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Mountain News: Banff welcomes use of foreign workers


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BANFF, Alberta — The Canadian federal government has announced that temporary foreign workers hired in the tourism industry for periods of six months or less are exempt from program caps. The announcement was greeted with great enthusiasm in Banff and Canmore, neighbouring communities with robust tourism business, especially in summer.

According to a study released last year, Banff had 400 fewer workers than it needed in July last year. Guest-room attendants have been in greatest need.

Cell phones and driving OK only if hands-free

KETCHUM, Idaho — City councillors in Ketchum have been moving toward adoption of a law that would ban the use of cell phones while driving, unless hands-free technology is used.

Idaho banned texting while driving. Dave Kassner, the Ketchum police chief, said that the ban is difficult to enforce without confessions from drivers or court orders allowing police to access text messages.

If adopted, Ketchum's law would allow a police officer to pull over anyone seen using an electronic mobile device while driving.

How Crested Butte fits in broad warning trends

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Seeking to localize the story about global warming, the Crested Butte News contacted a forecaster with the National Weather Service. Joe Ramey, working out of the Grand Junction, Colo. office, said he had analyzed temperature and precipitation records from Crested Butte to Moab, Utah.

And what he found locally fit in with the global warming story.

"Maximum temperatures haven't changed a lot over the last 100 years," he told the News. "They've been up and down and somewhat inversely correlated to precipitation. Dry periods are typically hot and wet periods are cool, but minimum temperatures seem to show a marked increase, especially since the 1970s."

Not all measurements are equally reliable, but Ramey put more stock in those taken by National Park Service, because they are away from urban or even small-town influences.

But not every site showed the same trend. Crested Butte, for example, was an aberration. While it has been warming since the 1970s in Crested Butte, it was even warmer in the 1950s and 1960s than it is today. Why did this happen? Ramey does not profess to know.

Arctic sea ice at record low maximum again

BOULDER, Colo. — Arctic sea ice was at a record low maximum extent for the second straight year.

"I've never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "The heat was relentless."

Air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean for the months of December, January and February were two to six degrees Celsius (four to 11 degrees Fahrenheit) above average in nearly every region of the Arctic.

Ice extent increases through autumn and winter, and the maximum typically occurs in mid March. Sea ice then retreats through spring and summer and shrinks to its smallest or minimum extent typically by mid September.

The September Arctic minimum began drawing attention in 2005 when it first shrank to a record low extent over the period of satellite observations. It broke the record again in 2007, and then again in 2012.

The March Arctic maximum has typically received less attention. That changed last year when the maximum extent was the lowest in the satellite record.

"The Arctic is in crisis. Year by year, it's slipping into a new state, and it's hard to see how that won't have an effect on weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere," said Ted Scambos, NSIDC lead scientist.

Brussels attack has impact in Wyoming

JACKSON, Wyo. — Security has been tightened at Jackson Hole Airport after last week's terrorist attack at a Brussels airport. Airport director Jim Elwood told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that the airport is determined to keep people from leaving their cars at the curb.

Terror attacks are not new around the world, so why the impact of Brussels in a high-end resort community in Wyoming?

Elwood said what was different is that the attack happened in part of the airport that is outside normal security.

People at Jackson Hole Airport will still be able to stop at the curb to unload but won't be allowed to leave their vehicles there unattended. The change in policy came on orders from the federal Transportation Security Administration.

Aspen and Park City at top of energy list

ASPEN, Colo. — Huntsville, Ala., is at the top of this list, and Aspen second, followed by Fargo, N.D., and then Park City, Utah.

And the list? These are the top-four contenders in the Georgetown Energy Prize, a national competition of 50 finalists.

Jackson Hole is also among the 50 finalists in the Georgetown competition, as is Bend, Ore.

Aspen would prefer to be in the No. 1 slot in this competition that measures reductions in electrical and natural gas use in residential and municipal buildings from January 2015 through December 2016.

To that end, Pitkin County has authorized $500,000 to help improve energy efficiency in several of the community affordable housing projects.

The money comes from the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, which was adopted by Aspen and Pitkin County in 1999. It requires that new homes of 465 square metres or more and new homes with features such as snowmelt systems and outdoor pools and spas offset their energy use with renewable energy on site. Homeowners have had the option of paying an in-lieu fee, which has yielded more than $11 million.

More doubts about THC-infused edibles

ASPEN, Colo. — The Aspen community continues to have questions about the use of edibles for consumption of THC, the psychoactive agent in cannabis.

The Aspen Daily News reported that Pitkin County commissioners recently refused to grant a license for an edibles manufacturing operation on the outskirts of Aspen. The would-be proprietor had intended to manufacture lemon drops, chocolates, bubble gum and popcorn.

The Valley Marijuana Council leans against allowing candy look-alike products being sold in local dispensaries.

"Bubble gum, popcorn, candy — things that may be appealing to children, I think that's something I'd like to start disparaging in Pitkin County," said Joe DiSalvo, the sheriff.

County Commissioner Rachel Richards said she was just as concerned with the messages that downplay the potency of the drug as she was concerned with potential for mistake. She cited the Joe Camel cigarette advertising campaign as a precedent.