Construction slows in Jackson

JACKSON HOLE, WYO. – Construction activity is slowing down in Jackson Hole. The peak was from 1998 to 2000, although the years 2001 and 2002 were on par with the mid-1990s in terms of permits issued.

Still, the Jackson Hole News & Guide (March 12) reports that the area is busier than many other places, resulting in an influx of out-of-valley contractors arriving to bid on projects. “We definitely are seeing more bidders and an influx from out of the valley,” said Lane Bybee, vice president of estimating for Evans Construction. “I think things are slowing down everywhere. We’re the last place with quite a bit of work.”

Wolves migrate into Utah

UINTAH MOUNTAINS, UTAH – Wolves from the Yellowstone area have been moving south through Wyoming into Utah. Last year, a wolf was killed northeast of Park City. Most recently, two wolves have been killed just over the state line in Wyoming, as well as one in Idaho.

But just exactly how wolves will be managed in Utah is unclear. The issue is a typical one of science vs. politics.

Wolves are to be removed within several weeks from the list of “protected” by the Endangered Species Act. As such, they can be legally killed only by federal agents. But after delisting, responsibility will be transferred to the states, in the case of Utah to the Division of Wildlife Resources. A pivotal issue is whether the wolves, once they are removed from the list of protected species, can be hunted.

In Wyoming, the state has sought for almost unlimited hunting outside of national parks, a measure deeply opposed by wolf-recovery groups. In Utah, there is no consensus. A coalition group called Utah Wolf Forum, which was formed to work through differences, has not taken a stance against wolf hunting in Utah. A spokeswoman, Allison Jones, said the group is not ready to rule out wolf hunting because it wants to ring together players on opposing sides of wolf recolonization.

That has caused a member group, the High Uintas Preservation Council, to break out from the forum, reports The Park Record (March 8). That group’s Dick Carter says “science-based” wolf management would never justify sport hunting of the creatures.

Meanwhile, Utah’s legislature has approved a fund for wildlife management that state taxpayers can contribute a portion of their tax refunds. But livestock producers say that contributions equal a vote for wolves.

A-Basin discusses expansion

SUMMIT COUNTY –Arapahoe Basin is talking about potential expansion into Montezuma Bowl.

Greg Finch, vice-president for Dundee Realty USA, which owns the ski company, confirmed discussions with the U.S. Forest Service but downplayed A-Basin’s plans. He told the Summit County Independent (March 14) that he believed all A-Basin was interested in at this time was running a Snow-cat up and down the bowl, to evaluate snow cover, temperatures and existing use.

Before A-Basin plots expansion, it wants to complete installation of a $2.5 to $3 million snowmaking system, then evaluate how much revenue that system generates. Other projects include improvements to the base lodge. However, plans for a mid-mountain lodge have stalled.

The bowl, located on the back, or southern side, of the existing ski area, is a favorite of backcountry enthusiasts, who gain access by using A-Basin’s lifts to nearly 13,000 feet. The recently revised master plan for the White River National Forest identifies the bowl as a possible expansion area. The resort was opened in 1946, one of the oldest continuously operated ski areas in Colorado.

Disco mania sweeps Jackson Hole

WILSON, WYO. – Cowboys and Western swing readily come to mind when thinking of Jackson Hole. But the liveliest after-dark action is every Thursday night when the Stagecoach Bar in Wilson hosts Disco Night.

A tradition for about eight years, the Jackson Hole News & Guide (March 5) visited the bar on a recent evening to find 20 people standing outside shivering and waiting to get into the 185-person capacity bar. Inside, dozens of women dressed in baby-doll T-shirts were tossing their hair over their shoulders, trying to get air on the backs of their sweaty necks. Barstools lining the walls made perfect perches for ski bums in search of love, or something like it.

Why all the strobe-lit lust in a place of barn wood? The newspaper has three answers: A) Women dig it. “Everybody’s dancing,” said one woman. “Everywhere else in town, you’re just standing around.” B) No cover charge, a nicety for ski bum budgets. C) Guys go because there are actually women in some abundance, a seeming (if not actual) rarity in most ski resorts.

And why are there so many women? Go back to A.

Dancers were seen doing the robot, the bump and grind, and even the worm. This being Jackson Hole, of course, there were couples doing the Western swing in accompaniment to Donna Summers.

Date-rape drug hits Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – There has been a rash of drinks being spiked with date-rape drugs in Steamboat Springs.

Typically, the cases have taken place at bars where women accept drinks from strangers. Usually, the effect is rapid – only 15 minutes. One Drug Enforcement Administration agent likened the powerful affect to drinking a 12-pack instantly. One woman likened it to taking several pain killers.

For those who believe they have been drugged, it’s essential to get to a hospital for testing within 24 hours. However, one drug called GHB (gamma hydroxy butyrate) metabolizes through the system in only 8 to 12 hours, notes The Steamboat Pilot (March 9).

Meanwhile, the drugs also seem to be readily available in Whistler. A physician writing for the Whistler Question (March 13) advised readers never to put their drinks down unattended, even to go to the washroom. It’s best, he said, to use the “buddy” system at parties – keep an eye on a friend’s drink if he/she is not alert.

Also, he advised people not to drink anything that has an unusual taste or color. A drink that is salty or a soft drink that has gone flat can be signs of GHB, also known as Liquid X, Easy Lath or Gop.

