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Literary festival in Park City

PARK CITY, Utah — Literary festivals have become quite the thing in ski towns. The latest to sign up authors is Park City, where the literary festival is seen as a way of juicing up the September economy.

The 26 writers at this inaugural festival are nearly all from the West, mostly because it costs less to get them to Park City than writers from, for example, Boston. Among them is Jim Fergus, Victor Rivas Rivers, and Mark Spragg, whose book, "An Unfinished Life," has recently been made into a movie starring Robert Redford and Jennifer Lopez.

Spragg has a cabin near Montana’s Red Lodge, although he calls the town of Cody, Wyo., which is about 80 miles away, home. His parents had a dude ranch on the edge of Yellowstone National Park, but he always wanted to write novels. During the 1980s he had an unhappy and brief experience as a scriptwriter.

Speaking with an on-line publication called "BookPage," Spragg recalled snowshoeing from a remote cabin out to a pickup outfitted with chains, then driving to Cody and taking a prop plane to Denver and, eventually, to Los Angeles. There, he attended a script conference at the Disney studios.

"I remember walking down the boardwalk in Santa Monica," he said. "I hadn’t seen a human being out of wool and down for two or three months, and there would be these young women skating by in their bikinis. It was like landing on another planet."

"An Unfinished Life" is a story about the bitterness of an old man, living in isolation on a ranch outside of mythical Ishawooa, Wyo., and ultimately about forgiveness.

Engineering semi-backcountry

SNOWMASS Village, Colo. — The Aspen Skiing Co. gets straight A’s for its environmental actions from those keeping scorecards, but it’s getting marked down by some local reviewers for its plans to further develop the Snowmass ski area.

There, Aspen wants to thin about 500 acres of terrain on Burnt Mountain that is described by reviewers as having a decided backcountry feel. The result will be a semi-backcountry feel.

"I value Burnt Mountain more than I can tell you as a refuge, a piece of pristine solitude, peace and beauty so near," wrote one reviewer, Jim Stone, in a letter to the U.S Forest Service.

The flip argument presented by other letter-writers is that ski areas need more terrain for people who are not hard-core backcountry adventurers, but want a sort of backcountry experience. Also at issue is the impact to elk. Some say there will be no harm to elk, while others argue the impact is part of a broad trend that needs to be curbed.

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