CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Big houses produced by fortunes derived from big oil were in the news this week.
In Aspen, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to the United States, has sold his 56,000-square-foot house and 95-acre property. The house and property, located in unincorporated Pitkin County in the Starwood neighborhood, was originally listed for $135 million, but the selling price was $49 million, reports the Aspen Daily News.
About 60 miles away, billionaire Bill Koch, who gained his wealth in the oil refineries of Kansas but now owns a coal mine near Paonia, has plans for a 22,712-square-foot house. This house is on a mesa below the Raggeds, a ridge of mountains that looks pretty much as the name implies.
Reporting on a county planning commission meeting, the Crested Butte News says that the house is to be used primarily during summer, two to three weeks during winter, and occasionally during hunting season.
"Fido" probably not name for this canine
KETCHUM, Idaho — A couple picked up the pup from the Sawtooth National Forest, thinking it a lost dog. But, in fact, it's at least a wolf-dog hybrid, and perhaps a wolf.
DNA testing was planned to determine the family tree for the pup, which weighed 20 pounds.
Defenders of Wildlife, which was tapped for its expertise in wolf matters, thinks that if the wolf can be returned to its pack within a week or so, the wolves will accept it. "Wolves are very bonded to their young. If they are alive, they will be trying to find him," group spokeswoman Suzanne Stone told the Idaho Mountain Express.
In the meantime, the wolf or hybrid was at a zoo in Boise to be nurtured back to good health. Apparently, it didn't take well to dog food.
Foodie come-hithers just all right in Banff
BANFF, Alberta — Restaurateurs in Banff will be able to hand out food and drink freebies in front of their businesses without question. New wording in the municipal bylaws bestows the right without question, as long as they don't wander onto public property.
A planner for the community questionned where this will all lead, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook. For example, will T-shirt proprietors be out asking passersby if they want to try on T-shirts?
But councillors indicate they don't think that's a problem. "I don't think McDonald's should be able to give out free smoothies in front of The Keg, or Starbucks give out free coffee in front of the Cake Company, but I think they should be able to give free samples," said Mayor Karen Sorensen.
Insuring cattle drive pricey in Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Ed Quillen, the long-time columnist for the Denver Post, who died on Sunday, once described the themes of the various ski towns in Colorado. Keystone was amenityland, Vail was transplanted Bavaria, of course, and Steamboat was cowboyland.
Billy Kidd, the public face for the ski area, famously wears a big cowboy hat, despite his Vermont origins. An old barn is prominent in advertisements. And beginning in 2000, the town revived the long-before abandoned cattle drives down the town's main thoroughfare in conjunction with the Fourth of July parade.
But insuring the drive of 2000 cattle is getting expensive, reports Steamboat Today. Promoters say it would cost $3,000 for insurance, above and beyond the $1,000 it cost the local chamber resort for the Fourth of July.
Breck hopes to regain status as Buick resort
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — With sales tax revenues on the rise, Breckenridge is looking into restoring some services it had cut during the dark days of the recession. A high priority for some is improving snow removal.
"Snowplowing is my big deal, and I think we're under-serving," said Wendy Wolfe, a new city member of the town council.
Among the conversations is whether it's time to installed heated sidewalks in some areas of Main Street that have chronic ice problems. Cost is estimated at $50,000 to $60,000 per block, reports the Summit Daily News.
"We need to start thinking of ourselves as a world-class resort," said Councilman Mark Burke.
In cutting back services three years ago, town officials had likened the change from Cadillac to Chevy. The town isn't feeling flush enough to go back to Cadillac, if indeed it ever was at that level. Instead, Breckenridge now is aiming to be a Buick-class resort.
Skiing volcanoes with aid of an RV
JACKSON, Wyo.— Free-skiing world champion Jess McMillan of Jackson, and mountaineering iron man Chris Davenport of Aspen were among a team that went on a volcano-skiing binge this spring, knocking off 15 volcanoes in two weeks.
They ranged from Lassen in the south to Baker, near the Canadian border. Altogether, the team climbed almost 80,000 feet and travelled more than 140 miles on skis. McMillan told the Jackson Hole News & Guide that Oregon's Three Sisters were the most difficult, as they traveled 16.3 miles and climbed more than 10,000 feet in a single day.
In all this, the team was aided by a heavy-duty recreational vehicle supplied by Spyder, the clothing manufacturer, which served as the team's mobile base camp.
silver lining of the drought in Colorado
VAIL, Colo. — Rafting companies and flyfishing guides work the flip sides of the river coin. Water flows that delight one set of users dismay the other.
Last year, for example, rafters rejoiced as rivers in Colorado stayed high into August because of an exceptional snowpack. Not so the flyfishermen, to whom high, roiling and muddy waters are a bane.
This year is the complete opposite. Water flows are even worse than during the record summer of 2002, which in many places had the lowest summer flows in between 150 and 300 years. In turn, the business of Lakota Guides dropped 40 per cent that year.
But it's not all peaches and cream for fishing guides. At a recent river forum covered by the Vail Daily, fishing guide John Packer pointed out that in hot summer days of low flows, water temperatures can stay above 65 to 70 degrees farenheit for long periods. Trout and other fish struggle at such high temperatures.
The solution? More early day and evening fishing, and less during the middle of the day. Fish that are caught are cast back into the river.
Ski towns march to faster drummer
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Old-timers in ski towns can recall when it was hard to find hired hands at restaurants and other such places, let alone good ones. "All you have to do is breathe," they once said of potential job applicants.
Whoops – guess that wasn't too many years ago, say 2007 or 2008.
It's nothing like that now, but the Steamboat Today reports a quickening of advertisements for food servers and other hospitality workers. On a recent day, seven restaurants had ads in the newspaper seeking cooks.
That anecdotal report also coincides with the forecast by local economic researchers of a strong rebound in employment during the warmer summer months.
It will be interesting to reconcile the reality of ski towns with the national headlines that speak to a slowing economy and disappointing job numbers. But then, ski towns have always marched to a somewhat different drummer.
Vail Resorts absolved in avalanche fatality
VAIL, Colo. – In January, Vail Mountain got hit by very nearly its only powder of the season. Avalanche conditions were instantly elevated, and ski patrollers closed the gate to a double-black-diamond run called Prima Cornice.
A group of five youngsters from the Vail area skied down the adjacent trail and then entered a gate onto Prime Cornice, below the top. But they also sidestepped 37 metres up the mountain. That put them in harm's way.
An avalanche hit three of them, but two managed to ski away. The third, Taft Conlin, was thrown into a tree, and died of blunt-force trauma.
Who was to blame? The Forest Service isn't taking the Vail Resorts to task. "If you find something out of whack, you change it," said Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor of the White River National Forest. "We found no instances when they were in non-compliance."
But the mother of one of the two boys, who survived the avalanche, believes that both the Forest Service and Vail Resorts have it wrong. "The boys did not duck a rope or knowingly ski into the closed terrain," Kristi Ferraro tells the Vail Daily. "They accessed the run through an open gate."
You can be assured that we haven't heard the last of this story.
jackson Hole reviews trash-export options
JACKSON, Wyo. — One way or another, trash from Jackson Hole will continue to be exported.
The trash is currently trucked south, to Sublette County, about an hour south of Jackson. But in weighing their options, Teton County commissioners are looking into hauling the trash into Idaho, to a landfill at Idaho Falls.
The Jackson Hole News & Guide explains that Teton County expects to pay $2 million next year, or $87.11 per ton, if Wyoming trash stays in Wyoming, but can trim the costs to $1.8 million, or $80.35, by exporting it to Idaho.
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