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Mountain News: Mammoth’s Dave McCoy looking forward to age 92

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – At age 92, Dave McCoy is no longer operating the ski area that he founded and had begun skiing even before World War II.

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – At age 92, Dave McCoy is no longer operating the ski area that he founded and had begun skiing even before World War II. Mammoth Mountain is now owned by Intrawest, which in turn was swallowed by a bigger fish yet, Fortress Investment Group.

But McCoy is still sharp as a cactus needle, reticent to the point of stubborn, and always forward looking, reports Jack Lunch of The Sheet after a day out-and-about with the walking legend.

Actually, it was mostly riding around, as McCoy has trouble walking – the result of a downhill ski crash when he was in his 20s, exacerbated by a fall off a horse when he was 89.

Like many of his generation, McCoy tolerated the Forest Service supervisors that overlooked his shoulder.

“Every one of them came in with their own set of ideas,” he said.

“So how’d you deal with it?”

“I just adapted to ‘em.”

“Overall, were they pretty decent guys?”

“Yeah, they were decent guys. Just ask ‘em.”

McCoy was also asked if he regretted selling out to Intrawest.

“It wasn’t my idea,” he answered.

“Would you like to elaborate on that?

“No,” he answered.

His wife in the early years of Mammoth rounded up quarters to pay for gasoline, which was used to operate the lifts. Existence was that thin. The couple have been married 67 years.

To achieve the same record of matrimony, said the reporter, a newlywed in his 30s, he’d have to live to 106.

“Why not live to 106?” answered McCoy. “Why not live to 120?”

For the record, after discussing global warming, McCoy decided it was time to “green” up his house, to make it more energy efficient.

Tourism economy up 41 per cent in Revelstoke

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – If hotel and motel revenues are a barometer of tourism in Revelstoke, tourism business has increased 41 percent in the last several years. The Revelstoke Times Review says that tourism officials credit the surge to creation of a formal marketing organization, with the responsibility of promoting the city. In winter, Revelstoke is considered a destination, with snow being the draw. It is perhaps the most noted place for helicopter skiing in North America. In summer, the city depends upon drive-through traffic on the TransCanada Highway. It is located about four hours west of Calgary, between the Purcell and Monashee mountain ranges.

Building expected to slow somewhat in Canmore

CANMORE, Alberta – The real estate market in Canmore appears to be slowing down. But all things are relative, and with the oil-patch economy of Alberta still booming, the increases projected for the year ahead are still brisk ones.

During the last year Canmore’s single-family homes rose an average of 25 percent in value. This year, the average cost of a single-family house in the former coal-mining town is expected to surpass $1 million.

With land becoming more scarce, more building of multi-family housing units is expected, officials tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “We do not have a lot of single-family lots left to build on,” said Gary Buxton, the city’s senior manager of planning and engineering.=

Mittens have come off in dispute about icebox

FRASER, Colo. – The mittens have come off. The lawyers are now at work in the case of which town has the right to call itself the Icebox of the Nation.

Weathermen several decades ago used that phrase frequently to describe Fraser, located two miles from Winter Park. Fraser then had volunteers willing to get up at all hours of the night to track the progress of the plunging thermometer. Often as not for many years, those checks revealed that Fraser had the nation’s coldest overnight temperature.

But International Falls, Minn., claims it has been using the phrase since at least 1948 – longer than Fraser.

The two have been jousting over the rights to this dubious superlative since the 1980s, and for a time, International Falls prevailed, having registered it with the U.S. government. But then, in a period of somnolence, the Minnesota town let its registration lapse. Fraser discovered the lapse and filed the paperwork.

Since then, the two have had some fun with the rivalry. Fraser’s council challenged counterparts in International Falls to a snowball fight, and also sent International Falls a box containing plastic penguins.

But now, Fraser’s legal task – if it wants to have the title – must be to prove it was using “Icebox of the Nation” by 1956.

