Ski resort cuts lift ticket price

ALPINE MEADOWS, Calif. - Powder Corp., the Utah company that oversees Alpine Meadows, got lots of ink when it announced that lift ticket prices would be cut $17, to $39 a day.

The company said the price break was a way of meeting customers head-on. "We're getting back to playing ball with the customer and not with each other," said Alpine Meadows spokeswoman Rachel Woods, referring to inter-resort competition.

Maybe, although Robert Frolich, the ski columnist for the Sacramento Bee , suggested a more mundane explanation. "Alpine Meadows is a wonderful mountain, but now it has no place to go," he told the Tahoe World (Sept. 27). "It can't build lodging or expand, the only thing it can do is max out its visitors."

As in Colorado and some resorts of Idaho, Tahoe resorts have been lowering their prices, but some more than others. Many strategies are aimed at building mid-week attendance.

Squaw Valley, for example, is boasting more benefits, including indoor climbing, while offering a $39 pass for Tuesday through Thursday. Those season pass sales have increased 23 percent. A Squaw Valley spokesman said that price is not the only determining factor in customers' skiing decisions. Still, the ski industry will be watching to see what happens.

Telluride tries to go underground

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Alternating current created from a tumbling mountain creek above Telluride was first channeled into a power line near Telluride in 1891 by L.L. Nunn, and from those power lines Telluride became the first town on the planet to have electrically lighted streets.

Now, some people in the Telluride region want a new distinction - they want to be the first place where a government has ordered an electricity provider to bury its transmission lines.

But what is at issue, says The Telluride Watch (Sept. 23), is who pays for the upgrade in aesthetics. Power supplier Tri-State says the existing line must be upgraded anyway, and this new line will help those who want their views unobstructed as well as other, regional consumers. As such, Tri-State wants those who benefit to help bear the cost.

San Miguel County, which is seeking to order the buried line as a condition of approval, says Tri-State customers overall should absorb the cost. Colorado's state government, through the Public Utilities Commission, is the arbiter in the dispute.

Summit County sees hot-tub deaths

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. - Two men have died in hot tubs post-midnight in Summit County this year. Both men had permission to use the hot tubs, but their deaths illustrate the dangers of what the Summit Daily News (Oct. 3) calls "hot-tub poaching."

Summit County has thousands of hot tubs and spas, says the newspaper, many in semi-public places. Many people eagerly alight in the tubs when nobody else is around. "It's fun and mischievous - maybe more fun because you're not supposed to," explained a waiter from Keystone.

But combining alcohol with warm temperatures, as the two men seem to have done, is an invitation for problems, compounded by the fact that there is no one else around, to know when there's a problem.

Eagle prepares for Bryant's return

EAGLE, Colo. - Professional basketball player Kobe Bryant is scheduled to return to district courts in Eagle on Oct. 9 for his preliminary hearing, and the town is readying itself for another 15 minutes of fame.

Bryant is accused of raping a local woman in late June, and after he was arrested scores of reporters descended on Eagle. It is a rather typical "down-valley" town, mostly middle class, well educated, and white, with both strong attachments to and strong resentments of its up-valley resort, Vail.

At issue in the debate is the jury pool and whether jurors will be prejudiced against Bryant, a black man. Although many reporters have focused on Eagle, where Bryant's accuser lives and where the district courts are located, potential jurors could come anywhere from Vail to the bedroom communities of Aspen. There are very few blacks in the county, but at least 23 percent of the residents are Hispanic.

Defense attorneys are reported to be sparing no expense. Among those expenses is polling of potential jurors in search of potential biases. If so, they could move for a changed location for Bryant's trial. However, only two or three jurisdictions in Colorado, none ski communities, have the quota of blacks and liberal temperament that many attorneys say they suspect Bryant's defense team would want.

Lion encounter said to be God's will

FRASER, Colo. - A woman jogging on a forested road at dawn with her 2-year-old yellow Labrador was surprised and mortified when the dog flushed out a large mountain lion.

The slinking lion appeared to be stalking the dog when the woman trotted around a bend. The giant cat fled, but with the dog in pursuit. Finally, the cat turned around and swiped at the dog, drawing blood, but not much else.

Speaking with the Sky-Hi News (Oct. 2), the woman said she had done everything you're supposed to do to avoid mountain lions. That she still had the encounter, she said, was perhaps God's purpose. "Maybe the reason I'm here is to remind people that God sees, He Knows and He provides all that we need every moment."

Leadville gears up for terrorists

LEADVILLE, Colo. - A former mining town now edging its way into the resort world, Leadville likes to think of itself as "friendly." But "fearful" is now coming into play, thanks to exercises by the federal government.

The Leadville Chronicle (Oct. 2) says the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates several water projects near Leadville, recently sponsored a tabletop exercise in which participants were instructed to imagine terrorist attacks of various sorts. Of primary concern are the large quantities of chemicals, including sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide, stored at a water treatment plant.

A siren has been mounted, and loudspeaker messages have been prepared to instruct nearby residents in case of emergency. Those messages are in both English and Spanish.

Archaeologists search railroad camp

TRUCKEE, Calif. - Archaeologists have been rummaging through the remains of a camp used by loggers of Chinese descent during the 1870s. The loggers were employed by two companies in the area to cut cordwood as well as fell trees. The site is on U.S. Forest Service land.

So far, the archaeologists have found fragments of a can of opium and a piece of a grinding wheel, among other artifacts. This was among a number of logging camps that existed along the Central Pacific Railroad line, says the Sierra Sun (Sep. 26).

Aspen tries to halt its retail slide

ASPEN, Colo. - Aspen's town government has hired a consultant to help it and merchants figure out how to halt the slide of business in the downtown core.

In Aspen, as in many towns, some of this skid has been blamed on real estate development. The developments are leasing space on main street locations to push their second-home projects, and many think that the monotony of seeing shops hawking townhomes instead of trinkets and tarts makes the downtown areas less interesting.

As in Whistler, Vail and probably elsewhere, a recent "neighborhood" meeting called by the consultant, BBC Research and Consulting, led to a discussion of lease rates and the notion that landlords need to be a part of the discussion.

Wolf populations start to stabilize

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - The rapid growth in the gray wolf population is beginning to flatten. Before, the population was growing 23 percent or more each year, but last year the rate slackened to 12 percent, most in Idaho.

The best wolf habitat, primarily in Yellowstone National Park and designated wilderness areas, is now full of wolf packs, explains the Billings Gazette , so any expansion has to occur closer to where people live. When that happens, conflicts arise, and wolves are often killed or relocated.

Federal officials say there are now enough wolves - 747 spread out in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana - to warrant removing them from the endangered species list.

- compiled by Allen Best





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