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Can Squaw Valley slow the development juggernaut?

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Legendary Squaw Valley, California.

Resort residents want to form town to exert more control over land use

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The never-ending ski town battle between local residents and corporate interests has morphed into a new form at historic Squaw Valley. Residents are on a quest to incorporate a new town, to be called Olympic Valley, and they’re crowdsourcing for financial support on indiegogo.com.

Using web-based social networks may be a new twist, but many of the issues are the same that affect many other mountain communities, as real estate exploitation and environmental degradation threaten the very values that made those towns so appealing to begin with. Continue reading

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Global warming: Winter at risk?

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Global warming means fewer powder days and shorter ski seasons. bberwyn photo.

Snow sports enthusiasts want limits on power plant greenhouse gas emissions

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Watching the snow in the Caucasus Mountains around Sochi melt away at an alarming rate during the middle of the Winter Olympics was a sobering reminder of what global warming could mean for the future of winter sports.

Already, winters in some parts of the world are several weeks shorter, with much higher average temperatures, than just a few decades ago. some ski areas in the lower elevations of the European Alps have already shut down, and in Scandinavia, where skiing is not just recreation but part of the cultural fabric, winters have warmed significantly.

“When it comes to the future of winter sports, global warming has us skating on thin ice,” said Anneli Berube, a field organizer with Environment Colorado, which teamed up with Snowriders International to release a summary of how climate change will affect winter, including increased rate of snow melt, shorter winters, drought, and a shrinking map of reliable sites for future winter Olympics. Continue reading

Colorado appeals court says ski areas not liable for inbounds avalanches

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Flags mark the spot where Christopher Norris died in an inbounds avalanche on open terrain at Winter Park Ski Area on January 22, 2012. Photo courtesy CAIC.

Ruling broadens ski industry immunity
 to lawsuits

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Skiers and snowboarders in Colorado may want to start carrying their avalanche gear at developed resorts, after an appeals court ruled last week that avalanches are one of the many inherent risks of skiing on lift-served terrain.

The Colorado Court of Appeals decision (announced Feb. 13) stems from a deadly January 22, 2012 avalanche at Winter Park resort, when Christopher Norris died while skiing an open, inbounds run at Winter Park known as Trestle Trees. As it stands, the ruling broadens the almost unprecedented immunity that ski resorts have from being held liable for accidents, including inbounds avalanches. Continue reading

Public lands: Forest Service eyes new rules for summer activities at ski resorts

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The U.S. Forest Service is taking comments on new rules governing various uses on public lands under permit to the ski industry.

Agency may authorize fees for uphill skiing, snowshoe travel at resorts on national forests

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Can you harmonize with the natural environment while speeding down a mountain zip line?

It may depend on exactly how fast you’re going, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which is rolling out a new set of rules to govern the permitting of summer recreational installations at ski areas operating on national forest lands.

In one of the biggest changes that would affect other private businesses near resorts, the agency would back away from a long-standing policy that precluded authorization for facilities that could be provided on nearby non-Forest Service lands. The proposed rules are posted at  http://www.fs.fed.us/specialuses. Continue reading

Colorado resorts report modest growth in skier visits

A strong spring season helped boost skier visits to Colorado ski areas.

A strong spring season helped boost skier visits to Colorado ski areas. Bob Berwyn photo.

Strong spring fuels rebound

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Visits to all Colorado ski areas recovered from another slow start, reversed last season’s downhill slide and rebounded 3.95 percent to pass last winter’s totals, according to figures released this week by Colorado Ski Country USA. Visits to all Colorado resorts totaled 11.44 million during the winter of 2012-2013.

For the 21 areas that are members of CSCUSA, visits totaled 6.4 million, up about 3.8 percent (about 235,000 skier visits) from the previous season.

Colorado resorts outperformed the rest of the Rocky Mountain region, which tallied a 1.9 percent increase, but fell short of the national overall increase of 11 percent. The biggest growth nationally was in the Pacific Southwest and Northeast regions, which showed increases of more than 20 percent as they rebounded from a horrible snow year the previous season. Continue reading

Summit County: Is Copper Mountain’s base village up for sale?

