Mountain Town News: Heatstroke is even among the high peaks of Alberta |

Mountain Town News: Heatstroke is even among the high peaks of Alberta

A roundup of news from other ski resort communities

Allen Best
Mountain Town New

Heatstroke is even among the high peaks of Alberta

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — Even in the high mountains of Alberta, July has been a scorcher.

At Lake Louise, a 40-year-old woman suffered from severe heatstroke while hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers. She was flown by helicopter to a waiting ambulance, then driven 40 minutes down the TransCanada Highway to a hospital in Banff. The temperature that day hit a record 31.4 Celsius (88.5 Fahrenheit).

Two days later, a 4-year-old German shepherd died on another hot day after the dog’s owners tried to climb Grizzly Peak, located about an hour south of Banff near the site of the former Fortress ski area.

A local veterinarian told the Rocky Mountain Outlook that dogs may not be in shape for arduous hiking.

“It’s like humans,” veterinarian John Williamson said. “We’re not just going to get off the couch and go do a 20-kilometer hike.”

In Idaho, Ketchum’s Mountain Express noted 18 children in the United States had died as of late June of heatstroke this year in cars. That compares to the average 37 children who have died annually since 1998.

No opioid overdoses yet but preparation is urged

WHISTLER, B.C. — Opioids continue to be in the news, from major destination resorts to tiny mountain towns.

British Columbia altogether is on pace to pass 1,500 drug overdose deaths this year. And if Whistler itself has none, a speaker from Vancouver says the easy availability of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain medication, cannot be ignored.

“It’s very much a tourist town, and I’m very aware of the (party) culture that revolves around the town,” said Munroe Craig, co-founder of a Vancouver educational initiative called Karmik. “Absolutely not, you can’t be ignoring it.”

Kits of naloxone, which can be used to temporarily counter the effects of an opioid overdose, are stocked in Whistler, and training is available for their use, Pique reported.

Whistler is a town of 12,000 people located just 90 minutes from metropolitan Vancouver and its 2.5 million people.

Saguache and Crestone are mountain towns of, at most, a few hundred people each, located about three hours from Denver in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The mountain beauty is extraordinary, the spaces wide open and refreshing, but the poverty rate is among the highest in Colorado.

An item in the Saguache Crescent noted that needles, whether used for legal or illegal purposes, would be collected and disposed at no charge.

As darkness descends, no surgeries on day of eclipse

JACKSON, Wyo. — No general or elective surgeries will be conducted at the hospital in Jackson on Aug. 18, the day of the solar eclipse.

The assumption is that anybody driving in northwestern Wyoming can expect traffic congestion that might approach gridlock, officials of St. John’s Medical Center told the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Emergency coordinator Phillip Fox told the newspaper that the hospital started planning 12 to 18 months ago along with other local agencies.

“We spent two days basically locked in a room going over what we could potentially expect in the county for this event,” Fox said.

The assumption is that more people means more things can go wrong, even if that includes minor problems like bad sunburns and bug bites.

In Idaho, entrepreneur Daniel Enriquez has been making the rounds of local agencies with his plans for a one-day-only 823-site campground near Hailey. Billed as “EclipCity,” reported the Idaho Mountain Express, it would accommodate more than 3,000 people.

A few miles away at Ketchum, at the base of the Sun Valley ski area, city officials have created a special logo for the event that features Ketchum in the path of the total eclipse and the precise time when day briefly becomes night in Ketchum: 11:29 a.m.

Can the methane emissions from coal mines be stopped?

GUNNISON, Colo. — This is where the rubber meets the road on climate change action. Gunnison County commissioners are taking a hard look at a proposed coal mine expansion, but in particular the methane emissions from the mine, by itself is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado.

The West Elk Mine is located in a corner of Gunnison County 37 miles from Crested Butte and across Kebler Pass. They’re hard-driving miles, about two hours altogether, and in winter—when the pass is closed—it’s longer yet.

It’s the only mine still operating at Somerset, located in the North Fork Valley. The mine operator, Arch Coal, has been on shaky ground. It dipped into bankruptcy last year but emerged last October. Crested Butte News described the St. Louis-based Arch as “holding on by its fingernails to stay in business for a few more years.”

