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Holy Cross Energy mails out ballots for upcoming board election; numerous ways to vote

Member households of Holy Cross Energy will find ballots in their mailboxes this week as the cooperative corporation gears up to elect two members to the Board of Directors. 

Consumer-members will choose from a pool of three candidates for the Western District and a pool of five candidates to represent the Northern District. Each consumer will cast one vote per district. The winners will serve four-year terms, and directors are not term-limited.

Historically, participation in Holy Cross board elections is quite low — averaging about 7% —  so the co-op is offering four ways to vote: by mail, online, through a consumer account, or in person. 

“We have 45,000 members,” said Member and Community Relations Vice President Jenna Weatherred. “I think that ends up around 3,000 folks that vote, but we would love to have more. We’re a cooperative, which means we’re democratically-led and we really encourage folks to vote.”

Holy Cross is unique among the landscape of energy providers. It is a private, not-for-profit co-op that reinvests any revenue into services, infrastructure, rate stability, or patronage capital to member-owners.

Local ranchers and farmers banded together to get a government grant to bring electricity to the region when private companies failed to do so. In 1939, Holy Cross Electric Association Inc. was born. 

“It’s a special thing to rural areas where there wasn’t money to be made from bringing electricity,” Weatherred said. “Because we are not-for-profit, we truly are doing our best to serve the members. And our mission is to bring a responsible transition to the clean energy future.”

The board of directors of Holy Cross is responsible for setting the strategic vision for the co-op. That vision currently has directed staff to meet a “100% clean energy by 2030” goal. 

According to their website, Holy Cross uses 48% renewable energy, 31% coal, less than 1% mine methane, and 5% natural gas. 

The first board meeting with the two new directors will be June 21. Courses for new directors are offered by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which Holy Cross bylaws require. 

How to vote

Instructions to vote by mail will be included on the mail ballot. 

To vote online, members will need credentials found on the mailed ballot or in the email they received titled “Holy Cross Energy Director Election Login.”

Members can also vote through their SmartHub account on a web browser or through the mobile app. Log in, and click on the “Vote Now” button. 

In-person voting will be available from 5-6 p.m. at the annual meeting on Thursday, June 15, at TACAW in Basalt. 

Mailed and electronic ballots must be received by Tuesday, June 13, at 11:59 p.m. Members who do not meet this deadline may vote in person at the annual meeting. If more than one ballot is submitted per member-of-record, precedence will be given to the paper ballot, officials said.

Meet the candidates

Three candidates are running for one open seat to represent the Western District, which roughly comprises Marble to Parachute.  

Thomas Sherman
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Thomas Sherman: “Transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2030 will be a challenging goal to meet. Base load is still largely through fossil fuels because of economics and infrastructure. I don’t know if members are in favor of higher energy bills to have sustainable, renewable energy. The PURE program, put in place to encourage a transition to renewables, is a great opportunity to get a measure of public willingness to pay a premium for renewables.”

Peggy Meyer
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Peggy Meyer: “While working across the energy industry over the past 30 years, I helped guide various organisations to lower their energy costs while also transitioning towards a more sustainable approach. From large corporations to municipalities, cost reduction was always a leading issue to be considered alongside sustainability. In my professional roles, I worked to unroot and eliminate hidden costs and determine hindrances to a cost efficient supply chain. This work evolved in recent years as the true concerns of energy uses has undergone a revolution: Green energy sources and lower carbon footprints are now real user needs, not just blurbs at the end of a corporate press statement.”

Alex DeGolia
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Alex DeGolia, incumbent: “During my first term on the board, we have made several decisions that will have enormous implications for the membership and cooperative. These include the decision to commit to providing 100% clean electricity by 2030, acquisition of large-scale renewable energy resources, updating our rate structure to align with how we will operate into the future and ensure our long-term financial sustainability, grid resilience upgrades through programs like installation of smart devices throughout our system, and developing new programs, such as Power+ and Peak Time Payback, that enable members to benefit from partnering with the cooperative as we transition to a clean energy future.”

Five candidates are running for one open seat to represent the Northern District, which roughly comprises Vail to Dotsero. 

Kimberly Schlaepfer
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Kimberly Schlaepfer: “I believe the biggest challenge facing HCE in the next 5 years will be achieving their goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030 while not disrupting the reliability of our electric grid and keeping our bills for its members as low as possible. Traditional fossil-fuel power sources are polluting but reliable because they can be turned on or off and ramped up on-demand. Renewables on the other hand must be approached differently. They generate power differently than traditional fossil-fuel-based sources but crucially are also much cheaper. As HCE reaches their goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030, the challenge of power reliability will need to be addressed head on.”

Craig Arthur Brown
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Craig Arthur Brown: “My service on a metro board has shown the importance of community engagement and having the right mix of professional management driven by leadership. A board, in my view, needs to be willing to question the status quo and advise management. In an elective position, the board needs to seek out and listen to those who may have been underrepresented or part of the “silent majority.” This co-op services a broad demographic. The history of this co-op has focused on all. I will uphold that focus.”

Linn Brooks
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Linn Brooks: “Current rate structures were developed when the cost of source electricity was low and stable. Holy Cross is doing great work in shifting to renewables to manage increasing and unstable power costs, but members must also change. The billing rate structure along with targeted rebates, education, and positive messaging can incentivize members to make green investments in the power-using infrastructure in their homes and businesses. Together Holy Cross and its members can realign supply and demand to make progress towards a more stable electrical grid. The Holy Cross cooperative membership is diverse in many ways, and to meet its ambitious goals for the benefit of all members, Holy Cross must effectively connect with its many member sectors. Fully a third of members are Spanish speaking. Engaging effectively with this important constituency means providing information in Spanish and finding ways to improve accessibility to Holy Cross information and programs. Other important sectors include commercial and rural members whose energy needs may not fit rate structures designed for residential members.”

