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White flight from public schools

AVON, Colo. — Rivaled only by Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, Vail and the Eagle Valley have a school district with a steadily rising number of students for whom English is a second language.

AVON, Colo. — Rivaled only by Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, Vail and the Eagle Valley have a school district with a steadily rising number of students for whom English is a second language.

From the start of Vail in 1962, the resort’s founders didn’t want their kids in the public schools, which then were at least 50 per cent Hispanic. A mine in the area had drawn large numbers of Hispanics from the 1920s through the 1950s from New Mexico and Colorado’s San Luis Valley. But Vail’s founders wanted higher educational standards, so they created a private school.

That private school continues to flourish, joined in the last decade by a now lengthy list of church and private schools. The newest school, a charter elementary school, is planned for Eagle-Vail, a suburban-type neighborhood of 4,000 people located west of Vail, adjacent to Avon. Organizers tell the Vail Daily they were concerned that the neighborhood school, called Meadow Mountain, would close, so they struck out to organize their own school.

But why not send the kids to Avon Elementary School, only a mile or two down the road? It has upwards of 70 to 80 per cent Hispanic students. Seeming to deny ethnic prejudice, founders of the charter school insist their new school will also embrace Hispanic children, and because many of the charter-school founders are businessmen, they say they know how to attract Latino immigrants.

The public perception, however, remains somewhat different. In fact, white flight is now being publicly talked about. Racism seems to be less of a motivator than the fear that English-speaking students are being slowed while waiting for their Spanish-speaking fellow students to arrive at the same page. Public schools in the Eagle Valley are nearly 50 per cent Hispanic, the private schools still very much Anglo-dominated.

The Vail Daily reports a widening gap in test scores between Anglos and Hispanics. The gap in test scores at the third grade between limited-English speakers, mostly Hispanic, and proficient English speakers, mostly Anglo, is 36 per cent. By the 10 th grade level, it has widened to 61 per cent.

A task force of school and other government officials has examined how to make public schools more attractive. A recent discussion delved into Hispanic culture and family values, as well as the correlation between lower incomes and lower scores. The Vail Daily reports no particular conclusions.

Big boxes reviewed

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — In both Colorado and Utah, the same question has been asked again and then again: Can a mountain town feel like a mountain town if it has big box retailers?

The latest place where this question is being posed is Utah’s Summit County. Like its counterpart in Colorado, it is riven by an interstate, in this case I-80, which draws many commuters going west to Salt Lake City as well as skiers coming east to Park City. But among the communities hard along I-80 is a place called Snyderville Basin.

There, despite a community plan that pointedly allows maximum buildings of no more than 60,000 square feet, a developer has submitted plans that anticipate Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, and other national franchises.

The Park Record reports an icy response from the planning commission. "We’ve said mountain resort character over and over again," said Mike Washington, a planning commissioner. He, and other commissioners, point to the detrimental impact they believe the big retailers would have on the smaller retailers.

"Is there an outcry for a big box?" asked Claudia McMullin, another commissioner. "I see no reason on Earth to revisit this right now."

But the rejection is not complete. The argument is made – and heard – that consumers like these stores. If not there, then will they be accommodated down the road, at another jurisdiction – with the sales tax dollars going to that other jurisdiction?

Park City gets Olympic-sized rink

PARK CITY, Utah — An Olympic-sized ice rink has opened near Park City. The ice sheet, located in a 40,000-square-foot building, will help round out the Park City area’s winter amenities, community boosters say. It was built at a cost of $4.8 million, part of that borne by Park City’s government and partly by a quasi-rural community called Snyderville Basin. Organizers hope still to recoup some of the cost by selling the naming rights.

Women leave skiing quicker

VAIL, Colo. — Until age 40, skiing is an even-steven sport, with nearly as many women as men on the slopes. After that, though, the ratio steadily widens. By age 47, women are down to 40 per cent. Two decades later in life and they are 30 per cent of skiers.

How come, the Vail Daily asked after citing these figures from the National Ski Areas Association. Profiling one 65-year-old woman from Vail, the newspaper found several reasons. Women prefer to ski in groups, which makes it less likely that they’ll go skiing, than men who are more optional about the group thing. Also, this particular woman believes equipment remains less friendly for women than for men.

Filmmaking trio look for soul

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — A film that makes the argument that "the soul of skiing is being lost" is being prepared. The Summit Daily News reports that a trio of filmmakers – Hunter Sykes, Darren Campbell and Steven Siig – were in Summit County to film several segments and interviews. They say their film will examine the effects of the corporate ownership model on the sport and mountain communities.

