Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Allen Best

Revelstoke, B.C.: Revelstoke wants to stay real as it growsMountain towns are deathly afraid of growing up to become like … well, in Colorado, the usual citations are Aspen and Vail, although Steamboat, Summit County and even Crested Butte crop up. Smaller ones don’t want to become bigger.Revelstoke, between Banff and Whistler in British Columbia, is shaking the dust off its blue-collar boots as it primps itself for the big league of mountain resorts. In an editorial, the Times Review insists that the future can be guided. But in his ruminations about burying a 100-year time capsule, editor David Rooney sounds less sanguine.”Will it still be a friendly, rural community of people who work hard and who love their mountains and forests intensely? Or will it have evolved into something like Banff or Whistler – brittle and largely artificial communities that focus on parting tourists from their dollars?”Likewise, in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Paul Cook sees little to like in the changes of the last 30 years. A neo-environmentalism prevails, he says, that is mostly intent on elevating property values. The result is a more stratified community, with various groups having little interaction. “So now we have created a ‘critical rich-people habitat,’ where rich people are a dime a dozen,” he writes in the Jackson Hole News & Guide.And from the Eagle Valley in Colorado comes this note: “Vail looks like Dubai with all the cranes. What happened to the little mountain town I moved to on Nov. 13, 1970?”Park City, Utah: Presidential candidates panhandle in Park CityPresidential candidates are getting to be a regular thing in Park City: Republican contender Mitt Romney owns a home there, and Rudy Giuliani was scheduled this week to press the flesh and solicit donations. One party activist predicted Mr. Giuliani would bank $500,000. Democrat Barak Obama was also scheduled to visit, says The Park Record.Jasper, Alberta: In perfect town, you know many but not allSize does matter, and for some people in Jasper, 4,700 people is just right.”It’s a perfect size – not so small you know every single one of your neighbors, but small enough to offer support systems,” says Bob Covey, editor of a newspaper there. Others similarly agree that the smallness produces a stronger sense of community, especially because of the town’s isolation.It’s located in Jasper National Park, north of Banff. The park is Canada’s largest, wildest and most remote, notes the Rocky Mountain Outlook. The park is 100 years old this summer. A celebration is planned Sept. 14.Frisco, Colo.: Doctor studied effects of thin air on fake boobsDid you know that women who have breast implants sometimes have uncomfortable sensations, accompanied by swishing sounds in their chests, when visiting higher elevations?That was the discovery some years ago by Jim Bachman, a physician since 1981 in Frisco. In addition to delivering babies and other ministrations expected of a small-town doctor, he avidly studied effects of the thinner air found at 9,000 to 10,000 feet in elevation. “Patients complained about the implants sloshing much like your potato-chip bag,” Dr. Bachman told the Summit Daily News. Pressurized implants, he explained, expand with a decrease in air pressure, similar to shampoo bottles. He was the first to report on that phenomenon.Bachman also coined a new word while studying high-altitude medicine: bilanders. These are the people who live part time at low elevations, particularly sea level, and part time at high elevations. The blood pressure of these bilanders fluctuates up and down as they travel back and forth, he discovered.Pemberton, B.C.: Whistler contemplates adding air serviceThere’s noise once again about an airport to serve Whistler, allowing people to avoid the two-hour drive from Vancouver.The most likely airport site is at the nearby town of Pemberton. The airport’s current 3,900 feet of runway is much too small for commercial flights. However, a relatively new oversight group, the Pemberton Regional Airport Authority, is soliciting public input about various options, among them expanding the airport runway to 6,000 feet in length.David MacKenzie, president of the airport authority, denied that the intention is to ramp up the airport to handle 737’s. “That’s not what this is about,” he told Pique Newsmagazine. But the longer runway would accommodate regional jets, including Bombardier’s new 70-passenger Q400. That plane has gained favor in Aspen and at other airports with runway limitations.Stuart Rempel, vice president of sales and marketing for Intrawest, the ski area operator at Whistler and Blackcomb, said the company is prepared to invest “seven figures” in commercial service. What exactly Intrawest’s seven-figure commitment would be for was not explained, but in most comparable destination