| AspenTimes.com

Friends support local furloughed Forest Service worker whose son was born with cystic fibrosis

The stress for furloughed employees over not knowing when they will be back to work and collecting a paycheck is tough enough. Circumstances are even more daunting right now for U.S. Forest Service employee Bret Conant and his family.

Bret's wife, Esther, gave birth to their second child on Jan. 3. Lars was born at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, and it was soon determined that he had an intestinal blockage that required surgery at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver.

"He had surgery, then was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis," Bret said via telephone Thursday from the hospital.

The Conants have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Denver, just a few blocks from the hospital.

"Those guys do an amazing job," Bret said.

Having that resource has been a huge relief for the couple. Nevertheless, they are racking up expenses being away from home. Conant said his health insurance through the Forest Service is still in effect, but his family will soon be billed for the deductible and charges that aren't covered. The recovery process is expected to keep Lars at the Denver hospital for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, like other furloughed federal workers, Conant isn't collecting a paycheck. The partial government hits day 28 today. He is an engineering technician in the White River National Forest. His work takes him throughout the 2.3 million-acre forest, including the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

Conant said his family's situation drives home the fact that federal workers need to be collecting their pay.

"People have lives — they need to get a paycheck to deal with everyday life," he said. "I wouldn't be back working even if the government was open right now, but at least I'd be getting a check."

A GoFundMe page was started by Denise Barkhurst, whose husband is Bret's supervisor. Her husband told her about the Conants' situation and she was stirred to action even though she has not met the family.

"I don't know them," she said. "I've never met them."

But Barkhurst said their plight reminded her of how worried she and her husband were when their now-grown son was facing serious illness when he was just 18 months old.

"That was the most scared I've ever been," she said. "I couldn't imagine being that scared and not having a paycheck.

"Somebody had to step up and do something."

Barkhurst had never started a GoFundMe page but consulted with a friend and easily tackled it. She sleuthed to get personal phone numbers and email addresses from Forest Service workers, who cannot use their government-issued methods of communication during the shutdown, to collect information and share word of the fundraising effort.

She was humble Thursday about the effort.

"It was a human thing to do," she said.

The GoFundMe page can be found by searching the Conants' name on http://www.gofundme.com. The fundraising effort will help the family handle expenses.

"We're just really grateful for the support," Bret said, noting it will be a big help when the medical bills arrive.

Conant said he isn't taking sides in the fight between Democrats in Congress and President Donald Trump that led to the shutdown. He just finds the situation frustrating and he feels particularly bad for employees who are required to work but aren't getting paid.

"On behalf of all federal employees who are laid off right now, I feel violated," he said. "I work hard for the agency I work for. I try to do the best job I can as a public servant."

Conant said his family is optimistic for Lars' recovery from surgery. In addition, there have been advances in the treatment of cystic fibrosis that give the family hope for the future.

scondon@aspentimes.com

MarchFourth ‘Magic’ at The Temporary

It was only a matter of time before the multisensory spectacle of MarchFourth made its way to The Temporary at Willits.

The band — a long-established local favorite based in Portland, Oregon — has brought its joyous chaos to just about every other venue in the valley. They're regulars at Belly Up and they've played slopeside in Aspen for spring break and Snowmass Village for Mardi Gras. They've headlined Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs and Mountain Fair in Carbondale and once — in their days as MarchFourth Marching Band — launched a parade down Main Street there.

A MarchFourth show is more than a concert, of course — it always includes acrobats and stilt-walkers and some circus show toughs. The band is bringing a cast of 15 musicians and performers to The Temporary on Saturday, Jan. 19.

But if you've been keeping up with the evolution of MarchFourth over the years, you've probably noticed that in recent performances the concerts are less about the madcap theatrics and more about the music — about perfecting the band's brass-infused mix of funk and rock.

That was a creative choice for the band as it worked on its most recent album, 2016's "Magic Number."

"We came out of the gate with this huge spectacle, and the spectacle bought us time to develop as a band," MarchFourth co-founder and bassist John Averill said during a previous swing through Aspen. "And now what's happened over the last couple years is a major shift in the improvements of the musicianship and the material."

