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Mountain News: Sundance boycott likely to fizzle

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By Allen Best

PARK CITY, Utah – Talk of a boycott of Park City’s Sundance Film Festival in January seems to be sputtering. The Park Record reports that the gay-friendly Queer Lounge intends to return. Ellen Huang, the founder and program director, told the newspaper that it is important for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community to use the opportunity for Sundance “to ensure their stories about our community reach a broad audience.” The boycott talk had materialized because of the role of the Mormon church, which is based in nearby Salt Lake City, in drumming up support for California’s Proposition 8, which outlaws gay marriage.

 

Vail switches legal notices

VAIL, Colo. – Vail’s town government has decided to forego publishing the full text of laws in the Vail Daily and instead post the laws on the town’s website. The move will save the town $20,000, town officials say. The Vail Daily’s publisher, Steve Pope, argues that the change is a bad one. He contends it is “unreasonable to expect that the common person” will regularly visit the town’s website, whereas 90 per cent of local residents scan his newspaper.

 

Moly mine still open

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – How quickly this economy has turned. Even last spring the news hither and thither across the West was of mines being reopened or at least being contemplated. Now, mines are being shuttered or, as in the case of a year-old molybdenum mine near Revelstoke, the expansion shelved. Scott Broughton, president and chief executive of Roca Mines, says his company will continue to mine, and he said he’s “keenly interested” in preserving the jobs of the 100 or so workers there.

“It’s not just goodwill and it’s not just philanthropic,” he told the Revelstoke Times-Review. “We want to be able to have this mine up and running and producing molybdenum when prices do go back up again.”

The newspaper notes that the price for molybdenum, an alloy in steel and iron often called simply “moly,” had been holding steadily at $30 to $35 US per pound, but has now skidded to $12 per pound.

 

CB looks to save sheds, outhouses

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Part of the charm of Crested Butte is its gaily painted Victorian storefronts. But that’s the show-business part. To get a better sense of Crested Butte’s grimy past you need to walk the alleyways and visit the empty lots, where a great many coal bins, outhouses, and sheds, many of them graying and rotting, can be seen.

To ensure the manifestations of yesteryear remain, the town is now looking at incentives and penalties for property owners. The goal is to ensure the old buildings aren’t deliberately torn down, and that some efforts are made to keep them standing.

“I think one of the things about Crested Butte that’s special is the outbuildings,” building official Bob Gillie recently told the town council. “Those buildings, like the coal sheds, say a lot about the history of Crested Butte.”

Council members, reports the Crested Butte News , are leery of over-reaching in their efforts to preserve the past. But they are also reminded that some other communities, such as Telluride, now wish more relics of the past had been preserved, and are keen on applying those lessons to Crested Butte.

 

Aspen responds to four deaths

ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen and Pitkin County are rapidly moving to adopt stricter laws mandating installment of carbon monoxide detectors in homes in the wake of the deaths of a family of four from Denver that had been staying at a home near Aspen during Thanksgiving.

A private engineering firm hired by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department cited a “combination of errors” in the home’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems as the possible cause of the spread of the deadly, odorless gas.

The city and county both began requiring carbon monoxide detectors in new homes and other buildings in 2003. This week the city announced detectors must now be located outside each sleeping area of a new home. City and council officials, reports The Aspen Times , are considering a requirement to retrofit older, existing homes with carbon monoxide devices.

 

New library achieves LEED gold

DURANGO, Colo. – After 101 years, Durango has a new library. It’s larger, with more places to read, and thanks to windows and skylights, much brighter, reports the Durango Telegraph. As well, the building has green credentials, scoring enough points under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification system to score gold, the third highest of four levels.

 

Gates can’t keep banks away

BIG SKY, Mont. –The Yellowstone Club, founded in 1999, soon became a metaphor for high-end exclusivity in the mountain valleys of the West. The ski trails were immaculate and private. Homes cost up to $20 million. Members and their guests flew into nearby Bozeman, about an hour away, on private jets.

