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Moutain News: Graffiti stops work

By Allen Best ASPEN, Colo. – There’s been a lot of news in Aspen lately about scribblings on the walls of the portable toilets at construction sites. What started the round of stories was the message on a privy wall at Snowmass Village.

By Allen Best

ASPEN, Colo. – There’s been a lot of news in Aspen lately about scribblings on the walls of the portable toilets at construction sites.

What started the round of stories was the message on a privy wall at Snowmass Village. The message seemed to target Latino workers. Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said interviews with workers there revealed that expert workers imported from elsewhere in the country include some who are members of The Aryan Brotherhood and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Latino workers were given a paid day off, and The Aspen Times later reported tensions within the immigrant community.

A week later, a scribble on a toilet wall at a school construction site seemed to target whites. The contractor, G.E. Johnson, shut down the project for the day. Braudis told the Aspen Times, he hopes that workers angered at the loss of a day’s pay will come forward with evidence that authorities can use to catch the perpetrator.


Franchise retailers debated

BANFF, Alberta – Banff continues to debate whether to enact regulations limiting franchise retailers. The current debate was spurred by the announcement that a national franchise bookseller planned to set up shop in Banff, causing fears that it will elbow out a long-time local dealer.

Some residents believe that franchises weaken Banff’s individuality as a resort. “The homogenizaton of the western world has been evolving for the better part of 40 years,” writes Grant Trammell of Banff in the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “Banff is feeling the weight now, more than ever.”

While some favor a blanket ban, others urge review on a case by case basis, based on the track record of the candidate franchise. But Don Kendal, one of Banff’s most prominent landlords, urges no restrictions. Already, he said, businesses are favoring the down-valley town of Canmore, 15 miles away.


The cost of sustainability

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Members of a “green team” within the Steamboat Springs city government are asking for a full-time sustainability coordinator. The cost of the position is $80,000 to $100,000 per year.

The new employee’s duties — if approved by the city council — will include implementing the city’s new sustainability management plan. The Steamboat Pilot & Today notes a “momentum for conservation and energy-efficiency efforts” in Steamboat.

That momentum was reflected in a two-day conference, called “The Economics of Sustainability,” which was hosted by the economic development arm of the local chamber of commerce. Speakers talked about sustainable tourism, renewable energy, and green-building techniques.

Among the speakers was Auden Schendler, the executive director of community and environmental responsibility for the Aspen Skiing Co. He recounted his efforts to “green” the company through efforts large and small. Ultimately, he said, resorts have a duty to be advocates of change in the face of increasing accumulations of greenhouse gases.


Heli-skiing firm acquired

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Developers of the Revelstoke Mountain Resort have purchased Selkirk Tangiers Heli-skiing. The Revelstoke Times Review notes that the company has also acquired CAT Powder Skiing, the main cat-skiing operation in the area.


County lays off 22

PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. – Officials in Archuleta County have laid off 22 employees in an effort to balance the books. In addition, 17 county employees have agreed to take lesser salaries or work fewer hours. One county commissioner gave up 20 per cent of her pay, and the other two commissioners forfeited all of their salaries.

The Durango Herald explains that the county government has spent more money than it has gained in revenues every year since 1999. The county administrator told the paper the crisis was the result of frequent turnover among administrators, an inflated payroll, and lower-than-expected sales-tax revenue. Last month, the county was forced to obtain a $500,000 lien of credit from a local bank to help cover payroll and other expenses. One of the laid-off employees, Sam Matthews, accused former county officials of “deficit-spending like drunken sailors.”


High-end hotel makes pitch

KETCUM, Idaho – Ketchum city officials are hearing a pitch for what is described as a high-end, service-oriented hotel with more than 200 rooms. The project, says the Idaho Mountain Express, is among nine different hotels pending review.

The town has actively solicited hotel developers. Although located at the foot of the Sun Valley ski area, making it the first destination ski resort in the United States, the town has had a flat to declining tourism economy in resort years.

Matt Cosgriff, an agent with Sotheby’s International Reality, one of the project partners, said Ketchum badly needs such a hotel — and maybe two or three. “If the city approves it with enough rooms to make it work economically, this thing will be built, and quickly. It’s the real deal,” he said.


