Charging stations for electric cars are in

JACKSON, Wyo. – Jackson Hole has its first charging station for electric cars, with three more planned. But will they benefit the environment or just provide cheap fuel?

Electric cars are expensive, but electricity itself is far cheaper than gasoline. The environmental gain depends upon where you plug it in.

The Colorado-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project crunched the numbers and found that even in Colorado, with a significant amount of so-called “clean energy” now on the grid, electric cars don’t necessarily represent a net reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. That will change, however, as natural gas replaces coal for production of electricity. By 2020, electric cars emerge as winners.

But there’s a second environmental metric to consider. Burning gasoline and diesel produces volatile organic chemicals, the precursors for ground-level ozone. In that regard, electric vehicles in Colorado already beat both gasoline and natural-gas fueled vehicles.

Wyoming? Overall, it gets 95 percent of power from coal, by far the most of any state. So, electric cars don’t help in reducing greenhouse gases.

But then, Jackson Hole is different from the rest of Wyoming. Most of its power comes from hydroelectric, so that makes electric cars a net winner.

A-Basin closes as Whistler glacier opens

DILLON – One ski area in British Columbia opened for summer business on Saturday, and the final ski area in Colorado closed for summer on Sunday.

Arapahoe Basin was first to open last October and is the final one in Colorado to close. It had a 241-day season. The ski area is located along the Continental Divide, about 60 miles west of Denver.

At Whistler, the Horstman Glacier opened for summer business. It is atop the Blackcomb portion of the Whistler Blackcomb ski area. It will operate until the end of July for three hours each day. A single-day pass is $64.

New bottled H2O to play off Vail, Aspen

GYPSUM – A new bottled water called Vaspen is to be distributed late this year, playing off the names of Vail and Aspen.

The water will come from neither, but rather from springs at Sweetwater Lake, on the Flat Top Mountains. It’s 60 miles from Vail and 76 miles from Aspen.

The Aspen Times reports that SCC Partners Group has raised $6.9 million and hoped to raise an additional $12.5 million at a meeting in Aspen of potential investors. Steve Miller, a principal in the limited liability corporation, says he and partners hope to compete against other high-end waters such as Fiji, Volvic, Perrier, San Pellegrino and Evian.

Miller told the Times that Americans have been spending $1 billion annually on premium bottled water, and the high-end segment of the market has been the fastest growing. Just as people are looking with greater interest at craft beers, wines and spirits, “they’re moving toward craft water.”

The water at Sweetwater isn’t really sweet, but rather has a natural alkalinity that gives it a distinctive taste without being overpowering, Miller told the Times. Plus, he said, it provides natural electrolytes to make it appealing to the health conscious.

But sweet, he said, is not a universally accepted flavor, and hence would not be a good brand name.

He and partners bought the Sweetwater Lake Resort in 2004. They have a water decree and can store water. They intend to build a 30,000-square-foot building for their plant, employing 35 workers on site.

Time is short for Park City settlement

PARK CITY, Utah – The future of Park City Mountain Resort has been kicked down the street, possibly until late August.

A district court judge in Utah has signed the order evicting Powdr Corp. from that portion of the ski area owned by Talisker and operated by Vail Resorts. But he also ordered Powdr and Talisker/Vail Resorts to participate in mediation, to see if they can resolve the issue in a way that allows for continued operation of the ski area.

Powdr and its predecessors had leased the top two-thirds of the ski area from Talisker for about 40 years on a deal struck by previous owners of the one-time mining property. Somehow, a perfunctory renewal requirement in 2011 was missed by Powdr, and Talisker promptly announced that it would not renew the lease. Vail then leased Talisker’s local ski area, The Canyons, and also Talisker’s land underlying the Park City Mountain Resort.

The Park Record notes that the hearing attracted a larger number of people from the community than previously. In an editorial, the Park Record suggested why: “Many Park City businesses and property owners and employees are living day to day with a shadow over their investments and livelihoods.”

The newspaper noted that “heated rhetoric of the last few weeks suggests the two entities are miles apart from working out a sale or lease that would knit the PCMR-owned base facilities and the ski terrain back together.” But, added the Record, “the two must reach a deal or accept responsibility for creating an unskiable mountain surrounded by empty parking lots and a bitter community.”

Some in the community have rooted for Vail, thinking it more capable of establishing Park City as an intermountain resort. Others worry about Vail’s growing dominance in the ski industry.

