Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Feathers seem to be ruffled in the resort area of Invermere, where the local newspaper, the Valley Echo, has had a lively exchange of letters. At issue seems to be whether people from Calgary, the booming oil-based metropolis east of the Continental Divide in Alberta, produce good or bad when they visit Invermere and other resort towns in the Columbia River Valley.”Your story blamed Albertans for tearing up the wilderness with their ATVs but then went on to say they didn’t know who owned these vehicles because they weren’t licensed,” complained Eileen Diemeret, who splits time between Calgary and the Western Slope hamlet of Edgewater.People from Calgary and Alberta were not solely to blame for melting the glaciers, causing housing prices to skyrocket, and degrading the environment, she said.”This is not Alberta’s or any other province’s ‘playground,'” responded a full-time local, Venessa Kelly.She said the “beef is with the part-time residents who come here thinking they own the whole town. They come in to our shops and restaurants, let their children be unruly, and then are rude to the staff. After which, they slap their money down, expecting to buy our respect,” she says.Also, there’s some sort of quarrel about population. “In such a crowded world we all need to get along with our neighbors,” writes the part-timer from Calgary. “The last I heard we all had the freedom to live, play and pray wherever we chose in Canada.”Responded the local, “You choose to live in a crowded city; we choose to live in a small, quiet town.”

Whistler’s municipal government has gone on the record opposing a proposed resort called Garibaldi at Squamish. Located about 37 miles west of Whistler, Squamish is not quite halfway to Vancouver.Garibaldi plans two golf courses and enough skiing infrastructure to accommodate 15,000 skiers at one time. As well, the resort plans call for 5,700 housing units.A letter from Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed calls it a real estate grab under the auspices of a resort development. The letter also cited concerns about climate change making the resort untenable.The core criticism is that Garibaldi will steal customers from Whistler and other existing resorts in British Columbia. The letter asks for evidence that the new resort could get new customers.Mike Esler, the president of Garibaldi, told Pique Newsmagazine that the resort believes it can harvest new skiers, especially as the provincial government invests in tourism infrastructure as part of its goal of doubling tourism by 2015.”Clustering of resorts, he says, “creates an environment where competing ski resorts have to re-invest back in their development. It attracts more skiers to the area because they’ve got more choices, so usually everybody benefits from competition,” he said.”But can I say unequivocally that we won’t be biting into Whistler’s market share? I don’t know.”

When the world’s sporting press arrives at Whistler for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the reporters and photographers may well ride on buses powered with hydrogen fuel cells. A contract to build 20 of the low-floor buses at more than $2 million each – more than four times that of regular diesel buses – has been awarded to a firm in Winnipeg.This will be the largest hydrogen-powered bus fleet in the world. Making it possible is a hydrogen fueling station. A hydrogen-carrying pipeline has been built from Vancouver. The provincial government, following the lead of California, has been pushing hydrogen as the fuel of the future, explains Pique Newsmagazine. Proponents note that hydrogen fuel cells are twice as efficient as internal combustion engines and produce no tailpipe emissions.But detractors take issue with the claim that hydrogen produces no greenhouse gas emissions. The simple fact is that hydrogen fuel currently is created from other energy sources, such as by burning natural gas. This is similar to corn-based ethanol, which needs large amounts of fossil fuels for the production of corn.This potential duplicity was mentioned in a letter by Inge Flanagan published in Pique. If a local community is spared the toxic fumes, they are instead “produced in some rural location but are still going into this one small planet’s atmosphere.”He added tartly: “If Whistler is what Green looks like, I want to be able to stick my head between my knees and kiss my ass good-bye …”

Whistler’s firefighters continue to find marginal living quarters situated within houses and condominiums. The most recent news is of six illegal crawl spaces in a complex called Nordic Estates. In one unit, built in the attic above a condominium bathroom, the ceiling was only three feet high. However, nothing has been found of late that rivals the discovery of five years ago. Then, a home was found to have 80 beds, 24 of them in the attic.

The Wood River Valley had quite a lightning storm recently, with 218 lightning strikes within a 15-minute span just before noon.The bolts caused several small fires, such as one that covered 15 acres of sagebrush and grass. No structures were consumed by the fires, nor were there any injuries reported, although the pyrotechnic display was described by the Idaho Mountain Express as a “dangerous spectacle.”

Jackson town officials have committed to buying renewable energy for the next five years to satisfy all of the town’s electrical needs. The renewable energy, which comes from a nearby hydroelectric dam, will cost the town $45,000 more than electricity created by burning coal and other fossil fuels. However, town officials believe stepped-up efficiencies in electrical use, such as retrofitting lighting fixtures, will offset that extra cost. The town is currently using 8.5 to 9 million kilowatt hours annually, notes the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Recriminations continue in the case of a ski resort in Park City where two big-league developers, Vail Resorts and Talisker Corp., are legally jousting for The Canyons. The current owner of the ski area is American Skiing, the skiing chain that at one time owned resorts from Appalachia to the Sierra Nevada. The company was always on shaky ground, despite the success of individual resorts such as Steamboat. Now, with sale of The Canyons, the company will be no more.Vail Resorts bid $95 million for it, but Talisker – which is developing real estate at Deer Valley, another ski area at Park City – bid $100 million, the bid awarded by American Skiing. Vail Resorts has sued, and announced belatedly that it was offering $110 million.”Disingenuous,” responded Steve Gruber, chairman of the board for American Skiing, in a letter obtained by The Park Record. He claims Vail Resorts manipulated journalists.Complicating the story are two other players, who are also involved in lawsuits. One of those protagonists owns a portion of the land used by The Canyons.

