Aspen suicide rate above average

ASPEN - In addition to Hunter Thompson, four other people have taken their lives this year in Pitkin County, where Aspen is located. In fact, Pitkin County and adjoining Garfield County, where many of Aspen's workers live, have suicide rates well above state and national averages. Eagle County, where Vail is located, is in line with the national average.

"Everyone likes to talk about 'quality of life' around here, and the emphasis is on having fun, skiing, partying, going to restaurants, arts and music," Jeff Kremer, programming director for the Aspen Counseling Center, told The Aspen Times. "But the truth is, there is a dark side that this community hasn't been overly eager to talk about."

The Aspen Valley Medical Foundation is planning a conference in June to address substance abuse, depression and suicide.

As for Thompson, his suicide provoked comment from across the world, as scores of writers revealed how his writing had strongly influenced them and motivated them to seek "truth" instead of merely operating a conveyor line of facts. As for the family members - he shot himself when his son, grandson and daughter-in-law were nearby - they said they're fine with his suicide and the manner in which he did it, if saddened by his absence. His widow said the same thing.

Tiger Woods buys into Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. - Professional golfer Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin, have purchased land in a gated community in Jackson Hole, spurring new interest in the project, which is called South Park. Lots there list for $1.2 million to $4.5 million.

A prerequisite for Woods was a good airport, but he also was drawn by the flyfishing as well as the privacy afforded by the layout of the golf course adjacent to his property. His wife is drawn to the skiing, real estate representatives told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Brokers outstrip listings in Eagle

EAGLE VALLEY - The real estate boom is of such magnitude in the Vail-dominated Eagle Valley that there are now more real estate brokers, 670, than there are residential listings, 569. That's only a third of the normal inventory

"Properties don't stay on the market very long at all. Sometimes it's a matter of hours," said Jim McVey of Slifer, Smith & Frampton, the valley's largest real estate firm. Another broker, Michael Slevin, said some buyers are so eager that they make offers without actually setting foot on the properties - Internet virtual tours are enough. The average sales price during January was $687,000, reports the Vail Daily. Last year, more than $2.2 billion in real estate was sold in Eagle County.

Giant trophy home fined $500,000

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. - Can you imagine people for whom $500,000 is no more than a nuisance? That is the story described in Jackson Hole, where a couple surreptitiously built a house to a size 3,000 square feet more than allowed by county law. As such, it's now 13,000 square feet.

Although a judge fined the homeowners $500,000, he allowed the illegal expansion to remain intact. Teton County is now appealing that decision, and the Jackson Hole News & Guide says it should. "A fine even as large as a few hundred thousand dollars is meaningless to the superwealthy," said the newspaper. The only message such folks will understand is when ordered to remove the illegal expansion, added the paper.

Granby to destroy famous bulldozer

GRANBY - Joining Grand County officials, the Granby Town Board wants to destroy the bulldozer used in the rampage that gutted or damaged 13 buildings last June. The only dissenting voice is the local historical association, which urges a longer view.

"I think it should be destroyed," said one trustee at a recent meeting. "I think it should be destroyed," said another. "Get rid of it, destroy it," said another as the Granby town trustees worked their way toward a unanimous vote.

Marvin Heemeyer had encased the seating area of the 70-ton bulldozer with plate steel and concrete, then outfitted himself with three guns, video cameras, firing ports and a ventilator. In all, it took him seven months to build. He culminated his rampage against his supposed enemies by committing suicide.

Aspen locals head down to Basalt

BASALT - The New York Times got the story at least half right. In profiling Basalt, a town about 18 miles down-valley from Aspen, the newspaper noted that it is attracting the same type of outdoorsy people that Aspen lured 20 years ago. In fact, Basalt is attracting many of the exact same people who moved to Aspen 20 years ago, added The Aspen Times parenthetically.

But another echo has also begun. Basalt is also attracting New Yorkers who don't want to bump into the same New Yorkers in Aspen that they bump into while on the elevators in Manhattan.

Breck hangs tough on biodiesel

BRECKENRIDGE - Town officials in Breckenridge say they have not given up on a 20 percent biodiesel fuel, despite two bad batches that caused them to revert back to more conventional full-petroleum-based diesel.

"We operate on the premise that the use of biodiesel is a priority in Breckenridge, and that we can - and should - maintain a leadership position and make every effort to continue with its use," Dan Bell, the assistant public works director, told the Summit Daily News.

Jim Lamb, a town councilor, added, "It's a bump in the road. We will get it straightened out."

Bark beetle population fluctuates

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS - Populations of bark beetles that feed on spruce trees appear to be waning and those that feed on lodgepole pine appear to be waxing in the Routt National Forest.

What this means for the Steamboat Ski Area is that the threat to trees in the upper elevations, where spruce trees are generally found, now appears to be diminished, but the lower slopes are more vulnerable. However, the Forest Service and ski area have been working on improving the health of the forests since 1999, reports The Steamboat Pilot.

Town tries to be the next Banff

GOLDEN, B.C. - Golden, a town along the TransCanada Highway just west of the Continental Divide. needs to do a better job of telling the outside world of its considerable virtues, says a prominent tourism promoter there.

"We need someone who can get the word out to the world and market us properly," said Barbara Friedli. She also wants expanded funding for tourism promotion. The Golden Transcript notes that an existing bed tax is levied, but only a minor amount is funneled back to local promotional efforts, with the bulk instead going to regional and provincial promotions.

Can Golden be more like Banff and Canmore without becoming more like them? In response to that koan-sounding question, Friedli says yes - Golden won't be like them. But just the same, she wants to make Golden one of Canada's premier tourist destinations and put the town on the world map.

- compiled by Allen Best




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