Brian Brandl
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Brian Brandl: “I believe that as we forge into the future, cleaner, more efficient energy is the way, but it has to be done sustainably. It should not be handled with a preset completion date that may or may not be feasible or under poor planning that can have catastrophic results down the road. I think new cutting-edge technology in both the nuclear and hydrogen industries offer a lot of solutions to the problems every power grid is facing. I believe that a sound business plan, which will help keep the co-op financially healthy and protect its members, is of crucial importance.”

Roseann Casey
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Roseann Casey: “The State of Colorado and Holy Cross Energy (HCE) have both set ambitious goals to cut emissions and increase renewable energy. Colorado is blessed with abundant natural resources, but the process of planning for investments, incentivizing smart infrastructure development, integrating renewable resources, and providing reliable and affordable power to consumers is a complex challenge. Aside from technical and financial aspects, HCE has the opportunity and challenge to educate and engage local communities and to help prepare our workforce to be at the leading edge of this transition. Consumers and communities are concerned about affordability, reliability, equity, and the impact that new and retiring power resources may have on local economies. Holy Cross excels in member outreach and collaboration with regional and state entities, but this coordination and collaboration will continue to be both a challenge and an opportunity. Last but not least, the HCE service area is vulnerable to fires and extreme weather events, which require exceptional planning and management. I expect that recent events in Colorado and elsewhere will continue to inform HCE planning, operations, and investment.”

Full candidate bios and Q+As are available at the Holy Cross website in English and Spanish.

Former Rifle High student set to compete in Professional Bull Riders World Finals

Former Rifle High School student Colten Fritzlan will compete in the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) World Finals on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas.

Carrying an extensive resume that saw the 23-year-old capture two Colorado junior high titles as a bull rider, two Colorado State High School Rodeo Association titles, as well as two Southwest Region titles during his time in Colorado, Fritzlan has continued to rack up accolades in the bull riding world.

Following a rodeo scholarship to Western Texas College, Fritzlan later saw himself capturing the 2020 Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Rookie of the Year award before being drafted fifth overall in PBR’s inaugural Team Series Draft to the Missouri Thunder in 2022.

Also qualifying for the PBR World Finals in 2021, injuries prevented the Grand Junction native from having the opportunity to compete in the event. Now, opportunity is everything.

“This is extremely important to me and it’s something that I have wanted to do ever since I was 7 years old,” Fritzlan said. “I know how good I ride, and I say that humbly, but it’s time for me to do my job at the finals and see where I end up.”

Currently sitting as the No. 22 bull rider in the world, others within the bull riding world know the talent Fritzlan carries. Missouri Thunder co-head coach Luke Snyder said that talent has earned Fritzlan a nickname on the team.

“We gave Colten the nickname ‘Clutch’ because he came in clutch and he won a couple games for us last year when it mattered most,” Snyder said. 

Aside from Fritzlan’s ability within the arena, Snyder said he is equally as impressed with how Fritzlan has grown outside of the arena.

“You see him trying to get better as a bull rider every day, but you also see him continue to grow as a leader,” Snyder said. “Seeing him come out of his shell and become a leader in the locker room has been exciting to see.”

Snyder also said he is proud of Fritzlan for battling the adversity he has had to face in recent years.

“He’s had to battle through some serious injuries and I’m super proud of him for going through the process to make sure he is fully healthy,” Snyder said. “There are thousands of bull riders in the world and only 35 guys make this event, so it really shows how much he has battled.”

Despite battling injuries, which included a severe concussion during the 2022 PBR Team Series, Fritzlan is feeling as healthy as ever.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been. I’m riding well and my mindset is good,” Fritzlan said. “I know it’s the world finals, but I’m looking at this as just another bull ride. I’m looking forward to my first run and staying consistent and doing my job.”

Attributing the well-being of his body to MVP Athlete Training Center in Stephenville, Texas, Fritzlan said the training facility, which was started by Fitness Trainer Shane Freels, centers his exercises around ways to benefit him during bull riding.

Aside from his workouts, which he says take place three times a week, Fritzlan said he is also trying to work on his mind.

“Bull riding is a taxing sport, so I’ve been trying to work on my mind a lot as well,” he said. “Riding my horses bareback, listening to audio books and writing my goals down, I’m always trying to get better in any way I can.”

The world finals, which will begin Friday and continue through May 21, will be the final event before the PBR Team Series begins for the 2023 season. Following the world finals, Fritzlan will have time to rest and train before returning in July for a chance to help the Missouri Thunder capture the PBR Team Series Championship in Las Vegas in October.


‘Aspen amendment’ on a state housing bill still leaves local electeds wary

A state bill that would limit local governments’ power to regulate growth through land use laws got tagged with an “Aspen Amendment” before passing Thursday. 

But local leaders still oppose the bill, saying it is too vague and does not sufficiently protect affordable housing measures.

HB-1255, or the Regulating Local Housing Growth Restrictions bill, is part of Gov. Polis’ “More Housing Now” package of proposed legislation. Its goal is to implement “uniformity in land use laws” to tackle the housing crisis by prohibiting the enactment and enforcement of local anti-growth laws, which includes population growth limits and limits on development or building permit applications. 

The stakes, as set up by the bill, correlate to the need for Colorado to add an estimated 162,000 housing units by 2027. Whether those units are free market or deed-restricted affordable housing is not specified.

Compared to its larger counterpart, SB-213, that aimed to compel localities to allow greater residential density and other housing-related requirements, HB-1255 has flown under the radar.

The Denver Post reported late Monday evening that SB-213 died in the Senate.

HB-1255 passed third reading in the state Senate on Thursday and is now headed for the governor’s desk. 

State Sen. Perry Will and state Rep. Elizabeth Velasco routinely voted against the measures.

Early drafts of the bill, first introduced in March, did not include any affordable housing language. After blowback from entities including Pitkin County and the city of Aspen, the Local Government & Housing Senate committee got in amendment L.024, which reads: Amend re-engrossed bill, page 5, line 12, strike “REQUIREMENTS,” and substitute “REQUIREMENTS THAT REGULATE OR RESTRICT MARKET RATE DEVELOPMENT OR REDEVELOPMENT IN ORDER TO ENFORCE AFFORDABILITY REQUIREMENTS.”

