ASPEN, Colo. Hunter S. Thompson, the famous writer, ran for sheriff of Pitkin County in 1968, attempting to overthrow what The Aspen Times now says was a "traditional small-town, red-necked law enforcement style."
Thompson lost the race. However, one of his chief collaborators, Dick Keinast, who was to have been undersheriff to Thompson, did get elected in 1976. Once in office, Keinasts "humanistic" approach caused the crew-cut men in uniforms to be steadily replaced by longer-haired people wearing jeans who attended feel-good symposiums put on by John Denver. Rather than career law-enforcement officers, Keinast wanted people from all walks of life as deputies.
Kienast, who recently died of complications from heart bypass surgery, stayed in office until 1986, when he was replaced by one of his longer-haired recruits, Bob Braudis, Braudis remains as sheriff, carrying on in much the same spirit as Kienast. The current undersheriff is also a Keinast recruit. And still another deputy hired during Kienasts tenure, Fred Gannett, later became judge of adjoining Eagle County and is now presiding in the Kobe Bryant case.
So, in a way, Hunter Thompson won.
As sheriff, Keinast was known as "Dick Dove and the Deputies of Love." He appeared on the national television program "60 Minutes" to explain why he would not co-operate with federal drug agents. National attention was also focused on Keinast when, soon into his first term, the serial killer Ted Bundy escaped from a second-story window in the courthouse in Aspen. Bundy was caught eight days later.
Ski tour operators report major gains
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE, Colo. - The Ski Tour Operators Association met slope-side at Telluride in late March, and the polling of members suggests nearly all the larger destination ski resorts in the West gained this winter.
Aspen was among the largest gainers. Also gaining were Vail, Telluride, Steamboat, and Winter Park. So did Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, Big Sky Park City and Whistler or at least thats what the ski tour companies were telling The Aspen Times.
But unlike the gains of 25 to 30 per cent at Aspen and elsewhere, Colorados Summit County seemed to decline. The speculation reported by The Aspen Times was that consumers didnt want to go to the Summit County resorts, because of the crowds from the Front Range. Ironically, the crowds from the Front Range were significantly down this year, because the snow wasnt very good.
As for why Aspen did so well this year? The Aspen Times reports that hoteliers seem to have adjusted their rates downward. The same thing happened in Breckenridge and in Vail in the wake of 9/11, and lodging rates this year didnt march back up.
Sun Valleys first black ski instructor tells story
SUN VALLEY, Idaho Ed King is finishing up his fifth year as a ski instructor in Sun Valley. He is the first black in the 70-year history of the Sun Valley ski school.
But in the 1960s he wasnt exactly welcomed. Reared in Seattle, he comes from a family of blacks with a string of "firsts" among black people in Washington state. He took his first ski lessons at Stevens Pass when he was 11, and he was immediately hooked.
In 1968, he became a certified ski instructor and went to Sun Valley. Although welcomed by some, he seems never to have been asked to teach. Returning in 1970, the story was the same.
But after he returned again during the 1990s, Sun Valley was ready for him to join the ski school. "It is where I belong," he says.
Utah expecting new record
PARK CITY, Utah Utahs 13 ski resorts may top their three-year-old record of 3.3 million skiers.
Kip Pitou, president of Ski Utah, projects 3.4 million skier visits. This compares with about 11 million skiers visits in Colorado, where resort officials reported only a top-three finish as of late February, before a surge of warm weather. Pitou credited good snow and the absence of either the Olympics or a poor economy, which bogged numbers the last two years.
Daily flights produce visitors
KETCHUM, Idaho Daily flights from Los Angeles and Oakland to the Wood River Valley ended in March, but the program was successful enough in recruiting new visitors that local boosters will seek a new contract, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.
The Sun Valley Co. had agreed to pay for any revenue shortfalls incurred by the carrier, Horizon, and the companys director of marketing and public relations, Jack Sibbach, said Sun Valley would be writing a cheque.
Such revenue guarantees are the rule, not the exception, for direct flight programs at resort airports.
Real estate agents swap notes
PARK CITY, Utah The Rocky Mountain Resort Alliance recently met in Park City. The group was formed in 1996, after real-estate agents from ski towns of the West observed that they had more in common with one another than they usually did with their state and regional organizations.
The focus, Park City real estate agent Dennis Hanlon explained to the Park Record, allows the organization to provide more relevant information. For example, Sun Valley agent Jed Gray reported a near record year in sales in 2003. Strongest was the $500,000 and under segment, a common theme in the resort towns (and also elsewhere).
At Jackson Hole, there is speculation that the new Four Seasons Resort, which opened in November, will bring a more well-heeled visitor to Jackson Hole than would ordinarily be willing to make an extra fight from Salt Lake City or Denver. That goes a ways, as Jackson Hole is already getting to be very well-heeled.
Selling the farm to save the farm
EAGLE, Colo. Eagle is one of those rapidly growing "down-valley" towns. Located half-way between Vail and Glenwood Springs, Eagle has its old town, a new golf course community, plus Fast Food Nation along the interstate highway. In that complex of new development is where Kobe Bryant is facing charges.
But from the perspective of town government, the fundamental task ahead is a balancing one. The residential population is growing more rapidly than the commercial sector. Because the commercial sector pays for the residential services in nearly all towns in Colorado, the town is looking into the possibility of accommodating a big-box retailer.
Jon Stavney, the incoming mayor, tells the Eagle Valley Enterprise hed rather not use that phrase, big box, because it is inflammatory and divisive. Instead, he prefers the term "large scale commercial development." Although freely admitting to abundant examples of where such development has not been done tastefully, Stavney insists that it can be.
Getting that big sales-tax generator without taking on all the charm of a Target parking lot will not be easy, admits Stavney, a 35-year-old builder. "You dont sell the farm to keep the farm," he says.
Paul McCartney takes stage in Truckee
TRUCKEE, Calif. For the second year in a row, Paul McCartney dropped up to play some music at a local bar, Sierra Moodys Bistro and Lounge.
McCartney was reportedly on a ski vacation last year when he dropped in, improvising a song he called the "Truckee Blues." This time, McCartney played a couple of songs with the local regulars, retrofitting the lyrics of "Kansas City" to the local environs. "I'm going to Tahoe City, going to get me some skiing," he sang.
One of the regular musicians, Caleb Dolister, told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that playing with McCartney was "surprisingly easy."
"What I mean by that," Dolister said, "is some people that are famous for doing a certain thing oftentimes aren't that comfortable outside of their element. But he was really able to adapt and it was kind of like just having another guy in the band, except it was Paul McCartney, which was incredible."
Said the other regular musician from the bar, George Souza, "I think the guy has a future in show business."
Telluride what Colorado used to be
TELLURIDE, Colo. The "Were Not Another Congested I-70 Resort" theme that has been noted in Crested Butte, Steamboat, and Aspen has now spread to Telluride and Mountain Village.
There, the new executive director of the convention and visitors bureau, Leary OGorman, is aiming to close the gaps on the shoulder seasons. One of the initiatives aims at the Colorado Front Range, trying to entice visitors for long weekends. "People are taking shorter vacations, and four-day excursions are close enough to use the car," he told The Telluride Watch. Telluride is about seven hours from Denver.
In its advertisements in newspapers and on buses in Denver, Telluride is iterating the "Colorado as it used to be theme."
"Telluride is what Colorado was 50 years ago," he says. "Remember the first time you drove over Loveland Pass and saw Summit County? Now you drive through the tunnel and see the strip malls of Summit County."
Its getting ugly at some resorts
SILVERTON, Colo. The lower portion of Vail Mountain looks like something you left in the refrigerator too long. At Snowmass, the lake under one lift looks deep enough for waders for anyone attempting to retrieve a glove or a ski.
But at Silverton Mountain, theres still powder. A storm the first weekend in April delivered 26 inches of snow. "It might be golf season in the lowlands, but up at 12,300 feet it is still mid-winter," crows the new resort. Discounted skiing for its guided tours are available through April.
Meanwhile, Silverton Mountain continues to await word from federal officials as to what will be allowed on federal lands. Silverton hopes for unfettered skiing, but the more likely prospect is continued requirement of guides, as is being done now in the trial program. Few places have as much steep-and-deep terrain and hence as much avalanche threat. However, according to reports in various newspapers, the new resort has shown it can do avalanche control well.
