Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mountain Town News


Vehicles 10, moose 0 in Jackson encounters

JACKSON, Wyo.—An estimated 10 moose have died on the segment of two-lane highway between Jackson and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort during the last year, half of them during this winter alone.

Appalled by the carnage, a long-time resident of cushy Teton Village, Uta Olson, donated $30,000 to buy portable message boards to remind drivers of the hazard.

"5 MOOSE KILLED NXT 1MI," one of the signs says.

Some wildlife advocates have called for a reduction in speed limit, now 45 mph, to 35 mph during evening hours.

Barn-burner month recorded at Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C.—If anybody can catch time for a breath, it's an occasion for hurrahs in Whistler. Lodging occupancy numbers for January were up 23 percent compared to the same month last year—and 6 percent over the previous record, set in 2001.

Part of Whistler's success is due to its promotional programs. Among other things, the resort offered a free vacation—including salary—to a lucky winner. That winner was from the U.K., which also happens to be one of the places from where destination visitors are now starting to book earlier and more often. A surge in visitors from the U.S. is also reported by Pique Newsmagazine.

Only one thing keeps the enthusiasm at bay. Visitors are still getting cheaper rooms than before the recession.

Another avie death in Utah sidecountry

PARK CITY, Utah—Another avalanche death, this time in a gulch adjacent to The Canyons ski resort. It's the fourth avalanche death in Utah this winter, and the second in the past seven years at this particular site. Officials tell the Park Record that the victim and his companions were not wearing avalanche beacons or equipped with shovels.

Gay ski weeks offer outdoor conviviality

PARK CITY, Utah—After a decade of promoting gay ski week at California's Mammoth Mountain, Tom Whitman now returns to Park City for what has become the second annual gay ski week there.

The event in Mammoth has grown enormously. He hopes for the same success at Park City.

"Last year we had 200 to 300 people, and this year we're expecting 400 to 500," he told the Park Record. "I want this to be the second biggest event in Park City next to the Sundance Film Festival."

Whitman said he first visited Park City when he was on the ski team at the University of California-Los Angeles.

"The gay community has expanded in how it's becoming more prevalent in different places around the country in the last 10 years," he said. "There is still a need for events catering to the gay community—guys and girls can come out here and feel comfortable."

One of the event organizers, John Manelski, told the newspaper that the concept of a gay ski week saved snowboarding for him.

"When I came out of the closet, I couldn't find anyone to golf or snowboard with," he said. "Those happen to be two things I love doing."

Plant hardiness changes in mountain towns

FRASER, Colo.—The U.S. government recently issued revised maps for plant hardiness zones, the first revision since 1990.

The zones have shifted somewhat. The new maps draw upon more temperature gauges. Particularly in mountainous areas of the West, this has had the perhaps unexpected result of putting valleys into colder zones than they were in previously, according to the website for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But the broader sweep of the past few decades has been increasing temperatures, especially on winter nights. The zones are based on the minimum winter temperatures between 1976 and 2005.

And in places like Aspen, Jackson and Fraser—the latter a Colorado town that once called itself the icebox of the nation—temperatures have clearly been rising in the last decade as compared to the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

In Aspen, the new zones were taken as restating the obvious impact of human-caused climate change. The town had previously been in Zone 3, with low temperatures between minus 30 and 40. Now, it's in Zone 5, with temperatures not regularly any lower than minus 10 to 15 degrees.

Gyles Thronley, a landscape architect, told the Aspen Daily News that the new hardiness zone will give planters license to use trees, shrubs and perennials, among them honey locusts, that previously were thought not to be hardy.

"It actually makes the life of landscape architects and gardeners much easier, because it gives us more options," he said.

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