Ownership changes inevitable as real estate trust expires in 2015

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By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Along with a slew of other ski resort villages, Copper Mountain‘s commercial base-area properties (the Village at Copper) may be for sale as part of a “trophy resort village portfolio,” offered  for $142.5 million.

According to an online brochure making the rounds, the resort villages can also be bought separately, starting at about $9 million for the smallest and ranging up to about $30 million. The real estate investment services company Marcus & Millichap is offering the properties, which are owned by CNL Lifestyle Properties, Inc..

The Florida-based real estate investment trust (REIT) that became a big player in the mountain resort business when it bought properties all over North America about the time the resort real estate boom fizzled. Continue reading

Outdoors: Skier visits rebound nationally

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U.S. resorts tallied 56.6 million skiers visits — and counting — in he 2012-2013 ski season.

All regions post increases from last year

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After a big dip last season, skier visits rebounded strongly in the 2012-2013 season, climbing up to 56. million with the season still going strong at areas like Mammoth Mountain and Arapahoe Basin.

For the country as a whole, skier visits climbed 11 percent from last season. Skier visits in the Pacific Southwest and Northeast regions climbed more than 20 percent from last winter, not surprising, since they were the areas hit hardest by sparse snowfall and an early meltdown last year.

Resorts in all regions started slow but skier visits gained momentum through the holidays and spring break. Overall, 78 percent of reporting ski areas posted increases in visits. The median resort experienced a 10.6 percent gain in visits, according to a release from the National Ski Areas Association. Continue reading

Ski industry offers some guarantees on water rights issue

Forest Service looking to ensure long-term viability of ski areas

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With water a premium in the West, the Forest Service and ski resorts are discussing how they will administer water that originates on national forest lands. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — In comments submitted to the U.S. Forest Service, the National Ski Areas Association is suggesting a fresh start in developing a policy to determine ownership and future use of water that originates on national forest lands.

“Our new approach assumes that all previous water clauses are no longer in effect, null and void, and unenforceable. It would result in a consistent water policy across the board going forward,” said NSAA policy director Geraldine Link.

The ski industry comments came as the Forest Service held a series of hearings around the West in the early stages of developing a new water rights clause that eventually will become part of agency permits for businesses operating on public lands.

The ski industry and the Forest Service have been at odds over water rights for years, and most recently faced each other in federal court over a 2011 version of the permit language. The court said that the Forest Service failed to follow required procedures in rewriting the clause, and also noted that the agency has adopted a series of clauses that aren’t being applied consistently. Continue reading

Forest Service holds public meetings on ski area water rights

After legal showdown, agency, resorts start down collaborative path to address critical water questions

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Who owns the water originating on national forest lands? Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After losing a court showdown, the U.S. Forest Service will restart a process to try and clarify the future of water rights associated with permitted uses on national forest lands, especially with regard to ski areas in the West. Click here to see related Summit Voice stories.

In December, a federal court ruled that the Forest Service failed to meet legal requirements when it updated the rule administratively. Now, the agency will hold a series of public meetings, starting April 16 in Denver, to take input from the public and key stakeholders. Additional meetings are set for Salt Lake City on April 17, and Lake Tahoe, Calif., on April 18. Continue reading

Winter sports athletes urge action on global warming

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Winter sports athletes are urging action on climate change and energy in a letter to President Obama.

Olympic medalists, ski stars ask President Obama to speed the shift to clean energy

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — As Colorado ski areas struggle with a second consecutive season of below-average snowfall and the Sierra Nevada snowpack only about half of average, a group of 75 Olympic medalists and other winter sports athletes are warning that winter is in trouble.

Stepping up to represent the global snow sports community on the political stage, the athletes this week sent a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to take action on climate and clean energy.

“Without a doubt, winter is in trouble … at risk are the economies of tourist-dependent states where winter tourism generates $12.2 billion in revenue annually, supports 212,000 jobs and $7 billion in salaries. Those are the jobs and businesses owned by our friends and families, generators of billions in federal and state income.” Continue reading

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