Bear activists are condemning the killing of a 660-pound bear shot by police. Police had been summoned to a house at about 5:30 a.m. by a family, which had taken refuge in a bedroom. Once a cop arrived, he opened the garage door to provide an escape route for the bear. However, when the police sergeant looked through the dining room window, the bear growled and charged. The cop shot the bear with a shotgun. The wounded bear was later found under the deck of a nearby home. The Tahoe Daily Tribune explains that police rousted the bear from the hiding place, and then shot it.”That officer obviously completely overreacted to the situation — he should have stepped out of the way and let (the bear) go by … (the bear) was scared, that’s all,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the Lake Tahoe-based BEAR League.She also says the family never should have locked itself in a bedroom. “The thing that gets me is the family was too afraid to approach the bear – they were scared, so they hid in the bedroom … That’s why this bear was needlessly shot, because the family was too afraid to yell at the bear to ‘get out’ and stand their territory.”A police commander, Steve Kelly, told the Daily Tribune that it’s possible the officer blocked the bear’s escape route. “But I don’t expect in those close quarters for (the officer) to take a moment and think about what the bear was doing, if it wanted to hug him or what.”He added: “When you’ve got a VW Bug with fur coming at you, your heart’s going to beat a bit faster. And really, all (the cop) had was a heartbeat to make a decision.”

Mountain resort towns are famously self-preoccupied, worried about the good life dissipating into some form of purgatory.This anguished fretting is clearly evident in Steamboat Springs, which is girding for major changes. Massive amounts of money are to be invested in base area redevelopment. The old main street, Lincoln Avenue, is also changing rapidly.That this was going to someday happen was clear enough 10 and even 20 years ago. At some point, baby boomers were going to have lots of money, and they would want to spend it in places away from cities but with good restaurants, bike paths and other amenities. The New York Times, in a recent front-page story, examined a corollary shift, that of the so-called lone eagles settling into mountain resort towns of the West. It used Steamboat as its focal point.Also on Monday, Steamboat hosted a session about the dynamics of growth in resort communities. Among those speaking was Terry Minger, who was Vail’s second town manager, from 1968 to 1979.Minger told the Steamboat Pilot & Today that he is not offended by fears in Steamboat that it will become like Vail. There are fair criticisms of the growth of Vail, and that both Aspen and Vail failed to address community housing and transportation soon enough.But he said that as Steamboat grows, it is crucial that the community articulate its desires. Too often, he said, communities get stuck on seeing what they don’t want to be, without articulating what they want to be.He sees a fine future for Steamboat. “This hand-wringing is a healthy sign,” said Minger, who also had a hand in developing Whistler and now is involved in development of a major project in Canmore, also in B.C.But he doesn’t detect the same level of zeal in Vail, and that worries him. Vail, he explained, has too large a proportion of the population who don’t stay long, or don’t vote because they are only temporary residents. “You erode your democracy a little bit,” Minger said. “I worry about Vail.”Minger said Steamboat will fail only if it lets growth run rampant or tries to shut off growth entirely.

Although adults typically get accustomed to the thinner air found at higher elevations, it’s sometimes a problem with babies.Babies carried in wombs by mothers living at higher elevation have typically lower weight at birth. On average, every 3,300 feet of elevation gained reduces birth weight by about 3.5 ounces, according to a 1997 study. Dr. Chris Ebert-Santos told the Summit Daily News that most newborns she helps deliver in Summit County arrive at 6 pounds, instead of the national average of 7 to 8 pounds.It’s not that the babies are born prematurely. Rather, it’s just that the fetuses grow more slowly, said Lorna Moore, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center. “The reason that babies grow more slowly, we think, is that there is less oxygen available in utero,” she told the Daily News.The thin air of Summit County, where elevations of towns range from 8,750 to 10,400 feet, also presents problems for some, but not all, babies after birth. Sometimes within two weeks the baby’s oxygen saturation begins to dip, requiring supplemental oxygen.Even with this supplemental oxygen, some babies do not make the transition. The Summit Daily tells of a couple in Breckenridge, whose baby had an oxygen saturation of 73 percent two months after birth. The normal for babies is 89 to 93. The couple sold their house and moved to Minnesota, where the baby immediately had oxygen levels of 97 to 99 percent.

It was 22 years ago this November that high-speed detachable quad lifts debuted at Vail. Very few of the now old-fashioned fixed-grip lifts remain on the mountain, but one of those is Chair 5, located in Vail’s signature Back Bowls.Lift lines there can be extraordinary on powder days. There has always been some grousing about the 45-minute waits. But others see the lift lines as an acceptable trade-off. Without them, the powder just gets skied off that much sooner.”There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time on a chairlift to meet your neighbor,” says Howard Leavitt, a 32-year resident of the Vail area. “People are just so into instant gratification. That’s not what the sport is all about.”But Vail Associates, the ski area operator, has now decided it’s time for change. The Vail Daily says the company hopes to get the old three-seater changed out with a four-seater quad within one to three years.The newspaper reports that in the decade ahead, the ski company also plans a 500-seat fine-dining restaurant atop Vail Mountain, yet another lift in the Back Bowls, and a replacement of that original quad lift from Vail Village that was installed 22 years ago this summer.Also planned is a new gondola, to service a new base area real estate development that is being called Ever Vail. Obviously, Vail isn’t sitting still.

To the surprise of exactly nobody, the Telluride Town Council has passed, on second reading, an ordinance calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.At issue was the question of whether the council would adopt the ordinance that had been submitted to it or send it to voters for resolution. That is the mechanism stipulated by the town charter. The general thinking was that the outcome was a foregone conclusion anyway, and in the meantime Telluride would have to endure the abuse of the Bush supporters.Even one of the more conservative council members, Stu Fraser, said he was infuriated by the name-calling and threats against Telluride posted on the town’s website.