Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Allen Best

Dogs are still running free in Fraser, provided they are under the voice command of their owners.That rule has been challenged in the last couple of years; several people say they are afraid to walk the streets, for fear of an attack. In response, town trustees reviewed a law that would have mandated leashes.But in a 5-to-2 vote before a standing-room-only crowd, the board rejected the proposed law. The dominant thinking was that a leash law would punish people who have their dogs under voice control. To ensure enforcement, the town is considering hiring what used to be called a dogcatcher.This majority vote, says the Winter Park Manifest, did not sit well with trustee Vesta Shapiro. “How many years will it be before I can walk around this town safely?” she asked, and then swiveled her chair around, putting her back to fellow trustees.

What do you do once you’ve become the first person in history to snowboard off the summit of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents?In the case of Stephen Koch, he became a professional speaker, returned to guiding – and this year got his real estate license. Koch’s career choice, says the Jackson Hole News&Guide, is becoming a theme with professional athletes.”I do this so I can live here,” says Rick Armstrong, once known as “Sick Rick” for his propensity for enormous cliff jumps while on skis. He appeared in both Warren Miller and Teton Gravity Research ski films.Armstrong tells the Jackson Hole News&Guide that the transition from athlete to agent has been more natural than many people would expect. As a professional athlete, he had to sell himself, and that’s a skill that transfers well to wooing potential clients.

The inventory of real estate for sale in Jackson Hole continues to decline, but the median sales price continues to soar.The median home-sale price four years ago was $542,000. Now it’s at $1.2 million, appraiser David Viehman reports. In other words, prices have doubled in the last four years, with a 28 percent increase in just the last year.In his midyear report, Viehman noted that the statistically greatest surge was of homes valued at more than $5 million, where total sales increased 81 percent.A majority of buyers are from Jackson Hole, but of the out-of-state buyers, they come from the usual places: New York, California, Texas, and Florida.Condo prices have also escalated. Last year at this time the least expensive condo on the market was $205,000. This year, as of early July, the least-expensive condo available for purchase was $512,000, said Viehman, who works with Jackson Hole Real Estate and Appraisal.

A 31-year-old Calgary woman who was mountain biking on trails near the Panorama ski resort was killed by a large black bear. Searchers found her body being aggressively guarded by the bear, which was shot.A spokeswoman for Panorama Mountain Village told the Invermere Valley Echo that the woman was not on patrolled trails. It was not clear whether being off a marked trail made any difference.Paul Visentin, the wildlife officer for the area, told Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine that there was no good reason for the bear attack. No kill was found nearby, nor was it a mother with cubs, he said. And the bear was healthy. “None of the normal situations that we look at came into play here,” he said.As of 2006, there had only been 56 documented killings of humans by black bears in North America during the previous 100 years.Meanwhile, in Banff National Park, a grizzly sow chased two mountain bikers who mistakenly came between her and her cubs. The two bikers were forced off their bikes, and at one point the sow waved and huffed close to one of the bikers. The bears then quickly left. Parks Canada planned to do nothing, reported the Rocky Mountain Outlook, as the behavior is typical of a sow who believes her cubs are threatened.

If “it” happens, a hangar at the airport on the mesa near Telluride will become a morgue, and the middle and high school will become an emergency hospital.The “it” is arrival of an HS5N1 pandemic, better known as bird flu. Some 185 people have died from the virus, mostly in Asia, but there is enough fear that 54,000 turkeys were killed on a farm in Virginia.The Telluride Watch reports that local emergency officials believe Telluride will be in relatively good shape should a pandemic happen similar to the flu that killed somewhere between 18 million to 100 million people in 1918-1920. After all, Telluride lies at the end of a box canyon, and access can be relatively easily controlled. On the other hand, it is vulnerable to gas and electricity outages, as the backup routes into the town are minimal.Of course, being isolated did the people nearby no good when the flu epidemic hit in 1918; about 10 percent of the population died.

Glenwood Springs-based Alpine Banks has banks in many of Colorado’s ski towns, including Snowmass Village. Several years ago, banking chain vice president Dave Scruby visited the Snowmass bank to meet with employees. Asking if there were any questions, one of the employees asked, “Why aren’t we more environmentally minded?”And so, according to a story in ColoradoBiz magazine published in March, began some soul-searching, some fumbling, but ultimately some significant changes in how Alpine Banks is doing business. That process has now led to the expected certification of its bank in Telluride under the LEED program.LEED stands for Leadership in Environment and Energy Design.The bank building earned points for its location in downtown Telluride, where it is easily accessible to pedestrians and public transportation. It also has a lighting system that is projected to save 35 percent of electrical power without compromising lighting quality. All appliances are Energy Star rated, and boilers are 90 percent-plus efficient.Paints and carpets with low volatile organic compounds also have been used, minimizing the formaldehyde and other chemicals that can create “sick” buildings.Alpine Bank also has LEED-certified buildings planned at Ridgway, which has become a Telluride suburb, and in Rifle, one of Aspen’s suburbs.

Grand Lake, located at the western portal to Rocky Mountain National Park, is the namesake of a town, but also the origin of the Colorado River. Until Congress dictated otherwise in 1924, the river was known as the Grand until its confluence with the Green River in Utah.The lake is the largest natural body of water in Colorado, and in 1937 had unusual clarity. It was possible, a scientist found, to see down into the lake for 30 feet.This is by no means a record. Lake Tahoe once had a clarity of more than 100 feet. But the clarity of both Tahoe and Grand Lake has diminished in recent decades.In Tahoe, the change in clarity is blamed on a wide variety of dispersed development. Grand Lake’s reduced clarity is blamed on a water-diversion project called the Colorado-Big Thompson, which diverts water to cities and farms in the northern Front Range from Boulder to Fort Collins.That diversion includes two dams immediately downstream from Grand Lake. One of those, called Shadow Mountain, essentially enlarges Grand Lake, making it into a reservoir before the water is pumped through the Continental Divide to Estes Park.But Shadow Mountain is shallow, which results in warmer temperatures. Warmer temperatures yield more weeds and algae growth. All of this flows into the interconnected Grand Lake, reducing the 30-foot clarity to only 5 to 10 feet.Activists, reports the Sky-Hi News, say that Grand Lake must cease to be used as a holding pond. They say a $60 million pipeline from downstream at Granby Reservoir could bypass Grand Lake altogether.The key at Tahoe, explained Dr. John Reuter, associate director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, was the notion that economy and environment cannot be separated. Activists are also getting the Colorado Department of Health and Environment involved to verify and validate their claims that the water quality is deteriorating in a way that could be harmful.

Whistler and Banff have been waiting expectantly for the day when the average Chinese can begin visiting. Vail has been flirting with the ruble-rolling Russians. Could Colorado’s Summit County someday be sending delegations to Bombay and New Delhi in an effort to attract the 350 million Indians who today are younger than 25?That idea was drawn out after a visit by Purnima Voria, who founded the National U.S. Indian Chamber of Commerce. The group seeks to foster economic reform. “India is a sleeping tiger that has just awakened economically,” she said. She also suggested that Summit County might someday draw nurses from India, as the county is having a hard time with that staffing.

Oh, the world can be small at times. Consider this most recent round of corporate thievery, capped by the sentencing of Joe Nacchio, the former chief executive of Denver-based Qwest.Nacchio has been ordered to serve six years in prison, fined $19 million, and ordered to pay back $52 million in ill-gotten gains that he received in 2002 when he knew his company was facing financial risk. In essence, he was convicted of lying.These crimes were those of “overarching greed,” said Judge Edward Nottingham.Nottingham grew up, at least partly, in Beaver Creek, on a ranch owned by his father, Willis. Beaver Creek, always a favorite of the corporate types, has become more prominent in recent years in a left-handed way. Several of its big houses were owned by people who have become full-time residents of the “big house.” They include Adelphia founder John Rigas and his son, Tom Rigas, who received prison sentences of 15 and 20 years, respectively. Also, Tyco’s former chief executive, Dennis Kozlowski, was sentenced to 8.5 to 25 years in jail.

Do you remember when air conditioning in a mountain town was as unseemly as high heels?They’re both showing up more frequently, especially the air conditioning. In Vail, elevation 8,150 feet, it has now become standard for hotel rooms. That means that whenever an older property has an upgrade, the gussied-up rooms include air conditioning.One argument for air conditioning is that nearby Interstate 70 is increasingly noisy, making it less soothing to open windows to let in cool mountain breezes. Another argument is that it’s just flat-out hotter during summer than it used to be. And finally, guests are more finicky, less forgiving.Among those hotels where A/C is standard is the 292-room Vail Cascade Resort and Spa. A $30 million upgrade is also to include 42-inch flat-screen TVs and cordless phones, as well as bedside controls for raising and lowering the shades.

In the early 1990s, people around Vail generally detested logging sales. “No more clear-cuts,” mountain bikers would yell as they rode by clear-cuts that were, if small, nonetheless clear-cuts. Ironically, they were riding on a road built for logging operations several decades ago.Now, the U.S. Forest Service is planning more timber sales, some 2,500 acres altogether around Vail and Minturn. And the Vail Daily is finding some evidence that these logging operations won’t be well-received, even if the area is beset by bark beetles that are killing most of the lower-elevation lodgepole pine trees.Thinning of forest stands just won’t work, say Forest Service officials, and the deadwood has a brief time when it is of value to sawmills and other uses.

Colorado’s open records laws allow individuals and organizations to request copies of public records. With that in mind, an organization called the Republican Study Committee of Colorado has asked for e-mail messages sent by all three Gunnison County commissioners, plus Garfield County’s Trési Houpt and San Miguel County’s Art Goodtimes. All are Democrats save for Goodtimes, a Green Party member.The Telluride Watch says e-mail records of the last five years show that Goodtimes is out to reform Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy group. That simple fact is neither new nor news among people who pay attention to such things. Just the same, copying all the records has been a royal pain, said the San Miguel County administrator, something that any number of federal land officials would likely second.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at