Mountain News: Skier numbers point to minorities 

By Allen Best

Colorado ski areas talking about drawing minorities

DENVER, Colo. – Colorado ski areas set a record for the second straight year with 12.56 million skiers and snowboarders tallied at the state’s 26 ski areas. This represents a 0.2 per cent gain, which compares with the 6.9 per cent drop nationally during the past winter.

Colorado’s gains came among destination visitors. Visits from Texas, Florida, Illinois, New York and California — the leading states for visitors — increased 4 per cent. Altogether, visitors from those five states comprise about 40 to 41 per cent of the state’s skier visitors.

A pair of Christmas holiday blizzards in Denver dampened visits from the metropolitan area, but created the impression of snow across Colorado. Ironically, the resorts got very little snow out of those two big storms.

But despite the slowly growing numbers, the industry in Colorado has remained essentially flat. “It has been the same number of people skiing, but skiing more frequently," Dave Belin, director at RRC Associates, told the Rocky Mountain News.

For several years, the industry has talked about reaching out to the swelling number of minorities. This year, Winter Park even made snow and set up rails on a steep hillside in Denver in an area that is home to many Latinos, although the attraction seemed to attract mostly kids from the suburbs, many of them already confirmed snowboarders.

Lucy Kay, the new chief operating officer at Breckenridge, predicted visitors there will look very different within a decade. But now, there’s very little ethnic diversity, she conceded.


Fewer grizzlies than expected

CANMORE, Alberta – Environmental organizations are calling for protection of grizzly bears to be upgraded from threatened to endangered. A survey now being conducted is expected to show that the region, including Banff National Park, has only 500 grizzly bears, about half previous estimates, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Tracey Henderson, executive director of the Grizzly Bear Alliance, said provincial authorities need to reduce the density of roads and other access in grizzly bear habitat.

“It doesn’t mean we have to close down key grizzly bear habitat to people. It doesn’t necessarily mean creating new parks. What it means is better controlling access to key grizzly bear habitats,” she said.


Jail time for endangering bikers

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – After repeated encounters with mountain bikers, skiers, and hikers, rancher Paul DeBoer has been sentenced to jail for six months.

“I confess, I don’t understand why these incidents keep happening and why you are always at the centre of them, Mr. DeBoer,” said the judge, Tim Day.

In this particular case, three bicyclists told authorities that DeBoer passed dangerously close to them in his truck as they rode their road bikes up Game Creek.

DeBoer, 66, lives across the road from the trailhead. In the past, notes the Jackson Hole News & Guide, he has had conflicts with people walking dogs who do not keep them under control, with people who do not clean up after their pets, and also with cyclists who ride fast down the backcountry trails.

After a previous encounter four years ago, DeBoer was ordered to complete 80 hours of community service, 30 of which could be conflict-resolution counselling. He completed none of them. He was also placed on probation for nearly backing his car into a woman at the trailhead parking area.


Vail Resorts to manage Tahoe hotel

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Ground is being broken on June 25 for a $410 million convention centre. A condominium hotel, to be managed by Vail Resorts, is to be named “Chateau at Heavenly Village.” Other condominium hotels are also planned, reports the Tahoe Daily Tribune.


Bluegrass Fest going ‘green’

TELLURIDE, Colo. – The Telluride Bluegrass Festival almost from the start has been about more than bluegrass. This year, for example, the lineup includes jazz musician Chick Corea and the burly everymen of rock, Los Lobos.

But the festival, which is being held this weekend, has from its start 34 years ago also been about environmental ethics. In early years, explains the Rocky Mountain News’s John Lehndorff, who was there, festival organizers simply asked the attendees to pick up after themselves. They did and continue to do so, he said.

The “greening” of the festival has accelerated in recent years. A salient year was 2002, when New Belgium Brewing Co., the maker of Fat Tire beer, signed on as a festival beer sponsor. The company had an employee who had the title of Sustainability Goddess and whose only job was to find ways to increase sustainability at the beer company. She found plenty to change.

Water bottles made from cornstarch were introduced in 2004. In 2005, travel by artists was offset by purchases of wind-powered energy credits. In 2007, the offset was increased to cover travel by staff and audience, too. As well, the number of water taps has been doubled so fans will fill reusable water bottles, instead of tossing plastic ones. Festival-goers are also encouraged to take their own beer cups.


