KETCHUM, Idaho — A group of 30 gun-toting men, women and children marched down Main Street in Ketchum recently to the steps of the Idaho Mountain Express.
"We stand without shame," said John Casey, a resident of the Wood River Valley, on the steps of the newspaper office. As it was a Saturday, nobody was inside.
The newspaper had angered the protestors by publishing an editorial calling for public shaming of those who insisted on "packing guns everywhere and all the time, including inappropriately during political gatherings."
Said the newspaper: "Society should return to the place where it is unacceptable to show up in a school, theater, park, restaurant or political rally with a gun."
The Express says the protesters belonged to a group called 111 per cent Idaho, and many had hoisted flags and holstered handguns on their hips.
Even as mountains rise, farms sinking
CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. — In the West, many mountains slowly are rising. For example, Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest mountain, formerly was 4,399 metres. But a resurvey a few years ago revealed a new height: 4,401 metres, or two metres higher.
In California's Central Valley, the land is sinking. This has been going on for decades, the result of farmers pumping water from aquifers underlying their fields. With the four-year drought, pumping has increased.
"Tens of thousands of square miles are deflating like a leaky air mattress, inch by inch," says Reveal, an investigative journalism website.
"Groundwater now supplies about 60 per cent of the state's water, with the vast majority of that going to agriculture," Reveal explains. The news organization estimates that five per cent of California's total electrical use is being used by groundwater pumps.
Some places in California are subsiding a half metre a year.
The U.S. Geological Survey says that the accelerating pumping is starting to destroy bridges, crack irrigation canals, and twist highways across California.
Devin Galloway, a scientist with the Geological Survey, says that even if farmers stopped pumping groundwater immediately, subsidence that will continue for years.
Jackson Hole Resort keeps 'em returning
JACKSON, Wyo. — The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this winter, and by all accounts the resort seems to have ratcheted itself up a notch among ski areas in the West during recent years.
Executives interviewed by the Jackson Hole News&Guide point to something called the Net Promoter Score, a Fortune 100 metric of guest satisfaction. "It measures the percentage of people out of 100 who would recommend your product or service with a 9 or 10 on a 1 to 10 scale," explains Adam Sutner, the chief marketing officer, who not long ago was serving in the same capacity for Vail Resorts.
"We have moved, with our very best performance last year, into the top 10 nationally of all ski resorts."
He went on to explain that a high score translates into repeat visitations and loyal customers but also invaluable word-of-mouth advertising.
Jerry Blann, the president, who in the 1980s ran the show at Aspen Skiing Co., credits delivery of service — with a special attention on frontline people. "We get more return folks — clearly patrol, clearly a lot of ski school folks — but even in the depths of lefties. It makes a difference. People are truly engaged in this place."
At Jackson Hole, 75 per cent of the business comes from destination guests. Obviously, the airport is crucial, and it has 13 non-stop flights to various places around the country, topping any other ski resort airport.
Boutique hotel debuts
JACKSON, Wyo. — A 58-room boutique hotel that charges $450 a night during July has opened in downtown Jackson, sandwiched between a ski shop and a secondhand clothing store.
Jim Darwiche, the patriarch of the family that developed the hotel, told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that the demand for upscale lodging has grown at Teton Village, at the base of the valley's big ski resort, but that high-quality lodging wasn't available in Jackson, which is 16 kilometres away.
"Jackson needs a new, modern, very high-end facility to match the customers that we've been getting in here," he said.
But in addition to building a high-quality hotel, he said, the family aimed to build something that would last 50 years.