In Gunnison County, Arch still has 220 employees making about $100,000 a year. The company wants to expand existing leases of coal under the national forest by 1,720 acres. There’s no guarantee they’ll find coal there, but they want to make sure they’re not overlooking it.

Commissioners agreed that the most pressing issue from their perspective is the need to capture methane coming from the mine. Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas that has 72 times as much heat-trapping capacity over a 20-year period than the far more common carbon dioxide. However, methane dissipates rapidly, unlike carbon dioxide, which can linger in the troposphere for centuries.

Arch Coal wants to pay a 5 percent royalty, instead of the normal 7 percent, for any coal that comes out of the new area, called the E-seam. The justification is the higher costs of extraction due to the different, more difficult geology. The royalties help support local schools and retraining for laid-off workers.

Would Arch work with the county on better methane capture? A company representative, according to a Crested Butte News account, said capturing methane from an operating mine is a “different animal” than capturing it from one that has closed. But one of the commissioners countered that the technology exists and should be used.

Colorado now has two major coal mining areas. The other is near Steamboat Springs. But the North Fork mines are said to be among the gassiest in the world.

The West Elk alone — present and proposed — would be responsible for 0.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, according to the calculations of Ted Zukoski, an attorney for Earthjustice, which represents several groups opposed to the mine expansion.

Congested Crested Butte even looking into meters

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Breckenridge now has parking meters on its often-crowded Main Street. Might Crested Butte be next?

The quarter-gobbling meters are one among many ideas being considered as Crested Butte, a town of 1,500 people, addresses the growing congestion, especially during summer months.

“In the old days, the town had dirt streets and some intersections with no stop signs at all. Things are different now,” said Mike Reily, the chief marshal, at a meeting covered by the Crested Butte News.

Drivers are reported to be speeding and blowing through stop signs. Parking is scarce. All of this is at odds with what Mayor Glen Michel said is the community value put upon safety for pedestrian and bicyclists. The paper described the start of a what-to-do brainstorming process.

Too many billionaire jets to fit at Sun Valley airport

SUN VALLEY, Idaho —The airport at Hailey, located about 15 miles down from Sun Valley and Ketchum, had a parking problem last week. The Allen & Co. tech and media conference was held, and it draws around 85 jets, many of them with wingspans of almost 100 feet.

Airport manager Chris Pomeroy told the Idaho Mountain Express the recent trend toward larger private jets means there’s not enough room for them to park at the Friedman Memorial Airport. Instead, after dropping off their billionaire occupants, the pilots had to continue to Twin Falls or Boise until the three-day conference ended.

The conference, which is by invitation only, attracts people such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. It also drew Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump this year.

The conference in the past has spawned some big deals, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezo’s purchase of the Washington Post and the merger last year of Yahoo and AOL.

But aggressive innovators can sometimes catch the attention of even the biggest of big names. The Express reported that Nick Harman, who handles development and marketing for a local hydration app company called Vykkn, who managed to get a brief conversation with Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

“May I offer you an alternative to plastic bottled water? I work for a tech company that’s going to disrupt the bottled water industry,” he told Cook. He told the Express that Cook seemed intrigued. Still, he doesn’t expect anything to come of it.

Talking heads in Aspen talk about Russian cyber sabotage

ASPEN, Colo. — The airport at Aspen will no doubt be crowded with private jets this week as notable figures from Washington, D.C., arrive for the Aspen Security Festival.

Speakers include key figures in the investigation into the Trump administration’s ties with Russia and Russian interference in last year’s election.

One session scheduled for Thursday, July 20, is titled “Active Measures: The Kremlin Plan to Beat the West without Firing a Shot.” Among the speakers on the panel will be Peter Clement, the CIA’s deputy assistant director for Europe/Eurasia. Another panel is called “Securing the Homeland in the Post-Post 9/11 Era.”

Snowmass venture described as biggest ski project in country

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. — In New Mexico, Taos Ski Valley owner Louis Bacon has been plowing money into upgrading the resort. But the biggest base-area development underway in North America right now is at Snowmass Village.

So say the partners of the Base Village project, a project that, when completed in 2018, will have finished an arc that began nearly 20 years before. Work on 10 buildings with a total value of $600 million got underway there recently.

