S. J. Public Lands goes green

The San Juan National Forest got a little bit greener recently. The Dolores Public Lands Office, located at the end of the Mancos-Dolores cut-off, opened for business in November and boasts many state-of-the-art, energy-efficient features.

The building’s exterior walls are constructed of oriented strand board panels insulated with styrofoam for higher-than-average “R” values. The building’s attics also are insulated, as are the exterior foundation walls, and the concrete floor have moisture barriers. The Dolores office’s heating and cooling equipment and water heaters are rated above 90 percent efficient, the highest available, and all are controlled by automatic thermostats to set temperatures for occupied and nonoccupied times.

Office lighting is designed for general-area lighting, with specific task lighting available in cubicles. Exterior windows are double-paned and insulated with low “E” glass. Windows and exterior doors have thermal breaks to minimize transmission of heat and cold. Entrances use vestibules and double doors, creating additional thermal air breaks. Ceiling fans circulate warmer air. In addition, adjustable window blinds let in winter sunshine and block out summer sunshine, taking advantage of passive solar gains.

But that’s not all. Plumbing uses flow restrictors and minimum-flush devices to conserve water and electricity. On-site sewage treatment and subsurface absorption systems eliminate surface or subsurface water contamination.

Xeriscape is the landscaping rule-of-thumb at the public lands office. Some planted trees have self-contained water bags for individual irrigation, rather than piped water. Other planted areas are irrigated with low-flow sprinkler heads and tree bubblers.

About 80 Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employees, who used to work in several small offices scattered around Dolores, are consolidated in the new facilities, which include an 18,500- square-foot office building and 11,000-square-foot warehouse. A 10-person bunkhouse is expected to be completed sometime this fall.

The almost $6-million project is located on 57 acres acquired by the federal government from the Town of Dolores through a land exchange. In exchange, the town acquired isolated federal parcels within and around the community, including the old Forest Service ware yard, east of Dolores.

Vail wins the ’06-07 ticket race

Durango Mountain Resort is getting left behind in the race for the most expensive lift ticket. Vail Resort, the company that claims to have the best skiing experience in the nation also now boasts the biggest sticker shock. A single-day lift ticket for Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas now costs $85, up from $77 a year ago. DMR by comparison is charging $59 for a single-day lift ticket on most days of the year. This year, there is a special $64 “holiday rate,” which is in effect now through Dec. 31, Jan. 13-15, Feb. 17-19 and March 12-23.

Vail’s nearly $100 ticket is closely followed by the $82 charged by the Aspen Skiing Co. at its trademark Aspen Mountain property. Telluride and Deer Valley share honors for third place at $79.

Meg Campbell, associate professor of marketing at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told The Aspen Times that sticker price does matter, but in a less-than-obvious way. “There is a strong presumption among consumers that price indicates quality and prestige.”

However, the sticker price should not be confused with the bottom line. Despite the rising numbers, it appears that ski areas lose money on their day tickets. The trade magazine Ski Area Management reported that average lift ticket sales were only 60 percent of the actual listed price in 2004. Among big ski areas, it was far less, only 52 percent, and at large ski areas in the Rocky Mountains, it was only 50.1 percent.

Aspen and Vail have had a history for decades of playing off one another. Jerry Jones, who has worked at both, recalls that during the 1980s, when he was at Vail, Vail deliberately waited until Aspen reported its new lift ticket price, then came in a few dollars less.

“We wanted them to take the flak, but we wanted them to raise the price,” Jones told the Times.

LPEA offers lower, off-peak rates

Local eletric customers may be able to take a bite out of growing eletric bills by buying their power during off-peak hours. Last week, La Plata Electric Association announced its WattWatcher “Time-of-Use” program for residential customers. The new “seasonal” on-peak, off-peak periods, which are designed to help customers conserve energy and save money, will take effect Jan. 1.

“Residential Time-of-Use or TOU rates are one way LPEA co-op members can potentially save money on their electric bill,” explained Greg Munro, CEO. “TOU involves separate on-peak and off-peak rates to help balance the electric load. Our records show that TOU customers save between 5 percent and 50 percent over the standard residential rate.”

LPEA’s wholesale power supplier, Tri-State Generation & Transmission, charges LPEA less for purchasing electricity during off-peak hours. LPEA then passes that savings on to customers who have signed up for the WattWatcher program. Under the program, electricity used during off-peak periods costs considerably less than the regular residential rate.

According to Munro, some 4,000 LPEA customers in La Plata and Archuleta counties are participating in the program.

– compiled by Will Sands & Missy Votel