Mountainfilm takes on food supply

TELLURIDE – MountainFilm, the four-day film-based exploration of ideas and action held every Memorial Day weekend in Telluride, is turning its attention to food.

Don’t get the wrong idea. The festival, which started out in 1978 with the showing of several films about climbing, is not trying to bump Aspen’s Food and Wine Festival or any of the other festivals devoted to the exquisite aspects of chocolate éclairs and fine wines.

Rather, the festival is devoting itself to the big idea of food.

“With 1 billion people on this planet overweight and another 800 million starving, today’s food system is clearly broken,” said David Holbrooke, the festival director.

The Moving Mountains Symposium on Fri., May 22, will examine how the planet can feed the 2.8 billion additional people projected for 2050.

Bill McKibben, the keynote speaker, is best known for his writings about the need to address air pollution. However, at the festival he will talk about what he sees as the systemic and serious weaknesses in current methods of large-scale agriculture. He will also describe a new paradigm for food, one that he says is based on sustainability and equity.

Among the other presenters will be the acclaimed chef Ming Tsai, the emcee. Yale-educated as a mechanical engineer, Tsai has achieved fame from his acclaimed East-West restaurant in the Boston area. He also has had a national television show for six years.

National Geographic magazine, which recently had a story titled “The End of Cheap Food,” will also participate, with executive editor Dennis Dimmick talking about the increasing pressures on the Earth’s systems from crop choices and the changing climate.

Another speaker will be Gene Baur, the founder of Farm Sanctuary, an activist group that is working to end cruelty to farm animals. Pamela Ronald, chair of the Plant Geronomics Program at the University of California, will argue that a successful future of food will need sensible approaches to both organic farming and genetically modified foods.

The main portion of the festival is devoted to films, many of them specifically devoted to mountains and mountaineering, punctuated by appearances of filmmakers and other notable individuals.


Rocky Mountain suicide rate studied

ASPEN – By almost any definition, Aspen and the broader Pitkin County are paradise. So why is the suicide rate so high?

The rate in the county is three times the national average, and double the rate of Colorado, according to the University of Colorado-Denver Depression Center. In a recent interview, Colorado Public Radio wanted to know why.

Dr. Michael Allen, director of research at the Depression Center, explained that rural areas in the Rocky Mountain West in general tend to have a higher rate of suicide. It’s partly because of the greater distances between people, how hard it is to get to the doctor, and how often one sees their neighbors, he said. “We think the fabric may be a little bit looser.”

But what about Aspen? “A lot of people who move there are adventuresome people. They like taking risks,” answered Allen.

But they often find greater risks than they expect. “They move there with high aspirations, and it turns out to be a real challenge,” said Allen, citing the economic seasonality plus the economic challenge that forces many to have several jobs. “When the lifts close, half the town leaves. That has economic consequences, relationship consequences. “


Obama may pay Park City a visit

PARK CITY, Utah – Park City is wondering whether it will be hosting President Barack Obama in June. The city’s Deer Valley Resort will be site of the Western Governors’ Association’s annual meeting. The governments last year met in Jackson, Wyo., and before that in Breckenridge. Typically, eight to 12 governors attend the conference to talk about items of mutual interest, including energy and water policy. This year will be no exception.

Park City is no stranger to either presidents or, for that matter, presidential aspirants. Twice during the 1990s it hosted Bill Clinton on ski vacations. Clinton also spent time in Vail, Aspen and Jackson. Last year, Park City hosted Obama on a fund-raising trip, but also President George W. Bush. It is the part-time home of former presidential aspirant Mitt Romney.

Security for these visits is costly. The Summit County Sheriff’s Department spent $50,000 last year when Bush was in town to raise money for Republican candidates. David

Edmunds, the sheriff, tellsThe Park Record he believes the cost for protecting Obama could be even higher. “We’re living in an increasingly hostile world,” he noted.


Basalt stabilizes mining relics

BASALT – To the modern eye, the old beehive-shaped charcoal kilns that are often found around old mining towns surely present a curious spectacle. What purpose did they serve?

Seven of these kilns are found near the center of Basalt, 18 miles from Aspen. They were built in 1882, just as Aspen was taking off as a major silver mining and smelting town. Wood was burned in the kilns under carefully controlled conditions, so that the moisture was removed from the wood, leaving mostly carbon, or a fuel more closely approximating coal. Charcoal also burns more cleanly and hotter than wood. As such, it was needed for the operation of smelters.

Such charcoal was needed in Aspen before the railroad arrived in 1886, and was able to deliver supplies of coal. In the interim, charcoal was hauled by horse-drawn wagons from Basalt.

In recent years, Basalt’s brick charcoal kilns have been falling apart, due both to vandalism and natural weathering. However, the town government is hoping to leverage an investment of $85,000 in hopes of securing $341,000 for restoration, reportsThe Aspen Times.

 “We all love the kilns and don’t want to see them fall down,” said Jacque Whitsitt, a member of the Basalt Town Council.


Deer Valley skier nearly gets shaft

PARK CITY, Utah – Deer Valley is built on land that was once used for silver mining. That historical antecedent created an unsettling moment for Bruce Rogers, who felt the ground give way under his heels as he paused while skiing in a seldom-visited off-piste area.

“It was thoroughly confusing,” the 50-year-old Rogers toldThe Park Record. “A bit bewildering for a momentary second.”

When the Lady Morgan Express lift was built, nobody noticed the mine shaft nearby. Erin Grady, a spokeswoman for Deer Valley, described the mine shaft as being in an “obscure area” and not on a designated ski trail.

Rogers, an expert skier from Hailey, Idaho, located down-valley from Sun Valley, dropped to shoulder-level in the snow, and could see a dark hole below. With aid of another skier, he was able to extricate himself and, later on, retrieve his skis, too.

Resort officials say that mining shafts and adits have been discovered occasionally at Deer Valley, although nobody has ever fallen into one. A sinkhole opening appeared last summer after a subterranean excavation collapsed.


Steamboat Springs adopts 1% idea

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Taking a page from Jackson Hole, a program has been launched in Steamboat Springs called the One Percent for Steamboat. The goal is to generate money for sustainability projects identified by participating businesses.

The program, sponsored by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, asks participants to add a donation of 1 percent onto their purchases. The money is to be disbursed to local sustainability projects.

Last year, for example, reusable tote bags were given to Halloween trick-and-treating children, to replace the disposable plastic bags, explains the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

A similar program was pioneered in Jackson, Wyo., with the underlying premise being that the local environment is the most valuable asset for any community, but especially Jackson and the broader Teton County with its backdrop of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.


Building permits plummet in Truckee

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Talk about a downhill slide. Three years ago Truckee issued 326 permits for residential construction. The numbers fell to 200 and, last year, just 56.

That’s nearly a 600 percent decline. And this year it’s likely to get worse.

“We do not see much in the pipeline,” Duane Hall, a town planner, told theSierra Sun. But the town is investing money in public projects and is also working to bolster affordable housing.

John Falk, lobbyist for the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors, says that while Truckee and the nearby Lake Tahoe resort area was more slow to feel the effects of the global recession, it will likely recover more laggardly.

– Allen Best


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Paper chase

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High and dry

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