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Ice skaters denied access into the U.S.

Compiled by Allen Best KETCHUM, Idaho — Enough is enough, says the Idaho Mountain Express, after Olympic gold-medal ice skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier were denied admission into the United States.

Compiled by Allen Best

KETCHUM, Idaho — Enough is enough, says the Idaho Mountain Express, after Olympic gold-medal ice skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier were denied admission into the United States. The pair were travelling from British Columbia to perform at the Sun Valley Resort.

The U.S. immigration official at the border said the pair lacked proper work papers and hence could not continue travelling to perform at Sun Valley. The INS "surely knew the celebrated skaters were regulars on the U.S. ice show circuit and could have used discretion in allowing them to continue to Sun Valley to perform while paper shufflers figured out the error," said the paper.

Banff, Canmore up the ante

CANMORE, Alberta — Hotels and other service-oriented businesses in the Banff-Canmore area are upping the ante in an effort to retain employees.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook points to Canmore’s Drake Inn, which this year purchased a house to accommodate employees. As well, employees are regularly given tickets to see the Calgary Flames. Another upscale hotel, the Rimrock, also offers reduced-rate ski packages as well as day-long hikes and tours as a way of drawing workers into the valley’s lifestyle. This is in contrast with the former policy, which was to require employees to relinquish half of their tips until the end of their six-month term. But that strategy failed to hold employees.

Meanwhile, Caribou Properties, which owns a number of hotels, restaurants, and commercial buildings in Banff, believes that making new employees feel like they are part of something bigger is the real secret to retaining employees. "As a company we try to explain to our employees that they can build a career here and do quite well," said Justin Burwach, director of finance for Caribou. "We focus on things that make Banff a community."

Caribou renovated a 20-unit condo complex, offering to sell the condos to employees, matching whatever down-payment the buyer could make. Three employees took advantage of the offer.

"If they put down $20,000 we would match that, and they wouldn't have to repay anything for 10 years," says Burwash. "The idea was that after 10 years there would be enough equity built up that they could just go back to the bank and pay it back."

Bush attittudes

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Like most ski towns, Crested Butte is decidedly liberal in its politics. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are names all heavy with pejorative connotations. Just the same, a local resident says the towns people, with displays of "prejudice, intolerance, superiority and hypocrisy," aren’t doing much better.

"I was reminded of hypocrisy the other night at a gathering of friends," wrote Caith Norton in a letter published in the Crested Butte News. "At one point a person explicated on how anorexic looking an acquaintance was, while not 5 minutes later another person exclaimed how horrified they were by a friend’s weight gain, commenting that ‘her arms flap while she points at something.’"

Gay black men, unsightly legs, inferior mountain-bike riding abilities – in a number of ways, she said, the locals are passing self-righteous judgments that she compared to the Bush administration’s attitudes toward other countries and peoples.

Vietnam vets vow not again

ASPEN, Colo. — It may be too soon to draw parallels between the Iraq and Vietnam wars, but nonetheless the 60 Vietnam War vets who live in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley say they are determined not to let the new generation of warriors get the same humiliation and isolation they did.

"I didn’t talk about Vietnam for 20 years, said Janis Nark, a Snowmass Village resident who served as a nurse in 1970-71. "Nobody wanted to hear about it. I was in the dark."

Bob Perigo, of Carbondale, told The Aspen Times, that he had trouble adjusting to life with co-workers and couldn’t hold a job. Some questioned whether he had been killing babies, and he reacted in anger. "That’s not a real rosy part of my past, but nobody knew what I was going through."

Dan Glidden, an Aspen native who is now a police officer there, said he felt ignored after turning to Aspen. "It’s hard to deal with… tough to deal with," Glidden told the Times. "You’ve done something that you thought was right and nobody seems to care."

Gunnison follows the stars

GUNNISON, Colo. — The money is there. Government permission has been granted. Now all that remains is building the observatory on the outskirts of Gunnison that will house a 30-inch Cassegrain, the largest research telescope in Colorado.

The idea came about three years ago, reports the Crested Butte News, as a couple of local business owners brainstormed about how to stimulate the economy. Star-watching – something people in cities can’t do very easily – came to mind easily enough.

Winter Park retooling for beginners

WINTER PARK, Colo. — In getting the contract to manage the Winter Park ski area, Intrawest promised to spend $50 million in the first decade in capital improvements. So far, the company is holding true to that pledge and then a little.

The resort this summer will be spending $4 million, bringing the two-year total to $11 million. Much of the work this year is intended to better accommodate beginner skiers. Among other changes, reports the Winter Park Manifest, a ski jumping hill that had launched several Olympics is being displaced by a couple of long Magic Carpet rides.

"The big effort in the skiing industry now is getting more people to try the sport, and to get a better retention rate," said Gary LaFrange, general manager at Winter Park. "The competition among resorts for the beginning skier is fierce."

