Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Mountain News: Albertans, residents trade barbs in Invermere

INVERMERE, B.C. – Feathers seem to be ruffled in the resort area of Invermere, where the local newspaper, the Valley Echo, has had a lively exchange of letters.

INVERMERE, B.C. – Feathers seem to be ruffled in the resort area of Invermere, where the local newspaper, the Valley Echo, has had a lively exchange of letters. At issue seems to be whether people from Calgary produce good or bad when they visit Invermere and other resort towns in the Columbia River Valley.

“Your story blamed Albertans for tearing up the wilderness with their ATVs but then went on to say they didn’t know who owned these vehicles because they weren’t licensed,” complained Eileen Diemeret, who splits time between Calgary and the western slope hamlet of Edgewater.

People from Calgary and Alberta were not solely to blame for melting the glaciers, causing housing prices to skyrocket, and degrading the environment, she said.

“This is not Alberta’s or any other province’s ‘playground,’” responded a full-time local, Venessa Kelly.

She said the “beef is with the part-time residents who come here thinking they own the whole town. They come in to our shops and restaurants, let their children be unruly, and then are rude to the staff. After which, they slap their money down, expecting to buy our respect,” she says.

Too, there’s some sort of quarrel about population. “In such a crowded world we all need to get along with our neighbours,” writes the part-timer from Calgary. “The last I heard we all had the freedom to live, play and pray wherever we chose in Canada.”

Responded the local, “You choose to live in a crowded city; we choose to live in a small, quiet town.”


Minger worries about Vail

STEAMBOAT SPIRNGS, Colo. – Mountain resort towns are famously self-preoccupied, worried about the good life dissipating into some form of purgatory.

This anguished fretting is clearly evident in Steamboat Springs, which is girding for major changes. Massive amounts of money are to be invested in base area redevelopment. The old main street, Lincoln Avenue, is also changing rapidly.

That this was going to someday happen was clear enough 10 and even 20 years ago. At some point, baby boomers were going to have lots of money, and they would want to spend it in places away from cities but with good restaurants, bike paths and all the other amenities.

The New York Times, in a front-page story on Monday, examined a corollary shift, that of the so-called lone eagles settling into mountain resort towns of the West. It used Steamboat as its focal point.

Also on Monday, Steamboat hosted a session about the dynamics of growth in resort communities. Among those speaking was Terry Minger, who was Vail’s second town manager, from 1968 to 1979.

Minger told the Steamboat Pilot & Today that he is not offended by fears in Steamboat that it will become like Vail. There are fair criticisms of the growth of Vail, and that both Aspen and Vail failed to address community housing and transportation soon enough.

But he said that as Steamboat grows, it is crucial that the community articulate its desires. Too often, he said, communities get stuck on seeing what they don’t want to be, without articulating what they want to be.

He sees a fine future for Steamboat. “This hand-wringing is a healthy sign,” said Minger, who also had a hand in developing Whistler and now is involved in development of a major project in Canmore.

But he doesn’t detect the same level of zeal in Vail, and that worries him. Vail, he explained, has too large a proportion of the population who don’t stay long, or don’t vote because they are only temporary residents. “You erode your democracy a little bit,” Minger said. “I worry about Vail.”

Minger said Steamboat will fail only if it lets growth run rampant or tries to shut off growth entirely.

Also speaking at the session was Harry Frampton, managing principal in Beaver Creek-based East West Partners, and who is involved with development in several mountain resort areas, including Vail, Park City, and Truckee-Tahoe, plus Breckenridge and, for a brief time, Steamboat Springs.


Vail holding its own

VAIL, Colo. –Vail’s International Dance Festival ended last weekend, and again there was broad acclaim. The dance troupe was a new one called Morphose, which connoisseurs of dance likened to something of a dream team — if one that seems not to have practiced together.

Since its founding in 1962, Vail has been better known for its brawn than its brains. Aspen, in contrast, had its feet anchored firmly both in high-brow culture and skiing since its post World War II reinvention as a resort.

Yet without diminishing the cultural offerings of Aspen-Snowmass, which even now remains more intellectual and cutting edge, Vail now holds its own — and, as in the case of the summer dance and classical-music festival, then some.

This transition has occurred during the last 20 years. First, a partial canopy at Ford Amphitheater was replaced, one of several multi-million-dollar improvements in the key summer venue. Despite the occasional bleat from nearby Interstate 70, some fine-arts critics have called it possibly the best outdoor performing venue in Colorado.

