Ski Touring News Roundup April 2017


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 2, 2017      

We’ve not seen much technical information on Ueli Steck’s fatal fall on Nuptse, but news articles have of course popped up here and there. This one at Rock and Ice is informative as to Ueli’s place in modern mountaineering.

A while back, we sent a nomination seconding letter to the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, regarding Chris Davenport being inducted. “Dav” needs no introduction to readers here — he’s one of the best known and accomplished skiers around, and is already in the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame. So getting him into the Colorado hall is a no brainer. Good to see he got voted in. Congratulations Chris!

After spending most of my life in a couple of mountain towns, one of my peeves has always been how housing gets to be such a problem for folks without vast financial resources. “Affordable” housing, if you will. Over a half century, I’ve witnessed both Crested Butte and Aspen, Colorado transmogrify from funky mining towns with lots of hip options for rustic living, to gentrified enclaves with “normal” housing as rare as hen’s teeth.

To be fair, regional affordable housing programs probably saved Aspen from itself (by preserving a population of “normal” people). But the lack of housing continues to be a problem — this not only for our resort town cores, but for their greater regions.

The different approaches to “solving” the housing challenge get me chuckling. Here in the central Colorado resort region, more taxes seem to be the common proposal. I’m not comfortable with that. Our high prices for everything are one of the things that drive housing rental and purchase prices up in the first place. Yet more taxes?

I like California’s recent approach: strip away regulatory barriers and let the people step up. More about that here.

What is more, the “tiny house” movement is in full swing these days, but many county and city governments have strict minimum size regulations that block the use of “tiny” dwelling spaces (due to nimbyism, mobile home hate, concerns about reduced tax base, etc.). I was thus amazed when our own county government here in Colorado voted to strip their minimum size requirement. My prediction, allowing small dwelling spaces is in a word, huge. We be watching.

Since we’re on the subject of money, I was amused reading news from Austria about their ski passes getting so incredibly expensive. Average prices of around 50 euros a day are deemed to be perhaps egregious? That sounds pretty affordable to me — walkup window price at Aspen is well upwards of $100. Honestly, analyzing ski lift prices based on one-day tickets is rather pointless. Most resorts offer all sorts of discounted ticket packages that, while perhaps still expensive, do change the picture. In the end, we wonder why anyone would pay it all, when they can simply go ski touring?

Time to start looking back at the winter’s avalanche stats: Colorado is good, let’s keep it that way as we enjoy our extended winter. And everyone else playing in the springtime accumulations of this winter’s big snow, be safe. Watch your timing. Pay attention to warming trends. Be willing to get the heck out of a situation if things are going “loose” sooner than you expected.

A bit of levity to close it up. The Alps are about 700 miles long, with thousands of summits. That’s not enough. See below.

Comments

17 Responses to “Ski Touring News Roundup April 2017”

  1. Scott Newman May 2nd, 2017 12:11 pm
  2. justin May 2nd, 2017 12:45 pm

    That’s hilarious. I wonder if that person accepted the position only to prove a point about the lack of affordable housing.

  3. Lou Dawson 2 May 2nd, 2017 4:14 pm

    Good link Scott, thanks!

    Interesting the article mentions deed restriction monitoring. I gather that’s a huge problem with the Aspen-Pitkin subsidized housing. Apparently people buy or rent then pretty much do what they want if they can keep it under the radar, and then there is the elephant in the room, that being what do you do when people retire, do you just kick them out because they’re not a “worker?”

  4. Bard May 2nd, 2017 6:57 pm

    RIP Ueli. You continue to be an inspiration.

  5. See May 2nd, 2017 9:08 pm

    “Over a half century, I’ve witnessed both Crested Butte and Aspen, Colorado transmogrify from funky mining towns with lots of hip options for rustic living, to gentrified enclaves with “normal” housing as rare as hen’s teeth.” Sounds a bit like the Bay Area. I agree re. tiny dwellings/in law units/etc., but regulation per se is neither bad nor good. It depends on how it’s conceived and implemented. Consider the Ghost Ship Fire…

  6. Jim Milstein May 2nd, 2017 9:58 pm

    “we wonder why anyone would pay…when they can simply go ski touring?” That’s right, Lou. The good stuff is beyond the bounds. I was out exploring it today, and it’s still there, the good stuff.

  7. wtofd May 3rd, 2017 7:11 am

    Alta Badia has a modular pricing system. Miles ahead of the US systems. People ride the gondolas to eat lunch at the top.
    The heavy US prices demand all-day skiing to maximize value, which lead to injuries and questionable “fun.”
    Very easy in the Dolomites for skinners to combine skinning and riding lifts on a single-ride fare. You can even pay at the lift from the attendant (although loading up a prepaid card which is good at the electronic turnstiles is better for you, the attendants and your fellow skiers.)
    RIP, Ueli.

  8. Geewilligers May 3rd, 2017 7:44 am

    @wtofd

    Do you have any suggestions for guidebooks or other resources to help plan a trip to Alta Badia and the Dolomiti Superski – headed there next march and am looking to start my research nice and early.

  9. ffelix May 3rd, 2017 12:59 pm

    Stripping away “regulatory barriers like California” is basically exactly what led to out-of-control real estate values in western ski resorts, Lou. It also leads to car hell.

