Shovel racing returns to Angel Fire

ANGEL FIRE, N.M. – Shovel races have returned to the slopes of Angel Fire, reports theWall Street Journal, but with restrictions imposed since the races were last held in 2005.

The newspaper explains that the shovel races began simply enough several decades ago. People parked their rear ends within the scoops of the old-fashioned grain shovels and let fly. That alone can produce plenty of thrills.

But competitive sports soon began modifying the shovels to achieve ever-greater speeds. “An early prototype fused a shovel with a bicycle. The sport morphed into a cross between soapbox derby and bobsledding,” notes the newspaper.

One competitor, who recalls blowing his student loan money on one contraption, recalls a goliath made from a B-52 bomber’s fuel tank. Others had roll cages and hydraulic braking systems. Speeds sometimes exceeded 70 mph.

The result was rather predictable. The most serious injuries were to a competitor in 1997, at the inaugural Winter X Games, who cracked his sternum, bruised his heart, and broke his jaw, leg and back in three places. He had to declare bankruptcy because he couldn’t pay his medical bills.

Now, the competition has returned to the slopes at Angel Fire, but with nothing extra added to the scoop shovels other than paint and wax. To the sport’s more rabid garage tinkerers, notes theJournal, this is akin to asking a NASCAR driver to take to the track in the family sedan.

But to others, it returns some sanity to the sport.

“People get worked up about losing the modified shovels, but at least we don’t need an aircraft-carrier net anymore to stop people from crashing into the resort,” said Gail Boles, a 47-year-old pharmacist from Taos.


Vail benefactor gets 9-year sentence

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – The jig is finally up for Alberto Vilar. He rode the boom in Cisco and other high-tech stocks to great wealth, but then had to resort to something of a Ponzi scheme to sustain his lavish lifestyle and philanthropic commitments – including some in Vail.

A judge in New York City has sentenced the 69-year-old Vilar to nine years in prison and ordered him to pay $21.9 million in restitution.

Vilar, a native of Cuba, had accumulated great wealth as a co-founder of Amerindo Investment Advisors.Fortune Magazine at one point estimated his wealth at $950 million.

In turn, the opera-loving Vilar donated up to $225 million to artistic endeavors around the world, including those of Beaver Creek and Vail, where he owned three homes. He donated $7 million to creation of a widely acclaimed performing arts center at Beaver Creek, and pledged more (delivering some of it) to improvements at the Ford Amphitheater in Vail.

Vilar’s name remains on the building at Beaver Creek, unlike at some other places, where his name was stripped after he failed to follow through on his pledges.

The troubles began when the illusory wealth of the tech market imploded in 2000. In 2008, he was accused of conspiracy to steal $40 million from investors.

“In essence, he rolled sevens for years,” said U.S. Judge Richard J. Sullivan at Vilar’s sentencing. “But the sevens turned to snake eyes in 2000, 2001.”

The Associated Press, which covered the sentencing, noted that after Vilar’s arrest, he found himself largely abandoned by the affluent and powerful. He was confined to his apartment under house arrest for more than three years before his trial.

The judge, reports AP, said that Vilar, despite his tremendous generosity, had to be punished to send a stern message to money managers that they must act honestly to protect customers’ assets. “If they don’t believe that, the entire economy can suffer,” said the judge.


Strip shows banned during Olympics

WHISTLER, B.C. – Clothes must stay on in Whistler during the Olympics. That’s the mandate from the municipal council, but not all the locals are impressed.

“It’s interesting to note that while Whistler’s mayor and council are attempting to ban stripping, they have taken no action to outlaw escort services or erotic massage providers, many of which provide sexual services at a price,” writes Dan Pitcairn, president of a “naturists” group from the Vancouver area. Naturists believe clothing should be optional.

G.D. Maxwell, a columnist forPique Newsmagazine, explains that with the escorts ramping up to supply what they expect to be heightened demand during the Olympic Games, one of the local clubs decided to join the flesh trade. That’s what caused the verdict from the municipal council.

“While I’m not a fan of peeler bars, I’d personally rather see strippers than any member of the International Olympic Committee plying their trade on the mean streets of Whistler,” he adds. “Strippers sell an honest – silicon notwithstanding – product to willing buyers.”

He also seems to have a low opinion of the Vancouver Olympic Committee, called VANOC, an opinion that may be in the minority in Whistler but which has been expressed fairly often in the last year.


Drought dominates much of Colorado

AVON – It has been cold in central and northern Colorado, the epicenter of the North American ski industry. Snow is another matter. Snow surveys conducted by federal officials in early February have revealed snowfall totals that rank among the more meager in the last 20 to 30 years.

“Right now, due to a good October, it’s about 76 percent of average,” said Rick Bly, a National Weather Service observer in Breckenridge. “But December through January were only 56 percent of average.”

More generally, runoff forecasts were 65 to 75 percent in the Colorado River headwaters, a region that extends from Winter Park to Crested Butte.

In Vail, snowfall amounts have been paralleling those of the 2001-02 winter. That low snowfall, coupled with a hot and early spring, resulted in the lowest streamflows in several centuries.

But this year could yet turn wet. Asked if he’s worried about wildfire potential, Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller told theVail Daily that nobody is overly anxious.


Tragedy strikes Revelstoke sidecountry

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Authorities we so worried about out-of-bounds excursions at Revelstoke Mountain Resort that Cpl. Ross Wiebe, a spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in mid-January told a local newspaper it was only a matter of time before an outcome would be tragic.

The very next day, two young men and the father of one of them skied out of bounds, ending up in a steep, icy chute. They took off their skis and tried to climb out, but fell and slid approximately 100 meters and over a cliff. Only one of the three survived the fall, and he was helicoptered out just before dark.

The Revelstoke Times Review notes a string of out-of-bound incidents the week beforehand, although all ended with happier outcomes.


Parks inventory black bear deaths

BANFF, Alberta – A new report from Parks Canada shows that an average 23 black bears have been killed annually during the last two decades in Banff, Jasper, Revelstoke and other national parks of the Canada Rockies.

No conclusions can be drawn from that statistic, park officials tell theRocky Mountain Outlook, although it does establish a baseline for evaluating future trends.

During that span, Jasper has had the largest mortality, 209 deaths, compared with 90 in Banff, and 56 in Glacier. Jasper led probably because of its larger size and bear habitat. However, bear deaths have declined in part due to reduced speed limits on highways and better handling of garbage.

– 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