X Games draw extreme crowd

ASPEN – Nearly 50,000 people showed up for the Winter X Games this year, up from 38,000 last year. On Saturday, organizers estimated 18,500 people crowded into the base of Buttermilk.

The event, says the Aspen Daily News (Feb. 3), “had it all – wild parties at night, naked women during the day, and a bevy of crazy kids sporting piercings and funky hairdos. Oh yea, the sporting events were pretty exciting, too.”

The biggest hero, named Athlete of the Winter X Games, was 16-year-old Shaun White, of Carlsbad, Calif., who beat 13 Olympians from eight different countries to grab gold in the men’s snowboard superpipe and men’s snowboard slopestyle.

Aspen Skiing Co. officials were overjoyed – three days of blue skies then one day of snow, all of it on national television (ABC, ESPN and ESPN2). Most of the fans at the event were between 12 and 34 years old, ESPN’s target demographic for its telecast, says The Aspen Times (Feb. 4). More remarkable yet may have been the fact that five people were arrested in four days. As for the nude women, they were topless representatives from the anti-fur organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“Product pimps” also were amply evident, hoping to make statements of their own to the consumer culture’s next generation. The Daily News says Bagel Bites expected to hand out 50,000 of its miniature pizzas. Sony Play Station 2 was pushing video games, including “ATV Offroad Fury 2,” while Reeses was giving out 11,000 Fast Break bars each day.

Paper annoyed by drive-thru ban

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CALIF. – The Tahoe Daily Tribune is laboring mightily to see car drivers in South Lake Tahoe be able to do commerce without losing a grip on their steering wheels.

It seems that as part of its effort to protect the air quality of the Lake Tahoe Basin, no new drive-in businesses have been opened since 1987. As a consequence, McDonald’s has just a walk-up window, In-and-Out Burger refused to come into the town and the latest rumor is that Outback Steakhouse decided not to stake out a building site because it couldn’t have a pick-up window for drivers.

The problem, says the newspaper (Jan. 27), is the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. What annoys the newspaper is that the agency has no hard scientific evidence that drive-through windows unnecessarily pollute the atmosphere. And if they do, says the editorial, perhaps a compromise can be reached, such as a limit on the number of cars waiting in line.

Whistler requires low-flush toilets

WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler’s council is moving toward making low-flush toilets and low-flow faucets mandatory in all new developments. The law also would require them when similar plumbing is being replaced in existing homes.

Marvin Fisher, utilities manager, told the council that recent research has largely debunked the theory that water-conserving fixtures cause problems. Water consumption can be reduced, he said, and that reduction remains steady even as customer satisfaction is high.

The Whistler Question (Jan. 30) did not cite those studies, but it did explain that the municipality’s guiding document sees reduced water consumption as a key facet of environmental sustainability. Reducing water consumption limits disruption to streams and groundwater, says the document, even as it reduces construction and costs of water supply and wastewater systems.

Telluride finds culture closer to home

TELLURIDE – The economic downturn is causing the Town of Mountain Village to look closer to home for culture. In past years Dance in Telluride had gone to Chicago to get the renowned Joffrey Ballet for a summer residency. This year the town will partner with the Denver-based Colorado Ballet, largely because the Colorado troupe will help market the program, reports The Telluride Watch (Jan. 17).

Glaciers the smallest in 7,000 years

WHISTLER, B.C. – A team of researchers has been studying the receding glaciers of Garibaldi Provincial Park, located between Whistler and Vancouver. Glaciers there have receded since the Little Ice Age ended in the mid- to late-1800s.

From fossilized wood in the moraines, scientists concluded that the glaciers are the smallest they have been in 7,000 years.

“As glaciers recede and, in some cases, disappear, stream flow may decrease, affecting fish populations, overgeneration and water supply,” the researchers wrote in Pique newsmagazine (Jan. 30). The climate change that is causing the glaciers to shrink also is allowing trees to grow in areas that formerly were open parklands. The result is fewer meadows, and hence, less showy summer flowers. The twin losses – glaciers and wildflowers – may cause a downturn in visits to Garibaldi, they say.

Empty storefronts frustrate town

BRECKENRIDGE – From time to time in the see-saw between supply and demand, there are charges that property owners want too much money for retail space. One of those times is now in Breckenridge. “Retail spending is down. Restaurant spending is down. Lodging is flat. And storefronts are emptying at an alarming pace,” reports the Summit Daily News (Jan. 30).

Corry Mihm, executive director of the Breckenridge Resort Chamber, said visitors often interpret empty storefronts as evidence of a faltering economy and sometimes a floundering town.

One real estate agent, Buck Finley, said property owners have been unrealistic in their expectations. Rental prices range up to $45 a square foot, and asking sales prices have hit nearly $445 a square foot for Main Street locations. As a consequence, one space stayed vacant for nearly 2 1/2 years.

Hornier god leads UllrFest this year

BRECKENRIDGE – At nearly 10,000 feet in elevation, Breckenridge sees its fair share of winter most years. A pass to the south of town is called Boreas, after the Greek god of the north wind. But in early February, townspeople worship the Norse god of winter, Ullr, in a weeklong festival called UllrFest.

It’s a 41-year tradition, almost as old as the ski area itself. There’s an Ullr King and Queen, a snow sculpting contest, and various and sundry other ways to make the most of winter. As for Ullr, the step-son of Thor, he was known as a great archer and a randy being, a lady’s god, if you will.

For the past five years, Mark “Doogie” Kline has been chosen to represent the mythic fellow. Being the stuff of myths and legends, of course, is not easy, but The Summit County Independent (Jan. 31) says this local has the attributes. Robust, with a thick beard and a curly head of hair, he is ready of smile, even jovial. Friends describe him as a “loving, goofy teddy bear.”

Those traits come in handy when leading a parade, which is what he must do. This year, with help of a costume designer, he figures to play the part even more – more leather, more fur and more white. Altogether hipper and hornier, says the newspaper.

County passes anti-war resolution

KETCHUM, IDAHO – The Blaine County commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution opposing a war with Iraq. The resolution claims that adequate proof of Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruction has not been presented to the American people, reports the Idaho Mountain Express (Jan. 29).

The Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank in Washington D.C., says 52 cities and counties around the country have passed resolutions opposing war in Iraq. Telluride and Crested Butte are among them.

Aspen’s City Council did not pass a resolution, but several members were present at a peace march on Feb. 1. Organizers passed out ki bibs with the phrase “Make snow, not war,” while a delegation from Telluride doled out 200 additional bibs. Gonzo journalist and local resident Hunter S. Thompson took the stage for the rally’s keynote speech. The Aspen Times (Feb. 4) reported that Thompson was mostly coherent but didn’t deliver a speech so much as engage those closest to him in a conversation about the pitfalls of war and the evils of unchecked government.

Hollywood couple fears stalking

KETCHUM, IDAHO – When Hollywood couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson decided to build an estate north of Ketchum, they set up a trust, one supposedly intended to ensure their privacy. The address of their home – including several guesthouses – was not to be publicized, and if the contractor had any dispute, it was to be resolved by confidential, binding arbitration.

Guess what? Something went wrong, says the Idaho Mountain Express (Jan. 29). The contractor has filed a lawsuit claiming he is unpaid for $1.75 million. The attorney for Hanks and Wilson has tried to get the court case sealed, but without success.





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