Averill and his crew dropped the "Marching Band" from their name and dropped some of the theatrics for the sake of playing a better concert.

For "Magic Number," they focused their sonic energies to perfect the musicianship of the band. They holed up in New Orleans — their spiritual home and biggest influence — with Galactic saxophonist Ben Ellman producing. And they landed guest spots from Crescent City mainstays like Trombone Shorty, Galactic drummer Stanton Moore and sousaphone player Matt Perrine.

"We immersed ourselves in that culture," said Averill, who founded MarchFourth after performing at a 2003 Mardi Gras party in Portland. "So after we finished recording, we'd go out and see bands or just hang out and get in the spirit of New Orleans."

Portland and New Orleans are a long way from Colorado ski country, but the high country has proved to be home away from those homes from MarchFourth. The band's wild shows instantly clicked with the counterculture ski bum spirit when MarchFourth first started coming through here more than a decade ago. They've played nearly three-dozen different Colorado towns, covering more ground than many of us who live here.

"Colorado is a special place," Averill said. "I don't think there's any other state that has small towns where everybody comes out like that."

atravers@aspentimes.com

Red Brick Center adds solo shows to exhibition program, beginning with Aspen’s Gary Gleason

The Red Brick Center for the Arts will be giving select local artists some extra space in the spotlight.

The city-operated Hallam Street gallery has expanded its hanging space into a conference room and foyer on its west side and designated it for solo exhibitions that will hang alongside the traditional group shows lining the corridors of the Red Brick.

"This will allow more opportunities for artists in the valley to exhibit and provide an especially unique one, because it will be a solo exhibition space," Red Brick director Sarah Roy said in the gallery Tuesday.

The Red Brick also is planning to begin staging solo exhibitions in its main gallery space beginning in 2020. Roy is accepting applications from artists now.

The nonprofit gallery will host six exhibitions this year. It scaled back its schedule of rotating monthly art exhibitions in 2018, following the financial fallout of an alleged embezzlement of some $160,000 in taxpayer dollars by former Red Brick director Angela Callen.

The group show "Landscapes" opens today, exhibiting diverse interpretations of the landscape form by eight locally based artists.

And in the new West Gallery space, longtime local Gary Gleason is exhibiting 10 of his abstract photographs. The show is the culmination of a decade-long art project for Gleason. It began with a moment of inspiration walking along a canal in Amsterdam in 2008.

"Something in me said, 'Go take a picture!'" Gleason said. "I did and it came out all freaky and cool."

The iPhone photo, blown up to 30-by-40 inches and printed on dye-impregnated aluminum, doesn't much resemble the canal water. It looks more like an abstract painting, with interlocking black, white, gray and brown forms. In the years that followed that shot, Gleason collected similar digital photos that captured a bit of abstract magic from the natural world. None of them are touched-up or distorted with Photoshop or other computer programs — they came out this way.

"After this decade of evolution, it's the core elements of sky, water, air, fire and rock," he explained. "Trying to capture images, patterns, textures. There's so much that we just walk past every day and don't notice."

Other pieces in the show include a shot of rocks through creek water in the Grand Canyon, which looks like a drip painting, and one from a plane window capturing a sunrise in Kansas that looks like a color field painting with the pale blue of sky bleeding into yellow and orange of emerging sunlight above brown earth.

A close-up photo of the patterned stains on the asphalt of a San Francisco street looks like scuffed denim to Gleason, but he wants to know what other people find in these works.

"People see different stuff in them and that's the most exciting part," he said. "I'm excited to have people come in and to hear what they have to say about these."

Gleason is a familiar face in Aspen. He's lived here full time since 1989 and his family has been here since his parents built a slopeside cabin on Aspen Mountain in 1960. He put together a career here doing marketing for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, working disaster relief for the federal government and running a small poster-hanging business.

Gleason also, fortuitously, worked on the campaign to gather votes from the public for the city of Aspen to buy the Red Brick from the school district a quarter-century ago. Now the space is hosting his first local art show.

Until recently, his art was a private passion. Gleason had his first exhibition in Denver last year.

