Feast time for famished ski areas
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – For many ski areas facing famine at the start of ski season, it’s now feast time.

The Steamboat Ski Area had 27 inches of snow on Sunday, breaking the previous record for a one-day dump. When the snow from the storm stopped falling on Monday, there were another 7 inches at mid-mountain. Meteorologists tell the Steamboat Pilot that they expect the good fortune to continue through the week, with snow possible every day.

At Idaho’s Bogus Basin, snow was so scarce that the ski area, located near Boise, didn’t open until Jan. 19. Now, Bogus has more snow than it did during last year’s season of big and regular storms.

More snowmaking this year? Spokeswoman Gretchen Anderson says no. There’s just no water to be had, she explains.

But while winter has returned, it’s still a relatively warm and so-so winter in many spots.

In Aspen, Ferrari has had to modify its first winter driving school and refund money to some participants because a lack of snow and warm temperatures in the area made it impossible to maintain an ice-and-snow course, reports the Aspen Daily News. Instead, for $11,300 per person, 40 drivers participated in a two-day program that involved driving Ferraris on 350 miles of mountain roads in the Aspen area.

School affairs legal in some cases
BASALT – Where does the line fall in sexual relations between adults and minors?

A 25-year-old basketball coach and health instructor at Roaring Fork High School is being charged with sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, with a pattern of abuse. A female, the 2004 alumnus of the school and star basketball player, had sex with a student who was 17-years-old when the consensual relationship began.

In a similar case, a 30-year-old wrestling coach and social studies teacher at another high school in Colorado was sentenced to 10 years to life in prison after having sex with a 17-year-old female student three times.

The Aspen Times explains that under Colorado law, an 18-year-old can have a consensual sexual relationship with an older adult, even a teacher. That would violate the policy of most schools, but it’s not against the law. A 17-year-old can also have sexual relations with an adult of any age. What’s illegal is for an adult in a position of trust to have sex with anybody under his or her supervision when they’re 17 or younger.

Houses get bigger over decades
PARK CITY, Utah – It would seem that houses are continuing to get bigger at Park City. The city is big enough to have both the old miners’ houses, which are mostly small, and the mansions of Deer Valley.
Yet based simply on averages, houses are getting bigger: a 35 percent increase since 1990. As of 2010, the average new home was 6,824 square feet.
The Park Record explains that the larger houses typically are built on large lots and by people who think they need a mansion for all their kids and grandchildren on Christmas Day.
But both real estate agents and an architect tell the newspaper that there’s now a slight downward trend in house size, owing partly to utility bills.

Scientists in Banff track pika
BANFF, Alberta – Study is under way of the “hay piles” built during summer in Banff National Park. The hay piles are the small stashes of grass assembled by pikas to see them through the winter. The small rodent-like mammals do not hibernate.

Relatively little is known about the pikas that frequent the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains, but evidence has emerged that suggests climate change is making survival even more difficult for the small creatures.

“We really don’t know much about pikas in our area, but pikas in other areas are susceptible to changing temperatures, precipitation and timing of spring snowmelt,” says Jesse Whittington, wildlife biologist for Parks Canada.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that Whittington and other researchers counted hay pile sites built by pikas at 12 locations in Banff and Kootenay National Park last year. They will return this summer to compare the piles.

Runners to race from Aspen to Breck
ASPEN – A company called Ragnar Events plans to produce a running race in late July for teams of runners. The 187-mile run will begin at Aspen, continue down-valley to Glenwood Springs, then continue east to Vail and then Breckenridge.

The cost per team is $1,200, and each team must have a van with at least six runners. Each leg typically ranges between 3 and 8 miles. The format allows for a mix of abilities, with presumably the challenging uphill of Vail Pass relying upon the more experienced runners, race coordinators tell The Aspen Times.
Obama girls slip-slide in Aspen
ASPEN – Michelle Obama spent Presidents’ Day Weekend without her personal president.

She and the two young Obamas visited Aspen, where they skied at Buttermilk and stayed with old friends, Jim and Paula Crown. He’s the managing partner of the Aspen Skiing Co. for the Crown family of Chicago, owners of the four ski areas, reports the Aspen Daily News.
Last winter, Michelle Obama and the two daughters visited Vail and Beaver Creek.

Jackson Holers get fond of chickens
JACKSON, Wyo. – Chickens aren’t allowed in Jackson or many of the rural subdivisions. Just the same, when saddle shop owner John Bauer began selling chicken feed a few years ago, he was “absolutely shocked” by how many people came in.

“All over the valley, as in other parts of this country, people are crazy about their backyard chickens,” reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide’s Elizabeth Clair Flood. “They are popular like cupcakes and iPads.”

Last summer, 70 people showed interest in a 4-H chicken club lead by Ginny Mahood, the mother of four children and 12 chickens. Raising chickens is an easy way for children to learn about agriculture, animals and responsibility.

Chickens also are fun, testify any number of Jackson Hole residents. Michelle Metzer, of Wildflower Bakery, likes to sit on the fence with her chickens. “It just makes you feel good to be around these animals,” she told the newspaper. “I can’t explain it.”

Then there are the eggs. Some owners get two-dozen per day – useful for barter or just being generous.

Carol Parke said she hopes to someday be like a chicken: “peaceful, focused, entertaining, perfectly happy with who I am and what I do to express my tiny glimmer of God’s amazing creation.”

Telluride wrangles about avie retrievals
TELLURIDE – The death last week of a snowboarder in the Bear Creek drainage adjacent to the Telluride ski area has renewed a discussion about who bears the responsibility for rescue of avalanche victims.

Most skiers and snowboarders in Bear Creek access the steep slopes after riding the lifts. After several deadly avalanches in the 1980s, the Forest Service ordered backcountry gates closed.

But about a decade ago, the Forest Service decided it was time to open the gates. An estimated 150 to 300 trips are made into the bowl every day during ski season.

Bill Masters, the sheriff of San Miguel County, says he’s left with the responsibility for responding when people are buried, and often killed, in avalanches. Rescue operations can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $500,000, he estimates. And even if no avalanches occur, he has to be prepared, with a staff that is equipped and insured.

Masters tells The Telluride Watch that he wants local governments to consider imposing a lift ticket tax to fund search and rescue operations.

Dave Riley, chief executive officer of Telluride Ski and Golf Co., the ski area operator, dislikes the idea of a lift ticket tax. Few people who purchase lift tickets go into the backcountry. “I think from an equity point of view, dinging visitors to pay for services they are not using isn’t justified.”

Masters says that Telluride’s situation is different from that of other ski areas.

“Here it is so easy to leave the ski area boundaries, ski extremely hazardous, dynamic terrain and then get back on the lift. When I say we have 150 to 300 user trips a day in Bear Creek, there aren’t that many people skiing it, but there are a lot of people doing it five times in a day.”

Neither the ski area, which provides the uphill transportation, or the Forest Service, which controls the gate, has to deal with the aftermath, he says. He suggests – as has been discussed for the last few years – that the Forest Service extend the boundary of the ski area into Bear Creek and give it responsibility for administration – and for rescues.

The decade-long sheriff in San Miguel County, Masters has handled many avalanche fatalities. He says that none of the victims he has recovered would have been saved by ABS air bags or Avalungs.
– Allen Best