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Mountain News: Denver contemplates Olympic bid

DENVER, Colo. - Although it's three years until the U.S. Olympic Committee decides whether to bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, plenty of chattering is underway in Colorado about just such a bid. Still hanging over Colorado is its history.

DENVER, Colo. - Although it's three years until the U.S. Olympic Committee decides whether to bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, plenty of chattering is underway in Colorado about just such a bid.

Still hanging over Colorado is its history. Denver had been selected to host the 1976 Olympics, but in 1972 Colorado voters refused to extend subsidies. Evidence had accumulated that Olympic organizers were guilty of both arrogance and incompetence. In addition, Colorado then had been growing rapidly and many feared the Olympics would fuel further growth.

But that was then. Growth occurred anyway. Denver's air, if still too often foul, has improved markedly. And members of the International Olympic Committee who took the rejection by Colorado as a personal snub have mostly passed on.

Dick Lamm, a former governor who had spearheaded opposition, told the Denver Post he has been approached by the contemporary Olympic boosters. "They were definitive that there was going to be no 'trust us' this time around," he said.

The newspaper interviewed both leading candidates in this year's gubernatorial election in Colorado. Neither Scott McInnis nor John Hickenlooper said absolutely yes, but both suggested interest. "Having the Olympics would be a strong inducement to get the federal government to partner with us on solutions for I-70. And that's something we have to do anyway. That connection with the mountains is one of the things that makes Denver what it is," said Hickenlooper.

But upgrading traffic-clogged I-70 isn't a prerequisite, suggested KieAnn Brownlee, president of the Denver Metro Sports Commission, a group created several years ago to investigate a possible bid. She told the newspaper that I-70 is already better than the two-lane 24-mile road that took fans to the alpine skiing events in Torino, Italy.

Salt Lake City received $1 billion in federal aid to improve transportation in Salt Lake City. But Salt Lake's Winter Games cost $1 billion, noted Robert Barney, founding director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario.

The bottom line seems to be that Colorado now has greater interest in an Olympic bid than at any time in the last 40 years - but, at least for the moment, is considering this with eyes wide open.


Investigation of fatal slide begins

REVELSTOKE, B.C. - Two days before the fatalities, the Revelstoke Times Review reported a special avalanche alert. But for whatever reason, organizers of the Big Iron Shootout proceeded with their informal snowmobile gathering on Boulder Mountain.

At about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, a giant avalanche that was nearly 150 metres wide ran for nearly two-thirds of a mile. Two people died in the avalanche and several dozen more were injured, at least one of them critically, reported the Times Review . Victims were taken to hospitals hundreds of miles east and west, from Calgary to Kelowna.

The newspaper said the snowmobile gathering has a reputation for its party atmosphere, with as many as 200 riders and onlookers gathered.

Kyle Hale of Golden Search and Rescue told the newspaper that high-marking "seems to be the apparent cause of the accident." An Associated Press report further fingered the high-marking of three daredevil snowmobilers.

As of Tuesday, a team of 10 RCMP investigators had begun an examination into the deaths of snowmobilers Shay Snortland and Kurtis Reynolds. They were also looking to talk to the organizer of the Big Iron Shootout, Dave Clark, who hasn't been seen since the weekend.


Pfish upstream at Telluride

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Twenty-two years after Pfish first played in Telluride, the band will return for a two-night run this summer. This time, a much bigger crowd is expected, probably 9,000 for each of the shows.

By the sheer numbers, this will pump some money into Telluride's ailing economy. Tourism officials estimate $500,000 in lodging receipts for the two nights, with the 3,400 pillows within town limits sure to be sold out.

But cops see problems, and the town's chief marshal, Jim Kolar, expects to need 25 to 30 extra officers to deal with public urination, drug overdoses and other infractions.

The Telluride Daily Planet reports that to make sure locals get a chance to see the show without binoculars, 1,500 tickets will be allocated for townspeople.

The newspaper says band members, when they first played Telluride in 1988, slept on the floor of a local house. This time, they're likely to sleep in greater comfort.


Aspen's carbon footprint shrinking

ASPEN, Colo. - Aspen city officials have let two contracts in their bid to harness the power of water tumbling down Maroon and Castle creeks. In 2007, city voters voted overwhelmingly to authorize the $6.1 million effort to create a new hydroelectric plant at the site of one that existed from 1892 to 1958.

The latest step was authorization of a $2.3 million contract to construct a 42-inch pipeline. The pipeline will deliver a total of 85 cubic feet per second of water to the hydroelectric plant. The plant is expected to produce 5.5 million kilowatt hours annually, allowing the city's utilities department to expand its non-carbon electric portfolio, now 75 per cent, by 8 per cent.

Still, Aspen has a long ways to go in shrinking its carbon footprint overall to the degree embraced by both the Mayors' Agreement on Climate Change, a pact to which many of the ski towns are a party, and Aspen's unique Canary Initiative. This shift, when completed, represents a 0.6 per cent community-wide reduction in carbon emissions as compared to a 2004 baseline.

Would-be Jihadist worked in ski country

EDWARDS, Colo. - First came that news that a petite, 46-year-old blond-haired woman in Pennsylvania who called herself Jihad Jane had been accused by U.S. authorities with conspiring to murder a cartoonist in Sweden who had drawn cartoons that offended Muslims.

Then came the report that a woman from Colorado, also blonde-haired, had been questioned in Ireland in connection with the same investigation. She was then released.

The Denver Post found that the woman, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, had been living in Leadville for the last couple of years and working about 40 miles away in Edwards, located down-valley from Vail and Beaver Creek. She worked as a medical assistant at the Eagle Care Clinic, an office that primarily serves the poor and uninsured.

