| AspenTimes.com

Avalanche at Steamboat Resort completely buries one person; ski patrol makes ‘heroic’ rescue

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — One person was caught and buried in an avalanche at Steamboat Resort midday Sunday. The person was rescued in an effort Dave Hunter, vice president of mountain operations for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., called heroic.

“It was an incredible response and an incredible result,” Hunter said.

The “persistent hard slab” avalanche was “human triggered” and occurred primarily between Chutes 1 and 2, he said.

The call to Mountain Dispatch came in at 12:58 p.m., according to Hunter. Three members of the Steamboat Ski Patrol were on scene within three or four minutes. Some of the resort’s “highest avalanche experts” were already at Ski Patrol Head Quarters when the slide occurred.

At 1:05 p.m., they were “extricating the guest,” Hunter said, and by 1:06 or 1:07 p.m., the person was “fully extricated and conscious and breathing.”

They were then transported by ambulance to UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and are currently in good condition, Hunter said.

The avalanche started in an area of terrain that is inbounds but currently closed.

The group of people caught in the slide weren’t skiing out of bounds and did not cross any ropes, Hunter said. They traversed in above Big Meadow, which is open, and below the chutes, he explained. It is believed they triggered the avalanche from below.

While several other people were caught in the slide that was “propagated from above,” only one was completely buried. Another person was buried up to their waist.

There were a total of about eight people involved, Hunter said.

On Saturday, a slide occurred in the same geographical area. However that slide was a results of ongoing avalanche mitigation work, Hunter said.

“There is a reason why we are keeping terrain closed,” Hunter said. “The public needs to bear with us.”

He acknowledges the pressure the resort has been under to open more terrain and the eagerness of skiers to get at the terrain still closed.

But what happened on Sunday is precisely why the resort staff continues to perform extensive terrain assessment and management, which includes avalanche control, he said.

Hunter strongly urges everyone to use extra precautions — ski with a friend, check the conditions and “in areas you normally feel comfortable, you need to have your guard up and think about unintended consequences.”

And even that mitigation work is no guarantee, Hunter noted. “Snow is a wild thing.”

While there is “local angst to get into Fish Creek Canyon,” had something happened there, for example, ski patrol “may not be able to respond as quickly and easily. And it could end with a different result.”

Recent conditions have created “substantial unstable snowpack,” Hunter said.

On Saturday, the avalanche danger for the backcountry in Steamboat and the Flat Tops Wilderness Area was high. On Sunday, it went one notch down to “considerable.”

Conditions remain dangerous, Hunter said, largely because of the 63 inches of snow in October, followed by unseasonably warm weather including rain, and then the approximate 36 inches of snowfall over the past week, along with wind.

Kreston Rohrig, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s dedicated forecaster for the Steamboat area’s backcountry, called the weekend storm “a big test for the northern mountains.”

“There’s a really nasty layer of snow from October sitting near the ground,” he said. And, in the event of a big snow, a heavy load on top can cause the failure of that bottom layer. Because of a metamorphic process, that October layer has a “weak” and “angular” grain, Rohrig explained.

And any storm with “warm, moist air packs a lot of punch,” he said. Which is why they always measure the “snow water equivalent” as opposed to just measuring the depth.

When traveling into the backcountry, Rohrig advises people pay close attention to the Avalanche Center’s website or mobile app, have avalanche gear and training, and most importantly — when there are warnings — avoid avalanche terrain altogether. Avoid slopes steeper than 30 degrees, he said, and “identify and be aware of terrain traps,” which can be any potential avalanche path that ends in an abrupt terrain change, like a road or a creek bed.

Rohrig encourages people to report their observations to the Avalanche Center. “The more eyes and ears in the backcountry,” the more they are able to accurately forecast, he said.

Hunter urges people to also pay close attention to resort information at steam

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

Eagle County transit bus falls into river during Highway 6 accident; two men injured

Two people were injured when an Eagle County transit system bus collided with a pickup truck Friday afternoon in Edwards.

The occupants of the work truck were transported to Vail Health Hospital with injuries. The extent of their injuries is not yet known, Kris Widlak, Eagle County’s communications director said.

