Friday, July 1, 2011

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Crested Butte stays the marijuana shops

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—The Crested Butte Town Council has extended the licenses for dispensaries of medical marijuana, but not without some push-back from town residents, according to the Crested Butte News.

"Allowing dispensaries sends the message that it is OK to smoke marijuana. It is still illegal," said Beth Buehler. "I'm tired of being on the ski slopes or on a chairlift or walking by a house in this town and seeing or smelling people smoking marijuana and then having to explain it to my kids."

Also calling for a curbing of the dispensaries was Steve Ryan, who owns a property management firm. But he said he opposed the extension of permits because of his capacity as the father of a 15-year-old.

"There is a serious issue with drug use among the children of this town. So why allow a drug that is illegal under federal standards to be distributed?" he asked.

But Mike Ingle, of the Crested Butte Wellness Center, argued that it is the duty to teach children "the right ways and uses of medical marijuana."

"Marijuana was here before the dispensaries, and it is probably more accessible to teenagers than alcohol," he said. "The best way to keep medical marijuana properly is to keep it in an atmosphere that is appropriate, and that is through the dispensary system."

Most council members have concluded the current dispensary method is working. Phoebe Wilson, a bar owner on the council, said the businesses have not violated town requirements.

"There is no reason to pull the rug out from them now," she said. "I feel strongly that we need a new approach to substance abuse in general. A level of awareness, care and responsibility is also there with the dispensary model."

And Jim Schmidt, who is in his late 50s, said marijuana is indeed used as a medicine.

"Being older, I've seen friends in this town suffer, and MMJ is truly useful as a medicine."

Farmers markets are a rousing success

VAIL, Colo.—On a real, real busy day, North America's largest ski area attracts 20,000 skiers and snowboarders. At the base of Vail Mountain, the farmers market held in recent years is a lesser attraction, but it still draws 9,000 to 12,000 people each Sunday through the summer, according to organizers.

What a success when you consider it's just a few years old.

"Anecdotally, we hear that people drive up from Denver for (the Vail Farmers' Market)," Sybill Navas, special-events coordinator for the municipality of Vail, told the Vail Daily.

The market is believed to be the largest in Colorado.

Several years older than Vail's market is the Minturn Farmers' Market, which continues. Community leaders in Minturn, a much older town located a few miles from Vail, saw the market as a way to infuse vitality into the town, which has been treading water for years with a very thin business sector. But, now, not so on Saturday mornings.

Yet a third market is held in the area, at Edwards, about 10 miles west of Vail.

Whistler has two markets, on Sundays and Wednesdays. The Sunday event is larger, with 80 vendors and perhaps 2,000 people. The Wednesday event focuses on locally produced food.

Goods and services vary widely. Whistler's markets emphasize regionally produced goods.

"You can't be bringing in T-shirts from Taiwan and, just because you've silk-screened them, call them local," said Chris Quinlan, a member of the Whistler municipal council.

Minturn's market tends to offer the more unusual items, such as Tibetan jewelry and homemade jams. The Edwards market focuses on semi-local produce. The Vail market has everything from live music to art to fresh produce.

Do local merchants benefit from the throngs? With a restaurant located in the thick of the throngs, Tom Ricci said he sees no direct benefit, though he tells the Vail Daily that it's great for Minturn.

In Vail, Navas sees direct benefit to the businesses located nearby, but less so to the merchants located farther away.

Meadow Drive Partnership, the group that puts on the Vail market, estimates that customers spend an average $40 per week, yielding $240,000 in sales tax revenues for the municipality during summer.

Louise Walker, manager of research for Tourism Whistler, said one of every four tourists there last summer was drawn specifically by art and cultural activities. The farmers market was the most popular of the options, with 33 percent attending the Sunday event. That's up from 26 percent the year before.

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Potato truck flips at bottom of Teton Pass

JACKSON, Wyo.—A truck hauling a load of Idaho potatoes to St. Louis overturned at the foot of Teton Pass, in the hamlet of Wilson, causing some local residents to call for an end to the 18-wheelers, more officially called tractor semi-trailers.

