Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Allen Best

A backlash quickly emerged after the Telluride Town Council adopted a resolution calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.”It’s huge, unbelievable,” said Telluride Mayor John Pryor. “Ski groups are canceling for the winter. Hundreds of people are bailing. The [town] website is flooded with people saying they’re canceling their vacations here.”Pryor called it a “silly initiative.” The council, he told The Telluride Watch, is too busy to weigh in on national global politics.If this was a silly initiative, why did he vote for it? The answer would seem to lie in the fact that the council routinely adopts resolutions, on matters both big and small, with nary a further word. Such a resolution would be hardly controversial in Telluride, where only 17 percent of voters in the 2004 election cast ballots for Bush.Indeed, while the council chamber was full, most people were there for resolution of a parking issue. The council had virtually no discussion before adopting the resolution.But with Internet speed, e-mail protests and cancellations began rolling in, including that of a Florida ski club.There was also support. “Let ’em go to Vail,” Texan Dan Stewart Olney wrote on a newspaper website. “I will commit to spend more time and money in Telluride now thanks to the initiative.”Among the community members endorsing the resolution was Phil Miller, a veteran of World War II who was wounded in the Philippines. “The people have acquiesced too easily because they don’t know the horror that war unleashes,” Miller said of the Iraq war. “I have seen the brutality of war that turns nice young men into barbarians.”

Real estate continues to become an ever bigger part of the story in Jackson Hole, even if the real estate being sold isn’t in Jackson Hole proper. The action, reports columnist Jonathan Schechter, has moved out to the exurbs in adjoining Lincoln County but even more so on the west side of the Teton Range, in Idaho. The Multiple Listing Service of residential properties during the last two years has expanded by a third, from 1,800 to 2,700 properties, reports Schechter. But while the number of listings in Jackson Hole itself has dropped, the number of listings in Teton County, Idaho, has increased 64 percent.Schechter also notes that this shift has become glaringly apparent in the advertising found in the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Not only is real estate advertising becoming more dominant, but particularly so for real estate outside Jackson Hole. “Today,” he says, “real estate and development are to the greater Teton area what entertainment is to Hollywood or finance is to New York.”He sees the real estate market continuing to thrive, even as wildlife habitat, economic diversity and small-town atmosphere suffer.

Sitting side by side, the towns of Winter Park and Fraser have thought about consolidation for a good many years. Fraser is the older of the two, but Winter Park nowadays has the better-known name, owing to the ski area within its boundaries.A recent study finds that if Winter Park annexes Fraser, they’ll gain $786,000 in additional tax revenues, thanks to Winter Park’s ability to levy sales and real estate taxes.The greater question, reports the Winter Park Manifest, is what the combined town would be called. No names have been formally proposed, although the newspaper flippantly suggests Fraser Park. Joyce Burford, a trustee in Fraser, says that her constituents are most interested in the name, suggesting that the consolidation could sink or swim on that basis.

The burner at the sawmill in Revelstoke, a town plotting its tourism and second-home future, is a thing of the past.Downie Timber had scheduled to cease using the tepee burner – so-called because it is in the shape of a cone, or tepee – in mid-July, but had not completed burning wood shavings.Faced with protests of the renewed smoke, the burner was closed anyway, and the remaining shavings are to be sent to co-generation and pellet plants for disposal, reports the Revelstoke Times-Review.Located on the Trans-Canada Highway in interior British Columbia, the town is home to a ski area that is expected to have the most vertical of any ski area in North America.

Jim Chalat is Colorado’s best-known lawyer in ski-related cases. He told The Denver Post recently that the ski slopes are not necessarily safer than they used to be.Helmets have been proven to improve safety, and he’d have ski areas make sure that skiing employees use them, to serve as role models.But no substantial statistical decrease in injuries has occurred since the advent of the modern alpine-ski release binding. He believes an increasing percentage of collisions is due to increasing skier density. “You’ve got high-speed lifts pouring skiers on trails that were cut … for a different era.” The Forest Service, he suggests, needs to administer its property better.He also sees consequences of fewer people learning to ski from professional ski instructors. “Statistically, we see a higher incidence of more serious injuries, particularly with children, and largely as a result of collisions.”And skiers, he says, are no safer than snowboarders. “As my grandpa used to say, it all depends on the nut behind the wheel.”

A planning and zoning commission has recommended a moratorium on wind turbines. It’s not as if windmills are popping up everywhere in the Ketchumand Sun Valley area. The Idaho Mountain Express notes only two applications. But apparently planning commissioners think it’s time to put some controls on such things before people wake up one morning and find that a 100-foot tower has been erected next door.

Jiminy Peak, a ski area in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, has erected a $3.9 million wind turbine. It is the first wind turbine at a ski resort in North America.The turbine has 122-foot-long blades atop a tower that is 260 feet high, located 1,000 feet away from ski trails.Dramatic increases in energy costs provoked the investment. Brian Fairbanks, the ski area manager, stated that Jiminy Peak’s costs of energy doubled from the 2003-04 to the 2005-06 seasons.The turbine can produce a 4.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity, compared to Jiminy’s consumption of 7 million kilowatt hours. The return on investment is predicted to take seven years, meaning the turbine will be paid for in that time due to lesser energy costs, given current prices.

Abondance appears to be the first ski station in the French Alps to fall victim to global warming.The City Council in the resort town, located near Lake Geneva, Switzerland, voted to shut down the ski station, elevation 3,051 feet (930 meters). A report from The Associated Press indicated the lack of snow was the primary reason, although it also offered a dissenting opinion that mismanagement was at play.The Associated Press also reported that a government court in France has put a ski area operator called Transmontagne under bankruptcy protection for the next six months. It operates midaltitude resorts in France, Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia. Warming weather, said AP, is seen as a key reason for its financial woes.Gerald Giraud, engineer at the Snow Study Center of Meteo-France at Grenoble, told The Associated Press that he expects Abondance will get even less snow in the future. “The 900-1,500 meter range is the one where global warming will pose the greatest problems.” His center documented an increased temperature of 2.7 to 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 3 degrees Celsius) over the Alps since the early 1980s.A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that warming in the Alps in recent years has been roughly three times the global average, but with even greater changes expected in coming decades.German resorts are predicted to suffer the most from climate change, and those in France the least.Jean-Charles Simiand, president of the French national union for ski lifts and cable cars, noted that the lifts are used today for hikers and mountain bikers in summer, but that the activity accounts for just 3 percent of overall lift revenues.

A new organization, called CROP, has been formed in the Crested Butte area with the stated goal of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.The acronym stands for Calculate, Reduce, Offset and Produce. “C” came first, explained Gesa Michel, an organizer, because the first step is to understand the source and extent of greenhouse gas emissions from local sources.Another organizer, Alison Gannett, who is also an extreme skier, said that energy conservation should come first, and then pursuit of alternative energy sources.Representatives of the ski area and several towns were at the meeting, as was county Commissioner Jim Starr. “I want to see what we can do to begin addressing the issue of climate disruption,” he told the Crested Butte News. One possibility, he said, is to revise the county’s land-use regulations in order to give incentives for reduced consumption of fossil fuels.

Eagle is a prototypical downvalley town that began exploding in population during the 1990s.Located 31 miles from Vail, it had a population of 2,600 a decade ago, about the time of the last cattle drive through the town. This was the same time that the first fast-food restaurant, a Burger King, set up shop.A chain grocery store called City Market also opened then, and it stayed open until 11 p.m. The previous store, a family-owned business, kept hours akin to those of bankers.Yes, Eagle has changed. The population is now approaching 6,100 people, and the interchange at Interstate 70 clogs heavily with traffic several times daily.It most certainly had a small-town feel a decade ago, and surveys of residents have said that it remains happy with the community feel. But such things as “small-town character” are a thing of context, and the town is in the process of formally redefining what that means, reports the Eagle Valley Enterprise.Town planner Bill Gray says that the surveys consistently include open space and wildlife in their definition of quality of life.

Believers in Sasquatch, otherwise known as Bigfoot, were tramping among the forests of the Uintah Range between Park City and Evanston, Wyo. Among the believers was Matthew Moneymaker, 41, who is president of the southern California-based Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. “You’re about 100 times more likely to hear them than to see them,” Moneymaker told The Park Record.The believers in Sasquatch (Sasquatchuans?) tell the newspaper that they are sure that Bigfoot bangs on sticks, clanks rocks together and howls while in the forest primeval. “You’re a little bit scared, but you’re excited,” said John Andrews, who has been studying Bigfoot for about 50 years.All of those who have seen or heard Bigfoot are encouraged to tell all on the organization’s website at

Steamboat earlier this summer announced a healthy schedule of direct flights next winter from New York City and adjacent airports. Now, Mont Tremblant, located in Quebec, is getting into the act.Continental Airlines will offer daily flights on 50-passenger regional jets next winter from Newark. The service is from mid-December to early April, with the exception of a month in midwinter.Kent Meyers, of Vail-based Airplanners Inc., arranged the connection. He said the short daily flights will allow those from the New York City area to avoid the seven- and eight-hour drives to ski areas in New England, but that it also opens up Tremblant to a great many people in Philadelphia, Virginia and elsewhere along the Eastern seaboard.

Although other ski resorts in Colorado smiled through winter, Crested Butte took it on the chin.The difficulty was partly reflected in the direct-flight program. American Airlines lost $765,000 on its flights, mostly from Texas cities, and the local transportation authority covered $500,000 of the loss.Still, Crested Butte is coming back again next year for more of the same, but with more midweek shuttles from Denver on United.Kent Meyers, of Airplanners, who assembled direct-flight programs for both Vail and Steamboat during decades past, is in charge of Crested Butte’s program. He suggested that Crested Butte could go after another market in the future, but it must be prepared for it to take time. One year, Vail Resorts paid out $3.2 million in subsidies, he noted.Next summer, Crested Butte expects to get flights from Denver on the new Frontier regional jets. So do Jackson Hole, Aspen, Vail and many other resorts in the Rocky Mountains.

Both Crested Butte and Mount Crested Butte have adopted regulations mandating bear-resistant trash cans. Is it any coincidence that the latest report of bears scaling second-story balconies and spying through screen doors comes not from one of the two towns, but from a nearby subdivision in unincorporated Gunnison County? The homeowners’ association, reports the Crested Butte News, is talking about mandating bear-proof containers there, too.

While Vail requires bear-proof trash cans, most areas of unincorporated Eagle County faced no such requirement. They still don’t, but a new law mandates bear-resistant containers, reports the Vail Daily. Also unlike Vail, the new county ordinance will allow birdfeeders, although they must be placed out of reach of bears.

Bear conservationists in Whistler objected when a small bear cub was killed. The killing was unjustified, said Sylvia Dolson, director of the Get Bear Smart Society. She said bears of that age should be sent to rehabilitation.The bear, called Beari, and its mother, called Juniper, were killed after being caught slipping into the kitchen of a home to rummage. A wildlife conservation officer, Dave Jeavons, told Pique Newsmagazine that the cub, despite being so young, had learned to become aggressive, entering homes and approaching peoples. “It’s extremely unusual for a cub to not have a fear of humans,” he said.Another bear was also killed in Whistler. The 20-year-old bruin had broken into five businesses, bluff-charged several people, and, on one occasion, had not let people back into their cars. The final offense was breaking into a car then bluff-charging.

Sun Valley’s in-lieu fee for work-force housing has been struck down as violating Idaho’s constitution. The Idaho Mountain Express says the town had exacted a fee of about $12,000 from a couple who had applied for a building permit. This was among $363,000 in in-lieu fees under the town’s 2005 work-force linkage ordinance.But a district court judge says the fee was not a fee, but a tax, and under the Idaho Constitution, taxes can be collected by a municipality only if specifically authorized by the state Legislature. A similar case had occurred in Coeur d’Alene, which had placed its revenue in a general fund. Sun Valley set aside the in-lieu revenue in a fund to mitigate the effects of new development. But the district court judge said the fee was designed to benefit the community as a whole, and as such was a tax. “The case is not about whether the city should or should not provide for work-force housing. It should. This case is about who pays for it,” Christopher Meyer, attorney for the couple who filed suit, told the newspaper.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at


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