The two men, ages 19 and 40, are both from Gypsum, Colorado State Patrol Trooper Jake Best said.

At 12:53pm, crews responded to a report of a head-on motor vehicle accident at Hwy 6 & Squaw Creek Rd involving an ECO…

Posted by Eagle River Fire Protection District on Friday, December 13, 2019

Their injuries are serious, but they are in stable condition, Best said. The bus driver was not injured or taken to the hospital.

The bus was traveling eastbound on Highway 6 in the Edwards area. The pickup truck was headed west.

The driver lost control on the slushy and icy road, went into the westbound lane and into the path of the pickup, a Toyota Tundra.

The pickup hit the side of the skidding bus, the State Patrol said.

After the pickup hit the bus, the bus went down the riverbank and overturned into the Eagle River, landing on the driver’s side in the water.

The cause of the accident is not yet known, but road conditions are slushy and icy spots, like all through Eagle County, Best said. More snow is in the forecast.

“We expect roads to be like this for the next couple days,” Best said.

The driver was the only person on the bus. There were no passengers, Widlak said. The driver was shaken up but uninjured.

Highway 6 will be under an extended closure at Squaw Creek Road due to Haz-Mat cleanup & vehicle recovery.

Snow is forecast to continue through the weekend, possibly bringing a couple feet to the High Country, the National Weather Service says.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

Owner of Granby Ranch to surrender property as lender takes over

The lender for Granby Ranch intends to take back the property.

In a letter delivered to the Granby Board of Trustees on Tuesday, the owner of Granby Ranch, Maris Cipriani, said the lender has indicated it intends to take back the Granby Ranch property, which serves as collateral for the loan.

Granby Reality Holdings is in conversations with its lender, Granby Prentice LLC, for a deed in lieu of foreclosure, which allows the owner to surrender the property and avoid foreclosure proceedings.

Signed by Cipriani, the letter says Granby Ranch expects the lending company to take the title to the property soon, but the ranch plans to continue winter operations through the 2019-20 ski season.

Leadership at Granby Ranch said the resort itself is not being surrendered to the lender, only the real estate holdings surrounding the resort.

“While ownership of the Granby Ranch real estate holdings will change, the resort portion of the Ranch will continue to operate as usual, with opening day on Friday, Dec. 13,” said Greg Finch, Granby Ranch chief executive officer.

Granby Reality Holdings had been pursuing a sale of the property. Granby Ranch has been on the market for 18 months and saw over 70 prospects for the property, according to the letter.

The real estate listing for the sale is no longer available.

The letter states that in final stages of negotiating with a potential buyer from Denver, Granby Prentice declined to proceed with the sale on terms acceptable to the buyer.

The letter was presented during the town board’s Tuesday meeting when bonds Granby Ranch owed the town were due. As the soon-to-be owner, Granby Prentice will assume all obligations that run with the land, according to the letter.

Granby Ranch owes the town $1.7 million for bonds related to road repair. The board unanimously approved a motion to call the bonds, and citizen’s reactions to this news centered on concerns for road repairs in Granby Ranch, which had been raised at previous meetings.

The board also moved to restrict sales, building permits and certificates of occupancy for the Granby Ranch properties and any successors. The board’s attorney was given direction to ensure a reimbursement agreement is put in place.

Glenwood Escape Room unveils three new rooms in new location

The Glenwood Escape Room has a new location and brand-new rooms for players to navigate and attempt to escape from before their time runs out.

According to Glenwood Escape Room Co-owner Ken Murphy, a few misconceptions about the growing industry continue to persist.

“Escape rooms aren’t claustrophobic,” Murphy said. “We’re not trying to scare you. …It’s not a haunted house.”

Instead, teams of between two and generally six players work together to solve puzzles and decipher clues, hopefully, before their 60-minute time limit expires.

Previously, the Glenwood Escape Room was situated in the 900 block of Grand Avenue but has since relocated to 923 Cooper Ave.

“[In] our old facility, our lobby wasn’t very interactive. It was, sit there and wait.” Murphy said. “One of the highlights of this new lobby is, we’ve made it very interactive.”

