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July 30, 2007

Denver to Vail Monorail

A reader sent me a link to a site asking the question--would you favor a Denver to Vail monorail:

This is what we need from Denver to Vail (With a stop in Summit of course). I just drove down from another mountain excursion this morning and while I was blown away as always by the view, I couldn’t help but think how nice it would be to have been sitting and reading my paper while making the journey.

And this was a beautiful uncrowded day. But when I went up on Sunday I-70 was PACKED with cars heading down. Nothing compared to the ski season but certainly another reason to get on a train.

Just picture this. You head over to Union Station and grab a nice warm cup of coffee, a newspaper or book, and some of your best buds. You load all of your stuff onto your train car and grab a wonderful cabin with benches and curl up. The snow outside is dumping and the weather is freezing. The roads are going to be icy, if open at all. But you will make the trip to Vail in bliss surrounded by laughter, warmth and friends.

When you are hungry or thirsty you eat and drink. When you have to use the bathroom you do (but leave your cabin for this). When you are tired you sleep. You are safe.

Two things. It would have to start in West Kansas (as in the Denver Airport). Second, how viable would it be?

I believe that it would be an absolute boon for Denver's tourism industry and for the entire Colorado ski industry. Direct flight to a train to Vail. Luxury all the way. Fewer private jets into snowy airports.

The downside (and the above are a huge upside) is cost. Given the track record of Denver implementing large scale transportation projects, I would really hessitate to propose something truly innovative that the government can royally screw up as opposed to something relatively simple like building more auto lanes on I-70 that the government has a proven track record of doing for the last 100 years. (Imagine Boston voters asked retroactively to approve the Big Dig when shown the actual cost as opposed to the projected cost):

Delays caused by poor planning and repeated design changes due to changing requirements from United Airlines caused Mayor Webb to push opening day back, first to December 1993, then to March 1994. By September 1993, delays due to a millwright strike and other events meant opening day was pushed back again, to May 15, 1994. This earned the airport the tongue-in-cheek nicknames "Done In April," "Done In August," "Delayed Indefinitely Airport" or "Denver's Imaginary Airport" using the DIA initials.

In April 1994, the city invited reporters to observe the first test of the new automated baggage system. Reporters were treated to scenes of clothing and other personal effects scattered beneath the system's tracks, while the actuators that moved luggage from belt to belt would often toss the luggage right off the system instead. The mayor cancelled the planned May 15 opening. The baggage system continued to be a maintenance hassle and was finally terminated in September 2005 [7], with traditional baggage handlers manually handling cargo and passenger luggage.

On September 25, 1994, the airport hosted a fly-in that drew several hundred general aviation aircraft, providing pilots with a unique opportunity to operate in and out of the new airport, and to wander around on foot looking at the ground-side facilities—including the baggage system, which was still under testing. FAA controllers also took advantage of the event to test procedures, and to check for holes in radio coverage as planes taxied around and among the buildings.

DIA finally replaced Stapleton on February 28, 1995, 16 months behind schedule and at a cost of $5.2 billion, nearly $2 billion over budget.

If the project were privately funded and for profit and someone could make a business case that it would pay for itself or be worth the investment, I would be all for it. I would use it. But how much of a tax burden would the entire state be saddled with to pay for a project that just benefits skiers?

Posted by Justin at 03:47 PM | Comments (1)

September 30, 2006

Several Colorado and Utah Counties have Highest Life Expectancy in the US

This article from the Vail Daily discusses a new Harverd study about life expectancy in the US:

It’s a classic chicken-and-egg question: Do people in Colorado have behaviors that make them healthier, or is it because living in Colorado makes them healthier. ... Is it somehow healthier to live in Eagle County? That’s what a new study from Harvard University seems to say.

Eagle and six other counties located along the Continental Divide in Colorado lead the nation in longest average life expectancy — 81.3 years. Four of these seven counties — Clear Creek, Grand, Eagle, and Summit — have ski areas, with Loveland in Clear Creek and Winter Park and SolVista in Grand.
...
Rounding out the nation’s top-40 places for life expectancies are:

• Five more counties from mountainous areas of southwest Colorado: San Miguel, Ouray, Mineral, Hinsdale, Gunnison, and Archuleta);

• Five from Utah — Morgan, Summit, Washington, Cache, Cache and Rich — all but one in mountainous areas.

Chicken or Egg... Tough call. I guess it doesn't matter the exact causes from my point of view. When it comes to better schools, you don't need to know why the schools are better to want to live in the District and send your kids there. When it comes to healthier places to live, if that is something you value, that is somewhere that you consider living.

Better schools draw better students. Better life expectancies draw like minded people and become self fulfilling.

Posted by Justin at 06:22 PM

September 25, 2006

Huge Storm Across Colorado Dumps Over 2' on Vail

Do I really need to add much to the title? Breck, Keystone, and Vail all received between 18" and 2'+ of new snow this weekend and late last week.

Checking reports from A-basin and Loveland and all reported they had at least 8" as of Thursday with more expected through the weekend.

