Bear gives climbers emphatic warning

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – Two rock climbers scouting a climb in Banff National Park were attacked by a grizzly bear late last month.

Both survived, and a human-wildlife conflict specialist for Parks Canada said it was probably because the bear did not intend to kill them.

“These folks startled the bear. It came out of the den and attacked them in a defensive way,” Jon Stuart-Smith told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “As the bear is trying to den, it’s quite sensitive to disturbance and, unfortunately, they got too close.”

Greg Boswell, a Scottish climber described by the Outlook as one of the most talented of his generation, was with Britain’s Nick Bullock when the bear attacked him above steep cliffs, roughly two-thirds of the way up Mount Wilson. The mountain is about a 45-minute drive north of Lake Louise.

Bullock posted a blog about the encounter, and it sounds dramatic. “Greg kicked at Ursus arctos horribilis and it bit straight through his brand new boot as if it were a carpet slipper,” he wrote. And there’s also mention of one of them prying open the mouth of the bear.

The story doesn’t explain what caused the bear to retreat, but apparently it did as the two climbers were able to rappel down the rock face and drive to Banff for treatment, which took them five hours altogether.

Not all grizzlies let encroachers off so easily. In 2006, a grizzly killed a man near Whitehorse, in the Yukon, when he came within five meters of the den, which had two cubs inside.

Obermeyer divulges how to stay young

ASPEN – At age 95, Klaus Obermeyer skis most days and swims, too. “Being out in nature keeps you young,” he tells The Wall Street Journal.

Even more than skiing, he tells the Journal, the secret to his vitality is his devotion to aikido, a Japanese martial art, which Obermeyer has practiced for 35 years.

Unlike other martial arts, he explains, the practitioner isn’t trying to defeat or injure the opponent, but rather to redirect the momentum of the opponent’s attack.

“The idea is not to hurt, but to control your opponent,” he says.

He says he has applied this principle in business and everyday life. “Every attack that comes at you can be seen as an opportunity,” he says. “You can make it work in your favor.”

Born in Germany in 1919, he arrived in Aspen in 1947 and taught skiing there for the 12 years. He founded Sport Obermeyer in an attic in his home where he assembled a down ski parka, stitched together from his goose down comforter.

Obermeyer practices aikido every day and tells the Journal that working out is the only way to keep his body and mind sharp enough to run a business and still have fun on the slopes. “Your body is like a car,” he says. “It needs maintenance and care. If you don’t work out, your body will slowly deteriorate.”

He also swims about a mile every day and does pushups, sit-ups and other exercises. In swimming, he says, he is forced to breathe and stretch. “I like to think it prevents me from shrinking as I get older.”

And then this: “Being old is not an excuse to be lazy.”

As for eating, he eats more robustly at breakfast, then slows through the day. He tries to be a vegan, but admits to cheating. “My concern is not to eat more calories than I burn.”

Ski towns ponder need for gun control

TELLURIDE – The shootings of recent weeks, first in Colorado Springs and then in California, have lots of people thinking “what-if?”

“I think everyone recognizes that any community is not immune to those types of things – that it can happen anywhere, regardless of the size of your jurisdiction,” Jim Kolar, the chief marshal in Telluride, told the Daily Planet.

What does this say about the need for gun control? San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters says he understands the impulse to want to control the sale of guns, but questioned the reality. And, he thinks there’s evidence that armed civilians can deter violence.

Kolar agrees. “I know of incidents where security guards or off-duty officers have engaged with someone who’s intending to do harm,” he said. “I can’t even remember the last time when a citizen carrying (a firearm) under a (concealed carry) permit intervened, but sometimes those things might not make the news.”

Charming life of a young adventurer

KETCHUM, Idaho – Ah, it sounds like quite a life, that of Alexis “Lexi” duPont. She lives in a geodesic dome in the Sun Valley area when she’s not out sailing or skiing.