In addition to Egyptian relics, the Glenwood Escape Room’s lobby features key mazes and puzzles that players can practice on before their actual countdown clock begins.

The three new escape rooms include one with a Christmas theme, another Murphy described as “PG-13,” and an elevator.

Taking place on Dec. 24, at first glance, nothing about the holiday-themed room’s stockings, cozy fireplace and Christmas tree appear out of the ordinary.

However, once the timer starts, the unsuspecting holiday room quickly turns into “Christmas Chaos.”

“It’s called Christmas Chaos, which we all have in our family,” Murphy said. “Standing in here you wouldn’t realize all that’s going on.”

While Christmas Chaos certainly caters to the holiday season, things get a little darker, literally, in the escape room’s Serial Doctor room.

Geared more toward teenagers and adults, players must escape from a deranged “doctor’s” lair by using a variety of senses.

“We want to get all of your different senses working together,” Murphy said. “Or, working against each other.”

The final room, which Murphy hopes to open by Christmas, includes the Elevator.

In the elevator, players take on the role of Fortune 500 Company executives trapped with a ticking time bomb.

According to Murphy, thus far roughly 40-percent of players have successfully completed Christmas Chaos whereas just 27-percent have finished the Serial Doctor escape room.

Co-owner and game master Logan Bartek, who gives clues to stumped players along the way, said he tries to make each team’s experience as unique as possible.

Especially, when teams range from corporate parties to bachelor and bachelorette parties.

“We want to make it fun, not frustrating,” Bartek said.


Summit firefighter dies at scene of Copper Mountain condo fire after fall from roof

FRISCO — Summit Fire & EMS firefighter Ken Jones, 46, died after falling about 60 feet from the roof of a Copper Mountain condo building early Saturday, when crews were working to battle a fire at that location, according to Summit Fire & EMS officials.

The fire at Bridge End — 860 Copper Road, near the base of Copper Mountain Resort — was first reported by a call to 911 at 1:51 a.m. Saturday. Jones and a crew from the Copper fire station were the first on scene minutes later, according to Summit Fire spokesman Steve Lipsher.

Jones headed to the roof of the five-story building to find a way to access the fire. He fell to his death shortly before 2 a.m., according to Lipsher.

After the fall, emergency workers called to ask for help from another fire station outside of the Summit Fire department.

“We had an engine crew from Vail come over the pass and continue to work on extinguishing the fire while we relieved our crews as soon as we possibly could,” Lipsher said.

The building was evacuated, and no one else was injured in the fire, according to Lipsher.

At this time, little is known about the cause of the fire or Jones’ fall, both of which will be investigated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, according to officials.

We are grieving with some horrible news this morning:Summit Fire & EMS firefighter dies at scene of fire A Summit…

Posted by Summit Fire & EMS on Saturday, December 7, 2019

On-duty death a first for Summit Fire

Jones’ death is the first in Summit Fire department history, and leadership in the department is working to support Jones’ family — including his wife and two young children, ages 11 and 13 — along with the Summit Fire team.

“To say the least, we are all devastated,” Summit Fire Deputy Chief of Operations Travis Davis said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.

“These times can be trying on any organization,” Davis said. “This is the biggest nightmare that any fire department across the country will ever face. There’s going to be some dark days ahead of us.”

When asked what the fire department is doing to support its employees, Lipsher said, “everything that you can think of that compassionate humans would do for friends and family and colleagues — and Ken was all of that to all of us.

“We, like every other fire department in the country, have guidelines that we contemplate in sort of an abstract fire. … Emergency services and emergency responders have dangerous jobs, and it’s always a possibility, but until it actually happens, it’s such an abstract concept.”

Davis said the department would draw on the support of other organizations across the country that have experienced the death of an on-duty emergency responder.

“The concern when something like this takes place is what it does to the organizations that were involved in the long term,” Davis said. “… We’re going to do our best to keep this family that we’ve created up here over the years intact during these trying times.”

“It’s going to be a community loss, no doubt about it,” Davis said after a long pause.

Lipsher said the department would provide benefits for Jones’ family along with counseling for staff.

“The biggest thing is we want to take care of Ken’s family and ourselves and the broader community as the ripple effects of the tragedy spread,” Lipsher said.

