Towns get grip on their footprints

CRESTED BUTTE – Across America, the transition to new energy continues town by town, meeting by meeting. In Crested Butte recently, 150 people gathered, meeting to examine how to modify business as usual.

The community – Crested Butte, plus two other towns and Gunnison County – has been working on how it can rein in energy use. All three towns and the county government have signed pledges to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases roughly in line with the targets established by the Kyoto Protocol.

That was several years ago. Since then, the governments and local community organizers have been trying to figure out how their communities can live up to their vows of lower-carb diets.

Last year, the communities began collecting data, to establish a baseline as of 2005 for those emissions. Last week they assembled to hear what others have done, and talked about what they can do.

Among those speaking was George Sibley, a long-time local, who called for more local production of energy, instead of depending upon energy imported from central sources. He also called for more care in local building.

“Is there any reason why we should be allowing anybody to build a new house that isn’t sited on its lot and has some accommodation to the idea that the sun shines a lot here and that’s a lot of energy,” Sibley asked.

Meanwhile, building codes are being upgraded to require greater efficiency. In this case, instead of the initiative coming from the grassroots, the action is coming from higher levels.

In Crested Butte’s case, the town thought it had more stringent standards. But new iterations of the International Energy Conservation Code are causing Crested Butte to play catch up.


Aspen may take the 2030 Challenge

ASPEN – City officials in Aspen are being urged to adopt building regulations that square up with the 2030 Challenge of making new buildings carbon neutral.

If embraced, the challenge will require that buildings constructed next year become 50 percent more energy efficient than the average existing house in Aspen. The goal is that houses will become increasingly efficient in future years, with houses built in 2030 being completely carbon neutral.

Such buildings must be super-insulated, to prevent energy loss, but with some means of generating or retaining energy. Passive solar is perhaps the easiest way for a building to generate its own energy, but photo-voltaic collectors, geoexchange loop systems, and even microhydro systems can also generate heat, electricity or both.

The challenge was posted in 2006 by Santa Fe-based architect Edward Mazria. He argues that buildings consume 50 percent of all energy used in the United States. As such, if the nation hopes to dampen its greenhouse gas emissions, it must start constructing buildings with more intelligence.

In Aspen, according to theAspen Times, city officials say that building codes already require commercial buildings be 30 percent more efficient than the average homes. If adopted, the 2030 Challenge will require efficiency of 50 percent more.

The 2030 Challenge program suggests that commercial buildings and large residential complexes hand over utility bills each month for five years to prove they are as efficient as promised.


Real estate boom ends in Jackson

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The state of the real estate market in Jackson Hole has been in dispute in recent weeks. A study by a California-based firm found that the median home price in Teton County had dropped 9 percent in the last year. But David Viehman, a local appraiser and real estate agent who has studied the market for number of years, says the Californians crunched the numbers in ways that don’t necessarily make sense.

As Viehman crunches the numbers, prices for single-family homes have actually increased in the last year by 2 percent. However, he discounts condos, townhouses and fractional ownerships – which may have been included in the tabulation of the 9 percent decline.

What clearly is happening, he says, is that locals continue to escalate their prices as if a boom were still occurring. As a consequence, lots of properties are on the market.

“Locals can’t get over the fact that their property is not worth more than it was last year,” Viehman told theJackson Hole News&Guide. “They won’t come off their price.”

What has happened, several sources tell the newspaper, is that the real estate market is correcting itself after several years of extreme heating. As well, while there are still mortgages available for “strong” borrowers, no national companies are loaning for more than $700,000. Also, while vacationers to Jackson Hole might have been inclined to buy vacation real estate at other times, the national economic uncertainty at this time is keeping them in a less committed state.


County studies microhydro potential

GUNNISON COUNTY – Water officials in Gunnison County are looking into the possibility of small hydroelectric projects, also called microhydro. Unlike the big dams that block streams, the microhydro technology allows the power of moving water to be harnessed but often with no evidence of the turbine within the stream or creek.

“You can actually drop these turbines into the river and anchor them, and you can still raft over them and they don’t impact fish,” said Steve Schechter, a director of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District.

Drawing the district’s attention is a new funding from a Colorado state agency for feasibility studies plus low-cost loans of up to $2 million.

One potential sticking point, reports theCrested Butte News, is transmission. Power lines are frowned upon in the Gunnison Valley. The thinking is that if Gunnison County can get a few kilowatts here and there from microhydro, that will diminish the amount of electricity that must be imported from distant sources. Ironically, most of that electricity is produced by burning coal – some of it excavated in the northwest corner of Gunnison County, near Somerset, and shipped by rail to distant power plants.


Famed ski pioneer passes away

SUMMIT COUNTY – Edna Dercum, a key figure in the post-World War II boom in recreational skiing in Summit County, has died at the age of 94.

Her husband, Max Dercum, who survives her, was important in developing Arapahoe Basin, which opened in 1946, and Keystone Resort, which opened in 1973. Together, they operated the Ski Tip Lodge for about five decades.

“Edna fully embodied all that we love about the sport of skiing,” said theSummit Daily News. “Husband Max gets a lot of credit for getting the lifts rolling at Arapahoe Basin in that first season in 1946, but he’ll be the first to tell you he couldn’t have done it without Edna by his side.”

She grew up in Minneapolis, then in Pennsylvania, where she joined a fledging ski club assembled by a forestry professor, Max Dercum. She took up his love of skiing, and a romance blossomed.

Max’s dream of developing a ski mountain in the West took them to Colorado in 1942. When World War II ended, Max and four partners started Arapahoe Basin. Lift tickets cost $1.25, notes theVail Daily. Max Dercum was also an integral figure in the startup of Keystone.

The newspaper said that the couple came to personify Summit County skiing as no others could. “Still skiing into her 80s, Edna had the brightest smile and the quickest laugh in ski country.”


Commuter buses face crowding

TELLURIDE – Commuter buses are getting more crowded across ski country, and they’re also getting more expensive. Newspapers in Jackson Hole, Aspen and Telluride have all carried news in recent weeks of contemplated or approved increases in passenger fares to compensate for increased fuel costs. The bus linking Telluride and one of its bedroom communities, Norwood, will see a 100 percent increase in fare price. That leaves it at just $2 a ride, reports TheTelluride Watch. Still, that’s a good deal, as the drive is about a half-hour long.


Vail raises the price of parking

VAIL – Parking rates this winter will go up in Vail’s two large public parking garages. A full day of parking previously was $20. This year it will be $25. The hike is being levied by Vail officials because they want to shift more use to mass transit. Also, they hope to reduce the amount of overflow when the parking garages are filled, which last year resulted in cars being parked along the adjacent frontage road. While some of the cars are from Denver, a substantial portion of the cars are from locals in Vail and the Eagle Valley.

– Allen Best


In this week's issue...

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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows