Candidate wants to kick gov't out

PARK CITY, Utah Linda Kelsch, 54, is running for the state Legislature from the district that includes Summit County. She is affiliated with the Personal Choice Party.

"I believe the state Legislature is too involved in pushing their morals onto Utah citizens," she told The Park Record .

She would, she said, oppose a constitutional amendment barring marriage between people of the same sex. "I am not threatened by that. I don't need to control what they do," she said of gay marriages.

She also wants governments to butt out of the illegal but frequent polygamous households of Mormon fundamentalists. She reports a positive experience growing up in a polygamous household in Salt Lake City. "I had such a loving family," she recalls of her childhood.

Mormons at first embraced polygamous marriages, where a man takes more than one wife, but after being barred from joining the United States for about 30 years, church officials decreed a new policy. That was in 1890, six years before statehood.

Forest Service wants lodge torn down

BERTHOUD PASS, Colo. The U.S. Forest Service continues to want the old ski lodge atop Berthoud Pass demolished.

However, the Winter Park Manifest reports that the agency is open to proposals for a business, such as a convenience store, that would also take on responsibilities for collecting trash, providing public toilets and clearing snow from the parking lot at the 11,312-foot pass. The agency also sees the business as a staging area for travelers on the increasingly well-traveled Continental Divide Trail.

The building was erected in 1939, two years after a ski area began operations there with Colorado's first chair lift. But business slackened after key segments of Interstate 70 were completed in the 1970s, making new, bigger and lower-elevation resorts in Summit County nearly as accessible.

Beginning in the 1980s the ski area lurched, some years open, some years not. Finally, two years ago, the latest owner announced a closing, and the Forest Service said enough was enough. The two lifts were disassembled and shipped to resorts in Missouri and Massachusetts.

The remaining lodge, says the Forest Service, does not meet the agency's standards for image, aesthetics and overall quality. It estimates the cost of necessary upgrades to the roof and other repairs is $200,000.

I-70 speed limit enacted to stem noise

VAIL, Colo. In Vail's ongoing effort to control noise pollution, police are being dispatched to Interstate 70, which bisects the town, to enforce the 65 mph speed limit.

It's the latest in a broad strategy to quell the growing highway din that, for many Vail residents, is becoming a quality of life issue. One Town Council member, Dick Cleveland, reports that his 10-year-old deck has become basically unusable. Such reports are common in those neighborhoods located at the same level or higher than the freeway.

Trucks are only part of the problem, but the town did discuss the idea of banning jake brakes, a move sure to offend truckers. Instead, they have decided instead to work with truckers. One idea being explored is to set up truck trailers along the interstate or adjoining frontage roads. The hope is that this wall of trailers, combined with reduced speeds, will quell noise by 2 or 3 decibels in residential neighborhoods.

Aspen prince adds on to home

ASPEN, Colo. No matter how the common folk are doing in Saudi Arabia, the aristocracy is living luxuriously, as is evident from a recent report in Aspen.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, is expanding his existing 53,000-square-foot house in Aspen by 15,000 square feet. He also has 7,500-square-foot house nearby.

Bandar has owned property in Aspen since the early 1980s, about the time he became the ambassador. How much time he spends in Aspen is something of a mystery, reports the Rocky Mountain News , but the amount of taxes is not. Last year alone he paid $205,000 in property taxes. He also gives liberally to local nonprofits and other organizations.

Whether he wants to or not, Bandar will also be giving money to energy-efficiency programs in Aspen and Pitkin County. A program encourages energy conservation in building designs. Those developers who install heated pavers, outdoor swimming pools and other things that consume a great deal of energy are required to contribute to the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program. To atone for his latest environmental sins, Bandar is paying $110,000 into the fund.

With this expansion his base home will have 21 bedrooms, 26 bathrooms, a racquetball court and a garage large enough to accommodate at least 10 cars.

Telluride to get longer runway

TELLURIDE, Colo. Telluride is getting an airport runway that will be about 250 feet longer, but that distance not quite a football field won't be easy.

That's because the airport is located on Deep Creek Mesa, making take-offs and landings something like operations on an aircraft carrier. To extend the runway 250 feet requires extending the mesa by 250 feet and holding in this new land with a retaining wall that is 110 feet high and 500 feet wide. The cost of this new, longer runway and retaining wall will be $30 million. Of that, the federal government will pay 95 percent.

The merits of this expansion were debated, sometimes heatedly, in the pages of the Telluride Watch for about a year. Some promoted it as a matter of improving safety, although observers say the longer runway increases safety only marginally. Others proclaimed the improvements as vital for potential commercial flights by a new generation of smaller jets that can travel about 1,500 miles.

