Uphill skiing shakes up Jackson Hole

JACKSON, Wyo. – Both outrage and a few smiles have been evident in Jackson Hole since 78-year-old Roland Fleck was arrested after refusing to stop skinning up the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Ski patrollers said they tried for 3½ hours to persuade him to stop skiing uphill and instead go with the flow Feb. 5. They even offered to give him a free day pass.

But Fleck, a physician, defiantly told them he was skiing to his granddaughter’s ski race on the mountain and then told them to “just give me a ticket.”

At length, they did more, detaining him with two sets of handcuffs and then hauling him down the mountain in a toboggan. He was in jail for more than seven hours.

“I thought Aspen was crazy, but it sounds like Jackson Hole has its claim to the same,” wrote Ward Hauenstein, of Aspen, in a letter published the following week in theJackson Hole News&Guide.

At resorts across the West, the issue of “uphilling” has become an occasional thorn in recent decades. But while resorts mostly operate on public land, they have special-use permits that allow them to place restrictions on use.

Earlier this winter, Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort annoyed many locals when it announced that people heading uphill, using skins on skis or snowshoes, would have to hew to a restricted route.

But the case at Jackson Hole stands out from others partly because of Fleck. Austrian by birth, he began visiting Jackson Hole in the 1950s and moved permanently in 1978. He was said to be one of the first people to use climbing skins. Fleck invested in Teton Village, the real estate project at the base of the ski area, in 1965, and was known for his emergency room work in Jackson Hole.

But Ray Spencer, the winter sports administrator for the Forest Service, told the newspaper that circumstances at different ski areas require different policies. While Colorado’s Buttermilk ski area has hundreds of people skiing or snowshoeing up its slopes each day, Jackson Hole is different in that significant avalanche work occurs almost daily.

Armando Menocal, an attorney and mountain guide who has litigated for climbing access, commented, “I did civil rights cases for 25 years, people who stand on principle aren’t always the nicest people in the world, but we should be thankful that they have more cojones than we do.”

Ouray officials split on wilderness

OURAY – Ouray County commissioners are presenting less than a united front in support of enlarging the designated wilderness in the San Juan Mountains.

The Telluride Watch reports that one of the three commissioners dissented at a recent forum, arguing that wilderness will handcuff potential mining for rare-earth minerals and development of small hydro projects.

The commissioner, Mike Fidel, who worked at one of the local mines for some years, said he was very uncomfortable relying on a single industry, tourism, for the local economy. “I’m afraid we’re going to lock everything up,” he said.

But Commissioner Lynn Padgett, a geologist, said rare-earth minerals are actually not all that rare. What is rare, she added, is the alpine tundra and water-filtering ecosystem found in the proposed wilderness addition, located on the north slope of the Sneffels Range, between Telluride and Ridgway.

“Mining has always been boom-and-bust,” she said. “Tourism has sustained us and will continue to sustain us.”

Adding testimony was Joe Ryan, a former miner who runs a backcountry hut system. He said in all his years of rambling the proposed wilderness area, he has found only three holes. The minerals are in the interior of the San Juan Mountains, inside the caldera of the ancient volcano, such as in Yankee Boy Basin, he said.

Aspen sees a flurry of mansion sales

ASPEN –The Aspen Times reports a recent run on very expensive houses. Five homes with sales prices of between $13.75 million and $20 million have sold since late December, with contracts out on two more.

The take-home message seems to be that high-end buyers who had been sitting on the sidelines have decided that prices have hit bottom. “People have been hesitant to pull the trigger. Now that’s changing,” said Brian Hazen, vice president at Mason Morse Real Estate.

In some cases, those sitting on the sidelines were well rewarded for their hesitancy. A home sold for $16 million in the recent flurry had originally been listed for $32 million.

But don’t be worried about missing out. There are still 49 homes listed at $10 million and higher in the Aspen area. Real estate agents, ever the hopeful sorts, say they think they can put a dent in that total this year.

Whistler diverts 48 percent of waste

WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistlerites continue to divert more of their waste away from the landfill. But alas, there’s more to divert.

Pique Newsmagazine explains that 35 percent of waste was diverted in 2008, but the diversion rate last year had picked up to 48 percent. A significant portion of that gain was attributed to the increased composting of organics, such as food waste and grass clippings. But people are also producing more waste.

Also on the sustainability front, the municipality is studying the potential for rainwater capture. Capturing rainwater for use in toilets and similar purposes would reduce the energy needed to purify water, town officials note. But the cost of implementing such a system remains prohibitive, given the relatively low cost of water now.

Tahoe resort plans new base village

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The debate is starting about what makes sense as Homewood Mountain Ski Resort plans a major upgrade.

The resort, located on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, has six development alternatives, but the preferred one calls for a 17-acre development that will yield a substantial amount of housing, skier-services facilities and a parking garage. The plans also include a lodge with 75 traditional hotel rooms plus 40 condominium/hotel units, and 30 penthouse condominiums, reports theSierra Sun.

Art Chapman, president of JMA Ventures, a San Francisco-based real-estate firm, said the intent is to create “an upscale boutique ski resort the community can be proud of.”

Chapman touted the environmental credentials of the proposed development, which would be built to LEED gold standard. The project, he said, would make Homewood “the most progressive environmental ski resort ever at Lake Tahoe.”

Sun Valley debates energy efficiencies

HAILEY, Idaho – Can the Ketchum/Sun Valley area go where the Aspen, Vail and Telluride communities have started to go, with more energy-efficient buildings? That’s the drift of things, but there’s plenty of pushback from builders.

TheIdaho Mountain Express explains that county officials are looking to upgrade the building code, to require that homes of more than 11,000 square feet have net zero energy consumption. That would require renewable energy mitigation and great amounts of energy efficiency.

Just how much would this add to the cost of building these mansions? There seems to be no firm figure that is commonly accepted. Estimates at a recent meeting of county officials, builders and environmental advocates ranged from zero to 30 percent.

But meanwhile, the proposed regulations would also require energy audits of even smaller homes of 2,000 square feet. That requirement, said a builder, would be onerous.

Cadillac chosen as official car of Vail

BROOMFIELD – Vail Resorts has hooked up with Cadillac, which is now the official vehicle at the company’s four Colorado ski resorts and two in California. “Vail Resorts provides our guests a world-class experience, and our brands are synonymous with luxury and sophistication,” said Heidi Kercher-Pratt, chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts.

– Allen Best

In this week's issue...

March 17, 2022
Critical condition

Lake Powell drops below threshold for the first time despite attempts to avoid it

March 17, 2022
Uphill climb

Purgatory Resort set for expansion but still faces hurdles

March 10, 2022
Mind, body & soul (... and not so much El Rancho)

New health care studio takes integrated approach to healing