Backcountry conflict addressed

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. It's a story told at innumerable places across the West. A quarter-century ago, there were maybe a half-dozen cars each day parked at Teton Pass, carrying mostly cross-country skiers. Today, it's not uncommon to see skiers, snowshoers, snowboarders and snowmobilers parking 90 cars. And that means the potential for lots of conflict.

To that end, Jay Pistono is helping organize a volunteer force for the U.S. Forest Service, to gently help people adopt rules. "In the early '80s, it just didn't matter, because there were only five or six cars up there," he told the Jackson Hole News & Guide .

The volunteers hope to get skiers and snowboarders to pick up the poop left by their dogs along the trails. They will suggest that users yield to those going downhill, as snowboarders in particular need to maintain their downhill momentum. Boarders, 'shoers, and 'bilers are asked to avoid walking or riding over ski tracks. And snowmobilers will be steered away from designated wilderness areas.

Train horns trouble Winter Park

WINTER PARK, Colo. Winter Park came into existence basically because of trains. Still, that doesn't make the shrieks that routinely pierce the neighborhoods there any more pleasant, so town officials several years ago outlawed such blasts.

Not that it mattered. Union Pacific, which owns the tracks through Winter Park, said the blasts were a matter of safety and refused to follow the local laws. It was, said the railroad, a federal issue. But now the Federal Transportation Administration has announced that horns can be stilled "if important safety requirements are met." What those requirements are doesn't seem to be evident, but various town officials assure the Winter Park Manifest that finding them out is a high priority.

Bedroom communities boom

EAGLE VALLEY, Colo. Highways in and out of Eagle County will creak and groan in coming years with what demographers say will be ever-heavier commuting patterns. Some 36,000 people will be commuting into the county by 2025, or about four-fifths as many people than now live in the county.

With Vail and Aspen as the seeds, Eagle County was the 10th fastest growing county in the nation during the 1990s. Although growing more slowly during the last several years, that slow growth won't last, says Jim Weskott, Colorado's state demographer. The communities along Interstate 70 are expected to fill with retiring baby boomers, a trend that has already occurred. The high-spirited demand for real estate will make it "very difficult for workers to live here," predicts Weskott.

Leadville, an existing bedroom community, is expected to become even more of one. Also expected to fill with commuting workers are Silt, New Castle and Rifle, which are communities west along I-70.

While there has been no backlash to the projections, some public officials are asking about the impacts of commuting on highways, the environment and the outlying communities themselves.

It's not just skiing, of course. Statistics show that commercial development and population during the 1990s grew more rapidly than the ski industry in Summit County, which is adjacent to Eagle County.

Snowbanks return to the Butte

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. After several years of drought, Crested Butte is back to the pleasant problem of what to do with the snow. In the past, the snow has been pushed into banks along the town's main drag, Main Street, and the snow piles have been removed three or four times a winter.

But after the Christmas storms, various Town Council members were talking about the magical appeal of snow piled high, even if it does preclude parking for businesses. "The people who love them are the tourists," said Skip Berkshire. "They go home with these tales of magic." Others noted the advertising value of such snowbanks.

For now, unless the businesses complain or unless the snow gets grungy, the banks will remain.

Up the hill, at the base of the ski hill, snowbanks of another sort, called avalanches, were reported. A window in one condominium complex was broken, causing the town manager to warn residents of other condominium complexes to be aware of the danger.

Storm takes deadly toll in Idaho

SUN VALLEY, Idaho A children's ski instructor at Sun Valley died on New Year's Day during a brutal storm that dumped up to four inches of snow an hour and whipped Bald Mountain with 80 mph winds. The instructor had taught for most of the day, then boarded a mid-afternoon lift. He was buried 6 feet deep in a tree well and found after three days of searching by an avalanche dog, reports the Idaho Mountain Express .

That same storm left a couple from Seattle dead after a post-midnight avalanche slammed into their cabin near Soldier Mountain. The 26-year-old cabin was located below a 39-degree slope that had been wind-loaded with snow. The couple was found encased in snow nearly as firm as concrete.

Couple claims heater poisoning

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE, Colo. A couple from Miami has filed suit, claiming permanent brain damage caused by leaking carbon monoxide from an improperly repaired water heater.

The lawsuit, reports The Telluride Watch , says that when police arrived the carbon monoxide levels were at 262 parts per million and this after the doors and windows had been open for several hours. The EPA standard for human exposure to carbon monoxide exposure is 9 parts per million for an eight-hour period once a year.

Pony-attacking dogs terminated

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. A man shot and killed two dogs after seeing them corner and attack a Shetland pony near Steamboat Springs. Trevor Guide tried to call the dogs away from the pony, but when they would not leave he shot and killed them. Both dogs, reports The Steamboat Pilot , were thought to be huskies.

Snowmobiler survives plunge

REVELSTOKE, B.C. A 16-year-old boy felt "lucky to be alive" after launching off a trail along a 150-foot-tall bluff in the Selkirk Mountains on his snowmobile. While the boy's father descended the slope to reach the boy, a friend went for help, explains the Revelstoke Times Review . A helicopter arrived within four hours. After the boy's broken leg was set the next morning, the family set out for home in Minnesota.

Granby to spray for West Nile

GRANBY, Colo. Despite the spread of West Nile Virus to other, somewhat warmer resort areas of Colorado, no victims have been reported near Granby.

But the mosquitoes that convey the disease abound, and so a collection of town and special district governments are coalescing to use larvacide, which kills mosquitoes in the larval form. Officials say the chemical will kill only mosquitoes, not other insects. The Sky-Hi News reports an appropriation of $25,000 for the spraying program this summer at Granby and its resorts, Grand Elk and SolVista.

Writer predicts energy changes

ASPEN, Colo. Vijay Vaitheeswaran, the global environment and energy correspondent for The Economist , was in Aspen recently to lecture and to push his new book, Power to the People . In regards to energy supplies for the United States, nobody has it quite right, he says.

First, tapping domestic supplies in the West and Alaska will provide only brief relief from the binge on foreign oil. America consumes 25 percent of the world's oil yet sits on only 3 percent of proven reserves, he noted in an interview with The Aspen Times .

But the environmental movement hasn't got it quite right either, says Vaitheeswaran. "We can't conserve our way out of the problem. It's too big," he says. A recent marketing campaign that claimed driving an inefficient SUV was providing support to Osama bin Laden is catchy, but not exactly visionary. "My argument is the SUV isn't the problem. The problem is the internal combustion energy."

However, Vaitheeswaran is optimistic that the standard automobile engine as well as the 1950s-era U.S. energy grid will soon be obsolete. He predicts hydrogen fuel cells will soon catch on, first with big fleets as employed by FedEx and UPS. Also, he expects decentralized power supply, with small, micropower sources closer to users instead of large sources far away.

compiled by Allen Best





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