Intrawest expects to have initial plans for its new base-area real estate development ready for public inspection later this year. Using existing features, the project will be keyed around the themes of water and railroads.

Four-letter word used

WOLF CREEK PASS, Colo. – Some people are using a four-letter word to describe what Red McCombs, owner of the Minnesota Vikings, has in mind for the base of the Wolf Creek Ski Area.

That four-letter word is Vail, as in "Vail-sized city." McComb’s development company has 287 acres on which he wants to build 2,172 housing units and 12 restaurants, several hotels, and a convention centre, among other things.

Actually, that doesn’t even come close to describing the size of Vail, nor a Telluride, a Crested Butte or even a Winter Park. All are much bigger. But it’s entirely different from what is found now at the base of the ski area, which is to say nothing. Skiers, even the destination types from Texas and Oklahoma, drive up from towns at the foot of the pass.

The Durango Telegraph describes a storm of controversy over the project, McCombs got the property in 1989 in a land-exchange with the Forest Service. Forest Service employees in Colorado didn’t want the land exchange, but were overruled by officials in Washington D.C.

In wildlife matters, as is true of real estate, it’s a matter of location, location, location. With that in mind, environmental activists say it’s a rotten place to build a town, because it’s on a corridor that connects two wilderness areas that serve as wildlife preserves. Add up the remote location, the 10,300-foot elevation (higher even than Breckenridge) and the harsh climate (Wolf Creek almost always gets more snow than any other ski area in Colorado), and the proposal does not make financial sense, says Colorado Wild’s Jeff Berman.

For unspecified reasons, the Forest Service remains involved and is now doing an environmental impact statement that activists say is improperly being fast-tracked.

Warming could draw crowds

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont. — As the climate warms, vegetation will shift, and in response so will the mammals that depend upon that vegetation. Scientists report this is already happening, with species generally moving northward while breeding and flowering more early in the year.

But what will happen eventually in the U.S. national parks? That picture was the goal of a study reported recently in Yale’s Journal of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. The researchers chose eight parks, from Acadia in Maine to Big Bend in Texas, but also including Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Glacier.

Scientists cautiously predict an influx of new species. "They’re moving northward and into parks," said Oswald Schmitz, professor of population and community ecology. "But the species that were in the parks, especially in the northern parks, aren’t leaving those parks and going even farther north. So this migration crowds species much more. If you measure things only in terms of biodiversity, yes, it’s going to be fantastic but we don’t know what affect the crowding will have."

Schmitz used the analogy of human migration during the Great Depression, when waves of people fled to cities, putting pressure on social services, housing and jobs. "If we have those same kinds of pressure in the parks, we’re going to see extinctions precipitated by these influxes," he said. Even though biodiversity goes up for a while, eventually the pressure gets heavy. Mammals may distribute on the landscape, but it’s the interaction that ensues once these animals have redistributed that would lead to their ultimate demise.

As well, the researchers warn that the potential exists for the spread of Lyme and other animal-borne diseases into new areas.

"But that may be a conservative prediction," says Schmitz. "Less predictable indirect effects of climate change could increase the toll beyond that found in this study… There’s no guarantee the ecosystem won’t simply collapse."

While plants and animals have adapted to climate change before, the problem is the rate of change. "Animal and plant species don’t have enough evolutionary time to adapt," he said.

The profound changes we're currently experiencing, he said, began only 150 or so years ago, with the dawn of the Industrial Age.

"People are not thinking about the world their grandchildren are going to inherit," said Schmitz. "That's the time scale we need to think about. When I talk about global warming to undergraduates, I tell them, ‘I will be dead long before CO2 fully doubles. But toward the end of your life you are going to realize that your children are going to be stuck right in the middle of this kind of environment.’ Their eyes bulge, because they realize their actions today really can have an impact on their future."

This year’s cooler, wetter

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Weather in much of the West was cool and wet during June, dramatically unlike the 90 degree weather that characterized summer’s start for the last several years.

But cooler and wetter is more "normal" than the hot and dry, meteorologist Jim Woodmency told the Jackson Hole News and Guide. "This May and June were closer to what it’s normally like," he said. "It’s all those warmer Mays and Junes we remember because we just had three or four of them in a row. That’s abnormal."

In fact, July 4 th in 1993 was decidedly wet, with snow common in ski towns across the West. The Tetons got a full foot out of that storm and seven feet during the month of July that year.

Sheriff may charge for search & rescues

PARK CITY, Utah — Officials in Summit County are considering whether to begin charging people when search-and-rescue crews are summoned. The Summit County Sheriff allocates $100,000 each year to help pay expenses for the search team, even though members are volunteers.

The sheriff, Dave Edmunds, told The Park Record that he had not made up his mind whether to charge. If he does, said Edmunds, he’d spare charges for local residents.

