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Mountain News:

Three governments pool funds to hire sustainability boss

TELLURIDE, Colo. — The towns of Telluride and Mountain Village, along with San Miguel County, are hiring a sustainability co-ordinator while also planning to hook up with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.

The group is to develop a "sustainability inventory," which is supposed to help local decision makers maintain the "integrity of their natural resources over the long term, promote a prosperous economy, and create a vibrant, equitable society."

What exactly does sustainability mean? Art Goodtimes, a county commissioner, points to two definitions. A United Nations report defined it as "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Writing in The Telluride Watch, Goodtimes points out that this definition is similar to the Seven Generations principle – that the decisions of today should take into account the well-being of the next seven generations.

The big election spenders

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — When it comes to big money and politics, no place — resorts or otherwise — comes close to Jackson Hole.

Jonathon Schechter, writing for the Jackson Hole News & Guide, reports that people in Teton County last year gave a combined $2.13 million to candidates and political organizations. This works out to be $114 for every man, woman, and child in the county.

As you might expect in the home turf of Vice President Dick Cheney, who has a home in Jackson Hole, Republicans were the greater beneficiary of the largesse, getting $1.08 million as compared to the $867,000 given to Democrats. This is despite the fact that in voting, Democrats had a strong edge from local to national elections this year in Jackson County.

Not even Aspen and Pitkin County, the second in line, came close to this kind of electioneering. The per capita donation in Pitkin County was $84. Way down the list were Telluride and San Miguel County, at $33 per person, followed by San Juan in Washington State and Blaine County (Sun Valley/Ketchum) in Idaho at about $23, and Eagle County (Vail/Beaver Creek) at $21.

Further yet down the list, behind several resort areas in Massachusetts and Florida, were the two Summit counties, in Utah and Colorado, at about $10 per capita, and Routt County (Steamboat) Colorado at about $5.

Looking at it a little differently, in terms of places where contributions were of more than $200, the chart is somewhat different. There, the Vail crowd looks more impressive, although still trailing the Aspen and Jackson Hole big-spenders.

Women catching men?

SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. — Some think female skiers are catching up with the guys. Case in point: Ingrid Backstrom authoritatively skied a 1,500-foot shot in three turns at Bella Coola, B.C., bettering the six-turn run on the steep slope a year before by Shane McConkey.

If female skiers keep improving as they have, comments the Tahoe World, to be told that they ski like men will no longer be considered a compliment.

Construction on the rise

ASPEN, Colo. — Not surprisingly, given the giant rebound of the real estate market, construction is on the rise at resort towns across the West.

In Aspen building permits for $116 million in construction were awarded last year, up from the prior year. Among the projects was a major downtown hotel and extensive renovation of another.

But Aspen’s construction rebound paled in comparison to sibling rival Vail, where $155 million in permits were awarded last year, a new record that bested the old record set in 2003. Various projects that altogether amount to $1 billion in redevelopment and development projects are getting underway in Vail. Town officials would not be surprised if building permits for more than $200 million in construction are pulled this year.

Elsewhere in Colorado, the numbers were smaller but the changes potentially more drastic. In Pagosa Springs, between Durango and the Wolf Creek ski area, the population has remained fairly stable for the past decade, despite some of the most extensive second-home development in Colorado in adjacent areas.

But Pagosa’s population could increase 37 per cent given the new development plans recently submitted to town officials. Meanwhile, the town continues to study the big picture, studying whether it wants to accept a Wal-Mart Supercenter, and if so, under what terms, reports the Pagosa Sun.

In Utah, Park City recorded $96 million of construction last year, behind only two boom years during the 1990s. About half was for single-family homes. Much of the construction was at Empire Pass, adjoining Deer Valley Resort. However, commercial construction was down.

In Jackson Hole, the building pace lagged what might have been expected. The total for permits was behind those of 1994 and the 1998-2000 span. One architect, Steve Dynia, said that people building high-end homes took a more sober approach to projects than what was seen in the past, a time characterized by the Jackson Hole News & Guide as a time of "damn-the-cost clients."

In California, the Mammoth Times reports construction of 600 new housing units is expected to get underway this year, making it one of the most development-intensive years ever.

Skier culture clash

PARK CITY, Utah — Quoting the American Alpine Institute, The New York Times reports that backcountry skiing is now growing three to five times more rapidly that the traditional downhill sport.