We are now counting the weeks instead of months until ski season opens. Pretty soon we will be talking days.

Posted by Justin at 05:25 PM | Comments (1)

February 24, 2006

It Was the Best of Times... Worst of Times

The following article is from the Arizona Republic dated today.

Utah is poised to set its third consecutive record by exceeding last season's 3.9 million skier visits, Ski Utah spokeswoman Hilary Reiter said.

Snowfall along the Wasatch Range - home to 11 resorts including Snowbird, Park City and Alta - has been about 157 percent more than the total in an average season.

Utah is loving life. How about Colorado?

In Colorado, so much snow has fallen that many mountain towns have piled it high on street corners and in parking lots. Aspen has had more than 21 feet of snow, with many longtime residents saying it's the best they have ever seen, Aspen Skiing Co. spokeswoman Kristen Rust said.

Colorado resort managers are hopeful they will set a record for skier visits this year. The previous record of 11.98 million was set in the 1997-98 season; last year, the total was 11.81 million. From October to December, the resorts reported 3.1 million skier visits, said Rob Perlman, president of the trade group Colorado Ski Country USA.

What about Snowbowl, Arizona that has been battling to get snowmaking capability added so that they can have a consistent season?

Meanwhile, folks at the Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff - in the midst of a drought - continue to wait for enough snow to open, a year after posting a season record 460 inches. Since October, they have seen about 20 inches of snow, resort spokesman David Smith said.

The delay has cost millions of dollars in revenue, "and you can put that in capital letters if you want," he said.

"It's extremely frustrating to sit around and look at the slopes and see dry grass where typically they should be covered in white," he said. "The hope is still there that we'll still be able to have a good season, at least the latter half."

20 Bleepin' Inches? 20? Come on people. I don't know what Arizona did to deserve another Fire Season like 2003, but this is gonna be a bad one. There is no snow at all. We are going to be engulfed by flames shortly. I mean like Arizona needs massive fires to add to the already heated nature of our state.

We need rain in a bad way. The high country needs some snow. We are past due.

Posted by Justin at 01:28 PM | Comments (1)

November 18, 2005

Summit County Resorts opening more Terrain

JP at Colorado Backcountry has been keeping me informed of how Summit County is doing. Trust me, it is better than Utah in a big way. Summit received between three and four feet over the last 10 days and most of the resorts are gradually opening more terrain.

Just from the ski reports, it looks like Loveland and A-Basin are close to 50% open. Copper has less open, but is still open with several runs top to bottom.

IF YOU HAVE SKIED SUMMIT IN THE LAST FIVE DAYS--PLEASE POST COMMENTS. I know JP keeps sending me e-mails about conditions, but the information is good to pass on.

I am just getting ready for Thanksgiving, so the posting might be sporadic since there is nothing even close to skiable within 700 miles of my place in Phoenix.

Posted by Justin at 11:21 AM | Comments (1)

November 13, 2005

Summit gets slammed

Got a note from JP at Colorado Backcountry about the epic conditions in Colorado right now. Most of the resorts (Copper, Loveland, A-Basin, Keystone, Breck, etc.) have received approximately 18" in the last two days with more tonight and early tomorrow.

From JP:

We are getting hammered with snow out here. Just had another sick backcountry day at Loveland Pass. knee deep all day. 5-8 expected today and 10-12" expect monday and monday night. can't wait for tuesday.

I am heading to my condo at Brian Head on Tuesday. Opening weekend was supposed to be November 12th. Yeah right. Maybe for mountain biking. Skiing requires snow. In other news, Wolf Creek opened yesterday. Very little in the way of snow, and they are reporting a base of around 14" at the summit. Speaking of mountain biking.

Posted by Justin at 08:03 PM | Comments (1)

November 02, 2005

Northern Rockies to get more snow over next three days

The Northern Rockies are getting their fair share of snow due to the Jet Stream flowing further north and a high pressure system over the four corners region. This means snow for Alta, Park City, etc., but nada for Brian Head. Snow for Summit County, but none for Wolf Creek.

From the National Weather Service Forecast for Alta:

Tonight: Cloudy...windy. Snow likely after midnight. Accumulation around 1 inch. Lows at 8000 feet around 30. Southwest winds 25-35 mph. Chance of snow 60 percent.

Thursday: Snow in the morning...then snow showers likely in the afternoon. Colder. Accumulation 3-6 inches. Highs at 8000 feet in the lower 30s.

Thursday night: A chance of snow showers in the evening...then snow likely after midnight. Cloudy...colder. Accumulation 2 inches. Lows at 8000 feet near 20. Chance of snow 60 percent.

Chance of around a foot of accumulation of the next 2 days.

Why do I feel like one of those cheesy Junior Weather reporters that show up on the local news? My life right now is resigned to watching weather reports and scouring E-bay to by a "weather machine". BTW, my early season trip to Wolf Creek has been postponed until further notice... until further snowfall is probably more accurate.

