Mountain News: Colorado dams make a Gogh of it 

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DILLON, Colo. — A pairing of dams in Colorado has yielded a beer.

The catalyst in this alchemy of brewing is an exhibition of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh now on display at the Denver Art Museum, which is often referred to by its acronym, DAM.

In Summit County, the Dam Brewery — so named because of its location near the base of the Dillon Dam — issued a T-shirt featuring one of the artist's self-portraits and a tag line that said: "I'd Give My Left Ear for a Dam Beer."

"Why not craft a commemorative beer?" asked those in the mix.

Brewmaster Cory Forester told the Summit Daily News that he studied Van Gogh and that he might have imbibed while travelling through and painting the French countryside. That French farmhouse-style ale is known as "bier de garde."

Forester explained to the newspaper that getting the yeast just right was a challenge. Unlike the highly sterilized environments in which most contemporary beers are brewed, the farmers who brewed bier de garde exposed the barrels to the open air, to catch stray yeast.

The brewmaster also added a touch more carbonation, to draw out the individual flavors and make them more easily distinguishable.

Dam Brewery invited nominations for a name, and got 240. The winner, by an election landslide: "Dam Gogh."

You too can teach old dogs new tricks

GEORGETOWN, Colo. — Who is the oldest person ever to learn how to ski? That question comes to mind in reading about the 75th anniversary of the Loveland ski area, which is located on the east side of the Continental Divide above and around the Eisenhower tunnel complex.

For about two thirds of the time, Freddie and Rose Tronnier have worked at the ski area. Now in his 51st season at Loveland, he supervises the ski school. She's in her 48th season and also works at the ski school.

Rose Tronnier tells the Summit Daily News that seven years ago she taught an 86-year-old bus driver from Baltimore how to ski.

"He said that before he died he wanted to learn how to ski," she told the Daily News. "His entire family pitched in for his private lesson, and he stayed on the beginners' hill. Tears were rolling down his face, he was so happy to learn."

But, as per the ski industry mantra, did Loveland convert this never-ever into a return visitor?

Just who is that nerdy guy in the back row?

GYPSUM, Colo. — Teachers and students are accustomed to observers sitting in the classrooms of Eagle Valley High School, so many thought nothing of it when a middle-aged couple stopped by one day in October.

Having read the assigned essays about the Middle East, one student discussed the subject with the strangers for eight minutes. He didn't recognize the man.

The student was floored when informed later that he had been discussing world affairs with Bill Gates. Gates and his wife, Melinda, visit one school per year. This year it was Eagle Valley, one of 13 school districts across Colorado to benefit from a $900,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The school is 59 kilometres down-valley from Vail.

The Vail Daily explains that the couple arrived at 8 a.m. and left just before the final bell, after finally identifying themselves through the school intercom to students and staff. Save for school personnel and local police, who were sworn to secrecy, none had been informed of the visit. But word soon leaked out via Facebook postings and other devices.

The system funded by the Gates measures how well teachers are presenting curriculum and how well students are absorbing it, measured through data from standardized testing, explains the Vail Daily.

Personalize, specialize your resort products

PARK CITY, Utah — Trends expert Daniel Levine told an audience in Park City that they should heed five trends, which he described as having more permanence than a fad.

First, personalize products, to allow consumers to tailor an experience or product. But also specialize, producing offerings for defined demographics One example from New York is of "men aisles" in grocery stores, which has items that might appeal more generally to men, according to an account in The Park Record.

Also, he said, be transparent: you can't withhold information from customers (about lousy snow conditions, perhaps), because the information is available on the Internet.

And finally create memorable experiences but also be aware that people have become more value-conscious. "Authenticity is a big word we are using a lot recently, and it's important. Be authentic," said Levine.

Banff biz up and new flights may help more

BANFF, Alberta — Tourism in Banff and in Banff National Park rose last summer, although not to the banner year of 2007-2008. The number of guests visiting the park from April through September increased 2.3 per cent compared to 2010.

With the ski areas from Lake Louise to Norquay now open or soon to open, winter tourism boosters also remain hopeful. Buoying their hope, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, is increased frequency of flights from Sydney, Australia, to Vancouver, and also flights from Tokyo to Calgary.

Ski companies move dispute to court room

PARK CITY, Utah — Two of the three ski area operators at Park City, Talisker and Park City Mountain Resort, have taken their legal sniping into court.

Talisker, which operates Canyons, a ski resort down the road, owns the land under which Park City Mountain Resort, owned by the Powdr Corp., operates at least a portion of its ski area. Park City contends the leases were extended until 2015. Talisker says that Park City didn't do it on time and hence could be booted from the property.

The disagreement has caused quite a stink in Park City. Talisker accuses its rival of using "scare tactics and spin," according to a report in The Park Record. A lawyer for Park City Mountain Resort told the judge that the breach of contract by his company, if one occurred, was not significant.

No clear definition of new normal

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. — What will be the new normal? That's been the question since the real estate boom deflated like a helium balloon pricked by a 10-penny nail.

The answer is still being decided in Snowmass Village in regards to a bells-up project called Base Village. Originally developed as a partnership between the Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest, the project was to deliver one million square feet of condos, hotels and other bed base to allow Snowmass to compete with Beaver Creek, Whistler and Deer Valley. Snowmass is Aspen's dominant skiing venue for the masses.

When the Great Recession occurred, the project had been sold to a development firm called Related Cos. It declared financial insolvency. At length, the lenders — mostly banks from Europe — sold the half-completed development to Related Cos. for $90 million, taking a significant loss.

What comes next? Dwayne Romero, Related's representative, tells the Aspen Daily News that he and his staff may go before the Snowmass Village Town Council early next year to talk about the immediate steps. The staff, he said, is talking about price points, the project's residential and commercial composition, and visitor desires in the new economy, but gave no clear idea what Related sees.

Among the plans that vanished with the recession were a Little Nell, a companion to the five-star hotel that sits at the base of Aspen Mountain.

Romero told the Aspen Daily News that Related has staying power. But Related will have to earn the community trust through its deeds. "Right now we're not asking for people to turn and trust us implicitly. We're asking for them to give us a little bit of time and elbow room to achieve some progress."

In all this, Snowmass town officials have been studiously careful to say very little, lest it be interpreted as indicating the town is thinking of reneging on what it had approved. The shadow hanging over them is a case from California, where loose lips sunk the municipal ship of Mammoth Lakes.

Mammoth's troubles stemmed from comments made about a previously entitled real estate project at the local airport. The comments were interpreted as repudiating the development deal, and the court issued a $43 million judgment against Mammoth Lakes. That's three times the annual operating budget of the municipality.

Mammoth representatives, meanwhile, have been in demand on the lecture circuit to explain their predicament and how they're handling it. One such presentation was the Urban Land Institute conference held in Denver in October. The presentation was called Mammoth on the Brink.

The Sheet tartly notes that the community sent three community representatives to the conference. "So nice that we can provide leadership to other bankrupt communities," it said. "Now, if we could only provide leadership to our own."

How to get sidewalk scofflaws to shovel

MISSOULA, Mont. — Why build sidewalks if homeowners let them fill up with snow and ice during winter? That is the question that has been asked by the city government in Missoula.

The current policy, reports the Missoulian, is to notify people who haven't shovelled their walks. Three-quarters of people then get after it themselves. For scofflaws, the city then dispatches its own crews to scoop the snow, and then sends out a bill of at least $62. Some elected officials would like to tack on fines, to up the rate of compliance.

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