Run-off 'normal,' albeit weeks early
LEADVILLE – Loveland Ski Area, located 60 miles west of Denver, closed on Sunday, earlier than previously scheduled. Hot weather and disappearing snow were blamed for the premature end to ski season.

But mountain passes are opening early, as the unseasonably warm and dry weather continues through May. State highway crews were talking about opening 12,095-foot Independence Pass, between Aspen and Leadville, in early May as well as 12,126-foot Cottonwood Pass, between Crested Butte and Buena Vista. Memorial Day is the usual for both.

June-like temperatures prevailed early in the past week. Aspen set a record temperature for April 23, with a high of 75 degrees and then tied the old record of 73 the next day. The Aspen Times says the records there go back to World War II.

Wildlife overpass in the works
KREMMLING – It’s possible that the first wildlife overpass in Colorado will be built on a two-lane highway through a sagebrush-covered valley between the ski resorts of Summit County and Steamboat Springs.

The 10-mile road segment north of Kremmling is deadly. The Sky-Hi News reports that three people have died and 23 have been injured from 2007-11, although it’s not clear how many can be attributed to accidents provoked by deer crossing the highway.

The segment is considered among the top 100 miles in Colorado heavily impacted by wildlife movement. In recent years, the state has sought to decrease accidents by reducing the nighttime speed to 55 mph, down from 65 during daylight.

The design plan offered by the Colorado Department of Transportation calls for two overpasses, similar to those found in Montana and Banff National Park, and five underpasses. In addition, tall fencing along the highway would be needed to drive deer to the crossings and underpasses.
C-DOT is also considering wildlife overpasses along the I-70 corridor. An international design competition held in 2010 focused on a problem area near Vail Pass. The contest yielded many ideas that may reduce costs of overpasses, making them more economical to deploy.

Can Montana lighten Albertan’s wallets?
WHITEFISH, Mont. –There is talk in Whitefish about creating a trade center in Calgary, to help encourage Canadians to spend their money in Montana.

Plenty already do. Albertans, flush with bulging wallets from the oil- and gas-fueled boom, routinely trek south to Whitefish and other communities. Some have built homes. Everybody routinely stocks up on merchandise, some even towing trailers for their loot.

Hauling the goods back north across the international border has its own cost, but rules are loosening. Canadians staying 48 hours in the United States would be allowed to take $800 worth of goods home, compared to $400 previously, without special taxes.

The Whitefish Pilot reports that candidates for the Montana legislature were among those at a recent meeting called to explore the idea of a trade center in Calgary.

“Canadians have a lot of extra money, and we want them to spend money here,” said Dee Brown, a businesswoman from nearby Hungry Horse, at the south end of Glacier National Park.

Molybdenum mining resumes at Climax
LEADVILLE – Mining has resumed at Climax, the molybdenum mine atop the Continental Divide between Leadville and Copper Mountain.
The Leadville Herald says that Freeport McMoRan expects to ramp up production to 20 million pounds of molybdenum next year. If prices rise, the company can increase production to 30 million pounds a year. The mine, located at 11,318-foot Fremont Pass, first opened in the waning days of World War I.

As world supplies of “moly,” which is used as an alloy in steel and for other industrial applications, glutted, the mine closed in 1981, putting nearly 3,000 people out of work and converting Leadville into a bedroom community for Vail and Breckenridge.

Snow to blame for tepid housing sales?
ASPEN – Can snowfall help explain sluggish real-estate sales activity? That’s one hypothesis proffered for Aspen’s faltering real estate sales in the first quarter of 2012.

William Small, manager director of Frias Luxury Estates, explains that the Aspen real estate sales of $123 million were 64 percent behind those during the same period last year. Writing in the Aspen Daily News, he posits that the disappointing snow conditions this winter kept potential real estate buyers at home. However, he also points out that less real estate has been for sale – and what is for sale has a higher price, with the average asking price 9 percent ahead of last year.

In Vail and Eagle County, sales also lagged in March. Total dollar volume was 68 percent of last year, although January and February were up, according to the market analysis of Land Title Guarantee Co.

In Steamboat, sales volume in dollars was up, with one house fetching $834 per square foot. But 21 of the 52 home sales in Routt County were bank sales.

In Telluride, long-time real estate agent George Harvey Jr. writes that he thinks the demand part of the equation is overcoming the supply. “With virtually no new construction in any of the Colorado resort markets, it is just a matter of time in which inventory will become scarce and prices start to increase,” he says. That time might arrive in Telluride yet this year, he thinks, but more slowly at more outlying locations.

Aspen continues to low-carb diet
ASPEN – Aspen continues its efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of its electrical supply. That effort began in the 1980s, long before global warming became such a pressing concern, when the city financed conversion of nearby Ruedi Dam into hydroelectric capacity. That and other steps have allowed the city’s utility department to now claim that 75 percent of the electricity provided to customers is carbon free.

Aspen now continues with two more efforts to harness hydro power in the region. The City Council, reports the Aspen Daily News, now wants to negotiate purchase of electricity from hydroelectric generators to be installed on Ridgway Dam, located near Telluride.

In generating 10 million kilowatt hours per year, the hydro component will displace the need for electricity generated by existing coal plants in Nebraska, but at no additional cost: just 5.9 cents per kilowatt hour. The hydro power can be generated when Aspen needs it most, during peak winter loads.

The city is also moving forward with plans to generate 7.1 million kilowatt hours per year by harnessing the power of falling water in two local creeks. That plan, however, is being fiercely opposed by some local environmentalists, who argue that the aquatic life of the creeks will be severely impacted.

Coyotes challenge morning dog-walker
CANMORE, Alberta – First a cougar tried to nab somebody’s dog as it was being walked by a resident of Canmore. Lately, a bear has been poking around town. And now, a Canmore woman reports that she was walking her springer spaniel early one morning when three coyotes approached her. She took refuge at a nearby house. Wildlife authorities tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook that the coyotes may have been defending a den in the area.

Sunglass icon just wanted to see better
KETCHUM, Idaho – Goggle inventor and orthodontist Robert Earl Smith has died at the age of 78. Frustrated by the fogging of his goggles when skiing at Alta, Utah, where he then lived, Smith built prototypes at his kitchen table using foam, glue and orthodontic tools. They were the first to have double lens and side-vented foam, which allowed the goggles to breathe.

The Idaho Mountain Express explains that Smith later founded a company bearing his name and located it in Ketchum. Further improvements in goggles were introduced by his firm in the 1970s and the 1990s.

His son, Drew, said Smith was “sternly practical in most areas of his life. He didn’t like flashy stuff. He used to really resist change except a few new models of goggles and a few colors. That practicality – and making a quality product – made him the best.”

New coalition supports Wasatch ski link
PARK CITY, Utah – The jostling about a proposed ski interconnection between Park City and Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts continues.
The latest twist is formation of a new coalition, called Lift Utah, which is made up of 20 community leaders from the Salt Lake Valley and Park City area. Opponents dismissed the announcement of the new coalition as a “dog-and-pony show,” reports the Park Record. It was created because “they’re not finding public support from the public at large,” said Carl Fisher of Save Our Canyons.

The gondola link would require changed use of federal lands, over which it would cross. The two U.S. representatives from the Salt Lake City area, one a Democrat and one a Republican, have lined up on opposite sides. The Democrat, Jim Matheson, has sided with environmentalists, including the City of Salt Lake, which worries about degradation of municipal water supplies. The Republican, Rob Bishop, has sponsored legislation favored by the ski area operators.

Golden parachuters pull off mid-air feat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The Steamboat Pilot & Today tells of a local man, Joe Pete LoRusso, who is 62 and among a very celebrated group of 60 skydivers who are 60 years and older. You may call them flakes.

Recently, the skydivers flew in three airplanes to an altitude of 16,000 feet above Lake Elsinore, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles. After exiting their planes, they linked to create a precise snowflake pattern.

“It’s very cool to set a world record, especially in your 60s,” Lo Russo told the newspaper.

This bests the record of a similar age group in 2011. Next, they hope to enlist 80 to form a snowflake.

LoRusso told the Pilot that the parachuters had just 70 to 80 seconds to pull off their feat as they dropped from 16,000 to 5,000 feet. At that point, the high-flyers had to start peeling apart, to avoid becoming entangled. At 2,500 feet, they were dispersed enough to pull their ripcords.

– 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