Telluride's main air portal is at Montrose, about 65 miles away, which can easily accommodate large jets. The Telluride airport is at about 9,000 feet, the highest airport in the United States that accommodates commercial carriers.

Bison killed by geothermal gasses

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. Five bison found dead in early March were probably killed by poisonous gases emitted from geothermal vents, the National Park Service says.

Park officials believe that a cold front created a cap in the basin along the Gibbon River, and the steam and toxic gases both hydrogen sulfide ad carbon dioxide remained close to the ground, because they are denser than air. The former gas is easily identified by people because of its "rotten egg" odor.

According to a report in the Jackson Hole News & Guide , the fairly constant winds in the Yellowstone area dilute and disperse gases so that it would be "almost unheard of for a park visitor to be overcome by toxic fumes."

Not so animals. In 1889, six bears and one elk were found in an area now called Death Gulch. Seven dead bears were reported in the area in 1899.

Noisy jets may be banned in Teton

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. Directors of the Jackson Hole Airport at their April meeting will consider a ban on private Stage 2 jets, an older model that is said to create as much noise as a 747. The issue has been festering for at least four years.

In its editorial, the Jackson Hole News & Guide explains that especially after Sept. 11, but also because of a burgeoning upper class in Jackson Hole, the quiet of Grand Teton National Park is being shattered more often by the din of the noisy jets. The airport is located within the park.

Initial attempts to clamp down on the private jets were overruled by the Federal Aviation Administration, which by virtue of its funding had say-so in such matters. But Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas then got a law passed exempting the airport because of its location within a national park, from the FAA authority.

The newspaper reports that the airport board is being lobbied by several anonymous owners of Stage 2 jets to restrict landing times rather than an outright ban. For the airport board, says the newspaper, the choice is clear. "It should choose the public interest of a quiet national park over the special interest and convenience of a few anonymous private jet owners."

Owners of these noisy Stage 2 jets can buy the quieter Stage 3 jets for $6 million. A less expensive alternative, at $1.3 million, is a noise-muffling device that can be installed on the Stage 2 jets.

New backcountry hut planned in Kootenay

BANFF, Alberta A new backcountry hut is to be built by the Alpine Club of Canada in Kootenay National Park. The hut is to replace the Fay Hut, which was destroyed by one of the several lightning-caused fires that chewed through Banff, Kootenay and Yoho national parks last summer.

This new hut will be served by helicopters, which will fly out sewage collected in outhouse barrels while flying in cords of firewood, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook .

Intrawest lays out a paradoxical formula

WINTER PARK Intrawest has issued is vision for a "rustic yet civilized" new base village at the Winter Park ski area.

It's an ambitious and sometimes amusing 39-page report, called a storyline, that attempts to define the essence of the Intrawest's product at Winter Park 10 years from now. In the document, Intrawest professes a vision that will allow Winter Park locals to have their cake and eat it too. They want to get the critical mass necessary to compete with the big resorts without actually becoming big themselves.

Of course, everything is always relative. Some people left Winter Park 25 years ago complaining it was getting too big. More recently in another Colorado town, Silverton, Aaron Brill is creating a small ski area. To some, he is a brave pioneer returning skiing to its "soulful" roots, while to others he is just another developer.

In Winter Park, it's a mantra among locals that they don't want to be no stinkin' Vail. Or, for that matter, Breckenridge, with its foo-foo ski mountain. Even Steamboat Springs. The goal, then, is to "make Winter Park more like Winter Park."

Intrawest professes it can do this. It will not, it insists, create another European-inspired village but will instead create something that has authentic Colorado roots. There will be a couple of hotels, lots of residential housing and a museum about trains (a heavily used railroad runs through the middle of all this). Visitors into this new village can expected to be surprised by bakers pulling loaves of bread from ovens in front of windows. Perhaps a highlight of all this authenticity will be a hot spring created amid granite-looking rocks.

Intrawest envisions Winter Park and the broader Fraser Valley becoming more gentrified and tourist-friendly, partly through a 31-mile bike path. At the same time, the surrounding "wilderness" is a selling point to the rest of the world. Sometimes, this selling is too blatant. For example, the document suggests creation of a "Wilderness Culture Club," an organization of merchants, artists and artisans to coordinate local cultural activities.

Rotten snow, lighting and short sleeves across Rockies

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Across the Rockies, balmy, extraordinarily spring-like conditions were reported in the final weeks of March.

In Vail, lifts were evacuated two days running because of lightning. Meanwhile, portions of the mountain were closed because of "rotten" snow that resulted in people breaking through the surface. While not uncommon in the unpacked backcountry areas, such rotten snow is almost unheard of on packed and groomed ski slopes.

In Steamboat Springs, a couple from Columbia, Georgia, was spotted shopping in short sleeves. They said they thought it was about as warm in Steamboat Springs as in Georgia. While that wasn't actually the case, reported The Steamboat Pilot , the couple could be excused for thinking so.

