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Noise wall going up along Interstate 70 in Dillon area

SUMMIT COUNTY—Construction of a 10- to 12-foot high noise wall, with a jagged top designed to look like mountain peaks, is scheduled to begin next May along Interstate 70 at the western foot of the Eisenhower Tunnel. When completed in five years, the wall will be nearly a mile long, buffering residents of the Dillon Valley housing project.

One resident, a local fire chief, told the Summit Daily News (Oct. 3) that when he bought a house in the subdivision 16 years ago, he never expected I-70 to gain this much volume. “I’ll still hear the trucks with the unmufflered jake brakes,” he said. “But I think it will have a significant impact on the tire noise.” He said the highway noise prevents normal conversations outside the house on many days.

Mountain bike group doubles membership in just one year

WHISTLER, B.C.—In just one year, the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association grew from 538 members to 1,035 members. More impressive yet was its growth in budget, from just $2 to $11,681.

What happened? The group had boasted a large membership before, says the Whistler Pique (Oct. 10). But free-riding was becoming more important, and the group was perceived as being preoccupied by weekly races.

What the group considers first and foremost are mountain bike advocacy and trail maintenance. “I think we finally got it across that we’re not just a bunch of people who drink beer and do Loonie Races, although we do that, too,” said Tony Horn, the out-going president.

The group intends to devote its budget to building and maintaining trials. The group’s only permanent trail counter found more than 14,000 people rode one particular trail, called “A River Runs Through It,” this past summer.

Riders zip at 50 mph on new mountain amusement venue

PARK CITY, UTAH—Park City Mountain Resort has a new way for people to spend time and money. Called the ZipRider, the resort’s newest attraction allows people to sit in harnessed, swing-type seats that descend from an overhead cable. Riders can swoop down the slope, semi-Tarzan style, hitting speeds of up to 50 mph, reports The Park Record (Sept. 28-Oct. 1).

FBI agents called in to study threat to Winter Park water

WINTER PARK—Already, water is so scarce at the Winter Park ski area that there is talk of possibly needing to truck it in this winter. Now, two million-gallon water tanks for the nearby town, which is also called Winter Park, are being threatened.

However, it’s possible the threat to destroy the tanks was caused by confusion about who owns them. And it’s also possible that the Earth Liberation Front – the group that seems to have taken responsibility for the 1998 arson burning of Two Elk, a restaurant atop Vail Mountain – is becoming a pseudonym for anybody with a grievance of a vaguely environmental nature.

The threat was contained in a letter mailed in September to the Denver Water Department. The city diverts large amounts of water from the Winter Park area. Denver also had angered some people because of a land transaction that resulted in loss of access to the Arapaho National Forest.

But the letter-writer may have gotten the story wrong. According to the Winter Park Manifest (Oct. 9), while the letter protested the water tanks limiting access to the nearby national forest, the buried water tanks are owned by the local water and sanitation district, not Denver. And, according to that district, the only forms of recreation not allowed are motorized.

Police have never been able to confirm nor deny the link between the Vail arson and ELF, and there similarly is no proof of a link in this case. Whoever handles press communications for the group told The Denver Post (Oct. 15) that the press office typically receives messages from ELF members after actions have been taken.

FBI domestic terrorism experts have been looking into this case partly because there are five dams in Grand County, in which Winter Park is located.

Crested Butte’s new head faces uphill battle with area’s image

CRESTED BUTTE—John Norton is on a difficult mission. The easier challenge is convincing Crested Butte, a place that reveres its past, that it will also like change. “Change is good,” he says.

But the harder part may be to persuade the outside world to care. The ski area that he now heads, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, has suffered from poor to mediocre winters. When put up for sale a few years ago, all the major players in the ski industry dropped by to take a look – and then left. Skier days have been declining, and despite the funky appeal of the old mining town, the ski area is said to have a low return rate for customers.

In a way, what Norton has is a rebuilding program that sounds a lot like the Denver Nuggets, a professional basketball team in the cellar for most of the last decade and unable to climb out. Like the Nuggets, he is drafting young – a challenge that eventually all the ski industry will have to face.

Unlike Breckenridge’s aborted guttural campaign to get twentysomething customers, which employed words like “bitch” to depict Breck’s appeal, Crested Butte’s advertising theme for ski magazines this winter is cuter. “This is not Vail,” it teases, with Vail meant to symbolize everything that might be considered stodgy or pretentious about ski towns. Parties are not catered, cars are old, and people are having fun.

In an interview with the Rocky Mountain News, Norton was even more direct.

Vail, he said, is nothing more than a retirement village.

Of course, he could have said the same thing about Aspen, where he spent the last 12 years as No. 2 in the Aspen Skiing Co. And, in an off-hand way, he does say as much in an essay published in the Crested Butte News (Sept. 27).

Norton recalls the years when the company’s marquee resort didn’t allow snowboards. Management wanted them, he said, but the owners didn’t, having been convinced by an influential segment of older and wealthier customers.
“Finally, ownership relented. Probably 100 faithful Ajax skiers kept their word and quit the sport or quit Aspen altogether,” he said. “And thousands of people replaced them, finally happy that we’d wakened and smelled the roses.”

And that’s Norton’s essential point. “Old people will follow young peoples’ energy. Young people don’t follow old people.”

The Colorado ski industry has a problem, says Norton, one already recognized by Colorado Ski Country USA. “Whistler, Mammoth, and some smaller California areas have been kicking our butts. They are getting younger people, and we’re stuck with the same people we’ve had for 20 or 30 years. College kids on spring break don’t think of Colorado as Mecca anymore.”

Latinos angered that mass murderer going to asylum

GLENWOOD SPRINGS—As midnight approached July 3, 2001, long-time mental patient Michael Stagner calmly walked to a trailer park in Rifle and shot seven people, killing four. He was, he explained later, on a mission from God to rid the world of wicked people. All of his victims were Latinos, mostly from Mexico, who worked in Aspen or the Roaring Fork Valley.

Now, Stagner has been found innocent by reason of insanity and has been committed to a mental hospital. But his victims and other Mexicans are outraged that he wasn’t at least imprisoned for life. As is, he could conceivably be released at some point, although psychiatrists who found him insane hold no hope that he’ll ever become mentally well.

Rafael Rico, a representative of the Mexican Consulate in Denver, said the decision is extremely difficult for Mexican nationals to understand. “And I stress the word extremely,” he told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Oct. 9).
Stagner has been hospitalized 20 times in the past 20 years, and has been diagnosed with three illnesses: schizophrenia, bipolarity, and schizoaffective disorder with psychotic features.






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