They intend to focus on Mammoth Mountain, Calif., where the corporate takeover is still in progress. Long-time owner Dave McCoy several years ago sold much of his stake to Intrawest, and more recently sold his remaining interest to Starwood. Efforts to make Mammoth, primarily a weekend ski resort, into a full-fledged, high-end resort similar to… well, just about every resort in the Rocky Mountains is already well underway.

"We hear people saying, all over the place, we don't want to become another Vail," Campbell told the newspaper. Like Sykes, he earned a masters degree in international environmental policy at the University of Colorado. Both men have worked for Vail Resorts on and off over the years. Cameraman Siig has worked on several other recent ski-oriented movies with well-known Matchstick Productions.

Steamboat debates its unusualness

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Steamboat Springs does not ban national franchises, although it does impose special reviews on stores of more than 12,000 square feet. A project that is anchored by a Walgreens store has emerged from that process, but not without some local misgivings.

"We are a community built on tourism," writes Timothy Maxwell in a letter published in The Steamboat Pilot. "People come here for a unique experience and glimpse of a unique lifestyle, Western. In my opinion, these businesses such as Walgreens fall into one category: Generic. Nobody travels across the country to visit a place that is down the street in their hometown."

Employees consider global warming

FRISCO, Colo. — Frisco has adopted an environmental stewardship policy that calls for town employees to consider environmentally sustainable practices in all operating and budgetary decisions. The policy specifically identifies concerns about global warming.

"The international scientific community has reached consensus that human activities are warming the planet, and with its mountain setting and proximity to some of Colorado's major ski resorts, Frisco is on the front lines of climate change..." the resolution reads.

Mark Gage, the community development director, pointed out that buildings account for about half of U.S. energy consumption. "Where change really needs to start is with buildings," he said, and it needs to start at the local level.

In adopting the resolution, Frisco is also joining the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, a metro Denver-based group that seeks to coalesce local action against greenhouse gas emissions. Other cities in the organization include Aspen, Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins, as well as Summit County.

Gate told the Summit Daily News that Frisco is keeping its eye on Aspen, which last year launched a program called the Canary Initiative. An audit conducted as part of that program found that Aspen residents and the skiing, tourism, and second-home economy are responsible for double the per capita greenhouse emissions of the United States as a whole. This is despite heavy investments in Aspen in alternative energy.

Bar owners ban smoking

CANMORE, Alberta — Last year Banff imposed a restrictive non-smoking law, and the down-valley town of Canmore almost echoed it. The council split 3-3, with the dissidents wanting a smoking ban but thinking that requiring smokers to be about 18 feet away from the doors of bars and other establishments was just too much.

Now, bar owners in Canmore are banning smoking on their terms. It’s not 100 per cent, and there seems to be no mandate to force pub patrons out in the street to have a drag. But the bar-keeps hope it will cause the government to butt out of their business.

One server in a bar, Rebecca Klisko, said she was delighted by the decision of her employer, Rose and Crown, to go non-smoking. "I think it’s about time, with Canmore being such an outdoorsy town," she said.

Molybdenum mining in the works

REVELSTOKE, B.C. — Just as the skyrocketing price of molybdenum is provoking fresh looks at ore deposits in Colorado, near Copper Mountain-Leadville and also at Crested Butte, it’s causing examination of an ore deposit near Revelstoke.

Prices several years ago had dropped to only $2, but last year roared to $40, although lately settling down to about $24 a pound. Vancouver-based Roca Mines Inc. is purchasing a mill and concentrator in Washington state, and plans to move it to the ore deposit. Sources tell the Revelstoke Times Review that the mine won’t be a major producer, but the ore is high grade. It is likely to end up in China and India.

Views, views views

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Where is the highest lodge in the Rocky Mountains? A likely contender is a house built at an elevation of 12,200 feet near the Telluride ski area. It was built by a real estate agent, David Eckley, who, not incidentally, happens to be a high-altitude runner.

"I thought it would be cool to live at altitude, because I was running in high-altitude races," Eckley explained to The Telluride Watch, which puts out a real-estate magazine called Shelter. At the time he was competing with the national Fila Sky Runners team, traveling around the world to compete in mountain races.

As you might expect, the house has views! views! views!, as real estate ads are wont to say. Out the front door is a chasm of nearly 3,000 feet, with 14,000-foot peaks beyond and, in the distance, the red rock country of Utah.

Eckley sold the house to the operator of the Telluride ski area, and today it is available for overnight rental. In addition to Buddhist, Hindu and other artifacts from around the world, it has a pool table and oxygen tanks. Also: a ski patroller who knows about how to deal with problems of sleeping at thin air.

