Opening day hangs in limbo

Though Mother Nature has finally paid Southwest Colorado a visit, the fate of opening day at Durango Mountain Resort remains uncertain. The local ski area is actively watching the forecast and keeping its fingers crossed for a little help to get the Dec. 1 start to the season off the ground.

The resort received more than 10 inches of snow during the Thanksgiving weekend, and the system brought cold temperatures to the region, which has enabled mountain crews to run their snowmaking fleet day and night. Plus, DMR’s new energy-efficient snowmaking machines allow the resort to cover the same area of terrain in less time. However, the ski area still needs more natural snow to supplement snowmaking efforts in order to build a solid base.

“The recent storms brought in a lot of cold temperatures, and we’ve been able to blow a bunch of snow,” said Loryn Kasten, DMR spokeswoman. “But we still need some natural snowfall up top in order to complete the picture.”

The ski area had hoped for a couple inches of fresh last Tuesday night but got nothing. As a result, all eyes at DMR are now focused on a strong chance of snow this Friday and Saturday.

“We’re hoping those storms develop and work out and that we won’t have to push back opening day,” Kasten said. “If we get the help from Mother Nature and can continue to make snow, our best-case scenario is that we open on Saturday or only push back opening day by a day or so.”

DMR had planned to open Dec. 1 for Benefit Day with $15 lift tickets going to support Durango Nature Studies and the Durango Winter Sports Foundation. Instead, the local resort will be playing the waiting game. DMR will give opening day updates throughout the week at www.durangomountain or by calling 247-9000, Ext. 1.

Meanwhile, Silverton Mountain plans to crank up its lift this Saturday. As of Tuesday, the area’s plan was to open with Colorado, Dolores and Dope Chute (from Billboard Peak). But like DMR, Silverton Mountain is still hoping for one more solid storm. According to a release, “These runs are ready to go right now with great powder skiing on the upper half of the runs and a little bushwhacking in some places down low, but still bring the rock boards and ride safely.” 

Over in Telluride, one lift fired up on Wed., Nov. 28. The ski area also received roughly a foot of snow following Thanksgiving and has been able to make a great deal of snow. However, Telluride is opening with only one green run – Village Bypass to Lower Boomerang. Nonetheless CEO Dave Riley is excited to get the season under way.

“Following a foot of new snow and great conditions for snowmaking last week, we are thrilled to get the 2007-08 winter season off and running,” he said.

On the other side of the San Juans, Wolf Creek Ski Area had been operating one lift serving less than 1 percent of its terrain prior to the recent storm. However, following 16 inches of fresh, the ski area opened the Bonanza Lift this week and additional “limited terrain.”

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service was calling for a 50 percent chance of snow in the San Juan Mountains this Friday and Saturday.

Test Track fixes ready to go public

An effort to enhance and improve one of Durango’s trail systems is ready to leave the gate. The City of Durango, Trails 2000 and a group of stakeholders have identified a series of proposed fixes for the Durango Mountain Park, or Test Track.

Less than a mile west of downtown, the Durango Mountain Park consists of 271 undeveloped acres laced with more than a dozen miles of trails. Long a popular recreation area, the Mountain Park gained permanent protection in 1995, and from the beginning, it was envisioned as a natural, undeveloped park with an emphasis on recreation, scenery and wildlife habitat. The trail system is not without its problems, however. Lack of connection among many of the trails, numerous user-created trails and excessive erosion are all issues at the Test Track.

“The geography of the Mountain Park is kind of finger-like in its layout,” said Mary Monroe, executive director of Trails 2000. “If we can create some connections and loops up there, it will help create a more sustainable trail network.”

Following numerous stakeholder meetings, site tours and discussions with land managers and property owners, several “priority improvement projects” have been identified. The

groups have selected two minor reroutes, which will establish sustainable trail grades without significantly modifying the trails; and two new connector trails that will create loops and eliminate trespassing on private property. In addition, way-finding signage will be installed in the park, and the Avenida del Sol trailhead, near Manna Soup Kitchen, will be designated the park’s primary access.

Looking back at the lead-up to this proposal, Monroe explained, “The city requested that Trails 2000 review the existing trails in the Mountain Park. We provided a trails plan that kept in mind the needed connection and respected the needs of the conservation easement up there. From that point until now, we’ve been involved in stakeholders meetings and have come to agreement on initial reroutes and connections.”

This trail fixes will be presented to the public on Mon., Dec. 3, at 5 p.m. at the Durango Community Recreation Center. More information on the proposal can be found online at under “Ongoing Projects” or by calling the Durango Parks and Recreation Department at 375-7300.

Power costs to jump by 10 percent

The price of plugging in is going up dramatically after the first of the year. The La Plata Electric Association has given preliminary approval to a nearly 10 percent hike in local electricity rates.

The 9.6 percent rise is predominantly a result of a wholesale power rate increase of 11.7 percent from Tri-State Generation & Transmission, from which LPEA purchases its electric power. LPEA has also experienced some increase in the cost of doing business. Average residential customers are expected to see their bills rise by $7.10 per month.

“Gasoline prices have soared. Heating oil and natural gas prices are high. The last thing our members want to hear is more bad news about their energy costs,” said Greg Munro, LPEA Chief Executive Officer. “Despite the best efforts of electric co-ops across the country to hold the line, monthly electric bills are unfortunately heading up.”

Munro explained that Tri-State is raising rates to LPEA for a variety of reasons, the two most significant being the rapidly increasing demand for power and the construction of new electric power generation plants to meet that demand.

“When demand for electricity exceeds the supply generated by Tri-State – which is currently occurring – the company must purchase the needed power in the open market,” explained Munro. “Just like any commodity, buying on the spot market is generally the most expensive option, and that supply is rapidly decreasing.”

According to Munro, 1 percent of LPEA’s annual revenues is already being focused directly on efficiency and demand-side programs. Going forward this will potentially include allocating some funds in partnership with regional governmental agencies for sponsorship of 4CORE, a new organization designed to institute additional energy efficiency and sustainability programs.

A mandatory 30-day comment period will be observed prior to the LPEA Board’s final adoption of the new rates, which will take place at its regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 19.

– Will Sands



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