resorts, the ski area operators post revenue guarantees to ensure airlines make expenses.Access, Rempel pointed out, always has been the Achilles’ heel of Whistler-Blackcomb.Vail, Colo.: Ryan and Trista’s baby grows up greenIn 2002 reality TV fans watched as former professional football player Ryan Sutter, by then a firefighter in Vail, met and then wooed Trista Rehn on “The Bachelorette.” They married very publicly the next year, again on national television, and then settled in the Eagle Valley.Mr. Sutter, it turns out, is very much into environmental preservation. Although still a firefighter, he has become certified to construct LEED buildings and lately demonstrated some of his knowledge for a television program, “The Eco Zone Project.” He also writes a column about environmental matters for the Vail Daily, and capably so.Now the couple have a child, Maxwell Alston Sutter, and he is growing up in a “green crib,” reports the Vail Daily. The Sutters enlisted the help of a consultant to make sure the wee one isn’t unduly influenced by toxic chemicals in the house.Lake Tahoe, Calif.: Only clear cuts would have stopped Tahoe fireNothing short of a half-mile-wide clear cut would have stopped the Angora fire from torching homes near Lake Tahoe in late June, according to a Forest Service study released last week.The report says fire danger conditions were some of the most severe experienced in the last 20 years, with the air dry and trees parched. Winds gusted to an estimated 40 mph. But the Forest Service report does not suggest clear cutting as a way to tame wildfires, reports the Sacramento Bee. Instead, the report found that most thinning projects worked as intended, reducing the intensity of the blaze.But thinning alone is not adequate, said Matt Mathews, a Forest Service spokesman, and neither is creating defensible space around homes: “Either one by itself is not enough.”Durango, Colo.: Town looks to use water more efficientlyNowhere in the West is the story of water scarcity told with such drama as in Las Vegas. Despite the jungle waterfalls, Venetian-type canals and ooh-ahh Bellagio waterworks, the story in the suburbs is of bone-dry front yards and marginal grass even in the backyards. In fact, the water district has been paying homeowners to pull up their sod.The situation is nowhere nearly as dramatic in Durango, but just the same, city officials hope to stretch existing supplies by 10 percent by mandating landscaping techniques that will use less water, reports the Durango Telegraph. Kentucky bluegrass won’t be banned outright, but new developments will be encouraged to adopt the principles of xeriscaping, integrating more drought-tolerant plants into the landscape.The city water-treatment plant is now running at half capacity, but Durango’s population is projected to triple.Buena Vista, Colo.: Questions raised about rafting deathsFive whitewater rafters have died this year in Colorado, all after spills on the Arkansas River between Leadville and Salida. Although whitewater deaths are not unusual, the total is high enough to draw the interest of The Denver Post, which raises the question of whether commercial rafters screen their customers sufficiently.”I think a lot of these deaths are really preventable,” a former guide, Kit Davidson, of Gunnison, told the newspaper. “It’s a tough call on how to make the tourists understand the power of the river and respect it without insulting them by telling them they are not allowed to go.”The suggestion is that some commercial passengers are physically unfit, and others do not seem to take the mental challenge seriously.Colorado’s whitewater boating industry is relatively recent. Until the mid-1980s, it was unregulated. After a string of drownings in the rapidly growing industry, the Colorado River Outfitters Association persuaded the state Legislature to establish minimum training and other safety standards to give the public more confidence.However, at the same time, rafting companies have been taking on more adventurous whitewater segments. Two of the commercial fatalities this year, for example, occurred in the Numbers, a section of the Arkansas River between Leadville and Buena Vista that even private risk-takers seldom boated 25 years ago.Telluride, Colo.: Free access to area 14ers reinstatedAlthough people tend to think of Colorado’s highest mountains as public lands, that’s hardly the case. Several of the 14,000-foot peaks are privately owned, while at others the trails commonly used to reach the peaks are on private land.Such was the case for a trio of fourteeners near Telluride, where a landowner had restricted access for the last several years across his 220 acres, which happened to include the popular Silver Pick Trail that accesses Mount Wilson, El Diente and Wilson Peak. Last year he charged hikers $100 to cross the property but this summer he had shut off access entirely.The