Jail close but no cigar

KETCHUM, Idaho – County commissioners in Blaine County have been considering whether the new county jail can be built to receive accreditation in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. The bottom of four levels of designation requires 26 points, and commissioners agreed to several design changes — energy optimization, reduced ozone depletion, and use of local materials — to give the project a score of 19. All this cost the county an extra $150,000. The Idaho Mountain Express suggests the commissioners may yet make the changes necessary to get the LEED designation.


County still studying biomass

LAKE TAHOE, Calif.—Placer County officials want to build a biomass plant at Lake Tahoe. There’s plenty of old, dying, and dead trees in the basin, and burning the wood in a confined area, while producing 3 megawatts of electricity, will result in improved air quality.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget has $3.5 million in it for a Tahoe biomass plant. The plant is projected to cost $7 million to $8 million.

“We’re hoping this will be the model for the rest of the country,” says Brett Storey, Placer County’s biomass program manager. He said the county optimistically is hoping to have the plant on line by 2010.

The Sierra Sun notes that an existing biomass burner, built in 1989, is operating north of Truckee, at the community of Loyalton. There, the burner produces 850 degree heat that generates enough electricity to power 7,000 homes.

The burner consumes about 280 tons of wood chips per day. Trucks bring the wood from as far away as Klamath Falls, Ore., and Stockton, Calif., more than 100 miles away. Much of the wood comes from forest thinning operations, but some is diverted from landfills.

The Loyalton plan emits carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides, but much of it is captured within the plant by various air-cleaning devices. New biomass plants use a process called gasification, in which the wood is heated to extremely high temperatures while oxygen is withheld.


CB takes up main street office ban

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – The town council is revisiting the idea of making ground-floor locations along the town’s main tourist-friendly shopping area off-limits to real estate and other offices. But unlike a year ago, when the law was first passed, the new law would allow existing uses to be grandfathered, reports the Crested Butte News. The new regulations being considered would also allow street frontage to be allocated for personal service.


Mammoth carbon-belching slows

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, Calif. – The emissions of carbon dioxide from Mammoth Mountain have been decreasing.

The carbon dioxide was vented after a flurry of earthquakes in 1989, opening cracks. Both odourless and invisible under normal conditions, the carbon dioxide killed three ski patrollers from Mammoth Mountain last year.

However, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by Mammoth mountain has declined 80 per cent since the mid-1990s, reports The Sheet. Scientists with the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab say the cause of the decline is not known: possibly because the size of the underground reservoir of magma is shrinking or possibly because the fissures are resealing themselves.


Solar panels installed

VAIL, Colo. – Solar collectors are being installed on two buildings located atop the Vail Village Parking Structure.

In addition, town officials are replacing incandescent light bulbs in the Colorado Ski Museum with compact fluorescents.

Together, the two projects are costing the town $25,000. The payback on the investment is calculated at 10 years.

Town officials chose the very conspicuous public buildings — an information centre and the transportation centre — in an effort to lead by example, said Bill Carlson, the town’s environmental health officer. “We hope to encourage businesses and private property owners to research alternative energy uses that they might install on their property,” he said.

Last summer, the town bought renewable energy credits equal to the total use of the town government, about 20 million kilowatt hours. The increased cost was $12,000 per year.

The town is also re-roofing the buildings atop the parking structure with new synthetic slate shingles. At least one of the buildings has shake shingles. Again, the effort is to lead by example. Responding to heightened worries about the potential for wildland fires, the town in the last year required new roofs and those being replaced to use the non-combustible shingles.


Ban on cyanide mining appealed

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. – As expected, Summit County’s ban on cyanide-heap-leach mining is being appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. The ban had been ruled unconstitutional by a district court, but that ruling was overturned by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

As Gunnison and several other counties in Colorado have enacted similar rules, the case is being watched as potentially precedent setting. Appealing the case is the Colorado Mining Association, which argues that state government, not county governments, has authority over mining.


Breckenridge adopts lighting limits

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Breckenridge has passed an ordinance that attempts to reduce light pollution and light trespass. The new law creates two zones within the town. The core town area will have more latitude for lighting, and other areas will have stricter standards. In any event, all new lighting fixtures must adhere to the code, while existing fixtures can be continued for a maximum of 15 years, reports the Summit Daily News.