In relation to the rest of the bill, that amendment would still allow a governmental entity to regulate growth so long as that regulation enforces affordability requirements. 

Inclusionary zoning or impact fees are potential real-life examples of this amendment. But Pitkin County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said the bill is still too vague. 

“I know that (Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-8) was trying to thread a needle on this, and I appreciate that,” she said. “But how it plays in with our growth management system is just really unclear to me from that language.”

McNicholas Kury went on that not regulating free market development on its own and regulating it through the lens of enforcing affordability requirements does not make sense, in her opinion. 

And even though the amendment allows for governmental entities to deny permit applications, a framework for denials is not spelled out, which concerns McNicholas Kury.

County Commissioner Francie Jacober agreed that while the amendment helped to return some agency back to government bodies like the Board of County Commissioners, it did not go far enough for the county to fully support it. 

“We just didn’t think it was a significant enough change for us to support it. But we would like to work with legislators to come up with something that works for all the jurisdictions,” she said. “We don’t want to abandon all of our municipal partners and other county partners for whom this could be a heavy lift.”

Aspen Mayor Torre concurred in a Monday afternoon email to The Times.

“The overlap between SB-213 and HB-1255 is where growth policy meets land use implementation,” he wrote. “All of this will do very little to forward attainable, affordable housing without some provisions for maintaining affordability and accessibility.”

The bill originally only made exceptions for instances of disaster emergencies. Now, the bill would allow for government entities to enact temporary, non-renewable anti-growth laws during disaster emergencies, when developing or amending residential land use plans, or extending/acquiring public infrastructure and services or water resources. 

The bill also would allow governments to deny a permit based on lack of water resources. 

Pitkin County aligned with a number of government entities and organizations in opposition to HB-1255 and SB-213. Some of those partners include the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, Colorado Counties Inc., Club20, and the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments — plus a number of counties, boards of county commissioners, and municipalities. 

Jon Stavney is the executive director of NWCOG, a regional association of local governments. He said many of their members routinely expressed exasperation with the state. 

“There are people that I talked to who are very tuned into these things … that just breathe a sigh of relief when the legislative session is over,” he said. “Like, we’re playing defense. We just have to keep track of what’s going to move our cheese or what’s going to gore our ox.”

McNicholas Kury said that the county does not currently have a legal strategy in terms of pursuing legal action against the state to prevent HB-1255 from taking effect. 

All that could stop it now would be a referendum petition filed or action from the governor. 

Jacober was adamant that the state legislation will not sway Pitkin County from its goal to deliver affordable housing and reasonably contain growth, while continuing to prioritize natural resources, open space and agricultural lands. 

But HB-1255 will have a say in the county’s ability to realize those goals. 

An update on SB-213 and a debrief on HB-1255 between the coalition and their lobbying teams in Denver is scheduled for Tuesday. The legislative session ended Monday at 11:59 p.m.

Barely spring — but hurry, permits for fall peeping in wilderness available May 1

The snow isn’t even off the trees. There are no buds or even sign of bloom in the high country, but that doesn’t impact human computations and planning. 

Monday, May 1, offers a slight window for one of the most exclusive color-changing, leaf-peeping shows in America, and the urgency is to book now if you want to spend the nights under the simmering leaves and stars of the White River National Forest — some of the most sought after and majestic times in the nation for groves of aspen. 

Aspen trees are influenced by sunlight and moisture. This makes each year a fiesta of colors — red, orange, yellow, and even hues of purple. One year to the next can be indiscriminately different and with no exact replication ever.

The most-visited areas of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness requires an overnight permit year-round, with an associated recreation permit fee required May 1 through Oct. 31. However, these permits are released in phases. And May 1 is the limited window for fall foliage fans in September and October.

Recreation in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness has exploded over the past decade, with a quadrupling of overnight use since 2006. This has led to significant management challenges with overcrowding, large amounts of trash and human waste, user conflicts, and large-scale environmental damage such as campsite soil and vegetation compaction, trail erosion, and loss of vegetation, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

This overnight permit and fee program is critical to providing the resources needed to effectively manage, restore, and protect cherished land, albeit a heavily used and impacted area, USFS officials said.

Who’s ready to jump into a colorful bunch of leaves?
Julie Bielenberg / Aspen Times

Only the most heavily-used areas will require the overnight permit and fee, including Conundrum Hot Springs, the Four Pass Loop (which includes Crater Lake and Snowmass Lake), Geneva Lake, and Capitol Lake. Together, these areas make up about 28% of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

A $10 per-night, per-person fee will be required for these areas from May 1 through Oct. 31. No fee will be required for children 16 and younger or for approved school groups. A $6 processing fee per permit will be charged by recreation.gov.

Revenues generated by the fee program will provide a sustainable source of revenue for restoring heavily damaged areas, increasing ranger presence, public education, and improving trails.

Aspen in mid-October 2022, as seen from Aspen Mountain, remains in peak fall form, an unusually late run for the fall leaves.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

USFS adjusted its original fee proposal following a public comment period in summer 2021, in which the agency heard widespread support for protecting this wilderness but mixed views about the fee itself. 

The permit and fee program are specifically for overnight camping in certain areas of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and does not impact the Maroon Bells Scenic Area.

The 181,535-acre Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is an internationally-known destination for wilderness recreation. It’s jointly managed by the White River, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison national forests. There are 26 trailheads that access a trail network of 173 miles.

Fall foliage revealed on Independence Pass.
Aspen Times File photo

Maroon Bells reservations are released on a rolling basis:

  • March 1: Reservations for May and June available at 10 a.m.
  • April 1: Reservations for July and August available at 10 a.m.
  • May 1: Reservations for September and October available at 10 a.m.

