New Mexico town fears tailings slide

QUESTA, N.M. – New Mexico is in the midst of a multiyear drought, but residents of Questa – a town north of Taos and east of Angel Fire – are hoping it doesn’t rain. A new engineering report suggests a major rain could dislodge a million-cubic-foot mass of waste rock from a molybdenum mine, reports The Taos News (June 12).

The rock pile has been moving two inches per month, but an extreme rain could shear off a massive chunk from the pile, says a panel of three independent engineers.

A representative of the mine, which is owned by Unocal, is calling for “sound science,” arguing that the rock pile has been moving since the late 1960s without calamity. A river advocacy group in Taos accused the mining company of a cover-up. Meanwhile, the mine is awaiting action by the Environmental Protection Agency for a Superfund clean up.

Lion hunting mixes emotions

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – A proposal by state wildlife officials to increase hunting of mountain lions revealed a strong philosophical split at a recent meeting, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide (June 11).

A wildlife photographer questioned whether killing lions prevents attacks on people. California has not hunted lions for 30 years and has not had a lion attack in 8 years, he said. In fact, said the photographer, lion researchers theorize that hunting creates more problems by orphaning young lions, which are more likely to cause trouble without a parent. Outfitters strongly disagree. They say they remove the animals most likely to get into trouble.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, mountain lions were back in the news again after the tattered clothes of a 3-year-old who had disappeared four years ago were discovered. The boy had been hiking with a Christian singles group west of Fort Collins, at an elevation of about 9,000 feet, when he disappeared.

The clothes of the 35-pound boy were discovered this past week and then the portion of a skull. There’s some speculation and some circumstantial evidence that he was killed by a mountain lion.

Twice before in the last 15 years people have died from mountain lion attacks in Colorado. Another boy, who had become detached from his family while hiking near Grand Lake, had been killed by a lion. A high school senior who had been jogging near Idaho Springs also was killed by a lion.

However, wildlife officials say statistics show that such attacks have been anomalies, and they remain so, posing far less threat than lightning or even insects.

County pays $100k in skate park suit

EL JEBEL, Colo. – Rather than continue litigation that might take years to complete, Eagle County commissioners decided to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging negligence. Importantly, they also agreed to concede wrong doing, despite a loud protest from the county’s insurer, which doesn’t like to settle cases it thinks it can win. As such, the insurer won’t pay the money.

The claim stems from the death of a boy who died while playing in a makeshift skateboard park on county-owned property at El Jebel, downstream from Aspen. In response, the county at first claimed governmental immunity, which the insurer believes was grounds for winning.

The boy was running with friends at the makeshift skateboard park when he banged his head against a 200-pound metal bar that wasn’t anchored properly, explains The Aspen Times (June 3 and 6). Falling backward, he grabbed the bar, which landed on his forehead, crushing his skull. He died instantly.

The county had assigned supervision and maintenance of the facility to a group called the Mount Sopris Skateboarding Association. Two leaders of that group had been released from responsibility, because Colorado law gives individuals who volunteer time for children’s recreation endeavors immunity from liability.

A-Basin outlasts Mammoth Mountain

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, Calif. – Mammoth Mountain planned to remain open for skiing through June 15. The resort, noted the local newspaper, stays open weeks longer than any other resort in the West.

But wait – where is Arapahoe Basin? The resort, located about an hour west of Denver, this year expects to stay open until July 7. And what about Mount Hood’s Timberline, about an hour from Portland, which stays open through summer?

Telluride real estate bounces back

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Evidence is emerging that Telluride’s real estate market is at least holding its own. Even better, reports the Telluride Watch (June 3), there is a sense among real estate agents that the market could be poised for a stronger summer.

Nobody is expecting the types of sales that occurred before the dot-com crash, and it should be noted that some people, when they’re selling, are taking losses. But barring another war, terrorist attack or string of wildfires, some foresee steady gains in sales.

Large telescope moves to Gunnison

GUNNISON, Colo. – By next winter, Colorado’s largest research telescope is expected to be situated on the outskirts of Gunnison, a small college town about 30 miles from Crested Butte. The public observatory was partly sold as an economic development mechanism.

A $150,000 grant expedited purchase of the 30-inch Cassegrain telescope. However, even in rural Gunnison, an area with huge expanses of sagebrush, light pollution is an issue. By locating it on the outskirts of the town, the observatory can easily tap into existing high-speed Internet cable, notes the Crested Butte News (June 5).

New film traces ski film history

TELLURIDE, Colo. – A new ski film, “Cinema Vertical,” has been completed by two Telluride filmmakers. It has clips from films made from the 1920s to the present, including those made by Dick Durance, John Jay and Dick Barrymore, as well as Roger Brown, Warren Miller, Greg Stump and more. It also has interviews with most of those filmmakers.

“The film gives a little insight into the lives of these filmmakers, who were all completely self-made filmmakers who just had a dream and made it happen, “ Dave O’Leske told the Telluride Watch (May 23). “These guys did what they did purely out of passion for the sport and a love of the skiing lifestyle.”

Much the same can be said for O’Leske and his partner, Stash Wislocki. O’Leske was working construction last year before he released his first film, an ode to backcountry skiing. He is still working construction, he said at his new film’s premiere at this year’s Telluride Mountainfilm Festival.

Among those on hand were Otto Lange, who fled Austria in the 1930s, going on to teach skiing at Sun Valley before becoming a filmmaker. A little-known fact is that Lange taught skiing to the parents of Stein Ericksen while he was still at St. Anton.

Snowmobiles busted in wilderness

ASPEN, Colo. – The prevailing wisdom among wilderness advocates is that snowmobiles often violate boundaries of wilderness areas but rarely get caught. Indeed, you need not go far to find snowmobile tracks in most wilderness areas.

But on the Memorial Day weekend, three snowmobilers were ticketed for riding their machines in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness east of Aspen. A ranger who happened to be in the area monitoring the backcountry skiing was alerted to what was going on, and he waited for their return. Fines for the violation are $75, notes The Aspen Times (June 4).

Woman second to ski Grand Teton

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – On June 4, Carina Osterberg became the second female ever to ski 13,770-foot Grand Teton. Accompanied by her husband and a photographer, she set out at shortly before 2 a.m., summiting 8.5 hours later while the snow remained firm. They descended the Ford and Chevy couloirs to the Stettner Couloir.

The first woman to ski it was Kristen Ulmer, a professional skier from Salt Lake City. Men ski it often, almost a dozen this year as of early June, notes the Jackson Hole News (June 11).

Ironically, Osterberg is relatively new to alpine skiing. She grew up cross-country skiing in Sweden, and although forced to take alpine lessons, she and her sister thought it was the “dumbest thing in the world.”

Both have since changed their minds.





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