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Mountain News: real estate agents mowing lawns

VAIL, Colo. - Not surprisingly, the Vail and the Eagle Valley realty organization has shed 15 per cent of its member real estate agents since sales peaked in 2007 and 2008.

VAIL, Colo. - Not surprisingly, the Vail and the Eagle Valley realty organization has shed 15 per cent of its member real estate agents since sales peaked in 2007 and 2008.

The Vail Daily reports the local realty organization has lost 15 per cent of its members, and is now down to 700 members. But last year, there were more agents than sales. This year, the real estate market remains on the ropes.

Echoing a report last year in Aspen, the newspaper says that some agents have reverted to work they did before being enticed by 15 per cent commissions on million dollar properties.

Consider Scott Marino, who was in the landscaping business until five years ago. Now, he's mowing lawns and shoveling snow once again - but willing to put either aside if the phone rings with somebody wanting a showing.

"When times are good, you save up, and when they aren't, you do what you have to," he told the newspaper.


Only LED lights by 2012

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - What about those Christmas lights? Pretty nifty, no? Why not leave them up year round?

While some in ski towns want to do that, Breckenridge officials have decided to maintain a ban on the little white lights beyond the winter holiday season. "There is something special about it being more seasonal," Councilwoman Jennifer McAtamey explained.

The Summit Daily News reports that the council has ruled that decorative lights by May 2012 must be LED if they are to continue their day-and-night holiday twinkling.


Telluride ready to ban plastic bags

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Telluride in October may become the first Colorado community to ban the distribution of plastic bags for shopping.

The town council has been talking about this since May, when a film called Bag It was shown at Mountainfilm. The film excoriated the ubiquitous use of plastic, which has collected in the Pacific Ocean in a giant swirl that some say is the size of Texas.

But just what would be a prudent approach to weaning shoppers and retailers off plastic bags has not been clear to the councilors. They have started first down one path, then another as they've gotten pushback from some store owners. But the Telluride Watch says this latest proposal will become law in October if the current 5-2 majority prevails in a second vote.

The proposal would ban most types of plastic bags while imposing a 10-cent per bag fee on paper bags. Plastic would be permitted for some uses, such as meats, prescription drugs and newspapers.

The Telluride Watch reports dissent from local grocers. One grocer says that the town council has failed to prove that the plastic bags caused substantial environmental damage to the community. He also objects to the fee, of which half will go to town coffers and half to the grocery. "You guys are off the wall on this," said Bob Harnish, manager of Village Market.

But one resident said the fee is exactly what was needed in Germany, from which she comes, to force changes in behavior. "The fee is not much, but maybe it will get people to do it," said Ulli Sir Jesse.


Wilderness sentiments on bumpers

CARBONDALE, Colo. - People have been wearing their opinions about a proposed expansion of wilderness on their bumpers in Colorado.

Called Hidden Gems by advocates, the proposal would include a mosaic of mostly lower and middle-elevation public lands from Summit County southwest through the Vail, Aspen and Crested Butte areas.

A four-wheelers club has purchased 6,000 stickers that put an X through the name Hidden Gems. In response, supporters have a bumper sticker that employed a heart, as in "I love Hidden Gems."

So far, nobody has come up with a compromise bumper sticker.


Vail tried carbon offsets

WHISTLER, B.C. - Several years ago, Vail Resorts got a ton of attention when it announced it was buying renewable energy credits, or RECs, to be purchased for wind power at its five ski areas and assorted other resort operations. It was, at the time, the second largest purchase of RECs by a corporation in the country.

Vail's purchase was part of a much broader initiative marshaled by the National Ski Areas Association. But immediately, there were questions whether these purchases of RECs truly translated into action. Even ardent Vail boosters scoffed at the company's "powered by the wind" claim on its website. Skeptics questioned the accountability of this money trail for RECs.

Last year, without mentioning the wind energy, Vail announced new recipients for its corporate giving. Other ski areas also have stopped purchase of RECs, while others are considering a change.

Economists say that for RECs to truly have value, and not just be window-dressing, they must deliver something called additionality. In other words, would this action - would that wind farm - have been built had there been no RECs in the mix? Too often, the RECs didn't truly tip the scale in this decision-making.

Now comes a similar issue in Whistler, involving a similar - but different - financial creature called carbon offsets. Carbon offsets seek to offset the carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, oil or natural gas as may be necessary to operate ski lifts, run buses, or keep the computers humming.

Whistler's municipality intends to give $150,000 for projects that might result in energy being used more efficiently or even switching to non-carbon energy sources. Ted Battison, the municipality's environmental coordinator, tells Pique Newsmagazine that an auditing firm verifies the money gets used to remove carbon emissions.

But even some supporters of environmental initiatives in Whistler remain leery. Ralph Forsyth, a municipal councillor, said he has "more questions than answers" and that the system is too vulnerable to fraud.

Further, he questions whether Whistler shouldn't just spend its carbon-offset money at home, such as in improving mass transit.


Real estate project cleansed

CANMORE, Alberta - Two real estate projects in Canmore, at the gateway to Banff National Park, have been revived. One of the projects, Kananaskis Way, has a new name: Innoka Point Resort, which uses the word for elk in the Blackfoot language. A relaunch ceremony occurred with a First Nations theme intended to cleanse the site of bad spirits. It offers fractional ownership of 2,500 to 2,700 square foot townhomes, notes the Rocky Mountain Outlook.


Instructor accused

ASPEN, Colo. - It was a she-said, he-said trial in Aspen, where a jury of four men and two woman found a male yoga instructor guilty of improperly touching several of his female students.

One woman said the popular yoga instructor had touched her anus while adjusting her downward-facing dog pose. He asked if that was all right, she said. She reported that she was too stunned to answer. She said he later invited her to a private practice. The second woman accused him of touching her vagina while he adjusted her when she was in child's pose.

He said the accusations were bogus, and a large number of his students vouched for his professionalism in their experience. But several other women said he had touched their breasts, reports the Aspen Times.


Green slime abundant

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. - A green slime has spread across the rocks of a creek that runs through Crested Butte. Town officials tell the Crested Butte News that it might be a benign type of algae, commonly called "rock snot," or it might be a bad kind, which can harm fish.

Crested Butte is not alone. Algae has become more common in various parts of the West during the last few years, says Dr. Ian Billick, executive director of the nearby Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. He reports various hypotheses about the cause, but none have apparently been tested.

For that matter, algae is by no means new. Even in Crested Butte, there have been reports of it since at least the 1960s.