Here are the links to get reservations and for more information:

  • aspenchamber.org/plan-trip/trip-highlights/maroon-bells/reservations
  • fs.usda.gov/detail/whiteriver/home/?cid=fseprd1063930

Community gathering gauges public sentiment on Crystal River protection

Tucked in the Marble outpost of the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District, more than 130 community members from Aspen to Marble and beyond gathered to discuss the future of the Crystal River. 

Thursday’s meeting was the first of a community outreach effort to gauge public sentiment on protection options for the Crystal. 

In the 1980s, the White River National Forest determined 39 miles of the Crystal River was eligible for federal protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. They reaffirmed that finding in 2002.

Efforts to win that designation have waxed and waned over the years, and this go-around is starting at the beginning to determine what protections are best suited for the river and the surrounding communities. 

Everyone from landowners, ranchers, anglers, and interested community members showed up to the meeting. 

“There have always been different opinions on how to approach Wild & Scenic or permanent protection for the Crystal River,” said Zane Kessler of the Colorado River District. “The diversity of the crowd is representative of the diversity of the river.”

While the group responsible for reigniting the effort is called the The Wild and Scenic Feasibility Collaborative — which includes Pitkin County, the town of Marble, Gunnison County, Pitkin County, the Colorado River District, and American Whitewater — the end goal is not necessarily a Wild & Scenic designation.

“The Wild & Scenic campaign was the past push that everyone’s familiar with,” said Pitkin County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury. “We need to centrally organize the conversation to bring people together.”

A litany of local, state, and federal options exist as protection options for the Crystal beyond the Wild & Scenic designation, which would have to be approved in Congress. 

One of the most recent threats to the Crystal River came up in 2011, when the Osgood and Placita Reservoirs proposals sparked public outcry. 

That was fresh in the minds of attendees during group discussions about the Crystal’s value and their hopes for its future. 

Multiple members compared the Crystal River Valley and their desire to never see it dammed to the Ruedi Reservoir. Some of the attendees grew up along the Fryingpan River before the reservoir and repudiated the idea of such a future for the Crystal.

In large sticky notes collected by facilitators, attendees named themes — like protecting ecological health, ensuring uninterrupted water flow, prevention of overuse, guarding existing water rights, and community support — as important criteria for evaluating protection options. 

Concerns or perceived threats included transbasin diversions — particularly to the Front Range — overuse from too much demand, and losing the natural beauty unique to the Crystal River Valley.

Although much of the crowd were already enthusiastic supporters of a Wild & Scenic designation, many folks showed up with an open, if slightly wary, mind. 

Bill Fales owns Cold Mountain Ranch in Carbondale. He and other members of the agriculture community attended with the intent to learn more about the stakes.

“Our wealth, life is in these ranches. Any time people talk about water, we listen. I want to make sure our rights are protected,” he said. “What is the risk here? I want to understand what the Crystal River protection is for.”

A steering committee of about 30 people will be selected (based on a diversity of perspectives) and schedule compatibility for monthly meetings soon. 

Another meeting is tentatively scheduled for September to present protection options for the Crystal River, based on community input and guidance from the steering committee. This committee will take those results and decide on a path forward, according to facilitator Wendy Lowe of P2 Solutions, who ran the meeting with Jacob Wornstein of Wellstone Collaborative Strategies.

“I’m very optimistic that the product will be just right,” said Marble town administrator Ron Leach, “We’re going to go slow, and we’re going to get this right.”

Carbondale entrepreneur introduces the brand new, all-electric Terra Bike

Like a lot of people, Dylan Brown sought shelter from the COVID-19 storm in 2020 by retreating to an out-of-the-way, uncrowded place to ride things out — in his case, the Utah desert.

He didn’t just hunker down, though; he eventually went to work to build a better bike.

The impetus was a plan to set out on some road trips with a raft to run the desert-country river stretches.

After moving in with his parents in Escalante, the Glenwood Springs native and his fiancee, Sarah, were looking for a different way to run shuttle on rafting trips that didn’t involve ride shares or hitchhiking and the inherent risk of disease spread that presented.

A mode of transportation that would be open-air and could be transported with a basic bike rack was also preferred.

An avid mountain biker, Brown started looking at e-bike options to ease the ride and make better time on the typical 15- to 20-mile returns upstream to retrieve the transport vehicle.

“I started looking at what was out there and didn’t see anything that would have the range and speed that we needed to hop on a county road and be safe,” he said.

With the forced down-time after suspending his work as a commercial photographer when he couldn’t travel due to the COVID restrictions, he decided to turn his efforts toward coming up with a transportation solution.

The end result is the Terra Bike, an all-electric motorcycle without the pedal assist that falls in the same classification for licensing purposes as a moped. The bikes are equipped with a 72-volt rechargeable battery and can reach a top speed of 55 mph with a 60-mile range. 

Brown is now ramping up for on-demand production of the slick new e-cycle this year and, in the meantime, can often be seen riding and showing off his working prototype model, the Terra Prime, around Carbondale.

R&D phase

Initially, to aid on those river trips, Brown ordered up the parts to build a Stealth Bomber bike — a juiced-up type of electric pedal-assist bicycle, or e-bike, that had become popular as a racing machine in China and more recently in Australia.

“I built it in like four months, and it was really fun, and I learned a lot,” he said. “But there were definitely some things that I came to realize that I absolutely didn’t like.”

Dylan Brown models a working prototype version of his Terra Bike, an all-electric motorcycle that is expected to enter full scale production later this year.
John Stroud/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Namely, the more powerful the motor, the more bike pedals just tend get in the way and end up becoming a protrusion on which to bash your shins.

Brown also wanted his bike to be versatile enough to navigate muddy, dirt trails and ride pavement. That meant he needed to design a better center of gravity for the motor and also find a way to contain the motor, battery and controls in a waterproof compartment.

He credits his dad, Ricki Brown, with the background knowledge of motorcycles that helped him with the design. His dad always had a motorcycle rebuild project in his shop when Dylan was growing up. That helped him develop his own love for classic motorcycles.

But a motorcycle wasn’t practical for what he was trying to accomplish. Plus, he didn’t care for the grease, the pollution and, “honestly, the noise” of a motorcycle, he said.