"Art has been a deep part of my life and my heart, but hasn't been how I make a living," he said.

atravers@aspentimes.com

Aspen TSA employees still showing up to work despite no paycheck

Federal security officers continue to show up to do their jobs at Aspen's airport despite the fact that they haven't been paid in more than three weeks because of the government shutdown, officials said Wednesday.

"If they didn't show up, flights wouldn't take off," said John Kinney, airport director. "The economy would come to a screeching halt."

The shutdown of the federal government stretched into its 26th day Wednesday, the longest in U.S. history. Negotiations between the Trump administration and Congress to end the shutdown have been fruitless.

Transportation Safety Administration workers — who man security checkpoints at U.S. airports — have been asked, along with other essential workers, to show up for work despite not receiving a paycheck during the shutdown. Some airports have reported long security lines after some TSA workers declined the request.

But in Aspen, it's been business as usual, said Melanya Berggren, TSA's transportation security manager in Aspen. The 34 TSA employees under her supervision have continued to report to work and she said she hasn't had to even address people not showing up.

"That has not even crossed my mind," she said. "We have great people with a lot of integrity."

Kinney agreed.

"A, we can't thank them enough," he said. "And B, it's testimony to their dedication to their jobs. It really is national security."

The "political spitting contest" in Washington, D.C., has brought into sharp focus just how important TSA employees are, Kinney said. People on the national "no-fly list" try to board planes even in Aspen, and the TSA is the first line of defense against terrorist acts, he said.

"It's just dumbfounding to me when you look at the billions and billions of dollars we've put into national security since 9/11," he said.

Starting next week, the airport will pay for some buffet-style lunches from local restaurants for TSA workers, Kinney said.

"If the vast majority of Americans lose one, two or three paychecks, it would be absolutely devastating," he said.

Other restaurants separately have offered to provide food for TSA workers, while some passengers have offered workers money, said Kinney and Berggren. One man offered $1,000 to an airport employee to "sprinkle" around to needy TSA employees, Kinney said, while another wanted to provide gift cards.

TSA employees can accept meals, but anything beyond that must be OK'd by Berggren. Accepting gift cards or cash is not allowed, she said.

"Unfortunately, that is a no," Berggren said.

Travelers have almost uniformly been grateful and gracious toward TSA workers at the Aspen-Piktin County Airport throughout the shutdown, she said.

"Almost every passenger says, 'Thank you for being here,'" Berggren said.

Aspen's TSA employees are thankful for the support, she said.

"We're forever gratified," she said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

State officials say Basalt gun range issues remain in their sights

A local task force is diligently pondering the future of the Basalt shooting range and state officials claim the issue remains a priority despite turnover in three key posts.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife appointed six people with strong ties to Basalt to the task force late last year. They have been meeting about once per month to look at everything from relocating the facility to making changes to boost its compatibility at the current location.

"I've been really happy with everyone on the board. They want a positive outcome," said Perry Will, the area wildlife manager who oversees the Basalt State Wildlife Area and its shooting range.

"Everything's on the table there," Will continued. "Whatever comes out of this — there will be improvements."

The task force members appointed by CPW are George Trantow, Stacey Craft, Larry Emery, Bill Kane, Rob Leavitt and Charlie Spickert. They represent a broad cross-section of the town, with Craft being a critic of the existing facility at its current location and Emery coming from the Roaring Fork Sportsmen's Association, which leases and operates some facilities at the range. Kane is a former Basalt town manager who headed efforts to study noise issues roughly a decade ago. Trantow is chairman of the group. Leavitt is a former councilman. Spickert is involved in numerous civic endeavors in the midvalley.

All issues related to the gun range were put on the table after the Lake Christine Fire broke out there on July 3. A young couple admitted to firing tracer rounds that ignited vegetation off one side of the rifle range. The fire spread across more than 12,500 acres, destroyed three homes and put the midvalley on edge throughout the summer.

Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was in office at the time, visited El Jebel July 6 and vowed the state government would take a thorough look at circumstances of the fire breaking out on its land and evaluate if management practices needed to be changed.

"Obviously, something like that should never happen when you have fire restrictions like we had in place," Hickenlooper said at the time. "We'll figure out why it happened and make sure it doesn't happen again. I guarantee it."

