Mountain Town News | AspenTimes.com

Mountain Town News

Allen Best

Town officials in Mount Crested Butte, the slopeside resort town, have adopted a law that mandates wildlife-resistant refuse containers for storage of trash that is not kept inside until the day of trash pickup. Increasing problems with bears have been reported during the last several years.Nearby Crested Butte, the old mining town, took similar action within the last year. After first requiring resistant containers, towns in the Aspen and Vail areas have upped the ante to the more expensive and sturdy wildlife-proof containers.

Telluride’s town government has taken to using the leverage of free-market real estate to reduce the cost of affordable housing. The Telluride Watch explains that in the case of an 18-unit employee housing project, one unit is being sold at free-market rates, reducing the town’s subsidy for the project by 15 percent.

Is Ogden, Utah, located along the Wasatch Front about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City, the coming center for extreme sports? The New York Times dangles that proposition.The best evidence is that Jeff Lowe, once one of the world’s top mountaineers, has returned to Ogden after 30 years in Boulder. He has established a series of climbing routes using bolted ladder rungs, and is now planning a tower of ice – suspended from steel cables – to be used for ice climbingThe 2002 Olympic downhills were held in the Wasatch Range to the east, and now several ski companies have established operations in Ogden, about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City. Another plan is to build a gondola from Ogden to a proposed ski and resort community in the Wasatch Range.The Times says Ogden’s commitment to outdoor recreation and adventure-based economy – coupled with low prices – is attracting young professionals. The average price of a three-bedroom home runs $160,000. Among those buyers is graphic designer Delanie Hill, 32, formerly of Jackson Hole. “I can’t afford to live in Jackson,” she said, “but I can here.”It’s not all boom and bustle. The newspaper describes still-empty buildings and a handful of dank bars. Such things, says Lowe, keep Ogden from being “too cool.”

The town council in Crested Butte is still getting plenty of kick from people who don’t like the proposed zoning that would restrict new real estate and other such offices from ground-floor spaces along the town’s main tourist-oriented business strip, called Elk Avenue.Existing uses would be grandfathered, explains the Crested Butte News.Crested Butte officials are worried about a sluggish retail environment, which results in fewer sales and hence fewer sales tax revenues, the primary sources for municipal operations in Colorado.”To tell people you can’t rent to a real estate office – I think that’s so terribly unrealistic and unfair to dictate to the people that have invested in this community,” said Judy McGill, a property owner on Elk Avenue. Fellow business owner Steven Ein said restricting the use might decrease the value of property by 10 to 30 percent.Another local, Gordon Bray, wondered at the logic that assumes a real estate office is bad and a medical office is good.Mayor Alan Bernholtz said the issue is one of balance. Real estate offices currently represent an imbalance on the street. Bray said the ordinances treat a symptom rather than the ailment. “We don’t have a viable tourism industry. If you want to cure what’s going on downtown, bring more people here,” he said.Similar zoning is nothing new in ski towns. Vail adopted the zoning 34 years ago and has never looked back.

Mountain biking was the talk of Whistler last week. First, the business community heard a warning that other resorts are starting to catch up with Whistler’s vaunted mountain biking program.Whistler faces competition from both Moab in Utah and Tamarack in Idaho, said biking expert Richard Juryn. Even more, he sees stiff competition developing in Scotland’s 7stanes, Italy’s Alta Rezia region, and Southern Switzerland.Juryn stressed the need for one-stop mountain-bike shops. One-third of mountain bike enthusiasts have incomes of more than $100,000, he notes.Elsewhere during the week, reports Pique, municipal councilors were chilly to a proposed heli-biking operation. Mayor Ken Melamed said any such plan must be carbon-neutral. Other councilors seemed to fuss less about the carbon footprint of flying bicycles to mountaintops, but did express concerns about impacts to the community’s watershed.The former premier of British Columbia, Mike Harcourt, was in town to talk about sustainability. He credited Whistler with important environmental steps, but “it’s still not sustainable. I think you really need to push yourself here because you are an important resort … and people will pay attention. This resort is built on people getting into planes, staying in luxury hotels, eating in restaurants. In principle, that doesn’t say you could ever be sustainable, but I think you can prove them wrong.”Whistler recycles about 37 percent of waste. Many European countries, lacking landfill space, are approaching zero waste. Americans, of course, have a much lower recycle rate.

A plant in Kremmling to process wood into pellets for stoves is moving through the approval process. The Summit Daily News says the $7 million plant is to produce enough pellets to meet the heating needs of 30,000 to 40,000 homes.The plant will also supply a local market for beetle-killed trees in the Grand Lake, Winter Park and Summit County areas, which are all located about an hour from Kremmling.For example, without a local market, tree removal near the new hospital in Summit County cost $1,500 to $1,600 per acre. With a local market for the wood, explains the Summit Daily, the price might have been $500 to $600 per acre.

