Ski areas to cater to minorities

DENVER, Colo. - In 50 years, Hispanics, blacks and Asians will outnumber pale-skinned people in the United States. But, at present, only 8 percent of the nation's skiers and snowboarders are Hispanic or of color.

The ski industry hasn't ignored these trends. In Southern California, several resorts have done very well catering to Hispanics, and Tahoe-area resorts are seeing increasing numbers of skiers of Asian descent.

In Colorado, though, skiing remains distinctly a white sport. Hispanic activists want to change that, and they cite evidence that minorities who are the majority in some jurisdictions, including Denver, are very interested in the sport.

It's not a problem of money, points out Bill Jensen, chief operating officer at Vail Mountain. With discounted season tickets, skiing is now readily accessible to nearly all income brackets. The problem is, in some ways, more broad. "If you've never experienced it, if it's not a part of your lifestyle, then price really doesn't matter," Jensen told The Denver Post . "We need to do a better job with our visibility and communications."

Manny Fields, co-founder of Denver's Altura Communications, says the key is finding a ski industry message that will resonate across all cultures.

Pollution may impact snowpack

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Scientists have long understood that cities can create their own weather. Now, they're wondering if pollutants from urban areas are reducing how much water falls on nearby mountains.

Cities produce large amounts of aerosols, which include tiny particles of dust and the byproducts of the combustion of fossil fuels. One study in New York City showed that aerosol levels regularly grew during the work week, spiking on Wednesdays, possibly due to a sharp increase in diesel truck traffic.

When hoisted skyward, explains the San Francisco Chronicle and other papers, the microscopic pollutants act as multiple surfaces on which the moisture in clouds can condense to form tiny droplets. That may explain why such cities as Atlanta and Houston have received increased rainfall. It could also explain why areas downwind of cities, such as one east of San Diego, may be getting less water.

Do weather records support this theory? Not in all cases, but atmospheric scientist Daniel Rosenfeld of Hebrew University says measurements since World War II show that the Eastern Slope of the Sierra Nevada - where most of California's ski resorts are located - is issuing roughly 15 percent of its historical runoff and the Western Slope, which is where San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley depend upon for water, about 20 percent.

McDonald's upgrades Aspen digs

ASPEN, Colo. - Hamburger giant McDonald's is trying to upgrade its image at select locations across the nation.

In New Orleans, there will be a French-designed McDonald's that serves Cajun cuisine and features chandeliers. In Aspen, Big Macs remain - at a cost of $3.40, compared to $2.29 in Denver, notes the Rocky Mountain News - but purchasers can enjoy fast-food burgers while reclined in leather sofas and in front of a flickering fireplace.

Man fined for feeding bears

WHISTLER, B.C. - A Whistler resident has been fined $3,000 ($2,250 US) for feeding the bears, the first time anybody has been charged and convicted of that offense in British Columbia under a provincial law.

According to Pique newsmagazine, the government said that the man had been feeding stale pastries to the bears near his home. The bears had become habituated to people and conditioned to their food. As such, the bears had no fear of begging - or demanding - food from people. Fearing the bears would eventually assault people, wildlife officers killed two of them and relocated three others.

A similar case was heard in Vail in the last year or two.

Highest town celebrates birthday

ALMA, Colo. - An old mining town, Alma's most significant claim to fame is that it's the highest municipality in North America. It sits at 10,578 feet, or 426 feet higher than nearby Leadville.

Most of the 300 residents work across the pass at Breckenridge, and they were planning a big pre-Christmas party - something Alma's faithful are known to have from time to time - to celebrate the occasion of the town's 130th birthday. The Summit Daily News reports that high-altitude traveler Santa Claus was scheduled to stop by, presumably for schnapps.

For those splitting hairs, Leadville can claim to be the highest city in North American, or at least Colorado. Colorado law distinguishes cities and towns by population, with 2,000 being the dividing line.

Inholdings targeted in the Elks

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. - Preservation groups are targeting private holdings in what is called the High Elk Corridor, between Crested Butte on one side of the West Elk Range and Carbondale and Aspen on the other.

That corridor is checkered by 6,000 acres of private inholdings created during the mining era, notes the Crested Butte News .

The Trust for Public Land has now secured $1 million from the federal government to buy 700 acres, to be conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service for administration. Land trust representatives credited the Colorado congressional delegation, all of them Republicans, with shaking the federal money tree.

Wyoming wolves enter Red Lodge

RED LODGE, Mont. - Wolves wandering from Yellowstone National Park to Red Lodge and other parts of Carbon County are now considered "problem predators."

Although the resolution passed by Carbon County commissioners carries little weight of law, some proponents said it gives the county the right to someday invoke predator regulations, allowing unregulated killing of wolves. Several other counties in Montana have or plan to adopt similar resolutions, reports the Billings Gazette.

The commissioners said wolves have "historically proven to be detrimental" to agriculture production in the county. John Kuchinski, ranch comptroller for Sinclair Oil, said the ranch lost 110 calves to wolves or undetermined causes last year, at a cost of $120,000. Four of the losses were confirmed wolf kills, and the ranch was reimbursed.

But opponents of the resolution said labeling wolves as "predators" is inappropriate, because it means under state law that wolves are to be eradicated.

Since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone several years ago, they have proliferated. As such, the species is a candidate to be delisted under the Endangered Species Act. However, before that occurs, states must have plans in place to guarantee that populations will be sustained.

