Mountain News: Jasper to welcome Syrian refugee family 

click to flip through (2) SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO - WARM WELCOME Jasper, Alta, pictured, will soon be home to a family of Syrian refugees.
  • Shutterstock photo
  • WARM WELCOME Jasper, Alta, pictured, will soon be home to a family of Syrian refugees.

JASPER, Alberta — By next year, refugees from Syria may be living in Jasper. A local group has been passing the hat, assuming it will cost $30,000 to help the family of three on Canadian soil.

The patriarch of the Syrian family is a 64-year-old civil engineer whose building was bombed. His 60-year-old wife was a teacher, and their 30-year-old daughter graduated from Damascus University in 2009 and worked as a lawyer at the Syrian International Islamic Bank until last April.

Recently, they have been living in the mountains of Lebanon, explained Jasper's Fitzhugh newspaper.

A key conduit to Jasper's helping hand are a couple, Dave and Eness Hamdi. His family has roots in Egypt and he speaks Arabic, as do the Syrians.

"Every night we would watch the news. We would see and listen to the problems and wondered how we would help, but we didn't know how," he told the Fitzhugh. The Anglican Diocese of Edmonton, which has been sponsoring refugees for more than 30 years, was a vital conduit.

The Canadian government has said it will accept 25,000 Syrian refugees in coming months.

Fancy this: snow in Lake Tahoe

TRUCKEE, Calif. — After four largely snowless years in the Sierra Nevada, it was a good weekend at Northstar, Heavenly, and other resorts around Lake Tahoe.

The Lake Tahoe News reported a snow depth of 46 centimetres to 1.2 metres at Northstar. "Even if we get a warm spell, we are in great shape," said Jim Lamore, director of mountain operations.

The El Niño this winter is expected by meteorologists to be among the three strongest on record since 1950. It does not treat all areas equally, points out the Los Angeles Times. Usually sterile deserts in Chile have bloomed with wildflowers after unusually high rainfall while two million people in Central America will need food aid due to a drought worsened by El Niño, the United Nations warned last week.

Californians have been warned to expect a virtual conveyor belt of storms that will yield heavy rainfall — and mudslides.

Telluride ski patrollers ratify a three-year contract

TELLURIDE, Colo. — The Telluride Ski Patrol last week ratified a three-year contract by a 50-to-1 vote, giving patrollers wage increases across the board and a freeze on changes to benefits. The contract also puts into writing benefits for maternity and paternity leave, medical leave, a five-day work week, and other benefits, a union representative told the Telluride Daily Planet. Precise numbers were not made available.

It's the first contract for the patrollers, who in February voted to become unionized with representation by the Communications Workers of America. The same union represents ski patrollers at Steamboat Springs and Crested Butte, both in Colorado, and at the Canyons in Utah.

Ski patrollers in New Mexico at Taos Ski Valley also voted. Citing unspecified sources in Taos, the Vail Daily reported that the vote ended in a tie. This came after management sweetened the pot with a pay raise and an allowance for ski gear.

At Beaver Creek, ski instructors have been mulling union representation. Vail Resorts responded with a 55 cents/hour bump for beginning instructors lacking certification, giving them $10.50 an hour. Level 3 certified instructors will get a $4.05 pay increase, to $18 an hour, reported the Vail Daily, citing an email circulated by the company.

Beaver Creek ski instructors have not yet voted to unionize, but if they do, all ski instructors will be required to pay a fee, instead of union dues, to the union. This is allowed by Colorado law.

Matriarch of Taos Ski Valley dies at AGE 97

TAOS, N.M. — Rhoda Blake died recently at the age of 97, and while she can be identified as the widow of Taos Ski Valley founder Ernie Blake, an obituary in the Taos News revealed she was plenty interesting in her own right.

"She was a 50-year cancer survivor, smoked for over 80 years, and was quick-witted to the end. Without her strength and her backing my father, Ernie, there would be no Taos Ski Valley," said her son, Peter Blake.

The story in the Taos News borrowed frequently from a 1992 book, Ski Pioneers, written by Rick Richards. She was born in London but adopted by a New York City couple who educated her at the finest schools, including Bryn Mawr, a women's liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.

