Ski area theft ring targeted

ELDORA RESORT, Colo. – Arrest of three people for credit card theft has led investigators to suspect they have uncovered a nationwide ring that targets ski resorts.

Boulder County sheriff’s deputies, following up on credit cards stolen from cars parked at Eldora Resort, arrested a trio of suspects in a suburban Denver motel room in mid-April. The two men and one woman had bought $300,000 in items during an 18-month, nationwide crime spree.

The trio apparently traveled across the country, breaking into cars at ski resorts, taking only a few credit cards at a time. Investigators believe they targeted ski areas because people going to ski areas presumably had money or at least credit. Also, they were likely to leave purses, fanny packs and such in their cars while skiing.

“I think it is much bigger,” an investigator told The Denver Post (May 12). “They may be just one group that works for a subcontractor, who has other groups doing the same thing.”

Information about the possible nationwide theft ring was offered to police in other states. A more extensive investigation may be in the works in Utah.

Tahoe cops try new bear tactics

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Across the West, mountain town newspapers are rife with stories about the spring return of the bears. The story is really very simple: If your garbage isn’t put out, the bears don’t come.

But it’s never that simple, so the story becomes about how humans try to outwit the bears. The latest twist in that regard may be in El Dorado County, located partly along the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. There, the old strategy was to shoot at garbage-eating bears with rubber bullets. But the bears have become accustomed to the pain. So now sheriff’s deputies are taking a cue from police in nearby Truckee.

In Truckee, police have not only used rubber bullets and flash-bang devices, but have used projectiles filled with oleoresin capsicum, a pepper spray derivative, and fluorescent paint. The latter allows deputies to track bears that commonly come around for garbage.

Ann Bryant, executive director of the Bear League, warns that you can’t leave a bowl of candy out for a child then slap the child’s hand when it reaches for it. “You cannot go out night after night and beat up these bears and keep the food buffet out,” she told the Tahoe Daily Tribune (May 16).

The jury still seems to be out on the effectiveness of a new law that requires people in new homes to put trash into metal trash enclosures. The law wasn’t enforced, says Bryant, but an environmental manager says 60 to 70 warnings were handed out. The second offense produces a $100 fine, and the first such fine is now being meted out.

Starbucks offers $100k to Jackson

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – “Kickbacks” occur in ski towns in a thousand different ways and on a daily basis. Concierges get deals from restaurants for referrals. Events get named after sponsors, as in Teva this, Chevy that, and Jeep so forth.

Now, Starbucks is trying to gain a larger share of the coffee-drinking market in Jackson Hole. If 115,000 pounds of Starbucks coffee is sold there annually, according to a deal being studied, Starbucks will pay $100,000. To sell that much would require the core lodging properties and resorts to push Starbucks – to the exclusion of other coffees, including the beans sold by two local companies, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide (May 14).

The money would be split 50-50 between the ski area operator, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and the local chamber of commerce. The potential Starbucks money could boost the budget of the chamber by 16 percent.

The possible deal grew out of an existing relationship between the ski area and a company in Denver. That Denver company produced a sponsorship by Chevrolet. In return for vehicles used by the ski company, the company gives Chevy products exposure. Predictably, at least one chamber member intensely dislikes this idea. That member is the Great Northern Gourmet Coffees, a roasting company based in Jackson Hole.

Whitewater park opens in Gunnison

GUNNISON, Colo. – Completion of a rodeo playground for whitewater boats just west of Gunnison is being celebrated Memorial Day weekend with a whitewater festival.

The idea of the whitewater park was planted in 1995 by a recreation professor at nearby Western State College. In 1997, Boulder-based Gary Lacy, who has designed courses from Breckenridge to Glenwood Canyon and beyond, was hired to plan the 500-yard segment, explains the Crested Butte News (May 16).

Gunnison boaters have advertised their event across Colorado, but they are competing against a big draw in the Vail-Minturn area, where a whitewater festival is now in its second decade and also has the corporate backing of Teva.

Long winter returns to Winter Park

FRASER, Colo. – It seems like Winter Park and the rest of Grand County are returning to normal. Instead of daily sunshine during May, as during the droughts of recent years, people are again grousing about “nine months of winter.”

“April is the cruelest month,” wrote T.S. Elliot, but he had it all wrong. In ski towns, it’s May. And while longtimers know to expect two or three days per week of assorted snow, sleet and grauple, newcomers expect May to be like “back home.”

One woman, suffering through a foot of snow while tending children at a Fraser playground, was reported by Sky-Hi News (May 15) publisher Patrick Brower to be advising her husband to solicit his old job in the Midwest. Arriving last October, she has known only snow – and she’s had all she cares to see.

Home Depot to draw I-70 corridor

AVON, Colo. – Papers along the I-70 corridor were filled with the usual mix of stories about court cases, environmental improvements and so forth. But a glossy advertisement wrapped on the exterior of papers in Vail, Eagle and Glenwood Springs was the real story May 15.

The wrap was an advertisement announcing the grand opening of Home Depot, which opened a 129,000-square-foot store in Avon. Some local builders and home remodelers have gleefully estimated they can reduce their costs of materials by up to half.

This is by far the biggest building in the Vail area. The garden center for the new store alone occupies 30,000 square feet, which until a few years ago was the size of the largest grocery store. When fully cranked up, Home Depot and the adjoining Wal-Mart are expected to employ 800 people and draw shoppers from Aspen to Breckenridge.

Glenwood to build 18-hole course

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. – City Council members are taking the big steps to build an 18-hole golf course. So far, they have approved taking out a $12 million loan, and they also have contracted for a $235,000 design. The course is projected to earn $1 million a year in revenues.

The council’s method of financing the project, however, has provoked some opposition, reports the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (May 4). The city is using certificates of participation instead of the more conventional revenue bonds. The certificates do not require a public election. City Manager Mike Copp says this form of borrowing is more flexible for the city and leaves it less vulnerable if the golf course should go bankrupt. The city is in a hurry to take advantage of low interest rates.

Among other points, opponents wonder why, if the golf course is so sure to make money, private enterprise doesn’t try it. One of two dissenting council members, Dave Merritt, predicted that committing the city to the golf course will commit the city to chasing sales tax dollars to subsidize the course.

Students nudged toward health food

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – At Jackson Hole High School, as elsewhere, there is concern that students are eating fat- and sugar-laden junk food. Even in Wyoming, 6.6 percent of children are overweight, and another 10.8 percent are in the at-risk category.

Already, the pop and candy machines at middle and elementary schools have been replaced with juice machines and healthier snacks, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide (May 7). At the high school, Tootsie Rolls, Nerds and Skittles have been replaced by granola bars, cereal and beef jerky.

Still, there Reese’s and Domino’s are sold each day. The profits from this not-so-healthy food comes to $75,000 a year, which subsidizes the cost of other, more nutritious meals.





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