Montana towns afraid of ‘Aspen-ization’ |

Montana towns afraid of ‘Aspen-ization’

Allen Best

WHITEFISH, Mont. – Across the West, the mantra in new resort areas is this: “We don’t want to be like Aspen, Vail or Jackson Hole.” And with this statement of disdain usually comes the professed belief that somehow, it’s possible to take some other road.So make what you will of a report by Bloomberg News about new hotspots in Montana. The rush is on by the high-tech nouveau rich to these pretty mountain valleys, says Bloomberg.The poster child is the Whitefish-Kalispell area. Riveting mountains in the background, proximity to Flathead Lake, and oodles of golf courses are just the beginning of the amenities. It also has a ski area, Big Mountain, and is near Glacier National Park.Another hotspot is the Bitterroot Valley, south of Missoula. There, West Spiker, the spokesman for a members-only resort, says Montanans are “afraid to death that little towns are going to become like Aspen or Vail, where the billionaires chase out the millionaires, and employees have to live 45 to 50 miles away to drive to work.” But, he adds, it “won’t ever happen, because people come to Montana for what Montana is. They don’t want to change it.”Maybe not, but their money will.Small ski area to openWESTCLIFFE, Colo. – For years the mom-and-pop ski areas were closing. Now, stories are appearing of small ski areas being opened. The latest such story comes from near the town of Westcliffe, in south-central Colorado.There, Terry Cook is erecting a single chairlift at the Aspen Country Mountain Park. He bought the chairlift and a snow cat groomer from Idaho’s Bogus Basin ski area.Steady supplies of snow seem to be a general problem in that region, but Cook claims the location of his ski area last year got 342 inches. He plans to charge $22 for lift tickets, drawing customers from Pueblo, a city of about 110,000 located an hour’s drive to the east.A ski area featuring a single rope tow operated at the site for at least 20 years, but patrons lost interest in 1990 when another ski area opened nearby. That ski area subsequently closed.Vail, Colorado

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