quandary was resolved when a consortium of interests, led by the Trust for Public Land, purchased the property. The Telluride Foundation, which contributed $150,000, had valued the property at $3 million, or $136,000 an acre.The owner, Rusty Nichols, had tried to get the Forest Service to trade him more easily developed land, but the Forest Service – which had been loudly criticized for being too generous in previous land exchanges near Telluride – firmly said no. Nichols had also talked about resuming mining operations on the land but had no local authority to do so.Incline Village, Nev.: 600-pound bear shot after break-inA bear estimated to weigh 600 pounds was shot and killed after it broke into a home in the early morning. The family locked itself in a bedroom and called police. The arriving cop said the bear charged him, and he shot at it, but only grazed it. The bear fled and, after a search, was found under a neighborhood balcony. It was killed, authorities tell the Tahoe Daily Tribune.Bear activists report that fire, drought and poor food crops have resulted in a large number of bears being killed in California this year. The old record of 20 will be doubled if current trends continue, they say.Jackson, Wyo.: Teton County assessed valuation tops $1 billion The assessed valuation of Teton County, which is where Jackson Hole is located, has now topped $1 billion, nearly triple the value of 10 years ago. New construction is part of the story, officials tell the Jackson Hole News & Guide, but so are increasing values.By way of Colorado comparisons, Eagle County (Vail) last year had an assessed valuation of $2.4 billion, followed by Pitkin (Aspen) at $1.9 billion and Summit (Breckenridge) at $1.27 billion.These Colorado counties were followed by the mere millionaires: Routt (Steamboat) at $813 million, San Miguel (Telluride) at $780 million, Grand (Winter Park) at $611 million, Gunnison (Crested Butte) at $540 million, and Chaffee (Salida) at $295 million. Also: Lake (Leadville) at $85 million and San Juan (Silverton) at $41 million.Kremmling, Colo.: Archaeologists study ancient Indian campsiteReporter Will Bublitz parked himself this summer at an archaeological site along the Colorado River, volunteering to sift through the dirt for two days to see what it held.In a way, he found very little: a few dozen flakes of rock – not even a full projectile point, which is what most people call an arrowhead.Just the same, he was plenty awed. “Holding that first tiny stone flake up to the light, it struck me that I was probably the first human to have seen this object in more than 12,000 years,” he writes in the Sky-Hi News. Looking across the ages, he wondered about that prior person’s dreams, loves and hates, and more generally what his life was like.It was a nomadic one, say archaeologists from the University of Wyoming, and this site near Kremmling – which is equidistant from Steamboat Springs, Winter Park and Breckenridge – was rare in that it was used for several weeks.The occupation 10,000 to 12,000 years ago occurred soon after the last major ice age ended. The people, called the Folsom, were the earliest confirmed in the Western Hemisphere (although speculation abounds of much older arrivals). Evidence of the Folsom people is rare altogether and even more rare in mountainous areas.Some of the larger animals of the ice age, called Pleistocene megafauna, were still around at this time. Among them was a species of bison that was 15 percent larger than bison of today. Bones of those bison were found at the campsite. Some of the stones at the site that were manufactured into weapons and tools came from a nearby quarry, but other types of rock came from near Castle Rock and Salida, both in Colorado, and the Green River Valley of Wyoming and Utah.Whistler, B.C.: Real estate market surges againAfter a slump of several years, the real estate market in Whistler and its up-valley bedroom community of Pemberton is getting more active, and pricey.For example, during the first six months of last year there were 45 sales of chalets, at an average price of $1.48 million (Canadian). This year there were 79 sales, at an average price of $1.72 million.A similar increase occurred with condominiums, says Pique Newsmagazine. Sales volume doubled, and average sales prices jumped from $664,500 to $859,000.Most sales are to buyers from what is called the Lower Mainland – the Vancouver area – but some British citizens are also getting a piece of the action. Little interest from U.S. buyers is reported.Ketchum, Idaho: Real estate not as robust as elsewhereUnlike other major resort areas, the real-estate market in the Ketchum and Sun Valley area continues to be ho-hum. Not only has the number of sales declined, but prices for single-family homes are flat. Condominiums and townhomes, however, continue to rise in price, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.