But, says the newspaper, "there is a deep culture clash at the heart of this new phenomenon. Many people who identify themselves as backcountry skiers – knowledgeable about the risk, trained in survival skills, and never without an electronic homing device to help people find them if they are buried by snow – look with barely concealed disdain at what they call the ‘out of bounds’ skier, who simply rides the chairlift up, disregards the warming signs, and ducks under the rope."

The newspaper visited Park City in the wake of an avalanche that left one snowboarder dead on a slope adjacent to The Canyons ski area. The victim, a male, was statistically predictable. Of the 629 people killed by avalanches in the United States since 1950, 90 per cent were males.

But could the ski industry itself be partly responsible for some of the recent deaths? That was the vague suggestion of the story, which noted the image of a "solo skier or snowboarder cutting virgin racks through the deep powder on a steep mountain slope has become a signature and symbol of the Western tourism industry – heady with its mixture of freedom, beauty and rugged individualism."

In the case at Park City, The Times found a local skier who said he believes most of the people who leave the ski area going through the backcountry gate believed they were merely extending the resort experience.

No more free parking

MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — The days of free parking for skiers will probably end at the Crested Butte ski area. Major expansions are planned for both the ski area and the real estate at its base in hopes of attracting more destination skiers, and in this makeover the space for cars will become more expensive. Some 1,000 parking spaces are to be built, many of them underground, but at a construction cost of $25,000 per space. However, the freebie will continue for a couple of winters more, reports the Crested Butte News.

A magazine for givers

ASPEN, Colo. — Swift, the large publishing chain that dominates Colorado’s I-70 and the Lake Tahoe region, is expanding. In recent weeks it has purchased a free-circulation daily newspaper in Grand Junction and announced plans to get into the magazine publishing business in Aspen.

Based in Reno, Nev., the newspaper already owns several dozen newspapers, mostly in resort areas of the West. In Colorado’s high country, it has a virtual monopoly on the lucrative Breckenridge-Vail-Glenwood Springs-Aspen area.

In its latest acquisitions, Swift purchased the Grand Junction Free Press, which was started about two years ago by John Duffy, a veteran of several newspapers in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. The Free Press competes with the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, another chain newspaper. The Sentinel’s publisher, George Orbanek, several years ago dismissed the potential for a competing newspaper from the resort areas by saying that the areas were just too different. Grand Junction people, he said, saw the world differently than people in resort areas.

In the latest news, Swift is planning a magazine called the Aspen Philanthropist. Although Aspen already has three lifestyle-based magazines, this won’t be one of them, insists Kate Carey, who will be publisher. The Roaring Fork Valley, where Aspen is located, has 300 non-profit organizations.

And what is the point of the magazine – other than to make a profit at the expense of non-profits? "This magazine is going to be quite different (than the lifestyle magazines)," said Carey "It’s all about the giving, caring side of Aspen. To me, what’s fascinating is what motivates someone to be a philanthropist, whether it’s time or assets. This is not a lifestyle magazine."

The new magazine is to be published twice yearly, with a projected size of 144 pages. Both patrons and the non-profits are to be profiled. The magazine will be distributed in offices of asset management companies, banks, accountants, attorneys, and physicians. It will also be included in a gift bag given to passengers on each charter jet flight and to private jet owners at Pitkin County’s Sardy Field. It is being assembled by Erney Ashley, a veteran of publishing for 35 years in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Meanwhile, three more radio stations are expected to begin broadcasting in Aspen’s market areas, if not necessarily Aspen itself. Radio stations in Basalt, Carbondale, and New Castle, all located within about 60 miles of Aspen, are planned, reports The Aspen Times.

January second snowiest

SILVERTON, Colo. — With 10 days yet to go, the Silverton Standard declared January to be the second snowiest on record.

"Silverton’s snowfall is now only slightly behind the epic, nearly mythical winter of 1951-52, when, in the words of one old-timer, ‘We had to throw the snow up to shovel it off of the roofs,’" the newspaper reported.

The early January storm left 50 inches in Silverton, but nearby passes recorded 65.5 and 58 inches of snow. Because of concerns about avalanches, one of those passes, the notorious Red Mountain Pass, was closed for 158 hours, or more than six days, during the storm cycle.

