Resort towns side with Kerry camp

THE WEST - Looking across the West, ski towns and resort valleys were islands of blue in an ocean of red during the Nov. 2 national election.

Some places, like Telluride's San Miguel County and Aspen's Pitkin County, have always - at least for several decades - been reliably Democrat. This remained true this year, with the John Kerry ticket prevailing by margins of almost three to one.

But in many other resort valleys that were once dominated by ranches, Republicans now outnumber registered Democrats. In most elections, they still prevail. Not this year.

Instructive were two still strongly agrarian counties in Colorado. Gunnison and Routt. Routt is dominated by Steamboat Springs, but has lots of outlying ranches. This year, it went 54 to 44 for Kerry over George Bush. Staunchly liberal Crested Butte went 79 percent in favor of Kerry in helping lead Gunnison County to a 57 percent majority for the national Democratic ticket.

What's happening to push resort valleys more Democratic? One theory is that the Democratic Party tends to attract people who are highly educated as well as those who are not affiliated with organized religion. Resort valleys rank high in both categories. Instead, the great outdoors is their religion. Ed Marston, former publisher of High Country News, put it another way when speaking at a recent conference, calling it the "Church of 10,000 Feet."

Environmental values also rank high in resort valleys, and again, the general perception is that the Democratic Party is the better protector. Kerry, who both skis and snowboards, has a vacation home near Ketchum. Vice President Dick Cheney, a flyfisherman, maintains his primary residence in Jackson Hole. But tellingly, even his home precinct of Wilson went for Kerry. Overall, Jackson Hole went for Kerry/Edwards by a 53-to-45 margin.

Goodtimes elected to third term

TELLURIDE, Colo. - San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes, who calls himself a "paleohippie," won election to his third term last week, overcoming opposition from both the left and the right.

A declared Green Party member, the 59-year-old Goodtimes, a one-time resident of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, is a study in surprises. He is nothing if not flamboyant. He wears his hair and beard long, is prone to wearing colorful robes that call to mind sorcerers, and drives a pickup that is painted mushroom-style with red with white spots, like an Amanita muscaria. He is also an unapologetic member of the Rainbow Family of Living Light.

But he is also a calculating politician, who constantly walks a delicate line to embrace both the liberal up-valley newcomers and conservative down-valley old-timers of his county. For instance, he has been trying to strike a compromise with off-highway vehicle users.

This provoked the Democrats to run a well-funded candidate against him, but without success. Goodtimes took 50 percent of the vote, carrying even the most conservative districts, while the Democrats and Republicans split the remainder.

The only criticism that stuck was that he spends too much time and county money out of the county at various meetings. In response, Goodtimes is now posting his notes from those meetings on the county website.

Alcohol poisoning hits Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - Newspapers in Denver this fall were full of stories about college students who died because of alcohol poisoning at universities along Colorado's Front Range. Now, a similar story comes from ski country.

The Steamboat Pilot reports that a 24-year-old Colorado Mountain College student had a blood alcohol content level of .302 when he died. The preliminary autopsy showed that the student died of cardio-respiratory failure because of acute alcohol toxicity.

Police are investigating the circumstances of the victim's ingestion of alcohol the night of his death, and it's possible that criminal charges may be filed. He had been at one bar in downtown Steamboat Springs for about five hours, police said.

The owner of the bar disputed that account, saying the victim, who was a regular at the business, drank only one mixed drink, two beers, and two shots while at the bar, and did not appear to be intoxicated the last time he drank at the bar.

In addition to studying arts at the college, the victim played guitar with a band and worked as a cook.

Utility goes big for wind power

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. - Holy Cross Energy, which sells electricity to 50,000 customers in the Aspen, Vail and Glenwood Springs area, is already noted as a leader for its work in promoting wind power. Currently, 7.5 percent of the power it sells comes from wind and hydroelectric sources.

Bolstered by a member survey that indicates strong support for lessening dependency on coal-fired plants, the electrical cooperative now vows to increase that during the coming decade to 20 percent.

But the electrical cooperative is using a push-pull approach. Alternative energy sources are actually more expensive than conventional coal-generated electricity. To participate, the average cost to households will be about $1 a month. To invite participation, Holy Cross is offering incentives to consumers to install energy-efficient appliances. Holy Cross offers rebates for energy efficient appliances, such as $75 for an Energy Star-rated refrigerated and $25 for seven compact fluorescent bulbs. Rebates are limited to a maximum of $3,500 per member every 10 years.

"Eighteen months ago we asked consumers what they thought about renewable or energy-efficient programs," explained Bob Gardner, spokesman for Holy Cross. "They told us they would like to see us move more toward cleaner burning and renewable energy and conservation programs, and that they'd be willing to pay for it."

A major background issue is the prospect of global warming, which is being caused in large part by the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. If the Holy Cross program succeeds, said Gardner, it will reduce the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere from 1.67 pounds per kilowatt hour to 1.5. The average household uses 900 kilowatt hours of electricity in a year.

This program exceeds what Coloradans mandated of utilities in a constitutional amendment approved this year. That mandate is for the state's utilities to generate 10 percent of their power from alternative energy sources in the next decade. This doubles that.

Telluride adds new direct flights

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Telluride will have 27 percent more airplane seats this year, with new flights from the Pacific to the Atlantic. A new tax in the twin resort towns of Telluride and Mountain Village stabilizes funding used to guarantee revenues to airlines.

The newest flight, reports The Telluride Watch, will be on 37-passenger planes from Phoenix. The flight will be marketed using a federal Department of Transportation grant. Also new this year are flights from Newark and Los Angeles. As well, shuttles from Denver have been stepped up, with seven daily to Telluride and seven daily to nearby Montrose. Altogether, 92,000 in-bound seats are being offered.

Revelstoke welcomes new ski area

REVELSTOKE, B.C. - Some 200 people gathered recently to hear about how development of a major destination ski resort at Revelstoke will affect them.

Housing costs will rise, and less rental housing will be available, they were told. There will also be thousands of new jobs. But there was no overt dissent to these projected changes, reported the Revelstoke Times-Review.

Brent Harley, a consultant, told the group that planning today could minimize potential negative impacts. "There are very few ski resorts in North America with real communities attached to them," he said. "Where there are, those communities do very well."

But who will be the developer of this major new ski resort at the site of what is now a small community ski hill? That is still unclear. The potential developer, Mount MacKenzie Resorts, is negotiating, but reportedly those talks have not gone well. Mediation was reported to be a possibility. However, Revelstoke Mayor Mark McKee said that if this group fails to reach an accord with the current ski area operator, another developer may step in. "We're not prepared to wait one or two more years to get this going," he said. He did not specify who was waiting in the wings.

Park City touts green building

PARK CITY, Utah - Green building techniques are being talked about more frequently in ski towns. A conference on the subject was held in Jackson Hole last spring, and then this fall at Snowmass. Now, Park City's municipal government is conducting a seminar to teach participants about guidelines to that effect.

Some of the topics that are on the seminar's agenda include renewable energy, efficient water use, marketing green homes and an overview of ordinances and guidelines from other communities.

The city government wants to use those guidelines on several new buildings, part of its broader strategy of promoting what is called sustainability.

-compiled by Allen Best





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