Local lynx trots back to Canada

SILVERTON – Wildlife researchers were surprised to learn recently that a male Canada lynx that had spent several years in the San Juan Mountains had been found in a trap in Alberta, north of Banff National Park.

The lynx was among 218 that had been trapped in Canada and Alaska and then released in Colorado from 1999 - 2007. This particular lynx was caught in 2003 near Kamloops, British Columbia, about halfway between the ski towns of Whistler and Revelstoke.

Released near Creede, it initially wandered farther into the San Juan Mountains and mated with the same female at least two successive years, in 2005 and 2006, producing six kittens. Biologists knew this because they had installed a radio collar around the lynx’s neck before it was released.

Then, in April 2007, the radio collar stopped transmitting. After that, it’s anybody’s guess where the cat went – until a trapper in Alberta found the lynx in his trap north of Banff National Park.

Tanya Shenk, the lead lynx researcher for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, told theTelluride Watch that while lynx have wandered widely, none have gone so far as this one. She told the newspaper she wonders whether the same thing that caused lynx in Colorado to apparently stop having kittens for a couple of years caused the lynx to begin trotting northward.

The agency’s website shows that lynx have gone in all directions after being released in Colorado, even if most have stayed relatively close by in the San Juan Mountains. Some even have gone to Nebraska and Kansas.

Winter Park plays the name game

WINTER PARK – People sure do get attached to names. Consider two cases from the Winter Park area. In one, the Grand County Road & Bridge Department took down the signs in Winter Park Highlands, Sunset Ridge and other semi-rural developments.

The problem is, it’s hard to keep the cutesy names straight. For example, Grand County has 22 roads that start with the word “elk.” Instead, the county installed a numeric system, such as Country Road 85 and Country Road 856.

People, at least some, took great umbrage. “People have a feeling of ownership of the street names in their neighborhoods,” explained Lurline Underbrink Curran, the county manager.

The county commissioners allow homeowners’ associates to post their signs, but only below the numeric designation. Non-compliant wooden signs can be posted off the right-of-way.

Also drawing comment in pages of theSky-High News during recent weeks was the name of a crossing of the Continental Divide just east of Winter Park. It was first called Rollins Pass, after John Quincy Adams Rollins, the road builder who blasted enough rocks to make it passable for horse-drawn wagons.

But then, railroad tracks followed for about 23 years, and during that time a station at the summit operated. It was called Corona. Railroads probably began calling it Corona Pass, and a Forest Service sign that still exists in Winter Park further spread the colloquialism. Further, say some with undeniable truth, Corona is altogether a more poetic name than Rollins.

TheSky-Hi Daily News insists it will use Corona Pass, in deference to dominant local use, even if the U.S. Board of Geographic Names (and hence most maps) calls it Rollins Pass. Jean Miller, a local resident and former teacher, suggests a compromise of sorts: “Rollins Pass (Corona).”

Vail continues talk of train transport

AVON – In 1997, Union Pacific stopped running trains from Glenwood Springs, past Beaver Creek and Vail and over the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass. It’s a steep route, and the railroad figured it could move freight across the Rocky Mountains more cheaply by sending trains – about 20 daily now – through the Moffat Tunnel, near Winter Park.

Implications were obvious: What if locals could use this rail route? Union Pacific hasn’t formally abandoned the rail, but local eyes have continued to covet it.

TheVail Daily reports a new spurt of interest led by Vince Cook, a resident of Beaver Creek who had careers with both NASA and IBM.

Working with other former executives, he has been pounding the pavement to sell a vision of a local train service, with 11 stations between Dotsero and Minturn, and possibly an extension across the Continental Divide to Leadville.

In turn, more housing would be built up along the tracks, near the stations.

A local transportation agency in Eagle County, called ECO Transit, has had the same idea, but with a vision of implementing it in 2030, by which time Interstate 70 will get intolerably congested.

But, as is always the case, the question remains of where the money will come from for this train service, either sooner or later. Meanwhile, ridership on the buses that connect the Eagle Valley and Vail has dropped off by about 40 percent.

Business starts stabilizing in Aspen

ASPEN – Last year, ski season in Aspen ended in an economic thud, and March seemed like April.

Although a resurgence predicted for late in the ski season this year failed to materialize, at least the downward spiral ended.

And there are expectations of improvements, reportsTheAspen Times. The newspaper notes a survey by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. Of respondents, 45 percent expected improvement this year, compared to 15 percent at the same time last year.

William Small, of Frias Commercial Real Estate, concluded that the worst is behind Aspen in terms of both residential and commercial real estate. But Kurt Adam, president of Community Banks of Colorado, said he doesn’t expect 2010 to be anything but flat.

Meanwhile, the Aspen Skiing Co. reports that it expected a flat winter this year, but results were actually a little better. David Perry, the company’s senior vice president, described the results as a “slight improvement and stabilization.”

“We’re not celebrating by any stretch of the imagination,” he toldThe Aspen Times.

Visits increased slightly, business in ski school was stronger, and travelers’ wallets altogether “have loosened up,” he said.

He also said that the company’s special marketing programs “appear to have paid off.” Attendance at World Cup ski races was the best in years, and attendance at the Winter X Games set a record.

Olympic Village still in good shape

WHISTLER, B.C. – Olympic athletes left their housing in Whistler in good shape, and officials think they know why. Not only were the units well built, if still somewhat incomplete. Officials also made the decision to have purchasers of the units – who will begin occupying the units later this year – post pictures of themselves and notes to their “guests.”

Some athletes, in return, left notes and gifts for the homeowners.

“I got comments back from people appreciating knowing that they were staying in someone’s home, that they were staying in a home that somebody actually owned,” said Tim Morrison, the managing director of the Olympic Villages for the Vancouver Organizing Committee.

All told, the Olympic housing budget was $161 million. Most of the money has been spent, but in coming months, the Whistler units will be outfitted with kitchens and appliances, something that organizers believed the Olympics would not need.

Vail Resorts applauds Obamacare

BRECKENIRDGE – Taking a measured view of the new national health care legislation, Vail Resorts has concluded that it’s good for the company – and should be good for tourism-based communities with seasonal economies.

In an essay printed in theSummit Daily News, company chief executive Rob Katz notes that the new law allows young adults to remain on the health care plans of their parents until they are 26. That, he notes, covers a large portion of the entry-level seasonal population.

But the plan also gives seasonal workers affordable options to off-season coverage beyond expensive COBRA coverage.

And it also mandates people carry coverage year round. “This latter point eliminates the incentive for employees to squeeze all their medical costs into one season,” he notes.

“The new health care laws, while imperfect, will help provide affordable coverage options to Colorado’s seasonal workforce, who represents the lifeblood of a key industry in our state.”

– Allen Best


In this week's issue...

July 21, 2022
Wildlife success or deal with the devil?

Land swap approved in Southwest Colorado, but not without detractors

July 21, 2022
Tapping out

The latest strategy to save the San Luis Valley's shrinking aquifer: paying farmers not to farm

July 14, 2022
Hey, good environmental news

Despite SCOTUS ruling, San Juan Generating Station plans to shut down