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Volunteers wanted for largest ski competition in Utah since Olympics

PARK CITY, Utah — It's about two months until the 2019 FIS freeski, snowboard and freestyle World Championships kick off Feb. 1 with snowboard cross on Solitude Mountain.

Organizers expect the International Ski Federation event, which is set to take place at Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort, to be the largest winter sports event in the Park City area in terms of spectator turnout since the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Putting on such a large production is going to require a lot of work, and a lot of help from volunteers. U.S. Ski and Snowboard is currently searching for more than 600 volunteers to help with the event.

By comparison, last season Deer Valley recruited 175 volunteers for the 2018 FIS VISA Freestyle International Ski World Cup.

To prepare for such a massive undertaking, Meg Horrocks, who oversees the volunteer effort across the three venues for U.S. Ski and Snowboard, started the search for volunteers in April.

"We wanted to capitalize on some of the resorts still being open and that winter mindset," she said.

Ever since then, she's been watching the numbers trickle in, with bumps in sign-ups when it snows.

"I could tell if it was snowing out there even if I hadn't looked at the radar," said Horrocks, who works remotely from Killington, Vermont.

She is hoping to have enough people to fill all 2,500 eight-hour shifts by Dec. 1, with orientation scheduled for mid-January. There are currently 340 volunteers registered for about 1,360 shifts.

Marilyn Stinson, who oversees Deer Valley's volunteer efforts, said she has received applications from places as diverse as Canada, Colombia and Europe, but she said the majority are from the Park City area, including some who come yearly.

"It's interesting because the volunteers that do come back year after year, they haven't seen each other since the year before, so it's kind of like a reunion," Stinson said. "They are reuniting not only with the athletes, but also the other people they have volunteered with the year before."

The volunteers also get perks – they accumulate two day passes redeemable at any of the three resorts, for the first four shifts they work, which is the minimum, then two additional passes for each two additional shifts. They also get uniforms, like winter jackets, that serve as functional memorabilia from the event.

But Horrocks said it's not just about the perks.

"When we ask people why they want to volunteer, of course they're going to say something we want to hear, but there is an excitement about, 'I'm proud of my community; I'm excited to show off my community; I've done it for X number of years and I love being part of it,'" she said.

According to Katherine Hughes, volunteer coordinator for Park City Ski and Snowboard— which is helping Park City Mountain find workers — the ideal candidate has plenty of free time and is thrilled for the event itself.

"Nothing can really trump excitement and enthusiasm," Hughes said. "If they have the excitement, the time to give, those are the two biggest qualities. But I would say enthusiasm is No. 1."

The time commitment can make it difficult to find volunteers, especially since most of PCSS's member families have two working parents.

Horrocks, who is the volunteer organizer for the Alpine Ski World Cup in Killington, said she usually sees a sharp uptick in volunteer registration in the last weeks before the event.

"But that might almost be too late," she said of the World Championships. "This is a much bigger event in terms of processing. We have to request accreditation."

Some will arrive as early as three weeks out to help greet and train other volunteers. The volunteers will be stationed in places as far as Salt Lake City International Airport, and as centrally as the aerials hill at Deer Valley, which will be home to the first team aerials competition at a World Championship.

In fact, the combination of events itself is something of a first, even though this is the third time Deer Valley has hosted the freestyle World Championships.

According to a press release from U.S. Ski and Snowboard, the 2019 World Championships will be the first in the U.S. to include all events across snowboard, freestyle and freeski disciplines.

When it comes, Horrocks said everything will be ready – from the slopes to security.

"We will not be short staffed," she said.

To volunteer, go to 2019worldchamps.com.

Events will run Feb. 1 to 10.


Aspen Skiing Co. alters dog hours for uphillers at Buttermilk, Snowmass and Highlands

Aspen Skiing Co. has reduced the time that dogs can spend on its ski slopes this winter because officials said there have been too many problems in recent seasons.