Press conference- A Summit Fire & EMS firefighter fell to his death early this morning from the rooftop of a five-story condominium in Copper Mountain where he was battling a fire.Ken Jones, 46, a beloved 20-year veteran of the fire department, had climbed to the roof in search for access to the fire reported just before 2 a.m. at the Bridge End condominium building at 860 Copper Road. “He had a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone. He was a firefighter’s firefighter,” said Summit Fire & EMS Chief Jeff Berino. “He’s been a valued member of our family for many years.”

Posted by Summit Fire & EMS on Saturday, December 7, 2019

Remembering Ken Jones

Jones, who was a 20-year veteran of Summit Fire, typically works at the Frisco fire station. He was at the Copper station overnight Friday to help out by covering a shift for overtime, according to Lipsher.

Lipsher, who joined Summit Fire about a decade ago, called Jones “soft spoken” and “just a decent human being.”

“Ken was a really quiet guy, and he loved to just be on the periphery, but boy did he pay attention, and he was really sharp about things,” Lipsher said. “He didn’t say much, but when he did, it was either insightful or bone-dry funny.”

Davis, who notified Jones’ wife, Keri, at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday said she was doing “as good as we could expect.”

“She answered the door, and she knew,” Davis said. “No matter how many times you make these kind of notifications in the line of duty for all of our responders, you’re just never quite equipped to do that when it’s one of your own. But you do the best you can, and you rally around your people, and you get through it.”

Though a funeral is not yet planned, Lipsher said firefighters from around the state and region would attend to show their support for a fallen firefighter.

“I think it’s really important to show the world who we lost, just as decent and sweet natured of a person as you would ever meet,” Lipsher said.

Police shooting in Avon at Walgreens parking lot; one man hospitalized

One man is in the hospital after a traffic stop Thursday night ended in a police shooting in a drugstore parking lot.

A Colorado State Patrol trooper pulled over an eastbound U-Haul truck for a traffic violation around 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The U-Haul driver pulled off Interstate 70 and into the Walgreens’ parking lot just off the eastbound Avon exit, according to Preston Neill, Avon’s deputy town manager and public information officer.

During the stop, the passenger in the U-Haul was shot, Neill said. The unidentified passenger was transported to Vail Health with a gunshot wound. His condition was unknown as of 10 p.m.

The Colorado State Patrol trooper was not injured, Neill said.

Avon Police and the Colorado State Patrol closed Avon Road at 8:44 p.m.
Four minutes later, an alert went out that there was police activity at Walgreens in Avon, and advised people to avoid the area. Motorists getting off at the Avon exit were sent back to the next exit east.

The shooting is being investigated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies.  No additional information is being released at this time as this is an ongoing investigation.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

Eagle County’s housing market freezes out mid-income residents

Editor’s note: This story is the first in a series focused on housing issues in the Vail Valley. To view the entire series as it unfolds, visit vaildaily.com/news/home-economics.

EAGLE COUNTY — It shouldn’t be so hard for Rick and Colleen Gregory to find a house.

It probably wouldn’t be, if they weren’t looking in Eagle County. The couple has a combined annual income of around $110,000 — which puts them slightly above the Eagle County average median income of $105,000. Rick has worked for the town of Vail for 19 years and while Colleen has only been in her current job for a couple of years, she has lived and worked in the valley for almost 17 years.

The Gregorys have homeownership history, having previously purchased residences in Avon and Gypsum. They won’t have to cobble together a down payment or convince a lender that their credit is up to snuff.

But their housing search isn’t going well and it isn’t the first time the Gregorys have faced this problem.

Commuting nightmare

“We had to move to Leadville for affordable living four years ago,” Colleen said. “It was just so much less expensive.”

Back in 2014, the couple purchased a single-family home located just off Tennessee Pass, 1,200 feet from the Eagle County line. It’s a lovely residence, located in an idyllic alpine setting. But living there has extracted a high price.

“I spend two hours a day, on a good day, driving,” Colleen said.

