Friday, May 27, 2011

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Drug cops don't trust locals to keep quiet

ASPEN, Colo.—The CIA didn't quite trust the Pakistani Army, and neither did the drug agents confide in the Aspen cops before they swooped in to make a big cocaine bust.

Aspen, and particularly Pitkin County, has long been known as a place where cops were willing to look the other way. Former Sheriff Bob Braudis clearly looked the other way when his buddy and neighbor, the late writer Hunter S. Thompson, ingested, and he also was clear that he had no intention of enforcing state and federal drug laws to the letter.

In this case, drug agents said they didn't trust sharing their plans to bust five Aspen residents involved in a major smuggling ring with the local law-enforcement agencies.

"Frankly, based on our investigation, we had revealed close ties between the current sheriff and several of the targets that were arrested," said Jim Schrant, the Drug Enforcement Administration special agent.

The Aspen Times noted that two of the five defendants had together contributed $175 of the total $40,000 the sheriff collected for his campaign.

DiSalvo described them as "acquaintances" and nothing more. He likened the relationships to that of Sheriff Andy Griffith, of 1960s TV fame, knowing Ernest T. Bass and Otis, the Mayberry town drunk.

"In Aspen, I think there's two degrees of separation between most people, three degrees tops," he said. "It's inevitable that a good guy is going to cross paths with bad people every once in a while."

In Denver, media also noted that most of the suspects were in their 60s.

Labradoodle snacked on by pack of coyotes

ASPEN, Colo.—The Aspen Times tells of a woman who was hiking Friday morning on a trail near Aspen, her Labradoodle running out ahead of her, when a coyote nabbed the dog and took it back to companions for a spring-time feast. Wildlife officials also tell the newspaper that a bear knocked down the door of a house in quest of food.

Bear researcher says sow danger overstated

CANMORE, Alberta—By every account, attacks by black bears of humans remain exceedingly rare. But they do occur and, contrary to popular accounts, they are not most likely to involve sows defending cubs.

Instead, according to renowned bear expert Stephen Herrero, male black bears were involved in 88 percent of the 54 fatal incidents studied in North America between 1900 and 2009.

The research was published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

"That most fatal black bear attacks were predatory and were carried out by one bear shows that females with young are not the most dangerous black bears," Herrero told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

"Females select habitat and behave to support security. On the other hand, male black bears typically have large home ranges, exposing those bears to more risks because of more potential for interactions with people."

Herrero said a key question is why black bears don't attack people more often. A 100-pound black bear is a "pretty good match" for a 200-pound human, he noted.

"The ones that have tried have come up with a much more aggressive species—Homo sapiens," he said. "Any bears that have this tendency have been eliminated from the population."

Parks Canada advises anyone attacked by a black bear to fight back. But human-wildlife conflict specialist Steve Michel also noted that there's a "vast difference between black bears and grizzlies, and how they respond to people, particularly in a surprise encounter. A female grizzly with cubs will likely be much more aggressive than a female black bear with cubs."

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Vail air operator has eyes on international

GYPSUM, Colo.—For many years, there have been hopes that the Eagle County Regional Airport—better known as Vail/Eagle to pilots—will become an international airport. But while a customs agent working part-time handled 400 private and charter flights last year, the cost of an expanded customs operation was estimated at $5 million annually.

But now it appears that the cost of a full-fledged customs station would cost only $2.5 million to $3 million, according to the Vail Daily. The potential market consists primarily of private and charter flights from Canada and Mexico. Paul Gordon, general manager of the Vail Valley Jet Center, reports ambitions to have the full-service customs facility in place by the time that Beaver Creek hosts the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships.

Gordon also said his company hopes to build a hangar that would house a Boeing 757. Keeping a jet like that indoors for several days eliminates the cost of de-icing, and also reduces the potential for mechanical problems, he told the Vail Daily.

Income of Vail Resorts' skiers at $200,000 plus

BROOMFIELD, Colo.—How important is good snow to a ski area? Important enough that ski companies like Vail Resorts invest heavily in snowmaking, but ultimately the economy matters much more, says Chief Executive Rob Katz.

In 2010, Vail made $807 million in resort revenue, which includes lift tickets, ski lessons, lodging, dining and other revenue streams, compared to $71 million in real estate, reports the Vail Daily, citing a presentation by Katz and chief financial officer Jeff Jones.

Katz also pointed to the success of the season pass sales, most famously the Epic Pass. Lift ticket sales accounted for 35 percent of the ski company revenues in 2010. More than one-third of that shows up before most of the ski season has occurred, according to their report, thus mitigating the risk of poor snow.

For Vail Resorts altogether, average household income of guests exceeds $200,000, and at Beaver Creek it exceeds $300,000. Across the ski industry, only 19 percent of skiers report household income at or above $200,000.

Katz presents Vail's six ski areas—four in Colorado, and two in California—as being among a "very limited set of high-end destination ski resorts" in North America.

Mud forces workers to drive twice as far

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.—Crews continue to work to remove a giant landslide that has smothered a road along the Snake River. The road is used by a large number of commuters from Jackson to homes in lower-priced Alpine, normally 37 miles away. Now commuters can still make it to work, but at double the driving distance.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead visited the slide on Monday and told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that it was a "a big deal."

Called the Double Draw, the slide is one of five in Wyoming being monitored.

"This is obviously the biggest," he said. "I was taken by the magnitude of it, not just of the earth that has moved, but the water. ... Moving the earth off the road is one issue. Trying to resolve the water issue that is running down is also a problem. There's a lot of water down there."

This is the second landslide in recent weeks.

"For a geologist to be able to see this, it's awfully exciting," state geologist Wallace Ulrich said. "But in the back of our heads, this thing is obviously having an enormous effect on the economy of Jackson Hole."

Paid parking causing heartburn in Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C.—Paid parking in lots previously free has been causing heartburn aplenty in Whistler. Municipal officials have set the daily rate at $13.50, hoping to raise money to pay for the land. Pique Newsmagazine reports a Facebook page devoted to opposition that now has 750 friends. Among those opposed is the local chamber of commerce, which cites the depressed global economy and other grievances for why such parking rates are unjustified.




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