Charges are already levied in searches in Grand County, where Moab is located. Search teams also benefit from a state-wide fund collected from a surtax on boats and off-highway vehicles, but the total amount is relatively small, $150,000.

In general, rescue groups frown deeply on the idea of charging for searches, believing that it might cause people to not summon help when they really need it. However, searchers increasingly say they are being called when no help is really needed, or that friends of those lost in the backcountry sometimes insist on extra and expensive tools, such as helicopters, to retrieve somebody with a broken ankle. In those cases, searchers are now inclined to pass on the cost.

Crested Butte getting gussied for prime time

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.–With new owners at the ski area and the real estate slump over, things are happening at Crested Butte.

On the mountain, new owners Tim and Diane Mueller are investing $6.5 million in what is described as a "cosmetic overhaul" of the mountain. There’s one new lift, servicing a new real estate subdivision, some improved lifts for access to the mountain’s extreme terrain, and a smidgeon of new intermediate terrain. As well, the paint brushes seem to be out.

With deeper pockets than the former owners, the Calloway and Walton families, the Muellers intend to open the ski area earlier and keep it operating longer. This year, the ski area will open before Thanksgiving, a sharp contrast to the last several years, where the ski area either did not charge for skiing during early season or waited until just before Christmas.

In the longer term, Crested Butte sees a large part of its salvation being a new ski area, separated only from the existing ski area by the town of Mt. Crested Butte. That ski area, nicknamed Snodgrass Lite, because it is smaller than what was originally proposed, would give Crested Butte substantially more intermediate terrain, which the resort currently lacks in quantity. The idea is that the new terrain will offer a destination skier enough variety to hold their interest for more than a couple of days.

Meanwhile, work is beginning on two major real estate projects that will raise the bar of cost, size, and quality. In one project, called WestWall, developers from the Vail Valley are building the sort of project found at Beaver Creek and other high-dollar resorts. Something of the same thing is occurring at Prospect, a collection of single-family homes where lot prices are approaching $1 million.

Idahoans splintered by half-a-loaf wilderness plan

KETCHUM, Idaho — Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson says his plan for the public lands north of Ketchum are a compromise. But the Idaho Mountain Express calls it a sellout to political convenience.

The plan in question would designate 294,000 acres of federal land as wilderness, but the wilderness would be splintered by a network of motorized trails. As well, Simpson proposes to give some land to Custer County, located north of the mountains at issue, with the goal of giving the county an economic shot in the arm.

But the motorized component seems to be what is drawing fire. Some 200 people showed up at a meeting in Ketchum, including singer-songwriter Carole King, to protest too little wilderness and too many motors. They also oppose state management of federal lands.

"You need to put yourself in other people’s shoes for a while," said Rep. Simpson. "That’s what I’ve done, and it’s changed the way I look at it."

But Ketchum resident Deborah Kronenberg said if she can’t get there on her own two feet, she won’t go. "It’s enough to know it’s there. The backcountry is not just about human use." And, she added, "it’s not wilderness if it’s cut by motorized corridors."

A representative of motorized users saw it another way. He pointed out that 10 per cent of Idaho is dedicated as wilderness already, and that’s too much. "We’ve given in to wilderness all too often," he said.

In an editorial, the Express ballyhooed Simpson’s plea for compromise. "The problem is that there are compromises, and there are sellouts that masquerade as compromises," said the paper. "If President Abraham Lincoln had sold out in the name of constitutional compromise, black Americans would still be slaves."

Any real compromise, said the paper, was "consumed long ago by America’s torrid love affair with the gasoline engine. Areas today that have not felt the peel of a spinning wheel are tiny, tiny remnants of what was once wild and untouched country."

Mountain caribou herds at Revelstoke declining

REVELSTOKE, B.C. — Woodland caribou herds in the Revelstoke area are imperilled, says former mayor Gail Bernacki, who chairs the Revelstoke Caribou Recovery Committee.

Two years ago several biologists warned that mountain caribou in B.C. have declined rapidly and that the species was at risk if drastic steps were not soon taken. In response, several recovery groups were created, and timber cutters and snowmobile groups have tried to reduce human intrusion into local caribou feeding areas. But little else has happened, Bernacki told the Revelstoke Times Review. A recent census shows a continued decline of 11 per cent a year.

Mirror mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest…

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — It’s kind of like one of those "Best Places in America" to live that the various business and lifestyle magazines put out periodically. This time, however, the study came out of a college in Colorado.

And when all the numbers had been crunched, Pitkin County and Aspen were tops in the recreation category, while Jackson Hole had the highest-quality public lands. "Positioned as a gateway to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park and at the base of the world-renowned Jackson Hole ski resort, it is difficult to imagine a better place for the outdoor enthusiast as second-home owner."

The study, which was created by Colorado College, had top-10 lists in dozens of categories, not all of them beauty contests. The underlying premise was not all that startling: money follows natural beauty and cultural and other amenities.