“Both PCMR and Vail have told the Park Record they have the community’s best interests at heart.” Concludes the Record, “Frankly, we are skeptical.”

L.A. chefs serve contraband in Aspen

ASPEN – Imagine people from California having to go to Aspen to do unnatural things and talk about it.

What’s unnatural is force-feeding geese to produce the liver delicacy called foie gras. It was outlawed in California, but it remains as legal as saltines in Colorado.

As such, two chefs from the Los Angeles restaurant Animal served it to a crowd at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. For that act of one-step-removed insurrection they were applauded, reports The Aspen Times.

“We still believe in foie gras,” Jon Shook said. “We still believe it should be served. This is one of the main reasons we always try to do this on the road. This is the dish that set us apart from most restaurants in Los Angeles.”

Their seminar was titled: “You Want Me to Eat What? Nose-to-Tail Meets Uncharted Waters.” But the Times says the selections they served to the 100 attendees were less out-there and uncharted than the billing suggested.

In the Vail Valley, food was also on people’s minds. Chef Alan Roettinger was promoting his book, Paleo Vegan: Plant Based Primal Recipes. He told the Vail Daily that the paleo diet is based on the idea that during the Stone Age, humans ate food that was appropriate for their species, obtained by hunting and gathering.

“It was with the advent of agriculture (about 10,000 years ago), things began to go awry,” he said.

The diet frowns on processed foods as well as refined sugars and fats, and urges whole grains and nondairy products such as almond and soy milk.

More debate about Squaw Valley town

SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. – To become a town or not? That’s the question at California’s Squaw Valley, the ski area that Denver-based KSL Partners bought several years ago and has begun pouring money into. Part of a 2011 plan is to substantially expand and upgrade the commercial base by up to 1,000 new residential units.

That plan has been down-sized, but it sparked a drive to create a municipality, to ensure greater local control, with occupancy and other sales taxes to pay the bills. But KSL opposes incorporation, arguing that the town could not support its own operations. It has reportedly bankrolled $121,000 of efforts to oppose incorporation.

And the Sierra Sun reports that two local lodges, Squaw Valley Lodge and the Resort at Squaw Valley, have also asked to be excluded.

The core argument is whether a local municipality could pay for its own operations. KSL argues that it would not. But the group called Incorporate Our Valley says it can. To that end, reports the Sierra Sun, it has hired a Sacramento-area consultancy called Citygate Associates to analyze the finances of incorporation. The analysis is expected to take five months.

In the ski world, most base area developments have become formal municipalities. Vail, the ski area that was started in 1962 by then ski-area operator Vail Associates, fully supported incorporation in 1962. Snowmass Village was created after the launch of ski area operations.

But here and there can be found other governing models. Beaver Creek has a special district, but no town. Ditto for Copper Mountain. Teton Village, at the base of Jackson Hole, is similarly not a town.

Grizzlies in Montana get change of scenery

WHITEFISH, Mont. – Two young female grizzlies have been captured in the Whitefish Range, north of Whitefish, Mont. The bears were released about 200 miles northwest in the Kootenai National Forest, in the extreme northwest corner of Montana.

The Whitefish Pilot notes that the bears had no history of conflict but are part of an effort to augment the population in the Cabinet Range. They are the 12th and 13th grizzlies to be released into the range since 2005.

Cannabis in news of many ski towns

VAIL – In 2012, when Colorado voters were asked to legalize sale and use of cannabis for recreational consumption, 75 percent of voters in Vail said yes.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Vail residents want those cannabis sales to occur in Vail. When RRC Associates recently polled residents, nonresident workers, and nonresident property owners, only 31 percent supported sales.

The survey revealed a sharp division in opinion based on age. Among those 34 and under, i.e. the Millennials, 68 percent supported a recreational marijuana retail business within Vail. This compares with just 14 percent among those 65 and older.

A majority of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers also opposed cannabis stores.

That said, year-round residents were twice as supportive of recreational cannabis sales as part-timers in Vail.

Vail, meanwhile, has delayed a decision about whether to allow cannabis sales for another year, providing more time to evaluate the experience of other jurisdictions.

That doesn’t mean people in Vail will have to go far to buy their THC. Five stores are currently selling marijuana for medicinal purpose a few miles west in the Eagle-Vail and Edwards communities. But up to five stores may be possible in Eagle-Vail, located just outside of Vail.
– Allen Best

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