VAIL, Colo. - A prominent run on the face of Vail Mountain that was long called International now has a new name: Lindsey's, after Olympic gold-medal downhiller Lindsey Vonn. Vail Resorts, the ski area operator at Vail, announced the name change at a reception in Whistler, B.C. Although born in Burnsville, Minn., Vonn began trekking to Vail with her family after showing early signs of promise. She moved to Vail in the late 1990s to better be able to train. Obviously, it has paid off.
Bookings, income down
ASPEN, Colo. - Average occupancy at hotels, lodges and condos in Aspen during January was about 68 per cent - just 1.6 per cent less than the same month in 2009. But the average daily rate was down 6.4 per cent, reports Bill Tomcich, president of a local reservations agency called Stay Aspen Snowmass. Visitors are also presumably leaving fewer tips with bellhops and front-desk clerks. And the more tight-fisted spending patterns are having ripple effects across the board, including the coffers of local governments. "The occupancy report doesn't mean what it used to mean," said Hilary Fletcher, the Pitkin County manager, during a recent discussion of the county's financial outlook.
Job market decimated last year
ASPEN, Colo. - Statistics have now begun to define the recession in Aspen and Pitkin County, where roughly one in 10 jobs was lost between 2008 and 2009.
Citing Colorado Department of Labor and Employment figures, the Aspen Times reports that the number of jobs fell to 14,670 during the second quarter of last year, down 1,804 from the same period a year prior. Jobs were shed somewhat equally in the construction, retail and restaurant/bar categories. Tourist accommodations, however, stayed about the same.
Wages also fell, reports the newspaper. Retail sector workers lost $60 per week on average. Real-estate support staff lost more, $174 per week, but still earned more than retail workers. Construction workers, those who still had work, were earning the most to begin with and lost the least, just $16 per week.
Time to get rid of shag rug
DILLON, Colo. - The town of Dillon got moved in the late 1950s, to avoid getting covered by Dillon Reservoir. Located on a lovely hill since, it has nonetheless always seemed to lack something.
"It's missing a heart," Matt Lit, a gallery owner, told the Summit Daily News . "Dillon really doesn't have a town center."
Dillon was recreated in the age of automobiles and laid out without a typical main street. And some businesses that draw people, such as a movie theater, have fled to other locations, out near Interstate 70.
Some residents want to scrap it and start over. "The vast majority of buildings in the town center should be torn down," said Eddie O'Brien, owner of a real estate firm called Prudential O'Brien & Associates. "Right now you could fire a cannon down any street in Dillon's town core, and no one would get hit. There's nobody there, no reason to go into the town area."
O'Brien told the Daily News that housing in the town's heart should be built. Town-owned land could be used. He thinks other property owners could be enlisted.
Mayor Barbara Davis also wants change. "We have a '60s-style, shag-rug architecturally indifferent town core," she said. "I really feel that we need to do something significantly different than what we have now."
But not all agree. Geoffrey Stacey, who owns an accounting firm, thinks the area is best left as a professional district. Other towns in the area have the retail base already covered, he says. "Believe it or not, some places in the world are best left unchanged, as they are already perfect."
Former eBay CEO buys ranch
TELLURIDE, Colo. - Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay and one of the richest women in the world, with a worth estimated by Forbes at $1.2 billion, has purchased property above Telluride.
The land, near the old mining town of Alta, has vested property rights for construction of 28 houses of up to 12,000 square feet in size plus 20 caretaker houses. Environmentalists in the Telluride area vigorously opposed the development, but San Miguel County planning director Mike Rzycki tells the Telluride Daily Planet that he believes Whitman may not execute those rights.
"I've been given the impression that they're going to be a conservation buyer," he told the Telluride Daily Planet . A spokeswoman for Whitman could not confirm plans.
Whitman, who is running for governor of California, several years ago donated $1.15 million to preclude development of land at the west entrance of Telluride.
Singer helps map new festival
ASPEN, Colo. - Bolstered by the active leadership of local resident John Oates, of Hall & Oates fame, Aspen plans to host a September singer-songwriter festival. One vision is to book a few big names to Aspen along with some lesser lights and hopefully draw a great many others. But a city council member who goes by the single name of Torre said he envisions the event being grassroots and competition oriented, where up-and-coming musicians from around the country play in Aspen's bars and restaurants. The festival will be part of Aspen's effort to draw visitors during times of the year when plenty of hotel rooms, bar stools and parking spaces are up for grabs.
Immigrants want reform
TELLURIDE, Colo. - In rallies at Edwards and in Telluride last week, immigrants and their supporters spoke in support of reform of immigration laws - and for their rights to fully become Americans.
In Edwards, 2,000 people gathered from Vail and the Eagle Valley to chant, "Yes We Can" - but with a twist, says the Vail Daily. It was in Spanish.
"We need reform so we can work here," said Teresa Paz, a spokeswoman for the Hispanic Movement of Eagle County. "We want our children to be able to go to the university. We want to be able to contribute everything economically that we can to this country," she added, speaking through a translator.
In Telluride, the translation went the other way. Raul Toledo, a student at Telluride High School, crossed the border with his parents more than a decade ago. As he has no papers, he will have to pay out-of-state tuition to go to a state university, but the Telluride Daily Planet notes that his connection to Mexico is so broken that he needed a translator to put his English speech into Spanish before the crowd of 100 people.
"My dream is to go to college like anybody else," he said.
Another speaker was Miguel Alvarado, a house painter in Telluride, who the Planet says testified eloquently that "helping this place is part of my job."
