Mountain News: Steamboat, Park City join in with Trump protests 

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - JANUARY MARCH Protesters took to the streets Saturday, Jan. 21 — such as in Portland, Ore., — to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president.
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  • JANUARY MARCH Protesters took to the streets Saturday, Jan. 21 — such as in Portland, Ore., — to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

PARK CITY, Utah — Women and their male supporters took to the streets in many ski towns on Saturday in response to the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

In Aspen they skied from the top of the gondola at 3,450 metres back to the town. There's a trail on Aspen Mountain called Pussyfoot that many people think should have been the route down the mountain. Once in Aspen, 500 to 800 people marched, the most in the city's modern history, the Aspen Daily News reported.

In Park City, the Sundance Film Festival was underway, helping yield 5,000 to 7,000 marchers on the town's steep main street. That may have been the most of any ski town unless you count Santa Fe, which has a ski area nearby. New Mexico's capital city had 10,000 to 15,000 marchers.

But the march in Steamboat Springs may have had the most amusing antic. The Steamboat Pilot reports that Andrea Wambach stood outside a restaurant called the Hungry Dog and passed out free hot dogs while holding a sign that read "Grab him by the wiener."

It was a reference to the 2005 recording of Trump in which he talked about "grabbing women by their genitals," as the Pilot delicately put it. You can fill in the blank. Many of the protest signs did.

On the California-Nevada border, more than 500 people marched in South Lake Tahoe even as forecasters warned that another major storm would soon hammer the Sierra Nevada.

In Wyoming, Jackson had about 1,000 marchers, while across the Teton Range in Idaho, Driggs had a march, too. So did Sandpoint, at the foot of Schweitzer Mountain, in Idaho's panhandle.

On Friday, the day of Trump's inauguration as the U.S. president, the mood in the Colorado town of Durango was mixed. About 100 people gathered at the Elk's Club to toast the installation of the new president. But at coffee shops and cafes on the city's main street, TVs were studiously turned to other channels, reported the Durango Herald. Later, students from Fort Lewis College joined locals in an impromptu march.

The marches were billed as rallies for causes, not a protest against Trump. But in Park City, marchers were clearly dismayed by Trump's ascension. "Some mocked him, and there were moments of crassness as they advertised their disgust with the president," reported The Park Record. "At least one woman was dressed in a vagina costume."

Canada (lynx) born, lived, and died in Colorado

DURANGO, Calif. — In the early 1990s, the absence of Canada lynx started to become a major issue in Colorado. Vail, the ski company, wanted to expand ski terrain on its signature mountain in an area bureaucratically called Category 3, usually shortened to Cat 3.

You may now know that area as Blue Sky Basin, a giant trove of landscape far from any highway. Obviously, it was approved — but not before, well, a cat fight, with lynx in the middle.

By the 1990s, there was scant, if any, evidence of lynx in Colorado. If once tolerably common, to cite one report from early in the 20th century, the last clear evidence of lynx was in 1973, when a trapper killed one near Vail.

Why had lynx disappeared from Colorado? The ski industry reported that trappers killed lynx. Environmentalists argued that it was habitat loss. Vail Associates, as the company was then known, offered to underwrite a reintroduction. That reintroduction occurred in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado starting in 1999. More than 200 lynx from B.C. and Alaska were released. And after a few initial problems, the reintroduction seemed to have been a smashing success.

Wildlife biologists won't say that, at least for the record. And it's hard to count lynx. By nature, they're secretive, hanging out in remote areas of spruce-fir forests, most commonly found in Colorado above 2,400 metres, where snowshoe hare are plentiful.

Lynx have been seen occasionally at ski areas, but perhaps never so brazenly as occurred early in January at Purgatory, a ski area located north of Durango. The lynx just calmly walked across a ski run in the middle of the day, as if it was just one of the gang. The video was seen by one million people.