Posted by Justin at 10:51 PM

October 15, 2005

First trip of the season--Wolf Creek in two weeks

It is set. I am opening the season at Wolf Creek two weeks from today. I may sneak up earlier, but am stuck working in Seattle this week on a customer gig. In preparation for Seattle, I have stopped shaving the last week, thrown out my Right Guard, and grown a man-Ponytail--all perfect to compliment my ski bum look. =) That makes the assumption that they will be open by then, but I think I am fairly safe. It appears that there are a couple of storms coming in the next week. Their current ski report states:

Wolf Creek received 14 inches of snow from this past storm leaving a 10 inch base at the summit and a 4 inch base midway. We are hoping for another big storm so we can keep you updated on conditions and opening day.

Speaking of Wolf Creek, now is as good of time as any to explain why I am in love with the place. First, and most important, is the snow. I would ski a cow pasture with a small hill if the snow was good. I took a sick fall and busted my head up night skiing on an ice day three years ago, so I love the fact that Wolf Creek usually has lots of the soft stuff to protect me from myself. Plus my new atomic fats love the powder. Last year I got absolutely spoiled with powder in the Southwest, while most of Summit had to use their rock skis.

Second, it is not a "destination". Despite the development plans announced a couple of years ago to build condos (and with the help of the anti-development groups hell bent on keeping the place the way it is), Wolf Creek has no slopeside condos, shopping, village, etc. You go there to ski and stay in Pagosa. There is nothing fancy or high end about the place. One of the boarders in the slopeside Boarder Dome was talking about the fight over "The Village at Wolf Creek" condo project and said he moved from Aspen just because he hated the way it was taken over by rich folks who were more focused on how they looked than on the skiing. I am mixed on the development aspects because there is so much more terrain that could be opened but probably won't if the resort doesn't expand. It is a business, let us not forget, not a charity for pot head snowboarders that live in VW buses. =)

Third, the hotel I stay in costs around $55 a night for two double beds. It is a 20 minute drive up the mountain, but come on... $55? Get real. And right next door to the hotel are a couple of ski shops and an awesome Chinese restaurant. Grab some sweet and sour whatever and some rice to get the carbs back in the legs.

Fourth, if you have kids, the Wolf Pups program is probably the best value of any youth program I have seen. $50 for an entire day and that includes lift tickets and lunch for kids under 8. You see the kids skiing from the lift with their instructors and they howl like wolves. My son Jake is 8 and spent two days in Wolf Pups last year despite being a solid blue-black skier and they helped him work on his parallel turns. The program lets out at 2:45 PM so there is another hour or so to ski together after that.

Fifth, Alberta and the Waterfall Area. The Alberta lift is fairly remote and there are very few cut runs on the far left side of the resort. It is almost all glade skiing, leaving tons of untracked powder. Before the Superbowl last year we skied almost a week after a big snowstorm and were still in mostly powder. Not the crap they call powder or packed powder that in reality is neither of the above, but rather snow that was untouched through the trees.

Finally, proximity. Wolf Creek is only 9 hours from Phoenix. An impromptu trip last year started at 8 PM on a Thursday night and we were asleep in the Avalanche by 5 AM in the parking lot after a pretty solid debate of politics, money and religion and what came close to a fistfight over politics and religion. =) It sure made the trip go faster though.

Posted by Justin at 11:43 AM | Comments (2)

October 14, 2005

2005-06 Season Opens at Loveland

Loveland, CO again starts 2005-06 off by being the first resort in the nation to open. Last year, I skied Loveland twice during the first week of November and they had maybe 10 runs open. All were either blues or greens. I was working for a customer in Denver and instead of flying, I drove from Phoenix and brought my skis. I hit Wolf Creek on the way home. Early season skiing is like eating bone-in buffalo wings. It is kinda messy and it is tough to get completely filled up on it. They make great appetizers, but the full course is so much better. Take the rock skis, not the $1000 pair that you just bought and are aching to try out. (not that I have ever had a $1000 pair of skis)

From the Rocky Mountain News:

Loveland Ski Area expects to win the race to kick off the state's coming ski season, saying there is a "90 percent" likelihood lifts and trails will open Friday morning. Without the 18 inches of snowfall Loveland has received in the past few days, an opening likely would not have happened until a week later, a ski area official said.

Here is some info on the rest of Summit County from the same article:

A storm that began over the weekend dumped snow on many of Colorado's ski slopes. Here's a rundown on how much snow areas had received by midday Monday, along with tentative opening days:
  • Arapahoe Basin 12 inches Oct. 21
  • Beaver Creek 16 inches Nov. 23
  • Breckenridge 30 inches Nov. 11
  • Keystone 17 inches Nov. 11
  • Loveland 18 inches Friday
  • Monarch 10 inches Nov. 23
  • Powderhorn* 6 inches
  • Telluride* 8 inches
  • Vail 13 inches Nov. 18
  • Winter Park 12 inches Nov. 16
*Opening day information not available from these resorts

Good times!

Posted by Justin at 03:46 PM | Comments (1)