Diane Benefiel, who lives a half block from the crash site, told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that she had seen more than 20 runaway truck crashes in the last 30 years, some of them coming alarmingly close to hitting the gas pumps at an Exxon Mobile station. At least four people have died as the result of runaways coming off the pass, which has one of the steepest inclines in the West.

In this case, the driver was uninjured but has been charged with various infractions. The truck had nearly 80,000 pounds, about 25 percent over the weight limit on Teton Pass. The driver had two runaway truck ramps to use, but chose not to use the second one—which earned him another ticket.

The driver could have avoided the steep incline, but that would have required driving an extra 30 miles.

From putt-putt to high brow, Aspen has it all

ASPEN, Colo.—Whether high-brow or schmaltzy, Aspen has it.

The Aspen Times reports the opening of a putt-putt miniature golf course in space used during winter for an ice rink.

"I've been wanting to do this for so long," said the owner, Craig Cordts-Pearce, who has a small burger joint next door.

More venerable is the Aspen Music Festival, now in its 63rd year, which this year is drawing 637 students, 140 faculty and 100 seasonal staff—plus a lot of people to listen.

Organizers believe that 25 percent are locals, 24 percent are second-home owners and 50 percent are visitors. And festival directors believe that the one-third of all summer visitors to Aspen who attend some of the classical music concerts spend more than the average tourist.

"They are coming here for a purpose," said Alan Fletcher, chief executive, at a recent business luncheon covered by The Aspen Times. "They are the highest category of visitor. They know what they're here for, they want to be here and they are typically not just passing through."

He also said anecdotal evidence suggests that the classical music concerts are the deal-clincher in many decisions to purchase vacation homes.

But putting on such a festival is more difficult than recruiting a football team, he said.

"We want, for example, 12 oboe students. We don't have a junior varsity. We want 12 absolutely sensational, the best, oboe students in the world."

Getting 13 doesn't work, because somebody has to sit in the audience, and 11 aren't enough. And what's true for oboe is also true for flute, clarinet, the bass trombone, the B-flat trumpet, the C-trumpet and many other instruments.

More real estate sales, but only at right price

TELURIDE, Colo.—Is it over yet, is it over yet?

That's the question in ski towns, as well as elsewhere, in regard to the Great Recession. And the answer, of course, is "not quite yet," especially for real estate sales.

But neither is it all gloom, as was the case two years ago. There are lots of sales, even if prices have tended to lag below those of last year.

"It's good for sellers who price their property to the current real estate market and not the market of two or three or four years ago," said George Havey, a real estate broker in Telluride.

Flooding in Telluride will always be possible

TELLURIDE, Colo.—Cornet Creek draws from a basin in the San Juan Mountains north of Telluride, slicing through the middle of the town. Twice in the last century—in 1914 and again in 1969—it flooded badly. Then again in 2007, following what is sometimes called a "frog-strangler" of a rainstorm, the creek surged out of its banks.

What should be done? Telluride town officials have done work to remove debris from the channel, so it can carry more water, reports The Telluride Watch.

But although officials have concluded that flooding will forever remain a possibility, there is only so much work they can do to warn people who live along the creek. Reverse 911 works only if people answer the phone. And the other option would be use of the town siren, though that then requires periodic testing—something not popular in Telluride.

Whistler taking soft approach to plastic bags

WHISTLER, B.C.—How intrusive should government's hand be in the everyday lives and commerce of people? That's the question being asked in Whistler as the municipal council weighs its plans regarding use of plastic bags.

The view of many in the environmental community is that proliferating plastic bags have become a blight on the landscape. In Telluride, as in several large cities, the local government has banned them. Aspen and others are considering doing so.

Whistler has opted for the voluntary approach—for now. But councilors want evidence that the soft approach is having results, reports Pique Newsmagazine. The council, however, is also prevented from enacting an outright ban by terms of the community charter.




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