Crested Butte ski area sale called off

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Purchase of Crested Butte Mountain Resort by a Dallas-based company is off. However, some local representatives from the Phoenix Property Co. might pursue the purchase from a different angle. “The contract has been terminated, but they are still in the game,” Gunnison County Commissioner Perry Anderson told the Crested Butte News (June 6).

In previous reports, the Town of Crested Butte’s thoughts on the potential sale had been silent. In this report, Crested Butte Mayor Linda Powers suggested endorsement of a sale. “It is disappointing for this community to have gone to the two-year line without scoring a touchdown,” Powers told the newspaper. “The Town of Crested Butte very much wants the resort sold for an infusion of money. We want a new village and convention center (in nearby Mount Crested Butte) and, with the resources of the present owners, we can’t make that a reality.”

Reportedly at issue was the extent of community opposition to expansion of the ski area onto Snodgrass Mountain. That expansion has been under consideration since at least 1982, and in the mid-1980s the ski area got permission. That time, due to lack of money, the ski area pulled back. Then, again in the mid-1990s, the ski area proposed to expand there. This time, community opposition killed it.

Ski area personnel say the expansion is key to Crested Butte surviving in the marketplace. The resort currently has large amounts of black-diamond skiing, but the typical visitor has skills for green and blue-level skiing. As such, the return rate for visitors is very low, which means a lot of advertising to get new visitors. Meanwhile, current owners appear to have insufficient resources to stick it out.

Source of Western haze debated

THE WEST – On June 2, skies across broad swaths of Colorado and other parts of the West were filmy. Even in Denver, sunlight had that eerie, orangish look of light filtered by the smoke from forest fires.

What was going on? The answers varied broadly. “Forest fires in Russia are most likely to blame for the soft, gray haze hanging over Summit County,” reported the Summit Daily News after consulting with state health officials.

Three valleys away, The Aspen Times pinpointed the cause with more precision, noting not only the 24 Russian fires, but also fires in California and Hawaii. It also recalled the haze in April 2001 when the jet stream carried the residue of a massive dust storm in Mongolia into much of the Western United States.

Relying almost exclusively on the National Weather Service, the Vail Daily succinctly proclaimed the cause a mystery. Likewise, The Steamboat Pilot reported that the “explanation for haze over Steamboat is hazy.”

The take-home message: pollution knows no boundaries. We’re all in this together.

Ranger: Maroon Bells fee demo works

ASPEN, Colo. – It doesn’t make sense everywhere, but the national fee demonstration project works well at the popular Maroon Bells near Aspen, says a U.S. Forest Service ranger.

“I’m not trying to do a sell-job on the entire program, but to me, here, it’s a no-brainer,” District Ranger Jim Upchurch told The Aspen Times (June 3). “Without the fee demonstration program we’d be in serious trouble.”

The twin mountain peaks, which are perhaps Colorado’s best-known icons, attract 200,000 or so visitors every year, most of them in summer. The Forest Service gets $10 from motorists, 50 cents from bus riders. This, along with some camping fees, nets the agency nearly $119,000 annually, enough to pay the salaries of the Forest Service greeters and janitors, and for some campground improvements.

Normally, when the Forest Service collects fees, it cannot keep those revenues. In the case of the fee demo program, all except 5 percent are given to the regional office of the Forest Service, to be spread back across national forests in that region. Critics charge that often the money collected covers only the salaries of those collecting the money. In this case, says Upchurch, it pays for much more.

Telluride mulls nonmotorized parade

TELLURIDE, Colo. – How about a Fourth of July parade that is free of fossil fuels, suggested Hilary White, a Telluride Town Council member. “We are too devoted to our cars.”

Council members conceded the merit of her proposal but feared the adverse effect on retailers, who have come to expect a larger number of Harley-Davidson bike riders. So, reports The Telluride Watch (May 23), before embracing this idea, the council wants to confer with retailers.

Grazing drops in Grand Teton park

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Livestock grazing has continued to decline steadily in Grand Teton National Park. In 1950, ranchers had rights to graze 4,230 animals. But last year, two of the last three ranchers in the park decided to end their park grazing, due to increasing pressures from environmentalists, predators, tax laws and drought.