Included is a 100-room hotel in the Limelight chain created by the Aspen Skiing Co., a partner in the project. The new hotel will include a five-story climbing wall, which will be open to the public. Mike Kaplan, chief executive of the Aspen Skiing Co., told the Aspen Times that the delayed construction of the Limelight Snowmass was a disguised blessing because the company learned lessons as it constructed a Limelight in Ketchum, Idaho.

Aspen Skiing Co. began pushing for the project almost 20 years ago. Snowmass is the largest of the company’s four ski areas, and with its cruisers, the most accessible to the intermediate skier. In short, Snowmass is Aspen’s Vail. But after the lift closes, it has always lacked vitality. That’s what Base Village is designed to help remedy, in part by putting more beds and creating a critical mass that lifeless ski areas are always seeking to achieve.

Originally, Aspen partnered with Intrawest. Together, they sold the project to voters and got entitlement for 1.1 million square feet of construction. Then, they sold the project to Related Cos.

Related landed in bankruptcy in 2009 with roughly half the work done. The last project completed in 2009 was the 162-room Viceroy Hotel. Finally, late last year, Aspen and a new partner, KSL Capital Partners, bought the project back for $56.5 million. That got them the Viceroy and a lot of concrete footers and rebar sticking out since 2009.

Aspen and KSL brought in East West Partners to see the project to fruition.

Work is expected to wrap up in 2018, a few months after Aspen’s new summer on-mountain activities of an alpine coaster and ziplines and so forth — don’t call it an amusement park, the ski industry insists — debuts. Aspen is calling its non-amusement park Lost Forest.

An irony in all this — noted in Mountain Town News previously — is that Aspen is essentially teaming with Vail to create its answer to Vail. The key figures in KSL Capital Partners were at Vail in the 1980s and ‘90s, and East West Partners was created in Vail in the 1980s and still is based there (at the base of Beaver Creek).

On the other hand, the managing partner of East West is now Craig Ferraro, an old Aspen hand.

Aspen Skiing and KSL also teamed up to buy six ski areas from Intrawest, including Steamboat in Colorado and the long-term contract to manage Winter Park.

A few days later, they bought the four resorts in California owned by Mammoth Resorts, including the namesake resort. The Aspen Times reported that none of the purchases have triggered a deeper look at antitrust issues by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

Tiny homes discussed in Durango and in Basalt

DURANGO, Colo. — Tiny homes are among the ideas being discussed in Durango as a way to enable more low-cost housing.

Durango, like virtually every other mountain town in the Rocky Mountains from Jasper to Taos, has been struggling to find beds for all who want to live there. The Durango Herald reported the city’s planning staff recently laid out options.

Mark Williams, a planner, pointed out that the city has no control over the cost of land and labor, key factors in how much housing gets built. “We are a small piece of a much, much larger puzzle,” he said.

One option is to rezone a portion of Durango to accommodate denser housing, including taller buildings and fewer parking requirements. Another is to decrease the minimum lot size. The city’s older section has many houses on lots that would be considered too small if built in one of the newer subdivisions. The older part of Durango is the place with the highest land prices.

Tiny houses may get another look. They’re essentially mobile homes, as by definition they are on wheels. They are allowed in some mobile home parks in Durango, but zoning would have to be revisited to allow them in other places.

In Basalt, the Aspen Skiing Co. now has a green light to add 34 tiny homes at a campground located within an enclave of unincorporated Eagle County. The county codes regards the tiny homes on wheels the same as recreational vehicles that are allowed in formal RV parks.

The Aspen Skiing Co. is using the tiny homes as a temporary answer to the long-term problem of the ever-tightening housing market in the Roaring Fork Valley. Costing around $100,000, the tiny houses will come fully furnished.

Polystyrene ban paused in Avon for several reasons

AVON, Colo. — Avon’s council will bide its time before deciding whether to limit distribution of polystyrene products, including Styrofoam.

The Vail Daily, which attended the meeting, reported a pivotal report from a local garbage disposal company. Shawn Bruckman, of Vail Honeywagon, pointed out that many hotels and other businesses use disposable coffee cups that are lined with polystyrene. This seems to include Starbucks. There are also concerns about increased costs to retailers.

The idea isn’t dead, but there will be more study and outreach to businesses.

Allen Best has edited mountain town newspapers for 20 years. He has served as managing editor at four different mountain town newspapers and is now living in metropolitan Denver. Visit for more information.

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