Friday, July 8, 2011

Mountain Town News


Tap beats bottled water in taste testing at Aspen

ASPEN, Colo.—Yet again comes evidence that if you're buying bottled water for anything other than convenience, you're probably wasting your money.

Aspen city officials conducted a taste test last week. Samples from Dasani, Fiji and ordinary tap water from Aspen were put into unmarked containers. The overwhelming favorite was local water, now being branded as Aspen Tap by city officials.

This is the direct result of a winter vacation by Torre, a member of the Aspen City Council, who goes by the single name. While sailing amid the British Virgin Islands in December, he saw many clusters of floating plastic bottles.

Returning to Aspen, he proposed limiting sales of bottled water within Aspen. Other city councils opted for a soft approach, and that approach has now been unveiled. The city has installed three "filling stations," where people can fill up their water. The stations are green, of course.

To help induce use, the city has also ordered 4,000 reusable containers, which it will sell for $10 each. The bottles carry the Aspen tap logo along with a message, "Better than Bottled."

Ashley Cantrell, the city's environmental health specialist, said the taste-test survey didn't say anything bad about the imported water.

"We're trying to promote our water. When people talk about bottled water, they have this image that comes from mountain streams and pristine environments, and they don't realize that's exactly where Aspen's tap water comes from."

However, bottled water costs more—in several ways. Cantrell points out that the U.S. demand for bottled water requires 17 million barrels of oil, partly to produce the plastic, and only 15 percent of the bottles are recycled.

Gays, lesbians spend more and stay longer

DURANGO, Colo.—As elsewhere, the tourism business seems to be on the rise this year in Durango. Pockets are less tightly zippered.

"People aren't as terribly price resistant as last year," said Kory Samson, of Durango's Gateway Reservations.

The Durango Telegraph also reports greater outreach, apparently with success, to niche markets, ranging from military groups, the conventional meeting business and now also the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender populations.

"Reports show that they tend to travel more and stay longer," said John Cohen, who directs the Durango Area Tourism Office.

He explained that gays and lesbians also tend to feature dual-income, no-kids couples with higher disposable income.

Ski towns full of talk about the presidency

ASPEN, Colo.—Michelle Obama is thought to be planning a trip to Park City late this month to rustle up spare change for her husband's presidential campaign next year. In a sense, she'll be invading the home turf of the two Republicans that Bill Clinton thinks will be the strongest candidates, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr.

Until recently, Romney had a home in Park City, and Huntsman was Utah governor. Both are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, i.e. the Mormons, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, and both are sons of billionaires.

Clinton, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Friday, said he liked both men.

"Romney's a much better candidate than he was last time, because he's not apologizing (for signing the health-care bill in Massachusetts when he was governor)."

Still, as the price of getting the Republican nomination, Romney has said he'd work to repeal the national health care bill, Clinton noted.

"Huntsman hasn't said what he's for yet, but I just kind of like him," said Clinton. "He looks so authentic. He looks like a real guy, a real human being."

According to an account in The Aspen Times, Clinton also had nice things to say about tea party favorite Michele Bachmann.

"She's got a very compelling personal story, and she's got a lot of juice."

All these kind words aside, Clinton said he believes Obama will get re-elected. He took big steps to avoid an even worse economy, has a good record on promoting diversity such as gay rights and has a strong record on national security.

But Clinton said that American economic competitiveness remains imperiled by high costs of health care.

"I am telling you, folks, if you want to fix the budget and fix America's competitiveness, we have to seriously deal with (health care), and you cannot do it with slogans," he said. "You've got to do it with facts."

Politics was also on the agenda in the Vail area. Charles and David Koch, two billionaires and ardent supporters of right-wing causes, held their annual summer seminar. On the agenda were "threats" to America: nationalization of health care, unions, legislation to reduce carbon emissions, financial regulation and government spending.

Citing a report by the Center for Public Integrity, a watchdog, the Vail Daily reports that Koch Industries, their Kansas-based energy company, has increased its lobbying expenditure to $20 million in the last two years.

Among those scheduled to attend the conclave, reported the Austin American-Statesman, was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is considering a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

July 4 and rivers still running bank to bank

JACKSON, Wyo.—The incredible story of spring runoff continues. On Friday, the first day of July, a new peak was reported in the Snake River near Jackson.

This is a somewhat artificial peak, as there's a dam upstream in Teton National Park that detains the river. It is expected to fill soon.

But the broader story is that the rivers remain swollen, with plenty of snow remaining to come down.

In Steamboat, boaters are milking the runoff for all its worth.

"You have to be out there tonight," said Chris Arnis, who was among several playing in the chilling waters of Charlie's Hole, a hydraulic feature in the Yampa River. "I figure this only happens once every 20 years. If I wait until next time, I'll be 68," he told Tom Ross of the Steamboat Today.

Pointing to the flooding that submerged pasture fences, Ross called it a "three-wire spring," a nod to the measure by ranchers of heavy snow years, which they call a three-wire winter.

Rafters were similarly gushing in the Eagle Valley. Boasters tell the Vail Daily they expect to raft the lower Eagle River for another three weeks, a month later than normal. The last time for such high and extended water level was 1984, when Darryl Bangert, of Sage Outdoor Adventures, remembers boosting that particular segment into early August.

"We'll probably run through July, maybe into August (this year)," Bangert said.

It's cheeseburgers in paradise for Eagle bears

EAGLE, Colo.—For the bears at least, it was cheeseburgers in paradise last week in Eagle. But for the sow black bear and her three cubs that were given the burgers outside a fast-food restaurant, there will be a time of reckoning, say state wildlife officials.

"Because of their reckless actions, the sow and the cubs now know that people mean food," said Ron Velarde, of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. "This dramatically increases the likelihood that these bears will get into trouble in the future and have to be put down."

Of course, the bears probably had a suspicion that people had food, given that they were loitering around the fast-food restaurant. Nobody seems to know who bestowed the bears with burgers.

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