Dogs will be prohibited between 7:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. at Snowmass, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands, Skico officials announced Thursday. Uphillers with their pets must be down to the base by 7:45 a.m. and they cannot start up until after 4:45 p.m. Canines are always off-limits during ski season at Aspen Mountain.

"We've had collisions with dogs. We've had people bitten by dogs. We've had employees chased by dogs," Katie Ertl, Skico senior vice president of mountain operations, said Monday at a community meeting the company hosted for uphill enthusiasts.

She said she appreciates that Aspen is a dog-friendly town but policy changes were needed because of the problems. She urged understanding and compliance from the public.

Signs are being made with the new hours and will be posted as soon as possible.

"Employees may have a conversation or respectfully turn you around if your timing is outside the hours posted," Ertl said Thursday.

The mountain managers endorsed the call for stricter dog rules at Monday's meeting, citing too many conflicts between canines and people or machinery on the slopes.

Last season, dogs were prohibited during "hours of operation," but there wasn't a clear definition of those times. Many "uphillers" — hikers and people who put skins on their skis or split boards to ascend — interpreted it to mean they had to be off the slopes only while the chairlifts were operating.

Snowmass used to allow dogs on leashes throughout the day, but that policy was altered two seasons ago.

At the community meeting, Skico officials said their hours of operation start well before and after the lifts spin. Patrollers and mountain operations folks are typically whizzing around the slopes on boards or snowmobiles to prepare the ski area for the day. Snowcats are often finishing grooming runs.

Skico officials delayed setting a time when dogs can be on the slopes at the community meeting, but they conferred this week to establish the hours.

The prohibition likely will extend later in the day once the chairlift operating hours change as days get longer later in the winter.

Even with the adjustment on the times dogs can be on slopes, the biggest canine issue will persist unless dog owners mend their ways. Skico officials said their biggest headache is dealing with waste because some owners don't pick up after their dogs.

"We pick up poop all the time," said John Beezer, assistant ski patrol director at Buttermilk/Tiehack. "We spend a lot of our day cleaning up crap on the hill."

Skico officials painted a dreadful sight by explaining how snowcats smear the droppings on the white slopes when they run over them. The prospects are even grimmer if piles remain on the slopes when paying customers ski down, Beezer said.

Officials also lamented that some people leave the ubiquitous plastic bags on the slopes after picking up after their pets.

"There is no poop fairy, but sometimes I am the poop fairy along with my sister, Megan (Bourke)," Ertl said.

The biggest problem is on the lower slopes. Dogs tend to go quickly after getting released from a vehicle. For that reason, dogs must be leashed at all times at the base of Tiehack, a popular uphill launch destination during the season, Ertl said.

One member of the audience at the community meeting urged fellow uphillers to scan the lower slopes on their way down and pick up any dropping left behind.

Skico officials also urged the uphill community to comply with closures, follow designated routes and, most importantly, avoid snowmaking power and water lines as well as cables for winch cat operations.


Christmas tree-cutting permits for White River forest land available now

Permits are available starting Nov. 15 for those who want to find and cut down their own Christmas tree from White River National Forest land.

Before heading out, people need to know the rules and regulations for Christmas tree harvesting, forest service officials said Wednesday. More information is available at office locations or the "How to Cut and Select a tree"  website. It is best to cut a tree from a stand and not single trees in a forest opening.

Permits are $10 and there is a maximum of five permits per person.

The annual permits are available at White River National Forest offices, including the one on Main Street in Carbondale and the office in Glenwood Springs on Grand Avenue.

In Aspen, permits are only available at the Aspen Chamber Resort Association (590 N. Mill Street). Permits are available in Basalt at the Bristlecone Mountain Sports shop (781 E. Valley Road).

For more information, go to the White River website at fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.

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Aspen Mountain will open Saturday with 130 acres, top-to-bottom terrain

Aspen Mountain will open Saturday with top-to-bottom skiing on 130 acres of terrain, Aspen Skiing Co. announced Tuesday.

