Big winter draws to abrupt end

PARK CITY, Utah - Storms of plenty during early January receded to endless days of sun in March, as a big winter has turned average in some places, while in others an average winter has gone seriously bad.

"We had 9 feet of snow during January," said Myles Rademan, director of public affairs for the municipality in Park City. "Now, look at these hillsides," he said last week, pointing to a slope now barren of snow. "Normally, there should be snow there."

The more southerly resorts of the West did even better. Even as Los Angeles drowned in rainstorms, ski areas in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado frolicked in storm after pounding storm. That was then. "Not a flake during March," reported The Telluride Watch's Seth Cagin, where the ski season has three weeks yet to go. However, nobody is talking drought, he reports.

Not so in Vail. There, the upper Eagle River Valley snow depths were only at 80 percent of average going into March. The conditions are eerily reminiscent of conditions in 2002, which ended up being the worst drought in 300 years in many parts of the Colorado Rockies.

To the north, Wyoming's Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is having the driest winter in five years, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

In Idaho, Bogus Basin, located near Boise, has already closed, while Brundage, located near McCall, was expected to close this weekend. In Ketchum, Sun Valley remains up and running, thanks to snowmaking, but the snowpack in the Big Wood River Basin is only 58 percent of average. The Idaho Mountain Express reports mountain bike trails have opened.

Many of these reports are suggestive of how scientists describe winters influenced by global warming: shorter and warmer.

Avalanche control system installed

REVELSTOKE, B.C. - A state-of-the-art remote-controlled system called Avalanche Guard has been installed on the TransCanada Highway 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Revelstoke.

"Because crews can trigger the explosives by remote control, rather than by helicopter, we'll be able to activate a controlled avalanche in poor weather conditions, day or night, even if the visibility is bad," explained Kevin Falcon, a transportation minister.

The system in British Columbia cost $943,000 (US $782,000). The same technology has been used in Europe for several years, as well as Alaska, Washington and Wyoming.

The slide path east of Revelstoke, called the Laurie, has run every three or four years. When it ran two winters ago, it damaged two large trucks beyond repair and closed the highway for more than two days.

10th Mountain ski pioneer dies

COPPER MOUNTAIN - Clif Taylor, a 10th Mountain Division veteran who went on to play an important role in skiing, has died at the age of 83.

Taylor taught skiing after World War II at Aspen and then Vermont's Mad River Glen and Hog Back. But even in the 1950s, he was insistent that skiing could be most successfully taught by using short skis. He called his instructional program the graduated length method, as he took beginners to parallel skiing by using first 3, then 4 and finally 5-foot skis.

The Professional Ski Instructors Association rejected his system, although he lived long enough to be able to say, "I told you so." Nowadays, of course, short skis are all the rage, for experienced skiers as well as newbies.

Taylor lived for about 15 years at Copper Mountain, near where he had trained at Camp Hale during the war. He was among the 1,200 men who scaled the cliffs Riva Ridge in the dark in the prelude to the decisive Battle of Belvedere. Also among those Riva Ridge climbers was Pete Seibert, who founded Vail.

Luxury hotel pitched for Telluride

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE - A new hotel plan, somewhat different than the old hotel plan, has been hatched for land adjacent to the ski slopes at Telluride.

Former ski company owner Ron Allred had envisioned a luxury hotel in two separate developments linked by a gondola. The site in question is not currently accessed by road. He expected that supplies would be taken to the hotel by snow cat. The current ski area owners, the Horning family, are thinking the luxury hotel needs a road.

Whether by gondola or road, however, both ideas anticipated that more short-term rentals are needed in Telluride. Like most every other ski area, the real estate business has been booming, but the tourism business has been no better than so-so, explains The Telluride Watch. To help buy down the infrastructure costs of the hotel, however, several expensive homes are also planned in conjunction with the hotel.

International visitation boosts Vail

AVON-Bouyed by a 21 percent increase in international visits during January, Vail Resorts reported a healthy profit for early winter operations. The company owns five ski areas in Colorado, one in California and a lodge in Jackson Hole, among other properties.

Although skier visits overall were up only 1.7 percent during early winter, international visitors tend to pay higher prices for lift tickets and more frequently stay at lodges, helping to boost Vail's profits.

Altogether, Vail has a substantially reduced debt from the same time last year. Net income was $32.2 million, compared to a loss of $6.7 million for the same second quarter last year. Part of the company's successes were expanded real estate offerings at Vail, where the company is launching a base-area redevelopment project that is expected to ultimately cost $500 million.

In a conference call with analysts, Vail CEO Adam Aron indicated interest in buying shares in Mammoth Mountain, but pointed out that Intrawest Corp, which already owns 60 percent of the resort, has the first right of refusal on the remaining stock.

Goodtimes sees fluoride conspiracy

TELLURIDE - In the 1950s, the John Birch Society and other right-thinkers claimed that fluoridation of public water supplies was a Communist plot.

They got it half right, says Art Goodtimes, a left-leaning county commissioner in Telluride. Instead, it was a corporate plot. After reading The Fluoride Deception, by Christopher Bryson, Goodtimes reports he has completely changed his mind about what he had thought was a chemical that had been proven safe. Fluoride is, in fact, damaging to human health, he reports, and it was a corporate scam abetted by unscrupulous scientists from even major and otherwise credible nonprofit organizations that caused it to be introduced into public drinking supplies.

After considerable discussion, Telluride last year got rid of fluoride, and similar talk has occurred in several other mountain towns.

Aspen takes on peer pressure issues

ASPEN - Not every kid in Aspen is smoking pot and getting drunk, according to a new advertising campaign being sponsored by several organizations in Aspen.

The campaign is premised on a concept called "social norming." The idea is that people will try to do what they think others are doing, for better or worse. Hence, if they think everyone else is abusing substances, they will, too. If they think others are leading healthy lifestyles, they will, also.

The Aspen Times says that a survey of local high school students conducted two years ago revealed that a vast majority said they don't binge drink or drink and drive.

Banff bears down on its garbage

BANFF, Alberta - Although still hibernating, bears are back in the headlines in Banff. Last fall, they got into garbage seven times, more than had occurred in a good number of years. With that in mind, both town and Banff National Park officials say it's time to step up enforcement of laws that require commercial operators to maintain bear-proof garbage containers.

The Rock Mountain Outlook explains that bear interactions with people and garbage were common during the 1970s and 1980s, with the consequences that several bears were killed. After the community dump was sealed and bear-proof containers were required, the bears disappeared.

- compiled by Allen Best




News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index