- compiled by Allen Best

Management plans from Montana, Idaho and Wyoming this month received tentative approval, but not necessarily endorsements, by 11 wolf experts who reviewed them for adequacy in maintaining the wolf populations. Wyoming's proposed plan has drawn fire because it would classify wolves as trophy game if they're in the national parks or designated wilderness areas, and as predators elsewhere in the state. Predator designation would allow them to be killed any time and by any means.

Radio baron to add alternative play

BRECKERNIDGE, Colo. - Tim Brown has been buying radio stations in Colorado resort towns, and he vows to put some variety back into their playlists. At KSMT in Breckenridge, for example, he has said he will add 2,500 titles to the existing 1,500-title music library.

A report in the Summit Daily News suggests Brown has the means to ensure something other than cookie-cutter radio format. His father-in-law is $2-billion man Phil Anschutz, who folded his oil fortune into railroads, then fiber optics at Quest Communications. He also owns 16 sports teams in the West, including a one-third share in the L.A. Lakers.

Aspen expecting busy holiday

ASPEN, Colo. - It was the week before Christmas, and in Aspen they were expecting crowds not seen since 1997-98.

"If we had an unlimited supply of ski-in, ski-out condominiums, airlines, eats and four-wheel-drive rental cars, we could probably sell this resort three times over, based on the demand we're seeing," said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a reservations agency that handles 7 percent of overall bookings. Individual properties, reports The Aspen Times , are reporting similar demands. One chalet owner, for example reports that January is "absolutely full."

Demand at last year's Christmas holiday was also strong, but took a dive after President Bush announced in late January potential war against Iraq.

Both Aspen and Vail face a pinch of outbound airlines seats during the first week of January. In response, some vacationers are lengthening their stays.

Feds take drugs from cancer patient

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - A conflict between state and federal laws regarding marijuana use is highlighted in the case of a 57-year-old man from Hayden, a town west of Steamboat Springs.

Suffering from diabetes and cancer, the man is in extreme pain. In Colorado, one of nine states that allows medicinal marijuana use, he is permitted to have and use marijuana.

But a federal drug task force in October confiscated 2 ounces of marijuana from his home as well as growing equipment. Recently, a Routt County judge ordered the equipment and the drugs be returned to the man. U.S. Attorney General representatives in Colorado said they would announce a response by New Year's Day.

Meanwhile, an attorney representing the man is demanding reimbursement for the plants that were pulled from his client's ground. "We're breaking new ground here," he told The Steamboat Pilot without evidence of intended irony. "I don't know what's going to happen.

Martis Valley heads toward high-end

TRUCKEE, Calif. - Usually trends and fads begin in California and then spread across the West. But in mountain development, Colorado - particularly Vail and Aspen - are the epicenter, and this time California is now getting the high-end ripples.

The story here is at the Martis Valley, located between Truckee and North Lake Tahoe. Some years ago restrictions on development along Lake Tahoe were instituted. That makes the Martis Valley, already an attractive place, with Northstar and other ski resorts close at hand, all that much more attractive. A plan approved in the mid-1970s allowed up to 12,000 houses in the valley, but only 2,000 homes have been built.

During the last four years officials in Placer County, where the valley is located, have heard from developers, environmental groups and residents. Recently they approved a new plan that caps development at 8,500 houses, as well as one small new ski area and a few hundred units of affordable housing. High-end homes are contemplated in a valley where $800,000 is already the average price.

This is still too much, says local environmental groups, who call it a "nightmare of traffic, pavement and smog." They are backed by the San Francisco Chronicle , which has repeatedly inveighed in the matter. The newspaper accuses the county supervisors of being "too willing to rubber stamp the developers' wishes - a reckless approach that seems destined to get them a lawsuit."

Among the developers are East West Partners and Booth Creek Ski Holdings, both headquartered in the Vail Valley.

Developer lobbies for pollution

FRASER, Colo. - At Devil's Thumb Ranch, a famous cross-country ski mecca, air pollution is part of the authentic Colorado experience.

Oh, that's not quite how the developer put it, but it came out much the same in a report by the Winter Park Manifest . A zoning ordinance adopted a decade ago attempted to minimize pollution in the Fraser Valley. Temperature inversions there are notoriously common, causing cold air and smoke below a layer of warmer air. That layer of smoke on some winter mornings is as defined as a lid on a pickle jar. As such, the law allows only one woodburning fireplace per commercial establishment. Other resort areas, including Vail and Beaver Creek, have similar laws.

But the developers of 24 cabins wanted to installed 32 enclosed woodburning fireplaces. Gas logs, they said "detract from the ranch's spirit of authenticity," while burning wood "provides a traditional Colorado experience."

Proponents said the fireplaces, called Biz Panorama, are 90 percent more efficient than traditional fireplaces. Several neighbors continued to object to the aesthetics as well as health effects of smoke, but not all. One neighbor, Andy Miller, noted that firewood is abundant as a result of a bark beetle epidemic and furthermore noted hat if burning of slash piles is not limited, why should fireplaces be?

Beaver Creek splits personality

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. - Beaver Creek has replaced a 14-minute double-chairlift with a detachable quad lift that doubles passenger capacity in half the time.

The new lift services the area once called the Birds of Prey. Site of an acclaimed World Alpine Ski Championship downhill run, the area has been renamed The Talons. The name is probably deserved, even if the runs aren't nearly as imposing as the steeps at Taos, Telluride and Jackson Hole.

For Beaver Creek, this helps provide a marketing device to broaden the appeal. "In addition to being a great family mountain, we have some of the most challenging terrain in the Rockies," said John Garnsey, who heads operations at Beaver Creek for Vail Resorts.

In other words there's terrain for both mom and dad as well as the terror-on-planks kids.

- compiled by Allen Best





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