"I came just as many of you, and I don't need to repeat what kind of endeavor that was, but it was a horrible endeavor," he said in Spanish. All he wanted, he said, was "to be part of a place, part of a family, part of a community."
Another speaker asked of the crowd: "What do we do?"
"Pay rent," came one answer.
"Pay taxes," said another.
"Have weddings," said a third, producing laughs.
The Daily Planet notes that marriage is sometimes the quickest path to citizenship.
Mountains claim three
JACKSON, Wyo. - Reminders were served across the West in mid-February of the enormous risk that can accompany passion for high places, whether its victims be young or old.
In Colorado, 60-year-old John Kelley died of suffocation after being buried in snow near one of the backcountry ski huts 16 miles south of Aspen. He was a carpenter by trade, and friends said he loved to backcountry ski.
In California, 26-year-old daredevil skier and X Games medalist C.R. Johnson died after hitting his head on a rock while skiing a black-diamond run. He was the first skier to die on Squaw Valley's slopes during the past three years.
"It's just guys going out and living their dream and pushing their limits," Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso, who comes from Squaw Valley, told the Associated Press .
In Wyoming, 30-year-old Wray Landon died in an avalanche on 12,514-foot South Teton Peak. The slide carried him more than 2,000 vertical feet, including over a 1,500-foot cliff.
Friends told the Jackson Hole News & Guide that the 6-foot-6-inch Landon was a man of almost unparalleled passion for being in the mountains. He was out every day, sometimes morning and evening. His nickname was "Twice-a-Day Wray." Good conditions were only a bonus.
About six years ago, he told a friend that they should climb a local mountain named Taylor Mountain every day before work. The friend was skeptical - but they did.
He had equal passion for his work, which was at a land trust based in Idaho's Teton Valley, on the west side of the Teton Range.
Mining artifacts saved
PARK CITY, Utah - Park City officials intend to preserve more of the infrastructure lingering from the silver-mining era. Already, city officials have given protection to six structures erected for the extraction of silver in the late 19 th century and early 20 th century. Now, a city group proposes to mandate preservation of six other structures, including a headframe, a tunnel entrance, and an aerial tramway.
Rory Murphy, a real estate developer who owns one of the mining relics that would be affected by the proposed decree, concurs with the proposal. "They're trying to further cement what I'm already doing," he told The Park Record. The site he owns that would be protected is called the Spiro Tunnel.
"The intangible value of the historic structures and history of the Spiro site is so obvious to us," he said. "There was never a question with us that we would restore them."
Climbing bolts banned
ASPEN, Colo. - Pitkin County officials have declared a moratorium on putting bolts into rock faces in two open space areas owned by the county. "Bolting may or may not be appropriate, but we need time to study it," said John Armstrong, open space and trails ranger. The Aspen Times reports that climbers have installed bolts into the sandstone to aid them on a popular formation called The Drool, which is located near the town of Redstone.
Lights still on in Idaho
KETCHUM, Idaho - Ten years ago the city of Ketchum approved a so-called dark sky law to limit pollution from lighting. At the same time, the broader Blaine County talked about following suit. It hasn't.
"The concept of dark-sky lighting has been on the county's list of priorities for 10 years," County Commissioner Larry Schoen told the Idaho Mountain Express. "We either have to finally get it off or change the name of the list."
Later in March, the commissioners will get a better picture of how such an ordinance might be enforced and how much it would cost residents to comply.
Cold War pollution heats up
DURANGO, Colo. - In its own way, Durango continues to deal with an unwanted legacy of the Cold War. From 1942 until 1963, uranium ore was processed. And while the radioactive tailings were hauled to a sealed vault outside Durango in the late 1980s, water in one of the wells drilled to monitor the area shows increasing levels of uranium.
The U.S. Department of Energy offers several possible explanations for the elevating uranium, including natural contamination. Activists in the area don't buy the explanations. They tell the Durango Telegraph they believe the containment structure has leaked. The newspaper also notes lingering contamination at the mill site itself.
Energy efficiency gets a boost
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - A home in the high-rent district of Breckenridge is taking shape that, at least after construction is completed, will have a small carbon footprint. It's big - 8,000 square feet - but will employ technology to reduce energy use and create some of its own.
The Summit Daily News explains that high-density foam insulation, engineered wood and lighting controls will contribute to efficiencies. Photovoltaic panels to produce 10 kilowatts of electricity are being installed. Also, 19 boreholes have been drilled 300 feet deep to transfer subterranean heat, which stays a constant 50 to 55 Fahrenheit, into the house to heat or cool it.
Appliances will be designed to use little energy, and motion-sensing occupancy detectors will shut off lights when a person leaves a room.
Meanwhile, town officials continue to puzzle over how to best encourage low-impact housing, knowing full well that many residents don't want to be told what to do. They are thinking both sticks and carrots, but for the moment are favoring the latter. A kitty of $1 million has been assembled to loan for energy-efficiency projects. But they are also thinking about methods of discouraging heated driveways and outdoor gas fireplaces such as have been adopted in adjacent Eagle County, but also Pitkin County and a number other jurisdictions in Colorado.
The Carbon Action Plan adopted by Breckenridge has a goal of reducing community energy use by 20 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020.
The newspaper also reports a variety of loan programs in broader Summit County intended to encourage homeowners to improve energy efficiency of buildings and appliances and install renewable energy fixtures. As well, a new group, called the Resource for Sustainable Building, has formed. The group plans monthly meetings on such topics as responsible remodeling, water conservation in landscaping and environment-friendly building and design.