Ski towns, the GOP and Trump

PARK CITY, Wyo. – Oh, whatever will high-minded and deep-pocketed Republicans do now that the loose-lipped Donald Trump has their party’s nomination sewed up?

That’s the essential question at confabs in ski towns where the well-heeled of the nation gather. Last week, Mitt Romney held his meeting in Park City, sparking national news when Meg Whitman had some choice comments about Trump, comparing him to Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

This isn’t the first time Whitman had sharp comments about Trump. In March, she cited comments he had made about women, Muslims and reporters. “It’s just repugnant,” she told CNBC.

In Park City, she urged Republicans to take a principled stand against Trump. Supporting him – as Paul Ryan, the House majority leader has done, tepidly – only opens the door to more candidates like Trump in the future, according to a report in the New York Times.

Aspen and Jackson Hole are usually involved in some presidential wheeling-dealing. The 2004 effort by billionaire George Soros to defeat George W. Bush was launched over lunch in Aspen, as reported later by the New Yorker. More publicly, Jackson Hole’s Foster Friess has been a major donor to Republican candidates in past years and has reportedly lined up behind Trump.

Vail money is more quiet in presidential campaigns. But Charles and David Koch, who have been major funders of Republican candidates in recent years, will be convening their annual secretive meeting in the Vail area. In the past, they have held their invitation-only enclave at Beaver Creek’s Ritz-Carlton.

Whitman led eBay from 1998-08, its boom years, and now is chief executive at Hewlett-Packard. For the record, she also has strong ties to Telluride. She bought a dude ranch there in late 2009 and also more than 800 acres of land that had been approved for development. She put it into a conservation easement. She has also contributed to Telluride’s $50 million purchase of open space at the town’s entrance.

Ryan, although from Wisconsin, has climbed most of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. Koch owns a place in Aspen.

Millenials, get used to the heat

BOULDER – If you’re a millennial, think back to the hottest summer you can remember? Got it in mind now?

OK, think ahead to the years 2061-80. You’ll have gray hair then, as you’ll be 60 to 100 years old during that time frame. You’ll also probably want more air conditioning, even if you live in a mountain town.

A new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research finds that if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed and climate change continues on its current trajectory, we’re in for much hotter summers. The probability that any summer between 2061-80 will be warmer than the hottest on record is 80 percent across the world’s land areas, excluding Antarctica, which was not studied. Across much of North America, the probability is greater than 90 percent.

Every summer will be even hotter by the time you get wrinkly. Tame the greenhouse gas emissions soon and the climb won’t be so steep.

Chamber says no to griz hunt

JACKSON, Wyo. – The greater Yellowstone ecosystem – mostly in Wyoming, but also partly in Montana and Idaho – now has an estimated 717 grizzly bears. Federal wildlife officials have proposed delisting of the grizzly, removing protections of the Endangered Species Act.

If that occurs, grizzly hunting could resume in the area for the first time since the 1970s. Sport hunting remains legal in Alaska and three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Yukon.

Don’t do it – not around here, says the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. Live bears are too valuable, says the board in a position adopted unanimously.

Jeff Golightly, president of the Chamber of Commerce, told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that studies of visitors to national parks find that the top activity is wildlife watching, and they most want to see grizzly bears.

“Hunting of grizzlies is an emotionally charged topic, and some potential visitors, if they could find trophy hunting of grizzly bears around our national parks offensive, they may choose to boycott a trip because of how they feel,” Golightly said.

Conversely, visitors would pay more if they thought they could improve their chances of seeing grizzlies. In 2014, analysts with the U.S. Geological Survey found that visitors would pay more than double the entry fee to maximize their chances of seeing a grizzly in Yellowstone.

A horrible death at Yellowstone

JACKSON, Wyo. –A 23-year-old man from Oregon and his sister left the boardwalk in the Norris Geyser Basin to get closer to the boiling hot springs.

Colin Nathaniel Scott, of Portland, had traveled 225 yards off the boardwalk to an area near Pork Chop Geyser when he slipped and fell into the hot spring. The temperature is estimated at 199 degrees. There, at an elevation of about 7,500 feet, that’s high enough to cause water to boil.

No significant human remains were left to recover from the boiling, acidic spring.

“It’s sort of dumb, if I could be so blunt, to walk off the boardwalks, not knowing what you’re doing,” said Kenneth Sims, a geology professor at the University of Wyoming and a member of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Simms cautioned that he had no direct knowledge of the circumstances in this fatality.

Park officials said at least 22 people have died from hot spring-related injuries in and around Yellowstone since 1890.

20th century dams being retrofitted with turbines

GRANBY – One by one, many of the dams built during the 20th century are being retrofitted with hydroelectric turbines to create no-carbon electricity.

In May, power generation began at Granby Dam. The 298-foot-tall dam on the Colorado River was completed in 1959. It is used to hold water that is sent via tunnel under Rocky Mountain National Park (and the Continental Divide) to Colorado’s Front Range.

The installation cost $5.7 million and can produce 4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. That’s enough for 370 customers of Mountain Parks, the local electrical co-operative for the Grand Lake-Winter Park area.

In Wyoming, the Snake River originates in and near Yellowstone National Park, flowing south through Jackson, where it is impounded by a dam in Grand Teton National Park. Paul Hansen, who has spent the last 40 years as an environmental advocate for the Izaak Walton League and other organizations, says he would never have built a dam there. But the dam exists, and so it should be evaluated for its potential to produce electricity.

The potential, he says, is to produce enough electricity for more than 3,000 homes in Jackson.

It’s also almost exactly the amount that Grand Teton National Park and its concessions use.

“That would effectively make Grand Teton National Park the first carbon-neutral national park in America,” he says. In 2012, a smaller hydro generator was brought on line in Yellowstone.

Currently, most of the power in Jackson comes from hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin, including the Snake River. That allocation is now fully subscribed. New demand is supplied from fossil fuels.

Hansen, writing in the Jackson Hole News&Guide, says that the hydro conversion has been blocked in the past by sentiments of “not in my back yard.” That, he says, is not a pro-environment position.

Court tells affordable housing resident to sell!

ASPEN – A court has ordered the owner of a deed-restricted home in Aspen to sell the home. Lee Mulcahy had built the home himself in the town’s Burlingame Ranch neighborhood, an enclave of deed-restricted housing designed for Aspen’s working class.

Where does Mulcahy fit in? People in the neighborhood are required to work 1,500 hours per year to satisfy the intent of the program. Mulcahy contends that through the art he produces and other jobs, he has met that requirement.

Neighbors thought he was violating the intent of the law. Last year, for example, he took an extended trip to Africa to help deliver laptops to local villages and help them get clean water systems. Mostly, though, he works as an artist.

The Aspen Daily News explains that the individual has been controversial in Aspen. As a ski instructor, he accused the Aspen Skiing Co. of exploiting employees. He was fired – for performance issues, the company said – and barred from company property. Mulcahy also took aim at what he alleged were elitist practices at the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Art Museum.

This being Aspen, even an affordable housing unit costs some money. The county assessor values the house at $791,000.


– Allen Best
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