Mountain Town News: Ski towns stave off obesity, passive houses in Whistler and Aspen takes on national politics |

Mountain Town News: Ski towns stave off obesity, passive houses in Whistler and Aspen takes on national politics

Allen Best
Park Record contributing writer

Vail and Eagle County have nation’s lowest obesity rate

VAIL, Colo. – Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is thinnest of them all?

Eagle County, reports the Vail Daily, has the lowest percentage of obese people in all 3,007 counties, 64 parishes, and 18 boroughs in the United States.

Just 11.8 percent of residents are considered obese in Eagle County, an area that includes Vail, Beaver Creek, and two bedroom communities of Aspen, Basalt and El Jebel.

Ski towns and their corresponding counties consistently rank lowest in many other states, too. The statistics come from the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

The CDC links exercise and better eating habits to low obesity. There are also strong correlations with income and education.

Dr. Dennis Lipton, of Vail Health, tells the Vail Daily’s Randy Wyrick that there’s a little bit of heredity but mostly other factors involved in obesity.

“People who live here have generally chosen the active mountain lifestyle. It’s an expensive place to live, so if you are not actively engaged in enjoying the outdoors, the motivation to stay here is reduced. Also, because it’s expensive to live here, the education level and socioeconomic status of the average resident is higher than average,” Lipton said.

People who are overweight or have other serious problems simply cannot live in Eagle County because of the higher elevation and prefer to be lower, Lipton said.

Also, thinner air prompts some weight loss. The more you weigh, the more oxygen you require.

“Therefore, there is physiologic benefit to weighing less at higher altitude. Your body has to work less to maintain adequate oxygenation. Just like you don’t generally see obese long distance runners,” he said. “Your body adapts to whatever stressors it is presented with.”

Chris Lindley, Eagle County’s public health director, pointed out that waist lines in Eagle County are spreading, as they are overall in Colorado — which has the lowest obesity rate in the nation — and across the country. Lindley points to a second measure, that of overweightness.

“While Eagle County may have the lowest obesity rate, 34 percent of our population is overweight, so we are a long way off from any type of celebration,” Lindley said. “Being the slowest to get to the crisis point just does not mean there is not still a crisis. We have to continue to drive at the underlying reasons we are growing more and more unhealthy.”

Ski towns and their counties rank at the lowest in obesity for the following states of the West:

  • Colorado: Eagle County, (Vail, Beaver Creek) 11.8 percent
  • Wyoming: Teton County (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) 12.7 percent
  • New Mexico: Santa Fe County (Ski Santa Fe), 13.7 percent
  • Utah: Summit County (Park City, Deer Valley), 14.4 percent
  • Montana: Gallatin County (Big Sky, Bridger Bowl), 15.5 percent
  • Idaho: Blaine County (Sun Valley): 19.2 percent
  • Nevada: Douglas County (Heavenly Mountain) 21.9 percent
  • Alaska: Haines Borough, (heliskiing): 25.5 percent.

On the West Coast, though, the lowest obesity rates are not in mountain counties, but rather in coastal cities: San Francisco, Portland, and San Juan County in Washington state. These statistics were reported in September by a website called 24/7 Wall Street.

Passive House design makes inroads into Whistler housing

WHISTLER, B.C. – The Passive House building standard continues to make inroads in Whistler. The international standard for energy efficiency buildings was used in a house that has been nominated in two categories of a competition called the Georgie Awards.

The three-story home, the first single-family house constructed under the auspices of the Whistler Housing Authority, sold for $950,000 last summer. The builder, Schreyer Construction, noted that energy from homes is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, so energy efficiency reduces the footprint of homes.

Matheo Durfeld, partner of BC Passive House, told the Pique newsmagazine that the nominations are evidence of the increasing demand and awareness of the Passive House standard. When the first home was built to that standard in 2011, “nobody knew what it was,” he said.

