Bluegrass checkpoint deemed legal

TELLURIDE, Colo. - During the Telluride Bluegrass Festival three years ago, a drug task force for several adjoining counties set up signs that read "Narcotics Checkpoint One Mile Ahead." The signs were a ruse.

In fact, drug task force agents were hiding in the bushes, and if people threw things out of their cars after seeing the signs, the lawmen radioed other cops in vehicles, who stopped the littering cars and searched for drugs and paraphernalia. Littering is against the law in Colorado, as are improper U-turns, and hence triggered probable cause searches of those cars once they had been stopped.

Unfair? Not so, rules the Colorado Court of Appeals. But while attorneys and lawmen continue to disagree over constitutional rights, San Miguel Sheriff Bill Masters defines a bigger picture. A Libertarian, Masters strongly disagrees with the War on Drugs.

"When you look at the overall impact on stopping the use of drugs in our country, I don't think it`B9s had any impact," he told The Telluride Watch (Sept. 5). "Personally, I'm not going to authorize the use of (fictitious drug checkpoints) in my department," he said. "Even though it's maybe legal methods, I don't particularly care for them."

Aspen fights its pricey reputation

ASPEN, Colo. - Several of Aspen's older and smaller lodges have united into a "Gems of Aspen" campaign in an attempt to attract middle-class guests. The premise, reports The Aspen Times (Sept. 5), is that Aspen`B9s reputation for high prices is not entirely deserved.

By the way, what is "affordable" for the middle class? The Innsbruck cited a rate of $95 for a room for two on Sunday night, Sept. 21. In early January, a street-side room will cost $149 and mountain-side room $179.

While real estate prices skyrocketed in Aspen, tourism has been flat or declining. Aspen Mountain had 100,000 fewer skier visits in 2002-03 than in 1993-94. During that same time retail sales have been down or flat for all but one year.

"Pillows" available to tourists have dropped from roughly 10,000 in 1994 to 7,800 now. Some small lodges in Aspen have been converted into employee housing, others into condominiums or even high-end fractional ownership properties.

This same marketing idea was also tried in the mid-1990s, but the execution was not sustained. It's not clear exactly why this effort should succeed. The toll-free number for reservations goes to just one lodge, not to a central booking office. The collective marketing budget is only $20,000.

Summit County ponders smoking ban

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. - The anti-tobacco smoking forces in Summit County continue to make headway. In November, voters there will be asked to allow the county commissioners authority to ban smoking at bars, restaurants and other public places.

The measure covers unincorporated areas, which includes the Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain, and Keystone ski areas. Breckenridge, however, is within a municipality.

Laurie Blackwell, tobacco prevention coordinator, told the Summit Daily News (Sept. 9) that if the county commissioners enact a smoking ban, it would be only after towns have had time to also go smokeless. The reasoning is to avoid giving bars that continue to allow smoking an advantage over bars where it is prohibited.

Ice rink color creates controversy

FIELD, Alberta - Form and function are battling once again, this time in a dispute about the color of an ice-skating rink inside Banff National Park.

The community rink there sits in a prominent position, and as such Parks Canada requires the building be painted a dark color, to better blend into the landscape. However, the townspeople of Field insist on painting it a bright white, so that the sun's rays won't be absorbed as easily. That strategy, they tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook (Sept. 11), lengthens the ice time five weeks every spring.

One outraged local resident describes Parks Canada as the "Grinch that Stole Christmas." Others wonder whether tourists really care. However, other towns in close proximity, including Banff, have rinks that are not painted white. In Canmore, officials plan to use concrete surfaces in future ice rinks as a way of extending ice time.

Seabiscuit put out to T-ride pasture

TELLURIDE, Colo. - The primary horse used in the filming of "Seabiscuit" is now semi-retired to a dude ranch near Telluride.

The family that owns the Skyline Guest Ranch is friends with the movie's producers. Ranch patriarch Dave Farny, a former ski area developer from Aspen, says the horse, Ferrari, is well trained. But as a track horse, he's never been on a trail and remains afraid of streams.

Altogether 10 horses were used in the movie, but Ferrari was the primary one, and the one that Toby Maguire rides. The Telluride Watch (Sept. 5) calls him "arguably the most lovable nonhuman movie character since E.T."

Sponsor trouble cancels golf event

EDWARDS, Colo. - Little more than 12 hours before it was scheduled to begin in August, the Colorado Open golf tournament was cancelled. For the second year running, the tournament's manager had no title sponsor and hence no money to pay the winning golfers or, for that matter, other expenses.