Jury still out on cloud seeding

CRESTED BUTTE – For the first time, Crested Butte and various local governments are spending money to seed clouds with silver iodide, hoping to produce more snow. The $85,000 cloud-seeding program began in January.

So, is it snowing? Is it making a difference? That’s the question the Crested Butte News (March 14) asked.

The answer, essentially, was hold onto your britches – at least until July, when an end-of-season report will be released. In the meantime, cloud-seeding has plenty of fans and skeptics.

Drought, however, has a way of making skeptics less cautious. In Colorado, after the drought of 1976-77, cloud-seeding was done from Durango to Denver, or at least large chunks of real estate in between. However, during some big snow years, only Vail steadily continued to spew the wind with silver iodide.

Breck halts mag chloride use

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge is temporarily halting use of magnesium chloride on town roads during winter, joining Frisco, Silverthorne, and Montezuma in the no-mag chloride movement in Summit County. Only Dillon continues to use the salt-based deicer, says the Summit County Journal (March 13).

The county government also has ceased use of the chemical, and it has asked the state to cease use of it on Interstate 70.

“I’m hesitant, because I don’t want someone 10 years from now coming back and saying, ‘This is like Agent Orange,’” said Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula. “We are environmental leaders in the county, and there is enough uncertainty that it is harmful.”

Across Vail Pass, Avon has ceased using mag chloride. Another valley away, Basalt and Aspen no longer use it. Studies have shown no severe impacts to plants, trees, fish and people.

However, it has caused several power outages when the mist has coated electrical transmission lines. It also coats cars driving on roads covered with the chemical in goo.

Winter Park tries to solve highway riddle

WINTER PARK – U.S. Highway 40 begat Hideway Village, a cluster of bars, restaurants and shops that, with a vote of incorporation in 1978, became Winter Park. The goal was to associate it with the nearby ski area of the same name and to help it become a destination resort.

Ever since, the town has been looking at putting the highway in its place. The town got additional ammunition recently from James Charlier, a transportation consultant from Boulder. He told the Town Council recently that the highway effectively divides the commercial district into two downtowns, with no commercial synergy between one side of the street to the other.

Charlier urged the town to stand up for its rights. “Step one is to realize the enormity of the problem. If you think tweaking around the edges is going to solve it, then you might as well just give up,” he said. He said mountain communities must stress pedestrian activity, as people can’t spend money from a wallet they are sitting on. “Your competition is working hard to create a walkable environment, because that’s what people want in a destination community.”

Wildfires dent Forest Service budget

SUMMIT COUNTY – If you see fewer wilderness rangers or trail crews at work this year on U.S. Forest Service lands, you can blame it on last year’s fires.

The agency last year borrowed about $920 million from various programs to pay for firefighting efforts. However, Congress reimbursed the agency only $640 million – a difference is almost $300 million, notes the Summit County Independent (March 17).

What this means seems to be anybody’s guess, other than the Forest Service has proposed reducing 4,000 permanent firefighters, down to 5,000. Dale Bosworth, Forest Service chief, said the agency would condense other programs, including fire rehabilitation and watershed restoration.

Spanish newspapers scrap in Jackson

JACKSON HOLE, WYO. – Publishers of two competing Spanish-language newspapers are scrapping. La Vox de Jackson Hole came first, in September, and was followed in November by La Palabra News.

The publisher of the latter newspaper, Craig Kelly, has sued his rival, Marcela Murri. He alleges that she has attacked the reputations of Kelly’s employees and contacted his advertising clients, attempting to dissuade them from working with his business, which he says is unethical.

In addition to publishing a newspaper, Kelly’s business also procures work visas for its Mexican clients and runs a bus service from Jackson to Tlaxcala, Mexico, the state most of Jackson’s Mexican workers call home.

Aspen real estate bounces back

ASPEN – Real estate in the Aspen-Snowmass area bounced back last year from 2001, with dollar value in both single-family and condominiums soaring. Sales were particularly strong in the higher end of the market, $5 million to $20 million.

The median sale price of a home in Aspen increased from $3.27 million to $3.54 million, according to figures from the Aspen Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service as reported by The Aspen Times (March 12). However, on average, sellers of Aspen homes received 90 percent of the asking price, as compared to 100 percent the year before, according to the analysis of Carol Hood, an agent with Mason and Morse.

Meanwhile, in the mid-valley area of Basalt-El Jebel, sales were down across the board, with single-family home sales down 5 percent and condo sales dropping 27 percent. The median sales price in Basalt dropped for the first time in years, from $531,000 two years ago down to $505,500 last year.

Sales of vacant land also plunged in the mid-valley, as it did in Aspen-Snowmass.

Most eye-catching in the current market is the staggering amount of property for sale. Bob Ritchie, a broker, said his analysis shows that the inventory of homes is at its highest level since 1985. There is a 3.5-year supply based on the current absorption rate. At the end of last year, the total value of the property on the market was $3.37 billion.

Woman drowns in hot springs

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Police are investigating the drowning of a 37-year-old woman at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. According to The Steamboat Pilot, there were no reports of a struggle at the developed hot springs, about 10 miles north of Steamboat. The husband of the woman told police he had left to get dressed and couldn’t find his wife when he returned.





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