Mountain News: Vail boasts nation's lowest obesity rate 

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - keeping fit Mountain towns have fit populations, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control
  • keeping fit Mountain towns have fit populations, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control

VAIL, Colo. — Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is thinnest of them all?

Eagle County, reported the Vail Daily, has the lowest percentage of obese people in all 3,007 counties, 64 parishes, and 18 boroughs in the United States.

Just 11.8 per cent of residents are considered obese in Eagle County, an area that includes Vail, Beaver Creek, and two bedroom communities of Aspen, Basalt and El Jebel.

Ski towns and their corresponding counties consistently rank lowest in many other states, too. The statistics come from the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

The CDC links exercise and better eating habits to low obesity. There are also strong correlations with income and education.

Dr. Dennis Lipton, of Vail Health, told the Vail Daily's Randy Wyrick that there's a little bit of heredity but mostly other factors involved in obesity.

"People who live here have generally chosen the active mountain lifestyle. It's an expensive place to live, so if you are not actively engaged in enjoying the outdoors, the motivation to stay here is reduced. Also, because it's expensive to live here, the education level and socioeconomic status of the average resident is higher than average," Lipton said.

People who are overweight or have other serious problems simply cannot live in Eagle County because of the higher elevation and prefer to be lower, Lipton said.

Also, thinner air prompts some weight loss. The more you weigh, the more oxygen you require.

"Therefore, there is physiologic benefit to weighing less at higher altitude. Your body has to work less to maintain adequate oxygenation. Just like you don't generally see obese long distance runners," he said. "Your body adapts to whatever stressors it is presented with."

Chris Lindley, Eagle County's public health director, pointed out that waistlines in Eagle County are spreading, as they are overall in Colorado — which has the lowest obesity rate in the nation — and across the nation. Lindley points to a second measure, that of overweight.

"While Eagle County may have the lowest obesity rate, 34 per cent of our population is overweight, so we are a long way off from any type of celebration," Lindley said. "Being the slowest to get to the crisis point just does not mean there is not still a crisis. We have to continue to drive at the underlying reasons we are growing more and more unhealthy."

Ski towns and their counties rank the lowest in obesity for the following states of the West:

Colorado: Eagle County, (Vail, Beaver Creek) 11.8 per cent

Wyoming: Teton County (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) 12.7 per cent

New Mexico: Santa Fe County (Ski Santa Fe), 13.7 per cent

Utah: Summit County (Park City, Deer Valley), 14.4 per cent

Montana: Gallatin County (Big Sky, Bridger Bowl), 15.5 per cent

Idaho: Blaine County (Sun Valley): 19.2 per cent

Nevada: Douglas County (Heavenly Mountain) 21.9 per cent

Alaska: Haines Borough, (heliskiing): 25.5 per cent.

On the West Coast, though, the lowest obesity rates are not in mountain counties, but rather in coastal cities: San Francisco, Portland, and San Juan County, which consists of islands off the mainland in Washington state. These statistics were reported in September by a website called 24/7 Wall Street.

Within Colorado, ski counties are clustered near the top, according to a website called County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Following Eagle County's 12 per cent (rounded-off) rate of obesity are Summit and Boulder counties 13 per cent, Routt County 14 per cent, Gunnison and Pitkin counties 15 per cent, La Plata and Denver counties 16 per cent, and San Miguel and Grand counties 18 per cent.

The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps website seeks to define health outcomes by using several dozen criteria, from percentage of uninsured to injury deaths to severe housing problems, and long, solo commutes. By those criteria, in Colorado the highest quality of life is in three Denver-area counties: Douglas, Broomfield, and Boulder, followed by Routt (Steamboat), Eagle (Vail), Pitkin (Aspen), San Miguel (Telluride), and Summit (Breckenridge).

Name and ski pass options of new company coming soon

ASPEN, Colo. – Soon, reported The Aspen Times, the new 800-pound gorilla in the ski industry will have a name and, more important to snow sliders, the pass options available for the 2018-19 season.

The new company has ski resorts from Mammoth and Squaw Valley in California to Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado plus Deer Valley in Utah, among a few others.

The company was formed last spring by the Crown family, owners of the Aspen Skiing Co., and KSL Capital Partners, which is led primarily by former Vail Resorts executives.

Christian Knapp, chief marketing officer for the Aspen Skiing Co., said there's no plan to decommission the Mountain Collective. The pass was created in 2012, offering two days of skiing at each of the participating resorts, including Aspen. It also includes Squaw Valley and Mammoth.

That pass product was created in response to the Epic Pass, which was introduced by Vail Resorts in 2008 as a more expansive version of what it had been previously offering in Colorado.

Breckenridge joins towns with 100% renewable goals

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Breckenridge has now joined the steadily expanding list of communities that have embraced goals of radical carbon reduction in their energy sources.

In August, the city council approved a resolution that specified the town's commitment to having all municipal facilities powered by renewable resources by 2025. In November, council members approved a far more sweeping goal of having all electricity to the town — public and private — come from renewable resources by 2035.

About 40 towns, cities and counties across the United States have embraced similar goals. Among the most ambitious may be Park City's goal for carbon neutrality in municipal operations by 2022 and community wide carbon neutrality by 2032.

Other ski towns with 100 per cent goals include South Lake Tahoe, Calif., and Aspen, Colo. Aspen achieved 100 per cent renewables for the municipal electrical utility, but the utility serves only half to two-thirds of the town. The remainder is supplied by Holy Cross Energy.

Breckenridge has been actively adding solar electricity during the last decade at available sites. However, most of its electricity comes from Xcel Energy, Colorado's largest electrical provider. That utility has been briskly embracing plans to increase its wind generating capacity but also solar, along with natural gas, while shutting down two aging coal-fired generating units

With these transformations, Xcel expects to have 55 per cent of its energy coming from non-carbon sources by 2025. A company official told Colorado Biz magazine that he expects that the company in Colorado can, using existing technology, possibly reach 75 per cent renewables in years ahead.

The Summit Daily News reported that the resolution adopted by the Breckenridge Town Council is intended as a statement to Xcel that it wants its share to come entirely from renewables. That provision can be negotiated in the municipal franchise agreement with Xcel in 2018.

But can any municipality truly claim to have 100 per cent renewables? Probably not at this time. At some point, all electricity is mixed. While battery technology may yet provide a cost effective way to rely solely upon renewables, it's not yet affordable, except in isolated cases.

Wendy Wolfe, a council member, alluded to the challenges of no-carbon electricity in her comments. Health care and housing already comes at high prices, she noted, and attaining the goal is dependent on technologies not yet proven.

Aspen speaks to national divisions in ad campaign

ASPEN, Colo. — Among the several Aspen Skiing Co.'s advertising themes this year is one that combines business with politics. The advertisement uses the word "Unity" and a ski rack containing both skis and snowboards.

The copy says: "The mountains don't discriminate, and neither do we. Neither should anyone. We're better together. On the mountain, at work, as a nation, as members of the human race. Unity – it's The Aspen Way."

The Aspen Times reported that the campaign was put together by the company's Denver-based advertising firm, Karsh Hagan, after seeing op-eds written by Mike Kaplan, the chief executive of the Aspen Skiing Co.

The company has similar messages built around the words Love, Respect, and Commit.

Gregory Wagner, a former chief executive of Burton snowboards who is now an associate professor at the University of Denver's Department of Marketing, said the campaign effectively shows that the Aspen Skiing Co.'s values line up with those of its target market.

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