Fraser’s competition has not only been with the Minnesota town, but with other towns in the West through the years. One of the more spirited competitions was against Big Piney, Wyo., which is located south of Jackson Hole. Other frequent rivals were Gunnison, Colo., and Truckee, Calif.

Aspen ponders what to do with all of its snow

ASPEN, Colo. – There can be too much of a good thing. Aspen city officials have been perplexed at where to put all the white stuff. As of Jan. 2 contractors had hauled away nearly 2,000 truck loads of snow, compared with not even 1,300 for all of the winter two years ago, reports The Aspen Times. However, the city was fast running out of places to cache the snow.

In unincorporated Pitkin County, the same issues are reported.

our typical snow storage areas are full,” said Brian Pettet, director of Pitkin County Public works. “We’re not even halfway through the season, and we’ve reached our capacity.”

He told the Times that most of the country roads have become virtual tunnels, posing safety problems at curves and intersections. “A low car can’t be seen in the roundabout right now.”

Early January storm biggest in four years

SILVERTON, Colo. – The big story of early January was good enough to isolate Silverton for two days, cutting off highway access both north and south in the San Juan Mountains.

It was, said Chris Landry, director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, probably the most powerful snow event in the San Juan Mountains in the last four years. He is a careful man and not prone to exaggeration.

Silverton Mountain Ski Area reported more than 5 feet of fresh snow out of the storm, and Colorado road crews reported paths of avalanches that had never run before.

“Winter has firmly asserted itself – once again,” wrote the Silverton Standard’s Freddie Canfield. Those who had not already done so he advised to “muck out” their roofs, to use a mining phrase for shoveling.

Shovels move at brisk pace in Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Even in those places where it’s a disaster if it doesn’t snow, snow season tends to take people by surprise.

Witness the story in Crested Butte told by Ben Swietizer, who owns a hardware store. After a month of heavy snow, he told the Crested Butte News that there had been a run on snow shovels. “We had 1210 shovels in the last order. They’re already gone,” he said.

Of such purchases, he said they are spur of the moment. “We don’t sell a single shovel until we get several feet,” he said.

And Crested Butte has had several feet of snow this winter, and then some. The dumpage has been sufficient that town and county officials were scratching their heads about the costs of snow removal. The problem, said Crested Butte town manager Susan Parker, was that it has come in such major storms, causing huge amounts of overtime.

The big snowfall this winter is also posing problems of where to put the stuff. In Crested Butte, there are fewer vacant lots than there used to be. If the snow has to be hauled down-valley, that will further escalate costs, she said.

Deer feeding launched in the Gunnison Basin

GUNNISON, Colo. – In the Gunnison Country, where Crested Butte is located, this winter is being called the most severe in decades. The most apt comparison seems to be to the snowy winter of 1983. It’s been cold, too, with temperatures in Gunnison dipping to 25 below in Gunnison for a couple nights in a row, although not for weeks at a time, as occurred often during decades past.

Still, this winter’s deep and crusted snow concerned state wildlife biologists sufficiently that they have launched a feeding program for about 8,000 of the 21,000 deer in the Gunnison Basin.

Deer and other big-game animals lose 30 percent of their body weight during a normal winter, said state biologists. They expect to lose 8 to 15 percent of deer during any given winter, but fear much more severe losses this winter that will destabilize the herds.

Biologists are reported to be monitoring conditions in the Eagle and Roaring Fork Valleys, where Vail and Aspen are located, among other locations as to whether feeding operations will also be necessary there.

Mining inches closer to reality in Silverton

SILVERTON, Colo. – An exploration and mine development company continues to assemble the pieces in San Juan County for what could result in the resumption of mining and ore processing.

The Silverton Standard reports that Colorado Goldfields has signed an option agreement on certain royalties and net profit interests on the Gold King and Mayflower Mines.

Todd Hennis, who heads the firm, called it a milestone. “The company’s long-term strategy involves consolidating the major mining properties of the Silverton area, combined with the application of modern exploration techniques and scaled expansion of field operations on carefully selected assets.”

