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Mountain Town News

Compiled by Allen BestAspen Times WeeklyAspen, CO Colorado

Although carpenters in many places have hung up their hammer guns for the time being, not so in Ouray. The town, located on the northern flanks of the San Juans, near Telluride, is holding steady in terms of new construction, reports the Ouray Watch.Still, asking prices for real estate are dropping discernibly. The towns famous Beaumont Hotel, restored to its original Victorian splendor in recent years, is on the sales block. The price has dropped from $8 million to $3.2 million in recent months.Downvalley at Ridgway, the developer of a hotel that will create artificial hot springs vows to break ground this summer, but nonetheless found financing of his venture to be very challenging.

The home fires are getting more expensive from Colorado to British Columbia.In Colorado, the story is a newly completed pipeline that starts in the natural gas fields about 90 miles southwest of Steamboat Springs. The Rockies Express Pipeline has reached Missouri, and might yet be extended to Pennsylvania.This will lower prices for natural gas in the Midwest and increase it in the Rockies. The Steamboat Pilot & Today gives a report from its neighborhood: The cost was $5.50 per million British thermal units (Btus) of heat last September; now, its at $13 per million Btus. Further increases are expected this winter.Prices are rising in British Columbia, too. There, propane for the typical Whistler home is expected to rise $323 per year, reports Pique newsmagazine. A similar increase of 17 percent also has been approved for customers in Revelstoke.A carbon tax set to take effect July 1 in British Columbia will further increase heating and transportation costs. That carbon tax is being applied to all fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel and natural gas. The tax begins at a rate of $10 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions and will rise $5 per year for the next four years. What this means for a typical home in the Vancouver area is $50 more this year to the heating bill, and $140 per year by the year 2012, reports the Revelstoke Times-Review.The tax is being levied with the goal of encouraging conservation and efficiency, with the ultimate goal being the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Residents and visitors at Banff have been warned to be on the lookout for cougars in the wake of several recent sightings.Recently, a man was on his stomach taking photos of wildflowers when a cougar approached to within 20 feet. The cougar was believed to be merely curious, and not hungry, and soon fled, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook.This guy acted aggressively, throwing some sticks at the cougar, and thats the proper approach, said Ron LeBlanc, Banff Park warden. If you encounter a cougar at short range, pick up small children and pets. Whatever you do, dont play dead, crouch down, or run.



Moose are becoming more common in Summit County. The Summit Daily News says an increased number of sightings has caused state wildlife biologists to warn that moose, if curious looking, also can be dangerous.Moose are not aggressive, but will charge humans to defend their turf and offspring, Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton told the newspaper.Moose were not unknown in Colorado during Euro settlement in the mid-19th century, as they wandered in occasionally from Utah and Wyoming, but there was not a breeding population. Moose were transplanted beginning in 1978 to North Park, about 50 miles from Frisco and later near Creede, in the San Juan Mountains. Populations have continued to expand, despite hunting and occasional deaths on highways.

The California Supreme Court ruling that allows same-sex marriages may revive the faltering wedding industry at Lake Tahoe. The Sierra Sun says that 10 same-sex couples have secured marriage licenses in Nevada County, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.PlumpJack Inn, located at Squaw Valley, hosted a same-sex wedding ceremony several years ago, and sales director Rob McCormick said the inn welcomes gay and lesbian nuptials with open arms. The inn is partly owned by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.Things have been slowing down in the Tahoe wedding industry over the last two years, said Alice Ross, a North Lake Tahoe wedding minister who agreed to officiate same-sex marriages in Nevada County. The wedding industry is not what it used to be, and I imagine this would help.



The new trophy home, proclaimed The New York Times, is small and ecological. The newspaper tells the story from Venice, Calif., and cites one woman who says that something energy-conscious doesnt have to look as if you got it off the bottom shelf of a health-food store.But not just any green house will do. The Times also explains that certification by LEED an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the new hot designer label, kind of like driving a Prius.There are four levels of LEED certification: basic, silver, gold and, at the highest level, platinum. So far this year, 10,250 new home projects have registered for one of these levels of LEED certification, more than triple from 2006, the first year of the pilot home-rating system, says the Times.Bearing testimony to this trend is a report in the Vail Daily of a new lifestyle residential complex in Gypsum, between Vail and Glenwood Springs. There, the developer of a project called Sky Legend has homes of up to 4,500 square feet.But the firm, ASW Realty Partners, also is building smaller homes, most between 1,700 and 2,500 square feet. So far, eight homes are certified to the silver level of LEED. In all, about half of the 247 units planned at Sky Legend may be LEED certified.Not everyone is a fan of LEED certification. The Aspen Skiing Co. used the LEED certification process for its projects several years ago, but found a Soviet-style bureaucracy, to use the phrase of Auden Schendler, the companys executive director for environmental and community responsibility. Using a more modern metaphor, energy activist Randy Udall of Carbondale, downvalley from Aspen, calls the review process an Abu Ghraib.The U.S. Green Building Council, progenitor of the LEED certification, claims it has made the certification process easier. But it remains expensive for a large structure, which is why the Eagle County School District decided to forego LEED certification for its replacement of Battle Mountain High School.Instead, the LEED checklist will be used as a guide, to achieve the same results, claims John Fuentes, an architect with H + L Architecture. He says that avoiding certification will save the school district tens of thousands of dollars.The Vail Daily reports the new school, to be completed a year from October, will be naturally lit, meaning light from the outdoors will be telescoped into classrooms. It is likely that no lightbulbs will be needed until sunset, said Fuentes.Air conditioning will be installed in the computer rooms and administration offices. Also to cut down on electrical use, rooms will be fitted with occupancy sensors, meaning that when no one is in the room, any lit lightbulbs will go off.

The Vail area once again has two daily newspapers. The Vail Mountaineer debuted recently as an eight-page tabloid and is scheduled to publish five days a week. The initial press run was 8,000. It, like its competitor, actually is not in Vail, but 10 miles downvalley at Edwards.The new newspaper is owned by Jim Pavelich. In 1981, then an accountant and bartender, he co-founded the Vail Daily as a one-page photocopied newspaper distributed to bars and restaurants. He later created the Summit Daily News. In 1993, by then sole owner, he sold the newspapers for more than $6 million.After that, he partnered with former Aspen newspaperman Dave Price to found a similar free-distribution daily newspaper in the San Francisco area. Price says that he and Pavelich were treated like Hare Krishnas handing out flowers at an airport; people hadnt seen free newspapers before.But although starting out humble, with a staff of three and a circulation of 3,000, The Palo Alto Daily News had blossomed after a decade to a circulation of 66,000 and a staff (including part-timers) of more than 100. Also, it led to many other free-circulation newspapers in the Bay Area.Seemingly less successful, but still surviving, is a daily newspaper in Denver.While Pavelich vows good journalism in his new paper, hes better known for his deal-making in advertising. Out of the chutes, hes offering quarter-page rates of $90 for advertisers who run five days a week. That compares with the Vail Dailys rates of more than $200 for similar space.In an argument in the inaugural issue of the Vail Mountaineer, Price makes the argument that newspapers have been prematurely pronounced dead because of competition from the Internet.But think about the Internet for a moment, writes Price. A newspaper ad can reach tens of thousands of people within a specific geographic area. To reach those same people online, youd have to buy ads on hundreds if not thousands of different websites. How much would that cost? Yet one newspaper ad could reach all of those people at a very affordable cost. Newspapers have an incredible advantage over the Internet that isnt going away. Given this flaw in Internet advertising, newspapers well-distributed free daily newspapers will be around forever.

allen.best@comcast.net


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