Red McCombs closes Nordic system

Skinny skiing is the latest casualty of plans to develop the Village at Wolf Creek. Last week, developers ordered the Wolf Creek Ski Area to cease and desist grooming its Nordic system, a free service the area has offered the community for the last 30 years.

Wolf Creek has groomed 10 kilometers of cross country trails below the Waterfall Area since the late 1970s. The service has always been offered free of charge to area skiers. However, the majority of the trails also cross lands now owned by Texas developer Red McCombs, courtesy of a 1989 land exchange, land that is slated for the Village at Wolf Creek.

McCombs and his business partner, Bob Honts, have proposed a large-scale development for the meadow near the base of the Alberta Lift. The team wants to build 2,172 new units and more than 220,000 square feet of commercial space, including 12 new restaurants and several hotels. Last week, Honts and McCombs informed Wolf Creek that Nordic skiing would no longer be permitted on their property.

“We were told by the developers that we were to cease and desist grooming those cross-country trails,” explained Michele Ames, spokesman for Wolf Creek. “We’ve always done that as a public service, have done it for decades and have never charged to cover our expenses.”

Considering the meadow will remain undisturbed this winter, Ames said the ski area is perplexed by the cease-and-desist order. “Some portions of the track are on the property, but one would assume they are not using the property at this moment. One would assume that the activity could have continued this winter, but apparently that’s not going to be the case.”

Meanwhile, the opposition received word that no construction will take place on the Village at Wolf Creek until their lawsuit is heard in court. The developers and Colorado Wild struck an agreement early this week to postpone any work or new permits until the case, which challenges Forest Service approval of two access roads, is decided.

Last week, the Forest Service issued a permit to McCombs and Honts to extend a road to the proposed development. However, Colorado Wild immediately fired back and obtained a temporary restraining order, blocking construction or new permits for the village. Early this week, an agreement with the developers extended that restraining order until May of 2007.

“What this agreement requires is that we preserve the status quo until the court gets a chance to hear our case,” said Ryan Bidwell, executive director of Colorado Wild. “Nothing can happen on the ground up there. The Forest Service and the developer can’t go forward and acquire new permits for the project.”

Bidwell concluded that he hopes the court case is resolved by next May, and if not, the group will seek an extension. Developer Bob Honts did not return theDurango Telegraph’sphone calls.


Purgatory sets new opening date

Durango Mountain Resort is hoping that 10 days will make all the difference. After lack of snow forced the ski area to postpone its Nov. 22, all eyes are now on Dec. 2. The 14th annual Benefit Day is set for that day with the official Opening Day for the 2006-07 winter season following on Dec. 3.

Benefit Day offers $10 lift tickets for children and $15 lift tickets for adults with this year’s proceeds going to the newly formed Durango Winter Sports Foundation. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Although DMR received nearly 2 feet of snow last week, a warm front rolled through shortly after and prevented effective snowmaking. The hope is that by Dec. 2, winter will have arrived in the region.

“The decision to push back Benefit Day and Opening Day will allow us to have more terrain with better conditions available for our guests,” says Hank Thiess, president of resort operations. “We think Mother Nature will cooperate with us later next week and help our snowmaking efforts with additional snowfall.”

Over the past 10 years, Purgatory has delayed its opening three times, and in spite of the delay, the resort has received 55 inches of snow since September, well above last year when less than a foot of snow was recorded during the same period.


LPEA’s rates start to climb

The price of plugging in will be going up. Last week, La Plata Electric Association’s Board of Directors gave preliminary approval for an average electric rate increase of 6 percent, and average customers are expected to see a $5 increase in their monthly bills.

The rise in rates is a direct result of wholesale power rate increases of 12.8 percent from Tri-State Generation & Transmission, from which LPEA purchases its electric power. Though LPEA has tightened operating budgets and is able to absorb some of Tri-State’s increase, approximately $4.4 million in additional funds is needed to maintain reliable electric service to LPEA customers.

“Gasoline prices have soared. Heating oil and natural gas prices are taking flight. The last thing our members want to hear is more bad news about their energy costs,” said Greg Munro, LPEA CEO. “Despite the best efforts of electric co-ops across the country to hold the line, the monthly electric bills are unfortunately heading up.”

According to Munro, Tri-State is raising rates to LPEA for a variety of reasons, the two most significant being the rapidly growing demand for power and the construction of new electric power-generation plants to meet that demand.


Discounted drugs land in the county

La Plata County residents are getting a nice break at the pharmacy. Last week, La Plata County launched a discount card program to help consumers cope with the high price of prescription drugs. Free prescription drug discount cards are available, under a program sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo). The cards offer an average savings of 20 percent off the retail price of commonly prescribed drugs and can be used by all county residents and are accepted at all county pharmacies.

“The NACo prescription discount card offers significant savings for the uninsured and underinsured residents of our county, and even those fortunate to have prescription coverage can use the card to save money on drugs that are not covered by their health plan,” said County Commissioner Sheryl Ayers. “Residents do not have to be Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries to be eligible for this program.”

Cards are available at the La Plata County Courthouse Information Desk, the La Plata County Human Services Department, Manna Soup Kitchen and at the order counter of many of the participating pharmacies. For assistance with the program, call (877) 321-2652.


Reward for lynx poachers raised

Redoubling the effort to bring about the arrest of those responsible for killing two Canada lynx near Durango, the Humane Society of the United States committed $2,500 to an existing reward fund. With that commitment, the total reward for information leading to the arrest of the poachers now stands at $7,500. Information can be given anonymously through the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Operation Game Thief program.

Colin Barry, Colorado State Program Coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States said, “Someone has information about these deaths, and we urge them to come forward, not just for the sake of the two slain lynx, but for the protection of the entire species.”

Tips on the lynx killings can be made anonymously through the Operation Game Thief hotline at (877) 265-6648. For further information on the recent lynx killings, please visit the Colorado Division of Wildlife website.

– compiled by Will Sands


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