Aspen boasts $20 bowl of soup

ASPEN - A bowl of soup for $20? That's the price at Aspen's newest, and most expensive, restaurant. A filet mignon at the same restaurant, Manrico by Massimo Masciaga, costs $58. There are two set menus, from five courses for $175 per person to eight courses for $275. Wine is included.

"It's probably the most expensive menu in town, but you get what you're paying for. The food is world-class," sommelier Tim Morseon told The Aspen Times . The menu is described as "fine dining Italian with French influence."

Also from The Aspen Times comes news that new fractional shares at the St. Regis Residence Club have been selling rapidly. The cost of a four-week membership ranges from $300,000 to $1.5 million. About half of the 275 fractional shares have been sold so far at the five-star hotel, which is located in downtown Aspen just a few blocks f ro m the gondola.

Officials seek cloud-seeding proof

CRESTED BUTTE - Having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during the last several years in cloud-seeding, officials with various agencies in the Gunnison-Crested Butte area are starting to ask for scientific proof that cloud-seeding works.

To that end, a member of the board of directors for a water conservancy district there recently suggested that scientists at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, which is located near Crested Butte at the old mining town of Gothic, be enlisted to look for silver iodide in snow. Silver iodide is the most commonly used nuclei put into the atmosphere in an attempt to induce snowfall.

Alas, scientists at the lab say that they don't have the equipment to do this, and even if they did the presence of silver iodide would not necessarily prove that cloud seeding has increased snowfall.

Indeed, the scientific evidence is slim that cloud-seeding is effective, noted Salida-based Colorado Central magazine last year. A national report issued a year ago concluded that evidence for summer cloud-seeding is marginal, at best. Much better evidence exists for the effectiveness of seeding clouds to induce snow. Most of that evidence, however, comes from a series of experiments conducted near Leadville in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Those federally funded experiments had control groups, whereas most "evidence" collected since then has been gathered from cloud-seeding operations that lack control groups. Atmospheric scientists are lobbying for broader, watershed-scale research into the effectiveness of winter cloud-seeding.

Developer spins gated community

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - Here's a new argument for gated communities. By erecting gates, developers can charge more for the real estate they build. By charging more for real estate, they can more readily subsidize affordable housing.

That's the logic in a nutshell in the Truckee-North Shore area where the issue of gated communities has, at least temporarily, hit the flashpoint. The Tahoe World explains that the local planning commissioners want to deny the developer of a project called Highlands Village to erect a gate. The developer, T. Nahas Co., is appealing the decision to the county supervisors. But in something of an unusual twist, the homeowners association is also intervening - against the developer.

As in most resort areas, gated communities are becoming abundant around Lake Tahoe, and more are planned. Among the new projects where gates are permitted is the 462-unit, golf-course subdivision called Eaglewood. Also scheduled to get gates is the Siller Ranch, which includes two golf courses and 726 residential units.

Revelstoke ski deal in the works

REVELSTOKE, B.C. - A deal that could result in a major destination ski resort at Revelstoke is reported to be near. "I'm extremely optimistic that we'll have a deal," Revelstoke Mayor Mark McKee told the Revelstoke Times Review .

Three parties have been negotiating for months over rights to develop the city's existing ski area, Mount MacKenzie. British Columbia's provincial agency in charge of natural resources granted conditional approval. Full approval depends upon agreement among the existing operator of a Sno-cat skiing operation, the would-be developer, and the city itself, which owns 69 acres on the mountain.

The role of a mediator was believed to be instrumental in unkinking the stalled negotiations.

Boulder creates global warming tax

BOULDER - Boulder is taking global warming seriously. The City Council is nearly tripling the tax on trash collection. More than half the added money, $468,000 per year, will be allocated to efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, primary reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings. The balance of the money will go toward traditional recycling programs.

A university town as well as one of the world's leading centers for climate change research, Boulder adopted the Kyoto Treaty in 2002, one of the few U.S. cities to do so. The treaty seeks to phase in reductions in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The United States rejected the treaty.

Dissenters said the city needed to worry first about restoring city services that have been cut significantly in the last several years when sales tax revenues slackened.