Whole Foods adjusts plans

BASALT, Colo. – Whole Foods, the grocery store of organic foods, is being planned for Basalt, located 20 miles down-valley from Aspen.

Whole Foods ordinarily wants 200,000 people within a 20-minute drive of its stores. The Roaring Fork Valley falls far short of the population threshold, with 67,000 projected residents within five years. But those people who live there have chart-busting demographic characteristics that Whole Foods covets. Local residents are both better educated but also wealthier than national standards.

“More than half of all the homes here are second homes, and the demand they create for goods and services is vast and discerning,” said Pamela Brady Ferrara, a retail leasing agent for a development partner, Joseph Freed and Associates.

The project, called Willits Town Center, ultimately is to have 250,0000 square feet of commercial space and 400 lofts and condominiums, says the Valley Journal. The second and third floor of the Whole Foods store will be residences.

Among ski valleys of the West, Park City has a Wild Oats on its periphery, and Santa Fe also has both Wild Oats and Whole Foods stores.


White knight arrives

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Several weeks ago the effort to raise $50 million for purchase of land at the town’s entrance, to ensure it remains in open space, seemed to be falling just a few million short. And, said the town council, no white knight awaited in the weeds, ready to ride to the rescue.

Well, in fact, there was. A Hollywood movie director and producer, Tom Shayac, contributed the final $2 million, allowing the town to complete its condemnation of the land. Shayac had first visited Telluride for Mountainfilm, and returned for that and other film festivals, although he does not own property there.

The community has collected everything from nickels to million-dollar donations since a jury in February ruled that the 570 acres at the town’s entrance was worth $50 million. Among those helping raise money was Meg Whitman, chief executive officer of eBay and owner of the Skyline Guest Ranch. While fundraisers in most cases expect 15 per cent of pledges not to be met, in this case virtually all the IOUs were collected.

The landowner, Neal Blue, chief executive of General Atomic, continues to fight the condemnation, and is appealing the case to the Colorado Supreme Court.


Aspen loses characters

ASPEN, Colo. – Spring is a time of beginnings, but in Aspen this year it has been a time of endings. Several robust lives have ended, among them those of an artist, an architect and a real-estate investor.

An architect from California, Tom Benton arrived in Aspen in 1963, bought a lot on Hyman Avenue for $ 3,000, and built a studio and gallery. Benton vowed to become a working artist.

And so he was. Silk-screening work was his specialty. When Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff of Pitkin County in 1970, Benton turned out a poster that remains one of his most sought-after works, the double-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button. He also turned out a poster for U.S. Sen. George McGovern’s 1972 presidential bid, but also posters for the Vail Symposium. There was much more affinity between Aspen and Vail in the 1970s then there is today.

His wasn’t an easy life. He struggled financially, and lost the gallery in a divorce, one of three marriages. Beginning in 1989, he worked as a deputy at the county jail.

In the mid-1990s, Benton took one last shot at becoming a painter. The Times says the show was well received, but financially not remunerative. “The reward isn’t what you get at the end. It’s doing it. That’s the pain and that’s the pleasure,” he said in 1995.

Benton died this spring in Denver, where he had gone to seek treatment for cancer. He was 76.

Also passing was Sam Caudill, one of Aspen’s most influential architects, and with his full, white beard, one of its most recognizable residents. “He was “larger than life,” says The Aspen Times, “and looked every bit the part of his longtime nickname, ‘Coondog’ Caudill.’”

Caudill was Aspen’s first licensed architect, although he also built schools in Telluride, Leadville and Frisco, among other places. “His schools are happy places, full of sunlight, warmth and brightness,” says Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, the long-time managing editor for the Times.

Caudill also had an influential role in the way that Interstate 70 was built within Glenwood Canyon during the 1980s and early 1990s. Caudill was a member of the citizen advisory committee, and Ralph Trapani, the state highway engineer on that project, recalls the first meeting. When he entered, Trapani says, Caudill “stood up and said he was going to kick my ass if I screwed the canyon up.”