There was definitely something to be said for the design, though.

He took his ideas to the drawing board and came up with the Terra Bike — a low-powered electric motorcycle that’s versatile enough for commuting to and from the office or errands around town to ripping dirt trails. The bikes come with street-legal head, brake and indicator lights and a horn.

Critical to the final design was to come up with a fully water- and dust-proof enclosure with watertight seals for the motor, battery, electronic components and charging port.

“Think about trying to go over Cottonwood Pass or up on top of McClure Pass, and it’s raining,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter how much you seal a regular e-bike; water ingress is the real issue that can cause problems.”

Engineered occupation

Brown grew up in Glenwood Springs, graduating from Glenwood High School and going on to study civil engineering at the University of Utah before deciding in his junior year that wasn’t what he wanted to do.

The front headlight and fork of the Terra Prime.
Terra Bikes/Courtesy photo

He switched majors to photojournalism and also started racing mountain bikes on the Rocky Mountain circuit until an injury ended that pursuit.

He worked in newspapers in Utah and Montana and then for a bike magazine before becoming a commercial photographer, which he’s been doing for the past dozen or so years.

His engineering studies came into play through his work mapping out photo shoots for commercial advertising, especially in working with fabricators and engineers to get the right angles for the latest mountain bike models.

“I also got to ride a lot of different bikes, so I could understand the geometry and what they were trying to capture (in the ads),” he said.

All of that definitely came in handy when it was time to design the Terra Bike.

The bike

“The idea behind the bike was to keep it as lightweight as possible because anything electric, the more weight you put on it, the more strain it’s going to have on the battery,” Brown said.

Currently, the end product weighs 160 pounds, including a mid-drive, 3-kilowatt motor, which is different from standard, pedal-assist e-bikes that have the motor in the rear hub or combo rear/front hub.

“Living in Carbondale, I wanted to be able to go up to places like the (motor bike) trails on The Crown or up Transfer Trail and rip some trails,” he said.  

That meant placing the gearing where the center of gravity is lower and centered on the bike. 

By keeping the motor at 3 kilowatts, the Terra Bike is classified as a moped, so a full driver’s license is not needed.

It combines mountain bike, e-bike and motorcycle components for a crossover design that combines some of the best performance features of each.

Terra Bike commuter in downtown Denver.
Terra Bikes/Courtesy photo

For instance, there’s a sturdier downhill mountain bike fork with a typical mountain bike headset, handlebars and e-bike style piston brakes.

Brown said he initially looked at incorporating mountain bike wheels, but that was where the motorcycle dirt bike design ended up coming into the mix.

The Terra Bike comes equipped with a 19-by-1.85 inch dirt bike rims and 10-gauge spokes, with a custom rear hub Brown has sourced from a shop in Denver. This allows the bike to hold speeds of 55 mph.

James Bleakley, a custom mountain bike frame builder out of Fort Collins, helped Brown with the frame design that’s now used with the final product.

The motor has three speed modes, including a lower mode, called “city mode,” that tops out at 25 miles per hour, then a mid-range for up to 40 mph and high-speed mode for up to 55. The bike is not legal for the Rio Grande Trail and is not recommended for longer stretches on state highways but is fine for county roads and forest routes, Brown said. 

“If you’re riding sub-30 miles per hour, you’ll get 60 miles or more on a charge,” he said. “And if you’re riding at 55, you’ll probably get more like 45-50 miles. So, it’s really speed and acceleration dependent, just like driving a gas motor.”

Brown said his ideal customer for the Terra Bike ranges from the city commuter to someone looking for a new toy to take out onto the backcountry trails. 

Someone like Draper White, one of Brown’s first customers who is looking forward to owning his own Terra Bike. 

“I never really considered myself a dirt bike person, but I liked the idea of having an electric bike that’s quiet and that I can get on the back of my Subaru,” White said. “I do a bit of elk hunting, so it will be nice to take up to spot where I can’t drive my car.”

On nice days, it can also be a way to get from his home in Missouri Heights to his work studio in Basalt.

“It’s also another fun thing to ride around the dirt roads and just another way to explore.” 

Brown said he’s gearing up for a pilot run of 10 bikes, most of which are already spoken for. Reservations are also being taken for bike deliveries in November or December of this year.

More information at terrabikes.com.


Labor likely to run short for the long term as housing costs dampen ability to hire

The confluence of a dwindling labor force and high demand for goods and services are “overheating” the economy, a burn felt at the national, state, and local level.

“Where I’m talking about overheating, we have more demand in the economy than the economy is able to meet the consequence of rising prices,” said Greg Sobetski, chief economist with the Colorado Legislative Council. “We still have high levels of household savings and the ability to consume, particularly among folks who are disproportionately likely to spend money in resort communities like Aspen.”

But as any local business owner or employer will attest, the struggle to house, hire, and retain workers in the resort communities makes it challenging for businesses to meet that demand. 

At a Business Outlook Forum hosted by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association on Wednesday, local business leaders and local policymakers gathered to hear the latest on labor and real estate from state, regional, and local leaders.

As of February, the Pitkin County unemployment rate clocked in at 2.9% with about two available jobs for each unemployed person, according to Carolyn Tucker, a regional business coordinator with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. 

Across the state, the greatest gains in jobs added back were in accommodation and food services as well as leisure and hospitality, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Sobetski said this is likely due to how many jobs in those sectors were lost in the pandemic – when unemployment topped 23% – and the nature of rural resort economies. 

Aspen Tech Labs also tracked job postings in the Roaring Fork Valley and in Aspen. In the past few weeks, available jobs are trending back upward after a dip in February. 

Job posting trends tracked by Aspen Tech Labs tell a story of employers still seeking to fill out their payrolls.
Aspen Tech Labs/Courtesy Image

Health-care and nursing jobs accounted for the greatest number of job postings, followed by food service; but job postings are not always equal to an actual number of open positions or job vacancies. 

