Silverton debates OHV question

SILVERTON, Colo. "Ahhh the slush. Ahhh the mud," writes Jonathan Thompson, editor and publisher of the Silverton Standard and Miner .

During winter, Silverton's sales tax revenues are anemic, so much so that Thompson in his weekly editorial exhorted locals to buy their necessities at home rather than driving to outside towns. If every household in town spent $75 more each week in Silverton, he explained, the town would be $31,000 richer at year's end.

One other idea being discussed is to allow off-highway vehicles onto town streets. Town trustees, remembering a heated discussion four years ago, won't tackle this issue themselves. They want to put it up to a community election. "I don't even want to touch this with a 10-foot pole," said Trustee Joe Zimmerman at a recent meeting.

The Standard explains that proponents want to make Silverton accessible to OHV riders doing the loop among the nearby towns of Telluride and Ouray. But opponents say roaming OHVs would scare off other tourists and be a detriment to the safety and quality of life of residents.

Much the same discussion was being held last year in Telluride, where OHVs are currently banned from city streets.

With everybody in the high mountain towns getting cranky this time of year, the OHV debate in Silverton sounds like it could become a brawl.

Moose nails snowshoer in Park City

PARK CITY, Utah Never again, said a 65-year-old snowshoer after he was stomped hard by a 700-pound bull moose in a canyon near Park City. "I'm never coming back," said Nick Baldwin.

The Park Record explains that Baldwin and two 70-something companions were snowshoeing in the canyon when they encountered a moose on the trail about 50 yards away. The trio of men tried to hide behind a tree, assuming the moose would mosey down the trial, but they were wrong.

"He came down and stopped by the tree and licked his lips a few times," explains Bob Mitchell. The moose then knocked Baldwin down and began kicking and stepping on him, causing a fractured scapula and a severe laceration to his leg, before moving on.

There was some conjecture that the moose may have been agitated by previous encounters with people and dogs.

Avalanche claims snowmobiler's life

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. A 39-year-old snowmobiler was killed last week by an avalanche on Mt. Guyot, near Breckenridge. Authorities who spoke to the Summit Independent Daily suspected high-marking, which is the game of seeing how high on a slope you can get before gravity overwhelms acceleration. It is usually the reason that snowmobilers die in avalanches.

Avalanche danger at the time was cited as moderate, which is most often the danger when avalanche victims are killed. Newspapers and the radio and television stations that repeat what newspapers dig up have been filled for much of the last month with stories about the instability of the snow. Despite that instability, there have been fewer than average deaths so far this season.

Altitude may impact heart disease

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. Are you more likely to have a heart attack if you go up from low-lying elevations, like say Oakland or Houston, to Colorado's high country resorts?

Yes, say a handful of county coroners contacted by the Rocky Mountain News .

Young people are a particular concern. In Summit County, with an elevation of around 9,000 feet, one in seven heart attack victims is under 40. One in 14 heart attack fatalities were people under 40 in Vermont's largest resort area, with an elevation of 3,000 feet. The fatalities are mostly tourists. Full-time residents under 40 rarely have fatal heart attacks.

But Dr. Gordon Gerson, a cardiologist at Aspen Valley Hospital, flatly rejects the notion that the low-landers become more at risk when recreating at mountain resorts. "We have three to four skiers a year who have heart attacks on the mountains out of how many thousands of skiers?" he asked.

Flatlanders who have heart attacks in the high country were probably going to have them anyway, he maintains. That's the same view of Dr. Ben Honigman, director of the new Colorado Center for Altitude Medicine and Physiology.

Winter Park scraps its ski jumps

WINTER PARK, Colo. The ski jumps at Winter Park that turned out at least a few Olympic jumpers are being scrapped to make way for beginning skiers.

Intrawest, now in its second year of management, has set out to boost the numbers at Winter Park by making it more appealing to intermediate, destination skiers. At least one major run, Outhouse, is being groomed, to the dismay of many die-hard bump skiers. Using the space now reserved for the 40- and 60-meter jumps located at the base area also allows more users in the same space. Intrawest figures it can accommodate 30,000 beginning skiers, compared to the 15 to 50 skiers now in the jumping program.

There are, of course, protests, including one from a 78-year-old skier who remembers skiing at Winter Park when the resort opened in 1940 as perhaps Colorado's first destination resort.

The Winter Park Manifest , in its editorial, says that Intrawest is "walking a thin line between improved profitability and lingering distinctiveness." The paper recalled that Intrawest had "signed on to retain the uniqueness of what is Winter Park" and neutrally noted that it awaits Intrawest demonstrating how it can achieve that.

Affordable housing slow in coming

TRUCKEE, Colo. Growth continues to be the story at all resort areas across the West. That is unlikely to change for many years, despite the occasional economic lull that temporarily leaves the demand for and supply of affordable housing in equilibrium.

Still, many of the big boom areas are still slow to step in to require affordable housing as a component of all projects, something called inclusionary zoning. In Colorado, commissioners in Eagle County, which is home to Vail and Beaver Creek and is also a suburb for Aspen's workers, this year rejected inclusionary zoning. The proposal would have mandated that a percentage of any new subdivision include housing within the "affordable" price range. The idea had been under study for seven years.

In California's Truckee, which is getting hit left and right with plans for high-end housing, the town also does not require affordable housing, except as negotiated in the larger, planned-unit projects. A case in point is the Tahoe Donner subdivision, which the Sierra Sun claims is one of the biggest subdivisions in the United States (a far-fetched claim).

Planned are 82 single-family lots, with homes as small as 2,000 square feet, far below the typical mansions that characterize homes in the New West.

One planning commissioner seemed to think that 10 to 20 percent of the lots should be restricted to first-time homebuyers making 120 percent of the town's median income. But others dismissed his call because no town policy is yet in place to base that requirement.

Dogs packs killing deer and elk

SUN VALLEY, Idaho In the Wood River Valley near Sun Valley, at least four elk were killed in early March by canines that, in at least one case, were dogs.

A woman recalls hearing a "horrible screaming sound" near her home and went outside to see two dogs one a German shepherd and the other a malamute or husky chasing a young elk down the canyon's slope until the elk bogged down in steep snow.

"One dog jumped on its back, and one jumped on its neck," Katherine Weekes told the Idaho Mountain Express . "They took it to its knees and killed it right in front of me. It was awful."

A state wildlife officer, Roger Olson, explained that in spring, when the snow is alternately wet and then crusted, dogs can run on top of the snowpack with ease, while deer and elk break through. "Dogs will be dogs, and their instinct is to pursue and chase. Some do it for fun, and some do it to kill."

In the Banff-Canmore area last December, dogs chased an elk onto the Trans-Canada Highway. The elk was then smacked by a truck. Owners of those dogs were fined.

compiled by Allen Best






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