Sun Valley joins climate pact

SUN VALLEY, Idaho – Sun Valley has become the latest ski town to join the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Signing the agreement obligates the town to meet the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.

As of mid-January, 369 municipalities, including Durango, had joined the pact. Many ski towns have also signed on, including: Aspen, Basalt, Frisco, Steamboat Springs and Telluride; Utah’s Park City; Wyoming’s Jackson; and New Mexico’s Ruidoso.

“We need to do our part,” said Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson. “We need to stand up and be counted, and this is a good starting point.”

If Sun Valley keeps its commitment, it is supposed to do a baseline of the community’s emissions for greenhouse gases for 1990, then aim to reduce those emissions by 7 percent by the year 2012.

What can communities do to reduce greenhouse gases? A town government can put its own house in order, by increasing the average fuel efficiency of the municipal fleet of vehicles. The mayors’ plan also recommends greater urban density and walkable communities.

Heating and electrical use in buildings is responsible for even more greenhouse gases than transportation. Consequently, energy efficiency is a major component of all strategies to slow global warming.

“Looking at the goals, they’re big,” said Councilwoman Ann Agnew. “What they (the agreement) ask us to do is going to be inconvenient and on some levels expensive.”

Councilman Nils Ribi stressed the urgency of action. He cited a study done on behalf of Park City Mountain Resort that predicts a significantly shortened ski season within just 30 years. “However, in 100 years, if we don’t have a ski resort, that’s the least of our problems,” he said.

Sun Valley last year tried to cap the size of homes at 10,000 feet, but withdrew the plan after very vocal opposition.

Last year the town of Gunnison signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. How well is it doing to live up to this new commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions to less than those in 1990?

“Don’t ask,” responds George Sibley, a member of the committee that is rewriting Gunnison’s master plan. “I feel truly confounded by how difficult it is to generate specific objectives and action steps that say, in effect, ‘over the next 20 years we are going to change the way we live in Gunnison.’” Sibley, writing inColorado Central Magazine, pointed out that Gunnison and Crested Butte get great amounts of sunshine, but have few solar collectors. “Virtually everything we need in the coldest place in the United States comes into the valley in big trucks or pipes,” he points out. He also notes, the economy depends a great deal on “SUV tourism, electric ski lifts, and methane-farting cows.”

To meet even the Kyoto reductions by 2025, never mind the 50 percent reduction the scientists say we need, according to Sibley, there is only one solution: entirely phase out the local use of the automobile.


Chinese tourism bubble bursts

WHISTLER, B.C. – Tourism operators in the Pacific Rim – which some definitions have extended as far as the Rocky Mountains – have been salivating for several years about the day when the Chinese become tourists in large numbers.

In Canada, that day is likely to be sooner than in the United States, because of somewhat friendlier Chinese-Canadian relations. For some time, China has been considering granting something called approved destination status for Canada. Currently, only Chinese traveling on business or visiting their families in Canada can obtain exit visas.

But Ralph Forsyth, a municipal councilor in Whistler, argues against over-stated expectations once the door is fully opened. Writing inPique, Forsyth quotes two books,One Billion CustomersandChina’s Outbound Tourism, that probe China’s growing discretionary income.

Their evidence, buttressed by a report from theEconomistmagazine, suggests that most first-time travelers from China are deeply frugal and usually visit the most famous attractions. Favoring poor hotel rooms and cheap food, they instead spend their money on luxury branded goods. “In 2005, they spent more on shopping, per day and per trip, than travelers from Europe, Japan or America,” said theEconomist. The Chinese appetite for shopping is equaled only by a lust for gambling.

On the other hand, an estimated 1.5 million Chinese are being introduced to skiing per year, if only 7 percent of Chinese skiers own their own equipment.

Finally, there is the matter of Chinese politics. The government, for example, was annoyed with Canada for conferring citizenship to the Dalai Lama. It is, says Forsythe, a governing regime that can be brutal and repressive.

Forsythe’s bottom line: Whistler can eventually cater to Chinese tourists, if the money to be made is far less than has been suggested. But he says that “we must be clear that business must be on our terms and consistent with our values.”


Town may ban exterior heat

CRESTED BUTTE – Following Aspen’s lead, Crested Butte has taken aim at global warming, vowing informally to reduce or at least slow its demand for electricity. Burning of coal to make electricity is one of the primary causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Aspen has allowed home-owners an energy budget, and if they exceed that budget, they can pay in-lieu of fees for such things as heated driveways and heated outdoor swimming pools. The money is then diverted to energy efficiency and alternative energy projects elsewhere in the broader Aspen community.

But Crested Butte rejected in-lieu fees and instead is drawing the line on what is considered extravagant energy use. One provision would require that any building of more than 20,000 square feet meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Design) certification, which requires water and energy conservation. Another would increase mandatory insulation for new roofs.

Other provisions, reports theCrested Butte News, are more controversial, such as a ban on snowmelt systems for residential driveways, sidewalks and roofs, although they would be allowed on public thoroughfares if powered by alternative energy sources.

Alan Bernholtz, the mayor, said private outdoor heating tends to be convenience, rather than an issue of public safety. But local resident Josephine Nelson said climbing on roofs to shovel snow is not safe. And instead of a snowmelt system, people might use chemicals. And what about the costs to elderly or disabled residents who cannot physically remove snow from roofs themselves nor afford to hire others to do so?

Bernholtz believes that the old-fashioned snow removal method has worked for more than a century. “I don’t feel like we’re backing people into a corner by not allowing them to heat their roofs,” he said.


Florida group buys California resorts

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Booth Creek Ski Holdings, formerly of Vail and now based in Truckee, has sold two of its ski resorts, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Sierra-at-Tahoe, but will continue to operate them. Buying the properties was Florida-based CNL Income Properties. Also included in the $170 million purchase were Loon Mountain in New Hampshire and The Summit-at-Snowqualmie in Washington State.

Booth Creek continues to own two other New Hampshire resorts, Cranmore Mountain and Waterville Valley.

Julie Maurer, from Booth Creek, told theSierra Sun the main repercussion of the sale will be increased capital for operations and development. Booth Creek has been engaged in extensive real estate development at the Truckee-area resorts, some of it in conjunction with East West Partners.

Booth Creek was formed by George Gillett, former owner of Vail Associates, in the mid-1990s after he emerged from bankruptcy and re-entered the meat-packing business. He and a long-time business partner, Jeff Joyce, along with two of Gillett’s former employees at Vail, Chris Ryman and Elizabeth Cole, now own Booth Creek. Gillett is chairman of the company, Ryman the president, and Cole the chief financial officer.


Marines learn to ski in Sierra

TRUCKEE, Calif. – The famed 10th Mountain Division trained during World War II at Camp Hale, near what is now Vail. But even before the fighting ended in Europe, the Army was dismantling the camp.

But soldiers have continued to be trained in the ways of mountains and warfare. Truckee’sMoonshine Ink reports that the U.S. Marine Corps has been training since 1951 north of Yosemite National Park near Sonora Pass, in one of the coldest pockets of the Sierra Nevada. There, Marines are taught everything from swift water rescue and avalanche awareness to rock climbing and skiing. More than 90 percent of maneuvers are done at night.

– compiled by Allen Best

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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

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