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Richard Carnes: Don’t pretend this won’t affect us

I don’t care how much snow flies, which candidates are elected in November locally or nationally, or if “The Bailout” is considered a success or a tremendous failure left for our children’s children to deal with ” this winter will be one for the Happy Valley record books.

And like all records, they are kept for the purpose of seeing if they are ever broken, allowing us to look back and reflect internally, and provide opportunities in mixed company to say things like, “Man, I remember back when ….”

This problem is, of course, the record for this upcoming season is probably going to be for the worst economic year, on a percentage basis, since 1962.



Now relax, calm down, don’t run for the gun closet, and for Pete’s sake, don’t waste your time yelling, “How dare he say that!” or anything along those superficial lines. Closing your eyes, plugging your ears, and screaming while stomping your feet will not help anything, but denying that chances are very high for us to be in for a down season just means you are part of the problem, not the solution.

While the Big Picture is at the very least a national problem, understand that, yes, Warren Buffet stepped in with $5 billion of his own to save Goldman Sachs, but the fact remains that we would need 140 Warren Buffets just to break even on the governments plan. Alas, he is the only one.



So keeping it local, I shout, “Wake up, boys and girls, local indications of the coming carnage are everywhere!”

Colorado season-pass sales are down more than 8 percent already, and Vail Resorts related hotel room bookings are down twice that (more than 17 percent) compared to last year, which was no memorable gem itself. Other hotel bookings, depending upon who you talk to, are down as much as 25 percent.

Regardless of what some real estate agent is quoted as saying, actual real estate sales volume are horribly down as well, and I say this with many good friends in the business. Using extremely large-dollar home sales of an extremely small number of homes only serves to skew the average numbers far out of proportion from reality. We must learn that shouting “We are not affected!” over and over has no actual bearing on whether or not we are actually affected.



Our towns, such as Vail and Avon, are bracing for dramatic decreases in sales tax collection and more belt-tightening.

Even Eagle County, that remaining bastion of fiscal irresponsibility, is admitting to an expected slowdown in permit fees, decreases in state and federal funding and an anticipated “flattening of sales tax revenues” (apparently “flattening” is a euphemism for “reverse vertically-challenged”).

How many actually think John Whitebread Public will pull at least $10K to $20K out of the market to fund his annual ski trip to Vail? Chances are pretty high that if Mr. P had that kind of money in the first place, then he lost a good chunk of it over the last month, and although he loves skiing, it just ain’t that damned important in the Big Picture.

Listen, I’m not trying to spread doom and gloom on the scale of the Bush administration, but a huge dose of realism needs to be accepted by our community, and fast. Main Street is now expected to bail out Wall Street, and we don’t even have a Main Street.

Face it, a proverbial thinning of the herd will in all likelihood occur in many sectors of our local economy over the next six – eight months, and although it’s hard to admit at the moment, the valley will most likely be better off in the long run.

Those who planned for such a year (even though most can’t remember a situation quite so dire) will weather the storm as they have in the past. We’re a strong lot, otherwise we wouldn’t have survived as long as we have in the first place.

While on the plus side, congratulations to Vail Resorts for acquiring 400 “Q visas,” to help alleviate at least part of the H-2B visa debacle. Who cares if we have to call them “Cultural Ambassadors” for the season? Hell, we’ll be happy to call them “Your Majesty” or “Your Highness” as long as they have experience and show up for work wearing a smile.

So the sun will still continue to rise every day, the snow will still fall, we will ski, hike, watch football, kids will enjoy Christmas, adults will enjoy New Years Eve, and the national economy will do whatever it does pretty much regardless of what we do around here. Big deal if Happy Valley is referred to as Copacetic Valley for awhile; we’ll survive.

But to me the bottom line is simple: many of our friends and neighbors are going to suffer, perhaps even a great deal in some cases. People will be stressed, families will have more “issues,” businesses will close, projects will cease, and there will be only one thing for us all to do ” help one another.

Let’s stop pretending we won’t be affected, and instead be prepared to ride out the storm. It will not last forever.

NOTE: The preceding opinions belong to Richard and are not necessarily shared by this newspaper…but for community reasons, he thinks they should be.

Richard Carnes of Edwards can be reached at poor@vail.net.


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