Skico previously said it would open five days before the scheduled opening, but details weren't available on what terrain would be open. The mountain will debut for the season with 3,200 vertical feet of skiing and riding served by the Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Express, Little Nell and Bell Mountain chairlifts. Trails will include One & Two Leaf, Upper Copper, Deer Park, Silver Bell, Silver Dip and Dipsy along with Spar Gulch and Little Nell.

"Our teams have been working incredibly hard to provide as much terrain as possible for early opening," said Katie Ertl, senior vice president of mountain operations. "As we continue to work hard throughout the week leading up to opening, we will expect flash openings on more advanced terrain as we see fit and safe."

For opening weekend through Wednesday, Nov. 21, lift tickets are $99 per day for adults and $59 for children, teens and seniors. Half-day tickets for adults are $68 and $41 for children, teens and seniors. All pass products are good for the early opening.

At Aspen Mountain, the lifts will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Sundeck restaurant and Ajax Tavern will be open for food and drink. The Ski and Snowboard School will be open, as well.

Skico also confirmed that Snowmass will open as scheduled on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22. Skico estimated Snowmass will open with 475 acres of terrain.

The Snowmass trails for the opening will include Big Burn, Max Park, Lunch Line, Upper Scooper and Lower Hals to the bottom of the Village Express chairlift. The Elk Camp chair will serve the trails of Bull Run, Grey Wolf, Bear Bottom, Gunner's View and the Elk Meadows beginners' area. The Breathtaker Alpine Coaster also will be open.

The Elk Camp Restaurant, Up 4 Pizza and Sam's Smokehouse will be open for food and drink.

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk Mountain will open Saturday, Dec. 8.

The ticket offices at the base of Aspen Mountain and at the Snowmass Base Village Gondola are open seven days a week.

Aspen Mountain will open for season five days early on Nov. 17

Aspen Mountain will open for the season on Saturday, Nov. 17, five days before the scheduled opening — though what exactly will open is yet to be determined, Aspen Skiing Co. announced Thursday.

"We're opening. We're happy to be opening. We just don't know what we're opening yet," said Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications.

The amount of terrain that opens will depend on how much snow falls between now and then.

"At a minimum, we'll do Nell and Bell," Hanle said, referring to the Little Nell chairlift at the base and the old standby Bell Mountain chairlift. If that's all that opens on Nov. 17, Aspen Mountain will still offer more vertical feet of skiing than many of the resorts now open in Colorado, according to Hanle. The top of the Bell Mountain chair is at an elevation of about 10,500 feet. The base is at about 7,945 feet.

Hanle said the ticket price can't be set because it's uncertain how much terrain will open. Ski passes will be able to be used.

Snowmass will not open early but is making preparations to open for the traditional Thanksgiving Day opening.

Snow is in the forecast for the Aspen area on Sunday. If enough snow falls to cover the mountaintop with a sufficient base, the Ajax Express and Silver Queen Gondola could also open. Further details will be released as they are determined.

Cold temperatures over the past nine days have allowed Skico to fire up the snowmaking system to cover the lower two-thirds of the slopes. That is vital for the early opening.

Hanle said Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan announced the early opening at a meeting Thursday afternoon at a meeting at the Wheeler for 150-plus Skico managers. People were excited about getting boards out for the season, he said.

"It's exciting to get open," Hanle said.


Independence Pass closes for the season after weekend storm

There's only one way for motorists to get into and out of Aspen until late May.

The Colorado Department of Transportation announced Monday it has closed the Independence Pass winter gates on Highway 82 between Aspen and Twin Lakes for the season after a foot of snow blanketed the scenic bypass over the weekend.

CDOT closed the two-lane pass, which peaks at 12,095 feet, at 7 p.m. Friday and said it would examine whether to reopen it Monday morning.

After the weekend's snowfall and meeting with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to discuss avalanche mitigation, CDOT officials made the call to close the pass for the season.

