survive avalanches statewide
I-70 CORRIDOR – Colorado papers are full of stories about
avalanches that almost claimed lives.
At Snowmass, a 24-year-old bellman spending his first winter
in Aspen after graduating from college in Michigan skied under
a rope and, once on a cliff band, pondering his choices, fell
along with a pillow of snow. Triple lucky, he avoided hitting
rocks as he dropped into snow that left his head uncovered.
Ski patrollers happened by, dug him out and took him to the
hospital. Then they took his season pass and fined him $150.
The Aspen Times (Feb. 28) reports that the man was contrite.
“I am not a stupid person,” he said. “I don’t
know why I did this.”
Meanwhile, in Summit County, in a backcountry area called the
Beavers, which is reached via the lifts at Arapahoe Basin, three
snowboarders were drawn by steeps and, by standards of this
winter, deep. One was buried under 2 to 3 feet of snow in the
avalanche, but all three had transceivers. Those transceivers
allowed his partners to dig him out within seven minutes. He
recovered consciousness and suffered only a broken arm, says
the Summit Daily News (Feb. 25).
The snowboarders promised to be more cautious, but rescue personnel
who have responded to that very same site expressed anger that
they’re always being called out to retrieve what are often
Even luckier was the co-owner of a sporting goods store in
Avon who was dug from avalanche debris in a well-known slide
zone adjacent to Beaver Creek. A friend spotted his ski tip
sticking out from the snow. The man admits being scared. “You’re
100 percent immobilized, I was just breathing slow, thinking
it was a hell of a way to go, then I just passed out,”
he told the Vail Daily (Feb. 25).
The Bachelorette boosts Vail’s sales
VAIL – In recent weeks, it has been impossible to pick
up a newspaper to find a stock-market report without stumbling
across a story about Ryan Sutter, the Vail firefighter who got
the girl on the TV show, “Bachelorette.”
When on television, Sutter often wore a T-shirt for the “Vail
Fire Emergency Services.” Now the fire department is getting
100 orders daily for the T-shirts, at $20 a pop. Sutter’s
fire captain, Jim Spell, admitted to some disorganization. “We
are not a mail-order business, we are a fire station,”
he told the Vail Daily (Feb. 25). No word on where the profits
Will Sutter and his now-fiance, the lovely Trista Rehn, live
in L.A., Vail or elsewhere? Again, you can’t look up a
hockey score without finding musings in that regard. Vail seems
certain to be the wedding site and probably on June 7, says
the Vail Daily.
Steamboat questions free market
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – As city councils often do, the Steamboat
Council recently launched into a discussion about when it’s
appropriate to stick its governmental finger into the free-market
porridge. What seems to have set if off was the closing of Bogg’s
Hardware, an institution in the old downtown district since
1939. But there were other triggers as well – another
liquor store, rumored arrival of national sports chain Gart
Sports and proliferating real estate offices.
At the heart of the council’s concern is keeping the
downtown storefronts occupied, longtime local businesses intact
and the character of Steamboat unique, says The Steamboat Pilot
Regarding liquor stores in particular, Councilman Bud Romberg
asked, “When is enough enough?” He questioned whether
the town code needs to address when there are “enough
liquor stores or gas stations or T-shirt shops or grocery stores.”
Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner questioned whether the free
market is particularly wise or fair. “I think a community
that defines itself and defines its vision is: one, more attractive;
and two, a better place to live and have a business.”
Others fear too much lodging has been built, given that the
tourism sector is flat. Last year, 1,200 new pillows were added.
Kathy Connell, the City Council president who co-owns a property
management firm, said the glut hasn’t affected her as
much as the properties’ owners, who must now compete by
dramatically dropping prices and discounting lodging by as much
as 50 percent. The end result, she said, is local companies
selling out to national chains. “And you don’t want
to do that to the community, because then you lose the character
of a community.”
One proposal is for an inventory of the city’s commercial
sector, similar to one being done for housing.
