Resorts vie for opening-day honors
TUNNEL, Colo. - Twin resorts straddling the Continental Divide are vying to become the first
resorts in Colorado, and possibly the nation, to open for skiing this year.
Thanks to snowmaking at a base elevation of nearly 11,000
feet, Loveland Pass has had that distinction many years, and some months ago had set aim at Oct.
16 - a goal that seemed unattainable several days prior, owing to one of Colorado's balmiest
autumns in recent years.
On the other side of the mountain, Arapahoe Basin
invariably was the last to close, staying open into August one year, although sometimes not
opening until Christmas. But last year, after 56 years in business, A-Basin installed snowmaking
and now threatens to become both bookends for ski season in Colorado.
Keystone and Copper Mountain, contenders in the past, say
this year that an early opening is not a top priority. Keystone is trying to reinvent itself as a
hip place for GenXers and GenYers.
needs volunteer workers
- In 1978 the U.S. Congress designated the Continental Divide Trail, authorizing eventual
construction of a trail that hews to the divide itself or close by, for 3,100 miles between Mexico
Now, 25 years later, although long segments of that trail
have been completed, the trail is sketchy or altogether nonexistent in places. A key problem, says
Paula Ward, of the nonprofit Continental Divide Trail Alliance, is the inability of the U.S.
Forest Service to use volunteer labor.
The Forest Service's problem? It has too few people
trained in supervising volunteers. Of course, the agency could use money, an agency representative
suggested to the Vail Daily .
But a hiker in the Vail area who has done large chunks of the trail suggests that sketchy is just
fine. To create another trail that is as well marked as most city streets, he suggests, will take
a lot of fun out of the Continental Divide Trail. Part of the fun of hiking, he says, is trying to
figure out where you are and where you're going.
The trail association hopes to complete the trail by 2008.
Rabid bat found at former school
SPRINGS, Colo. - A rabid bat was found on the steps of an old school in Steamboat Springs, the
first time a rabid animal of any sort was found in that locality since 1986.
Bats migrate south this time of year, so it's possible the
bat fell out the sky as it passed through the area, speculated the director of the county's
department of environmental health. Raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes and coyotes are the main hosts
of rabies within the United States, notes The Steamboat
Helicopter may adorn
- Gypsum, located between Vail and Glenwood Springs, often marches to a slightly different beat
than other towns along the I-70 corridor. A case in point is its new traffic roundabout.
Frisco has a bronze bull elk in its roundabout, Avon a
bronzed steed, while Vail has pretty flowers and such. Gypsum was offered a 12-foot bronze elk,
but council members shunned spending money for such things. Instead, they are reported by the
Eagle Valley Enterprise to be considering an over-the-hill helicopter. After all, they reason,
some towns have tanks and fighter planes in their parks, so why not a Huey in a roundabout?
electricity gains popularity
Utah - A growing number of towns and counties, ski areas and developers across the West are buying
wind-powered electricity, with the intent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are believed
to be increasing global warming.
Among the latest are Teton County, Wyo., and Park City,
Utah. Also buying wind-generated power are Vail Resorts Inc. and the Aspen Skiing Co., and
probably many others.
"We've talked about making the county walk the walk and
talk the talk, and I think this is a nice way to do that," said Teton County Commissioner John
Carney. The purchase of 3,000 kilowatt hours of wind-generated power by Teton County augments 823
residential customers and 23 commercial customers, notes the Jackson
Hole News & Guide . Buying the
wind-generated electricity costs a little more, $5 per 300 kilowatt hours.
In Park City, municipal officials pledged to make 7.5 percent of annual electrical consumption
from wind-generated sources. The council also issued a community challenge - if 5 percent of the
community uses wind power, the town will increase its proportion to 10 percent.
While such gestures are more than symbolic, the greatest gains are probably in transportation
choices and land-use regimes that curb low-density sprawl.
Vail seeks Steamboat's water
VAIL, Colo. -
Like a big city, the Vail Valley keeps spreading its fingers outward into surrounding areas to get
the resources it needs, in this case water.
In 1994, Vail reversed a century of history in Colorado by
reaching across the Continental Divide to divert water from the Eastern Slope, if in just a small
and temporary fashion. In Colorado, it usually works the other way - water from the state's
western side, where the ski areas are located, is diverted to the farms and cities along the Front
Now, Vail is reaching north, to the region around
Steamboat Springs. Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and an allied district have bought
1,250 acre-feet of water rights from five cattle ranches. Cost is $5 million.
Importantly, this is in a different river basin, making it
a "senior" water right. As such, this acquisition gives the Vail area much greater ability to
buffer itself from droughts.
Colo. - The Winter Park Manifest reports a plan, still in embryonic form, to build a plant that burns
wood chips to create electricity. If built, the plant would likely draw from forests near Winter
Park and Grand Lake, as well as the Breckenridge, Vail and Steamboat Springs areas.
The presumption is that local forests are too dense and need to be thinned. One Forest Service
study finds that a healthy forest of lodgepole pine has 400 trees per acre. But the forests in
Grand County average 1,000 trees per acre, making them more susceptible to diseases and insect
epidemics. Such a plant might cost $60 million to build, but the proponent of this idea, a group
called the Grand County Forest Stewardship Association, contends that providing a market for
forest thinning is cheaper than fighting wildland fires.
To make this thing work, proponents want a 20-year commitment from the U.S. Forest Service, which
administers a third to three-fourths of the land in these counties. California has 15 such
wood-fired power plants with three more in New Hampshire and one in Michigan.
Crested Butte flounders financially
BUTTE, Colo. - The Crested Butte ski area continues to flounder in the deep waters of financial
debt. The troubles seem to be deep enough that the Crested Butte
News mentions that the lifts will continue
operating, suggesting some doubt before that they would. Also, the recent news that the ski
company's real estate division owes $475,000 in delinquent taxes to the county government seems to
have opened eyes.
To continue operations, Crested Butte Mountain Resort
received more cash from one of its lenders, although not a refinancing package. The resort is
pinning its hope on a sale by late December or January.
addresses wolves, wilderness
Alberta - Do you need wilderness to have wolves? That conventional thinking is disputed by David
L. Mech, the renowned American wolf researcher, as well as a famous Italian wolf researcher, Luigi
In Italy, said Boitani in a keynote address at the World
Wolf Congress, "wolves and humans can live in an integrated co-existence in the same area rather
than having to be segregated forever in separate districts." Boitani said that in some villages in
Italy, wolves come into people's gardens at night. "Wolves living near human settlements do not
have a degraded live."
The Rocky Mountain
Outlook also reports evidence at the
conference of a new dialogue between wildlife researchers and cattle producers. Erik Butters, who
raises cattle on 20,000 acres in Alberta, says that the 100 cattle lost to depredation by wolves
in Alberta each year is "absolutely miniscule in the size of the livestock economy."
- compiled by Allen Best