Coors pitches new snowboard area

ST. MARY’S GLACIER – Another small ski area near a major metropolitan area is back on the drafting table.

Mike Coors, the 24-year-old son of the chief executive officer of Coors Tek, and two other investors are trying to rev up operations at St. Mary’s Glacier, located 9 miles from Interstate 70. They are proposing a terrain park that they believe could attract up to 250 snowboarders on any given day.

No plans have formally been submitted to officials in Clear Creek County, although neighbors tell theRocky Mountain News that they are up in arms about the proposal, fearing impacts of traffic, snowmaking machines and even the loss of water. Coors told newspapers of plans for a 270-acre terrain park. His group paid $1.65 million for the property.

St. Mary’s Glacier was used for commercial skiing sporadically from the 1930s to 1984. It had a T-bar but little else. A permanent snowfield and not a true glacier, it has been shrinking rapidly in recent years.

This is the second small ski area being revised within an hour’s drive of Denver. Echo Mountain Park, previously called Squaw Pass, has opened for business after an investment of $4.7 million.

In both cases, the model seems to be Mountain High, a small ski area in the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking Los Angeles that has been doing big numbers in the last several years. Mountain High appeals to younger Gen X and Echo Generation snowboarders who need less space for tricks in half-pipes and terrain parks. Mountain High also draws an unusually large number of ethnic minorities as compared to most ski areas, reflecting the trends of the general population.


Jackson looks at life after tram

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The 40-year-old tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is scheduled to be disassembled next spring, and it’s unclear what will replace it.

Officials at the ski area say their first option is a $25 million replacement tram. That tram would carry up to 520 skiers per hour, 160 more than the existing tram. A second option is a shorter, smaller tram with a somewhat smaller price tag of $16.6 million.

A third option is a gondola at a cost of $15.6 million. While it would reach the top of the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Peak, high winds would prevent its use 20 percent of the time.

But key to any of this, says the Kemmerer family, which has owned Jackson Hole for the last 13 years, is public funding. The family does not want to take on private investors because of what a resort spokesman described as operational reasons. Instead, Jackson Hole has enlisted local business and government leaders, as well as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., to solicit money from local, state and federal governments. The resort is willing to spend only $5 million of its own money.

Jerry Blann, president of the ski area, told theJackson Hole News & Guide that the ski area has been a major loss for the Kemmers. They have invested $56 million for improvements, getting an annual return that has averaged only $27,000. The resort is selling a 3-acre parcel at the ski area base for $10 million in order to proceed with a tram replacement and other on-mountain improvements.


Early season smiles on Front Range

CARBONDALE – Early season skiing is being described as among the best ever in Vail, Steamboat and several other resorts in Colorado.

The amount of snowfall would suggest the descriptions could be correct. Vail, for example, was reporting 141 cumulative inches of snow at the top as of Dec. 5, surpassing the previous record set in autumn 1985.

School closings also seem to confirm the unusual nature of this winter’s start. Mountain districts rarely close, but schools closed for the first time in eight years in the Roaring Fork School District, located down-valley from Aspen. Schools also closed in the South Routt School District, south of Steamboat Springs.

Unlike eight years ago, when the Internet was not yet in broad use, parents this time got explanations of the closings by e-mail. The advance notice was by radio.

Because there are no radio broadcasts in Spanish in the very early mornings, school officials are trying to figure out how to inform parents in the burgeoning Spanish-speaking community.


Park City ponders smoke-free night

PARK CITY, Utah – Because of the Mormon influence, Utah has a reputation for the straight-laced and narrow. Liquor, while available, is tightly prescribed. Ironically, when it comes to tobacco use, Utah seems to be more libertine than others.

To wit, several Park City bars and restaurants are tepidly experimenting with the concept of a smoke-free evening. No, not a smoke-free day, but a smoke-free evening.

One bar owner, Jesse Shetler, toldThe Park Record what while his business is participating in the smoke-free evening, that doesn’t mean it’s headed in that direction. Curiously, he also owns a restaurant that is smoke-free. He insists on the right of self-determination.

The trend elsewhere goes in the opposite direction. In Colorado’s Summit County, smoking is banned at all bars and restaurants. Voters in Eagle County also banned smoking, although the individual towns have not. Ten states have banned smoking in bars and restaurants, as have the countries of Italy, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and New Zealand.


Four escape avalanche in Wasatch

PARK CITY, Utah – Four skiers playing in the backcountry between the Brighton ski area and Park City survived a major avalanche that was 600 feet wide and 5 feet deep.

The skiers, who ranged in age from 45 to 59, had skied the Wasatch Range for decades. They were well prepared, as they had probes, shovels and beacons, but admitted to a lapse in judgment. “We usually play it conservatively,” one of the skiers, Jane Arhart, toldThe Park Record. “We were stupid today.”

Two of the skiers were partially buried, and collectively the group lost five skis and six poles.


Banff grapples with growth limits

BANFF, Alberta – Banff continues to grapple with a notion that most would find strange, if perhaps admirable. Growth is capped.

The town is located within Banff National Park, and in 1998 the federal government ruled there would be no expansion. All 350,000 square feet of commercial development then authorized has been distributed, although only a third has been used. The question for Banff residents has become whether to try get around this growth cap.

Sentiments expressed at a recent public meeting suggest Banff wants to live within its existing britches, reports theRocky Mountain Outlook.

This is not a unanimous opinion, however. Some think that this growth cap will leave Banff steadily more elitist. The town government plans to do a study next year that plots economic trends. The town planning director, Randall Mckay, is firmly of the opinion that Banff will thrive, not stagnate, as a result of this growth cap.


Glacier National Park claims hiker

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont. – While Glacier National Park may be more famous for its stories of grizzly bears attacking hikers, the leading cause of death is drowning.

Another victim was added to that roll recently when a 40-year-old hiker, Dennis Brooks, fell into McDonald Creek and drowned.The Whitefish Pilot explains that the man, ignoring several signs that warned of the danger, had been hopping from boulder to boulder when a small bit of moisture caused him to lose his balance.

Since 1913, at least 52 people have drowned in Glacier, according to Park Service records.


Skiing hardest on middle aged men

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Who do you think has the highest risk for getting injured when skiing and snowboarding? Would you say old people, or what a newspaper in Vail once called skeezers? Or how about testosterone-driven young guys?

Neither, reports a physical therapist at Lake Tahoe, who cites a recent study that shows 40-year-old males are most at risk. They have the desire to take risks, but their joints won’t hold up.

–  compiled by Allen Best


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January 25, 2024
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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows