Mountain Town News

Allen Best

If Vail’s new wildlife law isn’t a threat to human life, it’s at least a threat to limbs.So says one of the town’s councilmen, Farrow Hitt. Hitt voted for the law earlier this year that mandates bear-proof Dumpsters and other trash containers. But in his duties as the manager of a condominium complex, he sees significant problems.Hitt says that the lids on the Dumpsters provided by Waste Management are too heavy. “If someone was lifting that lid up and it fell back down on their hand, it would take their hand off,” he told the Vail Daily.For several years, Vail town officials had laws on the books that mandated no garbage could be left out until the day of pickup. Failing that, bear-resistant containers were required.But resistant containers only delayed the efforts of bears, and hence the requirement for greater fortification. Hitt tells the newspaper that he believes the trash-removal company can do better. “We put a man on the moon,” he said. “We can get a Dumpster lid that doesn’t chop people’s hands off.”But the local manager for the trash company, Jerry Valasquez, said lids any lighter would not be effective. It is not dangerous if used properly, he insisted.

Jackson’s town government is talking about taller buildings in the community core once again – and how much is too much.Current regulations allow 35 feet by right. Projects that deliver affordable housing and extra parking are given 48 feet. But the latter height has produced buildings that are bulkier than what municipal councilors want to see.In response, the city is now looking at a proposed 42-foot limit as a use by right in the downtown area, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide. The thinking is that a little bit taller buildings will result in more residential housing on the upper levels, and hence mixed-use, walkable communities. Councilor Mark Obringer said the change could net a “couple hundred housing units in downtown Jackson.”Councilor Bob Lenz, who has long opposed four-story buildings, said he believes the proposed 42 feet will result in high-ceiling living units – directly conflicting with Jackson’s avowed goal of having a smaller carbon footprint. “It is a hypocrisy saying we are going green and going to conserve energy and then create more large living units,” he said. “It takes more heat to heat a 10-foot ceiling than an 8- or a 9-foot one.”

For the sixth time in seven years, the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting a declining population in Steamboat Springs. If the bureau’s estimation is to be believed, Steamboat population last year dipped to 9,315. But school officials tell the Steamboat Pilot & Today that enrollment is now up. Tom Leeson, the city’s planning direction, thinks the population is close to 11,000.

Look out Aspen and Vail: Steamboat is gunning for your skiers.The resort is adding a substantial number of airplane seats next winter, and will have 490 potential passengers every Saturday from the three major airports in and near New York City. “Accompanying the fact that New York is the single most lucrative ski market is the fact that it’s the single most expensive media market,” said Andy Wirth, vice president of sales and marketing for the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp, “but in this case, we felt the financial reward is there.”Unlike flights from Atlanta, in which case about 40 percent of passengers actually come from Atlanta, about 98 percent of passengers on the Saturday flights from New York will come from New York.Wirth told the Steamboat Pilot & Today that this is the “single biggest undertaking of total capacity and new markets the resort has ever seen.” Following the 2001 lull, Steamboat had 128,000 passenger seats, which increased to 154,000 last winter. Wirth says he is “highly confident” the air program will reach 175,000 next winter.

Municipal officials in Park City have asked residents to cut back on outdoor watering. “Maybe people haven’t switched their thoughts to the bigger picture around us,” said Mayor Dana Williams. City officials say that daily water use is at 85 percent of capacity, with three-quarters of that use devoted to landscaping. Fire officials, reports The Park Record, are worried about the fire danger after a hot May and June elevated the risk of wildfires.

Taos city officials and members of the Pueblo tribe, owners of an 800,000-acre property at the city’s edge, appear to be no closer to agreement after a supposed demonstration airplane flight. The test plane was supposed to fly about 2,000 feet over the pueblo, but because of potential conflicts with firefighting aircraft, flew at about 7,500 feet. As such, the demonstration proved nothing, Pueblo officials told The Taos News.Taos city officials for 14 years have wanted to add a crosswind runway to the town-owned airport. For at least as long, the Taos Pueblo has resisted. Pueblo officials say airplanes already intrude above their 800,000-acre property, and more flights will worsen the situation. They fervently object to flights that that disrupt private, traditional ceremonies held at various sacred sites.Because Taos Pueblo is one of 20 World Heritage Sites located in the United States, stringent rules apply to aircraft flying above it. In particular, aircraft are supposed to stay at least 2,000 feet or higher, although Pueblo representatives say that limit is routinely ignored.

The gap between housing and income continues to widen in Summit County.A new study finds that median-priced homes, which in 1999 were 491 higher than the median income, are now at 851 percent, reports the Summit Daily News.In other words, while median incomes rose from $64,000 to $78,000, median home prices rose from $317,500 to $670,300. The survey also found that most in demand from locals are two-bedroom homes with a base price of $200,000. Also in that mountain town dream are balconies/decks, two-car garages and private yards. In fourth place on the wish list was energy efficiency.

Paul Mathews of Whistler-based Ecosign, a ski area and resort planning consultant, has been planning ski areas in North America for decades. But currently he’s at work on three resorts in the Ukraine, two in Romania and two in Serbia.”North America and Europe are mature markets,” Mathews told Pique newsmagazine. “Every skier that leaves the sport is replaced by a new one right now. But in Eastern Europe, the markets are brand-new. Eastern Europe currently has between 5 million and 7 million skier visits annually, or about as much as Colorado’s Summit and Eagle counties put together, but could be doing 140 million skier days in a generation.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports that a standing-room-only crowd turned out for a presentation that would have done Einstein proud. As it has for five years, the town is talking about adding hotels. Three of them are proposed, and the task was to give an idea of how the height and bulk of what is being proposed would change the town.It doesn’t matter, said real-estate agent Pam Colesworth: “We are withering as a tourist town. We need to infuse this town with tourists again … I ask you not to be afraid. Go forward and get it done.”But City Councilwoman Terry Trace said the trick is to get visitors to stay in these future hotels, the larger issue that Ketchum is facing as it seeks to strengthen its air connections.Despite being North America’s first destination ski resort, Ketchum and neighboring Sun Valley have flattened and now declined as ski resorts.Developers have said they need to include real estate in a hotel offering, similar to what has been done at most other resorts. The city now allows such condo-hotels. For its part, says the Express, the council wants a firm commitment from developers, experience in hotel development, evidence that the hotels will add to a tourism economy and affordable housing.

Some 226 homes have been burned around Lake Tahoe, and it’s time for the finger-pointing to begin, says Bryce E. Keller, chief of the Truckee Fire Protection District.And in an essay published in the Sierra Sun, he points his finger: “I’m tired of hearing excuses as to why people can’t and don’t maintain defensible space on their properties.”He says that creating defensible space around a home is no guarantee it will survive a wildfire, but it will dramatically increase the odds of doing so.

Two conservation organizations, the Sierra Club and the San Juan Citizens Alliance, are advocating a designated wilderness in Hermosa Creek, a 145,000-acre tract northwest of Durango. While the San Juan Mountains have plenty of wilderness, the ecosystem there is somewhat different: a lower-elevation, mixed-conifer forest.While Mark Pearson says he and other conservationists recognize it’s not feasible to entirely shut out mountain bikers from the entire area, mountain bikers are talking about a management designation that would exclude motorized use, but not mechanized use. The International Mountain Biking Association favors a national scenic area or primitive area designation, notes the Durango Telegraph.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at


Bar Talk: Barraquito

On a recent trip to Spain, I discovered something that I believe tops the espresso martini. It’s called a barraquito.

See more