It’s not just the time and distance of their work commutes that creates problems for the Gregorys. It’s the nature of the drive along the steep, two-lane mountain road that connects Lake and Eagle counties. Colleen noted that Rick’s job with Vail Public Works means he gets called out during stormy winter mornings.

“When he goes off at night, I know if he goes off the road no one will know,” Colleen said. “It’s very stressful, and is the risk worth the money?”

Over the past year, the Gregorys have decided that the answer is ‘no.’ So they listed their Tennessee Pass home for sale and started looking for a new Eagle County residence in earnest.

Their maximum budget is $450,000. Because Rick works in Vail and Colleen works in Edwards, they would like to live in the mid-valley area of Eagle County. Colleen said she found a couple of condos in their price range, but by the time they added in homeowners association fees, the monthly payments were higher than they could handle.

So the Gregorys expanded their search downvalley and they are still looking. Along the way, they discovered a hard truth — the Gregorys make too much money to qualify for low-income housing options and they can’t afford the higher-priced, single-family homes in the valley.

“We are lost in-between,” Colleen said.

The Gregorys aren’t alone. They are a prime example of what housing professionals call the “Missing Middle.” It’s a group that’s expanding in the local housing market.

The Missing Middle

In simplest terms, the Missing Middle is comprised of people who make too much money to qualify for housing assistance programs and too little money to purchase homes on the free market.  In an area such as Eagle County, that’s a big group.

Community Builders Executive Director Clark Anderson is very familiar with this dilemma. The goal of the Glenwood Springs nonprofit he oversees is to help leaders make communities more livable. Making sure that people aren’t priced out of housing is one of the biggest local issues Community Builders faces.

“It’s very difficult in a market like the Eagle Valley to provide housing that is affordable,” Anderson said. “In our markets, a lot of people are left behind and the people who are getting left behind aren’t just low-income residents. It’s the middle and higher-income people as well. It’s a real conundrum.”

Anderson noted there are multiple layers that contribute to the dearth of Missing Middle housing in Eagle County. But the biggest factor is demand.

“You have different segments of the market competing for the same product,” Anderson said. “One segment is the high-end, luxury market and it’s really hard for everyone else to compete. A lot the housing stock goes to the high-end buyer.”

It isn’t just a case of new housing projects in the valley, Anderson said. An increasing number of middle-income units are changing over to luxury pricing. He offered the following hypothetical example:

In 1993, Harry brought a family home in Singletree. He and his wife are now empty nesters and they want to downsize. They put their home on the market and, naturally, they want to make as much money as possible in the deal to aid with their retirement.

Lisa is interested in moving to the Vail Valley part-time and can afford a second home, but not something in Vail or Beaver Creek area. But Harry’s home is right in her price range.

“Now that home is purchased by someone who is going to take it into the luxury market,” Anderson said. “That’s how you have the working people market competing with the luxury market every day. And as long as we allow these two parts of the community to compete against one another, the luxury market is always going to win.”

Losing community

“It is patently obvious that there are tremendous impacts when you have a community, or an entire region, that cannot provide housing for the people who work there,” Anderson continued.

From employee shortages to parking troubles, the lack of affordable housing cascades into other parts of the community.

“People don’t like the impact of traffic on I-70 in the Vail Valley,” Anderson said. “That’s an affordable housing problem, not a traffic problem because of people having to commute to their jobs. I would argue the No. 1 driver of climate change impacting the valley is the lack of affordable housing. The reason why people in the valley drive so much is they live so far from their jobs.”

But Anderson believes that loss of community character is the biggest pitfall of driving middle-income residents out of the local housing market. The residents of a community are what makes it special — the volunteer work they do, the relationships they build and the businesses they support. When those people leave, an empty shell remains.

“There is a real loss of authenticity in places like that,” Anderson said.

‘No silver bullet’

“The real bummer is there is no silver bullet to solve the housing issue,” Anderson said. “It is going to take uncommon commitment, resources and strategies.”

And in looking at the Missing Middle dilemma, he believes it’s going to take diversification.

 “The best thing that could be done would be to make it easier to build a wider variety of housing types,” Anderson said.

Instead of single-family detached housing, the people in the Missing Middle could likely break into the market if there were smaller, more attainable options out there, he said. He believes changing regulations to favor this type of development would spur its creation.