"As quickly as winter came on this year, it is showing no intention of lingering," wrote Ron Matous in the Jackson Hole News & Guide in a report about a backcountry excursion.

At Steamboat, Vail and probably many other resorts, rumors were rife of early closings. While executives pledged to stay the course, remaining open until previously scheduled mid-April dates, the disappearing snow was clearly on everyone's mind. When a small storm went through Colorado over the weekend, public relations crews were hastily making the most of the new stuff to trumpet the virtues of spring skiing.

Time-out for big-box retailers in Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS The Steamboat Springs City Council has enacted a 90-day moratorium on new big-box retail development.

The city has been grappling with the issue of big-box retailers for two years, but the catalyst for this moratorium was the announced arrival of a Gart Sports store into a 30,000-square-foot location. Community organizations normally on both sides of growth issues came together in urging the moratorium.

Existing city regulations have nothing specifically to say about big-box retailers, except that any building if store signs were removed, should not be recognized as a franchise by its architecture.

In an interview with The Steamboat Pilot , City Councilman Paul Strong explained that a day at the city's economic summit last year was devoted to big boxes.

"There is a great concern that the proliferation of formula stores across America is causing cities to lose their individuality," he reported. "By formula stores, I mean stores that look and operate the same wherever they are located, causing the places they are in to be the same as every other place, turning America into Generica,'" he explained.

"Steamboat's feel and ambiance are key to Steamboat's appeal as a destination tourist resort," he said. "If our city begins to look like the towns where our visitors live, we will lose most of what differentiates us from other resort communities. I feel it is vital to our economy to try to protect this."

At the same time, he acknowledged that big boxes do provide goods at generally lower prices, and as such could be seen as an affordability issue, alongside affordable housing.

Steamboat is looking at various ideas from elsewhere. In 1994 Fort Collins began requiring an economic impact statement before big-box retailers were allowed and also enacted special architectural and design standards in an attempt to soften the typical aesthetic harshness of the franchises.

Looking at what has occurred at Montrose-Telluride, City Councilwoman Kathy Connell has advocated a regional approach. She wants to see big boxes allowed near the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, abut 20 miles west of Steamboat. The big boxes would be available to Steamboat residents, but also to those in Craig and Hayden, two towns that supply many of the resort's service and construction workers. It is, she said, similar to the big boxes at Montrose, which is the primary air portal as well as service center for Telluride.

Another idea is to put all of the big boxes at a location on the western outskirts of Steamboat, near the old airport. That would also serve the purpose of leaving Steamboat's ranching-era main street as a place of niche, old-timey stores.

More than some other resort towns, Steamboat has taken a tough stance on the large retailers. A decade ago, the city stood firm in requiring Wal-Mart to back off from its business-as-usual building plans. Now, Wal-Mart and many other national franchises are willing to come more closely to meet the design and review requirements of mountain communities.

Farm Bureau argues against new wilderness

SUN VALLEY, Idaho In lobbying for a 5,000-acre designation of wilderness, a group of Wood River Valley business owners organized a letter-writing campaign arguing that wilderness brings more commerce. That, says a representative of the Idaho Farm Bureau, is a hasty conclusion.

John Thompson, the group's director of information, says that less than 3 percent of people who recreate on national forest land use wilderness areas, and even most wilderness users spend less than a day. Even so, they have 4.6 acres close at hand to Sun Valley to choose from.

"If there was some evidence to suggest that our existing wilderness areas are helping generate more commerce than other public lands, there might be an argument here," he concluded. There is no such evidence, he assets, nor evidence that will change with designation of additional wilderness.

Avalanche claims one snowmobiler in B.C.

REVELSTOKE, B.C. A recently married man died in an avalanche, and four other snowmobilers were also partially or totally burried. They had been snowmobiling near treeline in the mountains near Empress Lake, 60 kilometers (36 miles) southwest of Revelstoke.

Two of the riders dug themselves out, while another two were rescued by the others. They were al wearing avalanche beacons. The fifth person, the only member of the group not wearing an avalanche beacon, was buried for 30 minutes. The Revelstoke Times Review said the avalanche occurred on a 50-degree slope.

The Canadian Avalanche Association had issued a special warning for the area Friday, because half-a meter of snow fell earlier in the week and the temperatures were rising. Both factors contribute to unstable snow packs, which make avalanches more likely, according to the CyberSpace Avalanche Center.

"It's a difficult time because the danger ratings are considerable," Ilya Storm, an avalanche forecaster with the association, said. "What that means is that natural avalanches are possible, but human-triggered avalanches are probable."

This is the eighth avalanche fatality in Western Canada this year and the second involving snowmobiles.

compiled by Allen Best





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