Now, in the wake of the club’s bankruptcy filing in November, the Yellowstone Club is becoming a different metaphor, observes the New York Times, proving that even big gates can’t keep out broader economic forces.

“The sense of refuge was an illusion,” says the newspaper’s Kirk Johnson. “The global financial crises have stormed even these gilded confines.”

Johnson describes the Yellowstone Club as a “cloistered and cosseted mountain retreat,” words similar to those he used to describe Aspen several years ago. But while Aspen has plenty of billionaires, Yellowstone has Bill and Melinda Gates and a passel of others with pockets deep enough for just a few hundred people to have their own private preserve of 13,500 acres of hitherto pristine land.

But the causes of the Yellowstone Club’s bankruptcy are more complex than just a battering economy. There’s also the divorce of Yellowstone Club founder Tim Blixseth, and his wife, Edna. She gained control of the club, then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing the club’s inability to restructure $399 million in debt.

A loan of $20 million will keep the club running until next April. A bankruptcy court in Montana chose a plan by Sam Byrne’s Boston-based hedge fund, CrossHarbor Capital Partners. Credit Suisse, with a greater stake in the resort, $311 million, had wanted the club closed and its assets sold off as quickly as possible.

Laura Bell, the editor of the Big Sky Weekly, said that Tim Blixseth tried to do too much too soon. Then, the Blixseths were sued by former Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, who claimed to have been wronged. Earlier in the year, the lawsuit was settled in his favour.

People who buy into the Yellowstone Club were promised privacy, says Bell, and believed they were getting it. Now, that privacy has been compromised. “The owners’ dirty laundry is getting aired, and they are not happy about it,” Bell told Mountain Town News .

The Times wondered how locals in nearby Bozeman had reacted to the bankruptcy. Comments revealed ambivalence. “It’s pretty grotesque and ridiculous, but at the same time, a lot of people depend on going up there for jobs,” said Greg Thomas, a 31-year-old construction worker.

Bill Hopkins, who is 51 and works in Yellowstone National Park, said he can “kind of gloat on one hand, but I’m not really happy about it.” The land is developed, and so the resort should at least be operational, he explained.

 

Aspen’s emissions drop

ASPEN, Colo. – For the third year running, Aspen’s city government has made good on its vow to reduce its responsibility for emissions of greenhouse gases.

The reduction so far is 23.7 per cent, of which 8.8 per cent occurred in the last year. All the efforts are being measured against a 2004-2005 inventory.

The larger part of the most recent cutback resulted from less coal and natural gas being burned to produce electricity, city officials tell The Aspen Times. The city government gets electricity from two utilities, Holy Cross Energy and the city’s own utility department. Both have been buying more wind-generated electricity.

City employees are flying less often, and less natural gas is being used to heat buildings. As well, energy-saving improvements were made to the Aspen Recreation Center and solar panels have been added to a water treatment plant, reducing the need for coal-fired electricity.

The recorded reductions are for city operations, but not for the broader community. Through various forums, including the Mayors’ Agreement on Climate Change and the Canary Initiative, Aspen has vowed dramatic reductions for the community overall.

 

Keeping uphillers between the lines

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – In the 1990s, gyms got StairMasters. About the same time, ski areas started becoming giant outdoor StairMasters, as those seeking aerobic fitness began trekking up the ski slopes at first light and many times at night, under the moon and stars.

For the most part, ski areas tolerate the uphillers, as long as they don’t get in the way. Those slapping on a set of skins as a morning ritual have sometimes included ski area employees, including former Crested Butte manager John Norton.

But the rough edges of such relations at Breckenridge were such that some 60 people showed up at a recent town council meeting to chew on proposed changes. The problem there, reports the Summit Daily News, was parking. Ski area officials said too many parking spaces needed by construction hands working on a base-area real estate project were being monopolized by the uphill crowd.

As well, ski area officials were irritated by uphillers — sometimes simply called “skinners,” although many use snowshoes — venturing onto runs that had been closed for grooming. Especially dangerous are those trails where winches, which are used on the steepest trails, are operating, with cables up to 3,500 feet long.

