Mountain News: Ski counties turning ‘blue’ 

DENVER, Colo. – The New Yorker, in a recent article, examined the politics of Colorado. The article argued that if Barack Obama hopes to win the West, he needs to understood how Democrats came to control Colorado. The ski towns were mentioned as what political operatives called a “blue strip.”

For most of the last 60 years, Republicans have controlled the Rocky Mountain West. They still do in those areas where ranching prevails.

But in 2004, a noteworthy trend became evident in Colorado — and, for that matter, in other parts of the recreation-dominated West. Places like Gunnison, Grand and Routt counties — homes respectively to Crested Butte, Winter Park and Steamboat Springs — bucked their Republican traditions and voted for a Democrat — John Kerry — for president.

Some ski-anchored mountain counties — notably Aspen-dominated Pitkin County and Telluride-dominated San Miguel County — have consistently voted for Democrats for decades. But this new “blue strip” of resort communities in formerly rural, traditional Republican ranch countries is “now full of second homes and growing,” observed Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s chief of staff, Jim Carpenter.

Carpenter has observed that change closely, as he grew up in Granby, located near Winter Park and within Grand County. For decades it was so Republican that the only local elections that mattered occurred in the primary. Everybody from county coroner to surveyer was registered a Republican, whatever his or her true leanings may have been. In 2004, however, Grand County crossed the aisle to Kerry.

This resort blue-strip, however, alone does not explain why Colorado became a swing state. Also important, noted the New Yorker, were the growing number of Hispanics and, most important of all, the shift in Denver’s suburbs.

“Democrats often pay homage to the symbols of the American frontier,” concluded the magazine. “But the iconography of their Western strategy is not so much about mountains, cowboys, and tumbleweed as it is about tract houses, research labs, and wind farms.”


Vail looking for drivers

VAIL, Colo. – Vail town officials last year had 35 Australians with H-2B visas driving buses. With none of them coming back, the town is scrambling to recruit drivers, going to Yosemite and other national parks to see if summer-time bus drivers want winter jobs. Although the town isn’t ready to cut back service, if that happens, the evening schedule will be hit first. Some routes to outlying neighbourhoods currently get buses every 15 minutes, notes the Vail Daily.


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