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Durango goes ‘real’ too



DURANGO, Colo. — Durango tourism promoters have a new slogan: "Get Real." A marketing agency came up with the slogan, explained Kim Newcomer, a tourism official, after research showed that the "reason people enjoy visiting Durango is very similar to why we all have chosen to live here. Durango is a real town."

Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb launched their "Whistler. Always Real." campaign earlier this year.

Town wants credit for part-timers

CANMORE, Alberta — Since the mid-1990s, like many resort towns across the West, Canmore has many more windows that remain unlit frequently throughout the year. This year’s census revealed that while the permanent residency remained flat, the number of part-time residents increased more than 37 per cent.

That might be well and fine, except that the provincial government in Alberta distributes tax revenue grants on the basis of residents. Canmore thinks that this formula leaves it with the short end of the stick, namely an enormous infrastructure burden. To that end, Canmore has filed a request with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to take into consideration this fact when per-capita grants are distributed. The organization’s president told the Rocky Mountain Outlook that it’s possible Canmore’s wish may be accommodated, although every other municipality believe it is unusual in some dimension or another.

Hurricane-ravaged city ‘adopted’

ASPEN, COLO. — In September, the fire chief in Carbondale, a town about 30 miles down-valley from Aspen, reported that hurricane-ravaged Pearlington, Miss., had been given little attention.

Carbondale consequently "adopted" Pearlington, and in short order so had Aspen, Snowmass and other jurisdictions in the Roaring Fork Valley. Items were collected and trucked directly to Pearlington, bypassing other relief organizations.

Curious about the adoptee, The Aspen Times sent a team to Pearlington for a first-hand report. All the images that writer Scott Condon and photographer Paul Conrad had seen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina did not prepare them for what they encountered. Usually, a month after a natural disaster, visitors to such a town would expect to see it being tidied up, Condon said. Instead, they found a wasteland. "Pearlington was essentially a landfill laced with bulldozer paths through the refuse and debris."

He described unseemly sights – golden arches on the ground providing the only evidence that a restaurant had once existed there, a yacht in a tree, everything of a Comfort Inn gone except the façade.

In most cases, the residents were waiting – for insurance adjusters, for federal emergency workers or, in some cases, for someone to tell them how to proceed with their lives.

Aspen may withdraw hybrid carrot

ASPEN, Colo. — Two years ago Aspen wanted to encourage more people to use cars that use both electricity and gas, which get improved mileage and emit fewer pollutants. As such, the town gave $100 to Aspen residents who owned hybrids, and it also gave them carte blanche to park in zones otherwise restricted to homeowners and carpoolers.

But with some 60 hybrids now in Aspen, Mayor Helen Klanderud believes no incentives are needed. The Aspen Times says that Klanderud also argues that the program runs counter to the city’s goal of encouraging use of mass transit. Moreover, if the only concern is emissions, other vehicles than just hybrids meet the city’s Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle standard. As well, commuters who carpool are annoyed that single-occupant hybrids edge them out for coveted free parking spaces.

Vail investing in hybrids

VAIL, Colo. — Vail town officials plan to get a hybrid bus next year, the first step in converting a third of its fleet to hybrids in the next decade.

The hybrid technology, which uses both electricity and diesel, almost doubles the cost of the buses, from $300,000 to $500,000 each. However, using the hybrid technology is expected to save 19,000 gallons of diesel fuel per bus per year and the buses are ideal for the frequent stops and starts of the in-town shuttle. As well, the buses are quieter and reduce emissions by 90 per cent.

"As technology comes along, everyone wants to take the high road," transportation boss Mike Rose explained. The Vail Daily added that the town already has two Toyota Prius hybrid cars and plans to buy a hybrid SUV next year.

Bus drivers hard to find

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — The slack in the economy is clearly gone. Bus departments are again reporting they can’t find drivers. In Steamboat Springs, with training of drivers for winter routes soon to begin, city transportation director George Krawzoff reported getting only five applications for 20 positions. This fact, he said, demonstrates why dedicated affordable housing is needed.

This comes at a time when there is more interest than ever in using mass transit, owing to the increased price of gasoline. Ridership in September was up 7 per cent compared to last year, the Steamboat Pilot reports.

Housing pinch hits government

HAILEY, Idaho — As the towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley have done previously, Blaine County is talking about starting an affordable housing program for county employees. The sheriff, Walt Fleming, told county commissioners he’s down six employees, but applicants have backed out when learning the cost of local housing.