Dr. Kent Petrie, the clinic's medical director, described her as an "excellent and dedicated" employee.

Family members said that she had been a hellion when young, but last year had begun corresponding on the Internet with Muslims. About a year ago she told family members she had become a Muslim, and in time began wearing a scarf called a hijab, and then a burqa. Among those she communicated with on the Internet were Jihad Jane and the Denver airport shuttle driver who has been accused of planning to bomb New York City.

Then, on Sept. 11 last year, Paulin-Ramirez went to Denver, parked her car, and flew to New York City with her six-year-old son. Family members and her employer said they had no warning she planned to leave - or any word whatsoever.


High-end real estate percolating

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE, Colo. - Yet more evidence arrives of the return of the high-end real estate market. A week after similar news in Wyoming's Jackson and Idaho's Ketchum, the Telluride Daily Planet reports an uptick in real estate transfer fees collected in Mountain Village.

The newspaper says that the slope-side municipality collected $1 million in the year's first two months, more than triple the collections from the same period last year.

"The buyers are definitely back," said Matthew Hintermeister, a broker at Peaks Real Estate Sotheby's International Realty.

Down the gondola at Telluride, the town collected $266,000 in real estate transfer taxes in January, more than double the same period last year and the fourth straight month of increased sales.

The highest sale was for more than $10 million. Most transactions have been in cash. What constitutes the lower-end market in ski towns has not yet returned, however, as it depends upon credit - and credit remains difficult, especially in non-traditional markets.


Canmore raising building standards

CANMORE, Alberta - In 2007, Canmore officials adopted regulations requiring all new buildings have fewer environmental impacts, such as for energy and water use, by meeting the requirements for the base levels of either the BuiltGreen or LEED programs.

Now, Canmore planning officials propose elevating requirements - and the new increments sound suspiciously like those first introduced in Aspen in 2000 and other ski town municipalities since then. The proposed standards would require larger houses be built more efficiently.

Alaric Fish, a community planner, said the proposal is premised by the fact that larger homes, by their very nature, consume more energy. To offset their size, he said, they should be held to a higher standard than smaller houses.

The town, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, hopes to encourage builders and developers to consider how to make the homes more energy and water efficient when planning first begins, to save money in the long run. The newspaper suggests there may be controversy in the proposal that buildings that do not meet energy efficiency targets won't be given occupancy certificates.


Neighbour too nosy

ASPEN, Colo. - Even doctors, lawyers and such live in deed-restricted housing in Aspen. But the question at a project called North 40 was whether Dr. Kenton Bruice and his wife, Donna, lived in the complex at least nine months of the year, as rules require.

The Aspen Times reports that the Bruices filed a request for civil protection against a neighbour who had been observing them and taking notes. "She was watching me five times a day and making notes in her Blackberry about what I was doing," said Kenton Bruice, a gynecologist and obstetrician. He called it creepy.

The neighbour, in a report to public officials, had said she wanted to draw attention to what she believed to be a dishonest use of the system. The doctor and his wife split their time between Aspen and Denver, where he also works.

The intent of the system is to provide affordable housing to those who work in Aspen and Pitkin County but cannot afford the high market rates. However, on several occasions owners and tenants have been accused of gaming the system to get below-cost weekend and vacation homes.


Snowboarder killed in slide

DILLON, Colo. - A 20-year-old snowboarder was killed in an avalanche near the Arapahoe Basin ski area The slide carried the snow rider an estimated 1,000 feet, and nearly buried the body, reports the Summit Daily News. In unrelated cases, nearby Highway 6 across Loveland Pass was also closed by avalanches that had apparently been triggered by skiers.

Revelstoke assembling energy plan

REVELSTOKE, B.C. - With $80,000 rounded up from local, provincial and federal sources, Revelstoke now hopes to get underway a study of the community's energy foundation. John Guenther, the community planning director, told the Revelstoke Times Review that the plan will address land use, transportation, and building designs - all within the context of energy. The city, located on both the Columbia River and along the TransCanada Highway, also is considering how it might generate energy from biomass, sewage, and small hydro systems.


Observatory pitched to Snowmass

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. - Elected officials in Snowmass Village seem at least mildly interested in a pitch for an observatory.

David Aguilar, a part-time resident of nearby Carbondale, told officials that Snowmass would make a splendid site for an observatory - and it could be a tourist attraction.

"What we're finding is that people's interest in science, especially astronomy, is going up," said Aguilar, an astronomer and director of public affairs and science information for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics.

Aguilar, reports the Snowmass Sun, advised town officials of a possible marketing slogan: "Snowmass, where the real stars come out at night."


Breckenridge wants an alpine coaster

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - The Breckenridge Ski Resort was among the first ski areas to create an alpine slide. Now it wants to create an alpine coaster.

The Summit Daily News explains that the coaster would provide a 2,500-foot-long ride during both winter and summer months. Unlike an alpine slide, which has a solid track of concrete, the alpine coaster would have wheels that would be adhered to a steel track. Ski company officials say the coasters are relatively quiet.


Whole Foods goes smaller

BASALT, Colo. - Whole Foods Market plans to build a store in Basalt after all. The purveyor of organic and other, more healthy foods had originally signed an agreement in 2007 to build a 44,000-square foot store. But the plans wilted as the economy shuddered. In the meantime Whole Foods has started building smaller stores in both Hawaii and California. Company officials tell The Aspen Times that they have noticed customers from the Roaring Fork Valley in their stores in Denver, about 200 miles away. They hope to work out deals with farmers from the Paonia area to provide fresh produce and other food.