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Mountain News: A better way to move



ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen and many other ski towns have been wondering how to move people around without the often unwelcome, overbearing presence of sole-occupant cars and trucks. In typical fashion, Aspen is addressing this question head-on with its plans to conduct a mobility lab next summer.

Mobility labs have been done in various other places, although perhaps never in a place as small as Aspen and assuredly never in a place with such unusual economics.

In Aspen, the goal is to provide incentives that would cause people to choose to arrive in Aspen by something other than their own car or truck.

"The lab will focus on high-occupancy vehicles, bicycle and pedestrian services and technologies and strategies to provide alternatives to single-occupant vehicle travel," said Ashley Perl, the climate action manager for the city, in a memo to the city council members last week.

"It will identify which services, technologies and strategies are most beneficial to inform future transportation planning efforts and investments."

The idea was proposed by Mayor Steve Skadron after talking with somebody from the Rocky Mountain Institute, a think tank with national operations that happens to be located near Aspen. The quality of life in Aspen is impaired, he said, by all the automobiles.

To pull this off, Aspen needs to come up with money — lots of it. As it has 50 billionaires who make homes or second homes there or close by, you'd think that perhaps the funding would be easy. But instead, Skadron and Perl have been reaching out to foundations and private companies. They also went to San Francisco in person last week to make their appeals. If they have found receptive audiences, at least as of last week, no checks have been written.

Skadron and others have concluded they can pull off this experiment with a minimum of US$1.5 million. However, a much better test of whether drivers can be induced into alternatives would be possible with a budget of US$7 million. Perl told the Aspen Daily News that the experience of other cities has been that longer is better, even six months being preferred.

Part of the plan is to expand the pedestrian opportunities of Aspen including allocation of increased space for outside dining opportunities. In this sense, Aspen is trying to catch up with Vail — although in Vail, too, there are complaints that cars are over-bearing

In Park City, much the same conversation is underway, but without a mobility lab to test how people can be induced to get out of their individual cars.

"Improving transit to and from Park City is one the biggest issues facing our town, along with growth and affordable housing," said The Park Record in an editorial. The newspaper noted that many residents believe that merely widening the highway — one option of the state transportation agency — will simply invite more congestion.

Last camera shop survives

JACKSON, Wyo. — When Bill Clinton was president, Jackson had seven photo shops — places where you could get film developed, buy a camera, or more. No surprise there, given how many photographs are taken in Jackson Hole and the adjoining national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

But just one camera store remains, and that store, DD Camera Corral, might have disappeared if not for employees, who went searching for a buyer.

"Jackson Hole needs a camera store," store manager Travis Lucas remembers telling William "Dinty" Miller. "People come from around the world to take pictures here. It's crazy to not have a camera store."

Miller, a retired employee of British Petroleum, was persuaded. He already had a camera store in Casper, Wyoming's largest city. If almost nobody still shoots film anymore, he told the Jackson Hole News&Guide, he still sees value in brick-and-mortar locations. "It's still a plus when people can see a bag, can touch it, hold a camera, feel it."

The store will sell cameras and accessories, take passport photographs, and even develop old-fashioned film while printing photographs up to 1.5 metres wide.

Higher tobacco tax considered

BASALT, Colo. – Aspen is raising the age for legal purchase of tobacco to 21, from 19, and will soon be exacting a municipal tax of US$3 on a pack of cigarettes, with increments to eventually raise it to US$4.

At Carl's Pharmacy, on Main Street in Aspen, a pack of cigarettes currently costs US$7.39 or US$8.36, depending on the brand. Come January, the cost will go up to US$10.39 or US$11.36.

Will Basalt, located 29 kilometres downstream from Aspen, be next? That's the desire of one town councilman, Bernie Grauer, and he seems to have backing from fellow council members to put it on the town election ballot in April 2018, the next municipal election.

The desire to discourage smoking, especially by young people, drives Grauer, not the revenue. Tobacco taxes are traditionally levied by state government in Colorado.

"It has been proven repeatedly that, every time tobacco taxes go up, use goes down," he told the Aspen Daily News.

That view is echoed by R.J. Ours, who is the Cancer Action Network's government relations director for Colorado

First Nations propose older names for Banff geography

CANMORE, Alta. — Canmore, at the entrance to Banff National Park, will have a different name if the Alberta Geographical Names Program approves the application of the Stoney Nakoda First Nations.

That new name, said the First Nations,, would be the old name: Chuwapchipchiyan Kude Bi.

And the Bow River, which flows through Banff and Canmore on its way to Calgary, would also have a different name: Ijathibe Wapta or Mini Thni Wapta.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook said that the Stoney Nakoda had claimed the area south of the Bow River and east of the Continental Divide as their traditional territory.

Vertical count still matters for this skier at the age 95

FRISCO, Colo. — Frank Walter retired to Copper Mountain to paint and ski after a career at Chrysler, and he still skis the blues and occasionally an easy black. That's not remarkable, but what is, at the least unusual, is that he's 95.

"My objective is to ski when I am 100," he told the Summit Daily News recently. He began skiing at the age of nine in the family's backyard. His skis consisted of slabs of spare wood with bindings of leather wrapped around them. It wasn't as great a passion then, he said.