In 2010, she circumnavigated the globe with Archbishop Desmond Tutu through a study-abroad program while in college. In October, she sailed off the coast of Florida with a group of nonprofit leaders, artists, scientists and 18 self-made billionaires. She tells the Idaho Mountain Express of a comedic interview by the CEOs of Google and Uber.

And then she skis and is sponsored for her expeditions by Eddie Bauer, K2 and Smith Optics. “I am in search of first descents and epic conditions,” she said. She spoke with the Express while en route to Seattle for the premier of “Chasing Shadows,” a film about an all-female ski trip to Valdez in an RV. The trip was sponsored by K2.

This winter, duPont will join a camera crew and guides on a journey to Kyrgyzstan, where the group will explore establishing snow sports tourism in the remote mountainous country of central Asia.

DuPont lived briefly as a child in Delaware, where her family is well known. Her father moved the family to Ketchum, where she learned to ski at age 2. “My dad moved out here to raise us as full-on mountain girls, and he wanted us to be self-reliant.”

She offered this bit of wisdom: “If you’re all caught up in your money and who’s driving what kind of car, you can lose empathy for others. This world goes around on meaningful relationships, and to have those you need to have empathy.”

She was skiing on Halloween on Independence Pass, between Aspen and Leadville, before heading to Moab to rock climb. There, she did her first 5.10 lead on a crack – and, she confided on her Facebook page, she did so topless.

“Just put some climbing tape on your nipples so you don’t scrape them,” she advised the Mountain Express.

Snow in the Sierras, but still subpar

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Last week, the snow in California’s Sierra Nevada was double that of the year before. Still, El Niño so far has been something of a dud. The Los Angeles Times reported the water content was 56 percent of the 30-year average for Dec. 1, compared to 24 percent the year before.

“We are still not getting the rain and snow frequency amounts we would like to see,” David Rizzardo, chief of snow surveys for California’s Department of Water Resources, said. To restore the state’s reservoirs to pre-drought levels, California would need the snowpack to reach 150 percent of average, Rizzardo said. The snowpack provides about a third of California’s water.

Groswold was a bridge to early skiing

WINTER PARK – Jerry Groswold, the chief executive at Winter Park Resort from 1975 until he retired in 1997, died on Thanksgiving. His life and personal experience bridged downhill skiing in Colorado from its earliest roots to the era of million-skier-days.

At Winter Park, he oversaw a major expansion of ski terrain and infrastructure, particularly with the opening of Mary Jane, as well as the Vasquez and Parsenn expansions.

“He kept Winter Park in a ferociously competitive environment,” says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association. Shortly before he took over, the Eisenhower Tunnel had opened, making Winter Park arguably more difficult to reach than newer resorts such as Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Breckenridge.

But his fingerprints were also on the creation of the Winter Park Handicapped Program, which evolved into the National Sports Center for the Disabled. He was passionate about making the sport of skiing accessible to people with disabilities.

Groswold’s life reflected a broad span of Colorado’s skiing history. He was born in 1931 in Denver, and his father, Thor, was Colorado’s first manufacturer of alpine skis.

His involvement with Winter Park began in 1939. Originally called West Portal, it became easily accessible from Denver after the Moffat railroad tunnel was completed in 1928. This was at a time when highways were poorly maintained, and many weren’t plowed.

Denver’s parks department decided to create a winter sports area there. In 1939, the first J-bar tow began operations. Groswold’s formal involvement began the summer before when, as an 8-year-old, he carried water to volunteers who cut the first trails. He also skied there on opening day.

After World War II, Winter Park was arguably in the same peer group as Aspen, the two major destination ski resorts in Colorado. That soon changed as more ski areas opened. But even if Winter Park was a different place than Aspen, Vail or even Breckenridge, it annually chalked up about a million skier days a year by the 1990s.

Vail’s land prized as much as $30 million

BROOMFIELD – Vail Resorts Inc. last week announced a $30 million commitment to development of new seasonal and year-round employee housing. But it was the mention of the company’s land, as much as the money, that seemed to provoke comments in local communities where the company does business.

