BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Whatever happened to slightly counter-cultural Breckenridge? Is it now wearing wing-tips and getting regular haircuts?
You might interpret last week's election in that way. Keep in mind that in 2009, by a three-to-one vote, Breckenridge residents voted to decriminalize marijuana use, the second jusrisdiction in the country to do so.
This was before Colorado's vote in 2012 that decriminalized marijuana use and possession. The town now has five dispensaries, one devoted strictly to cannabis for medicinal purposes but the other four for recreational use.
Four are located in a service-oriented business district on the edge of Breckenridge, but one is located above a retail shop along Main Street, the primary tourist district.
Should that lone Main Street dispensary be allowed to stay there? Unable to decide itself, the town council sent the issue to the public. Resoundingly, by a margin of 70 per cent to 30 per cent, voters said no — make that heck no.
The core issue was not about cannabis sales, but where they should be allowed. The fundamental concern of many, including a group called Breckenridge for Thoughtful Marijuana, was that cannabis stores on Main Street posed too much risk to the town's family-friendly tourism brand.
An old mining town, first settled in 1859, during Colorado's initial flush of gold mining, Breckenridge has long called itself "authentic Colorado." Today, it has a strong destination market, drawing visitors from beyond Colorado, but also has a healthy mix of day and weekend skiers from metropolitan Denver and the Front Range.
Has Breck changed? There's anecdotal evidence that the town has become more conservative as retirees in their '60s, many with past lives in corporate America, converted second homes into primary residences. That demographic shift seemed to be evident in a recent vote in which a proposal for public funding of childcare failed. It may also have been evident several years ago in pushback against mandatory removal of woody debris around homes.
Tim Gagen, the town manager, says that anecdotal evidence suggests most segments of the community, including long-time locals, preferred to keep cannabis shops on the town fringes and off Main Street. The only demographic in support was newer, younger residents, such as those recently arrived to work the winter season.
Unlike Breckenridge and most other mountain towns of Colorado, Aspen and Telluride both allowed cannabis shops in their main tourist shopping, dining and drinking areas. They are treated parallel to liquor stores.
Just how many visitors to ski areas are put off by the legalized sale of marijuana? That's hard to know, but Gagen said a survey may be conducted in an attempt to probe that question.
Will a similar survey be done to gauge how many people are put off by alcohol dispensaries? He said he didn't know.
New cannabis chain store
FRISCO, Colo. — Just 14 kilometres from Breckenridge and hard by the side of Interstate 70, a chain cannabis retailer has now opened.
It's called Native Roots and offers such products as Snoop Dogg OG. The Denver-based chain has five stores.
Granby annexes land to avoid cannabis sales
GRANBY, Colo. — Granby, located halfway between Winter Park and the west portal to Rocky Mountain National Park, has annexed a parcel of land near the town in an effort to ensure that a cannabis store stays out.
It was a heated meeting, reports the Sky-Hi News, which also explains that Granby residents are somewhat divided about cannabis sales. In 2010, a majority of residents voted against allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. In the 2012 statewide vote, the two precincts that include Granby voted for marijuana legalization. Those two precincts, however, also included some residents outside the town.
There's a sharp disagreement between Granby town officials and the retailer who wanted to open up the cannabis shop about whether the annexation was legal. This dispute has already arrived in court.
Wew gondola link eyed
PARK CITY, Utah — Will Park City's three ski areas become cheek to jowl? Vail Resorts plans to link Canyons with Park City Mountain Resort to create the largest ski area in the United States.
Deer Valley, meanwhile, has announced hopes of creating a gondola from Old Town Park City to its slopes to the south. If this occurs, the lifts for the two, competing ski areas would be just a few blocks away.Bob Wheaton, the general manager for Deer Valley, also outlined plans for an additional 800 to 1,000 skiable acres, with at least seven and perhaps eight new lifts.
Will awareness linger when powder beckons?
JACKSON, Wyo. — Avalanche Awareness Night in Jackson Hole last year drew 579 people, and this year it pushed 650. The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports that they heard a story of life and death.
The story was told by Alex Do, who went skiing with his friend Mike Kazanjy last Christmas in the sidecountry near Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. In other words, they left the gates and skied into area not mitigated for avalanches.
Then, disregarding everything they had heard in avalanche awareness classes, they skied a slope that posed a high risk. The friend died; Do lived.
"Why do we make decisions in the real world that we wouldn't make in the classroom?" Do asked.
In this case, the pre-established protocol for assessing risk was altered by last-minute change of plans and a collective decision to ignore the blatant evidence of risk posed by an avalanche on a nearby peak.
Phil Leeds, owner of a local shop geared to backcountry skiers, pointed out that the story should resonate. "A lot of us have been in exactly the same situation, and we've been just fortunate enough not to have a big accident," he said.
By the odds, at next year's avalanche awareness night, there will be a new story to tell about bad decisions made by well-informed people in the backcountry. Just about every year, somebody dies from an avalanche in the Teton Range backcountry, and sometimes it's several people. Invariably, the victims are often later described as expert and knowledgeable.
Neighbourhood cat has primary school on edge
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — A cat — a very big one — has been on the prowl south of Glenwood Springs, Colo. No surprise there. Glenwood has deer, and where you find deer there are probably mountain lions.
But when the lion was seen near an elementary school, officials locked the doors and notified parents, escorting some children home at day's end themselves.
It wasn't all bad, explained Sopris Elementary principal Kathy Whiting. "This was a great learning opportunity," she told The Aspen Times. "We live in the mountains and we share our backyard (with wild animals)."
Aspen hopes to join elite club of utilities
ASPEN, Colo. — Pop quiz here: What do Burlington, Vt., Scituate, Mass., and Aspen Colo., have in common?
The answer is: nothing — yet. But by the end of next year, Aspen public officials hope that their municipal utility will be able to claim 100 per cent electrical generation from renewable sources.
The other two cities can already claim that distinction.
That goal was declared in Aspen's 2005 Canary Initiative, and utility officials have been turning over all sorts of stones, most recently a program in Iowa in which landfill gas is burned to produce electricity.
Now, report the Aspen newspapers, city officials are leaning against buying the Iowa gas. It's not because the gas isn't clean of carbon fuel. Rather, it's because the electricity could not be directly sent by transmission lines to Aspen. Instead, it would be used by customers in the Midwest and Aspen would still use electricity produced by coal.
The alternatives? Lots of them. Aspen is now looking at partnering with the operator of a 100-year hydroelectric project in Provo, Utah, small-scale solar, and local small-scale hydroelectric production, plus — and this is the big one — purchase of more wind power.
But as elsewhere, Aspen will need more energy next year, from whatever source, with a one per cent projected increase in demand.
At what price can Aspen achieve its carbon-free goal? It might be another $284,000, possibly more, said William Dolan, the city's utilities director.
The ski lifts at Aspen, alas, will still have the smudge of carbon. They are powered by electricity from Holy Cross Energy, an electrical co-op that serves about a third of Aspen. Although considered among the most progressive of utilities in Colorado and perhaps elsewhere, it still remains heavily reliant on coal-fired electricity.
Better get bitumen flowing from Alberta
LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev. — Oh gosh we'd better get that Keystone XL pipeline wrapped up. Petroleum is getting so terribly expensive.
At Incline Village, on the Nevada side of the state line, gas had dropped to $3.24, reports the Sierra Sun. That compares with a high of $4.27 in 2008.
This has the Sierra Sun wondering if the local stations will eventually see gas prices drop below $3.