Sundance Film Festival makes return

PARK CITY, Utah – When you hear about Robert Redford, you’re inclined to think of him as the mountain man Jeremiah Johnson or the outlaw Sundance Kid.

Ironically, the film festival he launched at Park City 30 years ago has traditionally drawn urban sophisticates from Los Angeles and New York. For a time, they were called PIBs, short for People in Black.

Nan Chalat-Noaker, editor ofThe Park Record, says that PIBs no longer applies. “People are wearing different fashions,” she says.

But whatever they wear, there’s a bunch in Park City at the 10-day festival right now. It is, she says, about three times busier than Christmas week, the traditional peak for ski towns.

Often, Sundance turns into a theater of protest. Representatives of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were there, as usual. But the most public theater this year has involved the movie called “Red State,” which satirizes Christian fundamentalists and radical conservatives.

Showing up to picket the showing were members of the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kan., who say God doesn’t love many people and hates homosexuals. They have even picketed funerals of soldiers slain in Iraq.

In a way, says Chalat-Noaker, the movie director Kevin Smith and the church members have a symbiotic relationship, each needing the other to gain broader attention.

But students from Park City High School stole the show, she reports. They picketed, too, but their signs were of absolute nonsense. “They were able – in a sweet, nonsensical way – to steal the show from the protestors,” she says.

The Salt Lake Tribune happened to interview Durango’s Adrienne Aronson, who was making her first trip to Sundance. She told the paper that she was loving “all of it. Just the spirit of it. It’s just the best ever. This is a good advertisement for Utah.”

Taos carefully crafts its climate plan

TAOS, N.M. – How do you measure the success of a climate-action plan? In Taos, long-range planner Matthew Foster says his goal is to have somebody read it who wasn’t paid to do so.

He succeeded – at least once.

Of course, the plan, a 50-page document called the Forest and Water Climate Plan, just came out. Foster hopes it’s practical. Part of that practicality, he says, is in recognizing that many people in Taos think all the talk of a warming climate is nonsense.

Accordingly, the plan says a high priority should be outreach and education. But the plan also steers somewhat clear of phrases like global warming and climate change. Instead, says Foster, it talks about what people like to do: hunt and fish, for example, and suggests that efforts must be made to ensure resiliency of those systems in the face of changes.

Underlying the plan is a recognition by climate scientists that changes will be inevitable, even if emissions of greenhouse gases were stopped tomorrow. The legacy of those past emissions will become more fully apparent in coming decades, according to dozens of climate models, which single out the American Southwest for more extensive heating than most parts of the world. That, in turn, will likely affect forests and water.

For example, the plan points to the need for increased use of helicopters to fight fires in the surrounding Carson National Forest.

Foster says his intent in designing the document was to be “very specific, very timely, but not too lofty.”

Locavores run afoul of Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The five people and five dogs who live at a home in Steamboat Springs are legal. But the two goats and most of the 40-plus chickens are not.

The case is a test of city regulations, which were liberalized in 2009 to allow up to five hens in some residential districts and up to five goats on lots a half-acre or larger. The city staff is now drawing up regulations that would allow fewer goats but in larger areas.

The homeowners, John and Holly Fielding, are adamant about

the benefits of being locavores within 150 feet of their house. One of their children is lactose intolerant, but can drink goats’ milk. It is not sold at stores.

“The ability to produce one’s own food is not simply an economic advantage nor a resourcefulness advantage, but the food that one is able to produce and consume in its unprocessed condition is far, far healthier,” John told theSteamboat Pilot, citing the enzymes found in raw goats’ milk.

The lot also has 23 laying hens, which produce about a dozen eggs a day. “We eat about a dozen eggs a day,” he said. “Two growing boys, you know.”

One problem for Steamboat as it revaluates where and how to allow goats is that they are, if tethered, vulnerable to roaming dogs. The Fieldings don’t have that problem, as they keep their animals in a greenhouse-type facility.

Ketchum embracing green building

KETCHUM, Idaho – Ketchum officials are mulling just how much they should raise the energy bar for new construction.

The International Building Code being adopted by most government jurisdictions seals the cracks of energy use substantially, although far less than most people who are concerned about greenhouse gases think is necessary. Some, such as Ketchum city officials, are talking about raising the bar a little more.

If adopted, the code would require third-party verification of designs and also mandate blower-door tests to reveal where heat or cool air loss occurs.

Other municipalities in the Sun Valley area have already adopted stiffer building codes or are considering doing so, reports theIdaho Mountain Express.

The newspaper quotes architect Steve Kearns, who assisted in drawing up the proposed sustainable building code, as saying that most potential developers of hotels in Ketchum favor the new code. “We’re already doing a lot of this stuff anyway,” he said.

But a representative of local real-estate sales agents, Bob Crosby, points to shifting public opinion that is more skeptical of so-called green building codes.

Pitkin County weighs in on land swaps

ASPEN – A policy governing how to evaluate proposed land exchanges involving federal lands has won support from directors of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails.

“We’ve set a very high bar,” said Tim McFlynn, chairman of the board.

Among other provisions, the policy says land trades should result in no net loss of publicly owned land in Pitkin County or, somewhat more broadly, the Roaring Fork River watershed. Also, trades should not result in net losses in public access to public lands.

Pitkin County during the last year went through a long discussion about a land exchange proposed to Congress by the billionaire owners of a ranch at the foot of Mt. Sopris, about 30 miles west of Aspen near the town of Carbondale.

The ranch owners, Leslie and Abigail Wexner, who own Victoria’s Secret and other businesses, wanted to get a Bureau of Land Management parcel that is an island within their ranch. To accomplish this, they offered to give the federal government another ranch of comparable size near Carbondale.

The conservation community in the Roaring Fork Valley was split by the proposal. But in a valley where open space is next to godliness, the county commissioners were unwilling to lend support. As such, no member of Congress was willing to carry the proposal.

Banff ski patrollers stage a protest

BANFF, Alberta – Some 25 ski patrol and snow-safety staffers at Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort called in sick on a recent Wednesday.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook explains that the mass illness was a protest of working conditions after four senior staff members were dismissed in December. An unidentified group spokesman said the ski patrollers were upset that their friends and bosses were fired – and upset with the lack of a back-up plan.

“People have been working when they’re sick, when they have frostbitten toes and they are working in the infirmary when they should be at home in bed.”

The ski area kept a gondola and several lifts running during the day of protest, but offered discounted lift tickets for the day.

Whistler Blackcomb delivers nice dividend

WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler Blackcomb Holdings, the new public entity that owns the ski area, has issued an 8 percent dividend to shareholders. In reporting the dividend, pro-rated for the time since the IPO went through in November,Pique Newsmagazine consulted a business professor at the University of British Columbia. “Just on the surface it would seem like they’re trying to give a positive signal,” said James Brander. “Presumably it’s based on some positive underlying fundamentals.”

Eagle County sees a strange snow year

VAIL – It’s been a healthy snow winter in Vail, with the ski company bragging about having the fourth highest mid-mountain snow levels since the ski area started in 1962. That may be, but 30 miles down valley in Eagle, there’s less snow than on an average year. Go figure.

– 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