The pass typically closes within the first two weeks of November, but it closed Nov. 17 in both 2016 and 2017, according to CDOT. In 2015, it closed for the season Nov. 4. The pass typically reopens the Thursday before Memorial Day, weather permitting.

For more info on Colorado road conditions, visit http://www.COTRIP.org.

Election Day voting options in Pitkin County

The Pitkin County administration building in Aspen will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for in-person voting, and the drop-off box for ballots is available outside of the building through Election Day.

There also will be walk-in voting Tuesday at the Snowmass Village Town Hall and at Grace Church on Emma Road in Basalt.

There will be a drop-off box available Tuesday at the Redstone Church and at the town of Basalt parking lot (101 Midland Boulevard).

For more information, go to pitkinvotes.com.

Update: Independence Pass closure will be ‘reassessed’ Monday

The first closure of the season for Independence Pass will last through the weekend and conditions will be updated Monday, local officials said Saturday morning.

The pass, which peaks out at 12,095 feet, closed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday officials sent out an update that the closure would be “reassessed Monday morning,” according to an alert from Pitkin County.

Highway 82 is closed at the winter gate, which is 5 miles east of Aspen. Forecasts call for snow on and off through the weekend.

The pass traditionally closes for the winter season in early to mid-November.

For updated road closure information, visit cotrip.org or call 511 from anywhere in the state.

Base Village developers unveil plans, programming for The Collective Snowmass aka Building 6

Plans for what will soon happen within the walls of The Collective Snowmass, known to most as Building 6 of Base Village, have gone from 0 to 100 this month.

At a Town Council meeting in late September — about a year after the town solicited the community for ideas on what should occupy the space — the building's near future remained a mystery and the developers offered little update.

To date, The Collective boasts a diverse winter calendar featuring partnerships, programming and pop-ups with businesses and nonprofits based in the valley and beyond.

At least part of the recent progress can be attributed to Dawn Blasberg, who was hired by East West to serve as Base Village plaza manager on Oct. 1. The 8,701-square-foot, two-story community-use building is one of the structures surrounding the ice rink plaza, which will be open at no charge to anyone this winter. Skate rentals also will be free to all but only this season.

"It was a crazy first two weeks, and it's been a wild ride since," Blasberg said Friday.

Blasberg is familiar with Snowmass and local development, having lived in the village for 15 years and worked for Chaffin Light and most recently with Related Cos.

Another addition to The Collective group is Sara Halferty, who worked in sales at East West and started a new role Sept. 1 as Base Village curator.

The pair works together closely to see that the space is intentionally programmed to offer a "cool multi-dimensional experience," Halferty said.

In conjunction with Base Village's grand opening Dec. 15, The Collective will house a holiday pop-up through the end of the month featuring Lululemon, Anderson Ranch, Hollyann clothing boutique out of Basalt, local pastry chef Lisa Jo Anderson and the Telluride-based Woodland brand.

Also beginning mid-December and spanning through the winter season, a prefab, modular apres-ski bar will be set up outside the building on the plaza level.

Created by the shipping container home company Honomobo, its signature 104-square foot "Honomobar" is modern and eco-friendly.

After the holidays, The Collective will host a score of partners on a more regular basis, including Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Snowmass' Camp Smashbox, King Yoga Aspen, Spellbinders out of Carbondale, local magician Doc Eason and musician David Dyer.

ACES, in collaboration with the nonprofit Snowmass Discovery and the town, had been the original frontrunner to curate a discovery and climate center inside Building 6 until the nonprofit declined a lead role for financial reasons.

Blasberg said she is still finalizing a few other partnerships, particularly with live bands and artists, like Denver's rock-flamenco performer El Javi.

Beyond the holiday pop-up, Anderson Ranch also will be a mainstay inside the space, with children's programs, gallery exhibitions, workshops and "meet the maker" events scheduled through the end of March.