Vail considers xeriscaping its parks
VAIL – Todd Oppenheimer is studying X-rated flowers.
That’s “X” as in xeriscaping, the word coined
about 20 years ago to describe landscaping with plants that
need little water.
Vail buys 40,000 flowers each year (at 50 cents each) for use
in parks, along roads and in pedestrian areas. Getting varieties
that need minimal water for maximum flower is Oppenheimer’s
Last year, using a computerized sprinkling system, the municipality
knocked down water use by more than half, reports the Vail Daily
(March 3). The city is one of the local water district’s
largest customers. Last year, watering restrictions were mostly
voluntary. This year, in response to complaints, the water district
might actually start charging more for customers who don’t
Oppenheimer sees his work as partly educational. “If
there are again valley-wide watering restrictions, we want to
be able to show people that drought-resistant landscaping doesn’t
mean rocks and cacti,” Oppenhiemer said. “Our goal
is to not even have people notice that we are using water-efficient
GreenCo of Colorado, an umbrella organization representing
greenhouse growers and landscape architects and contractors,
has produced an “X-rated” list of 40 varieties of
flowers tested for water consumption. Plants using an inch of
water per week are X-rated, those needing a half-inch are XX
rated, and those needing a half-inch every other week are XXX.
In comparison, turf grass needs at least two inches of water
Renters’ market strong in Winter Park
WINTER PARK – Like other ski towns, it’s a renters’
market in Winter Park and neighboring towns.
One indicator is the number of rental classified ads at Halloween,
when people are typically looking. The newspaper had only 25
in the mid-1990s, but the figure grew to 48 by the year 2000
and to 128 last fall.
One landlord told the Winter Park Manifest (Feb. 19) that he
and other landlords had reduced their rates 30 to 40 percent
during the last 18 months. This, he insisted, is the worst he
has seen in 20 years – which could be an exaggeration.
Housing was distinctly tight in 1983 and remained so until about
There is now some questioning of whether Winter Park really
needs to develop affordable housing. The same question was being
asked in the late 1980s in Vail – just before the boom
there returned in a major way. Jon de Vos, a member of the Grand
County Housing Authority, sees this as at temporary thing. “Unless
Intrawest has ambitious plans regarding employee housing, in
three more years we will be back in crisis mode,” he said.
Colorado steals Sierra’s snowpack
SIERRA-AT-TAHOE, CALIF. – Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada
near Lake Tahoe began February with 78 percent of average but
fell to 67 percent of average during the month, reports the
Tahoe Daily Tribune (Feb. 28).
Meanwhile, Colorado was blessed by steady storms in late February.
The state’s snowpack was pushed to about 91 percent of
average in the Vail area, about 86 percent in the Aspen area
and 96 percent in Summit County. As of March 1, the Animas River
Basin was posting 72 percent of average. Even more snow is expected,
but it would take spectacular spring snows to nudge Colorado
out of drought conditions.
Pikas vanishing all over the West
THE WEST – Pikas are disappearing from the Rocky Mountains
and Sierra Nevada in what researchers say is the first link
between global warming and the widespread disappearance of entire
animal populations. A study published in the Journal of Mammalogy
says this may be an “early signal” of what alpine
and subalpine environments throughout the world will face if
temperatures continue to rise as predicted. Erik Beever, a U.S.
Geological Survey biologist, was the lead author.
In the study, reports the Los Angeles Times (Feb. 27), pikas
were no longer found in 7 of 25 sites where they once had been
plentiful early in the 20th century. The sites that lost pikas
were on average drier and warmer and at lower latitudes than
sites where the animals remained. Cattle grazing and proximity
to roads had some impact on the animals, but warmer and drier
conditions of recent decades were a major factor in their disappearance,
Whistler nearing 50% waste reduction
WHISTLER, B.C. – Since 1991, Whistlers are creating 43
percent less trash per capita. The reduction still falls short
of the 50 percent mandated by the provincial government in 1989,
but it could be improved as the local home builders’ association
focuses on diverting waste from construction projects.