Somewhat separately, an effort in the 1980s yielded a music festival called Bravo! Colorado. The festival stumbled a bit, but fairly quickly got legs under it — including the philanthropy of wealthy patrons. The festival has grown steady and now includes residencies by the nation’s most renowned orchestras, including the New York, Rochester, Dallas and Philadelphia philharmonics and the National Repertory Orchestra.

Aspen also has a music festival that draws among the best musical students in the land — students who may well aspire to these orchestras that perform in Vail.

Vail’s dance festival has also grown. A giant step, if somewhat a false one, occurred in the 1990s when it drew the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Those knowledgeable about ballet wrinkled their noses, because these were the students of the Bolshoi, which is not even considered the best ballet company in Russia. Nonetheless, with that well-known name in the marquee, patrons arrived in droves. The festival has built upon those successes and now, according to knowledgeable sources, is quite possibly the best dance festival in the world.

What does it take to assemble such cultural offerings? Lots of hotels willing to devote many rooms to the effort. Plus, the festivals require the ability to tap the wealth of second-home owners and wealthy retirees. Partly because of that benevolence, more or less average-income residents of the Vail area can attend, if not necessarily with front-row seats.

Vail or Aspen? Aspen has more politicians, scientists and authors. But Vail during summer holds it own.


Who bought The Canyons?

PARK CITY, Utah – Recriminations continue in the case of a ski resort in Park City where two big-league developers, Vail Resorts and Talisker Corp., are legally jousting for The Canyons.

The current owner of the ski area is American Skiing, the skiing chain that at one time owned resorts from Appalachia to the Sierra Nevada. The company was always on shaky ground, despite the success of individual resorts such as Steamboat. Now, with sale of The Canyons, the company will be no more.

Vail Resorts bid $95 million for it, but Talisker — which is developing real estate at Deer Valley, another ski area at Park City — bid $100 million — the bid awarded by American Skiing. Vail Resorts has sued, and announced belatedly that it was offering $110 million.

“Disingenuous,” responded Steve Gruber, chairman of the board for American Skiing, in a letter obtained by The Park Record. He claims Vail Resorts manipulated journalists.

Complicating the story are two other players, who are also involved in lawsuits. One of those protagonists owns a portion of the land used by The Canyons.


Telluride calls for impeachment

TELLURIDE, Colo. – To the surprise of exactly nobody, the Telluride Town Council has passed, on second reading, an ordinance calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

At issue was the question of whether the council would adopt the ordinance that had been submitted to it or send it to voters for resolution. That is the mechanism stipulated by the town charter. The general thinking was that the outcome was a foregone conclusion anyway, and in the meantime Telluride would have to endure the abuse of the Bush supporters.

Even one of the more conservative council members, Stu Fraser, said he was infuriated by the name-calling and threats against Telluride posted on the town’s website.

Perhaps the most interesting take on the debate came from Ed Quillen, a mountain town resident who writes a column for The Denver Post.

“What do we owe tourists, anyway? Service, but not servility,” he wrote. “We ought to make it clear that if people want to visit sanitized non-political little towns, they ought to stay out of our mountains and go to Main Street USA in Anaheim, Calif., where there are no citizens with opinions on the issues of the day, but instead just Disney employees in costume.”


New quads eyed

VAIL, Colo. – It was 22 years ago this November that high-speed detachable quad lifts débuted at Vail. Very few of the now old-fashioned fixed-grip lifts remain on the mountain, but one of those is Chair 5, located in Vail’s signature Back Bowls.

Lift lines there can be extraordinary on powder days. There has always been some grousing about the 45-minute waits. But others see the lift lines as an acceptable trade-off. Without them, the powder just gets skied off that much sooner.

“There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time on a chairlift to meet your neighbour,” says Howard Leavitt, a 32-year resident of the Vail area. “People are just so into instant gratification. That’s not what the sport is all about.”

But Vail Associates, the ski area operator, has now decided it’s time for change. The Vail Daily says the company hopes to get the old three-seater changed out with a four-seater quad within one to three years.

The newspaper reports that in the decade ahead, the ski company also plans a 500-seat fine-dining restaurant atop Vail Mountain, yet another lift in the Back Bowls, and a replacement of that original quad lift from Vail Village that was installed 22 years ago this summer.

