Who’ll win the post office name game?

TELLURIDE – Remember U.S. Gen. Norman “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf? He led the U.S. military effort in 1991 to ensure the oil spigots of the Middle East weren’t shut off by Saddam Hussein. But he spent his leisure time in Telluride, and there he helped found a philanthropic organization called the Telluride Foundation.

Now, there’s a movement from within to name the post office in Telluride after the late general. Art Goodtimes, a county commissioner in San Miguel County, says he opposes it. “As a (registered) Green (Party member), I oppose the continuing militarizing of our public infrastructure,” Goodtimes said.

According to The Telluride Watch, Goodtimes noted that a local bridge was named after a local 20-year-old man who had been killed in the Vietnam War and is buried nearby. “That was an appropriate way to honor a young man from this county who gave his life for his country,” he said.


Ouray woman had a remarkable story

OURAY – During November, 23-year-old Zina Lahr went hiking among steep cliffs on the outskirts of Ouray, the town where she was reared. She fell to her death, ending an already remarkable life.

A profile in The Telluride Watch describes the tributes on her Facebook page. Friends described her as “an angel, modern-day prophetess, prayer warrior, forest nymph and, most of all, a beautiful soul.”

She was, according to this account, so precocious that she was mentored by a particle physicist from Los Alamos, N.M., who pointed her in the direction of robotics. She cultivated a fascination for robotics, special effects and both traditional and stop-motion animation.

The Watch describes her as a “willowy young woman with striking, animated features and tousled long, brown hair … In a land of fleece and flannel, Lahr cut an exotic figure on the streets of Ouray, in her Steampunk fashion, with WWII Russian aviator flight goggles forever perched atop her head.”

She wanted to be a storyteller, and she showcased that skill, as well as her animations and 3D art, on her website, normallyodd.com.

Nearly two years ago, she wrote this: “Time is not going to control my life expectancies … but my choices will determine the result of my time here in this world.

“Perhaps, we should use our time in embracing how we truly are, without the expectations of who we should be through time. I am Zina …and I build robots, wear goggles, dress in costumes, play with toys, drink root beer at bars…”


Rules coming into play for uphillers

CRESTED BUTTE – Crested Butte Mountain Resort has backtracked on its plans to require a special uphilling season pass at a cost of $100. Instead, uphilling privileges will be folded into the resort’s season pass.

For those without a season pass, Crested Butte will offer a $10 daily fee or $100 for a season pass. The Crested Butte News quotes a resort spokeswoman who said the main goal of the fees was not to make money, but to “grow the sport.” Exactly how this would occur was not explained.

The Aspen Times tells a more complex story. It reports that the U.S. Forest Service has been taking comment on new rules that would clarify the authority of ski areas to charge for uphilling privileges.

Prompting this move are ski areas in the eastern United States, which two years ago had little snow. This led to the scenario of uphill adventurers vying for the same narrow ribbons of man-made snow where the paying customers were descending. Some ski areas are now requiring that uphillers sign waivers, while others – not just Crested Butte – are charging.

The National Ski Areas Association maintains that no new authority is needed for ski areas to charge uphillers. “What this new policy does is clarify the difference between access to public land and use of privately invested improvements,” explains Geraldine Link, director of public policy for NSAA.

Nobody disputes the right of the public to use national forest lands without charge. But where there are improvements – such as at ski areas – that’s a different matter.

“If you have a cross-country ski area that provides snowmaking and they operate on public lands, you have to purchase a trail pass. Even if you’re not going to ride a lift, you still have to pay a fee to use the ski improvements. This is no different,” said Link.

Link further told Mountain Town News that it’s important for ski areas not just to make money, but to “control what is taking place within the permit boundaries. That is a huge safety concern. When somebody is going uphill at a ski area, it’s hugely beneficial if they know the rules of the slopes.”


Skier’s death raises thorny issues

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – In 2011, a skier slid through a 20-foot opening between a wooden fence and a shed at the top of the Howelsen Hill, the ski area operated by Steamboat Springs.

The area below had been a ski run, and it was still identified that way on trail maps. But it wasn’t maintained, and in fact, after installing an alpine slide 20 years ago, ski area managers considered it closed. They just hadn’t bothered to tell the public.

Victim of this failure was Cooper Larsh, 19, who skied over a retaining wall for the alpine slide, ejected from his skies and fell headfirst into the snow and suffocated.

The ski patrol told police that Larsh had sidestepped uphill and intentionally entered a restricted area by skiing “around ropes and signage identifying the area to be closed.” The Steamboat police accepted that report. The mother of the young man did not accept the story and filed a lawsuit.

A district court judge believes the mother, not the ski area. She found no evidence of signs, nor evidence that the 20-foot gap had been closed. Plus, two other skiers had entered through the gap that same day, and at least one of them believed it was an open run.

The Denver Post has been dogging the case during the last year, questioning whether police and sheriffs should accept the testimony of ski patrollers, who are paid employees of the ski area.

In this case, Steamboat Springs, the municipality, claims governmental immunity while admitting to a “design failure.” If that argument of immunity does not stand up, the case would proceed on the Colorado law that governs liability for privately owned ski areas. The case will be heard by an appeals court Jan. 22.


Pro challenge riders may get new route

ASPEN – Aspen will always have a spot on the USA Pro Challenge. One of the key funders for the bicycling race has a vacation home in Aspen. But how the race enters and leaves the town is not so secure.

Several times, the 115-plus riders have gone over Independence Pass, which is more than 12,000 feet in elevation, a major test of fitness. Several times, Independence Pass has been put in tandem with another above-treeline crossing, Cottonwood Pass.

But instead of using the tried and true route, could the race be configured over Kebler Pass, or even into the orchard and coal-mining country around Paonia? The Aspen Daily News reports that race organizers are studying maps and calculating logistics.


Many Vail homes at high fire risk

VAIL – Some 42 percent of homes in Vail are at “high risk” for damage from wildfires, according to new interactive maps created by the Vail Fire Department.

To anybody who has been in Vail, this may seem intuitive. Like most ski towns, it’s crowded by forests. And wood does burn, if not very often, in high mountain ecosystems.

Fire intervals for the lodgepole pine forests that surround Vail are at least 120 years. Higher up, toward timberline, Engelmann and spruce forests can go 400 years between fires. In comparison, white settlers didn’t arrive to stake out homesteads at Vail until about 130 years ago.

Allen Best
More mountain towns can be found at mountaintownnews.net.

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