Breckenridge deals with bad press

BRECKENRIDGE – The publicist for a Hollywood star once said that the only bad news is an obituary. In Breckenridge, something of the same question is being asked after a front-page story appeared in the 125,000-circulation alternative weekly Westword in Denver. The headline on the story was “Bad Boys of Breckenridge: The Town Was Their Bitch – Until Someone Died.”

Last Halloween, Cody Wieland was beaten to death by three younger men. The “bitch” is a reference to the short-lived advertising campaign by Vail Resorts, the company that owns Breckenridge, last year in which it tried to appeal to the young set with an advertisement about “ruling the slops by day and making the town your bitch by night.”

The story is long and colorful, particularly in describing the licentious use of liquor in the town. It also suggests that Vail Resorts incubated the deadly atmosphere through its advertising and also its dirt-cheap Buddy Passes that attract young male snowboarders.

Meanwhile, under the headline of “Is any publicity good publicity when it deals with murder,” the Summit Independent Daily (April 24) checked into how town officials were taking the Westword ink. Town and business officials were predictably not overjoyed, but neither did they seem anguished about the article.

Mayor Sam Mamula said the reality is that Breckenridge’s bar season is vastly over-rated and it’s actually a pretty sedate place. Still, he wonders if the upcoming trial of the three men will attract people looking or a Wild West-type of place where anything goes.

Superfund fails to restore river

MINTURN – In 1979, a mine near Vail shut down after almost a century of operation and left millions of tons of tailings along the Eagle River. Because of leach from the tailings, almost nothing lived in the eerie orange waters of the river.

But after a Superfund-ordered cleanup that is believed to have cost more than $60 million, most of the cadmium and other heavy metals have been removed, and brown trout have returned in large numbers. However, the Eagle River is still not completely clean, says state wildlife biologist Bill Andree. Enough zinc remains in the river to prevent the return of a native fish called sculpin, he told the Vail Daily (April 23). Another biologist, John Woodling, said it may be impossible to remove enough zinc to allow sculpin to survive.

Another species of fish native to the river, the Colorado River cutthroat trout, also is unlikely to return to the river, and it’s because of activities of man. The brown trout, an immigrant fish from Europe, eats the native fish.

Historian predicts fewer wildfires

DENVER – In an interview with the Rocky Mountain News (April 24), Stephen J. Pyrne, a wildfire hiustorian, said the state’s fire problem won’t disappear immediately but will become domesticated as communities and federal agencies further thin forests in the urban-wildlands interface. He expects this process to continue for anther five or six years, and he credits the initiative of the Bush administration.

Beyond that, the next concern will be the “generic public land,” land that is not designated for wilderness or special biological purposes and is not next to communities.

“Because we can’t decide what we want that land to be, that’s where most of the forest health problems will occur,” he said. “The land between, that’s where the action is going to move, and we ought to be thinking about what we want to do there.”

Colorado avalanche deaths on average

BOULDER – As of late April, six people were killed in avalanches in Colorado, the state’s average. In almost every other respect, however, it was an above-average season, reported the Colorado Avalanche Information Center on April 21.

The number of avalanches reported was 110 percent of average. Eighty-four people were caught in slides compared to an average of 67. The number of people partly buried was well above average at 29 compared to 15. And 13 people were injured in Colorado avalanches this year compared to an average of six.

Meanwhile, avalanches continue to present a problem in California. The owner of a 7-Eleven store in South Lake Tahoe recently died in an avalanche in Alpine County. He was buried under 5 feet of snow, 15 feet away from his snowmobile, reports the Tahoe Daily Tribune (April 28).

Ski ruling shakes up legislature

ASPEN – In 1995, David Cooper was racing on a course set up by the Aspen Valley Ski Club when he crashed into a tree, leaving him blind. His parents sued the ski club and the coach.

The defense argued that the liability waiver signed by Cooper and his mother prevented litigation. The Colorado Supreme Court last June said that public policy prevented a parent from taking responsibility for a minor’s claim for negligence.

Last week, the Aspen Daily News (April 28) reported that decision had two impacts. First, the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association named it “Case of the Year.” Second, that very same day, Colorado lawmakers amended a bill to give parents the right to waive liability for children participating in sports activities.

“If we can’t allow for parents to take responsibility for their children in cases of ordinary negligence, we will put an end to outdoor and recreational activities for children,” said Rep. Al White, of Winter Park. Martin Freeman, who represented Cooper in the lawsuit, said the legislation “just steamrolls over a century of Colorado public policy.” He suggested the constitutionality of the law might be tested if the right case comes along.

White said that he and Ken Chlouber, also a Republican, of Leadville, introduced the bill because insurance companies and underwriters were worried that “every scraped knee or twisted ankle would result in a lawsuit with huge settlements or big verdicts.”

Steamboat experiences cow gridlock

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Another cattle drive down the main street of Steamboat Springs may be held over the Fourth of July this year, despite the public’s beef with the “udder” gridlock created by a similar event two years ago. That event resulted in an hour-long traffic jam, notes The Steamboat Pilot (April 17), but this next moo-ving moment is to occur on a Sunday morning.

Minors score Summit County tobacco

SUMMIT COUNTY – When 16- and 17-year-old teens went to buy tobacco at stores, one in four stores sold them the goods. For that indiscretion, the 11 retail clerks were fined $200 for selling to minors.

For Laurie Best, Summit County’s tobacco prevention coordinator, that number is surprisingly far better than past compliance checks. One reason, she told the Summit Daily News (April 23), is a letter of thanks to retailers who have complied. As for the clerks who failed, she said that some of them can’t figure out the math that yields the magic number of 18 – the age that tobacco can be sold in Colorado. This is despite cash registers that will do the math for them, she says.

Whistler to study over-65 housing

WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler’s over-65 population increased from 3 percent in 1996 to more than 5 percent in 2001. During that time, however, housing costs and taxes rose, making it increasingly difficult for older residents to remain in the town.

The community has now created a Seniors Housing Task Force, which hopes to come up with a strategy for creating assisted-living facilities, reports the Whistler Question (April 23).

Wolf debate continues in Canada

CANMORE, Alberta – Wolves in Canada are eating themselves out of house and home. That, at least, is what outfitters and hunting guides are telling Parks Canada.

Banff National Park has too many wolves preying on an already low population of ungulates, they say. One outfitter says moose, elk, deer, sheep and even goats are almost nonexistent, compared to what he remembers from before.

But the Rocky Mountain Outlook (April 10) also points to research that suggests exactly the opposite – it’s the wolves that are in danger. One wolf researcher found that 75 percent of wolves in Canada’s Central Rocky Mountains that were collared died from human-caused mortality. The wolves were hit on roads or hunted or trapped, if not always in the park, too often in areas immediately adjacent to the park.





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