount they are able to spend.”
“As a result, expanding the types and availability of new financing alternatives – especially those tied to home equity – would likely lead to significantly stronger growth in improvement expenditures while at the same time help preserve and modernize the nation’s housing stock,” they conclude.
In a rare show of unity, Democrats and Republicans on theFinancial Services Committeeof theU.S. House of Representativesvoted unanimously to pass a five-year extension to the National Flood Insurance Program that includes a mandate to improve the nation’s flood maps.
The bill provides $500 million a year over five years for updating maps and modernizing technology to identify high-risk zones. It also includes a “continuous coverage” provision that allows borrowers who leave the program to try private flood insurance to return without paying a penalty. That measure is aimed at encouraging the growth of the nascent private market for flood insurance.
Congress has passed a dozen short-termextensionssince 2017 as it wrangled over reforming the program that protects over 5 million U.S. homes. About 40,000 U.S. property sales a month would be nixed if NFIP coverage wasn’t available, because most mortgages require homes located in high-risk flood areas to be protected, according to theNational Association of Realtors.
“This haphazard approach to legislating puts communities at risk and undermines the health of our housing market,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee,saidon June 5 shortly after a two-week reprieve turned into a four-month extension.
The reform bill with the five-year extension now goes to the full House and must also be approved by the Senate.
It lacks key provisions Waters has long supported, such as a second round of debt forgiveness for costs stemming from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Every year the NFIP pays $400 million in interest “to service a debt it can never repay,” Waters has said.
Another divisive issue that wasn’t addressed in the new bill is repetitive losses: homes that are repeatedly damaged by water and rebuilt with taxpayers’ dollars. Those properties have accounted for about a quarter of the program’s losses.
While the new bill is likely to pass the Democrat-controlled House, its fate in the Senate is uncertain. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, has said it doesn’t go far enough in cutting costs for homeowners.
The bill “lacks reforms needed to ensure the program is sustainable and that families won’t be hit with drastic premium increases,” Cassidy said in a statement.
About to lose the building it’s called home for nearly 30 years, Breckenridge Brewery is taking its case to court with claims the landlord reneged on a contract to renew the brewpub’s lease.
Filed in Summit County Court, the lawsuit accuses the brewery’s landlord, a company called Breckenridge Brewery Real Estate, of accepting terms outlined for a new lease in a February email exchange that detailed important items such as rental rates and a time frame for the new lease, which would have kept Breckenridge Brewery at 600 S. Main St. for the next five years.
One of the people attached to Breckenridge Brewery Real Estate, Richard Squire, is an original founder of the brewery, and he vehemently disputes the lawsuit has merit. Rather, he frames the case as a beer giant’s attempt to ride roughshod over the little guy.
In the suit, the brewpub included an email from Richard Squire’s brother, Steven Squire, that’s dated Feb. 21 and says the property owners have accepted the terms and conditions outlined in a letter of intent from the brewery.
“I want to thank you for your efforts in negotiating this matter to a favorable conclusion for both parties,” he wrote in the email. “I look forward to receiving the full lease for our review and execution, which I have advised the LP should be received within the next three
In the lawsuit, the brewery claims the email created “a binding and enforceable” agreement, and because of that, the brewery “did not search for a new location,” instead continuing to operate in the building as if it would be allowed to remain there for the next five years.
The brewery also said that if it cannot stay at 600 S. Main St., it would be impossible to find a new location before the existing lease expires June 30, according to the lawsuit. As a result, the suit levies that Breckenridge Brewery will suffer a loss of income and other irreparable damages to its reputation, business and operations well in excess of $100,000.
For relief, the brewery seeks a declaratory judgment from the court that its landlord entered a binding lease agreement per the terms described in the email exchange by saying the “landlord’s acceptance must be enforced to prevent injustice.” Should the brewery not be allowed to stay, it’s requesting the court award damages in an amount to be proven at trial.
Reached via email, an attorney for the brewery said they’re waiting for the landlord’s response to the complaint and don’t have anything to add at this time.
