Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Allen Best

Lance Armstrong made his name on skinny tires, not fat ones. Still, there is only one Lance Armstrong, and so the atmosphere this year at the Leadville 100 a fat tire race was electrified with Armstrong competing.The course demands Herculean efforts. As the name suggests, it covers 100 miles, with 14,000 feet of climbing, topping out at 12,600 feet.As well, there can be special challenges peculiar to Leadville, a one-time mining town set to resume its mining ways in another year or two. Lycra will never replace denim as the fabric of choice, observes the Gunnison Country Times in its report of the race.For example, one rider said he had to yoo-hoo to get past an oblivious woman driving a pickup truck down the middle of the road, a cigarette dangling out of the window. That same racer was chased by dogs down a hill near the finish.Then there was Armstrong. One competitor, Crested Buttes Ethan Passant, with outstanding accomplishments in long distances in his own right, found himself in an unusual position at one point. I looked back and said, Holy $***, Lance Armstrong is on my wheel, drafting off of me, he said.It came down to Armstrong and David Wiens, a Gunnison resident who had previously won the race five times all after supposedly retiring from racing.In the end, Armstrong conceded the race, and Wiens eased away to a win, despite a flattening rear tire that held only 10 pounds per square inch of air as he squished across the finish line in a record 6 hours and 45 minutes.

Blowing through a stop sign while riding a bicycle is costing riders money this summer in Jackson. The local police department has ramped up enforcement of the laws. The Jackson Hole News&Guide says 40 percent of cases in traffic court on a recent day were riders charged with failure to stop at stop signs.The warnings werent working, said Alan Johnson, a police officer, who is leading the charge. The fine is $100, plus $35 tuition for an eight-hour traffic school.Johnson, who is a cyclist himself, says he gives riders the benefit of a doubt. If somebody gives a worthwhile attempt to stop and look both ways, theyre good, he said. If they dont even come close to stopping and they just look around and go, theyll get a ticket.The newspaper says Jackson Hole has considerable annoyance with bicycle riders. Four of five people in a recent poll said they found riders more aggravating than either mosquitoes or the smoke from forest fires.

With its mountainous background, Denver would likely be the first guess of many people if asked to name the state capital with the highest elevation. It is, after all, the Mile High City.In fact, Wyomings state capitol in Cheyenne is higher, and highest of all is the elevation of Santa Fe, the capital city of New Mexico, which is 6,989 feet. Only a few feet lower is nearby Taos, which now has several farmers who are growing hops, the substance that gives beer its pleasantly bitter taste.Organic farmers Todd Bates and Steve Johnson have bred wild varieties of hops. The climate of northern New Mexicos higher elevations may be an issue, but the growers have high hopes.They said that they wouldnt grow organically at altitude, Bates told The Taos News. But anywhere apples grow, hops grow. And weve got some pretty good organic apples around here.

As happened in Vail and Aspen before them, people in Crested Butte this summer are learning the difference between wildlife-resistant trash containers and those that are wildlife-proof.The short answer is that it takes a lot of steel to secure trash from the five bears that are believed to be causing all the ruckus. It helps, however, if the lids are latched shut.The so-called Bear Smart trash bins have been ripped open by hungry bears.The key word is resistant, said Tom Martin, the police chief, speaking of the trash containers.But at nearby Mount Crested Butte, even heavy metal hasnt entirely succeeded in preventing the more clever and powerful of the bears determined to get into Dumpsters, officials tell the Crested Butte News.

Tourism leaders in Ketchum and Sun Valley are hoping to steel themselves from a downturn in the airline industry. A business group called Fly Sun Valley Alliance is hoping to raise $150,000 to $200,000 to post revenue guarantees for flights from Los Angeles.Such revenue guarantees are common for direct flights to ski-valley airports. The alliance members, reports the Idaho Mountain Express, also hope to get an Idaho law revised that will allow them to pass a local sales tax to permanently provide an income source for revenue guarantees. Steamboat, Crested Butte, and Telluride already have such dedicated revenue sources.

Melissa Lafreniere is a professor from Ontario. Among her specialties is the effect of climate change on the crysophere, the worlds places of snow and ice. She has conducted research in the Arctic, but this summer was in the Canadian Rockies south of Banff, on Robertson Glacier.Lafreniere told the Rocky Mountain Outlook she was trying to understand how much nutrient gets deposited by snow and rain, and to determine how much is natural and how much is caused by humans, a process called anthropogenic.She was part of a larger team, including scientists from Montana State University, in Bozeman, studying how the changing climate is impacting glaciers beyond the obvious recessions of ice.What Lafreniere has come to understand more thoroughly through the years is how completely the fingerprints of people can be found, even in seemingly remote and pristine places.Nothing is pristine anymore not in the high alpine, not in the high Arctic, she told the Outlook. What goes up must come down, she added, referring to pollution released into the sky.

Virtually every mountain resort town is trying harder in what amounts to a game of trying to peel away cash from tourists. In most cases, this results in a hawk-like preoccupation with sales tax collections.But in Whistler, Irene Whitney says that the man-made environment is in danger of gutting the reason for Whistler.You see, every time we build more stuff in this valley, we break one more link in our connection to the natural environment. And that scares me, she tells Michael Beaudry of Pique Newsmagazine.Lets remember where we thought we wanted to go, she added. People originally moved to this place for a very specific lifestyle. We didnt have a lot of structure, but we had a great community. Now, it seems, its getting to be more about financial gain than quality of life.Whistler, she said, isnt about building more shopping malls. Its about providing unforgettable mountain experiences.In that same regard, local Intrawest official Dave Brownlie recently said he sees cause for optimism in the hiring away of Bill Jensen from Vail to direct Intrawest operations. It only confirms for me that the mountain resort business is back in the forefront where it belongs, he said.

The U.S. Forest Service has already burned through its firefighting budget for the year, putting the squeeze on local operations. For the Durango-Silverton area, that means $800,000 has been trimmed from the budget, reports the Durango Telegraph.In California, the Los Angeles Times recently took a hard look at the escalating cost of fighting fires, which last year cost the Forest Service $1.37 billion – more than four times the cost of a decade before.The fires are a result of drought and past policies that stamped out all fires, delaying the inevitable. The result is fires that every year linger more persistently, the newspaper says. Stephen J. Pyne, the nations preeminent fire historian, calls it ecological insurgency.Also increasing costs of firefighting is the steady encroachment of homes into forested areas.The Times examined a fire last year near Santa Barbara, Calif., that burned for nearly three months. In that time the Forest Service spent $140 million. Fighting fires has become big business, often leaving a large trail of money in local stores. Roughly 60 percent of the Forest Services wildfire expenditures last year went to the private sector.Fire is becoming a kind of cash crop, said Preston Wright, 50, a Nevada rancher. When the firefighters show up, there are dollars along with them.For example, one firm, called For Stars Catering, grossed $4.7 million from the California fire last year. Fire crews scrubbed down in 12-stall shower trailers that cost $2,100 a day. A $400-an-hour mobile laundry washed the sooty clothes of firefighters.Fire, says the newspaper, is chewing through so much Forest Service money that the U.S. Congress is considering a separate federal account to cover the cost of catastrophic blazes.

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