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Mountain News: Goodtimes takes up skiing at 63

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TELLURIDE, Colo. - With his long, graying beard and hair, a brightly knitted cap on his head, Art Goodtimes stands out in any crowd. He calls himself a paleohippie, the prefix indicating ancient or prehistoric. A native of San Francisco, the son of a postal carrier, he attended a Jesuit seminary before making his way into the broader world, ending up in Telluride 30 years ago.

Goodtimes - his given name was Arturo Bontempi - cannot easily be typecast. He regularly and unashamedly attends the Rainbow Family of Living Light festivals held each summer in some mountain meadow in the West. Just as reliably, he can be seen at conferences hither and thither across Colorado and elsewhere in the West, intently listening while his hands busily hook rugs. Whether the performers on stage are poets or politicians seems to matter not at all.

He's a politician himself, a three-term commissioner in San Miguel County. Telluride itself is resolutely Democratic, although Goodtimes formally affiliated with the Green Party. His politics, however, are strictly pragmatic. After all, he maintains his home 30 miles west of Telluride in conservative Norwood, a ranching centre.

But what is most memorable about Goodtimes is neither his profile nor his politics. Rather, it's his voice. His voice booms. Indoors, it fills up every corner of a large room. Outdoors, it can echo across valleys. If you heard the voice first, before seeing the individual, you'd be absolutely sure that some kind of Paul Bunyan figure was the source of the timbre. Making this all the more remarkable is that Goodtimes, if barrel-chested, is barely 5-foot-6.

Writing in his weekly column in The Telluride Watch , Goodtimes discloses that he is also unusual in another respect: he never skied in his first three decades in Telluride. It was, he explains, a matter of money and time.

However, he made sure his kids learned to ski. And now his youngest son, Gorio, has insisted he learn to ski, too. Goodtimes, with a re-election under his belt last November, gamely agreed, bought a six-day ski pass and consented to be schooled by his son.

"He liked the role reverse," writes Goodtimes. "And he was a good teacher. Not telling me too much. Letting me find out for myself things like balance and speed and how to stop while standing on two boards racing down a slippery slope... Truth is, I loved it."

Next year? Yes, another six-day pass, confirms Goodtimes. "After 30 years living in San Miguel County, I finally feel like a native. I can run a chainsaw and make turns."

Condo prices cut by 20%

VAIL, Colo. - Vail Resorts has cut the asking price on condominiums in its Ritz Carlton Residences, now under construction, by 20 per cent. Still, the prices remain healthy, with an average per square foot price of $1,624, reports the Vail Daily . Currently, 47 units are under contract, with 24 still unsold.

Steamboat base projects proceed

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - By next January, a new gondola should be operating at Steamboat Springs, transporting skiers and others from a more distant base area called Wildhorse Meadows. The developer of that real estate project, Resort Ventures West, has partnered with ski area operator Intrawest on the estimated cost of the $7 million gondola.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that town officials have ordered that the permitting process be expedited to allow the project to move forward, even if engineering details have not all been completed.

The newspaper, in an editorial, called the agreement a "dramatic" sign that local resort and government leaders have the resolution required to continue base-area improvements in the face of a deep recession. The newspaper also takes note of unanimous agreement among the city council members to commit city reserves to help secure a bond issue of at least $11.2 million for public infrastructure at the base area. The council members agree that allowing the work to go dormant could jeopardize the goal of stimulating private investment.

Music festival to be shorter, smaller

ASPEN, Colo. - "Bigger, better, and longer" has long been the norm. But the Aspen Music Festival and School is going in the other direction. Beginning next year, the festival will be a week shorter, the number of students will decrease by about 100, a dozen or two faculty positions will be cut. Some of this down-sizing had begun several years ago, and the discussions leading to the current cropping were begun before the economic recession began, festival officials tell The Aspen Times . But the public should not notice any difference, they add.

Telluride's footprint growing...

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Fresh news comes out of Telluride that illustrates the enormous difficulty of shrinking carbon footprints. Despite joining the Mayors Agreement on Climate Change in 2004, with the stated goal of reducing greenhouse gases by at least 15 per cent by the end of 2010, a new town analysis reveals the municipality's carbon footprint actually grew in the last year.

"We're trending in a wrong way this year, despite a lot of really good things we've done," said Karen Guglielmone, the town's public works project manager. Tweaking, she added, isn't getting the job done. "It's time for some big moves."

Compared to many places, Telluride already has done big moves, replacing lights, turning off lights at the town hall at night, and other measures that have reduced use of electricity by 25 per cent and natural gas by 30 per cent after three years. Reduced transportation has also resulted in gains.

Still, emissions of carbon dioxide have increased. The Telluride watch tells of two big-ticket items. One is the wastewater treatment plant. By far, treating sewage easily consumes the most electricity of any town function. The ice-chilling at the town's skating rink came in a distant second.

This upward trend was not for lack of trying. Installation of a geoexchange system at the treatment plant reduced the use of natural gas by 87 per cent. But treating sewage requires electricity more than anything, and electrical use has actually increased.

Overall, the town government's role for carbon dioxide emissions increased 3.6 per cent in 2008, with electrical consumption being the largest part of the story.

Aspen's shrinking

ASPEN, Colo. - Several years ago Aspen charted greenhouse gas emissions of the community, including private residents and business, in addition to government. The baseline year documented was 2004.

Now, it has reported the results of an update, as of the year 2007. There has been some progress. Overall, the community's carbon footprint has decreased 8.25 per cent, city officials tell The Aspen Times .

Much of that success is attributed to efforts by the city's electrical utility, which has purchased wind power as part of a substantial shift away from electricity produced by burning coal and natural gas. However, emissions associated with transportation and buildings also dropped.

Curiously, Aspenites individually seem to be using more electricity, with a nearly 10 per cent increase in the three-year span.

Girl next door on posters

PARK CITY, Utah - An advertising campaign in support of affordable housing has been launched in Park City. The latest poster features a supposed nurse that has found it difficult to get local housing. "She can save your life, but she can't live next door," the poster says.

In fact, no such nurse exists. But proponents tell the Park Record that the fictional character does reflect the situation of many firefighters, police officers, paramedics and teachers.

One of the sponsors, Julie Bernhard, of the Park City Board of Realtors, says the campaign hopes to reduce the fear of affordable housing coming into neighbourhoods.

Neighbours have resisted several work-force projects in recent years. Those neighbours typically worry about more traffic, loss of open space and sometimes about the potential for depressing real estate values.

Grizzly bears toting cameras

BANFF, Alberta - Grizzly bears are going high-tech. A new device dubbed the Animal Pathfinder has been mounted on the collars of five or six grizzlies in Alberta, plus another six in Yellowstone National Park, and four caribou in British Columbia.

The Pathfinder consists of a digital camera that takes photos every 15 minutes, and can store up to 60,000 images. Married to the camera is a global positioning device.

Scientists tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook that the new device, which was four years in the making, will allow them to better understand the relationship between bears and the habitat that they use. They say current wildlife tracking techniques can be expected to be biased to some unknown extent, because animals move through environments that are often denied GPS signals.

The population of grizzlies in Alberta has been shrinking, with as few as 400 to 500 now. The Outlook suggests a broad variety of reasons for the diminished population, mostly due to human activity.

Breck's Berge still skiing at 77

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - Breckenridge, the town, can trace its history to 150 years ago this summer, when prospectors for gold swarmed over the Continental Divide to examine the gravels of the Blue River. They named it Breckinridge, after the vice president of the time, but renamed it when he swore his allegiance to the Confederates during the Civil War.

But Breckenridge was withering, slowly receding into the wilderness, when the ski area was opened in 1961. It had 17,000 skiers, and the first ski school superintended was Trygve Berge, a former member of the Norwegian Olympic team.

The Summit Daily News recently interviewed Berge, who is now 77 and still skis Breckenridge two or three times a week. He has a ski run named for him, but it's too easy. He prefers moguls or, when the conditions are right, the Imperial Lift, which rises to more than 12,800 feet.

Townspeople in the early days of Breckenridge hated to see all the development - and some of them today are protesting future development. Still, Berge contends that Breckenridge has changed less than Aspen or Vail. Breckenridge still has families, he says, and other locals.

Out-of-box pipeline panned

JACKSON, Wyo. - Three years ago, Aaron Million announced his audacious out-of-the-box vision for water supplies along Colorado's Front Range. In recent weeks, Wyoming residents have had their own choice of words for the idea, few of them complimentary.

As was first reported in Colorado Biz Magazine in 2006, Million proposed to build a giant pipeline from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which straddles the Utah-Wyoming border, to deliver water to cities from Fort Collins to Pueblo, a corridor now home to more than 4 million people.

The core assumption for Million's idea is that water remains available to Colorado under the 1922 compact governing the seven-state Colorado River Basin. Instead of diverting additional water from headwater streams near Winter Park, Breckenridge, and Vail, he argues, it's better to go to Flaming Gorge, which holds back the Green River.

The river originates in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, not far from Jackson Hole. However, Jackson Hole is drained by the Snake River, a tributary to the Columbia River.

Even at the outset, Million heard plenty of opposition from within Colorado. But now he needs federal government approval, both because he intends to cross federal land with his pipeline and also because the federal government administers Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

In parallel editorials, both the Jackson Hole News & Guide and the New York Times argue that diverting water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir could result in more dams upstream on the Green River, with direct repercussions to wildlife as well as fishing opportunities.

"Clearly, it is time to recognize rivers for what they are," says the newspaper in Wyoming. "Today, there is little legal right for in-stream flows, little recognition that rivers have value in and of themselves. Million's project should be taken as a call to arms, to make such recognition a reality."

High-end project stakes claim

KETCHUM, Idaho - An irony in the West during the last 150 years has to do with elevation. In the mining era, people made their fortunes and then headed to lower elevations. Now, people make fortunes and want to move to higher elevations.

All of this is prominently on display in a story out of Idaho's Wood River Valley. Before the Sun Valley ski area came along, Ketchum and the Wood River Valley were a centre for mines. The Triumph, Independent and North Star were among the silver mines that began operations in the 1880s and continued until after World War II.

Now, reports the Idaho Mountain Express, a developer hopes to transform the 848-acres of mining properties into an upscale neighbourhood. DeNovo Properties, which is based in Chicago and Indianapolis, envisions 15 home sites. The company claims the high-end homes would also be the highest elevation residential area in the Sun Valley-Ketchum area.

The project, says the Express, has many hurdles before any of this happens. Mine shafts must be closed, hazardous materials removed, and tailings capped. Developers hope to get the property annexed into Sun Valley, the town adjacent to Ketchum.