Mountain Town News |

Mountain Town News

Compiled by Allen Best Aspen Times Weekly

Crested Butte officials are reviewing a proposal for a new subdivision of 234 units that has the significant and difficult goal of being carbon neutral. Just how the developers, Ken Hill and Cliff Gross, hope to achieve that isnt entirely clear. Still, the plans clearly represent a different type of housing project than what is commonly seen in ski towns or, for that matter, just about anywhere.For advice, the developers have turned to Dan Richardson, a former city councilman in Glenwood Springs, who later gained broader recognition as the first director of the Canary Initiative, Aspens municipal greenhouse gas-reducing program. He is now an energy consultant in the private sector.Homes in the development are to be closer together, similar to the arrangement of mining towns that preceded many of the ski areas. Walkability will be emphasized, as will energy efficiency. As well, homes are to be situated in ways that best take advantage of solar energy. Also, homes are to be wired in a way to accommodate telecommuting.

For the second time this season, an in-bounds skier has been killed at a ski area. The first, in mid-December, occurred at Utahs Snowbird ski area. Then, two days after Christmas, a 31-year-old skier died after being buried under eight feet of snow at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.Avalanches on ski trails within ski areas are relatively rare, and fatalities resulting from them are even rarer.At Jackson Hole, the slope where the avalanche occurred had just been opened a few hours prior. However, it has been skied quite a bit, resort spokeswoman Anna Olson told the Jackson Hole News&Guide, and other normal precautions had been taken. Those precautions normally include the use of explosives to trigger avalanches.The skier was wearing a transceiver, and so ski patrollers were able to quickly pinpoint the location of his body. Patrollers administered CPR and then a defibrillation device, but without success.The slab avalanche broke a crown six to eight feet deep, patrollers said. Up to 30 inches of snow had fallen on the mountain, with a total snow depth of 138 inches at mid-mountain.On the same day, at about the same time, two snowmobilers were killed by an avalanche in the Rabbit Ears Range west of Grand Lake, Colo. One snowmobiler who was with them was partially buried and was able to dig himself out. When rescue personnel arrived, CPR was being performed on one of the victims.It took rescuers an hour and 45 minutes to find and dig out the second snowmobiler. Both victims, one aged 38 and the other 19, were declared decade at the scene.We hate it when this kind of thing happens, search leader Mark Foley told the Sky-Hi Daily News, but they were in a bad place at a bad time, and they had no beacons [transceivers] on. If they had beacons on, its possible they could have been saved.

The hydrogen-fueled buses that British Columbia intends to roll out for the Winter Olympics in 2010 have passed their tests, including a few stints of 16 consecutive hours of operation. Ultimately there will be 20 hydrogen buses in the fleet, and some of them will begin operations in Whistler as early as August. The fleet will be the largest in the world.Officials tell Pique newsmagazine that the hydrogen buses have more than double the standard internal-combustion engine that burns gasoline and also a longer life expectancy at 20 years.Hydrogen-fueled buses emit no stinky and lung-damaging pollutants. However, there are impacts. To produce hydrogen as a fuel requires burning fossil fuels somewhere. And that, points out John Buchanan, a local environmental activist, means that greenhouse gases are being produced elsewhere.The longer-term hope is that renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar, can be used to produce hydrogen.

Snow arrived late in British Columbia, which meant that the snowmaking guns had to do all the heavy lifting in anticipation of Christmas crowds at the twin ski areas, Whistler and Blackcomb. The two ski areas have a lot of snow guns. When temperatures were opportune early in the winter, they produced the equivalent of a football field of snow up to 44 feet deep. However, snowmaking has a cost, points out Whistlers Pique Newsmagazine. Of all the electricity used during the year at the two ski areas, one-fourth is devoted to making snow.

The school in Silverton- there is just one for the town of 500 people got chilly after the coal-fired boiler cracked in early November.The boiler can still be used, but not sufficiently to warm the building. As a result, electricity-driven space heaters have been used to warm the classrooms. A propane heater keeps the gymnasium at 40 to 50 degrees, reports the Silverton Standard, although water has been turned off there. This makeshift situation will have to make do for the winter, superintendent Kim White says.Silverton was the last public school in the state to burn coal. With a certain amount of irony, Oak Creek, a town located about 20 miles from Steamboat Springs, this past fall replaced its coal-fired boiler with a combination of heating devices for school buildings. The irony lies in the fact that Oak Creek can legitimately claim to be a coal-mining town, as one of Colorados largest mines, Twenty Mile, is located nearby.Last summer, a large geoexchange system was installed, using electricity to help draw heat from pipes coiled in the ground, where the year-round temperature runs 55 to 60 degrees. As well, heat is being drawn from the burning of wood pellets created from lodgepole pine killed by bark beetle.

Gunnison County has now withdrawn from Club 20, the advocacy group for the 20 Western Slope counties in Colorado. County commissioners said they found the groups domination by oil and gas interests unacceptable.This is the third significant dissent within the last year. Art Goodtimes, who represented San Miguel County (Telluride), resigned as an official of the group, citing the same concerns. San Juan County (Silverton) has also withdrawn, and Pitkin County (Aspen) has talked about it.

Eagle town officials have hired an intern for the community development department for six months. The intern, Roman Yavich, is looking into getting energy audits performed for town buildings, the potential for curbside recycling, and the possibility of installing solar panels at the local swimming pool and ice rank, among other tasks.Sustainability is kind of a buzz word, says Yavich, who has a degrees in international economics and finance from the University of Colorado in Boulder. But for me it always deals with the economy, the environment and the community.He added that sustainability is not a state. Rather, it is a process.

Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at

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