For the record, Caudill liked how Glenwood Canyon ended up. He was 84.

Also passing was George Vicenzi, who arrived in 1968 on a ski vacation in a new Volkswagen minibus. He and his then wife were smitten. They returned to Connecticut, tidied up their affairs, and returned west. He was a real-estate investor and developer, but one caring of Aspen’s Victorian heritage.

He was also an outdoor enthusiast who urged walking and bicycling in Aspen instead of car-driving. He was 63. The VW minibus he drove to Aspen in 1968 still sits in the driveway of his home.


Feisty figure dies

VAIL, Colo. – Florence Steinberg was a coal-miners daughter from Pennsylvania who became a nurse, married a doctor, Tom Steinberg, and with him and their family, moved to Vail in 1965, where he was the town resort’s first full-time doctor.

She wrote a column in The Vail Trail called Flo’s Flotsam, was an active Democrat at a time when Vail had few, and could best be described as “feisty.” Among her causes was a fight during the 1970s to ban corporate-style advertising at the town’s Holiday Inn.

She died this spring of complications from a stroke at the age of 83.


ATVs encroaching

BLANDING, Utah – Come May, the canyons of Utah are thick with mountain people. But this year, says the Durango Telegraph, some people will find tire tracks in new — and perhaps disturbing — places.

Lynell Schalk, a retired investigator for the Bureau of Land Management, tells the newspaper she found a new ATV road inside a place called Recapture Wash, located on BLM lands just west of Blanding. She said she was outraged that the BLM was aware of the ATV road and had actually turned it over to the county as a public right of way.

Other activists include Rose Chilcoat, program manager for the Durango-based Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “San Juan County (where Blanding is located) has gone out and mapped every path you could conceivably drive an ATV down,” she said. “They’ve published that map and effectively told the public they can go out and drive any of these routes.”

The newspaper says it called BLM, but got no call-back.


Real estate market cools

DURANGO, Colo. – Falling real estate prices in the major metropolitan areas are starting to affect the market for housing in Durango and La Plata County. The Durango Area Association of Realtors reports the median price of homes sold there dropped 1 per cent in the year’s first quarter.

Don Ricedorff, a real estate broker at The Wells Group in Durango, told the Durango Herald that the local market was being influenced by weakening markets in Phoenix, Southern California and other places. Many homebuyers must sell their houses elsewhere before buying in Durango, he explained.

Real-estate brokers believe that prices will soon begin marching upward again, partly because of more restrictive development policies expected of new city and county officials.


High schoolers not interested

PARK CITY, Utah – Military recruiters are having a harder time getting students to enlist from the three high schools in Summit County.

“I knew a few people who wanted to be pilots a while back, but they aren’t talking about it anymore,” said Adam Whitworth, a junior at Park City High School, who hopes to join the Coast Guard. “The war has really turned people off. The public view of the military has deeply changed.”

Sgt. Terrance Pohl, a recruiter for the Army National Guard, said students aren’t a hard sell, but their parents — who have the right to refuse a recruiter access to their sons and daughters until they turn 18 — are. “Mom and Dad are watching way too much TV. What they see is, ‘You’re going to Iraq, and you’re going to die,’” he told The Park Record.


Seniors determined to party

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Alcohol-drinking at parties on senior sneak day is a tradition at Jackson Hole High School. So are attempts by local police to limit the alcohol consumption of minors, and certainly to prevent drunken driving.

Sheriff deputies for some years raided parties, and the kids fled into the forest, sometimes jumping into rivers. One year, explains the Jackson Hole News & Guide, the local rescue squad had to be called to comb the woods for kids who ran away on a particularly cold night.

Deputies next tried a low-key approach, asking under-age drinkers at the senior parties to pour out alcohol, but making no arrests. Then, they waited at the party’s perimeters, in an attempt to ensure nobody drunk was driving.

But after a student died because of drunken driving elsewhere during the school year, community members asked for stronger law enforcement. Last year cops responded by arresting 51 students. However, parents fought the charges — and won — because of Wyoming’s somewhat intricate liquor laws. The law requires the cops to ask the underage youth what they drank, and the law will only punish the ones who co-operate.