Cold snap hits mountain towns

ASPEN - Global warming? Not in late November, when cold-weather records tumbled in mountain towns of Colorado, provoking lots of stories that inevitably carried the expression "brrr." If not a record, Aspen's temperature slid to 12 below zero. Meanwhile, people started using the phrase "ice box" once again to describe Gunnison, located the next valley over. Probably some well-worn comparisons, mostly unused in recent years, were also heard, as in "colder than a banker's heart."

Coalition helps immigrants adapt

ROARING FORK VALLEY - A coalition of 80 groups has been given seed money to boost efforts to help immigrants adapt to life in the United States and participate more fully in the communities where they live.

The mission is relatively simple, explained Steve Kaufman, speaking for various groups from Aspen to Parachute, a distance of about 90 miles. Immigrants are there, so how do they and everybody else live together? The project isn't meant to tackle tougher, broader issues, such as federal immigration policy.

Aspen's economic sphere during the 1990s gained immigrants at a much more rapid pace than many other regions. Census Bureau data suggests a 283 percent increase in legal immigrants into the valley during the decade, compared to 160 percent overall in Colorado.

The Colorado Trust has given the coalition of groups a $5,000 grant, with the potential that funding could reach $305,000. The coalition of groups are starting smart, meeting with individuals, then small groups such as city councils before eventually conducting community-wide meetings. Five of the 18 people who regularly show up for steering committee meetings are Latinos.

Banff's ski business moving west

BANFF, Alberta - The ski areas in Banff National Park have been losing business even as those on the western side of the Continental Divide in British Columbia have been gaining.

"The interior of B.C. saw a growth of 100,000 skiers last year; our decline was 80,0000 said Crosbie Cotton, director of the National Parks Ski Association. In all, he said, skier days in Banff have dropped 35 percent in the last 5 years. "Panorama, Kicking Horse, Sun Peaks, Silverstar B.C.'s open for business," he said.

Cotton gave several reasons for the slide in Banff, which is located in Alberta. The B.C. government has set out to aggressively grow the tourism component of the economy. Transportation is improving, with the Cranbrook airport potentially being expanded to accommodate charter jets. As well, increasing numbers of Canadians are heading to the U.S. to ski. At least in Alberta, the belief is that American ski operators are using real estate sales to subsidize the ski product.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that, at a Banff National Park Planning Forum held in late November, the financial picture of the ski areas in Banff was portrayed as weak or worse. Marmot Basin in Jasper has lost money in the last two years, Lake Louise is just emerging from bankruptcy protection, and Sunshine has taken on more debt. Operators of Norquay, which was created in 1926, making it the oldest ski resort in Banff, "have not taken a penny out of the operation and cannot recapitalize." It is described as the most at-risk resort.

Also blamed for the financial instability of the resorts are regulations imposed four years ago that mandate 15-year long-range plans. Cotton said that each ski area could spend $500,000 to $1 million "to do a plan with unknown results."

Steamboat pushes second language

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS - Several years ago, a group of parents volunteered to pay for instruction of Spanish to third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders at two elementary schools in Steamboat Springs. Now, the school board is being asked to consider comprehensive, seamless kindergarten-through-12th-grade foreign-language instruction. Spanish seems to be front and center in this discussion, although there is also some instruction of students in French, even at the sixth-grade level.

Why the push? A school official, Kelly Stanford, said second-language instruction improves critical-thinking skills and also teaches a respect for other languages. But the changing demographics of the Steamboat area, where Latinos are starting to move in large numbers, underscores the relevance of an expanded foreign-language program. "When you look at our community and our country, there's a greater need for bilingual people," said teacher Jud Ross.

Rewards for tree preservation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Landowners who leave forests standing will be rewarded by California. The goal in this program of the California Climate Action Registry seeks to keep carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, in trees and out of the atmosphere.

The Associated Press notes that California loses 60,000 acres of forest to development annually. That's the equivalent to 2.5 million new cars going on the roads every year. The article did not say how the landowners will be rewarded.

- compiled by Allen Best





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