Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Operators of Crested Butte Mountain Resort may be fined up to $67,500 in connection with the death this winter of a snow groomer who was run over and crushed by his own machine.The report claims the snowcat that Chris Mikesell, 23, was operating had safety switches that were bypassed. “These switches were designed to automatically activate brakes if a shut door opened, or the armrest was pulled up,” said the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. John Healey, an OSHA area director, told the Crested Butte News that other equipment at the resort was similarly altered.Randy Barrett, general manager of Crested Butte, said the company disagrees that that the violation was willful.

Work is beginning in the $23 million redevelopment of the base area at the Steamboat ski area. The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports work this year will include one new traffic roundabout and preparation in other public areas for even more significant work in coming years. The basic infrastructure being replaced was installed in the early 1970s.Meanwhile, in Granby, town trustees have approved a $5 million redevelopment of the base lodge at the SolVista ski area. Almost singular among Colorado ski areas, SolVista is entirely on private land. The ski area also serves a real-estate development called Granby Ranch, which has been approved for 4,000 residential units.

Snow was scarce at Sun Valley this year, just 144 inches for the season, less than half that of the previous year. Skier visits were also down, only 362,000, the lowest during the last 12 years. But the Sun Valley Co. reported occupancy rates as good as last year. Does that gap represent how much less locals were skiing?Always there’s a silver lining. In this case, Tad Roberts, who supervises the halfpipe and terrain parks on Baldy Mountain, reported that less snow was more. Instead of having to blow the fresh snow out of the flats of the pipe, he told the Idaho Mountain Express, the runs were fast nearly all year.

Increasing numbers of illegal immigrants have been seeking aid in filing federal income taxes in Jackson Hole.The number of people assisted by the Latino Resource Center has jumped from 89 people four years ago to 310 people by late March of this year. About half are illegal immigrants, mostly Latino.Jen Solis, of the Resource Center, explained that most people seeking help have already had taxes withdrawn from their paychecks. As such, they hope to get refunds.Interviews with some of the immigrants by the Jackson Hole News&Guide also established a longer term motive for filing. Even if they have become employed using fraudulent Social Security numbers, they must establish a legitimate taxpayer identification number. And that establishes with the government a history of paying taxes and filing tax records. Or, as one immigrant told the newspaper, “I want to be legal.” Some parents also said they want to lay the groundwork for the legality of their childrenSome 15 percent of the population in Teton County is Latino, and nearly all are immigrants, mostly from Mexico, particularly the state of Tiaxcala.The proportions are the same in bedroom communities for Jackson Hole, located in Idaho’s Teton County, although the absolute numbers are less than half. In both cases, it’s unknown how many are illegal residents.

This summer is lining up as a memorable construction season in Telluride and, to an even greater extent, at the slopeside town of Mountain Village. More than a million square feet of building is planned, not counting a 300,000-square-foot addition to an existing hotel called the Peaks.The Telluride Watch suggests that even more impressive than what goes up is what goes down. At one 47-unit high-end housing highway, a hole 70 feet deep will be cut into the mountainside. At another project, the parking garage will require five months of excavation and shoring before actual building begins.Much of the excavated dirt and rock will be trucked 20 to 30 miles away, says the newspaper, turning the two-lane nicknamed the San Juan Skyway into the San Yawn Dirtway for commuters.

Can a town of 5,000 and still rapidly growing retain its small-town atmosphere? That’s the essential question being asked in Eagle, located 30 miles west of Vail.The town’s population has been growing at up to 20 percent annually this century. Not so for tax revenues. Town voters rejected a Costco that was instead allowed into the adjacent town of Gypsum. But to get to the Costco, many people drive through Eagle, congesting the roads.The town is reviewing another proposal for a new shopping district in what is now an alfalfa pasture along Interstate 70. Called Eagle River Station, the proposed development would create an outdoor mall-type cluster of stores with architecture that mimics the Victorian street fronts found in old Colorado mining towns. Two opposing groups have formed. One group, formed by two new residents, argues that the town needs to better accept growth and channel it. The second group also professes to understand the need for economic development, but the group’s mission seems to be guided by a fear of loss.”Eagle has existed for more than 100 years, and it will exist for another 100 years,” writes Julia Denault Parker, a resident of the Eagle Valley for 28 years. “Our goal should be to maintain the typical ‘small town in America’ feel that we have today.” Those who feel they need to shop, she writes in the Eagle Valley Enterprise, should drive to other towns.

Banff town officials have wondered whether chain stores should be limited. A study commissioned by the town suggests that no, as long as there is a good balance between chain and independent retailers.Independent retailers provide the uniqueness expected by visitors, and can experiment with products and services that chains find too risky. On the other hand, chains have the name recognition and customer loyalty.The study notes that several communities in the United States have taken action to control retail chains in order to protect unique character. In California, these include the Napa Valley and San Francisco’s North Beach; and in Massachusetts, Cape Cod. Even so, said Randall McKay, Banff’s planning and development manager, San Francisco has struggled with finding the balance of how many is too many, and also what constitutes a chain.Some U.S. jurisdictions have local ordinances restricting chains in certain store categories from operating in tourist areas. The authors of the study say the limited powers granted to municipalities in Canada make this strategy difficult to implement. They suggest zoning bylaws, design guidelines and size restrictions can help ensure that chains, if allowed to operate, do so in ways sympathetic to the theme of the tourist area.

Collection bins for recycling and safe disposal of electronic products like phones, computers and televisions are being set up in Whistler. The bins are part of a collection system set up along the Sea to Sky Corridor from Vancouver.Electronic waste is a growing problem for several reasons. Such products as cell phones require many metals. Products discarded in ordinary landfills can also cause pollution of groundwater. And some products such as monitors can be shipped to China and other countries, where they are disassembled by people with inadequate tools and training, resulting in health and environmental problems. Although Canada has no standards governing e-waste, the proprietor of this business told Pique that his central facility downvalley from Whistler, at the town of Squamish, has been designed to meet European standards.

Scientists have found 13 new species of tree-dwelling lichens in the Incomappleux Valley, located 160 kilometers southeast of Revelstoke.Why does it matter, asked the Revelstoke Times Review. “I’ve had a hard time explaining the answer to those kinds of questions,” responded Trevor Groward, a lichenologist. “Value and utility,” he explained, “are things that evolves over time.”The Times Review reports that the lichen were found near a heavily logged area. “It is urgent to stop logging any old-growth over 140 years old,” said Craig Pettit of the Valhalla Wilderness Society.

In 1998, Parks Canada ruled that a growth cap would be enacted for the town of Banff, an inholding within Banff National Park, allowing only 350,000 square feet of additional commercial space. Town officials gave out the space on a random basis, but only one-third has been built. Those with allotments have five years to build or else they lose the space.Banff since then has looked at various resort communities that have similar growth caps. Most notable is Carmel-by-the-Sea, Clint Eastwood’s getaway in California. But a new study commissioned by town officials says the growth cap was flawed, in that it failed to distinguish between commercial uses that help make Banff more of a magnet to visitors, and commercial space that would support existing residents.The study, by urbanMetrics inc., a Toronto-based real-estate consulting firm, compared Banff’s commercial structure to those in neighboring Canmore, located 15 miles downvalley and outside the park, and also those of Whistler and Aspen. Commercial rent in Banff ranges from $85 to $110 per square foot, compared to $85 to $95 in Whistler and $22 to $25 in Canmore.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at

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