Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Allen Best

Backcountry-lite continues to be the theme in ski area expansions. The latest case in point is at Telluride, where the resort is opening an area called Black Iron Bowl. The eight trails will be challenging to ski and modestly challenging to get to, requiring a hike of anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.Included in the new terrain will be the expansive Mountain Quail Couloir, with its European-style faces, open glades and steep chutes, according to a press release issued by the ski area operator.

Miners are still going to work in Park City, but instead of silver, which sustained the city for about 80 years, they’re making sure that water can be extracted from the old Ontario mine, located south of Park City’s original downtown.Instead of extracting ore, the miners are charged with removed debris that stops a steady flow of water, explains The Park Record. Much of Park City’s municipal water supply comes from the mines.

Both chamber and resort officials from Jackson Hole are speaking out against a possible plan to relocate the supervisor’s office for the Bridger-Teton National Forest to outside of Jackson Hole. The Forest Service would like to cash in on the sale of its property located in Jackson. Also, while 50 percent of existing Forest Service employees in Jackson Hole own homes there, the agency is considering the high cost of new homes.The Bridger-Teton National Forest embraces areas far beyond Jackson Hole. “We don’t see any positives of moving that office out of our community,” said Tim O’Donoghue, executive director of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.Lost would be the participation of Forest Service employees in everything from volunteer firefighting to helping the local high school speech and debate team.The big ski area, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, also opposes a move. Resort president Jerry Blann recalled that when he was president of the Aspen Skiing Co. in the 1980s, he found it difficult to work with the forest supervisor, who was located 45 miles away in Glenwood Springs.

Add Jackson Hole to the list of resort-based valleys of the West with growing school enrollment, most notably in the kindergarten class. The 2.4 percent increase is the “largest increase we’ve had in a number of years,” superintendent Pam Shea told the Jackson Hole News&Guide. “It’s definitely racially mixed. It’s not just Hispanic growth.”Increases have also been reported by school districts in the mountain valleys of Colorado, where enrollment was flat or had even declined in the lull after 9/11. The leading theory at the time was that Gen Xers, the leading baby producers, had decamped for cities because of lower living costs. School officials can’t explain the spurt in enrollment, although larger numbers of Gen Y (aka, Generation Next and the Echo Boom generation) are now having babies. And, unlike Gen X, they have numbers similar to those of baby boomers.

A new school, geared toward Latinos and other immigrants who have dropped out of school, opened last week in Gypsum, 37 miles west of Vail. Enrollment at New American is 47, and the school offers everything from language arts to computer courses. Because many of the students are parents, the $200 a month the school provides for day care is a big draw. The school also aims for flexibility, given that most of the students have day jobs.The Vail Daily explains that the students also range broadly in their skills; some know very little English, while others just need some help with writing. Some are U.S. natives, while others recently immigrated.Hispanics (but not necessarily immigrants) now are 25 percent of the population in Eagle and 40 percent in Avon.

August was downright balmy in Summit County. Observations taken at Dillon Reservoir showed an average daily high of 76.5 degrees, fully 4 degrees warmer than the average as defined by records going back to 1909. The average low temperature was only 45 degrees, compared to the norm of 35.8 degrees. The Summit Daily News says it was a wet August, although a drier than average year.

At least for an evening, the Whistler council has sent a development proposal back to the drawing board. Pique reports that councilors minced no words in saying that the project is not “green” enough. Councilors were particularly peeved at the lack of electricity from a renewable source. All this came after hearing a presentation earlier in the day about “Canadian Cities in a Climate of Change.” That presentation, by Peter Busby, the chair of the Canada Green Building Council, argues that cities can set the standards for green building and become the solution for reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Officials are bracing for the advance of bark beetles into the aging forests of Alberta. The interior of British Columbia has been the hardest hit area in North America, owing to the relative homogeneity of forests, both in species type and in elevation.Forestry officials had hoped to conduct a prescribed burn this year on the east side of the Continental Divide. “I don’t pretend for a minute that what we are doing is 100 percent going to stop the pine beetle, but it will buy some time,” said Ted Morton, sustainable resource minister in Alberta.Ron Casey, mayor of Canmore, at the west entrance to Banff National Park, said that between Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore, “the fire risk is almost astronomical.”

Prices of season passes are flying higher along the Interstate 70 corridor in Colorado. The pass offered by Vail Resorts, which offers unlimited skiing at Keystone, Breckenridge and A-Basin, plus 10 days at Vail or Beaver Creek, has increased by 11 percent, while Intrawest’s pass, good at Copper Mountain and Winter Park, increased 11.5 percent.And while The Denver Post found somebody willing to complain, the prices would be the envy of most places. The Vail Resorts pass costs only $419, about half what it would have a decade ago, before Winter Park – taking the cue from Idaho’s Bogus Basin – slashed the price of a pass to $200, precipitating the price war.The Post notes that among the greater beneficiaries of the increased prices are the small operators like Eldora and Loveland, which have few revenue centers other than lift operations. Still, the season pass at Eldora, located west of Boulder, is $86 less than the $475 charged a decade ago.By comparison, says the Post, the cost of a pass is $1,810 at Jackson Hole, $1,799 at Squaw Valley, $1,150 at Park City, and $1,399 at Whistler.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at


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