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Pairing butts, bikes and beds


STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - Bicycling seems to be on the rise and several Colorado mountain towns are seeing a particularly big bounce in visitors this summer resulting from two big tours, the annual Ride the Rockies mass pedalthon sponsored by The Denver Post and then the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in August.

In Steamboat Springs, an effort called Biketown USA Initiative has been plotting how to make bicycling a bigger part of the summer menu. In doing so, it has looked at Whistler, which installed an innovative mountain bike park some years ago. A 2008 study found visitors at Whistler drawn by the mountain biking spend an average $133 a day.

In Steamboat, a typical summer visitor spends $73 per day. Promoters of the bicycling initiative hope to improve that to $112 per day, reports Steamboat Today .

Bicycling is also in the news in Aspen. Mick Ireland, the mayor, is an avid on-road bicycle racer, and he was off to Europe to sing the praises of Aspen for its bicycling possibilities.

Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong - he doesn't need an introduction, does he? - was recently in Aspen, where he maintains a vacation home. So was Tyler Hamilton, Armstrong's former teammate who recently accused Armstrong of using dope.

An account in The Aspen Times said they met up at a restaurant, and witnesses said they talked about five minutes. They also said that Hamilton tried to give Armstrong a hug, but Armstrong brushed him off. The FBI is said to be trying to get surveillance tape from the restaurant, although the tape would not have provided any conversation.


Plastic shopping bag ban?

HAILEY, Idaho - Paper or plastic? If a group of students from Wood River High School gets its way, the only answer in Hailey will be paper - and then at an added cost of 15 cents each.

The Hailey City Council had adopted a resolution discouraging use of disposable plastic bags. But the band of local students wants the city council to take an additional step. The council may ask for an advisory opinion from voters at the November election.

Hailey is the largest town in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area.

The Idaho Mountain Express notes that a new market in Ketchum does not give out plastic bags. But the largest grocery store in Hailey, while rewarding customers who use reusable shopping bogs, opposes a ban.

So do several readers of the newspaper. In the blog, one reader bemoaned the "enviro-social engineering." Another reader reported using reusable bags consistently, but does not like being told by a government that reusable bags must be used. "Am I also going to be regulated in the diapers I choose?" asked the reader.


Horse among newest fossils

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. - Among the thousands of ancient bones now recovered from an ancient lakebed near Snowmass Village is that of a horse.

Of course, horses are by no means rare in North America now, but this horse existed somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 years ago. Later, they became extinct in North America, only to be reintroduced by Spaniards in the 15 th century.

Last week, curators from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science reported that their excavations had reached the bottom of the peat-filled lakebed.

The ancient lakebed was being scraped out last October for use as a reservoir, to ensure sufficient water supplies for new lodging and shopping being developed at Snowmass, when a bulldozer operator noticed a bone. It turned out to be a mastodon, one of many extinct species now recovered. Others include mammoths, and Jefferson's ground sloth. A complete skull of a sloth was about the size of a grizzly bear.

Kirk Johnson, chief curator at the museum has called it the best high-elevation fossil site in North America, if not the world.

Still unclear is why so many animals congregated at the lake. Putting together good theories will occupy several dozen scientists during the next two years as they return to their labs to date the bones, leaves and tree limbs found at the site.

Local police must be kept in loop

ASPEN, Colo. - The story about the cocaine drug bust in Aspen gets ever more interesting, with new evidence that the local sheriff attended a birthday party for one of the accused drug traffickers several weeks before the arrests.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials have alleged that Aspen was the end-stop for a cocaine ring that operated out of Los Angeles and had connections to Mexican drug cartels. They claim that more than 200 kilograms were transported from LA to Aspen over the past 15 years. In May, they arrested six people from Aspen and Snowmass Village - but pointedly did not let the local cops know their intentions.

Why didn't the feds let the locals know of their plans? Because, according to the DEA team, both current Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and his predecessor, Bob Braudis, were pals with at least some of the defendants.

Both DiSalvo and Braudis acknowledge knowing several of the defendants, but say that in a smaller community, that's not unusual. And they deny close relationships.