Aspen speaks to national divisions in ad campaign

ASPEN, Colo. – Among the several Aspen Skiing Co.’s advertising themes this year is one that combines business with politics. The advertisement uses the word “Unity” and a ski rack containing both skis and snowboards.

The copy says: “The mountains don’t discriminate, and neither do we. Neither should anyone. We’re better together. On the mountain, at work, as a nation, as members of the human race. Unity – it’s The Aspen Way.”

The Aspen Times reports that the campaign was put together by the company’s Denver-based advertising firm, Karsh Hagan, after seeing op-eds written by Mike Kaplan, the chief executive of the Aspen Skiing Co.

The company has similar messages built around the words Love, Respect, and Commit.

Gregory Wagner, a former chief executive of Burton snowboards who is now an associate professor at the University of Denver’s Department of Marketing, says the campaign effectively shows that the Aspen Skiing Co.’s values line up with those of its target market.

 When will wolves start snacking on new bison?

BANFF, Alberta – How long before the wolves of Banff National Park start to nail the bison that have been reintroduced?

The bison, if native to what is now Banff National Park, disappeared there about 140 years ago, about the same time that the last bison were binge-killed by hunters on the Great Plains of North America.

Last February, 16 bison were turned loose within a wire enclosure about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the townsite of Banff. At some point, the bison will be released from the enclosure. The question will then become how soon before wolves start feasting on the bison.

With that in mind, wildlife biologists want to collar additional wolves from that area with GPS devices. “One of the big questions we have is whether or not wolves will be able to predate on bison,” said Jesse Whittington, a wildlife ecologist with Banff National Park.

The wolves have been snacking on bighorn sheep and, more recently, on deer. Trying to take down bigger animals can be dangerous to the wolves, so they prefer to go after young, old, or sick ungulates.

Tragedy strikes on Thanksgiving for a hunting family

GUNNISON, Colo. – One Arizona family had a tragic Thanksgiving, the result of a hunting accident south of Gunnison.

The father of the family, a 42-year-old, was hunting when another member of his hunting party shot and killed him. Citing law enforcement reports, the Crested Butte News says the person who fired the errant shot, a 17-year-old girl, was shooting at some elk from about 150 yards away. Her unintended victim was 400 yards away.

Tahoe community shifts to part-time residency

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – Steve Pinkerton, general manager of the Incline Village General Improvement District, sees evidence that housing in that community along the shores of Lake Tahoe is increasingly being used as second- and third-homes.

How does he know this? Writing in the Tahoe Daily Tribune, he points to declining school enrollment, which slipped from 1,500 students in the late 1990s to 1,000 in the year 2010.

But sewage volume also tells a story. The overall annual flows are down 30 percent from a decade ago, he reports, and nearly 40 percent from two decades ago.

What this demonstrates is that “the number of second and third homes in our community continues to increase,” Pinkerton wrote. “It also reinforces that notion that many of our residents are spending more time elsewhere during the shoulder season.”

He also speculates that these numbers also “demonstrate the lack of available rental housing in the community.”

This, as he notes, is not new in many places. “They’ve been grappling with this issue in the Rocky Mountains for decades.”

How renaming of geography in Banff could get complicated

CANMORE, Alberta – What should the local mountains and rivers be called? The debate continues in the Banff-Canmore area after the Stoney Nakoda, inhabitants prior to European-based settlement, submitted a proposal for 161 name changes.

Some proposed changes, however, are already off the table, as names of towns are not under the purview of the Alberta Geographical Names program.

Also, there may also be pushback from other aboriginal inhabitants of the region. Various members of the Blackfoot confederacy claim they were the regional occupants.

Some names have been changed in the past. A geographic feature called Chinaman’s Peak was renamed Ha Ling Peak, to recognize the mine camp cook who won a bet in 1896 about how fast he could climb the mountain. And another mountain west of Calgary was renamed with the traditional Stoney Nakoda name.

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