“For example, we have a number of PRN, or as-needed, positions posted where we are looking for someone to help during vacations or employee medical leaves and are not filling a ‘vacated’ position,” Stacey Gavrell of Valley View Hospital said in an email to The Times. 

She also noted that Valley View Hospital has been fortunate enough to keep patient care uninterrupted because of staffing concerns due to a dedicated staff. The largest challenge the hospital sees in recruiting and retaining talent is housing, she said. 

The rising price of housing is what is excluding so many workers — particularly young workers — out of the job market in rural resort areas like Aspen, Pitkin County, and the region. 

To match inflation, workers would have needed to see at least an 8% increase to match the rising price of commodities, according to Sobetski. 

“What’s driving costs is overwhelmingly the shelter component of inflation, which is tied to rent,” he said. “And so this is an environment where landlords, others who are purveyors of rental property, are choosing to increase rents in order to cover their rising costs elsewhere in the economy and resulting in higher shelter pressure.”

The Federal Reserve relies on raising interest rates to cool an “overheating” economy, but that mitigation method does not as easily target the shelter component of inflation.

Who’s going to take the shifts?

Tucker noted that complaints lobbed against a younger workforce go back generations. 

But this time around, the critique that “no one wants to work” does not hold water because there are fewer workers to be had. 

“The workforce is just so different now that (older workers) can retire, decreased birth rates, aging population in Colorado; we are not attracting that young ski bum as I (was) anymore,” she said. “There’s much more competition across the nation for other places to live that are cheaper and have different types of things to do.”

Younger people, and therefore future workers, are in scarce supply in Pitkin County.
Colorado Department of Local Affairs/Colorado Workforce Center/Courtesy Image

In Pitkin County, the Baby Boomers and Generation X outnumber the youngest generations of working age people, signaling that a labor market without a sufficient number of laborers is bound to continue.

“I think this is the new normal. I don’t think that there’s some glut of workers sitting out there waiting to come back into the labor force. I think we’ve stabilized now,” Sobetski said. “And honestly, I think the biggest change in the economy over the next 10 to 20 years is that the story of the U.S. economy will be one of labor shortages.”

This relationship between high demand and low labor force supply, he and Tucker asserted, is directly tied to high cost of living — with Pitkin County at 127% cost of living index. 

Lex Tarumianz is a broker associate with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty. While discussing the climbing price and scarce availability of commercial real estate in the Aspen core, he noted the regional moves of businesses in the valley.

“What we’re really seeing is the trend that employers are starting to move downvalley to accommodate their staff, with most of the workforce coming from Carbondale, Glenwood, and that general vicinity,” he said. 

More affordable real estate and a shorter commute for employees appeals to business owners. 

Diane Foster, assistant Aspen city manager, connected the effort to attract and retain workers to transportation with the city’s decades-long effort on the Entrance to Aspen project and the Castle Creek Bridge. 

“There are so many barriers to employees coming to Aspen,” she said. “There are wonderful jobs now in Willits, Carbondale, and Glenwood, and they are wage competitive. And so making (transportation) possible is an economic issue, as you all know.”


If employers can address the primary reasons why workers leave jobs, they might be able to increase retainment, Tucker said. (Pew Research Center)
Pew Research Center/Courtesy image

Still, Tucker is optimistic local businesses can attract quality talent by being flexible with qualifications, offering more training, and expanding benefit packages.

Shortening recruitment timelines can factor into hiring new staff quickly, too, she said.

“As you work up the (graph), your motivators, you can actually affect that when you’re developing your recruitment and retention strategies and your training programs,” she said.

Teen snowboarder helps spread mental health awareness, strives to break stigma

Former Frisco resident Pippa Scott may spend the vast majority of her time trying to put together a strong competition run, but her mind is also occupied with trying to break the stigma surrounding mental health in the snowsports community and beyond.

Scott, 16, is a slopestyle and halfpipe snowboard athlete who competed throughout the 2022-23 winter season and on the U.S. Revolution Tour. Despite still being considered a young rider, Scott is no stranger to snowboarding competitions. Making one of her earliest appearances in 2013 at the Billabong Flaunt It slopestyle and rail jam competition, Scott has been present at major snowboarding competitions for the better part of 10 years.

In that timeframe, Scott has seen two sides of the sport she dearly loves. On one hand, Scott has seen herself and close friends finish on podiums, stomp runs and make breakthroughs in the sport, but she has also experienced heartache over several suicides within her snowboarding circle.

“I had my own friends who struggled, and I personally also struggle with mental health,” Scott said. “With the snowboard community, I had never had a chance where someone had an open conversation with me about mental health. It never seemed like something that was appropriate to talk about or something that was normal.”

Scott said the same is true for mountain communities in general. The community may feel tight-knit and small, but mental health is often not considered when other aspects of an individual’s well-being are.

“I remember just being part of a mountain town and a community that is so small that it sometimes seemed like mental health was overlooked because no one was talking about it,” Scott said. 

With many Olympic athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin, Shaun White, Simone Biles and Michael Phelps speaking out and bringing awareness to their own mental health, Scott strived to provide a support system for those competing at her age and skill level. 

With the help of Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, Scott began Ride for Mental Health in order to address the stigma around mental health and the rate of suicides in America’s young adults. 

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for 10- to 14-year-olds and is the third-leading cause of death amongst 15- to 24-year-olds. Additionally, a different CDC report showed that 57% of high school girls and 70% of LBGTQ+ students felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021. 

Ride for Mental Health hopes to break the current trend of teen suicides in the snowsports community and beyond. At the center of Scott’s mission is making sure young snowsports athletes have a comfortable place to talk about their own mental health. She often stresses that one’s mental health is just as important as an athlete’s physical health or stomping a run.

“I also strive to go to the Olympics just like a lot of my peers, and I feel like since I was little that the huge message I was given was that you had to be strong and tough to be a professional athlete,” Scott said. “Now I realize that is a minor part of it, and it is more about talking about how you are feeling and not bottling up your emotions.”