Lots of folks curling up inside Big Agnes

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – During the last several years more and more guys – and women, too – have been cuddling up in the folds of a Big Agnes.

Big Agnes is a backcountry manufacturer formed in 2001 by climbers from Steamboat, taking inspiration from a small peak in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area. The first invention, explains The Aspen Times, was a sleeping bag in which a pad is inserted into a sleeve of the bag, avoiding that annoying tendency of sliding off the pad in the middle of the night.

The company, explains the newspaper, is a quintessential enterprise of the 21st century. In Steamboat are the administration offices, product development and warehouse. In Carbondale, down-valley from Aspen, is the marketing arm of the company, which is handled by a former ski patroller from Vail.

And, in China, are the laborers who assemble the growing line of products.

Growth of Big Agnes products was steady until 2006, when it increased by 60 percent. The brand identity isn’t as strong as others, retailers tell The Times, but once customers learn about the innovative designs, sales often result.

As for the motto of the company, you might be able to guess it: “The Mother of Comfort.”

Ski jumpers duke it out at Howelsen Hill

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – The Nordic event of ski jumping has become largely an intramural event in Colorado. Only Steamboat Springs, with its jumps at Howelsen Hill, has the big jumps that have now bred several generations of Olympics.

This is, observes one of those Olympians, Gary Crawford, far different than even 35 years ago. Then, he told the Steamboat Pilot & Today, he crisscrossed the state, to compete in Nordic combined competitions at Winter Park, Frisco, Aspen and Durango.

But most of those places have abandoned their jumps, or have no more than smallish 15- or 20-meter jumps. As such, the Rocky Mountain Division ski jumping and Nordic combined competition that was held recently in Steamboat was a misnomer of title. It was, says the Pilot & Today, “largely a case of Steamboat skiers left to duke it out amongst themselves.”

Snowboarder says skier hit, berated and beat him

ASPEN, Colo. – It was, reports The Aspen Times, an international incident – not to mention a reversal of stereotypes.

The story told was of a collision between a 19-year-old snowboarder from Australia and a 58-year-old skier from New York City. The snowboarder said the skier crashed into him, then climbed back up the slope and berated him. When the snowboarder protested, the skier punched him in the face and kicked him before taking off.

The family of the snowboarder was pressing authorities to file charges against the skier.

Montezuma Bowl makes A-Basin 80 percent larger

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. – With one fell swoop, one of Colorado’s oldest ski areas, Arapahoe Basin, is now 80 percent larger.

The rope was dropped on Montezuma Bowl last Friday in white-out conditions, opening 400 acres of blue, black, and double-black-diamond slopes, including everything from cornices and chutes to glades and wide-open bowl skiing. The bowl also has some earn-your-turns skiing, notes the Summit Daily News.

Opened the same year as Aspen, 1946, A-Basin remained little changed for more than 50 years. In recent years, however, it has added snowmaking, allowing it to become the nation’s earliest ski area to open, and updated on-mountain facilities.

Another building record set in Park City in 2007

PARK CITY, Utah – Construction starts increased again last year in Park City, with a market of nearly $240 million. The previous record, set the year before, was $173 million. Building officials tell The Park Record that less of the building is explained by single-family houses. Instead, there were far more condominiums and townhouses. A few big projects, including hotels adjacent to the slopes at Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort, boosted the numbers, as did the start of a hospital.

Again, beacons not enough to prevent avalanche death

VAIL, Colo. – Yet more evidence arrives that avalanche transceivers won’t necessarily save your goose from being cooked in a slide. For the second time in as many weeks, a snowboarder died of suffocation in the East Vail Chutes, a steep and popular area adjacent to – but not within – the Vail ski resort.

The snowboarder and a companion were caught in the same area as the previous fatality earlier in January. The victim was buried completely, head down. The second skier, when the snow quit moving, still had his hand sticking out of the snow, just enough to begin creating a pocket of air.