While there was some grousing about the state highway department closing the highway so often, the Standard observed that nobody died and nobody really came close to being hurt.

No guarantee of water purity

FAIRPLAY, Colo. — The old joke in the headwaters counties of Colorado used to be, "Be sure to flush, because Los Angeles needs the water." But new evidence shows that being at the headwaters doesn’t remove you from tainted water.

A U.S. Geological Survey analysis of water in Colorado for hundreds of chemicals revealed the expected, pollution in down-stream areas near Denver, but also high up in mountain valleys. For example, water wells in the Fairplay area, where the elevation is 10,000 feet, contained chemicals such as nonylphenol. The chemical comes from detergents and has been linked to fish with dual sexual organs. Scientists suggested the chemicals in the water wells come from neighboring septic systems.

Lori Sprague, the chief author of the study, told reporters that none of the concentrations found in Colorado exceed the regulatory limit, "but we don’t know what the human health impacts are."

‘Epitome of ski culture’ dies

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Brent "Newt" Newton, described as the epitome of the ski culture, died while skiing at Jackson Hole. He had previously lived in Durango, Breckenridge, and Steamboat Springs.

Carving up the 16 inches of fresh snow at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Newton launched from a 50-foot rock buttress. In landing he created a large crater that collapsed the snow around his head. Although skiers rushed to dig him out, with ski patrollers right behind, he was pronounced dead at the bottom of the ski hill. The county corner said he died of suffocation due to collapse lungs and a blow to the head.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide explains that Newton had been living in Durango in the late 1980s when he became part of a group of hardcore skiers and mountain bikers known as the "Rad Pack." He lived in Steamboat from 1988 to 1994, where he was known for his fondness for mogul skiing, even competing briefly on the pro mogul tour. A friend in Steamboat, John Stritt, described Newton as "someone who knew no boundaries, and if he did, he’d challenge them."

With a girlfriend (who later became a wife), he move to Jackson Hole in 1997, with a goal of skiing as much as they could. He worked 60 hours a week during summer to spend his winters skiing. Lately, he became a committed family man, the father of two children, while working as a concierge and as a waiter. "Newt epitomized the ski culture," friend Rick Armstrong said. "He regarded skiing as a way of life and a way of family."

School numbers sliding

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Generation Xers, who you might call the rainshadow of the baby boom generation, are still being slackers when it comes to having kids in communities near ski towns.

The latest evidence comes from Hayden, a bedroom community for Steamboat, where local schools continue to report decline in enrolment despite no drop in overall population. The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports the district expects 20 fewer students next year, given projected kindergarten enrolment.

Hayden is losing people from the ranches and coal-mining sectors, where larger families were more common. Instead, the town is increasingly populated by professionals who work in Steamboat Springs and who have small families, if at all. While new housing is to be delivered starting at prices of $200,000, that’s still too expensive for many families.

A similar phenomenon has been reported broadly in ski towns and close-in suburbs. In the Aspen areas, for example, the only schools gaining in population are about 70 miles away.

Hazards of air travel

GUNNISON, Colo. — After trying rubber buckshot to keep animals off the runway at the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, airport officials will be looking for more sophisticated, or at least successful, methods.

In the past, a landing jet once hit a deer, while foxes and other animals, have also been a problem. The Federal Aviation Administration has offered to help build a larger fence on the airport perimeter, and the Crested Butte News reports that the FAA is providing $80,000 to pursue a wildlife research project and wildlife control plan. Just what the research project will include was not reported.

The biggest problem so far, however, was not wildlife, but a snowplow. In early January, the snowplow was traveling 40 to 60 mph on the airport taxiway when it clipped a Continental Airlines jet with 86 passengers on board. Visibility was poor, and the snowplow operator could not see the jet.

Protestors tote coffins

PARK CITY, Utah — Even as President George. W. Bush was about to hit the party circuit on the evening of his second inauguration, 30 candle-holding marchers hit the streets of Park City to protest his re-election and what they believe it represents. Several of the protestors carried make-shift coffins labeled "peace," "human rights," and "Social security".

Hailey going underground

HAILEY, Idaho — Hailey, a down-valley town from Ketchum and Sun Valley, is going underground. For the first time, a building is being planned that will include an underground parking garage. The garage will service both retail space on the ground level, office space on the second, and condominiums on the top floor.




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