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Mountain News: The next big thing in mountain recreation



ASPEN, Colo. — Alex Dicharry thinks that motorized snowbikes will be the next big thing in mountain recreation.

Dicharry, owner of Aspen Motoworx, said the technology has been around for 15 years. Polaris, the snowmobile manufacturer, has recently introduced kits to convert the wheels of a motocross bike into sleds. What remains to be added is more insulation and horsepower, plus heated grips and hand deflectors.

"That's where we come in as the mad scientist," Dicharry told The Aspen Times. "This is my laboratory."

Sooner, rather than later, he said, snowbikes will be available for purchase directly, without the lab work.

With the tracks required for snow travel, a snow bike is about 23 kilograms heavier than a motocross bike. It's still much lighter than a snowmobile, however, making it easier to manoeuvre in deep snow. On hardpack, however, the single track on the front makes it harder to navigate.

Dicharry said he expects motorized mountain bikes will soon have a place in the motor-friendly X Games.

Locals' discount card fails to get traction

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Shouldn't ski town residents get discounts for being locals? Wages tend to be low, rent high, and, come March, tempers short.

Many businesses do give out discounts for local residents. But merchants, restaurateurs, and other businesses in Telluride have so far resisted the idea of creating a "Locals' Card."

The Telluride Daily Planet found the idea still lacks broad appeal among businesses. It rubs some business managers the wrong way. Instead, they favour loyalty programs for repeat customers.

"Does a person in Chicago walk into a store and say, 'What's my locals' discount?" asked Penelope Gleason, co-owner of Bootdoctors, an outdoor goods and rental company.

Then there's this very fundamental question: Who decides who is a local? "It's a very awkward, if not humiliating, conversation to ask customers to prove they are 'local,'" Gleason said.

To wean customers off the entitlement psychology of a locals' pass, Gleason's business implemented a program that rewards customers for repeat business. Also, locals have access to deeply discounted prices during the off-season when the visitors have left.

Todd Brown, a business coach, told the Planet that the idea of a discount for locals has proven contentious for decades. Several ideas have been floated, but none have gained traction.

Aspen residents' trash and those of its guests

ASPEN, Colo. — Officials in Aspen and Pitkin County last week sent out a press release announcing that local residents produce 4.1 kilograms of garbage per capita compared to the U.S. average of two kilograms.

Really? Well, not exactly, acknowledged county officials when asked to clarify. That figure is all the material that goes to the local landfill, including from part-time residents and visitors.

"Every tourist town is going to be above average," said Liz O'Connell, the city's waste reduction specialist. The decision to attribute the trash to locals, not visitors, is partly because those conducting the study didn't think they had a good way to measure the number of people in Aspen at any given time.

Aspen has a second reason for statistically lumping in the refuse of its part-timers and short-timers with that of the full-year residents: They constitute the local economy, and as such Aspen feels responsible for them, too.

"When you realize that we need to be responsible for the visitors, that catches people's attention," said O'Connell.

Aspen has taken many steps to divert the stream of trash to the landfill. It has bear-proof recycling containers on major street intersections. The city hall and county have both composting and recycling bins. And the town has eight companies that provide varying services of recycling and composting options.

The community has a good reason to want to divert trash from the landfill. Given existing rates of trash, the landfill will be full in 15 years. The landfill may be expanded, said O'Connell, but that's not a given.

Aspen city officials now want to have conversations with community members to see what can be done next. What's important, said O'Connell, is not how much trash Aspen generates, but rather that strategies be created to reduce the trash per capita.

Location matters in case of heart attacks

PARK CITY, Utah — Location is everything in real estate, they say. Location also mattered entirely when a 46-year-old man who was complaining of being lightheaded collapsed on Main Street in Park City He had suffered a heart attack, and his heart had stopped when bystanders brought him back to life.

They were able to come to his aid rapidly because somebody noticed an automated external defibrillator, or AED, in nearby Miners Park. The man regained consciousness after the equipment was used, and shortly before police and fire rescue teams arrived.

Time was of the essence, said Jay Randall, a sergeant in the Park City Police Department. "Anytime you delay that type of response, the likelihood of bringing them out drops exponentially as time goes by," he told The Park Record.

Banff see trains as answer to crowding

BANFF, Alta. — Overwhelmed by traffic during summer, Banff would like to see passenger service from Calgary reinstated. The trains that Banff envisions recall the sorts of tourist excursion trains that once delivered visitors to the towns of Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise until at least 1987.

In reaching out to other towns in the Bow Valley with its idea of passenger rail, Banff has in mind the Charlevoix Railway. The tourist train carries passengers 148 kilometres from Quebec along the St. Lawrence River to La Malbaie, a resort community. Another model is the Whistler Mountaineer, which ran for a few years as a day trip between Vancouver and Whistler.

In pushing for passenger trains, Banff hopes to address an internal problem. During summer weekends, the town is packed cheek and jowl with cars. The town has started looking at ways to diminish the need for a car while in Banff. One option being considered would yield a gondola from the town centre to the hot springs area near the Banff Centre, above the valley floor.

Diana Waltmann, spokeswoman for the Banff municipality, said the town is "at capacity" on summer weekends. "We can't accommodate any more cars in town," she said.

Visitor growth has increased rapidly in the last several years as Canada's deflating dollar has kept Canadians at home and drawn more Americans. Traffic within Banff grew six per cent last summer and nine per cent the summer before that. Visitation within Banff National Park grew even more rapidly, by 10.4 per cent.

Banff is connected to Calgary by the TransCanada Highway, and when traffic is free flowing, it takes about 90 minutes to get from Banff to downtown Calgary.

Buy cannabis? Yes, but don't smoke it in public

ASPEN, Colo. — No doubt, the acrid smell of burning marijuana was ample last weekend at the X Games. It was also illegal. You still can't smoke cannabis in public in Colorado.

But if it's legal to buy, where can you use it? Colorado towns and cities continue to struggle with that conundrum. As the X Games approached, one promoter applied to Snowmass Village to hold a private marijuana vapourizer party on the patio of a music club. The town said no, having decided there was no way to make the event private, even if the promoter sold one-day memberships.

Another promoter had better luck a few miles away in Aspen, where Boogies, described by the Aspen Daily News as a prominent shopping destination, was transformed into a venue for an invite-only X Games week party.

The party was sponsored by a local marijuana store and a promoter that specializes in cannabis events. The promoter, Freddie Wyatt of Munch and Co., told the newspaper he expected 400 to 600 people a night, "We function literally as a house party. We know everyone who walks through the door," he said.

What was different between Snowmass and Aspen? Linda Manning, the Aspen city clerk, explained the event at Boogie's was run as a private party with a guestlist and no money being charged to invitees.

Aspen regularly fields requests from promoters hoping to operate a private club where anyone interested could purchase memberships and then consume marijuana in a controlled social setting. The promoters can make lots of money that way. Others have inquired about pot-friendly limousines or shuttle services. The answer, in all cases, is "no you can't."

Despite his success at Boogie's, Wyatt went before the city council to urge laws that would allow precisely what had been rejected at Snowmass, a club for the consumption of marijuana.

The Aspen Times noted that Colorado has a handful of so-called pot clubs that operate because of private memberships. Jim True, Aspen's city attorney, said the legalities are too hazy for Aspen to allow clubs at this time.