death triggers safety debate
BRECKENRDIGE – The death of a 56-year-old advertising
salesman from Naperville, Ill., on Breckenridge’s Peak
9 has triggered a new debate about skier safety. The victim
had been hit by a 31-year-old scaffolder from Plymouth, England.
Witnesses said the victim flew from his bindings into a tree.
Some argue that ski patrollers aren’t aggressive enough
in controlling speed, says the Summit Daily News (March 6).
Others complain that high-speed, high-capacity lifts flood trails
with too many skiers. There also are complaints about the style
of snowboarding clashing with skiing and the popularity of “extreme”
sports enticing novices into speeds and feats at which they
are not practiced.
One idea, coming from Brett Heckman, an attorney in Edwards,
is that perhaps the Colorado Ski Safety Act is outdated. That
law outlines the responsibilities of ski areas and skiers, but,
passed in 1979, it came before quad lifts, shaped skis and advances
“I could see a day when maybe the Legislature would look
at imposing some more responsibility on ski areas,” said
Heckman. He represented Nathan Hall, the skier convicted two
years ago in the death of a British skier on the closing day
Taos librarians resist Patriot Act
TAOS, N.M. – Librarians in Taos joined their counterparts
elsewhere in New Mexico in denouncing the Patriot Act. It is,
they say, a fearful step in censorship and an attack on the
Under the act, federal law enforcement authorities would be
able to get records of what books people have been reading.
In addition, the Patriot Act limits access to information.
“We would do anything we could not to cooperate with
them. Who knows what else will be censored?” Library Service
Director Dorothy Kethler told the Taos News (Feb. 26). “Reading
a book about terrorism doesn’t equate to becoming a terrorist,”
Telluride public works plot thickens
TELLURIDE – A 63-page affidavit filed in support of arrest
warrants for four Telluride public works employees elaborates
on some of the accusations against them.
For example, a search of the home of the public works foreman
revealed an old drill press, lawn sprinklers inscribed “parks”
and a table grinder, each of which matched the description of
items missing from the town shop.
The Telluride Watch (Feb. 28) also reports an accusation that
the public works director had a farm tractor, a flatbed Ford
truck and a boat trailer repainted, refurbished and rebuilt
in the shop by public works employees.
Police searching the home of another accused employee seized
sockets, wrenches and other tools. The wrenches matched an invoice
in the amount of $258 for the same type of wrenches allegedly
purchased from Snap-on-Tools on Telluride’s account.
Wal-Mart puts Avon in tax pickle
AVON – A Wal-Mart Supercenter will open this summer in
Avon. In it will be a full-service supermarket that is expected
to compete heavily with the town’s existing grocery store,
City Market, the largest sales-tax generator for nearly the
last 20 years.
Town officials say they are concerned because they desperately
need sales tax revenues. The deal they cut to get the Wal-Mart
complex allows developers to keep the sales taxes until construction
bonds are paid off. That could take a decade or more.
Town Council members are consequently fussing over what City
Market carries. For one thing, reports the Vail Daily (Feb.
27), they request high-end products.
“The produce has really gone downhill,” added Councilwoman
“You don’t sell cornichons,” Councilman Ron
Wolfe told grocery store representatives, describing a small,
crisp, French pickle made from gherkin cucumbers. “You’d
be surprised how many of my friends and neighbors are looking
Vail nixes its end-of-season party
VAIL – BB&B, an informal end-of-season bash on Vail
Mountain known for its debauchery, has been closed on orders
of the U.S. Forest Service.
The Vail Daily (Feb. 28) notes that the party-goers were known
to lug kegs of beer up the slope, and others had created ice
castles stocked with enough liquor to intoxicate an army of
costumed snowboarders and skiers. But the Forest Service, in
concert with the county sheriff and the ski area operator, said
the party is over.
“It sort of seals Vail’s reputation as the no-fun-allowed
ski resort,” said one local.
“That sucks,” said another.
But Cal Wettstein, the local district ranger, said he was prepared
to be the bad guy. “I’d much rather be seen as the
party pooper than have to answer to some parents for why their
child was found dead in the snow from exposure or alcohol poisoning,”
he said. “It is just a matter of time before something
bad is going to happen.”
Lift operator forced to trim goatee
WINTER PARK – Several weeks ago a lift operator was fired
at Winter Park because of his goatee. It was a long and scraggly
thing, but he had been wearing it since he was hired two years
ago, he said.
Well, he’s working again, and he still has the goatee
– but it’s trimmed now, reports the Winter Park
Manifest (March 5). He says he was told he had to shave it,
but company personnel said the policy was misunderstood. At
any rate, it seems that Winter Park under Intrawest won’t
be quite as fastidious about facial hair as was once thought.
Mary Jane bumps likely to be mowed
WINTER PARK – Don’t expect any major capital investment
in Winter Park this summer by new franchisee Intrawest. But
fewer bumps at the resort’s renowned mogul area, Mary
Jane, are likely.