Anderson said communities should look at their own regulations to find ways to loosen the rules if a project addresses the housing need.

“I think the character impact of losing people who could live in our communities is more important than did we get the façade of the building exactly right,” Anderson said. “And for years, zoning has created minimums. But it has rarely said people can only build so big. We should use maximums more often.”

Anderson acknowledged that the first challenge for diversified, affordable housing projects is to find the right places to build. “I really think getting the locations right is really important,” Anderson said.

The second challenge is to find someone willing to build those homes

“I like to believe that with the right incentives, the market will come in and help solve this,” he said. “It’s really about how you can incentivize a developer to keep things affordable in a way that doesn’t get eaten up by the luxury market.”

Incentives could include reduced fees if a developer commits to deed restrictions — full-time residency for owners, price caps or other mechanisms designed to keep housing prices from escalating.

Partnership is another workable solution with governments or businesses teaming with private developers to make projects happen by providing land or money. Anderson says there’s a great example of how that can work right in the middle of the Eagle River Valley — Miller Ranch.

Working model

Completed back in 2006, Miller Ranch’s own website calls it “Eagle County’s premier affordable housing community.” It features 282 units where deed restriction and housing guidelines maintain workforce housing. Miller Ranch offers single-family homes, duplexes, rowhouses, and condominiums. The neighborhood sits on land the county owns and its housing program is administered through the county’s Valley Home Store operation.

According to Tori Franks of the Eagle County Housing Department, the Miller Ranch prices are hitting the Missing Middle sweet spot. For example, for a family of four with an annual income of $94,000, $375,00 is an affordable purchase price. For a family of four making $132,000, $525,000 is an affordable purchase price.

“That is the Missing Middle marketplace. That is also something we see, very anecdotally, in Miller Ranch,” Franks said.

The development qualifies buyers through a point system that rewards longevity in the valley, particular types of employment and other factors. Potential buyers must complete an extensive application process and are then notified when units become available. The prospective buyers with the most points have first shot at units that become available.

Miller Ranch is exactly where the Gregorys wanted to live.

“We were excited to apply for Miller Ranch,” Colleen said. “With their point system and being deed-restricted, we were sure we would be at the top of the list. With Rick and I working in Eagle County and living there, you would think we would be excellent candidates, especially with my husband being a government worker for 19 years.”

But the Gregorys found out the point system didn’t actually favor their situation. For the past four years, they haven’t lived in Eagle County even though they really could see it from their own backyard.

Then they found out they make about $5,000 too much annually to get the 25-point bump Miller Ranch awards to candidates who make less than 140% of the AMI.  

“We apparently make too much money for deed-restricted housing but not enough to buy a non-deed restricted home,” Colleen said. “After building a life here, we are left with going broke over a $500,000 tiny condo or having to leave.”

Franks noted that it can be tough to hear you don’t meet the regulations, but Miller Ranch had to institute criteria to make its program work.

“We can’t craft programs or process for everyone,” she said. So, while it may seem arbitrary to ding someone for living 1,200 feet from the county line, Franks noted there has to be a set regulation. Likewise, using the AMI as a criterion is a way to keep Miller Ranch pricing in line with the community.

As hard as it is to turn Missing Middle home hunters way, Franks said it’s equally hard to break the news to qualified applicants that they didn’t get a unit.

“We are seeing an average of 15 offers per unit, which means that one person gets in and 14 others don’t,” Franks said.

According to Franks, that’s the biggest problem with Miller Ranch — it is only one Missing Middle solution in a valley that needs many more answers.

“And we just don’t have that next Miller Ranch out there,” Franks said. “There’s a 100% to 140% of AMI drought.”

As governments and businesses mull the issue and struggle to come up with communitywide solutions, today’s Missing Middle home shoppers must fend for themselves. Franks suggested they seek out a local real estate agent who understands the valley’s deed-restricted market.

“Have a good team around you because it’s a fast, competitive process,” Franks said.

The Gregorys are trying to break their Missing Middle shackles by searching valley-wide and thinking creatively.

