Study finds mountain bikes harmless

ASPEN The International Mountain Bicycling Associates has released a study that claims that mountain bikes don't cause any more damage to trails than other uses, including hikers.

Claims that mountain bike wheels do cause more damage to trails are "unsubstantiated," according to IMBA's Gary Sprung, a Crested Butte resident who conducted the study.

However, The Aspen Times didn't have to go far to find even mountain bikers who didn't quite bite on that rather brazen claim. Michael Thompson, of Basalt, who was identified as both a mountain biking and hiking enthusiast as well as a trail builder, said improperly constructed trails tend to channel water rather than shed it.

Wheels cause more erosion than hooves or feet when the soil is wet, he said. However, properly designed and built trails can absorb the impacts of mountain bikes with little problems.

Snowboarding growth starts to slow

DENVER The growth of snowboarding continues to slow, although it still outpaces the growth in skiing.

From growth rates of 21 percent at the turn of the century, the pace slowed to 11 percent and this year is expected to slow to 5 percent, according to Nolan Rosall, of the Boulder-based research firm, RRC Associates. Still, that growth rate will push snowboarders to more than 31 percent of all visitors to the nation's ski hills this season.

"That is still pretty solid growth," he told The Denver Post . "It will be higher than growth in skier visits. But it's certainly not at the rates we saw 10 years ago."

Sale of snowboards has dropped off even more, from 30 to 40 percent gains during the late 1990s to just 4 percent for each of the last three years, according to annual surveys by SnowSports Industries America, a trade group.

Vail Resorts' Bill Jensen reports a 50-50 mix of skiers and snowboarders at the company's five ski resorts.

Teton County the nation's wealthiest

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. For the fourth time in six years, the Internal Revenue Service has reported Teton County as the nation's wealthiest, based on income tax returns filed in 2002. The mean adjusted gross income of $107,694 is 2 percent higher than that of Fairfield County, Conn.

In another statistical category, Teton County ranked first in per-capita income, the sixth time since 1995. Pitkin County, which is where Aspen is located, had led the previous year, but income levels there dropped nearly 30 percent between 2001 and '02.

What's going on with all this wealth? Everybody knows, as the Jackson Hole News & Guide noted, that jobs in ski and resort towns don't pay well.

Well, Jackson Hole has lots of amenities, beginning with Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, a ski area, great rivers and so on. But most important is that Wyoming does not levy an income tax, explains Bob Graham, president of Real Estate of Jackson Hole. That causes lots of people who might be able to claim residence elsewhere to make Jackson Hole their primary residence.

"You could go to places like Vail or Aspen or Telluride or Big Sky, but you would not have the tax advantage you would achieve in the state of Wyoming," he said.

Also keeping Jackson Hole's rates up are the fact that it's not near a large city. That eliminates a lot of weekend second homes. And then people of money tend to cluster once they have found an interesting place with services, an airport and technology that allows them to stay connected to the rest of the world.

Others on the top 10 list include a suburb of San Francisco, two suburbs of Denver, and suburbs of New York City.

Inventor of the Gamow Bag loses job

BOULDER Igor Gamow's name is well-known among mountain climbers. Among his other inventions he created the Gamow Bag, a portable hyperbaric chamber that can be used to fight off bouts of potentially fatal altitude sickness.

But he is also a letch. Or in the words of regents for the University of Colorado, who recently voted to fire the 68-year-old chemical engineering professor, he's guilty of "moral turpitude."

Seven women have accused Gamow of making unwelcome sexual advances since 1982, the most recent in a lawsuit filed in 2002 by a former research assistant who claimed that Gamow threatened her job if she didn't have sex with him.

Aspen leans toward artificial turf

ASPEN When Aspen's Wagner Park was nominated as a candidate for artificial turf this spring, the protests were quick and easy. You're going to make a plastic park? Like Vail?

But after touring two soccer fields in the Vail Valley where artificial turf is now in use, members of the Aspen City Council proclaimed themselves pleasantly surprised. "Feels pretty nice," conceded Mayor Helen Klaunderud. "I'm more impressed than I thought I'd be. This is a really nice field," said the councilman known simply as Torre.

Still, it sounds unlikely that artificial turf will be put into place at Wagner Park, although it could well find use on a playing field somewhere.

As for plastic replacing natural materials, Vail also has had some internal debates on the subject. In 1986, the Town Council debated creating a new landscaping scheme for the main entrance to the town, using plastic boulders. Amid cries of plastic Bavaria, the council relented.

Movie theater threatens to close

CRESTED BUTTE Crested Butte is in a one-movie theater valley, and the owners of that movie theater, called the Majestic, would like to keep it that way.

But the owners are annoyed beyond words because the new Gunnison Valley Economic Development Corporation, to which their Crested Butte Town Council gave $4,000 this year, has announced plans to recruit a theater for Gunnison, the larger town 27 miles away.

Owners of the Crested Butte theater say even art films shown one night per month in Gunnison cut into their financial solvency. They have vowed to close shop unless the subsidy for a theater in Gunnison is yanked.

Crested Butte Mayor Jim Schmidt told the Crested Butte News that he was dismayed. "It's ridiculous that you give money to the (Economic Development Commission, and the first thing that happens is that one of our businesses goes out of business."

Winter Park feuds over reservations

WINTER PARK With Intrawest now in charge at Winter Park, there are suspicions that the company is trying to muscle its way into a greater share of the lodging reservations.

Some even whisper that the company-operated Winter Park Central Reservations steered customers toward Intrawest properties instead of the 32 other lodging properties. There also seem to be fears the other lodges could be culled from the roster altogether.

In response, Intrawest has hired Ralph Garrison, of the Denver-based Advisory Group, to conduct a summer-long review of operations. The review, said Winter Park general manager Gary LaFrange, is "not an attempt to walk away from Central Reservations."

Instead, LaFrange said the review is needed to assess whether the central reservations system now used is working, particularly because travel arrangements have been changed so much by the Internet.

"I don't know what the right format is going to be in the future, but I do know that if we don't look into this now, we're going to wake up three years from now and be way behind the curve," he said.

Sue Neuman, director of central res, said that Garrison as an independent consultant and should be able to determine if, in fact, non-Intrawest properties have been slighted.

Students schooled in big air time

KEYSTONE The Denver Post recently observed a class at Keystone where students were being taught how to launch off a 6-foot-high ramp for some "really big air." "Ten years ago, you would have had your pass pulled for showing the bottom of your skis," observed ski school director Chris Heidebrech. "The kids are going to do this stuff anyway," he said. "We might as well teach them the right way, so they can be safe."

The Post also reports that resorts in Colorado are diverging from the standards of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, which hasn't developed a standardized curriculum of new "free-ride" instruction. The group's executive director, Steve Over, acknowledged that the PSIA has followed the resorts in this case, but rejects the charge that the organization is too conservative. Some fads stick, others don't, he says. He seemed to say that the PSIA waits to see which is which.

compiled by Allen Best





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