That leaves just one primary grazing lease-holder, and that family is taking a break for at least this year, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide (May 28).

The ripple from this is unclear, but a previous study suggested that if the families couldn’t graze their livestock inside the national park, they might be forced to develop their scenic ranches elsewhere in Jackson Hole.

Devil’s Highway becomes U.S. 491

SANTA FE, N.M. – U.S. Highway 666, known as the Devil’s Highway, has new numbers: U.S. 491. The highway runs from New Mexico across Colorado, through Cortez and Dove Creek, and into Utah.

In the Bible, explains The Associated Press, the Book of Revelations says 666 is the “number of the beast,” usually interpreted as Satan or the Antichrist, hence the highway’s nickname. New Mexico’s top highway official had said the state didn’t want the highway’s negative connotation, because it discouraged tourism and economic development. Federal highway officials apparently agreed.

Beaver Creek bans downhill bikes

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – High speeds and steep trails will be off-limits to mountain bikers at Beaver Creek, as resort operators have decided that careening downhill at more than 20 mph is too threatening to hikers and slower-moving bike riders. Also, newer and heavier mountain bikes are causing extensive erosion.

This decision rankles local bike rider Jay Lucas, who complained to the Vail Daily (May 30) that other ski areas, most notably Whistler, have done a better job of building trails for downhill bikers. Prominent mountain bike leader Dawes Wilson believes that discouraging hard-core bikers at Beaver Creek will result in illegal pirate trails on public lands elsewhere.

Canoeist drowns in Glenwood Canyon

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. – With the Colorado River running at what may have been its peak flow this year, three canoeists put in near the top of Glenwood Canyon. Their intent was to canoe about 10 miles in the fast-moving, debris-laden waters.

It wasn’t a smart call. Neither was their failure to use life vests. Just above a power plant, their canoe hit an eddy and capsized. Of the three, one of them didn’t make it – and he was a strong swimmer. But with water that only a day before had been snow, and the river filled with branches, even tree trunks, it was an atrocious place to try to survive, noted the Aspen Daily News (June 3). One observer estimated the water was running at 25 mph.

Steamboat faces street dilemma

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – With six variations of “meadow” among the street names, plus a trio of bears, addresses in Steamboat Springs can be confusing for emergency service personnel, not to mention everybody else. Hence, Steamboat is studying a proposed policy regarding the naming of streets.

The policy, which heavily borrows from those elsewhere, would limit the number of streets that can use the same derivation of a name. It asks developers to avoid using the names with bear, willow, fox or meadow. The city also asks that streets within a neighborhood have a consistent theme, one not used elsewhere in the city.

Researchers to inspect Lake Tahoe bottom

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – For the first time, researchers intend to closely inspect the bottom of Lake Tahoe, which is 1,645 feet deep. What lies there? The Tahoe Daily Tribune (June 4) notes an old steamer 300 feet below the surface in one part of the lake.

Costing $250,000, the expedition will have a remote-operated vehicle equipped with a sonic device that can be use to detect wood and metal within 1,000 feet. Researchers hope to study fault lines in the lake, a landside of recent decades, and learn more the movement of sediment particles.

Camp Hale may be cleaned up

RED CLIFF, Colo. – Work is continuing this summer at Camp Hale, training site of the 10th Mountain Division, the incubator for many key figures in the post-World War II U.S. skiing industry. Unexploded munitions are being cleared from a small area of the site, which was returned to the Forest Service in 1966. This year’s project could cost $2 million.

Although locals in the Vail-Leadville area have always known that various bullets and bombs existed in the area, it wasn’t until an Outward Bound hiking instructor came across part of a bomb on a peak in the area that the cleanup began. Since then, all manner of ordnance, some duds but others not, have been found. They range from rifle grenades to mortar shells to recoilless rifle shells. Cleanup could take as long as 10 years, and even then officials have no expectation that the area will be entirely rid of munitions, notes the Vail Daily (June 6).

Also contributing to the potentially explosive situation is that the CIA trained Tibetan guerillas in the area from 1959 to 1964.





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