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Avoid tangling with bears

All the news from resorts across North America

ASPEN, Colo. - City officials in Aspen are dispensing helpful hints to property owners who want to avoid tangling with bears. The best single tactic is to keep trash in bear-resistant containers, as required by law - although one not universally obeyed. Those who want to avoid bruins cruising for free food are advised by bear specialist Dan Glidden of the Aspen Police Department to spray small amounts of ammonia or bleach around trash containers or patio doors.

Another idea, he tells The Aspen Times, is to place boards with nails sticking out of them near doors or waste containers. Being pricked by nails will usually startle the bear and cause him or her to leave. Screws, however, can break off inside the bear, making them angry.


Canmore school gets composting

CANMORE, Alberta - After the first winter of operation, the Earth Tub Composter at Canmore Collegiate High School seems to be getting passing grades. The school's commercial foods teacher wanted to stop sending food wastes to the landfill, and that led to purchase of the Earth Tub Composter and placement in a bear-proof compound.

Students contribute their waste food to the composter, along with wood chips and sawdust from the school shop. The compost produced will be used at the school greenhouse and on landscaping projects while also saving on landfill costs, estimated at $106 per week, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

A few miles away in Banff, there is a similar report of success with a recycling program. There, 17 per cent of residential waste is now being diverted. But counting diversion of biosolids retrieved after sewage treatment, the community crows about a 50 per cent diversion rate. Helping encourage higher recycling rates among commercial properties, fees have been implemented to promote recycling. As the waste that isn't recycled must be hauled to a landfill at Calgary an hour away, there is additional incentive.


Not worthy of the gene pool

DURANGO, Colo. -Letter-writer Philip D'Angelo said he's noticed, "young women who are too drunk or drugged to communicate without slurring, being approached for a 'pick-up' by young males."

Writing in the Durango Telegraph, he urges people who witness this to call the police.

"Durango is full of young men who have no compunctions against exploiting a woman's helplessness at a bar. A word to them: If you need to drug a woman or need her to be incoherent to get sex, you probably shouldn't be in the gene pool," he said.

Mud, floods and slides

VAIL, Colo. - The final weeks of April were unusually snowy across northern Colorado, leaving snow depths in upper elevations at around 220 per cent higher than average. That means plenty of skiing for those willing to earn their turns in the backcountry.

But all that precipitation on high must come down. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center last Friday noted an unusually large avalanche near the old mining town of Montezuma, located in Summit County along the Continental Divide. The slide ripped out 100-year old trees, avalanche forecasters said, and disabled an electrical transmission line.

At Independence Pass, between Aspen and Leadville, the snowpack was the third highest since record keeping began in 1937. North of Steamboat, at Buffalo Pass, the snowfall accumulation was 200 inches deep, with 72 inches of water in that snowpack.

As remarkable as this seems, there are some strong parallels with 1995, a year in which spring snowstorms returned again and again - even into mid-June. Alighting from a ski lift that year at Arapahoe Basin, the astonished editor of a ski magazine turned to his companion and said: "These are mid-winter conditions!" It was June 15.

In the valleys, there are now worries about floods and mudslides. The last big year for floods and mudslides was in 1984. It was the second of two big snow years, and the ground was thoroughly saturated with moisture.

The most significant mudslides that year were in the Vail area. One of them blubbered onto Interstate 70 just west of Vail, closing the highway for two days. Another mudslide, in the old mining town of Red Cliff, also located near Vail, threatened to take out several houses. Mudslides even did damage in Vail.

Afterward, an early warning system was installed in Red Cliff to warn residents below if the mud was headed their way. Jersey barriers, the waist-high concrete blocks you see along roads, were also installed to divert the muck. West of Vail, pipes were inserted deep into the adjoining slopes of Meadow Mountain to draw away moisture.


(Small) home market on rebound

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.-Conventional wisdom has been that the new market for real estate will embrace smaller homes. That's what a developer has in mind in Steamboat Springs. Charlie Sher has pulled building permits for two 2,400-square-foot spec homes in the community's older section.

"My program is to build homes that would work for families of any age: a retired couple or a couple with kids. They're two stories, have two-car garages, and the option of having an office or a fourth bedroom," he told the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He's planning to deliver the product by summer of 2012, and with a price point of around $900,000 to $1 million.


400-sq.ft. houses?

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. - As it now stands in Gunnison County, the minimum size for a house is 600 square feet. That goes against the grain of a new movement, which sees value in smaller houses, some as small as 65 square feet. Should Gunnison County loosen the restrictions and allow houses of, say, 400 square feet?

The Crested Butte News reports plenty of discussion at a recent meeting of planning commissioners, but little compelling reason to change. Just one property owner has sought a waiver from the house-size minimum.


March strong for real estate

VAIL, Colo.  - March was a good month for real estate sales in Eagle County, the fourth busiest in the last 27 months since the hyperventilating real-estate market went into a coma.

Land Title Guarantee Co. reports the most vigorous activity in the very high and low ends. Some high-end residential in Vail had a selling price of $2,526. But nearly a fifth of all transactions were sales by banks, and those units averaged $172 per square foot.

Assessments down

EAGLE, Colo. - Eagle County Assessor Mark Chapin usually hears from homeowners protesting that the county valued their property too high, thus increasing their taxes. But with the new assessments, reflecting values of the last two years, some property owners are complaining that he was too low.

In fact, real estate prices tumbled badly during the Great Recession. No news there. But the assessments being released by county officials more clearly show the roller-coaster trends in resort communities.

In Gypsum, located 37 miles west of Vail, home prices have dropped around 45 per cent in the last two years. In Avon, at the foot of Beaver Creek, they're down 34 per cent. And in Vail, 24 per cent, reports the Vail Daily.

In the adjoining Roaring Fork Valley, similar trends were noted in Aspen and its down-valley suburbs. In Aspen itself, values were down 20 to 30 per cent. But down-valley at Basalt, prices in some locations had dropped by up to 60 per cent, reports The Aspen Times.


Lots of interest

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. - By reputation, Holy Cross Energy is perhaps the most progressive electrical cooperative in Colorado, maybe the nation. It delivers electricity reliably and inexpensively while starting to shift toward cleaner sources.

Yet this year, there are nine candidates for the two board of directors' seats from the Vail, Aspen and Glenwood Springs area. In recent years, there were never more than two or three candidates per slot, and not even that many in years prior.

What gives? Auden Schendler, who represents the Aspen Skiing Co. in environmental matters, said he is taking a low profile in soliciting and promoting candidates, unlike the past several elections. Randy Udall, an energy activist and analyst (and this year a candidate), said he's unclear why there is so much interest. At $600 a month, the financial incentive isn't compelling, he pointed out.

Maybe, with the slowed economy, people believe they have the extra time to devote to energy matters.

Yet to be seen is whether residents who get their energy from Holy Cross bother to vote. Most years, the turnout rate has been just 10 per cent, far less than the normal figure of 50 per cent for local town elections. Holy Cross officials said they'd be delighted if 20 to 25 per cent of people put their ballots in the mail.


Mine opening covers a must

PARK CITY, Utah - Park City has enacted a law that requires owners of larger land parcels to plug openings in the ground, most commonly old mine tunnels.

A city official tells The Park Record that several dozen openings will likely be addressed as a result of the new law. Twice in recent years old mine openings have resulted in mishaps. In one case, a skier at Deer Valley had to make his way out of depression after the snow gave way above a long-abandoned mine tunnel. In another case, a dog had to be rescued from a tunnel opening.


Allen Best can be found at