CPW closed the shooting range until October, just before big game hunting season started. It held community meetings to collect input. Some people felt the gun range shouldn't have been open while fire restrictions were in place. Among them was a contingent contending the shooting range is in a location that's become unsafe as Basalt has grown.

Sportsmen countered that the gun range is safe when used appropriately. Tracer rounds are not allowed at the range.

The community meetings did little to resolve the issue, so CPW appointed the task force.

Meanwhile, there have been changes in the governor's office as well as the directors of CPW and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which oversees CPW. Jared Polis succeeded Hickenlooper as governor.

Former Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs replaced Bob Randall as executive director of the Department of Natural Resources. Randall took an active role in the shooting range issue and had toured the Basalt State Wildlife Area after the fire.

In a statement to The Aspen Times, Gibbs said, "Colorado Department of Natural Resources remains fully committed to working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Basalt community to find solutions at the Basalt State Wildlife Area shooting range. The recent changes at the executive director level have not changed this commitment."

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CPW Director Bob Broscheid toured the state wildlife area July 7 and took an active role in internal discussion on how to proceed with the investigation into the fire and management of the facility. He is stepping down later this month. No replacement has been named yet.

Will said CPW takes the gun range issue seriously. The task force needs time for private deliberations, then there will be a public process to discuss recommendations, he said.

The state's fiscal year starts July 1. It's unknown at this point if the 2019 fiscal year budget will include funds for positions such as a range safety officer or noise mitigation. CPW has already performed earthwork to beef up berms behind the rifle range, where the fire started.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Olympians Jeremy Abbott and Ashley Wagner back for Aspen Ice Spectacular

Before Jeremy Abbott can end his six-week tour of shows and finally return to his own apartment in Detroit, the Aspen native and two-time Olympic figure skater still has one more day of work on the ice. And that day is undoubtedly one of his favorite days of the year.

"It's always great to be back here, back in Aspen," Abbott said Wednesday, prior to a short training session at the Aspen Ice Garden. "Every year I get really excited to bring a slightly different cast and show my friends where I grew up and just a small piece of this awesome town. But always excited to be back to do the show, for sure."

Abbott, 33, is back home for the Aspen Ice Spectacular, which in its sixth year is a show put on by Revolutions Skating Club, a local nonprofit. This year's showcase takes place Saturday, Jan. 19, inside the Aspen Recreation Center.

Along with Abbott, fellow Olympian Ashley Wagner will headline the show. Wagner, who also took part in the Aspen show two winters ago, is a three-time U.S. national champion and a 2016 world silver medalist.

Both Wagner and Abbott helped guide the U.S. to an Olympic bronze medal in the team event at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

"Ashley has been a longtime friend and I know she had a lot of fun the last time I brought her out here," Abbott said. "Each year I want to make it bigger and better and bring more of my friends."

This year's show has the theme of "Hooray for Hollywood" and will feature songs from The Wizard of Oz, James Bond, The Greatest Showman and Beauty and the Beast, among others. The ending will include Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen. Performances also include members from the local club.

Returning as part of the show is a group from Ice Dance International.

"They are a very unique group in that they do ensemble skating, which is like watching 'Theatre on Ice,'" said Revolution Skating Club's Peggy Behr, who also is the show's director. "They are fabulous skaters, so it doesn't get much better than that. And they are beautiful to watch."

New this year is the addition of a separate show, done in conjunction with Aspen Gay Ski Week. Saturday's nightcap will be the "Big Gay Ice Show," believed to be the first of its kind. It will cater to more of a "PG-13" crowd, as compared to the family-oriented RSC shows earlier in the day.

Tickets for the Revolution Skating Club performances — there are shows at both 2 and 5 p.m. on Saturday — can be purchased ahead of time through http://www.aspenshowtix.com. General admission prices are $35, with discounts for seniors and students. VIP tickets cost $75 and include a reception between the two shows and a chance to meet the figure skaters.

"Every year we kind of make it a little bigger, a little better," Abbott said. "Anytime you've seen the shown in the last five years, it's going to be a completely different show."