In the one month Ride for Mental Health has officially been established, Scott has already seen a shift within her snowboarding community.

Scott says before she started to pay attention to mental health, athletes would often be paralyzed when a run or competition did not go the way they planned. Now Scott feels like athletes are more comfortable to talk about their emotions and push past one bad run or competition. 

Pippa Scott, left, and Susan Tellone talk to guests at Copper Mountain Resort during the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association’s nationals from March 31 to April 6.
Courtesy photo

“Especially with my peers, I have noticed that when we talk about tricks that are going wrong and why they feel a certain way, then they get on the hill and the run that they take is better than the last because they have already talked and had the conversation,” Scott said. “They are no longer bottling up those emotions.”

Scott is ultimately helping to break down the stigma and barriers around the often taboo subject. 

“By opening up this conversation (Pippa) is breaking down barriers of stigma and shame and that is okay to talk about it,” said Susan Tellone, The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide clinical director. “Another message that she is sending out is that it is brave to talk about your mental health. It is actually courageous. As courageous as extreme sports kids are, this is even more courageous than some of the things they have done on the slopes.”

Scott and Tellone were both present at the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association nationals at Copper Mountain Resort for snowboard week last week. The duo spoke at forums for athletes, coaches and the USASA about teen suicide prevention, as well as provided stuffed heart pillows for every athlete’s swag bag at the event.

“We never do any presentation without telling people what to look for, the warning signs and what to do if they are worried about someone,” Tellone said. “We probably had a 45-minute conversation about it, and it seemed like it really resonated with them. They were grateful.” 

Ultimately, Scott and Tellone are hoping to continue to break the stigma around mental health and make individuals more comfortable about talking about their mental health through Ride for Mental Health. 

“We want people to know to get help early on and to not wait,” Tellone said. “Do not wait until you are feeling awful and are in crisis. Be able to acknowledge when they might be having a bad day and to be able to talk about it. We are in a crisis right now in our country, and a lot of that is because people are waiting too long to get help.”

To give to the cause of Ride for Mental Health, visit GoFundMe.com.

It takes courage and bravery to speak up about mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally or has concerns about their mental health, do not wait to reach out.

Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger. Text or call 988 for a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline or call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255.


Local officials say state ‘More Housing Now’ plan ignores rural resort needs

A pair of land use bills recently introduced at the state Legislature aims to address the housing crisis by eliminating red tape, but officials in the area say the legislation would hamstring local government’s ability to regulate growth and affordable housing.

Gov. Polis and supporters tout the “More Housing Now” bills — SB-213 and its lesser known counterpart HB-1255 — as solutions to the growing statewide housing crisis, with record-setting prices and low inventory. 

SB-213 is a land use bill that would mandate the Department of Local Affairs to oversee stringent housing regulations like allowing accessory dwelling units as a use by right where single-family units are permitted, lift restrictions on middle housing like duplexes and triplexes, plus eliminate occupancy and square footage requirements. 

HB-1255 seeks to ban local governments’ ability to restrict growth with specific respect to residential building permits unless in the case of a natural disaster. The bill has already passed its committee 9-2 and will be discussed on the House floor Tuesday. 

In conjunction, local officials say the bills incentivize increasing supply without sufficient protective measures for sprawl and affordable housing. 

“Our local governments are delivering affordable housing and preventing sprawl and managing our transportation impacts in good ways and ways better than is happening around the state,” said Pitkin County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury. “And these blunt tools are really going to make it a lot harder for us to be successful.”

The county land use code includes a growth management quota system to “manage the rate, type, location, quality and ultimate quantity of growth within the rural and urban areas.” Applicants get scored by criteria to allow only a certain amount of square footage in a year. 

That system would not survive under a potential passage of HB-1255. 

Kury said that the bills fail to address resource management adequately. In the Western Slope, local government officials are constantly fending off Front Range demand for water, she said. And if density and use by right allowances take off as written in the bill, demand for water, and transit and conflict with wildlife will only increase. 

“I would have preferred that this conversation start from a resource capacity base,” Kury said. “What is the water supply availability? What are our natural resource conditions? What are our wildlife conditions? Where are our transportation networks existing and planned for?”

Critics also say the language in the bills does not grant rural resort areas to meet the needs of their unique housing markets. 

Rural resort job center municipalities are granted some flexibility in SB-213 and would be required to report a regional housing plan to DOLA. 

But Ward Hauenstein, mayor pro tem of the city of Aspen, said that language in the bill requiring 10% of housing units be set aside for households that make no more than 80% of the area median income in mixed-income multifamily housing is not a sufficient protection for areas like Aspen. 

“Affordable housing for a rural resort job center is different from what affordable is in the Front Range. They’re vastly different costs of living, and the cost of housing is so much higher here,” he said. “Whoever made my cappuccino, or whoever makes the beds at Aspen Square (Hotel), or plows the street or drives the buses … when you compare their livable wage to AMI in the Front Range, it is vastly different.”

​The bill does permit jurisdictions to apply for different requirements for percentage of units, but still is not sufficient for Hauenstein, who said he would like to see any housing stock growth reserved for workforce housing only. 

“For me, it’s projection of centralized power to a lower level of federalism. The Federalist Papers were all about a federal government projecting to the states. This is a state projecting down to Aspen,” he said of the bills. 

He does recognize the irony of calling out the state government for overreach fresh off the heels of the city of Aspen’s controversial residential building and short-term rental permit moratorium.

“I think I reconcile state or governmental interference in the free market by the effect it has on the public,” he posited. “Governmental intervention (from the city) was to try to offset the negative impacts of short term rentals and residential development.”

He likened the bills to a failed attempt by the city in the past to incentivize ADUs without deed-restriction or occupancy requirements. Instead of the units going to the local workforce, the ADUs sat vacant, became STRs, or were later absorbed into the main house on the property through construction, he said.

Longtime land planner Alan Richman, whose chops include working for the city of Aspen, also used the city’s ADU example as anecdotal evidence for why the state bill would not work as intended in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“This community has allowed accessory dwelling units without restrictions and they just turn into secondary dwelling units for the owner, and they don’t do a thing for affordability,” he said.

