Avalanche cuts off Telluride power

TELLURIDE, Colo. March this year came in roaring like a lion, nearly knocking Telluride on its rear end.

A quick but hard snowstorm that isolated nearby Silverton for several days because of avalanches also caused avalanches that knocked out two power lines supplying the Telluride area. That left only one remaining power line, causing rolling blackouts. The gondola was idled as were some lifts. Diesel generators were fired up to power the remaining lifts.

Meanwhile, the wobbly remaining power threatened to go off, too.

According to the The Telluride Watch , power company officials would not allow workers to repair the lines until the avalanche danger had abated. On top of all this, another storm was moving in.

Deliberately triggering an avalanche could destroy homes in the town of Ophir, raising another question of who would pay for the lost homes, worth up to $10 million? And what about the improbable but potential loss of life?

In the end, the various government leaders as well as the new owners of the ski company struck a deal pledging responsibility should things go wrong, crossed their fingers, and ordered that explosives be set off to little effect. All the snow that was going to run had already run.

The linemen did their duties, the electricity began flowing, and life returned, more or less, to normal.

Land disputed at Silverton Mountain

SILVERTON, Colo. Call it the tale of two ski areas. Before there was a Silverton Mountain Ski Area there was a Velocity Peak Inc., a company proposing a resort-style ski area in the same vicinity.

But when Silverton Mountain showed up across the road, Velocity Peak began getting cranky. It has become particularly cranky lately, after Silverton Mountain has done control work to make the skiing acceptably safe. Velocity Peak's owner says the slides have been crossing onto his property, and skiers have skied on it and across private property. The owner has filed a complaint with local authorities.

But San Juan County officials intend to take no action. The photos submitted as evidence, while showing ski tracks, do not show skiers, explains the Silverton Standard. As well, the snow ranger for the BLM has seen no evidence of trespassing by Silverton Mountain guides and clients.

Resort area ranch sales pick up

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. The brisk market for ranches near resorts has been revealed in several sales during recent weeks.

First was the 650-acre Guber Ranch near Aspen, which sold for $46 million, or $70,800 an acre.

Second is the 10,300-acre Castle Peak Ranch near Eagle, which sold for $23 million, or about $2,200 an acre. The buyer is an investment banker from London. Proximity to a major airport (Eagle County Regional), the restaurants and other cultural activities of Vail and Beaver Creek, plus views piled upon stunning views, contributed to the healthy sales price.

It might have gone higher, except that the ranch lacks a critical feature wanted by hobby ranchers a river running through it. Brokers associated with the deal told the Eagle Valley Enterprise that they expect virtually no development to occur.

Meanwhile, in Jackson Hole, a development company owned by Ross Perot Jr., son of the two-time presidential candidate, has contracted to buy 1,300 acres of a ranch. The price has not been disclosed, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide , but the listed price was $110 million. If that were the sales price, that works out to $8,461 per acre.

Perot's company intends to subdivide the land into parcels of 35 acres or more but retain the core of the property as a working ranch.

In Jackson Hole, ranches rarely exceed $10,000 an acre, except in smaller acreages. In the Blue River Valley of Colorado's Summit County, prices of smaller ranches are in the range of $10,000 to $30,000 an acre as long as there's a river or creek in it.

Near Meeker, where golfer Greg Norman and financier Henry Kravis have ranches, prices range from $2,000 to $6,000 an acre. The beauty is unsurpassed, but their ranches are several hours from the cultural opportunities of Steamboat, Vail and Aspen.

Authorities seize Warren Miller film

BANFF, ALBERTA Not all the exciting footage taken by a Warren Miller film crew near the Sunshine Village ski area will be seen in theaters next fall.

While shooting in an out-of-bounds area, the crew observed an avalanche. A report went out that the crew had caused the avalanche; crew members denied the report. Parks Canada, which administers the land, corroborated the film crew's story, but nonetheless requested the film segment of the avalanche, to ensure it does not get used.

A spokeswoman for Banff National Park said park authorities believed that the film crew "had put themselves in an unsafe area" and did not want the film used, thereby avoiding sending an inappropriate message.

The crew was in the Banff-Lake Louise area for 10 days. With the prospect of 50 million people seeing some of this, tourism officials were delighted. "It's gold for us and the Alberta ski industry," said Don Boynton, a Travel Alberta spokesman.

Skiers return to Colorado resorts

VAlL, Colo. Destination skiers have returned to resorts of the Rocky Mountains this winter. From Winter Park to Crested Butte to Aspen, the story is the same hefty gains, including some double-digit increases in skier days.

In January, the passenger count at Eagle Valley Regional Airport, which services primarily Vail/Beaver Creek but also Aspen was up 2.3 percent over the same month last year, reports the Vail Daily .

Meanwhile, in Aspen, where the story for much of the last year has been the decline in retail sales, a record was set during January for retail sales $45.3 million in taxes collected. Cold weather and the much-heralded Winter X Games were attributed to the 17 percent increase.

The only sector losing ground in Aspen was liquor, down 15.7 percent from last year, reports The Aspen Times .

Hot tubs proposed for wilderness

CHALLIS, Idaho A hunting and fishing outfitter is asking the U.S. Forest Service to allow installation of hot tubs in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area.

The tubs would be set up in spring, taken down in autumn. Water would be drawn from nearby streams and heated with submersible wood-burning stoves, reports the Idaho Mountain Express .

The Wilderness Act of 1964 bans motorized vehicles and equipment as well as forms of mechanical transport, but it does not specifically address hot tubs. A key question presumably would be how different a hot tub set up for a full summer would be from a tent that is set up from spring through autumn.

Utah licenses illegal immigrants

PARK CITY, Utah Mexican citizens rejoiced in Salt Lake City after state legislators rejected a proposed law that would have denied illegal immigrants the ability to obtain drivers' licenses.

The defeat angered supporters of the measure. "Federal law is very clear," said Matt Throckmorton, co-founder of Utahans for Immigration Reform and Enforcement. "(Undocumented immigrants) shouldn't be here if they don't come here legally, and then it is just kind of a slap in the face to every citizen of Utah when they begin chanting long live Mexico' right in our rotunda," he told The Park Record.

Crested Butte debates paving pass

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. During winter, Crested Butte lies at the end of the road. During summer, the only other road options are gravel, or worse.

The Federal Highway Administration would like to change that by paving the remaining 13 miles across Cottonwood Pass, making Interstate 70 and Denver about an hour closer. The essential question for Crested Butte is how much closer it wants to get to civilization, and at what cost.

One cost is money, reports the Crested Butte News . The chief operating officer for Gunnison County, Marlene Cosby, explains that aggressively maintaining a gravel road costs 10 times more than maintaining an asphalt road. Moreover, applying magnesium chloride is the primary method for controlling dust on gravel roads. Many believe the chemical causes adjacent trees to die.

But another cost is the loss of quiet caused by additional traffic to the area of Cottonwood Pass and Taylor Park

compiled by Allen Best





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