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Mountain News:

Literary festival in Park City

PARK CITY, Utah — Literary festivals have become quite the thing in ski towns. The latest to sign up authors is Park City, where the literary festival is seen as a way of juicing up the September economy.

The 26 writers at this inaugural festival are nearly all from the West, mostly because it costs less to get them to Park City than writers from, for example, Boston. Among them is Jim Fergus, Victor Rivas Rivers, and Mark Spragg, whose book, "An Unfinished Life," has recently been made into a movie starring Robert Redford and Jennifer Lopez.

Spragg has a cabin near Montana’s Red Lodge, although he calls the town of Cody, Wyo., which is about 80 miles away, home. His parents had a dude ranch on the edge of Yellowstone National Park, but he always wanted to write novels. During the 1980s he had an unhappy and brief experience as a scriptwriter.

Speaking with an on-line publication called "BookPage," Spragg recalled snowshoeing from a remote cabin out to a pickup outfitted with chains, then driving to Cody and taking a prop plane to Denver and, eventually, to Los Angeles. There, he attended a script conference at the Disney studios.

"I remember walking down the boardwalk in Santa Monica," he said. "I hadn’t seen a human being out of wool and down for two or three months, and there would be these young women skating by in their bikinis. It was like landing on another planet."

"An Unfinished Life" is a story about the bitterness of an old man, living in isolation on a ranch outside of mythical Ishawooa, Wyo., and ultimately about forgiveness.

Engineering semi-backcountry

SNOWMASS Village, Colo. — The Aspen Skiing Co. gets straight A’s for its environmental actions from those keeping scorecards, but it’s getting marked down by some local reviewers for its plans to further develop the Snowmass ski area.

There, Aspen wants to thin about 500 acres of terrain on Burnt Mountain that is described by reviewers as having a decided backcountry feel. The result will be a semi-backcountry feel.

"I value Burnt Mountain more than I can tell you as a refuge, a piece of pristine solitude, peace and beauty so near," wrote one reviewer, Jim Stone, in a letter to the U.S Forest Service.

The flip argument presented by other letter-writers is that ski areas need more terrain for people who are not hard-core backcountry adventurers, but want a sort of backcountry experience. Also at issue is the impact to elk. Some say there will be no harm to elk, while others argue the impact is part of a broad trend that needs to be curbed.

How to build in bear habitat

CANMORE, Alberta — Three Sisters, the giant wellness-oriented resort project at Canmore, has gained approval from municipal officials for another 267 housing units – but not without protest.

The Canmore Leader reports that Bob Baille, a member of the council, argues that inadequate provision is being made for wildlife in the plans for Three Sisters. Baille grounded his dissent in the review of wildlife biologist Garry Hornbeck, who believes the plans that preclude housing within 220 metres of the nearest wildlife corridor are inadequate.

The existing wildlife plan inadequately fails to anticipate the potential for conflicts between bears and people. This area, he noted, is one of the most developed landscapes within the range of the species of grizzly bears. Ron Casey, mayor of Canmore, supported the subdivision plan, but said that provincial efforts to manage the bear-human interface have improved.

Chris Ollenberger, executive vice president of the Three Sisters development company, said the current wildlife plan is about as good as it gets. He said the recommendations of the town’s wildlife biologist, Hornbeck, are tantamount to shutting down the Bow Valley to any sort of human use. He made the distinction between no use and managed use.

Tensions rise in Jackson

JACKSON, Wyo. — Even before the rapes, tensions seemed to be rising in Jackson Hole. First, there was a story in the Jackson Hole News & Guide reporting five beatings administered by Hispanics.

Then, in late August, two women were assaulted by men in downtown Jackson at about 3 a.m. in what some reports indicated were rapes, implying penetration. Two suspects were publicly identified, although they were thought to be returning to Mexico, while police say they have two other suspects who had probably also fled.

The Jackson police chief, Scott Terry, warned that the news "doesn’t mean we have bands of Latinos running around town raping women." He said police belief the suspects have fled. He also said there are "no confirmed signs of gang activity." Gang experts were given photos of graffiti found in Jackson, but experts were unsure whether they were gang-related.

The cases have made the public apprehensive. A sporting good store manager said sale of pepper spray and whistles spiked. The newspaper reported occasional on-the-street remarks suggesting illegal Latinos be deported in mass, as occurred several years ago when they were corralled in horse trailers.

Latinos, meanwhile, responded to the news with a variety of emotions. Carmina Oaks, director of the Latino Resource Center in Jackson, said that for Latino residents, just like for whites, the crimes threatened their way of life and the security they hold dear. In Jackson Hole and adjoining areas, they have found good jobs, a safe place to raise families, and a community that is "very welcoming," she said. "They want to keep it that way for themselves."

Oaks estimated Jackson Hole’s population of Latinos at 3,500, while the bedroom community of Idaho’s Teton Valley, where Driggs is located, has another 1,500. Most are new to the area in the last 15 years, although much the same can also be said about Caucasians.

While many Latinos reached out to police, to seek to help identify the suspects, the police chief said others were reluctant to help. He attributed this to cultural differences, a fear of both police and immigration officers, and the language barrier.

The county sheriff, Bob Zimmer, said that of the 17 deputies on his patrol, about half speak passable Spanish. None have Latino heritage.

Meanwhile, school officials report 15 per cent of Jackson Hole public school students are Latino, while the school district in Driggs figures 25 per cent. Attending to the needs of English-as-a-second-language learner is an increasingly expensive proposition for schools.

Of special note is a new trend: 17-, 18- and 19-year-old Latinos wanting to attend school. Even if unable to graduate by age 21, they want to use the school experience to learn to speak English, reports Pam Shea, superintendent of schools in Jackson Hole.

