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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - Breckenridge has held back on plans to install solar panels at two prominent locations, the local golf club and a venue called the Riverwalk Center often used for weddings.

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - Breckenridge has held back on plans to install solar panels at two prominent locations, the local golf club and a venue called the Riverwalk Center often used for weddings.

The town, reports the Summit Daily News , will move forward with less visible solar panel installations at nine other public buildings, including the community recreation center, the police station and the ice arena.

People who spoke out against the panels said the solar panels would damage the historic feel of the town, might impact property values of nearby homes, and would lock the town into technology that might change or improve in coming years.

As measured financially, however, the technology works well already. At the Riverwalk, 10 stand-alone panels standing 18 feet high (5.5 metres) would have been erected along the parking lot, producing 23 per cent of the electricity consumed by the building and saving the town $6,700 in just the first year alone. The electrical bill would have been dented even more severely at the golf club.

As a majority of electricity in Colorado comes from burning coal, a major source of carbon dioxide emissions, the solar panels help to reduce the town's carbon footprint. Breckenridge residents have mostly indicated their support of that goal.

Understandably, some council members were vexed. "We want to be green as long as we don't have to see it," said Councilman Mike Dudick.


Plastic bottles safe for now

ASPEN, Colo. - A ban on plastic bottles? Not in Aspen, which has instead decided to emphasize the positive, the high quality of its native waters high in the Rocky Mountains. The idea for the ban came up after a councilman noticed all the plastic bottles littering the water in the British Virgin Islands while on a vacation earlier this year, notes The Aspen Times .

But Aspen has decided to follow in the footsteps of Telluride to discourage plastic bags, and it hopes for coordination with other municipalities in the Roaring Fork Valley in adoption of a policy.

Whistler has also talked about crimping the proliferation of plastic shopping bags. But the city's environmental coordinator, Nicolette Richer, recently said that the initiative must come from the business community, particularly the three grocery stores that account for 70 per cent of plastic bags issued in Whistler.

Pique Newsmagazine , talking with two of the groceries, reported some hedging by one about "two sides to the coin," but more clear enthusiasm from a second grocery. "It does make sense to change over and get rid of the plastic, so we're fully supportive of something that will work for Whistler," said Kent Dawson of Whistler's Creekside Market.


The three hen rule

HAILEY, Idaho - City officials in Hailey, the locals' oriented town down-valley form Ketchum and Sun Valley, said there has been very little clucking about a trial ordinance that allowed three hens per house. Save for one household that tried to duck a ban on roosters, the experiment worked well, they said, in moving to make the provision permanent. But one blogger on the website of the Idaho Mountain Express cautions that three hens is only half as many as are needed for adequate production to satisfy the needs and wants of a family.


Vail's Lindsey Vonn

VAIL, Colo. - Last Friday was April Fool's Day, and it's a time-honored tradition in ski-town newspapers to play fast, loose and fun with the news, shadowing reality in ways that produce a smile.

Some jokester stories work better than others. Many years ago, the Vail Daily had a photograph of two ski patrollers excitedly pointing to a mitten in what was purported to be the discovery of two identical snowflakes. About the same time, the Vail Valley Times had landscape artist Christo on a skiing vacation at Vail, where he discovered that the peak across the valley was called Bald Mountain. His next project, he said, would be to create a plastic toupee for the mountaintop.

This year's funniest story, at least until it outran its core joke, was also in the Vail Daily . Lindsey Vonn, the ski racer, had agreed to formally change her first name to "Vail's," as in "Vail's Lindsey Vonn." But it wouldn't make much difference, noted the paper, as that's how she is always called anyway.

Banff limiting gifts for officials

BANFF, Alberta - Town officials in Banff have drawn up rules governing what an elected official can accept in the way of gifts and other gratuities.

The policy formation had been underway for several months, but its need was underscored by a recent controversy involving the mayor of Calgary, who had accepted a free airline ticket to Toronto from an architectural firm.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook said city officials were most concerned about golf outings, concerts, and ski passes.

Gifts valued at more than $250 are banned outright, while those below $25 are allowed. In the gray area between, gifts such as souvenirs and mementoes can be accepted for such things as serving on a committee, event speaking, or representation of the municipality. As well, food and beverages at banquets and events are allowed.

Revelstoke tsunami?

REVELSTOKE, B.C. - With Japan's misfortune fresh in mind, the Revelstoke Times-Review asked the local emergency preparedness officials about what the greatest threat to Revelstoke is. Although far inland, a tsunami could occur.

That scenario could occur if a mass of land along the Columbia River, upstream of the Revelstoke Dam, should let loose. Electronic sensors have been installed in that ancient landslide to detect movement. The fear is that the earth and mud could plop down into the reservoir, creating waves that slop over the dam.

In 1963, that's exactly what happened, when a landslide created a wave that went across the Vajont Dam, flooding the valley below and killing 2,000 people.

But the highest percentage threat facing Revelstoke, said the emergency coordinator, Jerry Silva, is the potential for a wildfire in the urban-wildland interface. Also high on the list is the potential for a hazardous waste spill on either the TransCanda Highway or Canadian-Pacific Railway, both of which pass through the town.

Ski season extended

PARK CITY, Utah - It's been such a good snow year that Park City Mountain Resort plans to stay open a week longer, with a new closing date of April 17. The Park Record reports a 120-inch base and the forecast of several more storms.


Bears want breakfast

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - The same week that snowfall for the year reached 400 inches mid-mountain at Steamboat, the first bears of the season were reported lumbering around the town.

Similar reports were filed in Crested Butte and Jackson Hole. And in all cases, wildlife officers wanted the public to know it was time to start putting trash in the wildlife-resistant containers, hoisting the bird feeders high enough that bears couldn't get them, and in other ways forcing the bears to earn their meals honestly, out in the wild.

In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which includes Yellowstone National Park and adjoining areas of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, 50 per cent of all adult male grizzly bears are out by mid-March, noted the Jackson Hole News & Guide . Females with new born cubs are generally the last bears to emerge.


Aspen Bear collars head to Durango

ASPEN, Colo. - The electronic surveillance collars placed on bears in the hills surrounding Aspen are now being removed, to next be used in a study of bears around Durango.

The Aspen Times explains that the collars had been placed on 62 bears during the last five years in an attempt to better understand whether bears get addicted to human food. Sharon Baruch-Mordo, a doctoral candidate at Colorado State University, who led the study, concluded that bears would remain in the wilds when natural food, like berries and acorns, are plentiful. In years they are not, then the bears look to glean what they can amid dumpsters, garbage cans and even houses and garages.

Last year, 10 bears were killed under Colorado's three-strikes policy. The year before, there were 20. In some cases, bears were relocated 100 to 200 miles (160 kilometre to 320 kilometres) away, but still returned to Aspen to rustle their meals.

The Times explained that with this first study done, wildlife graduate student David Lewis is starting another study. "We're trying to find out if Aspen is a source for the bear population or a sink for the bear population," he said. "Aspen should be a source, because it has such good habitat, but it may be a sink because of the euthanizations - because of conflicts."


Starbucks opposed

KETCHUM, Idaho - Ketchum has been getting worked up about plans to let Starbucks rent space in a taxpayer-funded facility. The group that controls the space, the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency, had advertised its was looking for bidders, but only Starbucks applied.

Opponents cite a violation of the law, but reading between the lines of the Idaho Mountain Express several comments suggest that the real quarrel is about allowing a chain franchise the right to use the space.