    If you have a property that you can rent to a single person or couple for, say, $1000 a month, you can rent the same place to 6 less picky poor people for $200 each and get a dramatic 20% bump in rent (that also jams the roads with parked cars).

    This leads directly to increased property values that again puts more upward pressure on rents and forces people to crowd in more. This can only happen in the absence of regulation about how many people can live in a space, how many cars can park there, etc. This isn’t new: the same thing happened in Victorian London.

    Push comes to shove, the only solution is more supply, which means higher property density…unless you want to start closing ski runs to make more space for McMansions. We need to either steamroll the NIMBYism and force through dense apartment/condo development, or just abandon ski towns to the wealthy and let them raise the wages to counter the crappier deal for the mostly poor immigrant employees that have to commute long distances.

  10. Lou Dawson 2 May 3rd, 2017 1:22 pm

    Good points, but nobody is advocating total anarchy, just a loosening so there are more dwelling units. Example, for a while I lived in an old mine barn in Aspen, that was divided into about 8 small “apartments” with a shared kitchen. None of us drove much, we worked in town, it was wonderful. The Barn is gone, it’s now a house or two that’s probably not even lived in, and certainly serviced by dozens of workers who do commute from bedroom communities. That’s somewhat the opposite as to the situation you allude to. The old barn was not on a ski run, though it was close (smile).

    In any case, I’m not just opinionating here about actual ski towns, I’m thinking about these things in relation to bedroom communities as well, such as ours, where we do have land to expand on, and fairly low densities with no parking problems. Tiny houses and co-living arrangements would work well here. It’s already happening.

    Lou

  11. wtofd May 3rd, 2017 2:44 pm

    @Geewilligers

    Yes. Francesco Tremolada has written some excellent guide books for side and back country skiing. Both just received new printings and updates. They are beautiful but expensive with shipping to the States. Worth every nickel, imo.

    His guide service, based out of Corvara, is here: http://www.altabadiaguides.com/eng/Home/home_49_357.html

    The sidecountry book (what the Euros call Freeride) is here: https://www.versantesud.it/en/shop/freeriding-dolomites-2ed/

    The backcountry book (ski mountaineering is here:
    https://www.versantesud.it/en/shop/ski-mountaineering-in-dolomites/

    Feel free to email if you have more questions about skiing or food. It’s a remarkable place. Perfect, imo, if you’re coming from sea level. High enough for decent snow, but low enough for very quick acclimation. The infrastructure is excellent, and the food is likely the best in the ski world. My email is simply my user name here plus @yahoo dot com.

    We’re going back next season either for Christmas or March. Let’s keep in touch as it gets closer. Email anytime.

  12. benwls May 3rd, 2017 4:05 pm
  13. Crazy Horse May 4th, 2017 10:59 am

    Here in Jackson a new five story building called the Caldera House has been under construction for the last couple of years. Rumor has it that the Penthouse will have a direct skybridge to the tram loading dock. I guess that is so the Owner can rent the entire tram for the morning and not have to rub shoulders with the sheeple.

    Much of the lower floor is taken up with 42″ wide ski lockers. They are selling like cocaine at $100,000 each.

    There is a simple solution to the housing problem in places like Aspen and Jackson. I call it the use it or loose it tax. Any residence that isn’t occupied 50% of the time should be considered a liability to the community and taxed accordingly. If you own a second or third home that you use for a week of golf in the summer and a week skiing in the winter your property tax should be set at 33% of value per year. So you have a choice— rent it out to somebody who will live in it full time or pay the price.

    Implement the Crazy Horse policy and you will see rents drop like a rock as desperate landowners seek renters to avoid paying millions of dollars a year in taxes. Why should the servants of the rich be forced to live in cubicles when there are thousands of unused houses around?

  14. Crazy Horse May 4th, 2017 11:12 am

    Solution #2:

    Raise the minimum wage to $34% of the median cost of housing — the common recommended budget for housing expense. In Jackson that would be about $9,000 per month. Why should your servants subsidize the cost of having your mansion’s roof shoveled?

    Solution #3;

    Eliminate the height restrictions that make affordable rental housing impossible to build in Jackson. I you have spent time in Whistler Village you’ll realize that a car free village with five times the housing density isn’t a bad way to live—. And ten story buildings make that possible.

  15. Jim Milstein May 4th, 2017 12:36 pm

    You may be crazy, Horse, but your ideas sound better than many we’ve been hearing lately.

  16. Crazy Horse May 4th, 2017 1:49 pm

    Jim, ideas are not power. Let’s just imagine we lived in a democracy. Official population in Teton county WY is 22,930. Perhaps 30 billionaires and a thousand millionaires. Give me a PR budget equal to what they would spend fighting the proposal, 90 days until a free election among people residing or working in the county , and let’s put the Crazy Horse tax to a vote—-.

  17. Geewilligers May 9th, 2017 10:05 am

    @wtofd & @benwls

    Great minds think alike! Many thanks to you both for the suggestions.

    @wtofd – been a crazy few days, but I’ll be taking you up on your generous offer to share your insights into the region – very excited.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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