Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

There is no such thing as free parking. It’s just a matter of who pays for it.

That was the message in Mammoth Lakes from Jason Shrieber, a transportation expert with Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates. The community there is looking at its mobility options as it becomes more densely redeveloped and also more affluent.

Automobiles are commonly subsidized, but subsidizing mass transit may well be less costly, he said. At Stanford University, officials estimated that each parking space built to accommodate commuting employees costs $156 per month. Parking passes were being sold for $8 a month.

Instead, the university decided to pay $2 per day for use of public transportation by each employee. That subsidy works out to about $40 per month, as compared to $148 a month per car.

Logging companies see a silver lining in global warming. If accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a truly serious problem, they say, then efforts to keep forests young and gulping in carbon should be rewarded. That would mean frequent cuttings, or what the industry calls intensive forest management.

That’s the gist of a four-year study produced on behalf of Sierra Pacific Industries, which owns 1.6 million acres of forests in California. The study, reports the Amador Ledger Dispatch, claims that California forests are “undermanaged” with the result of unnaturally large buildup in the forests.

“By following intensive management practices to harvest and replant most of our lands over the course of 80 to 100 years, we found we can actually increase the ability of our forests to store carbon by about 150 percent,” said Cajun James, the company’s research and monitoring manager.

The study examined four scenarios and found that the intensive model ” harvesting and replanting about 1.25 percent of forest lands each year ” was the most successful in sequestering carbon.

Environmental groups think the science justifying these conclusions is sloppy at best. Chris Wright, executive director of the Foothills Conservancy, said the study only concentrates on carbon in trees, and overlooks how much carbon is emitted into the atmosphere while transporting workers, harvesting the wood and hauling the felled trees.

A group called ForestWatch, which produced its own study, asks builders to steer clear of Sierra Pacific Industry products until the company reforms its forest management polices. The company last year paid a fine of $13 million for falsifying emission reports and tampering with monitoring equipment.

“The bottom line is that it is a flawed study and a transparent effort by SPI to justify its economically, socially and environmentally unsustainable clearcutting timber practices,” said Wright.

Plans for alpine slides at both the Beaver Creek and Vail ski areas are on hold.

The slide at Beaver Creek, proposed by resort operator Vail Resorts, has been blocked by homeowners, who say the noise and appearance are inappropriate for the resort.

An alpine coaster on Vail Mountain is on the back burner with the U.S. Forest Service as agency employees first pay attention to proposals for new chairlifts and snowmaking. That coaster would have steel rails that carry two-person sleds on a 3,000-foot track at Adventure Ridge, the mountain-top entertainment complex. Night-tubing and other amusements are also offered at the center, which is located at the top of the gondola.

The Vail plan is something of a low-level battleground for competing ideologies about how public lands should be used. Colorado Wild, an activist group, objects to the coaster as an “urban-type recreation.”

Colorado Ski Country USA, the trade group of which Vail Resorts is a dominant member, argues that the coaster “will appeal to a broader, youthful population and get more kids ‘in the woods,'” a reference to the book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”

The bears are out. And so are Eagle County officials, teaching people how to be bear aware.

A law passed by Eagle County last year specifies that people outside of Vail and other towns must have wildlife-resistant garbage containers; if they use large Dumpster-type receptacles, they must be wildlife-proof.

What’s the difference between wildlife-resistant and wildlife-proof? According to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, wildlife-resistant containers need to keep bears at bay for 90 minutes. A wildlife-proof container typically has more heavy metal and will frustrate a bear for even longer.

Vail has its own, even more demanding ordinance, as does Beaver Creek.

Vail Resorts has launched an effort to reduce energy use by 10 percent during the next two years at its ski areas, hotels, restaurants and other operations. CEO Rob Katz calls it an “energy layoff”; he predicts it will become the norm for businesses that want to stay profitable and environmentally sustainable.

The company last November launched an energy belt-tightening program called “Use Less. Do More.” But a broader, more urgent program was necessitated by what Katz called “a perfect storm, so to speak.” He cited a trio of reasons: the slowed economy, the rising price of oil, and the continued need to reduce global-warming carbon emissions.

“Now, when you waste energy, you are not only impacting the environment and squandering resources, but you are literally burning huge amounts of energy,” said Katz in a memo distributed to employees recently. He said Vail spends more than $25 million on gasoline, electricity and other forms of energy.

Without mentioning climate change specifically, Katz also made it clear that energy use is an environmental, as well as economic issue. “For a growing number of us, when we see energy being wasted, we see the environment being damaged,” he said.

The company owns four ski areas in Colorado and one in California, plus dozens of hotels, stores and other operations.

Katz called for the company to reduce energy use by 5 percent during fiscal year 2009, and another 5 percent the following year.

“Everything is on the table,” he wrote. He said that many day-to-day practices were instituted when gasoline cost 90 cents a gallon. As well, the increased fuel costs may justify different investments. “With oil over $130 per barrel, projects that may have been ‘iffy’ before may be very compelling today,” he said in the memo.

One of the most costly aspects of operating ski areas energy-wise is in snowmaking and snowgrooming. Some have even suggested that ski areas need to cease shooting for Thanksgiving openings.