Ski area pitched for Pikes Peak

PIKES PEAK – For decades, small ski areas have been going out of business. Now, inspired by the startling success of California’s Mountain High, located about 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, small ski areas are popping up again.

The most notable example is in Colorado, where a former ski area, now called Echo Mountain, has reopened just west of Denver. A second, at St. Mary’s Glacier, remains possible.

And now, a third ski area, on the flanks of Pikes Peak, west of Colorado Springs, is being proposed by John Ball, described by theRocky Mountain News as a former chief executive of a broadband company called Elder Industries. He says it would be modeled upon an existing resort, Eldora Mountain, located west of Boulder.

“People don’t necessarily come from out of state to ski it, but the community loves it because it’s so close,” he says. “My kids can take the bus up to Eldora (from Boulder) in 30 minutes.”

Ball has a contract to buy 320 acres on the northwest side of the 14,110-foot peak, at about the 10,500-foot level. That land would serve as the base for the ski area, and would accommodate real estate development.

The land is currently owned by Harvey Carter, who was a ski patroller at Aspen for 22 years and foundedClimbingmagazine. Carter tells theNews that he has been trying to build a ski area on Pike’s Peak for the better part of 50 years.

“It’s the only place on the peak you could do it,” he says. Three other ski areas at various locations on the mountain have failed.

Ball has a month to come up with $1 million in earnest money on the $4 million parcel. He says he hopes to break ground in 2010 on what he calls The Resort at Pikes Peak. He envisions a large hotel, 340 condominiums, several restaurants and five chairlifts.

If this ski area has legs, it would presumably draw primarily from the Colorado Springs metropolitan area, which now has a population of 600,000, with an additional 200,000 people in the nearby areas of Pueblo and Cañon City.

Telluride misses out on Frontier link

TELLURIDE – At least for now, Frontier will not be flying its new Q-400 turboprop planes from Denver to either Telluride or Montrose, the latter being the primary gateway for Telluride. The flights, which are coming to Durango, are offered under Frontier’s new subsidiary, Lynx.

That omission is causing some heartburn in Telluride, whereThe Telluride Watch quotes several local business leaders as saying that the local direct-flight organization was not as aggressive as it should have been.

“To me, as someone who is responsible for bringing people to the region, it is concerning that a number of competitors will have lower fares and more modern equipment specifically designed for mountain travel,” said Scott McQuade, chief executive officer of Marketing Telluride.

Not only is Denver a crucial gateway for visitors from outside Colorado, but Denver itself is an important market for Telluride, he said, with 29 percent of summer visitors coming from metropolitan Denver and 12 percent in winter.

Dave Riley, the relatively new chief executive of Telluride Ski and Golf Co., suggested that Telluride should have offered cash guarantees, in addition to a “significant amount” of marketing support.  “I can’t help but think at this point that had we also proposed some amount of cash in a revenue guarantee contract in addition to the marketing support, it may have helped,” he said. He said existing service from Denver to Telluride is “minimal and expensive.”

There was even more clear anger in the statement of Dirk de Pagter, chairman of MTI’s board of directors. “We need an overhaul of the philosophy of the air organization,” he said.

The Telluride-Montrose Regional Airport Organization collects money in Telluride and Mountain Village, with supplemental funds from Montrose, which is 65 miles from Telluride.

Aspen column gets big airtime

ASPEN – Gary Hubbell, a longtime columnist forThe Aspen Times, has hit it big – if getting your column read word-for-word by radio commentator Rush Limbaugh is considered a success.

Hubbell wrote a recent column titled: “In election 2008, don’t forget Angry White Man.”

An excerpt: “The Angry White Man is not a metrosexual, a homosexual or a victim. Nobody like him drowned in Hurricane Katrina – he got his people together and got the hell

out, then went back in to rescue those too helpless and stupid to help themselves, often as a police officer, a National Guard soldier or a volunteer firefighter.”

And: “He’s a man’s man, the kind of guy who likes to play poker, watch football, hunt white-tailed deer, call turkeys, play golf, spend a few bucks at a strip club once in a blue moon, change his own oil and build things … Women either love him or hate him, but they knew he’s a man, not a dishrag. … He’s not a racist, but he is annoyed and disappointed when people of certain backgrounds exhibit behavior that typifies the worst stereotype of their race. He’s willing to give everybody a fair chance if they work hard, play by the rules and learn English.

And, he says, all Angry White Men hate the mere sound of Hillary Clinton’s voice.

The column, in addition to being much-discussed by Limbaugh and like-minded talk-show hosts, also generated hundreds of thousands of hits to theAspen Times website. It also generated hundreds of e-comments, hundreds of phone calls, and hundreds of letters to the paper.

Hubbell, 45, said that some, but not all, of the opinions of the Angry White Man are his. But mostly it was meant to describe people he knows, including the 400 or so elk hunters for whom he has worked as a hunting outfitter.

Lost man burns money to survive

DONNELLY, Idaho – Talk about burning money. On one Saturday night earlier this winter Ryan Skinner was burning all the money he had.

He had been atop Tamarack, the ski area, and had become disoriented in the snow and fog. Instead of riding down the eastern flank, where the ski area is, he headed into the backcountry on the west side.

Soon, he bogged down in several feet of wet snow, unable to snowboard downhill and, he told theLewiston Tribune, unable even to stand up well.

After slogging through the snow for more than four hours, he dug a snow cave and crawled inside, wet and hypothermic.  Skinner, a financial planner, tried to start a fire using money from his wallet. Call it legal tinder.

“I burned at least $30 worth of money,” he said, but to no avail. He became delusional during the night, imagining tracks that weren’t there.

The next morning, wading once again, he finally came to a snowmobile track, which gave him a base for walking. Finally, 9 miles from the resort, he was found by a member of the Tamarack Ski Patrol on a snowmobile.

Cold snap turns back bark beetles

CANMORE, Alberta – Temperatures in the Bow River Valley, where Banff and Canmore are located, dipped to 25 below zero this winter, good enough to hold the populations of mountain pine beetles in check.

“We’ve moved from a situation of impending disaster to a much-improved situation of just uncertainty,” said Barry Cooke, a scientist with the Canadian Forest Service. Computer models suggested mortality of 50 percent among the beetle larvae in southern Alberta.

Alberta has more marginal habitat for mountain bark beetles, but the relatively warm winters of the last decade have worked to the advantage of the beetles. Cooke said weather that causes mortality of 97.5 percent keeps the beetle populations at endemic, or normal, levels. But to achieve that requires more than just blasts of mid-winter Arctic air, he said. Early and late-winter cold snaps also help, as do woodpeckers.

Ski area shuts down smoke shacks

CRESTED BUTTE – U.S. Forest Service officials skied around Crested Butte Mountain Resort recently to examine what theCrested Butte News describes as “smoke shacks,” structures frequented by pot smoking skiers and snowboarders. The newspaper says the structures range from simple lean-tos to fully enclosed tree houses, and they can be found from high-traffic areas near ski lifts to the extreme terrain.

Such structures, says Dan Nielsen, the Forest Service patrol captain, are illegal on national forest land without authorization. In the past Crested Butte has obliterated the smoke shacks, although without total success. Lately, though, the ski area has made it a priority. However, illegal marijuana smoking is not a high priority for police enforcement in Mt. Crested Butte, says police chief Hank Smith.

– Allen Best

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows