Winter makes return to Colorado

SILVERTON – It’s probably incorrect to call the type of snow that pelted Colorado last weekend a product of global warming. Prominent climate scientists have warned that it’s difficult to ascribe any one single weather event to the greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere. Only in retrospect, they say, will the patterns be clearly discerned.

Yet the early snow – Sierra cement, not Rocky Mountain champagne powder – was unusual, perhaps even rare. In Silverton, elevation 9,300 feet, it began as a hard rain. Several thousand feet higher at the Silverton Mountain Ski Area it was snow – and plenty of it.

The warmth surprised many people. “All of the wet sloppy stuff usually comes a month earlier, and this stuff is really sloppy,” said Jim Lamont, who works in the small town of Red Cliff, near Vail.

However, by Sunday, skiers at Aspen, Vail and elsewhere were reporting surprisingly good conditions, even delightful powder.

Just a week ago,The Telluride Watch had a story, called “The Endless Summer,” with a graphic of people carrying skis set against a warm background. That was also the title of a surfing film of the same name from about 40 years ago.

But now, the miracle of winter has returned. And winter will not go away. Speaking in Breckenridge in October, meteorologist Paul Goodloe of The Weather Channel said that even in globally warmed mountains there will be snowstorms, and probably storms that are even more epic then current ones. But there will also be longer periods of no snow.

The potential will also remain for extremely cold weather, even spells of 30 below, he said. But all in all, he said, winters will be much warmer and shorter.

Crested Butte leery about paving pass

CRESTED BUTTE – Crested Butte remains uncertain whether it wants to be more closely connected to the world.

That issue showed up several years ago when paving on the west side of Cottonwood Pass was proposed. It is already paved on the east side. That paving would have had the practical repercussion of shortening, by about a half-hour, the time it takes to drive between metropolitan Denver and Crested Butte.

The newest issue concerns vehicular access across Kebler Pass, which connects Crested Butte during summer months with Glenwood Springs and Paonia. The 29-mile gravel road is coated at the beginning of each summer with a layer of magnesium chloride, which temporarily eliminates the dust. By late July, however, the dust has returned, as has the washboard, making control difficult on tight corners. And it is, says lawman Brad Phelps, a racetrack for drivers.

Gunnison County officials say that instead of applying mag chloride, which last summer cost $131, 000, they want to pave it with a chip-seal mixture.

Elected officials in Crested Butte aren’t yet opposing the paving, but are concerned that paving the road may increase traffic on the road. That, in turn, could cause more traffic in the residential neighborhood where the road enters Crested Butte.


Black politicians defy ski town odds

BRECKENRIDGE – Most people think of mountain towns as “white” places, as in the demographics are as white as the driven snow.

Consider Colorado’s I-70 corridor, where fewer than 1 percent of people in Summit and Eagle counties are African-American. Yet within these two counties, far more than 1 percent of elected officials in recent decades have been black. In Eagle County, James Johnson was a commissioner, and in Avon, Al Connell was a town councilman.

In Summit County, Robert Farris was sheriff in the 1970s and 1980s. Then Sam Williams, a retired lieutenant colonel from the Army, represented the region for eight years as a state legislator. He lived in Breckenridge, where he sold real estate.

Williams died recently of prostate cancer at the age of 73, and an obituary in a Denver newspaper, theRocky Mountain News, noted the anomaly via a quote from Regis Groff, who is also black and had been a legislative leader from Denver. Groff told the newspaper that he was stunned when he first learned that the candidate from Breckenridge in 1986 was black like him.

Why so many elected blacks given so few in the general population? Lindstrom, who has known most of these individuals, agrees that it takes a certain moxie to be black and enter a mainly white world. On the flip side, ski towns see themselves as progressive places and are inclined to vote for blacks.

Cowboy welfare alleged near Vail

EAGLE COUNTY – Most people know Eagle County from what they can see from Interstate 70 as it swoops down from Vail Pass on its way to Glenwood Canyon. Most of the county’s 50,000-plus residents live close to the highway, particularly near the Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas.

But in the corners of the county are very different landscapes, lightly populated and with plenty of calendar-worthy scenery. In one of those corners lies a century-old 740-acre ranch, located at the base of the Flat Tops. Eagle County government recently spent $2.1 million to secure the land’s development rights.

Skeptics charged “cowboy welfare” and questioned whether there was any real danger of development. If no such threat is imminent, it nonetheless exists, says theEagle Valley Enterprise.

“Look at what happened to the county in the past 40 years,” says the paper, pointing to any number of gated golf-course communities developed in the last 20 years in once hardscrabble ranching country.

If the charge of “cowboy welfare” stung, it was also off the mark. “The acquisition was about the land, not the owner,” said theEnterprise, and the decision 50 to 100 years from now will be seen as clearly a wise one.


Ski legend releases road trip book

KETCHUM, Idaho – Dick Dorworth has a book out, calledNight Driving: Invention of the Wheel and Other Blues. The book is a collection of stories about his car trips since he was a ski racer growing up in Reno, Nev.

That was a long time ago. In 1963, he established a record as the world’s fastest man on skis, setting a record in Portillo, Chile, with a speed of 106.8 mph. He long ago quit skiing competitively, but still skis on the slopes of Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain. He has lived in Ketchum since 1993, but first moved there in 1963.

Dorworth says he has no plans to leave. “I’m an old alpine skier, and it’s a great mountain for skiing. Just the nature of Sun Valley has kept it from being overcrowded. The community is coming undone, though. People who work here can’t afford to live here. But the geography and the culture of my friends suit me. I have enough friends here to keep me going.”

So far, Dorworth has given readings in Banff and Ketchum, as well as Missoula, Mont., and Shasta, Calif.

“I’m gratified and have been surprised at how well it’s been received, and how people relate to what’s in it,” he told theIdaho Mountain Express. “At some point, most people have been wild asses, even the most conservative among us. I did it my way, and that strikes a chord. Reading it aloud has reaffirmed for me that language is to be heard as much as read. We forget that.”


Hiker spends night at 14,000 feet

BRECKENRIDGE – Obviously, the 26-year-old Denver man who spent a night on 14,271-foot Quandary Peak did some things wrong. But he also did some things right, rescuers tell theSummit Daily News.

The hiker had told his roommate exactly where he was going, where he would park his car, and when to expect him back. That allowed friends to alert rescuers immediately.

He also took along at least some of the necessities, including a sleeping bag liner and a bivouac bag, which allowed him to spend the night inside a snow cave with some comfort, waking up every 15 minutes to keep moving. Outside the temperature was 13 degrees.

It was still dicey, both for him and rescuers. They triggered four small slides while attempting to reach him, and a much larger avalanche slid just behind both the lead rescue climber and hiker.

Olympic mascots draw mixed opinion

WHISTLER, B.C. – Mascots created by organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics are drawing mixed reviews. Kids love them, and so do aboriginals of British Columbia whose legends inspired the mascots.

But the mascots are first of all a marketing proposition, a way to make an anticipated $46 million in royalties to defray other costs of hosting the Olympics. A marketing professor, Lindsay Meredith, predicts the mascots will fall flat on their face among adults.

“They will resonate with the kids,” he toldPique. “The problem is, there is a whole huge market out there of adults who will also respond to mascots, and it is not resonating there.”

– Allen Best

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