While the county government has some land to work with should it choose to become a landlord as well as employer, the commissioners want to explore various ideas, such as providing rent subsidies for new employees.

Mammoth expects jet traffic

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — The Mammoth-Yosemite Airport now has permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to accommodate regional jets. Ski area officials expect to begin posting flight revenue guarantees for twice-daily flights on 70- to 80-passenger jets from Los Angeles beginning in the 2006-07 ski season, reports The Sheet, a newspaper in Mammoth Lakes.

However, the long-awaited environmental impact statement that would allow the sorts of commercial flights on larger jets that service Aspen, Vail, and other destination resorts is on hold once more, pending resolution of several land use and legal matters.

An airport has been considered to be a key step in making weekend-heavy Mammoth into a destination resort. Intrawest, after gaining a 59.4 percent stake in the ski company, made the first major step with its real-estate building binge at the base of the ski slopes.

This past week, Intrawest announced the pending sale of all but 15 percent of its stake to an investment group based in Greenwich, Conn., which is controlled by Starwood Capital Group Global. The two intend to partner on the remaining real estate development, 1,000 residential units and 30,000 square feet of commercial space. As well, Intrawest is retaining a 50 per cent in its lodging operation.

Sand sucked from creek

VAIL PASS, Colo. — When Interstate 70 was plunged through the mountains of Colorado 30 to 50 years ago, the builders vaguely knew that someday all of the sand that would be spread on the highway during winter would create a problem, but it seemed a long, long away.

Time flies. By the late 1980s, that sand was a problem at Straight Creek, which parallels I-70 from the tunnel to Silverthorne. It was similarly declared a threat in the late 1990s on Black Gore Creek, which parallels I-70 from Vail Pass to Vail.

Although not evident from the highway, there is so much sand in and along the creek that, in places, if you didn’t look up, you might think that you were on a beach. The sand is suffocating the bugs upon which trout and other fish feed. In time, the sand descending down the creek could create flooding problems in Vail.

There is no easy answer to all this. To keep the sand from washing into the creek, highway officials built 38 sediment basins, from which the sand can be collected at the end of each winter. They are also using magnesium chloride, although that only lowers the freezing point of snow and does not eliminate need for sand.

In early October, another small step was taken. For several days, crews used what resembled a large, metal vacuum cleaner to suck the sand from the riparian area and back up to the highway, where it was to be bagged. All told, officials expected to retrieve 100 truck-loads of sand. That still leaves much sand behind.

The key: don’t panic

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Charles Horton, the man who survived eight days in the snow and cold last spring after breaking his leg on a solo cross-country ski outing, has already received spades of publicity, and he’s getting more.

His story will be related in upcoming issues of Men’s Journal and National Geographic Adventure, and it was also told recently on a television channel, National Geographic. The key question in all these is why did he survive when the odds seemed to be against him.

The answer, he told The Steamboat Pilot, is "I didn’t panic."

Still, there was a day during his ordeal when he thought it might be his last, and so he decided to be completely present. "If this is the last day of my life I thought, I wanted to experience everything," he told the newspaper. "I felt the pain in my leg, I saw the birds and the sunlight. I felt the wind."

Having read several books of near-death survivors since his excursion last April, he has discovered his experience was not unique. Most people who survived something similar describe being overwhelmed by the beauty of where they were.

Horton recommends that hikers and skiers always carry with them fire-starting tools, water, and food – plus shelter. Had he been carrying a space blanket or bivy bag, he would have been dry and warm instead of on the brink of death. He also recommends a knife, a first-aid kit, and homeopathic Arnica pills to keep from going into shock or passing out if injured.

A knife, of course, was the essential tool used by another ski town wilderness survivor, Aron Ralston, when his arm got caught between two boulders in the canyonlands of Utah. He sawed off his arm and hence evaded an even more gruesome death by dehydration.

Wildlife films are hot

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — It’s been a big year for films about wildlife, with the March of the Penguins and then Grizzly Man both making a big splash. With that kind of success for documentary and docudramas, the Warner Independent Pictures showed up this year at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival looking for projects. Winning awards at the festival puts filmmakers "on the radar" for production companies such as BBC and National Geographic, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Boxes and more boxes

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — Colorado’s I-70 corridor continues to look more like urban America in all its majestic boxy and bigger-box wonder. The latest shift is in Glenwood Springs, where a 405,000-square-foot shopping centre has opened on the city’s west side.

