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Mountain biking drops in popularity

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DURANGO, Colo. — In a perverse irony, the popularity of mountain biking has dropped off since the first mountain-biking president moved into the White House.

George W. Bush, of course, is that mountain-biking president, and since 2001, when he took office, mountain biking has lost 17.3 million participants, according to the Outdoor Industry Foundation. The drop was particularly precipitous two years ago, when the total bike participation and outings dropped 11 per cent.

But it’s not Bush, but another Texan to blame in this, reports the Durango Telegraph. "Once Lance Armstrong started winning the Tour de France, there was an upswing in the popularity of road biking," observed Mary Monroe, the executive director of Trails 200, a trails advocacy group in Durango.

What seems to be happening is that the causal riders of mountain bikes are losing interest, but the hard-core riders are still at it and, if anything, becoming more serious. The Durango Telegraph says that mountain biking is as big as it ever was in Durango.

Monroe says the identity of Durango is closely intertwined with mountain biking. "The power of open space and trails affects the makeup of the town," she says. "It’s bigger than the events. It’s the lifestyle."

‘Green’ business map planned

CARBONDALE, Colo. — An effort is underway to create what is called a "green map" for the Roaring Fork Valley. That map will provide readers with choices of businesses that practice sustainable practices.

The map is being assembled by a physician, Will Evans, an organizer of Sustainble Tomorrow Today. The emphasis, he says, is to localize the economy. Part of the strategy is to encourage businesses that do not make the list to make efforts to qualify in a future year.

The initial effort is aimed at the Basalt and Carbondale areas, and if that succeeds, the effort may be expanded to include the entire Roaring Fork Valley, from Aspen to Glenwood Springs.

Banff baby boomlett linked to new housing

BANFF, Alberta — Banff is having a baby boomlette. The number of births has increased by 25 per cent this year, and this is after a 15 per cent increase the year before.

What’s happening? The Rocky Mountain Outlook points to two things. First, it used to be that couples, when they got ready to create families, moved down-valley to Canmore, which was less expensive. But lately, Canmore and Banff are in the same price range. Second, Banff has been aggressively building affordable housing.

Telluride examines its carbon footprint

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Telluride continues to plot how it can reduce its carbon footprint. The town has set a goal of reducing Telluride’s carbon emission levels 15 per cent by 2010, and an additional 15 per cent by 2015.

The Telluride Watch reports the plan focuses on the town government’s direct role. For example, the plan proposes that the town encourage buildings facing "the sunny side of town" to install solar panels. Because generating wind power may not be feasible, the plan suggests the town buy wind power from elsewhere.

The plan also recommends that, in addition to monetary costs, the town include carbon emissions as a cost in its financial impact statements. It also advocates quantifying the effect of open space land and trees in town on water and air quality – as plants and trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – and including that number in decisions about open space.

Much of the rest of the plan falls under the heading of education: Working with the hardware store to stock energy-saving devices, schooling local students in climate chemistry, and educating businesses in the virtues of "green."

Just how the town will reduce its carbon footprint while more and more workers commute longer and longer distances apparently was not addressed in the document.

Frisco joins pact on climate change

FRISCO, Colo. — Frisco has put energy and climate on centre stage with its latest move. It is joining a variety of other ski towns – Park City, Aspen, Telluride, Gunnison, and Ruidoso, N.M. – and joined the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

It pledges a goal of reducing carbon dioxide pollution emitted by the town to 7 per cent below 1990 levels. This is to be done by 2012. But to do so, it must document what those 1990 emissions were.

Frisco is already applying some of its focus to reducing emissions from buildings. Mark Gage, the town’s director of community development, notes that while much has been written about energy use of cars, in fact more than 50 per cent of energy consumed in the United States goes to the heating and lighting of buildings, both commercial and residential.

Vail raising bar for WiFi access

VAIL, Colo. — Vail claims to be raising the bar for wireless Internet service. A new deal worked out with a telecommunications company, CenturyTel, will provide a Wi-Fi network by ski season to 95 per cent of outdoor areas in the town, and 90 per cent of indoor areas. The town is strung out along a valley approximately 10 miles long.

