Grizzly bear attacks
JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. Few people can
boast that they fought a grizzly bear and won, and neither can
46-year-old mountain biker Kirk Speckhals.
Oh, Speckhals fought
hard enough. But it was a friend who rode up with pepper spray who
probably made the difference.
As recounted in the
Jackson Hole News &
Speckhals and two companions were riding south of Yellowstone
National Park. Speckhals had initially clanged his bear bell often,
but later had neglected to make noise and had furthermore gotten
well ahead of his companions.
Suddenly, from about a football field away, a bear charged.
Instead of playing dead, Speckhals defended himself with his
bicycle. The bear lunged six or seven times, deterred at the last
moment by the bike. Finally, the bear grabbed the bike.
Meanwhile, the next rider, Tom Foley, had heard Speckhals yell
"Bear! Bear!" Hearing that, he began pedaling fast. "His voice was
getting more terrified," Foley remembered. "He sounded like he was
fighting something. His screams were dramatic and scary."
After stomping on the bike, the bear turned to the rider,
shoving Speckhals to the ground. Speckhals figured he was
But Foley arrived just then about 15 feet away, drawing his
pepper spray and firing. With unblinking eyes big as silver
dollars, the bear circled his new protagonist. Finally, with about
a second's worth of spray left, Foley tried a new tactic, yelling
at the bear at the top of his lungs. That finally did it.
"I could tell his eyes changed, " Foley said. "I knew it was
over. All of a sudden he took off."
The bike riders resolved to henceforth religiously ring their
bells when in prime bear habitat, to warn the bruins of their
approach. They also vowed to carry large cans of pepper spray.
Speckhals had none.
Editor comes to defense of
VAIL Like a lot of newspaper editors,
Vail Daily editor Don Rogers likes to tilt at
windmills. And in the ski world in general, including Vail, that
means stepping up to defend Adam Aron, the often-controversial
chief executive officer of Vail Resort.
After eight years, Aron is now the second-longest tenured CEO
ever at the helm in Vail. Only Pete Seibert, who founded the
company in 1959, had a longer tenure at the helm in Vail. Aron
comes from the world of corporations, including United Airlines,
Hyatt Regency and Norwegian Cruiseline, and had no skiing on his
resume when he showed up in 1996.
"Gotta have a ski guy running a ski company. Right? Well, maybe
thats a little simplistic," Rogers say. "Ski guys or gals, on the
hill. But Vail Resorts succeeds and fails on its ability to attract
skiers, make the payroll and heresy as this may be to say find ways
to ring in income during those six or seven months when the snow
"Oh, and aren't those prized higher-end destination' visitors
from out of state generally corporate' types? Seems a few folks
running the ski hills ought to perhaps have a little insight into
what makes those folks tick, right?"
Meanwhile, Aron announced full-time employees would be getting
raises averaging 3.5 percent. It was the largest raise in 20 years.
Vail had an exceptionally profitable third quarter.
Economist touts high
BRECKENRIDGE Ford Frick, an economic
consultant, is well known in ski towns. Particularly during the
last several years, his services have been in demand as town
governments have responded to the sluggish economy by trying to
figure out what is wrong with their core retail areas.
"Sometimes I feel we get
hired as a diversion, then we become entertainment, and finally, we
are sometimes someone to blame at the end," he told the Summit Daily News .
Frick, for the last several years, has been expounding
high-density residential development basically, the sort of
development that occurred early in the evolution of ski towns but
which has been replaced lately by the sprawl of suburban and
This new downtown development is being spurred, at least in
part, by the aging demographics of baby boomers. "They want to walk
to downtown to get a cup of coffee and rub elbows with people," he
said. "We'll start to see a number of projects that are loft-like
and mimic the urban areas."
He urges towns to build extra stories on existing buildings and
set a goal of several hundred additional units downtown.
ESL students on rise in
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS School officials are
monitoring enrollment of students for whom English is a second
language. A surge in enrollment of such students caught district
officials by surprise last year, reports The Steamboat Pilot .
Like schools at many ski resorts, those in Steamboat Springs
have had a reduction or only a slight growth in enrollment,
particularly in the lower grade levels, despite the overall strong
population growth. The exception to this trend of dampened
enrollment in resort-valley schools is of Hispanics, mostly recent
Granby to lose even more
GRANBY Granby's business district
looked pretty anemic before the June 4 rampage by bulldozer
operator Marvin Heemeyer, who destroyed the newspaper office and
Gambles, while badly damaging assorted other businesses.
Now, a major new grocery
store is to open on the south side of the town, in the nexus for
two large projects of vacation homes. Among other changes, the
local drug store is closing and the hardware store is moving out to
"No matter how you cut
it that hurts downtown Granby," writes Patrick Brower, publisher of
the Sky-Hi News . Still, he holds out hope that in the
long run, these kick-in-the-seat changes will eventually result in
Granby regaining its prominence as a service and retail shopping
hub for Grand County, an area that includes the resort areas of
Winter Park, Hot Sulphur Springs and Grand Lake.
Fraser Valley likened to
FRASER VALLEY As Los Angeles was to
the Owens Valley, Denver is to the Fraser Valley. That's the
comparison drawn by Harry Williamson, editor of the Winter Park Manifest , and it's a valid one, if
As told in the movie "Chinatown" and in countless articles and
books, Los Angeles early in the 20th century basically bought up a
mountain valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada for its
water. With that water, the San Fernando Valley prospered and Los
Angeles has become one of the world's largest cities.
The Owens Valley, in turn, is rather lifeless, and in the vision
of the current mayor of the city, James K. Hahn, the valley should
stay that way. Without attempts to develop it, the valley will
Meanwhile, Denver began diverting water from the Fraser Valley
shortly after L.A. began raiding the Owens Valley. But the Fraser
Valley has a couple of ski areas, Winter Park and SolVista, plus a
large and growing sector of second homes. As well, Intrawest is now
aiming to build one of its cookie-cutter base area "villages."
Williamson suggests that Denver probably wishes that it had
bought all the Fraser Valley, just as Los Angeles bought nearly all
of the Owens Valley. Denver did not do that, however, so it will
have to put up with local opposition as efforts are made to step up
the diversions, he says.
Ski area insurer wins $7
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS A Steamboat
Springs-based insurer of ski areas has won $7 million in a court
case against its underwriter. The insurer, MDM Group Associates,
had insured Vail, Telluride, Crested Butte, and other ski areas
against loss of business caused by outside circumstances such as
lack of snow.
MDM is owned by Joe
McNasby, who began the innovative program in 1997. During the
1999-2000 season, every insured resort submitted claims after
suffering declined business due to both sub-par snow and the Y2K
that resulted in fewer Christmas visitors. Claims totaled $22
McNasby claimed the
underwriter, CAN Reinsurance, took too long in paying claims, then
stopped and encouraged other companies not to underwrite the
policy. Ski areas in the plan then dropped out, and McNasby was
unable to expand the insurance policy to hotels, cruise lines and
other ski areas.
The eight-person jury
awarded MDM $1.58 million for lost sales to ski areas that were
once insured and another $726,492 for loss of potential ski-area
clients, plus damages for lost sales to hotels, cruise lines,
Japanese ski areas, and others. An appeal of the verdict and
damages is expected.
compiled by Allen