Utah county sees dark sky success

Park City, Utah A group formed to minimize light pollution in Summit County is claiming some successes even while it calls for stiffer regulations.

In several calls, reports The Park Record , the group had worked with county planners in getting commercial developments to change-out their offending lights. At the same time, they think the existing laws give developers a "little too much wiggle room," in the words of Don Brown, co-founder of Utah Skies. Also, they would like to see the provisions extended to residential development.

The group planned to team up with a responsible-growth organization to put on a forum about light pollution. "People come here to get away from the things that spell urban, and light pollution is one of them," said Brown. "If things continue in this way bad lighting at night we're going to lose that aesthetic."

Coyotes attack dog in Telluride

TELLURIDE Coyotes are being fingered in the attack of an 80-pound dog on the outskirts of Telluride.

A woman said the dog suffered puncture wounds and a gash while she was walking the dog off-leash at the town park. Coyotes had been heard in the area.

A veterinarian told The Telluride Watch that coyotes don't often attack large dogs and speculated that the coyotes had cubs in the area.

Silverton experiences building boom

SILVERTON What is happening in Silverton is not in anybody's wildest imagination to be confused with the building booms of Vail, Jackson Hole or Canmore.

Still, by standards of Silverton, the flurry of building permits being filed is the stuff of front-page news in the Silverton Standard & the Miner . "Silverton can probably expect to see seven new houses on the slopes overlooking town in the near future," reports the newspaper. "And more may be on the way."

The slopes in question are devoid of avalanche danger, something of a rarity in the rural precincts around Silverton, but there are questions about access by emergency vehicles as well as concerns about risk of future wildfires. Fires have been scarce in recent years, but a 20,000-acre fire raked the area 125 years ago.

Elsewhere, the newspaper reports a general surge in the economy. Local employment has increased 23 percent in the last three years, and winter sales tax revenues have climbed, owing probably to the opening of a new ski area, Silverton Mountain. The ski area in late April was reporting a base of 107 inches in the final week of operations.

Steamboat preps for water shortage

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Winter is undeniably the high season for visitors in ski towns. You might think water use peaks then.

In fact, water use peaks during summer in many towns, including Steamboat Springs. A water official there recently reported 70 million gallons a day peak use in winter compares to 180 million gallons a day in summer, two-thirds of that attributed to irrigation of lawns.

With drought continuing in Colorado, Steamboat city officials wonder if existing regulations there unnecessarily encourage water use for landscaping, reports The Steamboat Pilot . There is even some talk of requiring xeriscaping, or planting of grass and other species that require less water, as well as application of mulches, to retain moisture. As well, the city is to review an incremental rate structure that penalizes larger-volume water users.

Ski patroller retires after bad omen

ALPINE MEADOWS, Calif. Ray Belli is retiring as ski patrol manager after 34 years at Alpine Meadows.

The official story is that his rescue dog fell 30 feet from a chairlift, and although the dog didn't break any bones, Belli took it as an omen. Less officially, he admits to tiring of 4 a.m. awakenings on storm days, and he no longer skis on his days off, unlike when he was young. He's now 58.

Belli was a seasonal logger in the late 1960s when he joined Alpine Meadows. He wasn't a very good skier, he confided to the Tahoe World , but he figured it was better than drawing unemployment. He moved from lift operator to snow groomer to patroller, and five years ago he became manager of ski patrol.

Alpine Meadows has a major avalanche control problem, as witnessed by two disasters. In 1976, an avalanche killed four people. Then, in 1982, an avalanche destroyed the main lodge, killing seven people.

Alpine is one of only eight ski areas in the United States to use military equipment for control of avalanches. The cache includes both 105mm and 75mm howitzers, which are cannons that fire explosive shells, plus an Avalauncher, which is a compressed-gas cannon, and finally high-explosive hand charges. In a single day, ski patrollers have thrown up to 360 hand charges in an attempt to dislodge unstable snow.

Almost the entire base at Alpine sits underneath a slide path. Other resorts with similarly dicey avalanche control problems include Alta, Snowbird and Mammoth.

Canine survives deadly avalanche

LEADVILLE Occasionally, there is good news amid the bad. The bad news occurred April 9 when a 25-year-old man from India, Jigmet Dawa, died in an avalanche in the Sawatch Range southwest of Leadville.

After being swept by an avalanche that broke at the 12,600-foot elevation, Dawa was found pinned against a tree under 3 feet of snow on Brown Peak, which is located about a mile from one of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, Mt. Huron. Unharmed were two human companions and three dogs.

But still missing was a fourth dog, called Tiga, a Burmese mountain dog. So, in mid-April, six searchers set out to find his body. In digging through the avalanche debris they found nothing. So, after hanging a prayer flag on the tree where Dawa died, they set back down the mountain. But the dog, famished and limping, showed up at the trailhead. Nobody seems to know how the animal escaped the avalanche, reports the Summit Daily News .

Synagogue seen as new tourist draw

ASPEN A substantial chunk of property along Aspen's Main Street has been purchased by a Jewish organization that intends to build Aspen's first synagogue. Getting city approval to build will take from six months to two years.

The center will be run by a New York-born rabbi, Mendel Mintz, who says the center's construction will boost tourism. "There are a lot of Jewish people around America and the world at large who would like to come to Aspen but who are inhibited," Mintz told The Aspen Times . "The center will provide access to Kosher food and to Jewish services. We really think it will bolster tourism."

Utah towns compete for wind power

MOAB, Utah Moab has bested Park City in an intra-Utah rivalry regarding renewable energy. The two had vied to see who would have the most residents sign up to buy wind power.

In Moab, 1.85 percent of total electrical use comes from the wind. In Park City, it's 1.09 percent, despite the involvement of all three ski areas there (Deer Valley, Park City and The Canyons). Apparently, however, the citizenry has been somewhat less than enthusiastic.

Still, Park City Mayor Dana Williams tells The Park Record that this push for renewable energy won't go away. "People want us to be on the vanguard of things, whether the issue is tourism, whether they are environmental issues or housing issues."

Economy revived in Eagle County

EAGLE COUNTY The economy seems to be back to its old, vigorous, almost hyperventilating self in Eagle County.

The Vail Daily reports passenger counts at Eagle County Regional Airport were up 12 percent for the winter. Sales tax receipts have been up 18 percent this year, after being down 5 percent last year, reflecting in part the opening of new big-box retailers, Home Depot and Wal-Mart Supercenter. In Vail itself, sales tax receipts were up 10 percent in mid-winter.

Only in building does the pace seem to be slower. Building permits issued by county government are up, but the dollar volume down by more than half. Construction expected at Vail may well change that. Plans call for $1 billion in redevelopment to get launched this summer.

compiled by Allen Best






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