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Mountain News: Ski areas announce big reinvestments



BIG SKY, Mont. — Ski area operators continue to reinvest in their products.

Boyne Resorts has announced US$150 million in improvements to Big Sky Mountain during the next decade. The ski area is between Bozeman, Mont., and West Yellowstone, Mont. The company owns more than a dozen resorts across the U.S., including Brighton in Utah and Sugarloaf in Maine.

In Colorado, the Steamboat Ski Area is kicking off a review process of two new lifts, a new gondola, and new terrain. Not clear is whether Intrawest, the ski area owner, will bankroll the upgrades if they're authorized by the U.S. Forest Service.

Still, the Steamboat Today likes what it sees and draws attention to the effort as a response to the expanding brand of Vail Resorts. "As Vail Resorts continues to expand the power of its Epic Pass, the importance of Steamboat offering something new increases," the newspaper opines.

Vail this year has been moving briskly. While the purchase of Whistler Blackcomb is pending, the Colorado-based company announced last week it was adding six more resorts in the Alps to its lineup of participating resorts for Epic Pass purchasers.

Building bridges as a way to create climate solutions

BOULDER, Colo. — Andrew Zeiler once was a carpenter, building houses while living in the mountain town of Ward west of Boulder, Colo. Now, he lives near Durango, and he's trying to build metaphoric bridges as a grassroots activist for a group called Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL).

"I am 69 years old," explains Zeiler, now a part-time psychotherapist. "Part of my motivation is my age. I have children I am concerned about and the world they are inheriting."

Zeiler was spurred to join CCL when listening to climate scientist James Hansen being interviewed. Hansen, who is on the board for CCL, said the most valuable work a layperson could do toward addressing climate change is through Citizens' Climate Lobby.

With that motivation, Zeiler in February formed a Durango chapter. Chapters are also active in the ski towns of Aspen, Colo., Park City, Utah, and Bend, Ore. There are also many chapters in Canada, including Kelowna and Nelson, but also Vancouver and Calgary. Altogether, there are 339 active chapters, with dozens more planned — including Whitefish, Mont., Taos, N.M., and Jackson, Wyo.

Membership has doubled or tripled annually since CCL was formed in 2007. Australia has many new chapters, and there's even a chapter in Bangladesh.

Citizens' Climate Lobby's key mission is to build support for a national carbon tax, which it calls a fee, to be imposed on carbon-dioxide emissions. The revenue would be redistributed to citizens in the form of reduced taxes or an outright dividend. The goal is to give the market direction to find ways to produce and consume energy in ways that cause less harmful atmospheric pollution by greenhouse gases.

CCL members also try to meet with U.S. senators, representatives and their staff members. "Our directive is to treat everybody with respect and not be adversarial, and when meeting with our congressmen to have something we can authentically thank them for," he says. "That can open the door."

So far, says Zeiler, he and other carbon-fee supporters don't seem to have persuaded U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, who represents Durango and many other mountain towns of Colorado.

Firefighters remember 9/11in Snowmass run

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. — Sunday, Sept. 11, will be the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City.

In memory, firefighters and paramedics at Snowmass intend to put on their full bunker gear and air masks and climb up 290 vertical metres along local roads, roughly the same as the 78 floors of the South Tower that firefighters climbed on 9/11.

The Aspen Daily News reports that they hope to raise money to support first responders who are dealing with cancer, other health issues, and financial challenges.

Lightning fast record set in Sawatch Range

ASPEN, Colo. — Amazing stuff has been happening this summer among Colorado's 4,267-metre peaks. First, there was a new record set for using a bicycle to get to and from all the 54 of the peaks spread across Colorado. Then, there's the more recent achievement of Ted Mahon of Aspen.

Mahon, 44, climbed 14 of the peaks in the Sawatch Range in the span of 55 hours, 37 minutes. He did it all on foot, and in the process he covered 160 kilometres and 14,630 or so vertical metres.

The Aspen Daily News says that Mahon had become a regular at ultra-marathon athletic events, including the 100-mile race in the San Juan Mountains called the Hardrock 100. He's been in the Leadville 100.

Mahon encountered little lightning but did get snowed on while crossing Mount Princeton. He got in 45 minutes of sleep the first night, an hour the next night. Along the way he was met by a cast of friends, who provided him with dry clothes, food, or a cup of coffee. He went through three pairs of trail running shoes.

When it was all over, he slept for 13 hours, awaking with swollen joints and puffy eyes. Then, after a cup of coffee, he immediately started thinking: How could he have done it faster? Such a compulsion, he admitted, may be a little scary.

Do helicopters belong in mountain towns?

PARK CITY, Utah — People in the Park City area are again talking about helicopters. Private companies began shuttling passengers into Snyderville Basin, located along I-80 north of Park City, last winter. Responding to neighbours, Summit County officials set a moratorium. But they're reluctant to ban the practice permanently. Instead, they are seeking to set the terms.

"I think they are going to be a part of transportation and we need to have a way to accommodate that," Mike Franklin, chair of the Basin Planning Commission, told The Park Record.

Not everybody agrees. "As a 30-plus-year resident of Park City I have seen this beautiful place cave again and again to the whims of the developers," protests Celeste Raffin, a physician.

"We've lost our ridgelines, allowed high-rise hotels, lost trails to gated communities, and allowed behemoth second, third, and fourth homes to sprout up like mushrooms all over our mountainsides. Time and time again our planners and leaders choose the whims of the developers and 'part-time Parkites' over the desires and well being of the people who actually live and work here," Raffin wrote.

"We are so worried that if we don't jump in lockstep with the newest craze suggested by the developers that the tourists will somehow all decide not to come here anymore. We have forgotten that what brings them here is what brought us here; the climate and the incredible beauty of the mountains and the basin."

Glad winter tidings for northern resorts

TRUCKEE, Calif. — If those bearing bad news tend to get beat, what happens to a person delivering glad tidings? The person in this case is meteorologist Chris Tomer, who is based in Denver but tracks weather across the West. And for beleaguered California resorts, he has good news.

"I'm forecasting for Lake Tahoe roughly 350 to 400 inches (of snow)," Tomer told the Sierra Sun. "And toward the end of the season, certain areas may be five to eight per cent above normal."

He said that his optimism about average or better snow extends from Tahoe to the Pacific Northwest but also to areas in the interior West: Sun Valley, Bridger Bowl, Jackson Hole, and Steamboat.