Still, it took an hour for him to dig himself out of the snow – avalanche snow sets up nearly like concrete once it has stopped moving – enough to get out a cell phone and summon help. His companion was not located until four hours after the avalanche.

Both had been wearing transceivers and carried shovels and probes.

Telluride taking stock of death of 9 people

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Telluride is still taking stock of an accident early last week in which a charter bus, transporting skiers from Telluride back to the Phoenix area, went off the highway in the desert near Mexican Hat, Utah, killing nine people. The Telluride Watch reports that passengers had thought the bus was going too fast. Contrary to some reports, weather was not an issue.

Crested Butte continues big changes at ski area

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Crested Butte Mountain Resort continues to forge ahead with investment in its infrastructure, with hopes that it can soon have something to brag about beyond the world’s best grooming.

The Forest Service willing, the ski area intends to add gondola cars to one of its main lifts, Red Lady Express, and also add new lifts, expand snowmaking, and assorted other on-mountain improvements.

In a couple of years, the ski area hopes to have a new on-mountain restaurant, the 22,000-square-foot Red Lady Lodge, with a Vail-like dining area large enough for 230 people plus a fine-dining component large enough for 100 people.

At the base of the mountain, much work has been done already in redevelopment, but more is coming. Among the new buildings will be a base-area cafeteria, but with 95 condominiums in the upper levels, with asking prices ranging up to $1,500 per square foot.

Bigger – much bigger – are plans ahead for what is essentially a new ski mountain, if only located on the other side of the town. While that project, called Snodgrass, is likely years away, much more imminent is base-area real estate. One of those two projects calls for 400 new residential units.

The second real-estate base project envisions 1,000-plus units, plus a new town hall (currently located in pre-fab housing) and a post office. In effect, that new project, called North Village, aims to create a central focus at the base of the ski mountain. The municipality is called Mt. Crested Butte, to distinguish it from the old coal-mining town two miles away.

Similar to what has been happening elsewhere, this new real-estate pod is to be connected to the ski mountain via a gondola. Otherwise, the project would be separated by a road and other development.

Although boasting of nearly 600,000 skier days a decade ago, when the resort offered lots of free skiing, the annual skier day total tumbled to little more than 300,000 early in this century. This year, the resort aims to surpass 425,000 skier days, on track to getting back to 500,000 to 600,000 on a consistent basis.

Latinos from San Simeon find work in ‘Jacksimeon’

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – During November a writer and photographer from the Jackson Hole News&Guide accompanied a group of Latinos from Jackson Hole back to their native land of Mexico. Most of Jackson Hole’s Latino services workers come from a town called San Simeon in a corn-and-cattle region amid belching volcanoes about two hours from Mexico City.

The town is mostly quiet for much of the year. That’s because about half the population is off working in the states in Colorado, Utah, and New Jersey. But most – 2,000 to 2,500 – live and work in Jackson Hole and nearby in Teton County, Idaho.

The young affectionately refer to their home away from home as “Jacksimeon.”

Everyone in San Simeon has at least one close family member in Jackson Hole. Only old people and children now live in San Simeon.

The town is as empty as if all the young people were drafted for war, explains Cesar Marquina Corna. “In a way, it is a war. We’re at war for a better life,” says Cesar, 24, who returned to Mexico after a four-day drive in November. Hundreds make the same journey every fall and spring.

The migration first began to the farms in Idaho, then expanded to Jackson Hole beginning in the late 1980s.

The newspaper tells of one ranch family headed by Sanchez Rodriguez, 74, who first began going to Idaho to work in 1978 to lay irrigation pipe. Now, 8 of his 14 children live between Driggs, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyo.

Some of the service and construction workers in Jackson Hole have seasonal work visas, while others risk the desert crossing every few years.

Many of those making money in Jackson Hole are building new homes of concrete, but not adobe, in San Simeon. Because so many able-bodied young people are gone, the wages are higher there, $50 per day for construction, than in surrounding towns.