The success to date, say officials writing in the Whistler
Question (Feb. 27), can be attributed to manufacturers paying
more attention to material design and the end life of their
products. Also, they say recycling has become an ingrained habit
for most, and for many people not recycling has become socially
Newspaper warns of need for hotel rooms
KETCHUM, IDAHO – Ghost towns still happen, says the Idaho
Mountain Express (Feb. 19). You hear less about them than growing
towns, because few people are left to complain when towns shrink.
In fact, says the newspaper, were it not for Averell Harriman
and Union-Pacific creating Sun Valley, the decaying mining towns
of the Wood River Valley might have become ghost towns.
But now, the newspaper sees decay once again: “Sun Valley
is sitting by quietly, and Ketchum is actively discouraging
development of replacement units for the 320 hotel rooms the
valley has lost over the last seven years.”
Ketchum’s discouraging words are caused by the proposal’s
nonconformity to height limits, but the newspaper believes the
council should consider that a financially viable hotel may
be impossible with the existing height limitation. And without
hotels, says the paper, Sun Valley is like a farm without wells,
a ranch without livestock.
Multiple sclerosis prevalent in Colorado
CRESTED BUTTE– The rumor mill has long held that Crested
Butte has an unusually high incidence of multiple sclerosis.
Specific data for the town are unavailable, but Colorado overall
is among the top 10 states for MS, reports the Crested Butte
News (Feb. 23).
The incidence is about one in every 800 Coloradoans, compared
to one in 10,000 in Texas. Nearly three-fourths of the MS victims
are women. Although not fatal, MS is a chronic disease of the
central nervous system that causes numbness, poor coordination,
extreme fatigue and, in more extreme cases, paralysis and blindness.
Water demand rises in Telluride
TELLURIDE – Demand for water is expected to outstrip
supply for Telluride, possibly as soon as the year 2006. “When
we get into a critical dry period, we’re going to get
a situation sooner or later – and we believe it’s
sooner – when demand is going to outstrip supply,”
said John Courier, a water engineer.
While considering wells on the valley floor, the advisors tell
Telluride’s council the better option is to develop water
in the Bridal Veil basin, a hanging valley above Telluride.
Cost of that plant, with a new water treatment plant, would
be between $5.5 million and $6 million.
Who will pay? There is some sentiment on the council, reports
The Telluride Watch (Feb. 21) that existing residents should
not have to pay elevated costs. The town also is looking to
require new annexations into the town to provide water rights
or fees in lieu.
Teachers lose jobs as students go private
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CALIF. – Twenty-one teachers are losing
their jobs as part of a $2.7 million budget cut. Nearly 40 instructional
aides will also lose their jobs.
The cuts, reports, the Tahoe Daily Tribune (Feb. 26) are necessary
to counter money lost from declining enrollment coupled with
the unknown outcome of a state budget crisis. During the past
five years, more than 630 students have left the district. The
school board is thinking about enticing a charter or magnet
school to open, with the goal being to lure students previously
lost to alternative schools.
Aspen lodges respond to Vail
AVON – Vail Resorts Inc. last week announced it would
give customers full refunds on trips cancelled before June 1.
This policy applies at the company’s lodges at Beaver
Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail, as well as the Colorado
Rock Resorts, which manages 10 luxury resort hotels in seven
states, including one at Jackson Hole.
The decision was a response to “uncertain times”
in which travelers are concerned about losing a large deposit
on a vacation if they choose to cancel at the last minute, Vail
In Aspen, many lodges are cautiously changing their cancellation
policies in response. Some have relaxed policies from 30 days
notice to 14, reports the Aspen Times (March 3) and others from
21 days down to 7.
Rick Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a reservations
agency, called it a “very bold move.” “Whether
or not this turns out to be a brilliant move, we don’t
know,” he said.
Vail is also suspending cancellation fees on advance lift ticket
purchases at its four Colorado ski areas plus California’s