Friday, December 21, 2007

Mountain Town News


Fall to winter came in blink of a frosted eye

SILVERTON, Colo. -- How different are people in cities and mountain towns. A few weeks ago it was 55 degrees out, there was sunshine all around, and not one bit of snow in the San Juan Mountains, or for that matter, anywhere in Colorado.

In Denver, people were exulting in the "good" weather. In mountain towns, that same weather pattern evoked grumpiness.

But then the skies darkened, and the snow was being measured by the foot in Crested Butte. "People were excited to have to dig 5 feet of snow off their cars," said one visitor.

In Silverton, where the mid-December snow was about 120 percent of average, columnist Freddie Canfield reported arrival of the "good old days. The highway by Silverton its way to Durango and Ouray "looks like a two-lane toboggan run with nearly 10-foot berms," he reported in the Silverton Standard.

Mining history moved one truckload at a time

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. -- Breckenridge continues to reconfigure its landscape, softening the hard edges of its mining heritage. That heritage included the churning of vast piles of gravel in rivers and creeks by steam-powered dredges, yielding minute quantities of gold. In some cases, the rivers were dredged up to 50 feet deep, down to bedrock.

Although the dredge mining ended in 1942, vast piles of rock remained piled high in the Blue River at the town's entrance well into the 1980s. Some piles remain even now in the Blue, as well as its chief tributaries, French Creek and the Swan River.

That is changing. The Summit Daily News reports that the piles of rock have been removed from the Swan, one truckload at a time, for use elsewhere as fill material below houses. In exchange, topsoil is being provided for the river restoration. As well, a small portion of the old dredging operation has been restored, as a sort outdoor museum.

Another segment of the river restoration is being launched, explained Brian Lorch, Summit County's open space and trail director. Within a few years, he hopes to see trout once again hiding in the waters of the river.

Traffic investigators say life fine in I-70 fast lane

AVON, Colo. -- Slow down on the daily commute on Interstate 70 through the Eagle Valley? No need to, say Colorado traffic investigators, who intend to stay the course on the 75 mph speed limit between Avon and Glenwood Canyon.

The Vail Daily explains that police, firefighters, and other emergency services officials had asked for a slower speed limit. There has been a spike in traffic fatalities on the highway since the speed limit was elevated in the mid-1990s. Farther up the valley, in the Vail area, where the speed limit is 65 mph or less, there are more accidents, but far fewer people have died.

But although ambulance drivers think there's too much blood being spilled, state officials say it's no worse than on comparable highways.

Despite greenhouse vows, Whistler's emissions rise

WHISTLER, B.C. -- Whistler has been making commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for several years. As such, it began talking the global warming talk well ahead of most ski towns. Even Aspen didn't make an overt pledge to tamp down its carbon footprint until a couple of years ago.

But where have those vows gotten Whistler? Not very far, reports Pique. Greenhouse gas emissions have increased more than 11 percent since 2000, according to the latest monitoring report. The population has increased 5 percent during that time.

Mayor Ken Melamed, who was a "green" activist when elected to the municipal council, said Whistler's growth in emissions is the result of new hotels, homes, and commercial buildings. No one project explains the increase, but rather the accretion of them all, he said.

Actually reducing emissions will be a challenge, he said, until zero-energy buildings, such as are being built in Europe, become commonplace in North America. How Whistler might achieve this isn't yet clear.

Aspen Skiing turns to Puerto Rico for seasons

ASPEN. Colo. -- Unable to hire as many foreign workers as it wanted because of the cap on H2-B visas, the Aspen Skiing Co. turned to Puerto Rico. Because they are U.S. citizens, if from a territory, no visas are required. Altogether, Aspen has 3,500 employees at its four ski mountains and its lodges during peak season, although it is coming up short on full staffing this year, reports The Aspen Times.

Canadian ski area tries to engage newer faces

WHISTLER, B.C.(MTN)—As in Colorado and other states, the Canadian ski industry is trying to catch up with changing demographic realities. The population is growing rapidly, but mostly due to immigration.

Across Canada, 20 percent of people are foreign born. In British Columbia, 27.5 percent of people are immigrants.

Canada has seen immigration surges before, but not to the same scale in 75 years, notes Pique newsmagazine. But whereas immigrants then came mostly from Europe, about 60 percent of recent immigrants come from China, Indian, the Philippines and Pakistan, with the United States fifth on the list. Others in the top 10 of originating nations: South Korea, Romania, Iran, the United Kingdom, and Columbia.

The ski industry is aware of the changing population. "I think the operators are very conscious of the trend, such as the large Sikh and Chinese populations in Vancouver, and a lot of overtures have been made across Canada, to try and engage these groups," said Jimmy Spencer, of the Canada West Ski Areas Association.

Ski area operator Intrawest has made some efforts to offer a welcome to groups to Whistler-Blackcomb that might not ordinarily feel comfortable at a ski area.

"We're making sure our photography represents the demographics of the country more and more, to reflect the diversity we already have," said Meredith Kemp, brand and destination marketing manager.

A report regarding minorities is scheduled to soon be issued by the Canada Ski Council.

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