The couple met on a Christmas ski trip to Stowe, Vt., in 1940, met up again at Santa Fe in 1941, and got married 1942. They honeymooned at Sun Valley and Rhoda later said that they almost got divorced because of their ski experience. Ernie was the better skier — and impatient. She was not so good.

But when Ernie decided he wanted to create a ski area at Taos, she was the one that told him to go for it.

Mystery of cracked toilet seats solved

JACKSON, Wyo. — The world is not yet homogenous. The Jackson Hole News&Guide can cite many examples to support that statement after several years of increased Chinese visitors.

Crowding at counters instead of waiting patiently in line is one difference in cultural norms (and perhaps explained by urban vs. rural?).

But another difference between Pacific cultures and those in the West lies in the use of the toilet. Traditionally, in China, Japan, and other Pacific Rim countries, even indoor plumbing consisted of porcelain holes in the floor, for squatting, instead of the toilet "throne" common in Western countries. While the throne has become more common in Chinese cities, many prefer the old ways.

Officials at Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks weren't aware of this difference when they began noticing broken toilet seats, especially in what used to be called outhouses. They now seem to be called vaults.

In all, about a dozen of the 42 vault toilets in Grand Teton National Park were broken this summer. What happened there and in Yellowstone was that tourists from Asian countries were squatting, with their feet on the lids, National Park Service officials discovered after consulting with a Chinese student.

Next year, the latrines will have signs illustrating proper use of lidded, elevated toilets.

Housing crunches as bad as it's ever been

ASPEN, Colo. — Although lacking any numbers as proof, The Aspen Times cited at least one person who believes that housing in Aspen has never been so tight. The observation comes from someone who arrived nine years ago, at the height of the last boom.

Meanwhile, the real estate market looks strong in Aspen and outlying areas. The Times reported continued plans for a new boutique and high-end hotel, while 29 kilometres downvalley in Basalt, a 110-unit housing proposal now wants to expand to 164 homes.

Suicide jitters in Jackson and along the San Juan

JACKSON, Wyo. — Mental health counsellors in Jackson Hole have reported they have been seeing one to two cases a week of kids and teens in severe mental crisis, up from one to two cases a month.

A spike after school starts is normal, said Diedre Ashley, executive director of the Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center. "This is more intense."

Professionals tell the Jackson Hole News&Guide they cannot explain the trend.

In New Mexico, leaders of the Navajo Nation said they think a spike in suicides is explained by pollution of the San Juan River as the result of a mining discharge in Colorado in early August. But the Associated Press talked with a number of Navajos who remain skeptical of any link between pollution and the suicides.

Surprising effect of low oil prices

EMPIRE, Colo. — Even in the little towns along the Continental Divide west of Denver, jobs are being shed as a result of the global glut in oil. And school districts in both Idaho Springs and Kremmling now must confront the possibility that their sugar-daddy of property assessments, the Henderson Mine and Mill, will close in just five years, not 10, as previously predicted.

Molybdenum has been extracted from the mine since 1976. It lies just east of the Continental Divide, at the foot of Berthoud Pass. The grayish molybdenite ore is hauled through a tunnel under the Continental Divide, where a processing mill about 56 kilometres from Kremmling extracts the molybdenum from the rock.

Among scores of uses, molybdenum strengthens steel. The demand for steel has fallen off sharply as drilling rigs have been laid down in response to the glut of world oil supplies. The International Energy Agency last week reported a global stockpile of three billion barrels.

Production of molybdenum from Henderson was 122 million kilograms per year, but Freeport-McMoRan, the mining company, now plans for 4.5 million kilograms. The price for molybdenum is now the lowest in 12 years, company officials tell the Clear Creek Courant.

With these cutbacks, fewer employees are needed. The 540 employees at the mine and mill will be trimmed by 130 in January. This comes on the heels of 80 layoffs in August.

Many of the mine's employees live in metropolitan Denver, less than an hour away. But the taxes go to primarily Clear Creek and Grand counties. Officials from both had been advised by company representatives in April of the need to begin planning for when the mine closes.

At that time, Freeport-McMoRan stressed that while a precise date couldn't be guaranteed, local officials needed to assume a maximum of 10 years of continued mining. But that assumed expectation of continued higher oil prices. Now, with lower prices, some of the final ore body might not be mined economically. In that case, the mine might now close in five years, officials told the Clear Creek Courant.

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