Users can get free Internet access of up to 300 kilobits per second in one-hour increments. After one hour, users will be required to register again for more time. Internet service with speeds up to three megabits per second will be available with pay plans.

While Wi-Fi is becoming common in ski towns and other locations, Vail Mayor Rod Slifer says that this new service will establish a new benchmark for service at a ski resort. "This is the kind of innovation that continues to differentiate Vail from other resort destinations," he boasted.

Sheriff ups the ante

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — In Jackson Hole, it’s official public policy that violent ramming of cars is good, clean family fun, but naked bodies are not.

The ramming of cars occurs at the Demolition Derby, the concluding event in the Teton County Fair that is held in early August. In recent years anywhere from one to 10 people have chosen the occasion to doff their clothes and "streak" in front of the alcohol-fueled crowd of 3,000.

Last year, a sheriff’s deputy used a Taser to fell a streaking man who was carrying a fire extinguisher. The act had Jackson Hole in an uproar for a month as to whether the use of the electrical device was warranted.

But the sheriff’s department isn’t backing down, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide. Instead, it’s upping the ante. This year, say the authorities, displays of nudity will result in misdemeanor charges of child endangerment. That stiffens the potential punishment to a fine of up to $1,000 and one year in jail.

The sheriff, Bob Zimmer, said several families have told him they don’t go to the Demolition Derby anymore because it’s so rowdy and because of the streaking. "Their kids can’t enjoy one of the main attractions at the county fair," he complained.

New jets likely to be a big hit

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — A new type of plane, called a VLJ, which stands for very light jet, is expected to be a hit among the sorts of people who live in affluent mountain towns.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today explains that the VLJs will have four to seven seats, about the size of a large sports utility vehicle. The cost is $1 million to $4 million. More important, operating and maintenance costs are expected to be low.

This means that a company could charter one of these planes for the same cost as a full-fare commercial ticket. The planes, says the Pilot, will be purchased mainly as corporate "limos."

The planes will have speeds of 400 mph, and at altitudes of up to 35,000 feet. They have ranges of 1,600 nautical miles. Important, at least from the perspective of Steamboat, is that the planes can land on short runways. Steamboat has an airport on the town’s edge too small for conventional, wide-bodied jets.

They are considered quieter than nearly all other jets.

Look at the biceps on her!

CARBONDALE, Colo. — Female arm-wrestling seems to be the rage in the Roaring Fork Valley.

"Forget mud wrestling," says The Aspen Times. "Forget a wet T-shirt contest. For contestants, women’s arm-wrestling is more empowering. For spectators of the opposite sex, it’s arguably just as arousing."

The Times attended a fund-raiser in Carbondale, between Glenwood Springs and Aspen. The wrestlers all had catchy names, like La Gata and Cleavage Crusher, even if their day jobs were sometimes more mundane. The Croatian Princess, for example, was a 46-year-old architect designer.

The event was primarily for 20-somethings and 30-somethings, although there were some notable exceptions. A 70-year-old woman called Western Woman lost to her 24-year-old opponent called Streak of Steel. "When I was younger, I would have kicked her ass," the older woman growled.

"Who knew women’s arm-wrestling could be this intense?" wondered the Times correspondent. "Who knew it could be this fun to watch?" The newspaper reported that an earlier bout of bicep flexing, held in Glenwood Springs, "attracted people to the bar the way Paris Hilton attracts camera lenses."

Real estate run takes a break

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — The bulls have slowed their stampede in the streets of Mammoth Lakes. But Rusty Gregory, the revered chief executive officer at the Mammoth Mountain ski area, says the locals should use the opportunity to get ready for the next real estate boom.

"There’s no question in my mind there’s been a flattening of demand in the real estate market," he told The Sheet. "And at the end of these periods of prosperity, the problems become more noticeable."

One problem he sees is the absence of a collective vision for the town’s Main Street. To that end, Mammoth Lakes has appointed a task force to address how to make Main Street more functional but also more aethestically pleasing. It has been described as a 1950s-style collection of suburban-type mini-shopping malls.

