Immigrants seeking driver’s licenses

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The profound disconnect between our nation’s immigration laws and the economic realities of resort-based mountain valleys was on stage, front and center, at a recent meeting in Jackson Hole attended by 140 people.

The meeting, explains theJackson Hole News&Guide, was provoked by a six-fold increase in the number of deportations during the last year. Many of those deportations are attributed to arrests for driving without licenses.

“We’re here tonight because some Latinos are afraid they are treated differently than our Anglos,” said Father Ken Asel, of St. John Episcopal Church. “They think certain individuals in law enforcement will harass Latinos when it’s not necessary.”

So, asked immigrants, how do you get a driver’s license, which is necessary to get to jobs at remote locations? The short answer is: You can’t get a driver’s license if you have no evidence of legal residency. A license from Mexico is not satisfactory, and neither is an international driver’s license.

“Do not waste your money on an international license,” said Lt. Tom Kelley, of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

Police from three agencies denied that allegation. They said that Latinos who need help should seek the help of police without fear of arrest or deportation.

But the cops also said that they do enforce traffic laws – and therein lies the peril for immigrants driving without licenses. Dan Zivkovich, the police chief in Jackson, said the first time a driver is arrested for driving without a license, he or she is given a ticket. The second time, the driver is arrested.

For some Latinos, it all ends up as a Catch 22. The economy says they’re wanted, but the legal system says they’re not. “Why should we continue to have these talks if the thing we’re always missing is a driver’s license, and as Latinos and Mexicans, we can’t get them?” asked Miriam Cabello.

The problem seems circular. “We recognize you care about the community and you don’t want problems. We recognize that, but we cannot change the law,” Zivkovich told the immigrants.


Steamboat icon readies for retirement

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – John Fetcher, whose name is nearly synonymous with the modern era of Steamboat Springs, is finally ready to give the reins to somebody else. He’s general manager of the Upper Yampa Valley Water Conservancy District, and at age 96, he allows that he can foresee retirement.

“I suppose the day will come when I will have to quit,” Fetcher told theSteamboat Pilot & Today. “Perhaps sometime this fall, but I would probably stay on part time.”

Educated at Harvard, where he got a master’s degree in business and engineering, he moved to the Steamboat area in 1949 to ranch. Soon, though, he had his hands busy with other tasks – such as creation of the downhill ski area, of which he is credited as co-founder. He also was involved in operations of the town’s smaller ski area, Howelsen Hill, which has been used for ski jumping for about a century.

In addition, Fetcher designed ski jumps for Crested Butte, Purgatory, Winter Park, Aspen and Park City, and he chaired the jump site work for the Denver 1976 Olympic Organizing Committee.

But lately, he is best remembered for his work in creating water storage, including Steamboat Lake and the Stagecoach and Yamcolo reservoirs.

It’s a measure of the considerable esteem in which he is held that the readers’ blog on thePilot & Today’swebsite, which tends toward snippy comments, had nothing but tips of the hat. “Anything good which happened in this valley can be attributed to John Fetcher,” said one.


Squaw cable car disaster revisited

SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. – The 30th anniversary of a freak, horrible but also heroic cable car accident on the last trip of the day of the 1978 season, was remembered at Squaw Valley in April. The accident occurred high on the mountain during blizzard conditions. The wind blew a downloading car sideways, and for reasons never understood, a cable sliced through a car like a can opener. The accident also caused another cable car to be stranded high off the ground and 800 feet away from the bottom terminal.

The accident killed four people, injured 31, and shocked the ski industry. This came only two years after Vail’s misfortune with a fallen gondola car that killed four.

The accident at Squaw was finally ruled an “act of God,” butMoonshine Ink, in a story written by Robert Frohlich, says that the resulting rescue could be described as a miracle.

“A Hollywood scriptwriter could not have written a more dramatic crisis,” he writes. “Darkness was falling, and the storm had socked in the surrounding mountains. The suspended cabin swung above the ground in the most remote seduction of the mountain under a knifelike ridge that separated Shirley Canyon and expert ski terrain called Broken Arrow. It would be impossible to send in snowcats or snowmobiles to that section of the mountain. Snowfall was estimated to be falling at 2 inches per hour.”

In the face of winds that at times hit 60 mph, the 10-hour rescue included more than 300 volunteers who, once the survivors had been lowered to the ground, handed them from person to person down the mountain.


Vail employee housing goes sky-high

VAIL – Buildings in Vail continue to grow taller and taller. The latest plan approved by town officials is an 84-foot-tall complex called Solar Vail, which is to provide housing for about 150 employees. The project is being done by owners of one of the major hotels, the Sonnenalp.

The hotel began acquiring employee housing about 20 years ago and will not need all of this new housing, hotel owner Johannes Faessler told theVail Daily. But the newspaper notes that there is no shortage of demand for employee housing: redevelopment now under way or expected soon will create 3,615 jobs.

Vail in recent years has argued several times about how high is too high as buildings get redeveloped. Buildings in prominent locations have nudged 60 feet to accommodate more high-dollar condominiums.

But those debates have been about projects near the base of the ski area. This seven-story building, in contrast, is to be located north of Interstate 70, opposite Vail Village, and set against a steep field of sagebrush and aspen trees, blocking no view corridors.


Heated runway proposed in Idaho

HAILEY, Idaho – Ski towns have lots of heated driveways and sidewalks. Why not an airport runway?

That’s the idea in the Wood River Valley, where a new airport is being contemplated to serve the Sun Valley-anchored economy.

Rick Baird, the manager of the current airport, which is in Hailey, said that an underground heating system to melt runway snow would eliminate the need for big, diesel-powered, snow-removal machines except in emergencies. No existing airport is believed to have a heated runway, he said.

Just how much will this shrink the carbon footprint of airport operations – if at all? Apparently, those calculations have not been done.

For now, reports theIdaho Mountain Express, the airport authority is encouraging airplane crews to recycle cans, bottles and paper products by furnishing containers.

Debris/mud flow shakes up Telluride

TELLURIDE – A mud and debris flow into an affordable housing complex near Telluride threatened, but did not substantially damage, 10 homes. Residents toldThe Telluride Watch that water is gushing from the earth as if from industrial-strength showerheads, accompanied by a cacophony of land and debris shifts. It sounded, said San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters, “as if the whole hillside was coming down.” Masters downplayed the risk of further slides to the personal safety of residents, but said there might be some damage. “You might get a new yard, but it’s not going to kill anyone in their homes,” he said.

Canmore to define ‘sustainability’

CANMORE, Alberta – Sustainability means many things to different people. In Canmore, where a sustainability plan is being drawn up, some people say that for Canmore to be sustainable, it needs to cap the population at 30,000. Others think it must limit the number of part-timers if it is to remain sustainable.

– Allen Best