“We have toured endlessly for a home for us,” Colleen said. “We realized that anything Edwards and east was never going to happen, especially with Miller Ranch being such a long shot.”

They have found some downvalley options in the $480,000 to $610,000 range.

“But that price point is already a major stretch considering we started with $450,000 as our max,” Colleen said.

A couple of months back the Gregorys tried to get creative with an offer on a Gypsum home. The property included both a house and an adjacent lot, so they offered $20,000 under asking and stipulated the owner could retain the lot. The offer was rejected. They upped their offer and the seller accepted it.

“The home will be a major stretch and we will probably have to get a roommate, but it made the most sense for the money,” Colleen said. “We are in the infancy of this deal, just finishing the initial inspection, but we are hopeful.”

If the sale falls through, Colleen wonders what the future will hold.

“My husband loves his job. That is what keeps us here. But what if we can’t find housing?” she said. “We just feel like we are getting pushed out of this valley. We love it here and our life is here but we are being forced to abandon it because we have no other options.”

Mountain Dreamers to help immigrants obtain their driver’s licenses

FRISCO — The Mountain Dreamers are teaming up with the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles to help members of the immigrant community on the Western Slope get their driver’s licenses and identification cards.

In 2013, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill into law authorizing the issuance of Colorado driver’s licenses, permits and identification cards to individuals who can’t demonstrate they’re in the United States legally or can only demonstrate temporary lawful residency.

For the past few years, individuals could visit only one of four DMV offices in the state — Grand Junction, Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs — to receive a license under the Colorado Road and Community Safety Act. Though, with a backlog of hopeful recipients — the Aurora office offers only 52 renewal appointments a day, and the other three combine for 155 appointments a day for new documents — the state is expanding the program to help address the demand.

Backers of the program believe it helps to create safer roads for everyone in the state and takes the pressure off immigrants in the community who worry about being pulled over without documentation.

“It is a big issue,” said Peter Bakken, executive director of Mountain Dreamers, a local immigrant rights advocacy group. “When I’ve gone door to door within the immigrant population here and in Eagle County, the No. 1 thing people want to know is how to get a license.

“Licensed drivers become more knowledgeable about traffic laws, purchase insurance and register their vehicles, all of which will result in safer roads. … When residents can present a valid Colorado driver’s license or ID when they encounter local law enforcement, it makes the jobs of our police and sheriff’s office much easier and gives them the information they need to keep us all safe. At the same time, this helps to build trust between our immigrant communities and our local police.”

Beginning Jan. 2, the state will begin expanding to 10 the number of DMV offices offering those licenses. In January, offices will begin offering the service in Glenwood Springs, Montrose, Durango, Pueblo and Lamar. An office in Alamosa will begin offering the service in July.

In addition to moving through the backlog, the expansion is also meant to help address other problems with the program, including cutting down on missed appointments and individuals showing up unprepared along with bad actors fraudulently booking appointments with intent to illegally sell them.

This is where Mountain Dreamers comes in. As the program expands, the DMV has asked Mountain Dreamers, in cooperation with the I-Drive Coalition, to help lead workshops with members of the immigrant community in the area to make sure that individuals seeking licenses and identification cards have properly filled out their paperwork and are prepared for their appointments.

Bakken said Mountain Dreamers is seeking bilingual volunteers to help lead workshops meant to assist community members in getting ready for their DMV appointments. The group is looking for individuals who can attend periodic workshops beginning in January and who can help Spanish speakers fill out vital documentation, or even accompany applicants to their appointments or be available by phone to help translate.

Bakken said that once the group begins hosting workshops, they’ll submit a list of individuals straight to the DMV, which will return a list of appointments they’ll be able to attend. Anyone looking to assist with workshops and training should reach out to Bakken at peterbakken@mountaindreamers.org, and anyone seeking help on their application should reach out to Mountain Dreamers at mountaindreamers.org.

“Having a license directly impacts the public health of our community,” Bakken said. “Transportation determines families’ ability to access health care, schools, secure basic needs and fully take part in the life of their community. Summit County and the mountain region’s immigrants help drive our economy and contribute to the rich fabric of our community life. Allowing these Coloradans to obtain a driver’s license is therefore an important step toward making Summit County safer, healthier and more prosperous.”