Tickets for the "Big Gay Ice Show" are sold separately and can be purchased through gayskiweek.com and start at $65. The single show begins at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday and will also include performances from Abbott and Wagner, among others.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Jazz Aspen’s June Experience moving from Benedict Tent to multiple venues downtown this summer

The Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience is leaving the Benedict Music Tent in 2019 and planting its flag in downtown Aspen.

After a decade at the 2,000-seat West End concert hall that also is home to the summer-long Aspen Music Festival season, Jazz Aspen is reimagining its June event as a four-day, multi-venue festival featuring as many as 15 artists playing more intimate venues in the walkable downtown core.

Jazz Aspen President Jim Horowitz said Tuesday that the shows will be comparable with the ones featured in the nonprofit's popular JAS Cafe series, which hosts artists working in jazz and related genres at pop-up venues like the Little Nell hotel and the rooftop cafe at the Aspen Art Museum.

This reimagined Jazz Aspen June Experience will run from June 20 to 23. Jazz Aspen will host concerts at the established JAS Cafe venues at the Nell and the museum, with hopes of confirming the Aspen Cooking School, St. Regis, Belly Up, Harris Concert Hall and adding other stages to the mix.

"We are looking for unique collaborations," Horowitz said. "Hopefully a lot of things will pop out, in terms of collaboration, that we're not thinking about yet."

The festival's long-running collaborative concert with the Aspen Music Festival, scheduled for June 29 with a yet-to-be-announced program, will stay at the Benedict.

In 2020, as Jazz Aspen celebrates its 30th anniversary, the festival is planning to host the downtown June Experience in conjunction with Benedict shows.

Festival organizers expect to tally a cumulative attendance that is on par with the crowds it has hosted since 2009 at the Benedict, only spread across multiple venues seating a few hundred people or less.

The decision, Horowitz said, was based on the popularity of Jazz Aspen's seasonal JAS Cafe, which runs through the summer and winter high seasons. Horowitz said he and his team began mulling the June festival shift as they realized the season-long attendance of the JAS Cafe, totalling some 8,000 concert-goers, was nearly doubling the 4,5000 typically attending the June Experience at the Benedict.

"What's driven this is the explosive growth of the JAS Cafe series," he said. "It's changed the way we approach June fundamentally."

Horowitz imagines a long weekend full of concerts, with attendees walking from show to show.

He compared his vision for the multi-venue downtown festival to the old days of the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, when comics took over venues throughout town, and the way that the Food & Wine Classic fills the downtown core, when, as Horowitz put it, "You can't be in town and not know it's going on."

He imagines people planning out a full festival experience, hopping from low-key afternoon panel discussions to vibrant concerts late into the night.

"We're taking 2019 to establish ourselves downtown," he said. "To let the town and the venues be the star, where you can't go one block without running into music or hearing something. Music everywhere."

The move downtown coincides with the nonprofit's recently launched JAS Center plan for the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall, which aims to open a music venue and education center there by 2021.

The new approach in 2019 will not include the big-name pop stars that the June festival has long relied upon to draw crowds.

"There will be no Joe Cockers or Tony Bennetts on the roof of the art museum," Horowitz said.

The trade-off, he said, is rather than a handful of pop star headliners — last year they were Leslie Odom Jr. and Lyle Lovett — the festival will boast a greater number of artists from a variety of genres.

"It feels fresh for us, but it's not out of thin air," he said. "We're taking venues that people know and programing them together over a couple days rather than every couple weeks. It's like taking a whole season of the Café and cramming it into one weekend."

Events will run from afternoon through early morning, including artist talks and staggered concerts featuring artists from jazz, soul, Latin, blues, funk and world music. Free performances, in the mold of the popular "lawn party" at the Benedict, also will continue downtown, according to Horowitz.

The lineup of June Experience artists is expected to be announced later this winter.

This move is the fourth change of venue for the June festival since it was founded in 1991. It had been held in the Benedict and surrounding environs of Aspen Meadows since 2009. Previously it was produced in Snowmass Village and in Rio Grande Park in Aspen.

Festival organizers have tinkered often with the format — adding the free lawn party concerts in recent years and, in 2018, bracketing two nights of concerts in the Benedict with JAS Cafe shows downtown and adding a free gospel concert on Sunday morning in the tent.