Reached over the phone Tuesday, Richard Squire did have more to say:
“Obviously, we think it’s groundless,” he said about the lawsuit. “This is a clear case of David and Goliath.”
Declining to get into details, he simply said he believes the timeless story will play out in Breckenridge the same way it did in the Bible.
Richard Squire doesn’t regret selling the brewery to the beer giant, which he couldn’t help but point out is a Belgian corporation, “but the building is a different story,” he said.
“That building belonged to, and I founded the brewery along with, six other locals up there,” he said. “This whole business today (over the lawsuit) is about our desire to return that brewery to the locals, to return the brewery to where its roots started.”
Asked if he and the other property owners plan to open another brewery in the same location, he said the building needs “a drastic refreshing” and said they hope to “reinvigorate and respirit the place.”
“It’s out of our hands,” he said about the case, adding that he expects Breckenridge Brewery “to vacate on the 30th of this month or have a damn good reason why they’re not.”
Caught in the crossfire of this dispute are the 60-plus employees who work at Breckenridge Brewery, many of whom have been with the company for a decade or longer.
While it’s no secret Anheuser-Busch owns Breckenridge Brewery, thehead brewerwho’s been there for 22 years told the Summit Daily News earlier this month that he hopes people will see how long he and his “family” of co-workers have been there, how they’ve shaped the business and its building into what they are today, and how Breckenridge Brewery has supported so many local philanthropic initiatives after the 2015 sale.
If the first six months of the year are any indication, this could be the summer of luxury housing sales for Summit County.
While winter is typically the slowest time for the local real estate market, the county has seen a healthy uptick in the number of luxury homes sold year to date, with theSummit Association of Realtorsreporting 144 luxury homes sold from Jan. 1 to June 7 of this year, up from 126 during the same time period last year.
The spike in the number of luxury homes sales has many real estate pros feeling rosy about what’s to come, especially as the market starts to ramp up again for the busy summer. Clearly, Summit County remains a highly desirable destination to own property, with rising prices and a limited number of active listings being two of the most pervasive forces driving the market today. And based on figures provided by the Summit Association of Realtors, April was another solid month for the county’s real estate market, especially with 32 luxury homes sold — eight more than April 2018.
A luxury home is defined as any home that sells at $1 million or more, and April’s spike follows month-over-month gains in the numbers of luxury homes sold in February and March. The trend of rising luxury sales also has continued into May, as the Summit Association of Realtors found that month brought 33 luxury housing sales, compared with 26 in May 2018.
The actual number of housing sales still lags behind or at levels seen in previous years. At the same time, the overall sales volume — or combined value of all housing sales — continues to rise. Even though the number of actual sales has been stagnant, rising housing prices have more than made up the difference to produce increasing sales volumes.
Focusing on luxury housing sales, it should be noted that the average price of a single-family home in Summit County has reached$1.1 million, which leaves some to wonder if it isn’t time to update the definition given so many properties qualify as “luxury.” Still, Clauer said there were 11 homes priced over $2 million sold year to date in 2014, and this year there have been 34 of those sales.
As previously reported, April was led by arecord-setting, seven-bedroom homeat 382 Timber Trail Road, Breckenridge, that sold for $10.1 million. The home features more than 6,500 square feet of living space, and the sale closed April 18 after the home originally was listed for more than $12 million.
April’s record-breaking sale was flanked by a $2.43 million single-family home on 20 acres north of Silverthorne and a $2.35 million home in the high-dollar Highlands neighborhood in Breckenridge. Those were followed by an almost 6,500-square-foot home in Blue River for $1.98 million and a 3,293-square-foot home in Breckenridge for $1.79 million.
Other interesting transactions detailed on the Summit County Assessor’s Office report for April, the most recent month for which the report is available, include theCountry Boy Mineat 542 Country Boy Road in Breckenridge.
Records show the old mine — which used to produce gold, silver, lead and zinc but has since become a local tourist attraction — changed owners for $2 million in April. The Summit Daily first reported on the Country Boy Mine in early April, but details of the sale were not initially disclosed.
Another big-ticket item — the $6.25 million sale ofthe Village Hotelin Breckenridge — marked the second-most expensive property transaction of the month.
