County may charge for rescues

PARK CITY, Utah Officials in Summit County are considering whether to begin charging people when search-and-rescue crews are summoned. The Summit County Sheriff allocates $100,000 each year to help pay expenses for the search team, even though members are volunteers.

The sheriff, Dave Edmunds, told The Park Record that he had not made up his mind whether to charge. If he does, said Edmunds, he'd spare charges for local residents.

Charges are already levied in searches in Grand County, where Moab is located. Search teams also benefit from a statewide fund collected from a surtax on boats and off-highway vehicles, but the total amount is relatively small, $150,000.

In general, rescue groups frown deeply on the idea of charging, believing that it might cause people to not summon help when they really need it. However, searchers increasingly say they are being called when no help is really needed, or that friends of those lost in the backcountry sometimes insist on extra and expensive tools, such as helicopters to retrieve somebody with a broken ankle. In those cases, searchers are now inclined to pass on the cost.

Gold medalists denied US entry

KETCHUM, Idaho Enough is enough, says the Idaho Mountain Express, after Olympic gold-medal ice skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were denied admission into the United States. The pair were traveling from British Columbia to perform at the Sun Valley Resort.

The U.S. immigration official at the border said the pair lacked proper work papers and hence could not continue traveling to perform at Sun Valley. The INS "surely knew the celebrated skaters were regulars on the U.S. ice show circuit and could have used discretion in allowing them to continue to Sun Valley to perform while paper shufflers figured out the error," said the paper.

Colorado College names top ten

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. It's kind of like one of those "Best Places in America" to live that the various business and lifestyle magazines put out periodically. This time, however, the study came out of a college in Colorado.

And when all the numbers had been crunched, Pitkin County and Aspen were tops in the recreation category, while Jackson Hole had the highest-quality public lands. "Positioned as a gateway to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park and at the base of the world-renowned Jackson Hole ski resort, it is difficult to imagine a better place for the outdoor enthusiast as second-home owner."

The study, which was created by Colorado College, had top-10 lists in dozens of categories, not all of them beauty contests. The underlying premise was not all that startling: money follows natural beauty and cultural and other amenities.

Winter Park aims at beginners

WINTER PARK, Colo. In getting the contract to manage the Winter Park ski area, Intrawest promised to spend $50 million in the first decade in capital improvements. So far, it's holding true to that pledge and then a little.

The resort this summer will be spending $4 million, bringing the two-year total to $11 million. Much of the work this year is intended to better accommodate beginner skiers. Among other changes, reports the Winter Park Manifest, a ski jumping hill that had launched several Olympics is being displaced by a couple of long Magic Carpet rides.

"The big effort in the skiing industry now is getting more people to try the sport, and to get a better retention rate," said Gary LaFrange, general manager at Winter Park. "The competition among resorts for the beginning skier is fierce."

Intrawest expects to have initial plans for its new base-area real estate development ready for public inspection later this year. Using existing features, the project will be keyed around the themes of water and railroads.

Crested Butte ready for big time

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. With new owners at the ski area and the real estate slump over, things are happening at Crested Butte.

On the mountain, new owners Tim and Diane Mueller are investing $6.5 million in what is described as a "cosmetic overhaul" of the mountain. There's one new lift, servicing a new real estate subdivision, some improved lifts for access to the mountain's extreme terrain, and a smidgeon of new intermediate terrain. As well, the paint brushes seem to be out.

With deeper pockets than the former owners, the Callaway and Walton families, the Muellers intend to open the ski area earlier and keep it operating longer. This year, the ski area will open before Thanksgiving, a sharp contrast to the last several years, where the ski area either did not charge for skiing during early season or waited until just before Christmas.

In the longer term, Crested Butte sees a large part of its salvation being a new ski area, separated only from the existing ski area by the Town of Mt. Crested Butte. That ski area, nicknamed Snodgrass Lite, because it is smaller than what was originally proposed, would give Crested Butte substantially more intermediate terrain, which the resort currently lacks in quantity. The idea is that the new terrain will offer a destination skier enough variety to hold their interest for more than a couple of days.

Meanwhile, work is beginning on two major real estate projects that will raise the bar of cost, size, and quality.

Global warming impacts animals

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont. As the climate warms, vegetation will shift, and in response so will the mammals that depend upon that vegetation. Scientists report this is already happening, with species generally moving northward while breeding and flowering more early in the year.

But what will happen eventually in the U.S. national parks? That picture was the goal of a study reported recently in Yale's Journal of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. The researchers chose eight parks, from Acadia in Maine to Big Bend in Texas, but also including Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Glacier.

Scientists cautiously predict an influx of new species. "They're moving northward and into parks," said Oswald Schmitz, professor of population and community ecology. "But the species that were in the parks, especially in the northern parks, aren't leaving those parks and going even farther north. So this migration crowds species much more. If you measure things only in terms of biodiversity, yes, it's going to be fantastic but we don't know what affect the crowding will have."

Schmitz used the analogy of human migration during the Great Depression, when waves of people fled to cities, putting pressure on social services, housing and jobs. "If we have those same kinds of pressure in the parks, we're going to see extinctions precipitated by these influxes," he said. Even though biodiversity goes up for a while, eventually the pressure gets heavy. Mammals may distribute on the landscape, but it's the interaction that ensues once these animals have redistributed that would lead to their ultimate demise.

-compiled by Allen Best





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