Funicular makes Telluride debut

TELLURIDE – A funicular, based on old, old technology, is being applied in a relatively new setting, the slopes of Telluride. There, the finishing touches are being put on the rail-based system that will allow skiers to get back to Bear Creek Lodge without walking.

Funiculars are sometimes also called cogged railways. Among the best-known in the West is found at Colorado’s Royal Gorge and Pikes Peak, although others are found in Los Angeles and elsewhere. They are relatively common in the Swiss Alps.

The cars operate on the principle of the pully, with the weight of one car on the uphill track drawing against the weight of the car on the downhill track, and vice versa. Think of it as an elevator laid sideways on a hill. Beaver Creek about a decade ago considered a funicular to ferry people the two miles from Avon, in the valley bottom to the base village. Vail Resorts eventually opted for a gondola.


Only one Stone rolls into Banff

BANFF, Alberta – The Rolling Stones played Calgary, and rumor had it that they were going to play in Banff.

Mick, Keith and Charlie didn’t show, but Ron Wood, at age 58 the youngest member of the band, did.The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that he stayed at nearby Lake Louise and came into town several times to party.

Dressed in red leather pants and a bright blue T-shirt, he was surrounded by star-struck young women and a tight web of security. Smoking cigarette after cigarette in the no-smoking bar, he had a few drinks and danced in the corner, giving the performing band a standing ovation.

One of the star-struck fans, Hana Sacharuk, who partied with Wood until his departure around 1:15 a.m., was blown away by her once-in-a-lifetime chance to spend time with the legendary guitarist. “He’s the most amazing man I’ve ever met,” she gushed. “He’s generous, hot, sweet, loving. He only cares about people.”

Wyoming wildlife gets big break

PINEDALE, Wyo. – About the only sure thing to slow down drivers in areas of deer, elk and other wildlife is a dead animal on the road. Signs don’t do it, and neither do blinking lights.

But a new system being deployed near Pinedale, 77 miles south of Jackson, is at the cutting edge. There, two types of sensors, motion and presence, have been installed. When deer and pronghorn antelope are moving through the area, they trigger the sensors, causing lights to flash to alert approaching motorists.

The six flashing signs say, “Deer on Road When Flashing” in size zones. However, the system activates only in the zones where the animals are detected, but not in the other five zones, reports theJackson Hole News & Guide.

The area had the most vehicle-wildlife collisions in Wyoming during the last 20 years. Wildlife officials estimate 3,000 mule deer and 2,000 pronghorn migrate through the area each year.

Meanwhile, state traffic engineers are considering installing wildlife underpasses along two highways in Jackson Hole. “It’s going to become a standard practice when we know there’s a migration route,” explained John Eddins, district engineer.

Hybrid buses to appear in Aspen

ASPEN – Roaring Fork Transit Authority, which operates buses on the 45-mile route from Aspen to Glenwood and beyond, is investing in four diesel-electric hybrid buses.

It’s a gamble. The buses cost $585,000 each, compared to $350,000 each for standard issue. However, they emit less carbon dioxide and are quieter. In addition, transportation industry reports allege a 20 to 30 percent increase in mileage, although the bus agency’s director of maintenance, Kenny Osier, says he won’t vouch for that. “I say don’t even go there,” he told theAspen Times. “Buy it for those other reasons.”

Dan Blankenship, the agency’s director, note’s that it’s a cutting-edge project – one that could hurt. “There’s sometimes a very fine line between a leading edge and a bleeding edge,” he said.

Vail considers biomass plant

VAIL – Vail is the latest mountain town to begin talking about creating a biomass plant, using trees felled in local forests by pine beetles to create heat for local businesses and lodges.

Helping spur the talk is a former mayor, Ludwig Kurz, who grew up in Austria. There, in the resort town of Lech, a biomass plant was created in 1999 in response to a swelling bark beetle epidemic. It now supplies 90 percent of the village heat.

There are suggestions that Holy Cross Energy, a power supplier in the Vail area, might be willing to collaborate in some way, as it is a leader in promoting renewable energy.

One thought is that Vail may wait to see how biomass shakes out in nearby Summit County, which is planning to create a biomass plant of its own. “We can learn from them without paying their costs,” said Matt Scherr, a director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability.

Price of the hereafter going up

CRESTED BUTTE – Land prices have been skyrocketing at Crested Butte. Now, the Town Council wants to jack up prices of the hereafter.

It’s a grave matter, this business of slicing and dicing the wildflower-strewn cemetery. And at the current rate of sales, the cemetery will be out of space in 16 years.

Faced with that pickle, the town is considering that old development trick of subdivide, subdivide, subdivide. Currently, the town sells only family-sized plots, 22 feet by 11 feet. They only cost $250. A new plan being considered by the council would jack up the cost for that big plot, large enough for six caskets, to $1,250, while creating a new single-casket site for $250.

While the mathematics of all this seem to make sense, several council members report that the town’s old-timers are crosswise with the idea, as they figured the cemetery would be the one thing that they could count on to never change.

Hauler caught trashing recyclables

PARK CITY, Utah – For years, critics of trash disposal company BFI (recently renamed Allied Waste Service) have suspected that the company secretly dumped materials designated for recycling in the county landfill, instead of hauling it to be recycled.

A photograph of a BFI truck dumping recyclable cardboard at a landfill near Park City confirms their worse fears.

BFI confirmed dumping the cardboard in the landfill, but manager Rick Schultz called it an isolated instance, provoked by an unexpected volume of cardboard from one particular business. The truck that was used to collect the cardboard apparently can’t make it across the pass that separates Park City from Salt Lake City, where the recycling center is located.

 Summit County pays the company $94,000 per month for recycling and trash pickup. At least some county officials think it’s time the county got into the trash-hauling business itself.

Sundance commits to Park City

PARK CITY, Utah – The Sundance Film Festival has agreed to stay in Park City through 2018 and potentially for a decade beyond that. In addition, the film festival is moving its headquarters from Salt Lake City, located 30 miles away, to Park City.

Park City’s government and chamber will collectively give the film festival $380,000 each year. Even so, Sundance is likely to lose money on the deal, as it currently gets $500,000 from Salt Lake City.

The business community estimates the film festival, which is held in January, generates $36.5 million in economic activity in Park City. The film festival has 30 year-round employees, a number that grows to 100 when the festival is held in January.

Backcountry group takes on motors

SUMMIT COUNTY – A chapter of the Backcountry Snowsports Alliance is forming in Summit County with the hope of keeping noisy, motorized intrusions at bay.

“I just want to try and protect a little piece of a big pie,” said 30-year resident Scott Toepfer, an avalanche forecaster. “There’s really been a reduction in places where I can pursue my passion, which is quiet, nonmotorized use,” he added. “The ski areas are encroaching, snowmobiles are encroaching … There are fewer and fewer places to go.”

– compiled by Allen Best


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows