Huge hydrogen bus fleet takes shape

WHISTLER, B.C. – When the world’s sporting press arrives at Whistler for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the reporters and photographers may well ride on buses powered with hydrogen fuel cells. A contract to build 20 of the low-floor buses at more than $2 million each – more than four times that of regular diesel buses – has been awarded to a firm in Winnipeg.

This will be the largest hydrogen-powered bus fleet in the world. Making it possible is a hydrogen fueling station. A hydrogen-carrying pipeline has been built from Vancouver.

The provincial government, following the lead of California, has been pushing hydrogen as the fuel of the future, explainsPiqueNewsmagazine. Proponents note that hydrogen fuel cells are twice as efficient as internal combustion engines and produce no smog-creating emissions from tailpipes.

But detractors take issue with the claim that hydrogen produces no greenhouse gas emissions. The simple fact is that hydrogen fuel currently is created from other energy sources, such as by burning natural gas. This is similar to corn-based ethanol, which needs large amounts of fossil fuels for the production of corn.

This potential duplicity was mentioned in a letter by Inge Flanagan published inPique. If a local community is spared the toxic fumes, they are instead “produced in some rural location but are still going into this one, small planet’s atmosphere.” Flanagan added tartly: “If Whistler is what Green looks like, I want to be able to stick my head between my knees and kiss my ass good-bye …”


Bear activists condemn killing

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – Bear activists are condemning the killing of a 660-pound bear shot by police. Police had been summoned to a house at about 5:30 a.m. by a family, which had taken refuge in a bedroom.

Once a cop arrived, he opened the garage door to provide an escape route for the bear. However, when the police sergeant looked through the dining room window, the bear growled and charged. The cop shot the bear with a shotgun. The wounded bear was later found under the deck of a nearby home. TheTahoe Daily Tribune explains that police rousted the bear from the hiding place and then shot it.

“That officer obviously completely overreacted to the situation – he should have stepped out of the way and let (the bear) go by … (the bear) was scared, that’s all,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the Lake Tahoe-based BEAR League.

She also says the family never should have locked itself in a bedroom. “The thing that gets me is the family was too afraid to approach the bear – they were scared, so they hid in the bedroom … That’s why this bear was needlessly shot, because the family was too afraid to yell at the bear to ‘get out’ and stand their territory.”

A police commander, Steve Kelly, told theDaily Tribune that it’s possible the officer blocked the bear’s escape route. “But I don’t expect in those close quarters for (the officer) to take a moment and think about what the bear was doing, if it wanted to hug him or what.” He added: “When you’ve got a VW Bug with fur coming at you, your heart’s going to beat a bit faster. And really, all (the cop) had was a heartbeat to make a decision.”

Telluride impeaches Bush and Cheney

TELLURIDE – To the surprise of exactly nobody, the Telluride Town Council has passed, on second reading, an ordinance calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

At issue was the question of whether the council would adopt the ordinance that had been submitted to it or send it to voters for resolution. That is the mechanism stipulated by the town charter. The general thinking was that the outcome was a foregone conclusion anyway, and in the meantime Telluride would have to endure the abuse of the Bush supporters.

Even one of the more conservative council members, Stu Fraser, said he was infuriated by the name-calling and threats against Telluride posted on the town’s website.

Perhaps the most interesting take on the debate came from Ed Quillen, a mountain town resident who writes a column forThe Denver Post.

“What do we owe tourists, anyway? Service, but not servility,” he wrote. “We ought to make it clear that if people want to visit sanitized, nonpolitical little towns, they ought to stay

out of our mountains and go to Main Street USA in Anaheim, Calif., where there are no citizens with opinions on the issues of the day, but instead just Disney employees in costume.”


The Canyons hits the auction block

PARK CITY, Utah – Recriminations continue in the case of a ski resort in Park City where two big-league developers, Vail Resorts and Talisker Corp., are legally jousting for The Canyons.

The current owner of the ski area is American Skiing, the resort chain that at one time owned resorts from Appalachia to the Sierra Nevada. The company was always on shaky ground, despite the success of individual resorts like Steamboat. Now, with sale of The Canyons, the company will be no more.

Vail Resorts bid $95 million for it, but Talisker – which is developing real estate at Deer Valley, another ski area at Park City – bid $100 million – the bid awarded by American Skiing. Vail Resorts has sued, and announced belatedly that it was offering $110 million.

“Disingenuous,” responded Steve Gruber, chairman of the board for American Skiing, in a letter obtained byThe Park Record. He claims Vail Resorts manipulated journalists.

Complicating the story are two other players, who are also involved in lawsuits. One of those protagonists owns a portion of the land used by The Canyons.


Canadian resorts fight for skiers

SQUAMISH, B. C. – Whistler’s municipal government has gone on the record opposing a proposed resort called Garibaldi at Squamish. Located about 37 miles west of Whistler, Squamish is not quite halfway to Vancouver.

Garibaldi plans two golf courses and enough skiing infrastructure to accommodate 15,000 skiers at one time. The resort plans also call for 5,700 housing units.

A letter from Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed calls it a real estate grab under the auspices of a resort development. The letter also cited concerns about climate change making the resort untenable.

The core criticism is that Garibaldi will steal customers from Whistler and other existing resorts in British Columbia. The letter asks for evidence the new resort could get new customers.

Mike Esler, the president of Garibaldi, toldPique Newsmagazine that the resort believes it can harvest new skiers, especially as the provincial government invests in tourism infrastructure as part of its goal of doubling tourism by 2015.

“Clustering of resorts, he says, “creates an environment where competing ski resorts have to re-invest back in their development. It attracts more skiers to the area because they’ve got more choices, so usually everybody benefits from competition.”


Babies struggle with thin air

SUMMIT COUNTY – Although adults typically get accustomed to the thinner air found at higher elevations, it’s sometimes a problem with babies

Babies carried in wombs by mothers living at higher elevation have typically lower weight at birth. On average, every 3,300 feet of elevation gained reduces fetal weight by about 3.5 ounces, according to a 1997 study. Dr. Chris Ebert-Santos told theSummit Daily News that most newborns she helps deliver in Summit County arrive at 6 pounds, instead of the national average of 7 to 8 pounds.

It’s not that the babies are born prematurely. Rather, it’s just that the fetuses grow more slowly, said Lorna Moore, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center. “The reason that babies grow more slowly, we think, is that there is less oxygen available in utero,” she told theDaily News.

The thin air of Summit County, where elevations of towns range from 8,750 to 10,400 feet, also presents problems for some – but not all – babies after birth. Sometimes within two weeks the baby’s oxygen saturation begins to dip, requiring supplemental oxygen.


Storm produces 218 lighting strikes

KETCHUM, Idaho – The Wood River Valley had quite a lighting storm recently, with 218 lightning strikes within a 15-minute span just before noon. The bolts caused several small fires, such as one that covered 15 acres of sagebrush and grass. No structures were consumed by the fires, nor were there any injuries reported, although the pyrotechnic display was described by theIdaho Mountain Express as a “dangerous spectacle.”

— compiled by Allen Best