Chinese steel impacts home prices

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS A butterfly flapping its wings in Beijing can affect the weather in California, it is sometimes said. Now, preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing are being partly credited with driving up home prices in Steamboat.

The Steamboat Pilot reports that building materials for large homes cost $40,000 more this year, but even average homes cost $4,000 more. The cost of steel products imported from China is the largest single factor.

For example, a modest home might require 300 sticks of rebar, explained Ty Steward, assistant manager of Steamboat Lumber. Last summer, a stick of half-inch rebar cost $2.89. This year, it costs $5.77. That's $800 alone for rebar. Meanwhile, the structural steel needed to create a vaulted ceiling in a spacious great room last year cost 21 cents a pound. This year it's 40 cents a pound.

In addition to gearing up for the Olympics, China is also building a huge dam as well as new factories, all of this making everything from 16-penny nails to circular saw blades in the United States more expensive.

Something else the newspaper did not explain why is driving up the costs of oriented strand board, which is sometimes sold under the brand name of Waferwood. The cost of a plank has tripled in 18 months.

Reservoir proposed west of Vail

WOLCOTT It looks as though life will become a beach in the Vail area. The reservoir being planned 20 miles west of Vail by the City of Denver would be about half the size of Dillon Reservoir, which is another Denver reservoir.

Denver began buying property for the reservoir site in the 1980s, but showed no hurry to do anything until the drought of 2002. A study due next month projects building costs much less than had been expected, reports the Vail Daily .

The reservoir would swamp habitat for the dwindling sage grouse but would provide water for several endangered species of fish in the Colorado River.

Utah beats old skier-days record

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah As expected, Ski Utah is reporting a record number of skier days, nearly 3.4 million. That's a 3 percent gain on 2000-01, Utah's previous record season.

Utah's Summit County ski areas (Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons Resort) saw a combined record for the second year in a row with visits totaling 1.4 million.

Snowbird, meanwhile, remains open through Memorial Day.

West faces hard drought questions

POWELL RESERVOIR, Utah The development of the modern urbanized West one of the biggest growth spurts in the nation's history may have been based on a colossal miscalculation, says The New York Times .

Blue skies and meager snowpacks may be the harsher climactic norm for the West, and not the relatively wetter hydrological cycle that was used in drawing up principals for sharing the Colorado River.

The focal point for all this speculation is Powell Reservoir, which has been sinking dramatically and would now require 10 years of normal precipitation levels to refill. The lack of water has states plotting for shortages for the first time since Hoover Dam was built in the 1930s. The period since 1999 is now officially the driest in the 98 years of recorded history of the Colorado River, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The prospect of a waterless Powell draws up all sorts of fascinating and disturbing images. For example, notes the newspaper, the mud flats could become a vast environment for noxious weeds like tamarisk and thistle. A drained Powell could mean decades' worth of agricultural chemicals at the lake bottom mixing with the lingering river to poison the Grand Canyon, which lies downstream. And without water, Glen Canyon and other dams cannot generate as much electricity. Hence, the Western Area Power Administration plans to reduce by about 25 percent the amount of electricity it can promise in future years. If the drought continues, water providers in the Las Vegas area may ban new swimming pools.

There is some concern that if this drought becomes a crisis on the Colorado River, 100 years of water law will be upended. "The law of the river is hopelessly, irretrievably obsolete, designed on a hydrological fallacy, around an agrarian West that no longer exits," says Professor Daniel McCool of the University of Utah. But other individuals, according to the Times , say that this drought just proves the value of Lake Powell in stretching limited water resources.

Aron Ralston continues to amaze

ASPEN Aron Ralston gained international attention last year when he severed his own arm after being stuck in a Utah canyon for five days.

Since then, he has changed his ways. He tells people where he is going, and he also carries a cell phone. He is now equipped with a prosthesis, to which he can attach an ice ax for his mountaineering adventures. Some say he hasn't missed a beat.

For example, during March he scaled two of the 14,000-foot peaks near Telluride. It's part of his six-year bid to solo climb all 59 by Ralston's count of Colorado's Fourteeners during winter. (Most peak baggers consider 54 Colorado peaks to be Fourteeners).

It hasn't been easy, he admitted to The Aspen Times' Tim Mutrie, who was writing about Ralston's extraordinary hunger for adventure long before Ralston became a celebrity. "Other people had a lot more confidence than me, saying I'd be back soloing Fourteeners in winter, no problem. But honestly, I had my doubts," Ralston told Mutrie.

For example, setting up a tent by himself requires more forethought. So does operating a stove. And he has to think beforehand about which coat pockets he puts things in while out on adventures. "Everything's in my left-side pockets now," he explained. takes up so much brainpower when you've got to think everything through."

Ralston went through five surgeries and eight weeks of monitored rest and intravenous drug cocktails before returning to his life of hiking and skiing. But he says he didn't get closure for six months, until he went to Bluejohn Canyon with television news anchor Tom Brokaw and friends. There, by himself in the slot where he had been stranded for five days, he spread the cremated ashes of his hand, then cried all the way back to Colorado.

Telluride ends flouridation of water

TELLURIDE Thirty-five years ago dentists were urging that flouride be added to municipal water supplies as a way of protecting the teeth of youngsters. Traditional right-wing groups said it was a Communist plot. Fluoride continues to be added to municipal water supplies. But not in Telluride.

There, reports The Telluride Watch , medical doctor David Homer persuaded the Town Council that there is "some evidence that too much fluoride can be toxic or even carcinogenic." Just as with immunizations, he told the council, parents should be allowed to freely choose as to whether or not fluoride should be administered to their children.

Park City burglaries drop by half

PARK CITY, Utah Often, when crime statistics in resort areas rise, police warn the local citizenry that it's because happy valley is becoming a city or otherwise being influenced by city ways.

So, how do they explain that the number of burglaries in Park City last year dropped by nearly half? Police Chief Lloyd Evans says he doesn't know. "I'm not sure what this indicates other than we had fewer burglaries," Evans told The Park Record .

But Evans thinks he can explain the growing number of abuse and domestic violence complaints. People are increasingly willing to report it, whereas once it was a "silent" thing.

Resorts thinking about West Nile

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Governments in the ski valleys of Colorado are bracing for arrival of mosquitoes bearing the West Nile Virus.

Last year the virus killed 55 to 65 people newspaper accounts vary in Colorado, mostly along the Front Range. However, nearly 3,000 people had the fever, including nearly 400 who developed meningitis and 233 who had encephalitis. Most of the cases in Colorado were among baby boomers aged 45 to 49.

Only a few cases were reported among ski-valley residents, although a few horses died.

From newspaper accounts, there seems to be no worries that West Nile will hurt tourism in Vail, Steamboat and other resort towns. However, long sleeves and pants may well start selling better, and surely the sale of insecticides containing DEET.

compiled by Allen Best





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