His gear has improved. Today, he skis with a vibrant yellow jacket, and it has a number on the back that changes from year to year. This year's No. 95.

He is described as a non-stop blue-runs skier. But what constitutes a good day of skiing has not changed: "How much vertical I get," he said. "And I don't stop except to get on the chair."

Indigestion in at least one ski town about Georgetown prize

PARK CITY, Utah — There's heartburn in the heartland about a US$5 million prize that was to go to the community that came up with the best program to reduce energy consumption. Now, the prize has turned into a loan.

Called the Georgetown University Energy Prize, the idea came from Dr. Francis Slakey, a physics professor. The larger goal of the award, explained Forbes in 2014, when the prize was announced, was to create a meaningful inflection point with respect to the way communities think about and use energy and to produce innovations that could be shared and replicated.

Communities with populations of between 5,000 and 250,000 were eligible. Among the 50 communities chosen to participate were ski towns in the West: Aspen, Colo.; Park City and Summit County, Utah; Jackson and Teton County, Wyo.; and Bend, Ore.

But the contest terms have changed. The prize is now a loan, "to be provided at undisclosed terms by an unknown party and with no guarantee of receipt," wrote Melissa Davis, the manager of the Houghton (Mich.) Energy Efficiency Team, in a report to local officials. She called it a bait-and-switch tactic.

In Utah, Mary Christa Smith, former project manager for Summit County Power Works, the non-profit that spearheaded the local entry, used the phrase "shady scam" in her comments to The Park Record.

Lisa Yoder, Summit County's sustainability coordinator, speculated that maybe the benefactor for the prize backed out. "Who knows what happened. But just convey that," she told the Record.

The Record tried to get an explanation from the Georgetown prize administrators, but with no response.

School districts struggle

TAOS, N.M. — School districts from areas near Taos to Sun Valley are talking about cutting budgets, some more drastic than others.

North of town, at the town of Questa, the school district has a US$20,000 shortfall that had administrators wanting to chase out teachers and all others from buildings by 5 p.m., in order to save on electricity costs. The Taos News reported pushback from teachers, who said that gives them too little time to get their work done of preparing for students.

If Taos has remained reasonably affluent, Questa, where the school in question is located, has struggled in the aftermath of the closing of a molybdenum mine.

In the Sun Valley-Ketchum area, the Idaho Mountain Express reported "stagnant revenues and spiking costs" that are causing elected officials for the local school district to announce that everything is on the table. The newspaper described a tangle of restrictions and rising costs. At the centre are personnel costs. The school district has a relatively high number of personnel, slow enrolment growth, and hence less state funding. Salaries and benefits constitute 80 per cent of the budget.

War in Europe shaped outlook of first doctor

VAIL, Colo. — Vail is remembering Tom Steinberg, the man some called Dr. Tom. He was the town's first resident physician, arriving in 1965, three years after the ski area opened and a year before the town was officially created.

He was 41 then but the most important thing in his life — and the most important thing influencing his contribution to Vail for the next half-century — may have been what he saw in the waning days of the Second Word War.

Steinberg was not long off the Iowa farm where he had been reared, when he found himself on the front line as the U.S. Army liberated Dachau, the German concentration camp near Munich. He later told his son, Erik, that he almost shot a German soldier, but the German raised his hands in surrender just in time.

But there was the concentration camp itself, a horrible testimony to the capacity of people to treat other human beings in inhumane ways. That's what he saw at age 21.

Later, in Vail, as a doctor but also as a community leader, with several stints on the town council as well as other civic enterprises, Steinberg sometimes shared his war-time experience. That, said those who knew him best, played a large role in his thinking and in his motivations.

He had seen the worst.

But he had also seen the best, the effort by America and its allies to right wrongs in the world. That was part of humanity, too. And that shaped his patient, but clear vision, for Vail.

He died in late September at age 93 and a half years old. As one speaker at the memorial service said, he was a stickler for details.

The war had also given him the opportunity to learn to ski in the months afterward while based in Austria. Then later, the GI Bill allowed him to continue through college and pursue the dream both he and his mother had had: that he would become a doctor.

As a doctor in Missouri and then in New Jersey, he met his wife, Florence Ann Banashek, a nurse, who was the daughter of a Pennsylvania coal miner, the youngest of 11 children.

In Vail, they made an interesting couple. He tended to be reserved but was still very social. She had a sharp tongue and had no use for what she perceived to be phoniness. The medical practice was tough for the first few years, but got better as he tended to both skiers and miners and their families. A mine continued to operate near Vail until 1977.

Steinberg was also active in public affairs. An elected official in Vail, he had a strong environmental bent. He pushed for open space and had a large hand in pushing restraints on the smoky wood-burning fireplaces that at one time were de rigueur in every condo, creating a valley of pollution during winter inversions to rival that of a big city. He was also active in efforts to clean up and preserve the quality of local rivers.

He spoke out, in the early 1990s, against Colorado's stance to limit equal rights for gays, and he stood firm on limits on guns.

If the war had shaped Steinberg's life, he helped shape Vail and, according to near every account, he left it a better place.

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