Steamboat planning a grape idea
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. It has worked in Aspen and Vail, and so now Steamboat is planning what The Steamboat Pilot calls a "grape idea." The idea, of course, is a wine festival, but Steamboat is planning to hit a somewhat lower price level than its sibling resorts, with $40 tickets.
Doug Larson of the Denver-based event management company Team Sagepromised to deliver wines from 40 to 50 vineyards and to attract master sommeliers and other wine experts to present wine seminars to people attending the Steamboat festival.
Even with a modest beginning, Larson predicts the potential to draw 200 people from Colorados Front Range and hence drive the demand for 500 to 1,000 room nights in hotels.
Revelstoke asks for caribou aid
REVELSTOKE, B.C. The Revelstoke municipal council is asking the provincial government to devote more resources to the restoration of mountain caribou, reports the Revelstoke Times Review.
Caribou populations are among the wildlife issues being discussed as developers and the provincial government outline strategies to develop tourism around Invermere, Revelstoke, and other parts of British Columbia.
Avalanche offers evidence of ESP
LEADVILLE, Colo. For those still not persuaded, a tragic case from one of Colorados 14,000-foot peaks offers yet more evidence on behalf of extra-sensory perception.
Three climbers had summited La Plata Peak, Colorados fourth highest mountain, and were on their way down when caught by an avalanche. One man was buried under what searchers later found was seven feet of snow. The other two men survived and made their way back to the trailhead.
The Leadville Chronicle reports that a woman, who was apparently the girlfriend of the 22-year-old fatality, called the emergency dispatch in that area after the avalanche but before authorities knew about it. She said she had a premonition that something was not right.
Town has a surplus of candidates
RED CLIFF, Colo. Ten to 20 years ago, there were often fewer candidates than there were vacancies on the Red Cliff Town Board. This year, its different in the old mining town that is located, as one T-shirt proclaims, "on Vails Back Side."
This year, not only are there enough candidates, but competition as well. In fact, several candidates have assembled brochures, placards, and other campaign devices.
Some think this is evidence of the greater politicization of the United States this year. However, others see it as the natural result of demographic changes peculiar to Red Cliff. Although largely Hispanic 20 to 30 years ago, the town now has many new Generation X Anglos who are more highly educated and obviously affluent. Homes that a decade ago were selling for $50,000 are now fetching $250,000 and up. As well, after years of a moratorium on growth because of water supply problems, new homes are sprouting up.
In yet another sign of change in the town of 300 people, an old restaurant called Renos has been closed. Long a favourite of out-of-town cross-country skiers who finished a 12-mile trip across nearby Shrine Pass, it served Mexican food at a time when Mexican food wasnt all that common. Locals, however, tended to disdain the food as inferior. The building is said to be the future storage site for portable latrines.
Armed robbery at Wendys
JACKSON, Wyo. A robbery at Wendys Old Fashioned Hamburgers in Jackson is being cited as evidence of Jacksons increasing urbanization.
The incidence of serious crimes has been increasing, police say. "Were breaking that distinction from being a small town to being a small city," Jackson Police Sgt. Alan John said. Still, it was only the first armed robbery in Jackson Hole since 1994, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide. No one was hurt, although three employees spent an hour chilling in the stores walk-in refrigerator before pushing their way out.
Red Lodge looks to expand
RED LODGE, Mont. A one-time coal-mining town, Red Lodge has a ski area and is a portal to Yellowstone National Park. Still, it could use some economic development, a new study says.
Per capita income in Red Lodge averages $19,090, while the national average is $29,469. As usual, service jobs in the tourist sector pay the lowest wages. In Red Lodge and surrounding Carbon County, average earning per job dropped from $29,098 in 1970 to $14,972 (in adjusted terms) in 2000.
Despite these low figures, its not for absence of brains, reports the Carbon County News. The population is well educated overall, and there is a strong presence of intellectual capital and entrepreneurial capability. The report seems to suggest somehow using those attributes in an economic development strategy.