Biggest among the boxes is a 125,000-square-foot Target that is described as a new prototype – not quite a Super Target and not quite a standard Target. That means groceries but no produce department.

Neither of the existing big boxes, Wal-Mart and K-Mart, appears to be fleeing with the arrival of target, although the Glenwood Springs Post Independent suggests that K-Mart has troubles ahead.

Arriving later this autumn are Lowe's, Petco, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Pier 1 Imports, plus a variety of smaller stores ranging from Allure Day Spa to Verizon Wireless. Several hundred housing units are also in the offing.

Also on the I-70 corridor in the mountains, a Target, a Home Depot, and two Wal-Mart Supercenters arrived last year, with a Costco thought to be in the soon-to-come mix.

West Vail showing its age

VAIL, Colo — The commercial complex in the West Vail component of Vail looks very 70ish, which reflects when it was built. Seas, not oceans, of parking lots describe the theme in the Safeway-McDonald’s area.

Now, city officials are dangling the idea of redevelopment to make it look New Urbanistic, with small, city-style blocks, a smattering of parking next to the buildings, retail on the ground floor with office and housing on the upper floors. A main street would run through it.

The closest prototype at hand is at Riverwalk, the project in Edwards, located about 10 miles west, which was constructed beginning in the mid-1990s. Jeff Winston of Boulder is a consultant on the project, as is Ian Thomas. The Vail Daily reports that businesses in the complex have not done well in the last several years as they have faced competition from new down-valley shopping complexes – including the Riverwalk.

Sharp increase in ESL students

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Although the enrolment has grown very little overall, the number of ESL — English as second language — students in the Steamboat Springs schools continues to spike. The school district has 68 students, most of them native Spanish speakers, compared to 12 only three years ago, reports The Steamboat Pilot.

Feng shui guides design

GRANBY, Colo. — Last year, the quietly seething owner of a muffler shop, Marvin Heemeyer, bulldozed his way down the main street of Granby, gutting or damaging a dozen or so buildings, including the town hall. Now, it’s rebuilding time, and town officials have instructed the contractor to incorporate the Chinese practice of feng shui in the design of the new town hall.

In feng shui, buildings are laid out based on principles that are supposed to cause people who use those buildings to lead healthier, happier, and more prosperous lives. Granby’s town clerk, Debbie Hess, confided to the Sky-Hi News that it was partly her idea. "I like it because it makes for a happier workplace," she said.

Gordman in critical condition

TAOS, N.M. — R.C. Gorman, 74, the painter whose works were long a staple of Southwest-oriented galleries in Vail, Aspen, and other ski towns, is reported by The Taos News to be in critical but stable condition as of Oct. 7 as the result of a bacterial blood infection that has proven highly resistant to antibiotic treatment. Among the complications has been pneumonia.

Telluride in early ski days

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Telluride’s wonderfully eclectic radio station, KOTO, is celebrating its 30th birthday, and in honor of the occasion, long-time writer Mavis Bennett recalled what Telluride was like in the early to mid-1970s, just as mining operations were ending and ski area operations were beginning.

"Early ’70s Telluride had a population of around 500 – an uneasy mix of mining families whose members had labored for Idarado Mining Co. at the end of the box canyon for generations, and about 100 ‘newcomers,’" she writes. "The newcomers were hippies and entrepreneurs. The hippies were looking for respite from the wars of the counterculture. Weary of the urban hassles, they hoped that their visionary ideas might germinate better in this small, isolated, pristine mountain community."

Telluride then "was as close to a classless society as anything could ever be," she further recalls. "If you had an idea or wanted to start an organization or an event, you just did it. There were always others who were also interested and would help you. The many commissions, rules and regulations that now govern the town had not yet been invented. Money was not the highest priority to most people in town at that time. Everything was new; opportunities abounded. There was a town to create and there were volunteers for every project.

"It was almost impossible to tell who had money and who didn't. There were few new houses in town (the onslaught of condominiums would not occur until a few years later). Among the newcomers, the standard uniform worn by all was the unstudied, practical and unisex look of jeans, down vests and hiking boots. The only time financial status might be detected was when off-season vacations were discussed and one person revealed that he had spent two months in Tahiti while the others at the table had driven to Baja, Mexico in a beat-up van, or more commonly, gone home for a month to Mom's."