Sustainability the theme

GYPSUM, Colo. – Something new is being proposed in the Gypsum Valley, about 45 miles southwest of Vail. While nearby is a traditional high-end golf-course based real estate development called Brightwater, the new project being proposed to Gypsum town officials boasts of its sustainability. Some 273 units are planned, some two-thirds of them single-family homes in a low-density fashion.

Kurt Forstmann, one of the developers, said the proposed Winding Creek Ranch may become a model for future resource-sensitive developments. Because the ranch has senior water rights, Forstmann said, a series of lakes and ponds will be the centrepiece of the plan.

Forstmann also says that homes and other buildings will make use of its exposure to the sun. “Colorado has 300 days of sunshine a year,” Forstmann told the Eagle Valley Enterprise. “I think it’s fairly stupid that people aren’t using solar power for electric needs.”

He also said that homes will be highly energy efficient. “I think this is the future of home building,” he said.

The ranch is also to have a 22-acre vegetable farm as well as a working ranch, with homeowners sharing in the bounty.


Parents lobby for French immersion

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Parents in Revelstoke continue to lobby for a French immersion school.

“As with any new program, growth will come once it is in place,” writes Tanya Secord in the Revelstoke Times Review. “Revelstoke may be a smaller city, but I don’t believe that we should have a ‘smaller town/small thinking’ mentality when it comes to our children’s futures.”

Michael Morris grew up in a house where both English and French were spoken, and based on that experience wants to see a French immersion school. Even Yellowknife, population 18,000, has such a school, he says.

“Our children deserve to have the point to learn our country’s second language on a level that will prepare them to use it confidently in social and career situations,” says Krista Cadieux.


Bark beetle epidemic peaks

KETCHUM, Idaho – The bark beetle epidemic that has waxed since the turn of the century in the Sawtooth Mountains seems to be waning.

The reason is not cold weather, but rather the fact that the beetles have killed most of the lodgepole pine. “Now they’re starting to go down to as small as a six-inch trees, and that’s a sign that most of the host material has been killed off,” say Jim Rineholt, a forester at the Sawtooth National Recreational Area.

Among the killed trees are white bark pine. Rineholt said many of the white bark pine are more than 800 years old. “It’s an important species for holding back snowpack,” he told the Idaho Mountain Express. The species is found at more than 7,000 feet, which in Idaho is a high elevation.

After marching through the Sawtooths and then the White Cloud Mountains, the beetles are now working southward into the Wood River Valley, where Sun Valley and Ketchum are located. More diverse forests are expected to cause the beetles to move more slowly.


Board buying geothermal electricity

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Last winter the utility board serving Truckee and nearby areas considered signing a 50-year contract to get electricity from a new coal-fired power plant being planned in Utah. Residents responded loudly that they didn’t want to hitch their wagon to coal, and so they didn’t.

But Truckee is growing, and so the utility board has been looking for additional sources. It appears to have part of the answer in geothermal power from a plant in northern Nevada called Rye Patch. Truckee will get about three megawatts.

What it will cost Truckee isn’t clear. The Sierra Sun suggests the deal will cause a rate hike of 7.3 per cent. Just how sustained the geothermal power will be is also unclear.

Steve Hollabaugh, an official with the utility district, told the Sierra Sun that wind and solar power are both options, but the technologies do not deliver electricity as reliably as other energy sources. “I want as much solar as I can get up there, but my job is to keep the lights on,” he said.


Big cat just watches

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Two trails near Crested Butte were closed after a mountain lion was seen in the area. The lion did nothing aggressive, but was simply observing people, a state wildlife manager, J. Wenum, told the Crested Butte News. But even if authorities said trail users had a better chance of winning the lottery than getting attacked by the lion, they decided not to push their luck, and hence closed the trails.


Aspens chewed on by bugs

ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen’s namesake tree is being threatened by a parasite called willow scale. While the parasite is native to the area, the bugs have become more prevalent. The city’s forester, Chris Forman, tells the Aspen Times that watering and pruning trees is important to keeping them healthy and less vulnerable to the parasite.

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