Additionally, a warehouse property at 257 Annie Road in downtown Silverthorne went for $1.8 million in April. Records show the same property sold for $1.5 million in December 2011.
Silverthorne also saw the sale of a property listed as “special purpose land” at 299 Blue River Parkway. It went for $2.62 million and houses the Stinker gas station and convenience store.
Colorado’s High Country will have one less health insurance and health care option by the end of the year.
Kaiser Permanente Colorado is pulling out of Summit and Eagle counties, the health care provider confirmed Thursday.
Kaiser partially blamed hospitals in Eagle and Summit counties, saying they have been “unreasonably opposed to contracting with us,” a marked shift from the 10-year commitment Kaiser made four years ago when it said those contracts might not matter. Kaiser also pointed fingers at Front Range hospitals for its troubles there. The Colorado Hospital Association countered that Kaiser is responsible for its own problems.
“Kaiser Permanente Colorado began serving the mountain communities nearly four years ago with the goal of increasing access to high quality, affordable health care,” Amy L. Whited, director of communications, community health and engagement for Kaiser Permanente Colorado said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we have been a very small player in a challenging market, and hospitals in the community have been unreasonably opposed to contracting with us.”
The local hospitals are St. Anthony’s Summit Medical Center in Frisco and Vail Health Hospital.
“We were surprised to hear the news,” said Michael Holton with Vail Health. “Our goal is to provide the highest quality of care close to home.”
Without hospital contracts, Kaiser has not been able to secure a “sustainable level of membership,” Whited said.
Kaiser serves approximately 4,400 members in Summit and Eagle counties, less than 5% of the Eagle/Summit County market and less than 1% of Kaiser’s total membership in Colorado, Whited said.
“We are committed to minimizing the disruption for our members and assisting with the transition of their care and coverage,” Whited said.
Ironically, Brent Bowman, Kaiser’s executive director for regional strategy, said four years ago when the company opened in Eagle and Summit counties that, while not having a hospital contract would be a challenge, Kaiser was in it for the long haul.
“We have to commit to a 10-year proposition,” Bowman said at the time.
Kaiser’s four-year foray into Colorado’s resort region ends when it closes the Edwards and Frisco offices on Dec. 27.
Kaiser’s troubles are not limited to the High Country. Colorado’s largest health insurer laid off 400 people over the past eight months.
KAISER’S HIGH COUNTRY CONUNDRUM
Part of Kaiser’s High Country conundrum is competition or the lack of it, explained Bethe Wright of the Wright Insurance Co.
In Denver, and along Colorado’s more densely populated Front Range, health insurance providers can negotiate with hospitals and doctors for discounts as high as 50% on some procedures. In the High Country, that discount rarely tops 10%, numbers that are readily available from a patient’s billing statement, Wright said.
Besides opening medical clinics in Edwards and Frisco, Kaiser was among the first to offer online access to doctors. Kaiser had even offered to transport patients to Denver for medical procedures at a Kaiser facility, put them in a hotel and bring them home — if it was less expensive than the procedure would cost locally, a business method Kaiser has used successfully in other places.
The good news is that this year’s state legislation might provide some relief in 2020.
The Vail Symposium and Vail Valley Partnership co-hosted a Vail Valley Business Forum on Thursday, “Healing What Ails Us … Affordable Healthcare In Our Community.” In the hour-and-a-half forum, health care executives and elected officials discussed how the private and public sectors are tackling the issue of skyrocketing health care and health insurance costs.
In Summit County, the Peak Health Alliance is scheduled for next year and could mean that health insurance rates drop by 20%.
Vail Health CEO Will Cook said the hospital and other Eagle County entities are working to roll out some solutions in 2021.
In the meantime the Vail Valley Partnership rolled out its One Valley Healthcare Program late last year. It’s not insurance, but covers preventive care and other options for employers, employees and sole-proprietors who are VVP members.
Kaiser’s departure leaves Anthem/Blue Cross as the only individual health insurance carrier left in Eagle County, while Summit also has Bright Health, a co-op, in addition to Anthem.