Also planned is a new gondola, to service a new base area real estate development that is being called Ever Vail. Obviously, Vail isn’t sitting still.


Toyotas most common

ASPEN, Colo. – Although a Ferrari coupe valued at $561,000 and four other cars valued in excess of $200,000 are registered in Pitkin County, Toyota is the most common make of vehicle, reports The Aspen Times after a factoid cruise through public records.

Not far behind Toyota is Ford, followed by Jeep and, more distant, Chevrolets and Subarus.

That said, new Toyotas range in price from $12,000 to $62,000. However, Prius has been the best-selling model at a local Toyota dealer in recent years.

The newspaper also noted that Pitkin County has 18,039 cars as compared to 14,872 residents. That’s six times more vehicles per capita than the average for Colorado.


Jackson buys hydro electricity

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Jackson town official have committed to buying renewable energy for the next five years to satisfy all of the town’s electrical needs. The renewable energy — it comes from a nearby hydroelectric dam — will cost the town $45,000 more than electricity created by burning coal and other fossil fuels. However, town officials believe stepped up efficiencies in electrical use, such as retrofitting lighting fixtures, will offset that extra cost. The town is currently using 8.5 to 9 million kilowatt hours annually, notes the Jackson Hole News & Guide.


Stand your ground

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – Bear activists are condemning the killing of a 660-pound bear shot by police. Police had been summoned to a house at about 5:30 a.m. by a family, which had taken refuge in a bedroom.

Once a cop arrived, he opened the garage door to provide an escape route for the bear. However, when the police sergeant looked through the dining room window, the bear growled and charged. The cop shot the bear with a shotgun. The wounded bear was later found under the deck of a nearby home. The Tahoe Daily Tribune explains that police rousted the bear from the hiding place, and then shot it.

“That officer obviously completely overreacted to the situation — he should have stepped out of the way and let (the bear) go by… (the bear) was scared, that’s all,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the Lake Tahoe-based BEAR League.

She also says the family never should have locked itself in a bedroom. “The thing that gets me is the family was too afraid to approach the bear — they were scared, so they hid in the bedroom… That’s why this bear was needlessly shot, because the family was too afraid to yell at the bear to ‘get out’ and stand their territory.”

A police commander, Steve Kelly, told the Daily Tribune that it’s possible the officer blocked the bear’s escape route. “But I don’t expect in those close quarters for (the officer) to take a moment and think about what the bear was doing, if it wanted to hug him or what.”

He added: “When you’ve got a VW Bug with fur coming at you, your heart’s going to beat a bit faster. And really, all (the cop) had was a heartbeat to make a decision.”


Thin air tough on some babies

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. – Although adults typically get accustomed to the thinner air found at higher elevations, it’s sometimes a problem with babies.

Babies carried in wombs by mothers living at higher elevation have typically lower weight at birth. On average, every 3,300 feet of elevation gained reduces fetal weight by about 3.5 ounces, according to a 1997 study. Dr. Chris Ebert-Santos told the Summit Daily News that most newborns she helps deliver in Summit County arrive at 6 pounds, instead of the national average of 7 to 8 pounds.

It’s not that the babies are born prematurely. Rather, it’s just that the fetuses grow more slowly, said Lorna Moore, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center. “The reason that babies grow more slowly, we think, is that there is less oxygen available in utero,” she told the Daily News.

The thin air of Summit County, where elevations of towns range from 8,750 to 10,400 feet, also presents problems for some — but not all — babies after birth. Sometimes within two weeks the baby’s oxygen saturation begins to dip, requiring supplemental oxygen.

Even with this supplemental oxygen, some babies do not make the transition. The Summit Daily tells of a couple in Breckenridge, whose baby had an oxygen saturation of 73 per cent two months after birth. The normal for babies is 89 to 93. The couple sold their house and moved to Minnesota, where the baby immediately had oxygen levels of 97 to 99 per cent.


Storm produces 218 lighting strikes

KETCHUM, Idaho – The Wood River Valley had quite a lighting storm recently, with 218 lightning strikes within a 15-minute span just before noon. The bolts caused several small fires, such as one that covered 15 acres of sagebrush and grass. No structures were consumed by the fires, nor were there any injuries reported, although the pyrotechnic display was described by the Idaho Mountain Express as a “dangerous spectacle.”