Jackson Hole chips away at energy use
JACKSON, Wyo. – In ways large but mostly small, Jackson and Teton County keep chipping away at use of fossil-based energy, as Jackson had vowed to do when signing the Mayors’ Agreement on Climate Change in 2006.

The largest consumer of energy by the local government is the wastewater treatment plant, and that’s where the largest investments have been made. Aided by federal stimulus funds, the community installed 224 kilowatts in solar generating capacity. Since September 2010, it has produced 225 megawatt hours.

Now comes a trio of projects aimed to more efficiently use energy at the treatment plant. One project, which improves the efficiency of aeration, will reduce electricity costs $64,000 per year, given current rates. The entire front-end costs were paid by a $457,000 grant from the local electrical cooperative, Lower Valley Energy, using money from wholesale provider Bonneville Power.

In 2008, the town and county rolled out a program called 10 X 10. As the name implied, the goal was to reduce energy 10 percent by 2010. The program directed attention to reducing energy use and, in some cases, spurred innovation. For example, police commonly keep their cars idling, arguing they can’t shut down their computers. An innovation achieved in the town’s public works department helped them overcome that complaint.
Still, the town fell short in its goal for in-house operations – not achieving the full 10 percent reduction until well into 2011. But it has done so with not just the big projects, but the smaller projects in the town’s building infrastructure. “Most of it was non-sexy and boring: windows, doors, weather stripping, caulking. But it all helps,” says Larry Pardee, the town’s public works director.

Pardee was among a delegation that went to Aspen in 2006 to attend a conference sponsored by that community’s Canary Initiative. They returned to Wyoming, with fire in the belly, determined to shrink Jackson Hole’s contribution to the world’s accumulating greenhouse gas emissions. But the work has been harder than expected.

Finally, major gains are being realized. “I was telling the Jackson council, ‘Maybe it’s partial luck, but with the economy down and budgets being cut, we’re saving money (because of less energy use). It will help us in the short term, and it will help us over the longer term.’”
More is coming as the town, after several years of preparation, begins expanding its energy saving efforts more broadly into the community. The town hopes to get funding of up to $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, to be used specifically for the residential sector – which, despite the high housing prices, is not very energy efficient.

In robust discussions of late, town and county officials have been starting to talk about how they can leverage limited resource into maximum public gain. One possibility: local schools. They have large exposure to the community.

“I feel like we are done talking, and we’re moving to action. But it’s been a long couple of years,” says Pardee. “The key is you just have to get started. You have to get in the game. You can study it ‘til the cows come home. You need to remain flexible and adaptable and change as you go.”

Worry over training flights continues
TAOS, N.M. – From Telluride to Aspen to Taos, local residents and officials are apprehensive about plans by the U.S. Air Force to conduct low-altitude training flights over large swatches of mountainous terrain.
Writing in the Taos News, Laura White says what she experienced while growing up in North Carolina paints a worrisome picture for the mountain communities. “A neighbor’s grain bin buckled. A large heater attached to the ceiling to dry corn crashed to the floor,” she said. “People were awakened in the wee hours one morning by a helicopter scanning the field with search lights until they paused and then flew away – no explanation. A jet tore through the trees – crashing—just after it cleared the community.”
She adds: “The environmental report makes it all sound reasonable. What’s really reasonable is to compensate people for the use of their air space and the danger being added to their lives.”

Passing of daring freeskier noted
ALTA, Utah – There are times when a photo is indeed worth a thousand words. Such was the case in the New York Times on Saturday, when it announced the death of Jamie Pierre, a 38-year-old skier who died last week in an avalanche at Alta.

A resident of Big Sky, Mont., Pierre was skiing in an out-of-bounds (and closed) area at Snowbird called South Chute. The slide carried him 800 feet over rocky terrain and a small cliff. He came to a stop partly buried but died of trauma.

The photo accompanying the obituary showed Pierre in a 2006 jump from a cliff at Grand Targhee, near Driggs, Idaho. Not much more than a dot in the photo, he had already dropped off the top cliff, and was about to leap off a 255-foot jump. The Times also notes jumps of 165 feet off a cliff near Alta, Utah, and an 185-foot jump in Switzerland, plus various other daring feats.

Sun Valley plans more bike trails
KETCHUM, Idaho – Like many other ski areas, Sun Valley has modest ambitions, at least for now, for new summer activities on U.S. Forest Service lands it uses by permit.

Greater latitude in designing mountain bike trails is among the options authorized under the law, signed recently by President Barack Obama. That’s the immediate plan at Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain ski area, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.

The law also allows such things as zip lines and rock-climbing features, but specifically forbids tennis courts, water slides, swimming pools and amusement parks.

The Forest Service projects 600 jobs will be created as a result of new activities offered during summer months at ski areas affected by the new law. Most are in the West.

Aspen OKs scaled-down time shares
ASPEN – After years of saying “no thanks,” the Aspen City Council has approved a new hotel adjacent to the ski slopes. The Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge is to have 22 time-share units, five condos, affordable-housing units for 16 employees, and nearly 155 parking spots.

All of this is near the site of the original ski lift erected after World War II. While just a few blocks from the center of Aspen, with all its tony shops, the neighborhood itself has been allowed to deteriorate. It’s not exactly inner-city Detroit, but neither is it the sort of slope-side real estate you’d expect in Aspen.

This project is one-third the size of the original proposal submitted by developers Jim Chaffin and Jim Light. It will get five years of vested rights, meaning that if the construction doesn’t start within that time frame, the developers have to reapply. They had wanted 10 years. Even so, reports the Aspen Daily News, half the City Council members had a certain amount of heartburn before they joined in a unanimous approval.

Irwin Lodge the new ‘not it’ place
CRESTED BUTTE – Some of the buzz at Crested Butte has to do with the backcountry snowcat operation at the old mining camp Irwin. The name now is simply CS Irwin (for “cat ski”). There’s a new lodge and plenty of bookings, thanks to widespread press in magazines as well as last winter’s 500-plus inches of snowfall.

Mountain, a magazine, says that for 25 years, Irwin has been the “only worthy U.S. equivalent of British Columbia’s famed destination cat-skiing lodges.”
Kyra Martin, the operation’s administrative director, recently told a local chamber group that half the registered guests for winter are from the East Coast, 15 percent from Texas and 13 percent from Colorado – not your typical demographic for Crested Butte.

She also suggested a new cachet, according to a report in the Crested Butte News. “We’re seeing that Crested Butte is the new ‘it’ location to not be seen,” she said. “That is becoming the thing in the celebrity world.”

The skiing costs $350 per person per day, not counting the massages, drinks and so forth. It does sound like a price that the 1 percent can afford.

– Allen Best