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Drying profits

Sarah L. Stewart
Kristin AndersonA truck sits buried in snow in Red Cliff. The streets are still snowpacked in Red Cliff, and the town is undergoing snow removal.
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Vail – This season’s dry autumn now seems a world away, but it’s come back to haunt Vail Resorts.

Revenue and skier visits fell in November, December and January, due to little natural snow and warm temperatures that forced later resort openings. Vail saw 6.2 percent fewer skiers during the period compared to last year, while Beaver Creek saw 1.5 percent fewer. Lift revenue fell 13.6 percent from the start of ski season through mid-December, but rebounded for the rest of the quarter, climbing 11.1 percent over last year from mid-December through January.

Total revenue for the quarter slipped 0.3 percent, and profit fell from $53 million to $51.3 million.

Eagle County – Ski instructors and lifties aren’t the only workers who struggle to find housing in the county ” so do schoolteachers.

Cost of living is the biggest reason why teachers leave Eagle County, causing the school district to consider becoming a major investor in the proposed Stratton Flats affordable-housing development in Gypsum.

The 336-home neighborhood on the western side of the airport will include a variety of housing, from one-bedroom condos to single-family homes, for about $165,000 to $370,000.

The school district is considering a $500,000 investment, securing about 38 homes in Stratton Flats that it could then sell at reduced prices to teachers.

The $500,000 wouldn’t be a donation ” the district would gain its investment back as it sells the homes to teachers or staff, said Phil Onofrio, chief financial officer for the district.

“This would be a no-cost way to help our employees ” we aren’t going to donate half a million dollars,” Onofrio said.

The school district is also considering investing in West End ” an Edwards development that will include 72 affordable homes. The school board could decide if it will get involved with the Gypsum project as soon as the next board meeting.

Minturn – In a town poised for big change, the makeup of the town council will likely stay much the same.

All but one Minturn town councilor whose seat is open in the April 1 election will run for seats on the town council.

Whoever fills the four open seats could have a big effect on the town’s future, as the proposed Ginn project, a ski resort with 1,700 homes and condos, tries to get final approval from the council.

Town councilmen Jerry Bumgarner and George Brodin will run for reelection; Town Councilman Tom Sullivan will not. Town Councilwoman Shelley Bellm will run against incumbent Gordon “Hawkeye” Flaherty for mayor.

The only newcomer is Matt Scherr, a Minturn resident and director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability.

Eagle – The large herd of elk in the open fields next to the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink aren’t just nice to look at. Their winter presence in the Brush Creek Valley is an important part of their survival and the health of the ecosystem, one local biologist has found.

Wildlife biologist Jerry Powell released a report last week that called Brush Creek Valley critical habitat for elk and other wildlife.

Powell based the report, “Preserving the Town of Eagle’s Quality of Life by Protecting Wildlife Habitat in the Brush Creek Valley,” on current and historical data from the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

“Town is now closer to places that used to be undeveloped,” Powell says. “We are already seeing impacts to the movement of animals, and more seriously, their food.”

Randy Hampton, public information officer for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, says the agency views Powell’s work as a valid study of Brush Creek wildlife.

Powell’s study is available online at the Eagle Valley Habitat for Wildlife Web site, http://www.evhfw.org.

Eagle – Beaver Creek resident Muhammad Ali Hasan’s bid for a state House seat got a little messy last week, following harassment complaints by his former girlfriend and publicist.

Hasan’s defense attorney denied harassment allegations made by Alison Miller, who is seeking a permanent restraining order.

Hasan, a Republican, is running to represent Eagle County in House District 56. Miller, a former Vail Daily reporter, filed a temporary restraining order against Hasan March 3.

Miller accused Hasan of harassing her by text message and attempting to break into her e-mail.

“The allegations she made are mischaracterized, taken out of context and untrue,” Greg Daniels, Hasan’s Denver-based attorney, said after a court hearing Monday.

Carbondale – A new proposal aims to keep more than half a million more acres of Colorado wilderness just that: wild.

Environmentalists have proposed designating 700,000 acres of wilderness in the White River and Gunnison national forests, which would prohibit mechanized uses such as off-road vehicles, snowmobiles and mountain bikes.

The Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign would target mid-elevation land that is more ecologically diverse than many of the higher elevations previously designated as wilderness.

Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, which is helping to lead the campaign, expects to negotiate with opponents to reduce objections to the plan. The proposed wilderness already avoids many of the most popular areas for mountain biking.

“This could be a two-, three-, four-year campaign,” said Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of Wilderness Workshop.


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