Russia recruits Breckenridge big wig

WHISTLER, B.C. – Russia last week was chosen to host the 2014 Winter Olympics at a new resort called Rosa Khutor that is being built in the Caucus Mountains, near the existing resort town of Sochi.

A key figure in that project is Roger McCarthy, 57, who was chief operating officer at Breckenridge and Keystone until May. A native of New Zealand, he cut his teeth in the ski industry at Whistler, where he rose from lift-operator to ski patroller to an executive with Intrawest.

McCarthy tells Michel Beaudry, a columnist in Whistler’sPique newsmagazine, that he saw the Russian job as the “opportunity of a lifetime.” With apologies to Idaho’s Tamarack, he says that building a ski resort from the ground up “hasn’t happened to any degree anywhere else in the world for decades!”

The home office for McCarthy is in Moscow, where everybody – including McCarthy – has a driver and a bodyguard. He commutes to the job site by air, a 2.5-hour flight, but security is also tight there. “There are armed guards, attack dogs – the security there is staggering,” he tells Beaudry.

In his telling, McCarthy has shucked conventions left and right in Russia. He got rid of his suit, and he gets his shoes muddy regularly. “I firmly believe you can’t manage this business from the office,” he says.

McCarthy also tells Beaudry that while he had done some neat stuff in Breckenridge, in particular the new $17 million gondola plus North America’s highest chairlift, “it was pretty safe stuff. I guess I craved a little more adventure in my life … .”

His contract in Russia runs until 2010. Russian president Vladimir Putin has pledged $12 billion to develop Sochi into a top winter sports complex. McCarthy says he plans to eventually build a home at Whistler.


Solar riles homeowner associations

CARBONDALE – Solar collectors are surging in popularity in the Roaring Fork Valley, despite discouraging words from homeowners associations, reportsThe Aspen Times.

Holy Cross Electric, the electrical co-op that serves the Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Vail areas, offers rebates to people who install photovoltaic and other alternative energy systems. The rebate fund, $150,000 last year, is being boosted to $380,000, although directors expect even that will be drained.

But neighbors are objecting when some solar proponents attempt to erect photovoltaic collectors, says theTimes. The newspaper cites instances from Aspen Highlands downvalley 55 miles to New Castle, where one subdivision has an outright ban.

Rachael Connor, an instructor at Carbondale’s Solar Energy International, said society has determined that solar panels are “ugly.” That view is slowly changing as more people turn to the sun for energy, but Connor foresees an increase in solar showdowns before the public embraces solar fixtures.

However, at least in Colorado, solar proponents have the law on their side. A state statute prohibits covenants from banning solar energy devices, although the law does allow “reasonable aesthetic provisions” that do not significantly increase the cost.


Housing and income gap widens

EAGLE COUNTY – The steadily worsening housing crunch continues to get ink in theVail Daily. The newspaper revisits a report produced last December by a team from the nonprofit Urban Land Institute. Eagle County – an area dominated by Vail but also including a portion of Aspen’s suburbs – will need 11,500 new homes in the next 20 years, most of them with lower price points, the report says.

The report maintains that the market alone will not deliver the housing and called for a consortium of governments to address the issue. It also calls for policies requiring lower income housing in conjunction with the higher-end “market” housing.

Eagle County’s population, now edging northward from 50,000, is projected to surpass 80,000 within 18 years. In contrast, 18 years ago it was at less than 23,000.


Aspen slows downtown demolition

ASPEN – Aspen’s City Council plans to put the brakes on demolition of older buildings. The city has long had legislation to prevent the destruction of Victorian-influenced buildings constructed during the city’s mining era of the late 19th century. But a new effort aims to protect buildings from Aspen’s second boom, during the post-World War II resort era.

“We see buildings demolished at a very fast rate, and we are very worried about that,” said Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer. “There is no reason to believe that only Aspen’s Victorian residents produced places worth saving,” she said in a memo.

The city, reportsThe Aspen Times, plans to conduct a census of important buildings, their architecture and their history.


Deadfall plagues the Fraser Valley

WINTER PARK – The story during July 4th in the Fraser Valley was of trees, dead and dying, in what is undoubtedly Colorado’s ground zero for the bark beetle infestation of the last decade.

Touchy about the fire potential, Grand County commissioners declared a ban on open fires. A community fire plan was being prepared that identifies potential safety zones and helicopter landing sites.

TheWinter Park Manifest also reports that logging of 1,900 acres of forest has begun. The intent is to remove dead trees, but impacts are expected on several popular mountain biking trails. Appropriately, one of the trails is called Chainsaw.

Winter Park and Fraser, the valley’s two towns, haven’t been hit badly by bark beetle, but they’re very close – just over a ridge – from the Williams Fork Valley, where the future is evident in all its grayness. In places, 90 percent of trees are dead.


Aspen may buy hydroelectric plant

GLENWOOD CANYON – The city of Aspen has inquired about the possibility of buying a hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon. The current owner, Xcel, a Minneapolis-based utility that supplies electricity to about two-thirds of Coloradans, mostly along the Front Range, toldThe Aspen Times that there are no plans to sell the plant. The Shoshone plant, constructed in 1908, uses water from the Colorado River.

Aspen is unusual among municipalities in Colorado in providing electricity for more than half of its residents. Like most other places, it used to get much of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, but in the 1990s began looking to get more power from renewable sources. Accordingly, it operates a hydroelectric plant at Ruedi Reservoir and, within Aspen, is retrofitting a long abandoned hydro plant in Maroon Creek. The city also buys wind power.


Turf upsets parents in Edwards

EDWARDS – Last November, voters in the Eagle Valley approved a $128 million bond to build a new high school, among other facilities. The new 1,000-student school will be in Edwards, replacing the high school closer to Vail and Minturn.

But to the disgruntlement of some parents, the budget does not include money for artificial turf or a full stadium. There are doubts that the grass field now being planned will stand up to soccer, lacrosse and myriad other uses, and that instead many activities will be shunted to the old school about six miles away, reports theVail Daily.


Officials ask for lower I-70 speeds

EAGLE – Interstate 70 through the Eagle Valley is a hurry-hurry thoroughfare. The speed limit is 75 mph from Glenwood Canyon to Avon, and then 65 and 60 mph to Vail.

But a group of Eagle County officials is asking for a lowered speed limit in the mid-valley section at least to Eagle, reports theVail Daily. The officials cite the high death rate on the highway, with most fatal crashes occurring during summer months.

The speed limit was 65 until the mid-1990s.

Revelstoke takes steps to clear the air

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Revelstoke officials are taking additional steps to improve the air. Earlier this year, the council banned idling in the downtown area. Now, councilors are preparing to make idling unlawful across the community. Signs declaring that fact are to be erected at the municipality’s main entrances.

In another action, reports theRevelstoke Times Review, the council is planning to offer $300 to $800 to those willing to replace their inefficient wood-stoves for more efficient models.

A final change likely to yield clearer skies is the imminent shutdown of a sawmill burner, although one final burner will remain. While a major ski resort is being built at Revelstoke, it remains for now a logging town as well.

– compiled by Allen Best