Over his more than four decades of working in land use, Richman said, demand and supply have never equalized. He expressed disgust at the state’s attempt to solve the housing problem of localities. 

“In a community like ours the supply could be unlimited and it would still not do anything whatsoever for affordable housing needs,” he said. “There’s an unlimited demand for people with money to come to these places.”

The bills both have a long way to go in the state Legislature before they become law, and Kury said that she is hopeful that the governor’s office and state representatives will incorporate rural resort towns’ need for deed restrictions, greater autonomy and the outright death of HB-1255. 

“(Pitkin County) supports development near density and on transit with an eye towards water impacts and all that, which I think SB-213 endeavors to do,” she said. “It just has a lot of problems. I don’t think we would ever get to a position of support because our municipalities are so opposed to it. And they are our direct partners.”

If HB-1255 survives, she said, “The pre-emption needs to be narrowly tailored towards affordability like deed restricted, affordable housing. A community cannot say no to deed restricted, affordable housing or something along those lines.”

Kury said the county is aligned in opposition with a variety of local government coalitions and lobby groups across the Western Slope.

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock, Commissioner Francie Jacober, Apen Mayor Torre, and Kury have all testified in front of the Legislature about the negative impacts they believe the bills would bring to the area. 

The county and their counterparts have already begun discussions on potential lawsuits, should that be the last course of action for rural resort governments to take. But for now, the legislative process will play out in Denver.

Mikaela Shiffrin returns home, honored at Vail celebration after setting skiing record

VAIL — A hero’s welcome was set up to celebrate U.S. ski team athlete and hometown GOAT Mikaela Shiffrin on Sunday to mark her record-breaking World Cup season.

As of March 11, Shiffrin became the “greatest skier of all time” after she broke the record for number of career World Cup wins, previously held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark. Stenmark held the record of 86 wins for 34 years, and Shiffrin won her 87th World Cup race (and 88th World Cup race) in Are, Sweden.

Hundreds of people gathered at Solaris Plaza in Vail Village as Shiffrin strolled down a walkway lined with 88 stars, marking her current World Cup victories, as fans waved and cheered as she approached the stage.

Shiffrin was greeted by Doug Lewis, a former U.S. ski team member and two-time Olympian who has been an NBC sports ski analyst and has called many of the races Shiffrin has participated in. He asked her what it feels like, from her first World Cup win to the record-breaking win.

“It always feels like a dream, and I feel like I’m going to wake up at some point. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way, so that hasn’t changed from the first win that I had until now,” Shiffrin said.

“Well, welcome to reality, you are fully awake right now,” Lewis said.

Then Lewis turned everyone’s attention to the big screen for a special message from Sen. John Hickenlooper on becoming the winningest Alpine ski racer in the world.

“You are an inspiration and we applaud your talent, your hard work and your dedication. Thank you for making Colorado proud. Enjoy this victory, Mikaela, we can’t wait to see what you do next,” Hickenlooper said.

Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera was present to congratulate Shiffrin and also read a proclamation from Gov. Jared Polis that declared Mar. 11, 2023, as “Mikaela Shiffrin Day” in the state of Colorado.

Mikaela Shiffrin — the GOAT holding a goat — is celebrated on Sunday in Vail.
Courtesy of Vail Valley Foundation

Shiffrin was also greeted by several town mayors and municipality dignitaries who each brought Shiffrin unique gifts that were indicative of each town. The town of Eagle gave Shiffrin a western belt buckle, nodding to the region’s western heritage, and the town of Vail gave Shiffrin one of its decorative manhole covers. Minturn gave her a lifetime membership to the Minturn Fitness Center and a skier statue made out of railroad ties, harkening back to Minturn’s railroad history.

Next, U.S. ski team alumni came up one by one and presented Shiffrin with a single ski from Atomic that listed one of the many records that Shiffrin currently holds. Fellow athletes Reni Gorsuch, Cindy Nelson, Brenda Buglione Kirwood, Mike Brown, Karen Lancaster Ghent, Sarah Will, Alice McKennis Duran, Thomas Walsh, Jonny Moseley and Oksana Masters did the honors.

Lewis then told Shiffrin that she is a GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) and invited Shiffrin to check out the video messages from other GOATs and notables on the big screen. Peyton Manning, Roger Federer, Russell and Ciara Wilson, Derek Jeter, Simone Biles, Chloe Kim and Stenmark all wished her well. So did actors Patrick Dempsey and Kate Winslet, and talk show hosts Samantha Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Chelsea Handler.

“On behalf of all these GOATs you just saw, we wanted to make sure that this last presenter really knows what you’ve been through today and in fact, they’ve been with you every step of the way. Please welcome Eileen, Taylor and Kristi along with a special gift … Mikaela’s own goat!” Lewis said in front of a cheering crowd as Shiffrin’s family members, and a goat, came on stage.

Mikaela Shiffrin signs autographs on Sunday in Vail during a celebration in her honor.
Courtesy of Vail Valley Foundation

“Do we have a name for it yet?” Lewis said.

“I have to name it?” replied Shiffrin.

The crowd yelled out possible names for Shiffrin to choose from, including “Jeff” (after Shiffrin’s father who passed away in February 2020), “Billy,” and “Atomic.”

Shiffrin closed out the celebration admitting that she never thought breaking Stenmark’s record was ever going to happen during her career and gave thanks to the community that has supported her from the beginning.

“The support that I get from Colorado, this valley, from home, that is something that drives me throughout the season. It has for my entire career. It has been such a privilege to grow up in this community. After all the traveling that I’ve done, this is one of the few places that you get the best of everything here,” Shiffrin said.

“You get the best skiing, you get the best summer outdoor activities, you get the best people, you get the best health care. It’s a very rare thing, it’s very unique and, especially for all the kids here, I hope you know how privileged you are, how privileged we are to grow up in such a special, strong community.”