Kayak water rights sought

DURANGO, Colo. — Durango is among the most recent cities in Colorado to file for water rights for a whitewater course. The city expects to spend $500,000 to modify the course of the Animas River to produce the maximum number of grins for kayakers. The city had worked with other water interests to allay their fears that the city’s water rights, if awarded, won’t injure future plans of upstream users. The proposed water right is for 1,400 cubic feet per second during the peak of spring runoff, usually in June, and 185 cfs during low-flow times in fall and winter.

Not Vail or Aspen

PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. — Yet another town doesn’t want to be like Aspen or Vail.

The comparisons were provoked by the property acquisitions of David J. Brown in Pagosa Springs and surrounding Archuletta County. The Durango Herald, which is headquartered 51 miles to the west, reports that Brown has spent $12.5 million buying 14 parcels in downtown Pagosa during the last two years, plus 12 other parcels outside the town, including some ranches with distinctly larger price tags.

Brown, who was identified as coming from California’s Silicon Valley, told the Herald he intended to revitalize downtown Pagosa by bringing in more upscale stores, hotels, and restaurants. But, he added, he had no intention of creating an overly expensive town like Vail or Aspen.

Although long a favorite for vacationing Texans, Pagosa Springs was recalled as sleepy until the mid to late 1990s (a description that could be applied to much of the West). In the last 15 years, the population doubled, and it is expected to double again in the next 20 years. Still, that will yield only 24,000 or so people, still rural by most standards.

As for what Pagosa Springs wants to be when it grows up, no word on that from the Herald – just that it doesn’t want to be no stinkin’ Aspen or Vail.

Less grit

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — In one of many attempts to prevent the further degradation of once crystal-clear Lake Tahoe, California has been particularly careful about the sand and salts it lays down on nearby roads and highways.

For example, far less sand is now being used. In 1994, highway crews spread 23,000 tons of sand each year. Last winter, they used 5,000 tons, and picked up 4,000 tons of debris, mostly sand.

In turn, the use of salt has remained constant, reports the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Last year the state transportation department, called Caltrans, experimented with a mined salt product called Ice Slicer. More expensive than normal salt, it is also more effective, meaning less is needed. But – there is always a "but" in such stories – the salt contains phosphorous, which could feed algae growth in Lake Tahoe. And algae growth blocks the lake’s fabled clarity, as does sand when it is ground into fine particles by vehicles and blown into the air as dust.

The newspaper reports that Caltrans has spent $9 million researching how to reduce pollution coming off highways, to comply with water quality standards that are more strict for Lake Tahoe than for normal drinking water.

Where to put it?

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Although only 114 per cent of average, snow-removers in Jackson were having a hard time figuring out where to put the snow by mid-February.

"It’s a big problem," said Bill Woodward, who owns a roofing and snow removal business. His complaint was echoed by other snow-plowers, and also snow-shovelers. "We’re running out of places to put snow," said Jeremy Budge.

Meanwhile, despite a local antipathy toward urban solutions, Jackson continues to get more dense. The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that a town-owned block currently used as a surface parking lot is slated for some sort of parking garage. One configuration sees a 277-space garage, while another configuration would create 500 spaces and wrap it with businesses and condos.

Cold romance

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — A Jackson Hole chapter of the Polar Bear Swim Club made its debut on Valentine’s Day, with four people taking an exhilarating dip in the Snake River.

"This is going to be the beginning of a big thing," said Katie Wilson, whose family traditions included waterskiing on New Year’s Day near Boise, Idaho. Another blue-toed swimmer, Liza Bance, similarly foresees more plungers. "Jackson is full of these really wacky people."

The organizer, Mark Holloway, insisted cold dunking is safe, as long as swimmers dry off and get dressed quickly, although probably not for people with heart problems. "It can be cleansing for both mind and body," he told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. As for Valentine’s Day, the paper did not explain why that date was chosen, nor did it cite any evidence that shivering is a prelude to inflamed passions.

Kirkwood wants more

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Kirkwood ski area already draws about 11,000 skiers on peak days, although such numbers crowd the parking lots. Still, Kirkwood wants to grow, adding five lifts and building a ridge-top restaurant that could boost capacity to 14,000. The Associated Press reports the current electrical infrastructure has problems, with 13 blackouts since November. But Tim Cohee, president of the resort, is working on both power and parking issues.

Housing project pitched

WOOD RIVER VALLEY, IDAHO — A major down-valley housing developing is being planned at Bellevue, located about 20 miles down-valley from Ketchum and Sun Valley. Property owners Harry Rinker and John Scherer have proposed an annexation of 550 acres. John Gaeddert, a planning consultant representing Bellevue, said the development proposal calls for 1,000 units. Two schools, elementary and middle, are being planned in response, reports Ketchum’s Idaho Mountain Express. Bellevue is also planning a $9.5 million water system upgrade during the next 10 to 15 years.