Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Solar collectors are being installed on two buildings located atop the Vail Village Parking Structure.In addition, town officials are replacing incandescent light bulbs in the Colorado Ski Museum with compact fluorescents.Together, the two projects are costing the town $25,000. The payback on the investment is calculated at 10 years.Town officials chose the very conspicuous public buildings – an information center and the transportation center – in an effort to lead by example, said Bill Carlson, the town’s environmental health officer. “We hope to encourage businesses and private-property owners to research alternative energy uses that they might install on their property,” he said.Last summer, the town bought renewable energy credits equal to the total use of the town government, about 20 million kilowatt hours. The increased cost was $12,000 per year.The town is also reroofing the buildings atop the parking structure with new synthetic slate shingles. Again, the effort is to lead by example. Responding to heightened worries about the potential for wildland fires, the town in the last year required new roofs and those being replaced to use the noncombustible shingles.

Something new is being proposed in the Eagle Valley, about 45 miles southwest of Vail. While nearby is a traditional exclusive-golf-course-based real estate development called Brightwater, the new project being proposed to Gypsum town officials boasts of its sustainability. Some 273 units are planned, some two-thirds of them single-family homes in a low-density fashion.Kurt Forstmann, one of the developers, said the proposed Winding Creek Ranch may become a model for future resource-sensitive developments. Because the ranch has senior water rights, Forstmann said, a series of lakes and ponds will be the centerpiece of the plan.Forstmann also says that homes and other buildings will make use of its exposure to the sun. “Colorado has 300 days of sunshine a year,” Forstmann told the Eagle Valley Enterprise. “I think it’s fairly stupid that people aren’t using solar power for electric needs.” He also said that homes will be highly energy-efficient. “I thin this is the future of home building,” he said.The ranch is also to have a 22-acre vegetable farm as well as a working ranch, with homeowners sharing in the bounty.

The emissions of carbon dioxide from Mammoth Mountain have been decreasing.The carbon dioxide was vented after a flurry of earthquakes in 1989 opened cracks in the land. Both odorless and invisible under normal conditions, the carbon dioxide killed three ski patrollers from Mammoth Mountain last year.However, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by Mammoth Mountain has declined 80 percent since the mid-1990s, reports The Sheet. Scientists with the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab say the cause of the decline is not known; possibly it’s because the size of the underground reservoir of magma is shrinking or possibly because the fissures are resealing themselves.

The bark beetle epidemic that has waxed since the turn of the century in the Sawtooth Mountains seems to be waning.The reason is not cold weather, but rather the fact that the beetles have killed most of the lodgepole pine. “Now they’re starting to go down to as small as a 6-inch trees, and that’s a sign that most of the host material has been killed off,” say Jim Rineholt, a forester at the Sawtooth National Recreational Area. Among the killed trees are white bark pine. Rineholt said many of the white bark pine are more than 800 years old. “It’s an important species for holding back snowpack,” he told the Idaho Mountain Express. The species is found at more than 7,000 feet, which in Idaho is a high elevation.After marching through the Sawtooths and then the White Cloud Mountains, the beetles are now working southward into the Wood River Valley, where Sun Valley and Ketchum are located. More diverse forests are expected to cause the beetles to move more slowly.

County commissioners in Blaine County have been considering whether the new county jail can be built to receive accreditation in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. The bottom of four levels of designation requires 26 points, and commissioners agreed to several design changes – energy optimization, reduced ozone depletion and use of local materials – to give the project a score of 19. All of this costs the county an extra $150,000. The Idaho Mountain Express suggests the commissioners may yet make the changes necessary to get the LEED designation.

Environmental organizations are calling for protection of grizzly bears to be upgraded from threatened to endangered. A survey now being conducted is expected to show that the region, including Banff National Park, has only 500 grizzly bears, about half of previous estimates, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook.Tracey Henderson, executive director of the Grizzly Bear Alliance, said provincial authorities need to reduce the density of roads and other access in grizzly bear habitat.”It doesn’t mean we have to close down key grizzly bear habitat to people. It doesn’t necessarily mean creating new parks. What it means is better controlling access to key grizzly bear habitats,” she said.

Ground is being broken June 25 for a $410 million convention center. A condominium hotel, to be managed by Vail Resorts, will be called “Chateau at Heavenly Village.” Other condominium hotels are also planned, reports the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Last winter the utility board serving Truckee and nearby areas considered signing a 50-year contract to get electricity from a new coal-fired power plant being planned in Utah. Residents responded loudly that they didn’t want to hitch their wagon to coal, and so they didn’t.But Truckee is growing, and so the utility board has been looking for additional sources. It appears to have part of the answer in a geothermal power from a plant in northern Nevada called Rye Patch. Truckee will get about three megawatts.What it will cost Truckee isn’t clear. The Sierra Sun suggests the deal will cause a rate hike of 7.3 percent. Just how sustained the geothermal power will be is also unclear.Steve Hollabaugh, an official with the utility district, told the Sierra Sun that wind and solar power are both options, but the technologies do not deliver electricity as reliably as other energy sources. “I want as much solar as I can get up there, but my job is to keep the lights on,” he said.

The Crested Butte Town Council is revisiting the idea of making ground-floor locations along the town’s main tourist-friendly shopping area off-limits to real estate and other offices. But unlike a year ago, when the law was first passed, the new law would allow existing uses to be grandfathered, reports the Crested Butte News. The new regulations being considered would also allow street frontage to be allocated for personal service.

As expected, Summit County’s ban on cyanide-heap-leach mining is being appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. The ban had been ruled unconstitutional by a district court, but that ruling was overturned by the Colorado Court of Appeals.As Gunnison and several other counties in Colorado have enacted similar rules, the case is being watched as potentially precedent-setting. Appealing the case is the Colorado Mining Association, which argues that state government, not county governments, has authority over mining.

Breckenridge has passed an ordinance that attempts to reduce light pollution and light trespass. The new law creates two zones within the town. The core town area will have more latitude for lighting, and other areas will have stricter standards. In any event, all new lighting fixtures must adhere to the code, while existing fixtures can be continued for a maximum of 15 years, reports the Summit Daily News.

It’s already been a bad year for bears in Whistler. Two have been killed for pillaging through cars and houses, and a third was hit by a car. Authorities tell Pique newsmagazine that the substantial alpine snowpack that lingers in the mountains has caused more bears to look for food in the valley. Olympic-related construction and activity in the resort’s vaunted mountain-bike park has also caused the bruins to head down. Once the bears have discovered human-aided food, be it garbage, bird feed or stuff from recycling containers, they’re likely to stick around.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at

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