"It's a metamorphosis that's been underway for a while," Horowitz said of the latest format.

General admission passes will allow attendees to access all venues. Some single-show tickets also will be made available.

The donor/VIP accommodations, which in recent years have offered patrons catered meals and an open bar in a tent on the Benedict grounds, will include a cocktail party or dinner at a different location downtown each night. VIP perks also will include reserved seating and artist meet-and-greets.

People who have already purchased "Blind Faith" passes for the festival — which offer a discounted price on tickets before artists are announced — may choose a three-day pass to the new festival, a full refund or a credit toward future Jazz Aspen tickets.

Jazz Aspen's other big summer festival, the Labor Day Experience, is sticking with its long-established format in Snowmass Town Park. Headliners including Sting and John Mayer have already been announced.

atravers@aspentimes.com

Legendary all male comedy ballet company, ‘the Trocks,’ return to Aspen

The absurd, witty and over-the-top physical comedy of the beloved Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo returns to Aspen this weekend.

The all-male comedy ballet company, since 1974, has been infusing some welcome humor into the staid traditions of classical ballet with parodies of high-art standards like "Swan Lake."

"We are not there to laugh at ballet," said Raffaele Morra, the company's ballet master and former dancer. "We are there to use ballet as a way to have a fun time and to laugh with ballet."

The technical skill required of these dancers — affectionately known to international audiences as "the Trocks" — may be easy to overlook because they're purposely making some mistakes and incorporating some madcap physical comedy into the pieces. But make no mistake, these men in tutus and pointed shoes are some of the most talented dancers on Earth. In order to parody "Swan Lake," Morra noted, they have to be able to dance "Swan Lake" flawlessly.

"What requires more time is to make them understand how you have to let go of some of the technical aspect in order to find some of the humor," Morra explained. "That's very difficult for a dancer, to let go and not take yourself so seriously, especially after you've spent a lifetime in front of a mirror trying to achieve perfection in your technique."

The company returns to Aspen on the Saturday night of Gay Ski Week, following a December residency at the Joyce Theatre in Manhattan, where the Trocks revived its send-up of Robert La Fosse's "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Morra said the company had been mulling taking on "Stars and Stripes" a few years ago, but put it on hold after the election of Donald Trump.

"We didn't think it was right at the time for us to bring back such a big celebration ballet with music from John Philip Sousa and others in a moment when we didn't feel we should celebrate," he explained.

But a few years later, yes, men in drag waving the flag feels just right.

"We do feel the need to celebrate, to say 'We need to keep going,' 'We need to make this happen again,'" he said. "Because the political situation is not great from our point of view, we want to say 'Keep celebrating no matter what.'"

The company has never been overtly political, but has spent four decades on the front lines of gay representation in American culture.

"With the Trocks, we never want to make a political statement or take sides," Morra said. "The main purpose of this company has always been — and always will be — to bring fun, laughter and good times to the audience."

The company has evolved with the times, always prioritizing the laughs and the satire, even as the culture wars have raged outside the theater doors.

"We just have to listen to society," Morra said. "If you see what the company was 44 years ago, the concept was the same, but it has changed a lot because we've always paid attention to what society needed and how we needed to evolve. We need to 'Keep on Trocking,' as we always say."

atravers@aspentimes.com

Documentary ‘The Quiet Force’ puts ski town immigrant communities in spotlight

The documentary "The Quiet Force" opens with President Donald Trump on screen at a rally promising to build his "great wall" and spewing anti-immigrant rhetoric. Headlines about immigration then flash across the screen in the film's early moments, interspersed with shots of young Latin skiers on the slopes.

The timely 35-minute film, by Jackson Hole-based ski filmmakers Hilary Byrne and Sophie Danison, paints a multi-faceted portrait of immigrants in American ski towns, their vital place in the tourism economy and the pall of fear cast over the community in the Trump era.

Byrne and Danison met while working on the popular 2014 all-female ski movie "Pretty Faces" and began talking about using their storytelling talents to be agents of change.

"We have been having a conversation since then about doing something with a little more meat that inspired social change," Byrne said in a recent phone interview. "We were both in a similar rut where we were doing cool stuff but not satiating that desire."

In March 2016, the publication of David Page's Powder magazine article "The Quiet Force," about immigrants in American ski towns, inspired the pair to start adapting it for the screen.

"And then Trump got elected and it became even more relevant," Byrne said.

The film will screen tonight at the Wheeler Opera House, as part of the two-day 5Point Aspen mini-festival, playing in a moment when the government has been shut down and Congress is gridlocked over the president's demand for a wall on the southern border.

The film profiles immigrant families with varying citizenship status in Mammoth and Jackson Hole, along with a young Salt Lake City woman with DACA status. The filmmakers also shot in Vail, but ended up cutting the footage from the film. It brings in elected officials, business owners, law enforcement officers, immigration experts and attorneys to frame the issue.

"It's not a ski film," said Byrne. "It's using these ski towns and industries to talk about an issue that can be applied everywhere."

It argues that, while immigrant labor props up the economy nationwide, its necessity is laid bare in smaller service-driven ski communities where infrastructure would crumble without immigrants.

"They are the people who keep this machine running," Mono County Sheriff Ingrid Braun says of the Mammoth area immigrants in the film. "It's unseen, the quiet workforce."

The movie also profiles young Latino skiers who have never known any life but the American ski-town life, who still live with the fear of losing family members to deportation or of being deported themselves.

"Skiing makes me feel alive," one young skier says in the film.

"The best thing is I'm a skier," Diana Zunga, the DACA recipient in Salt Lake, says, later adding while ski-touring in the Tetons: "It pushed me to be somebody who I wanted to be."

The film introduces viewers to characters like a Jackson Hole-area carpenter, with a wife and two American-born children, who was brought here from Mexico by his parents as a teenager. He is now raising his kids as ski-town rippers while living in the shadows.

"The Quiet Force" debuted, to a sold-out audience, at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts in November. The 5Point Aspen screening comes as it tours the west, with post-screening discussions with local immigration experts at each stop. After the Wheeler screening, Byrne will discuss immigration issues with Aspen Skiing Co. sustainability director Matt Hamilton and Valley Settlement director Jon Fox-Rubin.

"Our original goal was to spark conversation in our communities," Byrne said. "The idea is to see the film, feel some inspiration, then through the local experts on the topic figure out what exactly people can do in their community. We want people to walk away with a clear idea of what they can do."

And while ski-town residents, ski-industry leaders and local government officials tend to favor paths to citizenship over deportation and advocate keeping immigrant families together, the filmmakers believe the ski community is failing its immigrant community.

"A big reason we made this film is that we believe the ski and outdoor industries can use their voice a lot more," Danison said.

They want to see immigration reform become a priority for the industry on par with its advocacy for action on climate change and for protecting public lands.

"The industry has so much power and can speak up more for these people in our communities," she added.

Aspen Skiing Co. has made its pro-immigrant stance a prominent plank in its recent values-based marketing campaigns and political activism. Skico CEO Mike Kaplan, in a widely distributed December 2016 op-ed titled "We're Still Here," called for deferred action policy for so-called "Dreamers" who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children and wrote "we are the Latino community — and we will remain a sanctuary for these co-workers and neighbors, students and parents, who will always be welcome in our schools and businesses and homes."

Hamilton said that the company's advocacy for immigrants is based in the company's economic needs and in its community values.

"Our success is not only tied to our company's success but the broader community's success," he said, reached by phone this week at a Florida conference of American businesses on immigration reform. "And that includes the community of immigrants."

National policy changes, like stricter limits on work visas, have harmed the company's ability to employ and retain foreign works who, as Hamilton put it, "meet the cultural needs of our guests." This winter, Hamilton said, 12 foreign Skico employees, in the week before they were schedule to begin working, were denied H-2B visas at the last minute because a government limit had been reached.

Hamilton, who also sits on the Roaring Fork School District board, said fostering a safe and welcoming community in the valley is equally as important.

Hamilton said he hopes locals will contact their elected representatives after they leave today's screening and call for humane immigration reform, echoing the mission of the company's ongoing "Give a Flake" campaign for climate change policy.

"The most critical thing, whether it's immigration policy or climate policy, is that elected officials are not hearing from constituents," Hamilton said. "If there is one action people need to take, it's talking to elected officials about this government shutdown over border security."

