Green energy set for 2010 Olympics

WHISTLER, B.C. – Engineers in Whistler are proposing to heat and electrify the 2010 Winter Olympics Athletes’ Village with energy extracted from the town’s sewer system and a decommissioned landfill. They say costs will be competitive with traditional energy sources.

The Municipal Council is “excited about this,” says Mayor Ken Melamed. “It’s consistent with our sustainability commitment to green building energy conservation.”

Old landfills, because of the decaying matter within, emit methane gas. Methane is 21 times more capable of holding atmospheric heat than the more common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The former landfill is Whistler’s largest single source of greenhouse gases.

The plan being readied by town officials calls for burning the gas, in turn generating heat and electricity for the sewage treatment plant and the athletes’ village. The landfill has an estimated 15 years of gas, but that will be more than enough to pay back the cost of the installation, says Brian Barnett, the municipality’s general manager of public works.

The second component is the town’s sewage system. The plan is to tap the heat of the sewage effluent through heat exchangers.

Both sources of heat will then be distributed through what is called a district energy system, in which pipes carry warmed water into the buildings.

Such energy systems are called “green” because they result in fewer pollutants being spewed into the air than by burning coal or natural gas. In many cases, they are far more expensive than conventional sources.

The estimated cost for the athletes’ village is $130 million. Cost of the green energy infrastructure is $4 million. While various groups must still officially approve it, town officials expect construction to start next summer.

Whistler in the longer-term hopes to heat more of its homes and other buildings with mini-district energy systems using ground-source heat pumps.


Military aircraft tested in Gunnison

GUNNISON – The V-22 Osprey is a hybrid between a helicopter and a fixed-wing airplane. It goes up and down like a helicopter, but then can scoot fast like a plane. And it has been doing all three in the Gunnison-Crested Butte area since early August.

The U.S. military wanted to test the Osprey, a $70 million aircraft, at a high-elevation airport with a long runway. Gunnison’s airport is at an elevation of 7,700 feet, lower than the airports in Leadville and Telluride, but it also has a long runway of 9,400 feet. As well, it has a large hangar, and the safety characteristics that the testers wanted, officials told theCrested Butte News.

Major Scott Trail, one of the test pilots, says most people assume the Osprey will be used in Afghanistan, “but we can’t speak for that.” The lead engineer, Trevor Strand, said only that the planes are designed for “pretty much anywhere there are mountains.”

Meanwhile, for whatever reasons, the producers of the B-grade movie, “Alien vs. Predator 2,” have chosen to set this epic battle within a town called Gunnison.

Sticklers for accuracy, at least in some respects, they plan to use business names from the streets of Gunnison but will actually do the filming in the towns of Port Moody and Port Coquitlam, located in British Columbia’s metropolitan Vancouver. Gunnison, located at about 7,500 feet, is surrounded by sagebrush and hay fields of timothy and brome. The two B.C. towns, as their names indicate, are located at sea level along Vancouver Bay.

Why Gunnison? Eylem Sonmez, clearance coordinator for the production company, said she didn’t really know. “They were looking for a small town surrounded by the mountains,” she told theCrested Butte News. The film is expected to be released in the middle of 2007.


Resorts tout environmental records

ASPEN – Both the Aspen Skiing Co. and Vail Resorts are boasting of their environmental good-deeds, if in different ways.

The Aspen Skiing Co. is taking out ads in the October issues of bothOutsideandSkimagazines. Those ads address global warming, says David Perry, the company’s executive vice president.

“This campaign will definitely be a departure from the standard ski resort ad. But what’s the No. 1 goal of advertising? It’s to stand out and get notice,” he tells theDenver Post.

He told thePostthat a customer survey done by Aspen Skiing Co. recently showed that 30 percent of its guests view a ski resort’s environmental stewardship as being of “high importance,” up from 10 percent only five years ago.

The company has also joined a lawsuit that attempts to require the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions caused by automobiles. The case was filed by a dozen states and several other groups, including the Sierra Club.

Meanwhile, Vail Resorts is also embracing the green theme. The company is adding a dollar surcharge onto the fees for season passes, online lift tickets and hotel rooms, but giving the customers the opportunity to instead keep the dollar. Rob Katz, the company’s CEO, said he expects less than 25 percent will opt out of the program.

The money – the goal is $600,000 – is to be used for forest improvement projects in the White River National Forest, where Vail has four of its ski areas, and around Lake Tahoe, where it has its fifth ski area, Heavenly. The money will be administered through the Montana-based National Forest Foundation.

Sloan Shoemaker, director of the Wilderness Workshop, told theVail Daily the well-intentioned program highlights the chronic underfunding of the Forest Service, because it amounts to plugging a leaking dike with a thumb.


Elderly woman fends off black bear

VAIL – Credit the 72-year-old woman in Vail who walked into her kitchen to find a bear rummaging for food only 6 feet away. She stood her ground.

The bear hissed, closed the gap and struck the woman on her chest and right arm, causing minor scratches, police tell theVail Daily.

The bear stood fast, so the woman yelled and clapped her hands. The bear then hissed again before leaving through the door it had entered. The woman then discovered a cub in her house, which she pushed out the door.

Meanwhile, the town has been debating whether to increase its requirements for garbage containers. Bear-resistant containers are now required, but the town is considering more heavy and expensive bear-proof trash containers.


Vail named the priciest ski resort

VAIL – Which is the priciest ski resort? While not giving a full-blown report, theWashington Times says that federal employees who get dispatched to Vail during ski season get reimbursed for up to $365 a day for lodging and meals. That compares with a per diem of $289 for Aspen or Crested Butte or, for that matter, $338 for New York City or $259 for Washington D.C.

The newspaper didn’t say how these costs were calculated or, for that matter, how often federal employees are sent to ski resorts in winter.


Jackson students face dress code

JAKCSON HOLE, Wyo. – The dress code at Jackson Hole’s Summit High School can be summarized as the four Bs. “No boobs, butts, backs or bellies,” says school principal Jim Rooks.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide also reports that the policy regarding cell phones has been revised. The phones are allowed, but can be used only during breaks and lunch. First violation results in loss of the phone for the remainder of the day. Upon the fourth violation, the phone will be seized and released only to a parent or guardian of the student.

-compiled by Allen Best