Silverton Mountain clears
The end is in sight for Silverton
Mountain Ski Area and it appears that the Bureau of Land Management
is going along with the vision that started the unusual ski area.
This week, the agency released a final environmental impact
statement after nearly three years of work. The document recommends
as many as 475 skiers a day on the mountain in a mixture of
unguided and guided skiing.
Aaron Brill first
submitted a proposal to the Bureau of Land Management in 1999 to
operate an expert backcountry skiing operation on 350 acres of his
land and 1,300 acres of adjacent BLM land about 6 miles north of
Silverton. In 2001, he installed a double chairlift on his personal
property, an old mining claim, with visions of creating a powder
skier's paradise with $25 lift tickets and a 475-skier
However, the dream was
put on hold when the BLM ordered an environmental impact statement
to assess the full effects of the ski area. The draft EIS was
issued last summer and outlined four alternatives for operating the
ski area, including the preferred alternative a mix of guided and
This week, the final EIS
rolled off the presses. The document would allow up to 475 unguided
and guided skiers per day on as many as 1,300 acres of BLM land.
Whether the entire area is open to unguided skiing would hinge on
snow stability. Brill said that the area would likely take a
safety-driven approach to what would be open to unguided vs. guided
"The good news is that
the EIS says they want to give us the permit," he said. "I'm
looking forward to offering different types of skiing to different
types of skiers."
Brill added that he is
pleased about the release of the final EIS but that Silverton
Mountain isn't out of the woods yet.
"It's a big step closer,
but it's not the final step," he said, noting that a public comment
period on the EIS has just begun. With this in mind, Brill said
that he expects to be guiding 80 skiers a day on the mountain this
year just like last season. If the process goes smoothly, he said
that there might be unguided skiing at the area this
However, one thing has
not survived the last three years of review. Brill said that he is
not sure what a ticket for unguided skiing will cost at this point.
However, he added that because of the expense of the BLM's review
process, which he must cover, a $25 ticket is out of the
"Our financial status
keeps changing," Brill said. "I didn't anticipate that the EIS
would cost this much or take this long. Unfortunately, the concept
of a $25 lift ticket has come and gone due to the cost of a review
process that has escalated way beyond our control."
The BLM will accept
public comment and protest on the final EIS through Sept. 6. A
Record of Decision is expected later that month. The document is
available for public review at local libraries and online at
White prevails over Black in
Record numbers of voters turned out
for last Tuesday's La Plata County Primary Election. When the polls
eventually closed, Wally White prevailed over David Black in
getting his name on November's ballot as the Democratic candidate
for Josh Joswick's county commissioner seat.
approximately 62 percent of the vote, a margin he was comfortable
with. "It was a good margin of victory. It was exciting," he said.
"It kind of gives a picture of what at least the Democratic side of
the county wants to see for the future."
That picture, according
to White, is defined by stronger growth and development
regulations. "Obviously growth is the main issue and stronger
growth regulations will help us to manage growth so that it will be
a benefit to the county rather than a cost,"he said. "It's
important to me that we take hold of our destiny here rather than
letting the developers guide our future."
White said that now he
is looking forward to campaigning for the real prize, which he
hopes will be a victory in November's election over Republican
candidate Roger Phelps.
On the state level,
Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar won a landslide victory over
Mike Miles for the Democratic slot in the race for the U.S. Senate
seat. Pete Coors also won by a large margin for the Republican slot
on the ballot.
The race for the
Republican nomination for Scott McInnis' U.S. House of
Representatives seat was not decisive as of Wednesday. Greg Walcher
led Matt Smith by just a handful of votes and election officials
were looking into provisional ballots. Either Walcher or Smith will
face John Salazar, who was unopposed for the Democratic
First local West Nile case
The first human case of West Nile
Virus in La Plata County has been reported. The San Juan Basin
Health Department announced last Friday that a local woman had
contracted the disease. She is currently recovering at her
Joe Fowler, regional
epidemiologist for the San Juan Basin Health Department, said that
late summer and early fall are the high times for the virus with
most cases occurring between mid-August and the end of September.
As of Tuesday, no additional human cases of the disease had been
reported. However, Fowler said that more are likely
"Every day, we expect to
get a call saying that we have another human case," he
West Nile activity is
now well documented in the Durango area and in Southeast La Plata
County. As a result, the San Juan Basin Health Department is no
longer accepting dead birds for testing from those areas. The
department is still interested in testing birds found north of
Durango or on the west side of La Plata County.
For more information on
West Nile virus, call The San Juan Basin Health Department at
247-5702 or call the La Plata County and City of Durango Infoline
at 385-INFO, Ext. 2260.
Local food directory now
Access to locally grown food and fiber
just got a little easier. The Mesa Verde Country Guide to Local
Sustainable Food and Fiber has been printed and is available at
local natural food stores, libraries, health offices and extension
offices. The guide lists producers of fresh vegetables, fruit,
flour, honey, flowers, wine, cheese, meats, wool and more in the
Four Corners region.
The first edition lists
30 producers who sell their locally produced agricultural products
direct to consumers, restaurants and stores. "This is just the
beginning," said Jim Dyer of the Southwest Marketing Network. "We
hope to list many more direct marketing producers soon, as well as
restaurants and stores that feature products from our local farms
This directory currently
lists producers roughly within 90 miles of Mesa Verde.
In addition to being
available around the region, an updated version of the guide is
available online at www.oakhavenpc.org. To be listed as a producer
or for more information, contact Dyer at 588-2292 or Sue Bruckner
compiled by Will