Kicking off the holidays with a half-million lights

When the Melville family purchased the Hotel Colorado last year, they were adamant about keeping the historic hotel’s annual holiday lighting ceremony intact.

“It was a commitment they made to continue it,” said Christian Henny, Hotel Colorado general manager. “They had heard from folks in town about how important the lighting ceremony and fireworks are to the community.

Shortly after 7 p.m. Friday, Marian Melville, Henny and Santa will lead the thousands expected to attend the lighting ceremony in a countdown.

Then, at 7:15 p.m., with one flip of the switch, fireworks will light up the sky as over 500,000 holiday lights illuminate the Hotel Colorado simultaneously.

“The towers with the American flag and the Colorado flag, in front of those balconies, that is where the fireworks get shot from,” Henny said.

According to Henny, crews started setting up for the lighting event nearly three months ago.

And, while the fireworks and holiday lights serve as the ceremony’s headlining act, there’s even more to the festivities, which begin at 3 p.m. with a live ice carving demonstration by Paul Wertin in the hotel’s courtyard.

“He’ll be showing off his skills carving ice in front of everybody.” Henny said. “Some of it will be with a chainsaw and some of it will be with hand tools.”

Symphony in the Valley will also perform two 45-minute sets in the hotel’s grand lobby beginning at 5 p.m. and again at 7:45 p.m.

Additionally, Santa will host three different meet-and-greets in the hotel’s Devereux Ballroom at 3:15 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.

“Santa does need a couple of breaks,” Henny laughed.

The lighting ceremony is free to all and features a main stage on Sixth Street that has continued to grow since its inception three decades ago.

“We are really proud that this is the 30th anniversary of the lighting ceremony,” Henny said.

With chilly temperatures expected Friday, Boy Scout Troop 225 will sell hot cocoa and cookies in the hotel’s courtyard, too.

According to Henny, in addition to the fireworks display and over a half-million holiday lights, the community celebration features 62 Christmas trees, four Santa figures and three talking reindeer.

Additionally, Henny said the holiday lights typically stay up until the first week of January.

Beware of scammers going door-to-door claiming to represent Colorado Mountain College

Forget the phone. Scammers in Eagle County are coming to your door implying that they’re fundraising for Colorado Mountain College’s study abroad programs or for veterans groups.

They’re not, said Dr. Marc Brennan, college vice president and campus dean for the Vail Valley campus at Edwards.

“Just so that there are no misunderstandings going forward, we want the community to know that door-to-door fundraising is not being done on behalf of Colorado Mountain College,” Brennan said.

The door-to-door approach is not something CMC is doing now, or ever would. Anyone who wants to support students in the study abroad program should do so through the CMC Foundation.

To support veterans around the region, go through the Western Slope Veterans Coalition at http://www.westernslopeveterans.org.

“Colorado Mountain College would never send students or employees door to door to solicit funds,” Kristin Heath Colon, CEO of the CMC Foundation said. “The college does, however, have a robust study abroad program, and students who need support to have this opportunity.”

All kinds of information about the CMC’s study abroad program is available at the college’s website, especially for students who want to participate, Heath Colon said.

“Many of our students have not had the opportunity to travel. Those of us who have had the chance to learn about and visit other countries know how life-changing it can be,” Heath Colon said.

Scammers are getting better

Refund or warranty scams are also becoming more popular with scammers, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

When someone calls asking is you were happy with a service, and you say you weren’t, the scammer offers a refund. Instead of returning money into your account, they withdraw money.

If a caller tries to “create a sense of urgency or uses high-pressure tactics, it’s probably a scam,” the Federal Trade Commission said in a warning on its website.

“Scams can be difficult to recognize and usually end with a stranger gaining access to personal computers, information, financial accounts and can leave family members short of thousands of dollars,” the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release urging people to be cautious.

Among their latest incarnations, scammers pose as a lawyer or bondsman demanding money to release a family member “in trouble.”

It’s likely not real. Call the cops right away.

“If something seems suspicious, hang up and call directly to a trusted source for confirmation,” the Sheriff’s Office said.