Skier numbers in California ended the season 20 percent down from the previous years. More than half of California’s 6.2 million skiers this year were recorded in the Lake Tahoe area.”This was not a good year, as you can well understand,” said Bob Roberts, executive of the California Ski Industry Association. “It happens. If it happens three times in a row, call me. This is all attributable to the snow conditions.”Roberts for several years has said the ski industry must address global warming. Still, in an interview with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, he seemed unwilling to pin blame on this winter’s warm weather on global warming.A similar response was elicited by the newspaper from Carl Ribaudo, director of Ski Lake Tahoe, a marketing association of seven of the largest ski resorts in the Tahoe-Truckee region.”It was a pretty soft season, obviously weather-related,” he said. “But whether it’s a single event or part of a pattern, we’ll have to take a look at the longer term.”

Biologists have verified the presence of a den established by a breeding pair of wolves in the Wood River Valley. The den is located somewhere south of Galena Summit, or within 30 miles of Ketchum and Sun Valley. The Idaho Mountain Express says local residents have seen both gray- and black-phase wolves. The only immediate effect of the wolves is that a livestock producer has delayed putting sheep on the national forest allotment in that area.

Russell George, who took over as director of the Colorado Department of Transportation this year, seems to be carving a new path for Interstate 70.While George’s predecessor, Tom Norton, had talked about mass transit in the congested corridor being perhaps 30 years away, George is talking as though it’s the solution now.”The future for transportation in Colorado,” he said at a conference in Glenwood Springs, is “more than a highway.”Although the funding source is unknown, “we have to have an honest-to-God irrevocable start on the transit piece. I don’t think we can afford not to,” George said.State transportation planners have talked about a rail-based bus guideway system, but ruled out other forms of rail-based transportation, including kinds that are found in Switzerland as well as futuristic monorail systems, as intolerably expensive. Earlier this year, George announced that he was postponing release of the programmatic environmental statement, which has been in the making since 1999. He said six extra months will be needed to revamp the study to give rail-based transit options a fair shake in the eyes of residents along the corridor in the mountain communities.Among those communities are Summit County, Vail and the Eagle Valley.The conference, reported the Glenwood Post Independent, had the twin themes of the concept called peak oil, in which it is believed that oil supplies have or will soon begin to decline, and global warming.The present time, George said, is a “moment of challenge” to find creative solutions to forge a new energy-economy less dependent on carbon-emitting cars.But while that future looks uncertain, so does the source of money to create the new transportation infrastructure, he said. In that, George and his predecessor do not disagree.George lives in Rifle, where he once was a water attorney and Republican legislator, while commuting to Denver, about 200 miles away. Along the way, he passes through the Eagle Valley and Vail. There, officials have been contemplating for some time the potential for a valley railroad.Transportation officials are talking about local railroad service in the Eagle to Vail area being implemented no sooner than 2030, when Eagle County’s population is projected to reach 87,000. That does not include 30,000 people commuting on a daily basis to jobs in the county. In 2000, there were only 1,000 commuters.The Vail Daily explains that officials from the various towns in the Eagle Valley are discussing the creation of pedestrian-oriented communities. Avon, at the foot of Beaver Creek, is putting together such a plan as it begins plotting its redevelopment.

Three grizzly bears – a 12- to 15-year-old sow and her two yearling cubs – have died near Banff after the mother was killed by a train. The two cubs survived, although at least one had also been hit, but later died.”There’s nothing more heart-wrenching than 100 meters of guts and gravel between the rails,” said Jim Pissot, the executive director of Defenders of Wildlife Canada. “I was just heartsick once again.”The Rocky Mountain Outlook explains that 12 grizzlies have been killed by Canadian Pacific Railways trains in Banff National Park since 2000. The total population in Canada’s flagship national park is estimated at 50 to 60.Wildlife advocates like Pissot say the railroad allows grains of corn to spill from the passing trains, drawing the grizzly bears. In response, the railroad has been vacuuming the tracks to remove the corn, spending $20 million to improve equipment. It’s apparently not enough.”Even a diligent vacuuming of the tracks still leaves enough grain to attract bears, including grain that has fallen into the ballast and is either sprouting or fermenting and attracting bears,” Pissot told the newspaper.Something similar happened in 2005 when a grizzly sow was killed by a train near Banff. Two of her three orphaned cubs were later struck and killed by cars on the Trans-Canada Highway.But it’s not all ghastly news from the Canadian Rockies. The Outlook also tells the story of three black bear cubs that have been hitching rides on trains through Yoho National Park. The bears were similarly drawn to the easy meal of grain. But the bears haven’t been seen in recent weeks, and their fate is unknown.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at bestallen@earthlink.net.


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