Vail said it will use its own land, capital or commitments to long-term lease guarantees to assist in bringing new employee housing projects to fruition. It described potential partnerships with local governments and other businesses.

The company manages four ski areas in Colorado along the I-70 corridor, one in Utah, and three in the Tahoe Basin along the California-Nevada border. It also manages three lodging properties within Grand Teton National Park, in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, and a business in Telluride.

The company currently is focused on places where it has ski areas and hence the largest concentration of employees needing seasonal housing, says Kelly Ladyga, a spokeswoman for Vail Resorts.

“One of the struggles here in Vail — and I’m guessing across all mountain communities — is that money is scarce, but land resources are often just as scarce,” George Ruther, the community development director in Vail, told The Denver Post.

In Park City, land was also foremost in the mind of Scott Loomis, the executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust. He told the Park Record that Vail Resorts could perhaps develop housing on land the firm owns or controls in the Park City area using some of the $30 million.

In Colorado, land was also front and center in the comments of Gary Martinez, the county manager. “They have some land, we have some land,” he told The Summit Daily News. “We need to find ways to leverage each other’s resources and build strong partnerships to get a couple projects going in the not-so-distant future.”

Ladyga says the $30 million commitment might include land, “but we expect the bulk of the commitment to be new funding of some sort.”

Breckenridge has a healthy fund dedicated to worker housing. Still, finding the land for an apartment complex is difficult, and the capital available isn’t enough to meet demand. The money from Vail Resorts “will make our local dollars go further,” said Rich Holman, the town manager of Breckenridge.

Vail Resorts has added 650 beds of employee housing in the last three years, and it now owns and manages 3,200 beds.

It’s not enough, says Rob Katz, Vail’s chief executive. “With the incredible success of our resort communities, the strength of the travel economy and the growing prevalence of rent-by-owner options, fewer housing units in mountain resort communities are being made available to local employees,” he said in a press release.

Melanie Rees, an affordable housing consultant based in Crested Butte, says the tight housing market has tightened since last summer. “Employers are being hard hit by the housing shortage in all of the mountain towns. This winter will be even tighter than the past summer,” she says.

“Sure keeps my phone ringing. Usually at this time of the year I am happy to have 2 or 3 projects lined up for the next year. I now have 16 projects on my list for 2016.”

Variable speed limits on Whistler highway

WHISTLER, B.C. – New variable speed signs are being installed along the Sea to Sky Highway between Whistler and Vancouver. The electronic signs will adjust the speed limits to reflect changing weather conditions using an extensive system of traffic, pavement, and visibility sensors.

Whistler’s Pique reports that similar electronic signs will be installed at two other highway segments in British Columbia known for their rapidly changing weather conditions.

Park Record sold to Swift newspaper chain

PARK CITY, Utah – The Park Record is in a new newspaper family, and as much as anything, the sale speaks to the difficulty of being a smaller, stand-alone news enterprise in the era of the Internet.

The newspaper had been owned by Digital First Media, which also owns the Denver Post. Now, it’s owned by Swift Communications, which has a string of mostly smaller newspapers in Colorado, California, and Oregon, including the Aspen Times, Vail Daily, and Summit Daily News.

Taking stock of the transition, The Park Record pointed to the value of being part of the chain founded by Dean Singleton, the founder of MediaNews Group, which later merged with Digital First. “He prodded publishers and editors to explore the Internet as an opportunity rather than an impediment, even though it shook their business model to its core,” The Record noted in its editorial.

“The challenges generated by web and mobile platforms were especially difficult for smaller community newspapers without the staff or budgets to establish their own IT departments, but MediaNews Group was able to provide the infrastructure and training to ensure all of its properties, including The Park Record, had top-notch websites,” The Record noted.

The Record seems to think that Swift, which is based in Carson City, Nev., brings the same sensibilities to the table, but in a family of newspapers more specifically focused on mountain towns. No immediate changes seem to be in the offing.

– Allen Best

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January 25, 2024
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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows