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Mountain News: Pot hurts tourism? Then explain this


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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Is cannabis bad for the tourism business? That's the fundamental question around which a special election will be held Tuesday, Dec. 9, in Breckenridge.

Voters are being asked whether they think cannabis shops should be allowed in the town's Main Street and adjoining areas. There's one such retail store now, but the other four marijuana businesses operate in a service-oriented area distant from hotels.

The debate was so heated last summer that the town council sent the issue to voters for a non-binding show of hands. One faction in Breckenridge has argued that cannabis should not be viewed any differently than alcohol, and the town doesn't ban sales of beer, wine, and hard liquor in the town's primary shopping district.

But a string of former mayors plus several business groups argue that cannabis could sully the image of Breckenridge in the minds of tourists, causing them to go elsewhere.

"The reality is that in the world of vacation destinations Breckenridge has a great deal of competition," wrote Bob Gordman in a letter published in the Summit Daily News. He characterized marijuana stores on Main Street as an "experiment," with the stores gaining — but potentially the whole community losing.

But evidence from last winter might suggest exactly the opposite. Ski Area Management, a magazine in the ski industry, points out that one study found 90 per cent of the marijuana sold in Colorado ski towns was purchased by tourists.

That being the case, how do you explain that the 2013-14 skier visits in Colorado rose more than 10 per cent compared to last season and more than eight per cent compared to the state's five-year average?

"It seems that fears of lost visits were not what they were cracked up to be," the magazine declared in its September issue.

From Vail comes anecdotal evidence of the same. One real estate agent reports that his clients ask him about it.

What do they ask? "Mostly where to get it," he says.

Bears get comfy in condo complex

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — A trio of black bears seemed determined to over-winter below the decking for the outdoor hot tubs at a condominium complex in Steamboat Springs.

Property managers put down towels soaked in ammonia with the hope of deterring the bears, but it didn't work. Firecrackers, however, did flush the bears out of their would-be den. A property manager tells the Steamboat Pilot & Today that the bears damaged the electrical system and insulation before being evicted.

What drew the bears to squat in the condo complex? During the off-season, it's quiet and dark there. But before off-season, the bears were drawn to a nearby complex whose unsecured trash cans provide what is tantamount to a picnic. "It's kind of sad for the bears," said property manager Donna Mae Hoots.

On being Janis' road manager

JACKSON, Wyo. — John Byrne Cooke has led a creative life. He is a photographer, plays in a bluegrass band in Jackson Hole and, in the early 1980s, wrote a novel about mountain men in the West. It was called Snowblind Moon.

But Cooke also had another interesting curve in his journey. In the 1960s, he was the road manager for Janis Joplin. And now, he has written about it in a 414-page book descriptively called On the Road with Janis Joplin.

Reviewing the book in the pages of the Jackson Hole News and Guide, Mark Huffman explains that the singer "was a rocket about to take off" when Cooke joined her and her band. In his job he met just about every rocker in the world and was there for the explosion of Jimi Hendrix at Monterey.

"Cooke did all this while handling the mundane side of rock glory," Huffman writes. "His job was booking rooms and arranging cars, hanging out while the band rehearsed a song over and over, getting people to photo shoots, keeping things going despite rock group politics and sexual craziness, signing papers and negotiating costs."

Cooke also puts rock in its context, which in the 1960s was a time of war and politics not since equalled.

"So you see B.B. King playing gospel music after hearing of the assassination of Martin Luther King, witness the America of the moon landing and LBJ announcing he would not run for re-election," Huffman writes.

It is, he concludes a story about a singer and her band, "but it is also a tale of the American Dream of going from nowhere to the top and then burning out quickly."