But the lynx was desperate. The body was found later. It had a tumour in its neck that prevented it from eating. That's what drove it to the ski trail.

A chip found in the body revealed that the cat had been born in the Bear Creek area near Telluride in 2005. The lynx's mother was one of the original lynx reintroduced to Colorado beginning in the late 1990s.

Biologists say they're still not sure how many lynx are in Colorado. After all, lynx don't have to register at their local county courthouse.

The first lynx were outfitted with radio-collars, to track their every movement. That technology enabled biologists to determine that lynx had wandered as far as Iowa. But as lynx have reproduced, the tracking is more difficult.

"We can fly over deer and elk and see them. We know how they bunch up. We know the techniques (for estimating populations)," said Joe Lewandowski, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.

Wildlife biologists use something called occupied habitat to more coarsely estimate lynx populations. It involves snow-tracking and remote cameras to show that lynx are occupying ideal habitat. Using this less precise technique yielded an estimate of 150 to 175 lynx in that westerly portion of the San Juan Mountains.

State biologists haven't used that technique and won't even begin to estimate the total number of lynx now in Colorado propagated from those original 200-plus animals.

Still somewhat unresolved is how compatible ski areas — and backcountry recreation — are with lynx. The argument was that hardened surfaces — whether from snowboards or from snowmobiles or even backcountry ski trails — provide a relatively strong platform that allows coyotes and bobcats to reach areas of deep snow. That allows them to compete with lynx in trying to kill snowshoe hare. Lynx otherwise have a natural advantage in the form of larger paws that allow them to more readily stay afloat in soft snow. Or so went the argument.

Eric Odell, species conservation coordinator, doesn't necessarily buy these arguments. Ski areas don't necessarily provide a whole lot of habitat. "Generally, as long as there is forest cover and good prey, lynx seem to be at least somewhat tolerant of recreational activities," he said.

Certainly, the lynx at Purgatory was. Of course, it was very, very hungry.

Aspen gears up for EVs, plans a climate summit

ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen city officials hope to get a chunk of money from the Volkswagen fraud case to pay for public fast-charging stations for electric cars.

The number of electric cars in Aspen remains miniscule, but a newly formed team of city staff members expect adoption to accelerate. Since April 2015, the city's parking garage has had a fast-charging station, able to refuel a car in 30 to 60 minutes. Last year, use of the charging station nearly tripled.

With blessings of elected officials, city staff members will seek grants for installation of new charging stations. A portion of Colorado's US$61 million share in the settlement resulting from the Volkswagen emissions fraud is earmarked for electric vehicles.

The fast-charging station can cost $25,000 minimum, and probably higher. Slower-charging stations cost less.

While sales of electric vehicles grew 30 per cent last year, they remained just 1.13 per cent of all new passenger vehicles in the U.S. But new lower-cost models with longer range may boost sales. The Chevy Bolt, with a range of 388 kilometres, has already arrived in some showrooms. It costs $30,000 after the federal tax rebate.

A report in October called "Sustaining Electrical Vehicle Market Growth in U.S. Cities" said that public-charging infrastructure remains a key barrier to electric vehicle sales in many areas.

"Public charging infrastructure expanded 50 per cent from 2014 to 2015," noted the report, which was prepared by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Aspen is also looking to stimulate demand for chargers through a "group purchase program" this spring where anyone from the public can participate in a bulk order of electric vehicles at a discounted price. A similar program in Boulder, Colo., resulted in 248 new electric vehicles for area residents. Salt Lake City has a similar program.

Among ski towns, Aspen has been particularly active in trying to decarbonize its economy. It adopted a climate-change program in 2005 called the Canary Initiative that specifies ambitious goals. It has lagged behind the pace envisioned in 2005 but has scored notable triumphs. One major gain was the success of the city's electrical utility, which serves roughly two-thirds of the city, in buying enough renewable energy, primarily wind and hydro, to claim 100-per-cent energy.

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