Development splits Town of Eagle

EAGLE – Christmas was hardly a time of serenity in Eagle, where residents are arguing the merits of a major shopping center and housing complex called Eagle River Station. Residents will go to the polls on Jan. 5 to decide the outcome of the proposal, which would feature a Target, an organic food store, plus dozens of other shops along Interstate 70, about 30 miles west of Vail.

Even in the late 1990s cattle were trailed through the town on the annual drive to and from the summer grazing grounds on nearby Castle Peak. Now, herds of SUVs crowd the streets morning and night, evidence of the population growth that made Eagle he second-fastest growing town in Colorado in 2008.

Town officials say they expect to need $100 million in infrastructure improvements, primarily roads and bridges, during the next 20 years. This is regardless of whether the shopping complex gets built. The complex, however, likely will provide a huge boost in tax revenues.

Writing in the Vail Daily, editor Don Rogers argues that the project will improve the quality of life and describes the developer, Redd Development, which has done projects in Arizona, Missouri and other states, as “among the tops in the business ... they have a track record of doing what they say they will do.”

Another voice of support comes from life-long resident Herb Eaton. Writing in theEagle Valley Enterprise, he argues that the launch of Vail in 1962 made it impossible for Eagle to remain the agricultural town of his youth. “Development does change lifestyle,” he agrees, but asks critics: “Would any of us be here without development? I almost guarantee with certainty, none of you came here with the intentions of tending to a flock of sheep.”

But another letter-writer, Liz Spetnagel, contends that Eagle River Station is not the answer to what ails the town. The shopping complex, she contends, is a “dying 1990’s retail construct that will only disperse our existing sales tax revenues while continuing to damage the best thing Eagle has, its small-town charm.”

A Costco store had originally been envisioned for the site, but Eagle voters several years ago rejected it. Instead, the adjacent town of Gypsum took in the store and most of its tax revenues. But most people still drive to the store by going through Eagle.


Ski town tourism on rebound

KETCHUM, Idaho – In the old days, cash registers rang. Not anymore, of course, but have their computerized equivalents kept busy this past week in ski towns?

It’s still too early for reports, but reservations seem to have picked up through December in most locations.

“Reservations in the last 10 days have really picked up,” said Sun Valley spokesman Jack Sibbach, speaking just before Christmas. “Every time it snows, we get 30 percent more calls.”

But bookings for the duration of ski season were up and down, he told theIdaho Mountain Express. Some weeks surpass last year’s figures, but others lag.

Going into winter, the Aspen Skiing Co. projected flat skier visits this year, starting out more slowly than last winter but finishing strong. In contrast, ski season last winter ended with a thud.

In December, the Mountain Travel Research Program reported rising occupancies at hotels but dropping rates. “Consumers and resorts seem to be settling into a new normal – a situation where consumers have fewer discretionary dollars, but recognize that this is a buyer’s market and have shifted their spending from conspicuous consumption to cautious consumption,” said Ralf Garrison, the director. “Consumers can be enticed to book reservations and take trips, but the resorts are having to compete with offers that represent their best values,” he added.


Which Gore should be glorified?

KREMMLING – As has long been noted, Lord George Gore lived up to his name. An Irish baronet, he traveled in the American West during 1854-55, led by the legendary mountain man Jim Bridger. With a huge entourage to attend to his whims, Lord leisurely killed deer, elk and bear, plus antelope, moose and whatever else crossed his path. He had a cadre of assistants to drive the animals in front of him.

For this gluttony, Gore was remembered with a mountain range that sprawls from Steamboat Springs to Leadville. This same range is divided by a major canyon cut by the Colorado River, notched by a pass, and drained by a creek that flows through Vail. All are named Gore.

And that, argues Jeffry B. Mitton, a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, constitutes an injustice. Writing a column originally published in theBoulder Daily Camera, he argues that the name should be retained – but the namesake changed. He

would propose that the namesake be changed to honor Al Gore, the former U.S. president.

Gore, the hunter, “killed for personal aggrandizement, for bragging rights,” says Mitton. Gore, the politician, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

Is this likely to happen? Probably not, as the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which has authority over such matters, does not allow names of living persons. And, it is likely that there are no rules for changing the namesake of a geographic feature.


Debate continues in Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE – The U.S. Forest Service has reversed course and decided that a decision regarding a potential expansion of the Crested Butte ski area can be appealed to the regional forester.

Supporters of the expansion were indignant after Charlie Richmond, a forest supervisor, announced in early November that he would not accept the proposal for consideration. He said that part of his decision was because the Crested Butte community remained divided about whether the expansion onto Snodgrass Mountain should occur.

But Crested Butte itself seems to remain divided. The matter is of such perceived significance that a recent meeting of the Town Council drew 250 people. TheCrested Butte News reports that people spoke for and against, but council members came to no resolution about what their stance will be regarding the process, let alone whether the council supports the expansion.

Not so Colorado Ski Country USA. The trade organization adopted a position urging the Forest Service review the process under the strictures of the National Environmental Policy Act, warning that the failure to do so would have a chilling effect on other ski areas in Colorado.


Cold causes record power demand

SUN VALLEY, Idaho – Cold temperatures in December caused Idaho Power to produce more electricity than ever before. Temperatures in the Sun Valley/Ketchum area remained below zero for days at a time. The utility has tiered rates, charging more money per kilowatt hour to consumers who use larger quantities. That, in turn, encourages consumers to adopt energy efficienct measures.

In Park City, Utah, a forum was held to discuss what steps could be taken to lessen the community’s environmental footprint. A repair shop, for fixing appliances, was one idea, but somebody also wished for more pricing incentives to encourage energy conservation, as the Idaho utility already has adopted.

The cold snaps of October and December were fit for neither man nor beast, reports theRocky Mountain Outlook. Bark beetles, however, seemed to survive well enough.

Temperatures dropped to 51 below in northern Alberta and rose to daytime highs of 22 below, too warm to kill many of the bugs.


Town seeks alternative to Tahoe

JACKSON, Wyo. – Two years ago, Teton County and the town of Jackson combined efforts to reduce use of carbon fuels 10 percent by 2010. But the sheriff’s department has increased use 6 percent.

What can be done? In the short term, maybe very little. Sheriff’s deputies currently use Chevrolet Tahoes, which get 14 to 17 miles per gallon, and all other potential vehicles have some sort of drawback. Electric hybrids get better mileage, but their batteries may not be beefy enough to handle the multiple light systems, radios and other electrical needs of deputies.

TheJackson Hole News&Guide reports that officials are investigating the potential of using an ethanol fuel mix in the Tahoes. Larry Pardee, Jackson’s public works director, says the fuel should not reduce the ability of deputies to giddy-up in cases of emergencies.


Ski resorts reach out to gay skiers

VAIL – Vail has joined the resorts with dedicated efforts to attract gay skiers. The Vail Gay Ski Week will be held Jan. 27-31, immediately after Aspen hosts its 33rd annual Gay Ski Week. Telluride hosts a similar affair in February, and Whistler also has long had a gathering of gay skiers.

Aspen’s affair attracted 1,500 to 2,000 people last year, mostly from out of state. Vail’s event aims for 500 to 1,000, mostly from Denver and other Front Range communities. Organizers for both events tellThe Aspen Times that they see no particular competition.

– 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