Vandals alter signs

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Like many places, a home tour called Parade of Homes was held in Jackson Hole during August. In the dark of night, 40 "Parade of Homes" signs were stolen, and when dawn broke, many had been replaced by signs that said "Parade of Wealth."

Who did it and why? While many of the homes in the tour cost $1 million and far more, it’s not all about the high end. A tour organizer told the Jackson Hole News & Guide that the tour is about "showing the best of what’s being built in all price ranges." Proceeds from the home tour were earmarked for the local senior citizens’ centre.

Back by popular demand

JACKSON, Wyo. — Willie Nelson, the country musician, was back in Jackson Hole this summer, and presumably he had a better turnout than for his first show, which was in 1964.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide recounts how Nelson, who is now 72, then was short haired and beard-less, a song-writer largely unknown far beyond the country music industry. Only 20 people turned out for his first show in Jackson.

That changed in the 1970s, when he recorded the breakthrough album Red Headed Stranger . The next show had 501 people in the 500-person-capacity Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, and it can be presumed that every show since then attracted that or larger.

Search on for blood substitute

TELLURIDE, Colo. — For anybody who climbs mountains, the mechanism by which oxygen is delivered to the blood and hence the body’s muscles is of more than passing interest. It’s also of great interest to surgeons, who have long wanted an oxygen-carrying substitute for blood.

Dave A. Case, a senior scientist at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, tells the Telluride Watch that some blood substitutes are being used today, although in experimental applications.

The goal is to develop a blood substitute that can replace the oxygen carrying capability of real blood: loading oxygen rapidly to all organs, without side effects, and be compatible with all blood types. It also would best have a long shelf life, unlike the real stuff, which begins deteriorating after two weeks of storage and can last no more than 42 days. As well, it would ideally be inexpensive, unlike the cost of blood used for transfusions, which runs $500 per unit of 450 milligrams.

David Dreitlein, an emergency and high altitude medical doctor in Montrose, is keenly interested in blood substitutes for use in rural and remote substitutes. For example, he has worked as a rescue doctor in Pheriche, Nepal, which is located at an elevation of 14,600 feet.

A taste of Fiji

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Telluride’s Labour Day film festival is a big thing, attracting film critics and fans from afar as well as many Hollywood types. The water they are given to drink also comes a long ways – from the Fiji Islands, located in the South Pacific.

Why water at 9,000 feet in elevation that so recently was snow in the San Juan Mountains isn’t good enough is one good question. David Zutler has another question. He wonders why the film festival uses Fiji water, when it cold be using his Telluride-based product, Biota. Moreover, he said, his bottled water comes in biodegradable plastic containers (although how fast any containers biodegrade when they’re at the bottom of a landfill is another matter).

At any rate, the town council sympathized with Zutler when he asked for the council’s help, but refused to intercede between festival organizers and their vendors, reports The Telluride Watch.

Into the woods

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — Last spring Maribeth Gustafson arrived from Lake Tahoe to supervise the White River National Forest, one of the nation’s leading forests for recreation. The national forest sprawls from Keystone to Vail to Aspen. Altogether, there are 12 ski areas partially or totally within the forest.

Now, heads are rolling, or at least feet are moving. Gustafson is cutting 25 positions while creating 23 new ones. The goal, she told The Aspen Times, is to get more feet out in the field instead of bunched up in management positions.

Marriott wants to build

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — Fractional ownership condominiums has been the big story at burgeoning base-area real estate projects for the last several years. Now, buoyed by successes in Vail and Breckenridge, the Marriott Vacation Club International proposes 149 units at Keystone. The plan is for Marriott to buy the land from Vail and then extend the gondola at Keystone’s River Run base area, reports the Summit Daily News.

Lunch from the roof

BANFF, Alberta — Some roofers in Banff are also gardeners. The Banff Crag & Canyon reports that the town has several small terrace gardens on roofs. The roof-top gardens are planted to a depth of about six inches, with the soil being composed of peat moss, granulite, woodchips and compost. The soil must stay loose and light.

Roofs of soil cost $12 to $15 more per square foot ($10 to $12.50 US) than traditional roofs, but last longer, because they block penetration of ultraviolet rays. As well, they better control storm water drainage and provide replacement habitat for birds and butterflies and what not. In cities, such roof gardens can help cool heavily urbanized neighborhoods.

Ban on spring hunting of bears not cause of problem

ASPEN, Colo. — In 1992, Colorado voters banned the hunting of bears during spring, primarily because during that time sows are giving birth to cubs. Since then, however, interactions with people have been rising, with bears breaking into homes in the Aspen area almost daily last summer.

Sounds like an easy case of cause-effect, right?

Nonsense, wildlife biologists tell The Aspen Times. In fact, hunters are killing bears more now, even if just in fall.

In 1992, hunters across Colorado killed 479 black bears during the spring and fall hunting seasons. But from 1995 through 2004, the number of bears killed in the fall hunt was higher than it was in the years prior to the elimination of the spring hunt, peaking at 856 bears in 2002 – the peak drought year.

Wildlife officers contend that increased development of prime bear habitat is the major cause of the increased conflicts. With fewer food sources, bears go for easy pickings in town and around homes in rural areas, particularly in years when natural factors like a late frost or drought diminish crops of acorns and berries.

Silverton’s first school board election in years

SILVERTON, Colo. — Further evidence of Silverton’s rebound from the closing of the last mine in 1991 comes in the form of news about a school board election, the first in years. Five people are vying for three slots. The Silverton Standard reports 72 students this year, compared to 56 last year. On the other hand, the building boom that was projected for this year wasn’t exactly ear-shattering, says the paper.