By Allen Best
VAIL, Colo. – Vail town officials are assembling an evacuation plan for town residents and visitors — just in case of a major fire of the dead trees, both within the town and in the surrounding national forest.
Forests of lodgepole pine have been hard hit by an epidemic of pine bark beetles that began a decade ago.
The evacuation plan calls for a mass 911 telephone alert to all residences, emergency radio broadcasts, e-mail messages and, possibly, emergency workers using loud speakers to warn of the need to evacuate, reports the Vail Daily.
Potential for what Phil Bowden, a U.S. Forest Service wildland fuels specialist, calls a “monster fire” will increase with passing years. Most of the dead trees now standing will have fallen to the ground in 15 years, providing more fuel. But even greater fire potential will arrive in 50 years, when logs remain on the ground and new trees are standing, allowing fire to be spread from tree crown to tree crown.
Meanwhile, efforts will continue this summer to create a moat along the town’s periphery. Trees will be cut and removed on 10 acres of town land and 170 acres of national forest. Residents are also being urged to reduce fire risk by removing any dead or dying trees in their own backyards.
Groves of aspen, which are less susceptible to fire, will be introduced in some areas.
Bloom is off Aspen Highlands
ASPEN, Colo. – The bloom is off at Highlands Bowl, the Aspen Skiing Co.’s expansion area at the Aspen Highlands ski area.
The virtues of the steep-sided bowl have been praised frequently by skiing and snowboarding magazines since it was opened for public skiing three years ago. The attraction of the new Temmerity Lift last year, combined with wonderful snow, pushed Aspen Highlands to a 15 per cent increase and fueled speculation that the ski area would surpass 200,000 skier days this year.
But Aspen Highlands is down 4 per cent this winter in visits, reports The Aspen Times, and the four ski areas operated by the Aspen Skiing Co. are down collectively 2.5 per cent. Unlike last year’s superlative storms, the snow has been so-so this winter.
Meanwhile, the Aspen Skiing Co. continues to plow money into on-mountain improvements at Snowmass Mountain, which does the heavy lifting for the company. Altogether, some $50 million in improvements are planned. This year, a children’s centre will be constructed. As well, improvements to a beginners’ area are likely, and a new on-mountain restaurant remains possible.