“Kids, essentially, now can drink with impunity,” sheriff’s office Capt. Jim Whalen lamented.

What will happen this year? “We’re not all going to sit around and make s’mores,” said one high school senior. “Nice idea,” said another of the effort to quash drinking, “but it’s never going to happen.”


Energy alternatives pursued

KETCHUM, Idaho – Pushed first by the wars in the Middle East and now fanned by a growing consensus about global warming, there’s a buzz about alternative energy. Mountain towns are poking around in the closet at ideas largely shelved since the 1970s.

Emblematic of this new push was a meeting in Ketchum, where about 50 people showed up to talk about energy in Idaho. “We have the chance to be progressive, not reactive,” said Deb Bohrer, president of the snake River Alliance. A panelist, Ben Sinnamon, predicted that the energy situation will change dramatically in 20 years. Another panelist, Mike Heckler, a proponent of wind energy, said carbon pollution should be penalized. “Right now there’s no charge for carbon flatulence,” he said.

A local official, Jon Thorson, mayor of Sun Valley, asked for some kind of demonstration project.


CB hopes for fewer ursine

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Town officials in Crested Butte have adopted several measures intended to make the town less attractive to bears. Trash can be placed outside from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. only on days of scheduled pickup, unless in bear-resistant containers. The town council set aside $80,000 in its budget to purchase bear-resistant containers. Bird feeders ware allowed, reports the Crested Butte News, but only when suspended so as to be inaccessible to bears.

Similar measures in Colorado resort towns were first introduced by Snowmass Village, and since then have been adopted in Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat Springs. The town of Mt. Crested Butte, which is located adjacent to the ski slopes, is considering similar measures.


Jackson refuses smoking ban

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The Jackson Town Council has refused to enact a ban on smoking in public places. The proposal would have included not only businesses, but also all parks and outdoor facilities such as baseball fields, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Councillor Meilissa Turley said she “votes with her feet” by not patronizing the three remaining bars in Teton County that still allow smoking. No restaurants allow smoking.

Larry Hartnett told councilors it’s also a matter of principles. “I am not a smoker, and I don’t like going into places where there is smoke, but one thing I am particularly fond of is freedom,” he told the council.

The Teton County Board of Public Health is mulling the idea of classifying tobacco smoke as a toxic substance. The legality of that declaration is being explored.


Evac plan in the works

GRAND LAKE, Colo. – Cloaked in a blanket of lodgepole pines, Grand Lake is painfully vulnerable to the potential for catastrophic forest fires. With half or more of those trees now dead or drying, the result of an epidemic of bark beetles, the local fire department has assembled an evacuation plan.

But problems remain. One is access. The only paved road is Highway 34, which extends from Granby and then continues into Rocky Mountain National Park, and that road is lined with tall — and dead — trees. In response, the Colorado Department of Transportation has appropriated $1 million to cut the trees, beginning after Labor Day.

The other problem, explains the Sky-Hi News, is figuring out how to alert residents and visitors if the area is to be evacuated. Many people now use cell phones exclusively, and there is no way yet to supply a reverse 911 to cell phones. Fire chief Mike Long says methods of alerting people are being explored.


Ginn Co. makes dark promise

MINTURN, Colo. – The Ginn Co. promises it will minimize lighting if it gets approval to build 1,700 housing units, plus a golf course and a small ski area. The project location is between the towns of Minturn and Red Cliff, on the southwest side of the Vail ski area.

Ginn Co. officials tell the Vail Daily that state-of-the-art lighting fixtures would focus the light toward the ground, and computers would be programmed to limit the amount of that time that light shines from homes.

“People come to Colorado for the environment, and we want them to be able to see the stars,” said company spokesman Cliff Thompson.

Nancy Clanton, a lighting designer from Boulder, says development is compatible with dark skies. She cited Bachelor Gulch, located at Beaver Creek, as an example of how dark skies can be preserved.


Road dust fouling air

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Air quality in Truckee continues to improve because of efforts to replace old wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, but increased dust from roads is beginning to cut into those gains, reports the Sierra Sun. Town officials are talking about refocusing efforts to reduce road dust.