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Mountain News: Heavenly time in mountain towns



It's the most heavenly of weeks in the mountain towns of the Rocky Mountains. Nights are cool and soothing, the days sparkling. While the lowlands bake, the summer monsoons have arrived to ease the threat of wildfire and produce the blooms and blushes of wildflowers.

"Paradise Divide is living up to its name," reported Mark Reaman, of the Crested Butte News, referring to a wondrous area in the adjacent Elk Range. "There is indeed a bounty of wildflowers up high above 10,000 feet (3,000 metres)."

Musical and theatrical performances are equally compelling, and so are the venues for learned talk that have become more common in ski towns.

At Aspen, among the latest highbrow talkfests, is the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference. It's sort of a more public version of Sun Valley's Allen & Co. mid-summer gathering of media moguls.

In his appearance at Brainstorm Tech, Dave Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association, explained how Twitter and other new media are boosting the popularity of professional basketball.

"Even this season, when we were locked out, even if they were tweeting that Stern is an idiot or a nincompoop, they were tweeting ... Social media has given an opportunity for our community to really stay occupied," said Stern, according to an Aspen Daily News account.

Also speaking was Google chairman Eric Schmidt, along with executives from Facebook, LinkedIn, Disney, Comcast and the Washington Post, among others.

Tina Brown, the editor who was the regenerative force of The New Yorker in the 1990s and is now the co-owner and lead editor of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, was also in Aspen, at a different venue, talking about the shifting media landscape.

Mitt Romney appeared in Aspen in recent weeks, being hosted in a fundraiser by Susan Crown — a member of the Crown family, owners of the Aspen Skiing Co. In what may be indicative of news far beyond Aspen, she was a firm supporter of Barack Obama in 2008 but was angered, according to an Aspen newspaper, by Obama's stance on Israel. This time, she's throwing her lot with Romney. She's got company. The Aspen Daily News reported the gathering produced $2.5 million for Romney's campaign in a place where 74 per cent of votes in 2008 went to Obama.

Romney was also in Jackson Hole, where he was the featured attraction at a $30,000-a-head dinner hosted by former Vice-President Dick Cheney. Sources told Jackson Hole News&Guide that donors were given a "remarkable level of access," including a 30-minute, unscripted question-and-answer session. He talked a lot about foreign policy.

For those of lesser means, Jackson Hole had plenty to offer. Country queen Emmylou Harris was to sing, a Greek comedy was being performed, and the artist Jeff Ham had an art show of his images of General George Armstrong Custer on display.