Denver eyes 2018 Winter Olympics

VANCOUVER, B.C. – A delegation of 165 people from Colorado – including Gov. Bill Ritter and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper – was scheduled to visit Vancouver, B.C., this week to talk about a variety of topics, especially the Olympics.

Vancouver and Whistler are hosting the 2010 Olympics, and then they will be staged in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. Some in Denver have been talking about a bid for 2018.

John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver Olympics Organizing Committee, said he would tell Coloradans that issues of logistics and financing should not take a back seat in Olympic planning.

“You want the Olympics to contribute to the city, but where it really contributes is to the human capital and as a nation builder,” Furlong toldThe Denver Post. “It has to be an event for everybody. You need to build unity around that vision and really make it shine out.”

Denver had won the right to host the 1976 Olympics, but Colorado voters in 1972 refused to continue subsidies, because of both rapid development then occurring but also because of fiscal mismanagement of the Olympic organizing committee.

“We won’t run from 1976 – it’s part of our history – but we’re much different now than we were in ’76, and the Olympic movement is much different now,” said Rob Cohen, executive chairman of the Metro Denver Sports Commission.

Dick Lamm, who later became Colorado governor and led the fight against the Olympics, says he is keeping an open mind about a new bid.  The Vancouver committee projects a budget of $1.6 billion, not counting such infrastructure improvements as the $600 million expansion of the Sea to Sky Highway that links Vancouver with Whistler.

Cohen told the newspaper he hopes the Olympics, if they come to Colorado, might stimulate public financing for improvements of Interstate 70. However, he doesn’t believe that absence of improvements on the congested highway between Denver and the mountain resorts will preclude the Olympics.


Telluride pitches ski area expansion

TELLURIDE – Always a ski area noted for its steeps, Telluride has been in expansion mode during the last 10 years. It added four lifts in 2001, and then last winter opened up new terrain for those willing to hike. This year yet another chairlift is taking shape.

The latest lift in Revelation Bowl will eliminate much of the hiking previously needed to reach Bear Creek, an area long-favored by backcountry skiers. “It’s an area that is spectacular to ski, but equally dangerous,” saysThe Telluride Watch’s Martinique Davis, also a ski patroller.

Four avalanche deaths occurred in the canyon during the 1986-87 season, and several more have occurred since then. For about a decade, Bear Creek was closed to skiers from the ski area.

Davie Riley, chief executive of the Telluride Ski and Golf Co., told the newspaper he is open to exploring the possibility of expanding the ski area’s boundary to include portions of Bear Creek, but not until the Telluride community gives a “reasonable indication” they want the company to manage the canyon.

How likely is that?The Watch observes that the notion of using explosives in Bear Creek for avalanche control makes some locals bristle, as does the idea of seeing even more people in an area designated as a nature preserve.

Tellingly, the newspaper’s website had 39 comments on the story, both for and against. Usually, there are none. After all, Telluride is a ski town, said one commentator.


Aspen struggles to shrink footprint

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. continues its efforts to shrink its carbon footprint.

The company’s every-other-year sustainability report says its carbon footprint shrank 1.6 percent from 2006 to 2007. The tracking of the carbon emissions began in 1999, and even more substantial savings had occurred over that longer time span. The inventory tracks emissions per skier, the company’s core business.

Still, the gains are minor compared with the broader challenge taken up by the company.

“If you look at the only metric that matters, our carbon footprint, we’re not moving as fast as we’d like, or as the planet needs us to,” said Mike Kaplan, the company’s president and

chief executive officer. “We’re not alone,” Kaplan continued. “Most of the world is realizing just how hard it is to solve the climate challenge.”

To that end, the company is looking at more ambitiously investing in renewable energy production, perhaps including a wind farm in Nebraska. As well, the company this week placed instruments atop the Snowmass Ski Area to measure the potential for placement of major wind generators.

Aspen Skiing is also considering augmenting its small-scale hydroelectric production, which now occurs at one site at Snowmass, to creeks located at all four of its ski areas.

But the company has also been taking steps to reduce consumption. For example, at the company’s marquee base-area lodge, The Little Nell, swimming tool temperature was turned down from 102 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with no complaints, reported the hotel’s engineer, Mark Fitzgerald.

The snowmelt systems were turned down. They usually ran around the clock at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, they were turned down to 80 to 100 degrees, and even turned off entirely for seven days during a no-snow period.

Food at the company’s Montagna restaurant also is increasingly locally sourced. In summer, half of the produce comes from local sources. In winter, it’s 15 percent. All of its beef comes from local ranges.

Real estate economy debated in Vail

EAGLE COUNTY – Population growth and development are at the top of issues in the county commissioner races in Eagle County. The county is bisected by I-70 from Vail Pass to Glenwood Canyon, but also includes a portion of Aspen’s mid-valley commutershed.

An incumbent, Peter Runyon, says the current population growth is alarming. There are 29,000 dwelling units in Vail, Avon and other towns as well as unincorporated areas, plus current zoning allows another nearly 18,000 units. The upshot: a 60 percent increase in housing – virtually all of it unaffordable to the average local, he claims.

“This isn’t some cheesy scare tactic,” he insists in an item published in theVail Daily. “This is reality. The cautionary tale is one of increased traffic, increased stress on our infrastructure, increasing minimum wage jobs, increasing crime, and decreasing quality of life.”

His opponent, Dick Gustafson, sees this growth as good. He notes that 65 percent of the county’s economy is premised on the real estate sector. “Intelligent growth is essential to our economy.”

He objects to the county building what he calls “socialized housing,” for middle to low-income wage earners. He also accuses current county commissioners, all of them Democrats, of extorting revenue from second-home owners.

When he was a county commissioner 20 years ago, Gustafson was instrumental in advocating development of the Eagle County Regional Airport, a key stimulus to growth. The development was partially created with tax revenues.

For some reason, lower-cost housing is seen as a province of the private sector, but economic development is not.

Cindy McCain stands in for Palin

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, was supposed to show up to pass the campaign hat in the Teton Pines neighborhood of Jackson Hole. This neighborhood contains the full-time home of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Instead, Palin was called to New York City to improve her foreign policy credentials by meeting with various foreign leaders.

As a result, the marquee attraction for 200 people was Cindy McCain, wife of the Republican nominee. To break bread with her they paid $250, and for another $750 they also got a photo. To talk politics with McCain and Alan Simpson, the former U.S. senator from Wyoming, attendees paid $2,500.

Banff prepares for tourism cutback

BANFF, Alberta – Worries about the tourism economy are evident at Banff and Lake Louise. The concern is provoked by the collapse of a major tourist airline and travel agency, both in the United Kingdom, a major source for visitors to the Bow River Valley, and also the collapses on Wall Street.

– 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