The federal drug agents and local accomplices from nearby towns disagree. They point to a 65 th birthday party in April for one of the defendants, who had been arrested previously elsewhere in Colorado on a cocaine charge.

Both DiSalvo and Braudis admit that they had attended the party, held at the Hyatt Grand Aspen, but only briefly, 15 minutes in the case of DiSalvo. "I saw Wayne and we shook hands," he told Rick Carroll of The Aspen Times . "I knew he was going away for a long time, and we shook hands and I left." Braudis said much the same thing. They deny the "close ties" alleged by the DEA.

The Pitkin County commissioners have unanimously asked the DEA to cooperate with local law-enforcement agencies when conducting operations within Pitkin County.

The letter, according to The Aspen Times , asked the federal agency to put aside any political disagreements and "reconsider the directive you've given to your field agents and employees that places innocent people at risk."

Pitkin County's position, at least in part, stems from a 1975 incident in which federal drug agents were making a bust without informing the local cops. Neighbors saw a furtive man with a gun lurking and called local police. Local police, unaware of a drug bust underway, responded with their own guns, although the situation was resolved and confusion cleared up without further incident.


Sold-out food festival

ASPEN, Colo. - While doubts remain about the strength of the recovering economy, note that the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen this summer has had to turn away significant numbers of people willing to pay top dollar to taste wines and hear from top chefs talking about their craft. Few rooms were available last weekend, reports The Aspen Times.

"People are in disbelief, so I hope they realize that they can't wait until the last minute next year, as this could be signaling a slow return to the old days," said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass. It was, he said, the first time since 2008 that guests were turned away.


Affordable housing prices rise

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. - Not all home values have been shrinking like a mound of snow on a hot summer day. Deed-restricted homes appreciated 2.5 per cent during the recession while single-family homes declined 21.6 per cent.

This is based on data from June 2008 through June 2010, reports the Summit Daily News.

Of course, deed-restricted housing never had the huge gains enjoyed by free-market housing because, by definition, the deeds restrict the resale price. Many affordable housing projects restrict appreciation to three to five per cent annually. In contrast, free-market housing prices rose anywhere from two percent to 35 percent annually since 1989, the last time housing prices declined in Summit County.

What's going on? David O'Neil, developer of two affordable-housing complexes in Summit County - the Wellington Neighborhood in Breckenridge, and the Peak One Neighborhood in Frisco - says it's very simple. "We have real people, buying real homes, with real dollars. As a result, it is a very stable market." And it's a much safer investment than unrestricted market homes, he said.


Bakery rises from its ashes

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Baked in Telluride, like the Phoenix of old, has arisen from its ashes, opening just in time for the big bluegrass festival. The bakery, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Telluride, having opened in 1977, burned down in February 2010. The exterior of the building looks much like the old one , reports The Telluride Watch , although ample daylighting has created an airier ambience.



Circuses no worse than

kennels or horse show

KETCHUM, Idaho - The big top was scheduled to arrive in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area last week, and one local resident contacted the Idaho Mountain News to urge a boycott because of the abuse of elephants and other circus animals.

A representative of the circus, Carson and Barnes, denied any abuse. "There are bad people out there, but it doesn't mean everyone is bad," said David Rawls.

The newspaper also talked with Ted Friend, who leads an animal well-being program at Texas A&M University. He and several students travelled with Carson and Barnes and four other circuses over the course of two years.

"There was nothing different than what we would do with horses or show dogs. It would be illogical to condemn circuses if you didn't also condemn kennels and horseback riding with trailers," Friend said.


Assisted-care facility gets help

BANFF, Alberta - Banff town officials have agreed to support expansion of an aging-in-place facility called Bow River Lodge. The facility, located down-valley in Canmore, is proposed to have 61 more units at a cost of $19.3 million.

A lack of suitable accommodations is forcing seniors to live with relatives who are ill-equipped to meet their needs, live on their own in isolation and at risk, or leave the community to find appropriate housing, says the Rocky Mountain Outlook .