The Sheet observers that it’s been nine months since Starwood Capital purchased 77 percent of the equity in the ski mountain and associated holdings, and that Gregory had predicted an immediate expectation of results. Still, pushiness from the new owners hasn’t been apparent. The Sheet speculates that the success of skiing last winter – Mammoth received 670 inches of snow and 1.5 million skiers – may have been a satisfying change.

ATV law needs teeth

SILVERTON, Colo. — Earlier this year San Juan County adopted a law that seeks to rein in the worst impulses of all-terrain vehicle riders who are drawn to the above-treeline tundra around Silverton by the maze of four-wheel-drive roads. In particular, youngsters on the ATVs seem prone to tearing across the tundra, unmindful of the damage they are causing.

But it’s one thing to pass a law, and quite another to enforce it. The Silverton Standard reports agreement that an alpine ranger is needed to educate backcountry motorized users, but nothing seems likely this year.

This new law was enacted in concert with identical laws in Ouray and San Miguel counties, as the three counties are connected by a series of backcountry roads.

Criminality of illegals a myth

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Steamboat Springs has added a rather high-brow lecture series to its summer schedule, and on a recent week the columnist Linda Chavez talked about immigration.

The crime rate of illegals is the "single biggest myth" in the immigration debate, she said. The rate of incarceration of Mexican immigrants is less than 1 per cent, while the rate for non-Hispanic whites is 1.3 per cent, she said.

The hardest issue in the debate, said Chavez, a native of New Mexico noted for her conservative viewpoints, is the status of children of illegal immigrants. Chavez suggested that illegal immigrants pay tuition for their children’s schoolings.

Paper now in magazine biz

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Like many ski town newspapers, the owner of The Steamboat Pilot & Today is getting into the magazine business. The new magazine, called "At Home in Steamboat Springs," will feature stories that are longer, and more in-depth than is commonly found in the newspaper, reported the newspaper. "We believe Steamboat is more than a town. It’s a lifestyle, and the magazine is meant to reflect that," said Scott Stanford, the newpaper’s editor.

Durango vertically challenged

DURANGO, Colo. — The rugged topography of the Animas River Valley prevents Durango from easily spreading outward. But rapidly rising land costs are nudging buildings higher in the city’s old downtown district.

The Durango Herald explains that existing downtown buildings are two and three storeys high, with four-storey buildings allowed by city guidelines on corner lots. Worried that four-storey buildings could replace some of these lower mid-block structures, the Durango City Council is looking at enacting a temporary moratorium on the taller buildings.

In another sign of rising tide, Durango is annexing the land currently occupied by the Rocket Drive-In. In its place will go 1,675 condominiums in eight separate storeys. Initial approval will allow the buildings to be up to 52 feet high.

Copper thieves on a roll

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — The booming world economy that has stirred talk of reopening mines in the Rocky Mountains is also causing problems for building contractors.

Among the commodities with sharply increased prices is copper. As such, thievery is copper is becoming rampant. Contractors called Breckenridge police five times within 10 days about missing copper wire, roofing, and fittings, reports the Summit Daily News. Across Vail Pass, police in Vail reported a $5,000 copper theft.

29 th time still charming for runner

SILVERTON, Colo. — If tradition was served, Steve Wolff last weekend ran up Silverton’s Kendall Mountain, a gain of almost 4,000 vertical feet over the course of 12 miles. It was his 29 th run up the mountain during the town’s annual running competition.

Wolff, an art gallery owner and homebuilder, tells the Silverton Standard that he’s not as aggressive about the run as he was when younger. "I peaked a long time ago," he says. "But the fire never totally leaves. Now I just enjoy it. I didn’t enjoy it for years."

His advice to novice runners up the 13,066-foot mountain? Look down while they’re running, because it looks flatter that way. Plus, take it one step at a time.

Steamboat going underground for heat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Steamboat Springs is looking into installing an extensive snow-melt system in the redeveloped base area that is now being planned. Conventionally, the energy for melting the snow would have come from a natural-gas fired boiler. But Steamboat is looking into the potential of drawing upon heated underground water sources, as the region has at least two hot springs. A geologic study is planned.

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