Gary DeFrange, the ski area president, told the Winter Park
Manifest (March 5) that he doesn’t foresee new lifts or
road paving this summer, but removing tree stumps and boulders
at the Mary Jane will allow it to be opened with less snow,
he said. Also, Intrawest wants to make more of Mary Jane accessible
to the general skiing public during high-use times. That means
more grooming of one or more runs. However, Intrawest “would
be foolish to change the whole character of the mountain,”
Intrawest’s agreement with Denver, owner of the ski area,
is that Intrawest must invest a minimum of $50 million into
mountain operations during the next decade, including $8 million
in the first two years.
Aspen picks on Vail’s long lift lines
ASPEN – Aspen’s rivalry with Vail is longstanding,
and it shows itself in the most curious of places. One such
odd case was in a report in The Aspen Times (March 6) after
an epic powder day this year.
Skiing at Aspen, according to one local, was “outrageous.”
But according to a source known as Doc Rock, the snow at Vail
was probably good – if you could abide the 45-minute lift
lines at every chair, he said. After getting in only two runs
in two hours, he requested a refund, getting back $14 of his
That’s the story in Aspen about Vail. What was the story
about Vail in Vail? Long lift lines in the back bowls, yes,
but according to one skier that same day, no lift line was longer
than 10 minutes. “You just have to know how to ski the
mountain to avoid the crowds,” he said.
For a fact, though, Vail was extremely crowded for mid-week,
with the sort of parking situation reserved in recent years
for weekends, when seemingly a large portion of Denver arrives
to ski on cheap (as low as $10 a day) deals.
Target makes Silverthorne headlines
SILVERTHORNE – It’s a sign of the times. The day
after the best powder dump in the high Colorado mountains in
a half-dozen years, the biggest news in Summit County was the
pre-opening party at the Target store.
Two women were reported having a tailgate party in the parking
lot, where they had arrived early after hearing rumors that
the event would attract 5,000 people. It didn’t, but the
Summit Daily News estimated attendance at 2,000. The store is
expected to draw customers from as far as Steamboat Springs,
89 miles away.
In Summit County, the story is of dueling discounters and of
the sales-tax sweepstakes. Frisco, located five miles away,
previously had the only discount store, a Wal-Mart. Town officials
there acknowledged a turn for the worse with Target now opening
up down the road, but expressed optimism that a remodeled Wal-Mart
would maintain customers and taxes.
Meanwhile, from a relatively neutral site at Breckenridge,
Mayor Sam Mamula warned of greater problems than sibling rivalries.
“I think we are being very provincial in this whole thing,”
he told the newspaper. “I think the bigger threat is probably
from an Avon or an Eagle.”
Avon, located about 30 miles west on I-70, has a 120,000-square-foot
Home Depot and an 187,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter opening
this spring. Meanwhile, talk continues of a discounter of some
sort in Eagle, 60 miles west. Even if it didn’t draw people
from Summit County, it might reduce the number of people from
the west that go to Summit County to shop.
Beacon durability debate continues
JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The value of avalanche transceivers
continues to be debated after the death of a Jackson man in
the backcountry. He and his buddy were both wearing beacons,
as the transceivers are also called, but the beacon carried
by the survivor malfunctioned when it hit a rock as he was being
swept down a gully.
Both the manufacturer of the transceiver in question, Ortovox,
and a leading avalanche expert, Dale Atkins, warned against
expecting too much from beacons, reports the Jackson Hole News
& Guide (March 5).
Marcus Peterson, the U.S. representative for Ortovox, said
that 99 times out of 100, a person who is slammed into a rock
won’t survive. As such, he asks, does it make sense to
engineer beacons that can withstand such trauma?
Trauma is the cause of death for one-third of those killed
Atkins, a longtime forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information
Center, agreed that ramping up regulations governing durability
of beacons sold in the United States would be a mistake.
“The market is so incredibly small in the United States
and North America that (increased oversight) would probably
stifle innovation and it would probably increase the costs,”
he said. While preferring a stouter test of durability, he said
sturdier beacons might become cumbersome or pricier, discouraging
use. “If it gets too expensive, too big, people won’t
Even when trauma doesn’t kill an avalanche victim, it
takes skill to speedily locate a survivor. A study by Atkins
showed that rescuers such as ski patrollers who likely practice
more with transceivers, found and uncovered victims in an average
of 18.3 minutes —- borderline for survival. They rescued
59 percent of those buried.
Paul McCartney sings the Truckee blues
TRUCKEE, Calif. – Regulars at Moody’s Bistro were
tapping to the beat of the usual Thursday night jazz duo when
they got a surprise. Paul McCartney took to the small stage
to perform “Truckee Blues,” a song he apparently
made up on the spot.
McCartney had dined incognito at the bar and lounge in Truckee
with his wife, Heather Mills. The couple had been vacationing
at Lake Tahoe for several days, reported the Sierra Sun (March