Three of the self-propelled were recently removed from the ski area after ascending a trail marked for winch use.

Another problem is the poop left on freshly groomed slopes by dogs accompanying the uphillers.

Climbing mountains is as old as skiing itself, even older. Ski lifts didn’t arrive until the 1930s. Waxes and the “skins” affixed to the bottom of skis to provide uphill traction have been around for centuries.

Fibers and plastic long ago replaced the seal skins originally used for uphill traction. The name remains, though, and has even become a verb, as in to “skin” up the mountain and those who use skins have, says the Summit Daily, become “skinners.”

The special-use permits given ski areas to operate on national forest land give them authority to close sections. But as a practical matter, says Ken Kowynia, winter sports program manager in Colorado for the U.S. Forest Service, the rules depend upon each ski area’s circumstances.

“It’s really on a ski area-by-ski area basis. We could agree to prohibit, but that’s not my first instinct,” he told Mountain Town News. “It depends upon the location, the traditional uses, and what the realistic use is. In places where people have been doing it forever, we are more inclined to try to make it work.

“Basically, we try to accommodate the use in a way that it’s not going to interfere with downhill skier traffic,” he added.

A measure of just how difficult ski area operators find the self-propelled is revealed in a press release issued by operators of the Telluride ski area on Monday. The resort noted that hiking, skiing, or snowboarding on closed areas of the mountain is prohibited, although the opened ski runs remained available to the uphillers. The resort company noted the presence of high-voltage and high-pressure cords and hoses and also the use of explosives by ski patrollers in an attempt to reduce avalanche potential.

In the case of Breckenridge, refinements of the rules governing uphill use are being worked out. There will be no effort to ban the skinners and snowshoers, but only to keep them between the white lines, so to speak.

 

Coyotes to be targeted in Canmore

CANMORE, Alberta – Coyotes bit three children in Canmore last year. To prevent nipping this winter, wildlife officials intend to live-trap coyotes suspected of harassing people or preying on pets.

Coyotes which are just moving through the town, snagging a few rabbits along the way, will be left alone, fish and wildlife officer Dave Dickson told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Why the coyotes bit the children was never determined. None had rabies. One theory is that the coyotes bit the kids because they were making noise, the same as dogs will sometimes do. Coyotes and dogs, after all, are cousins.

To reduce the potential for incidents, parents are asked to accompany their young children to bus stops, particularly those in wooded areas.

The coyotes are drawn to Canmore because of the rabbits, but also the garbage hauled out of canisters by ravens. While there are no more than a dozen coyotes in the town now, up to 50 are expected by January.

Also seen in Canmore recently was a cougar. Dickson believes the cougar was drawn by deer, which in turn were drawn by salt licks placed by residents who may not have realized that deer draw the big cats. Two years ago, an emaciated cougar killed two dogs in Canmore.

 

Power customers split

RIDGWAY, Colo. – San Miguel Power Association is among the 44 rural electrical co-operatives in Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Wyoming that together form Tri-State Generation and Transmission. Tri-State has been under fire for several years because of its plans to build two coal-fired power plants in Kansas, a move that critics and some members say is financially risky and environmentally a disaster.

So what do members of San

Miguel Power — who live in the Telluride, Silverton and Ouray area — think about their options? According to a recent survey, there is a definite split. While nearly three-quarters hope for renewable energy, little more than half appear willing to pay more to achieve that goal. About half say they favor nuclear energy. Whether that is any cheaper is still unclear.

 

Doctors used to take roosters for payments

DURANGO, Colo. – Do doctors still occasionally accept payment in other than greenbacks, Visa and MasterCard? Dr. Alfred Bedford, a doctor based in Durango, apparently did so, at times in his career taking as payment a barnyard of animals: a donkey, a goat, and chickens. As well, he accepted tamales as payment.

Although born in Paris, France, and reared in the exurbs of New York City, the doctor spent his adult life based in Durango as a general surgeon and family practitioner with a small farm and ranch out in the country. He also had a clinic in Silverton, notes the Silverton Standard, who reported his recent death at an advanced age.