Golf industry experts tell the Vail Daily (Sept. 8) that the tournament, a 39-year-old crown jewel among Colorado's golf tournaments, may have fallen victim to a new reality of evaporating corporate sponsorships. The last corporate sponsor was First Data Corporation, two years ago. Last year, Vail's Sonnenalp Hotel, which owns the golf course where the tournament is played, provided $180,000 to cover the purse for top but not all winning players. A title sponsor with $250,000 was needed this year.

Snowmass calls for dark skies law

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. - Add Snowmass Village to the list of mountain towns where residents are demanding an end to light pollution of the night sky.

The call for a law is being made by a group called the Dark Sky Committee. Among its members is resident Tom Yocum, who complains that he can read a newspaper in his home from the 250-watt fixtures on houses 200 yards away. The Aspen Times suggests that the discussion may boil down most importantly to whether existing light-polluting fixtures are grandfathered in.

Many towns have light ordinances, although few counties do. Pitkin County is the exception. The law, which went into effect in late 1999, gave residents three years to correct their lights.

Meanwhile, the Idaho town of Hailey has a new light ordinance, and the Mountain Express reports planners there are fielding calls from as far away as Los Angeles. Some say it's the best such law in the nation. The law governing Eagle, downstream from Vail, meanwhile was called the best in Colorado. However, the best question in all these places may be how they're enforced.

1,500 runners cross Imogene Pass

TELLURIDE-OURAY, Colo. - It has been a year of 30s in Telluride: for the ski area, the film festival, and the annual run across Imogene Pass.

The event began when an accomplished long-distance runner who had returned to Ouray to work at Camp Bird, a gold mine, joined friends to run across 13,114-foot Imogene Pass. The tradition has continued, notes The Telluride Watch (Aug. 29), with more than 1,500 participants now running, and walking, the 17.1 mile course from Ouray, across the pass, and down into the main street of Telluride. More than 100 runners were from the Telluride area, but larger numbers come from Denver, Boulder and, most of all, Flagstaff.

Parking free for gas-electric hybrids

ASPEN, Colo. - The Aspen City Council is blessing hybrid gas-electric vehicles with incentives, free parking and a $100 rebate per registration fee. When electrically powered, the vehicles contribute less pollution locally.

Because Aspen has so few such hybrid vehicles, notes The Aspen Times (Aug. 26), town officials aren't worried about loss of revenues. If hybrids become more popular, however, the parking revenues that help fund the city's bus system could be reduced.

- compiled by Allen Best

Post offices reinstate recycling

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. People in Summit County love to recycle. And when they got to their mailboxes (there is no home-delivery in Summit County) they have plenty to recycle, given the vast amount of "junk" mail that is distributed.

So, for some years, recycle bins were set up in local post offices. But this summer the U.S. Postal Service banned the bins, saying it isn't in the business of recycling nor in helping people throw away the products it delivers. Mass mailings constitute 85 percent of the agency's business.

People were outraged, but after some Congressional intervention, the Postal Service reversed itself, reports the Summit Daily News (Sept. 6). The reasoning is that because there is no home delivery service, Summit County is unlike many places and hence, recycling boxes at the post offices were permissible.

But things are never easy. The agreement struck was that there are fewer recycling bins but more frequent pickups by local recyclers. Those local recyclers say they can't begin to keep up with the overflowing bins.

Revelstoke hopes for Olympics gold mine

REVELSTOKE, B.C. - A committee is researching ways for Revelstoke to financially ride the coattails of the 2010 Vancouver-Whistler Winter Olympics. "Potentially, we've got ourselves a gold mine," Elmer Rorstad told his fellow committee members.

Revelstoke enjoy relative proximity to Whistler and similar snow conditions. There is talk of about engineering rail tours from Whistler to Revelstoke, or promoting Revelstoke as the home of Canada's first ski jump, reports the Revelstoke Times Review (Sept. 10).

Student enrollment sags in Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - Where are the kids? Like nearly all ski towns in the West, Steamboat Springs is still perking along, if not at quite the same pace as the hurry-up, hurry-up '90s. But enrollment in public schools is sagging.

The Steamboat district has less enrollment than it did in the mid-'90s. In South Routt, an adjacent area where theoretically young families could move, the story is of declining enrollment. And to the west, at Hayden, the story is of flat or faltering enrollment.

What's going on? School officials concede losses of students to private schools and home schooling, but also blame the GenXers. Born in the late '60s and 1970s, they are now of child-bearing age, but there just aren't enough of them.

Other resort areas are experiencing similar trends. In the Eagle County School District, which includes the Vail Valley, enrollment increases of 4 percent were common during the 1990s, and some years spiked to 7 percent. For the last two years, enrollment growth has been essentially zero. Again, private schools and home schooling are part of the story, but the greater story is the sluggish growth in the construction and service sectors.

-compiled by Allen Best





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