"Pretty much any contact I had in the community, I contacted," Halferty quipped. "It's been such a process."

Blasberg and Halferty intend to launch a live calendar detailing all Base Village and Collective events at http://www.collective snowmass.com on Nov. 15. The Collective also can be booked for parties.

Inspired loosely by The Temporary art campus in Basalt, Blasberg said, the idea behind The Collective name is that the space will offer a collection of art, music, culture, activities and more.

The "Village Hall" moniker for Building 6 that East West and the town of Snowmass floated around for awhile is no more.

Local Kara Gilbert, who co-founded the kids' Camp Smashbox with her husband in 2010, said, "I feel like this is a really unique offering in a ski town."

Based out of the Snowmass Chapel, the camp was only able to offer summer operations until The Collective offered it space this winter, Gilbert said.

The aim is to connect kids with one another and the outdoors through "old-school outdoor play, like in the days of childhoods of past," she said.

"I'm just really excited to be involved," Gilbert said. "I don't know of other ski towns that have something like The Collective."

What folks will not find inside The Collective this winter are fossils and other findings from the Ziegler Reservoir discovery.

Snowmass Discovery is working with East West and the town to determine "how to best populate the proposed space in Building 6 with a climate education story that incorporates the Ziegler discovery" in the future, the nonprofit's chairman John Rigney wrote via email Tuesday.

"That process has begun and the hope is that this group can develop a storyline and corresponding imagery that generates excitement and makes sense for the space," Rigney wrote. "Ultimately, it comes down to whether this leads to a shared vision of The Collective group. If consensus is achieved, then the real work on that space can begin and together the group will decide on appropriate next steps."

Rigney did not specify a timeline, only offering, "we'll learn a lot in the upcoming months."

While the findings will be absent from Base Village this season, the story will live on at the Snowmass Mall, only in a different spot.

The Ice Age Discovery Center, which the town of Snowmass operates and funds, is currently relocating from its pedestrian-level storefront to a smaller, second floor space above the former Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

"It will be somewhat smaller, but we think it's going to accommodate all of our exhibits well," Snowmass Town Manager Clint Kinney said.

Landlords in the past and current have subsidized the space's rent as a communal asset. A full-paying commercial tenant will take over the previous Ice Age center, Kinney said, while the mall owner is offering the downsized space to the town at no cost.

Kinney credited The Romero Group, which purchased the majority (80,000 square feet) of the Snowmass Mall in late June, for giving the town "plenty of notice and being very accommodating with this community facility."

Based on conversations, the Ice Age Discovery Center is expected to operate in its new space at least through this winter and next summer, Kinney said, noting there has not been a lease because the space is free.

While plans are progressing inside The Collective for the upcoming season, by next winter it will look and operate differently.

Upon closing its doors March 31 before the end of the ski season, construction on a full-scale restaurant that will occupy much of the building's first level is expected to start April 1. The food and beverage operator is still to be determined.

As the developer, East West was required to construct the building at a cost of approximately $6 million to $7 million. East West also committed to finance an additional estimated $2 million of tenant finishes for the building.

As part of initial Base Village approvals, the developers agreed to construct and grant Building 6 to the town to serve a communal purpose.


Snowmass Thanksgiving community potluck, food drive set for Nov. 18

The annual John Bemis Thanksgiving community potluck and food drive will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 18 at the Westin Snowmass conference center.

The Rotary Club of Snowmass, Snowmass Chapel and the Town of Snowmass Village will provide the main meal: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Community members should bring a dish that serves eight, determined by one's last name as follows:

A through H: Side dish

I through P: Dessert

Q through Z: Salad

Judges will sample and declare the best dish in each category. Each winner will receive $100 from Alpine Bank.

Attendees also are asked to bring non-perishable food items, which Rotary Club members will collect at the door.

Snowmass' community potluck and food drive is sponsored by Snowmass Chapel, The Rotary Club of Snowmass, the town of Snowmass and Alpine Bank.