Jon Fox-Rubin, executive director of Carbondale-based immigration support nonprofit Valley Settlement, said the situation outlined in the film mirrors the one in the Roaring Fork Valley, where immigrants are the backbone of the service industry and where a majority of Roaring Fork School District students are first- or second-generation immigrants.

Demand for Valley Settlement's services increased in the lead-up to the election in 2016 "when the rhetoric was getting harsher and harsher."

Policy tweaks and the president's rhetoric have made it less likely for immigrants to report crimes or serve as witnesses in the court system, Fox-Rubin noted. His nonprofit has focused on early childhood education for immigrant children, mentorship and services for adults such as language classes and degree opportunities. Fox-Rubin chooses to view "The Quiet Force" and events like today's 5Point screening as a source of hope in this often-bleak moment.

"For me, it's sharing this hope of people really settling in their new community," he said of the movie. "Watching kids in the film say 'I am a skier' and defining who they are that way, that's a hopeful sign that they feel like they are a part of this country regardless of the stress and trauma that is in their background. That's a path to the American dream."

atravers@aspentimes.com

State entomologist: Lake Christine Fire burn area ripe for Douglas fir beetle infestation

The Roaring Fork Valley forest has largely escaped the bark beetle outbreaks that have plagued many parts of the Colorado mountains in recent years, but that could change because of the Lake Christine Fire.

Colorado State Forest Service entomologist Dan West said the valley already is dealing with pockets of Douglas fir beetle infestations. He expects the problem to expand this year once beetles discover they have a smorgasbord of moderately scorched, living trees within the Lake Christine Fire perimeter.

"It's almost a one-two punch with those fires," West said Tuesday.

First, the fire itself chars acres of trees. Then, surviving but stressed trees become more susceptible to attacks by insects. Douglas fir, spruce and other species weakened within the fire area will likely be targeted, he said.

"I have a feeling that's going to be a hot spot for years to come," West said, regarding beetle activity.

The Douglas-fir beetles attack the largest trees first. They continue year after year until they either exhaust suitable food sources or the trees are able to fend them off. Drought stresses trees and makes them susceptible. Average and above-average precipitation makes them more resilient.

West said it would be nearly impossible to clear all the moderately stressed trees that may be ripe for beetles from the burn area. Before the partial government shutdown, the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District was working on a plan for hazard tree removal and a salvage timber sale on Basalt Mountain. An extended shutdown could delay the project.

The Colorado State Forest Service performs an aerial health survey of the forests every year in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service. They monitor forest health on millions of acres.

The 2018 survey showed spruce beetle outbreaks in Rocky Mountain National Park and throughout central and southern Colorado are the most glaring statewide problem.

"Since the year 2000, spruce beetle outbreaks have caused tree mortality on more than 1.8 million acres in Colorado, and approximately 40 percent of the spruce-fir forests in Colorado have now been affected," said a report by the state forest service.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, the Douglas-fir beetle is "hands down" the biggest issue, West said.

In Pitkin County, there were an estimated 1,400 acres of forest affected by Douglas-fir beetles in 2018. That is up from 590 acres affected in 2017, according to West.

In Eagle County, the Douglas-fir beetle invaded the Fryingpan Valley and areas around Basalt Mountain, which took the brunt of the Lake Christine Fire's wrath. The Douglas-fir beetle affected 1,500 acres in Eagle County in 2018, mostly in the Roaring Fork watershed. That's up from 500 acres the prior year.

"It's on the march," West said. "It's moving into new areas."

He sees the potential for large growth of the Douglas-fir beetle infestation within the fire scar in 2019 and then branching out, potentially for decades to come. It will be the 12,588-acre fire's lasting legacy.

But West said it's not all "doom and gloom" for the Roaring Fork Valley, a place he regularly visits. The forest overall is healthy because of age and species diversity and differing elevations, West said.

"I see more green than red and dead," he said.

He feels optimistic the health can be maintained and strengthened through proper management, such as forest-thinning projects.

Additional information can be found about the health of Colorado's forests at http://www.csfs.colostate.edu.

scondon@aspentimes.com