Mountain Town News: The cost of hosting candidates |

Mountain Town News: The cost of hosting candidates

Allen Best
Mountain Town News
Allen Best, author of Mountain Town News.
Courtesy of Allen Best

Whistler needs more cars in order to meet emission goals

WHISTLER, B.C. – Adoption of electric cars will have to accelerate if Whistler has any hope of attaining its goals of reducing greenhouse gases. It would also help if new buildings had no natural gas pipelines.

Transportation is responsible for 56% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report by the municipality, and buildings another 32%, the result of burning natural gas for water and space heating.

In 2008, the municipality set of goal of reducing emissions 33% by 2020. Barring a miracle, that will be impossible. The community reduced emissions an average 3.8% annually through 2012. Then came the backsliding period through 2017, when emissions grew an average 4.7% per year.

Now, the community is back on track, with a 3% decline last year. A determined push to emphasize the virtues of mass transit may be partly at work. Transit ridership has increased 77% on weekends since 2016.

Is there hope for electric cars accelerating? That’s the question in many states, including Colorado, now as utilities have started pivoting sharply toward wind and other renewable sources to produce electricity.

Colorado in early 2018 adopted a goal of having 940,000 electric cars on the state’s roads by 2030. Now, as a result of aggressive new actions by state legislators and Gov. Jared Polis, that goal looks too modest. One of his first steps as governor in January was to direct the state’s Air Quality Control Commission to study whether to adopt the zero-emission standards adopted by California and other states. This would have the effect of requiring car dealers in Colorado add substantially more electric vehicles for sale, increasing consumer choice.

On Monday, Colorado and major automakers announced they had reached a deal that would result in automakers introducing more electric cars while earning more credits for earlier sales. The commission must approve the compromise agreement.

Everywhere, though, cost matters, and so do the range of EVs. The most costly component of an EV is its battery, but battery prices have dropped 85% in the last nine years, pointed out Maximilian Kniewasser, the climate change coordinator for Whistler. As for range, they remain a concern, but again there are advances. Some luxury models can go up to 300 miles per charge. New charging infrastructure, including the fast-charger that can refuel a car in less than 30 minutes, has also calmed range anxiety.

As for buildings, they’re a more difficult proposition. Here and there, some builders are constructing homes that have no natural gas lines. All the heating, both of space and water, is done by electricity and improved technology called air-source heat pumps. Several units in a 23-unit affordable housing project called Basalt Vista, located 18 miles down-valley from Aspen, use those and other technologies, as does a science school in Avon, at the foot of Beaver Creek.

In Whistler, a four-story 53-bed affordable housing project is being completed under the standards of Passive House. The standards emphasize energy efficiency. Pique Newsmagazine reports that the new housing complex will be responsible for 43% fewer greenhouse gas emissions as compared to a similar structure built under the 2015 building code.

She can run fast, but she could not outrun a grizzly

CANMORE, Alberta – Emma Lunder can run fast. She’s an Olympic biathlete who lives in Canmore, at the entrance to Banff National Park, where she often jogs along on trails.

But when she saw a sow grizzly with two cubs from about 50 metres (160 feet) away along a trail recently, she tried other tactics. As the sow charged, getting to within 20 metres, Lunder screamed, put her hands over her head and backed up.

As she did, she got out her bear spray. That was a good thing. The bear stopped, then charged again. “When she got to three to four metres away, I sprayed the bear,” Lund told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “As soon as it hit her, she threw her head down, did a 180 and then sprinted away, and then the cubs ran with her and I ran in the other direction.”

“It was definitely terrifying,” she said. “It was purely an instinct, and I’m super-impressed that I did it.”

Wildlife officials said they suspected the bear was feeding on buffaloberries, but had otherwise been a particularly wary and secretive bear.

Will Vail help Crested Butte compost its organic waste?

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Vail Resorts has set a goal of zero waste for its various properties by 2030. Now that it owns Crested Butte Mountain Resort, does that mean it will get engaged in community composting there?

The Crested Butte News explains that Guerrilla Composting ceased operations late last winter. The owner was overwhelmed by the amount of compost but also work and cost.

“In two years of operations I collected over 200,000 pounds of food scraps from our local restaurants, inns, and restaurants,” Julie Donahue said. She was outgrowing the capacities, in space and her financial resources. She also pointed out that delivering a composting service to a low-density, highly dispersed community takes time and is not energy efficient.

She believes Vail and others may be looking at an anaerobic digester, which requires no oxygen and can also be used to produce energy.

Although businesses are trying to move away from traditional single-use waste items, everything now is going to the landfill.

An option, but maybe not a good one is to haul composting material 27 miles down-valley to Gunnison.

There, Western State University will begin composting this fall using the A900 Rocket technology. It can take everything from garden waste to meat and animal waste. The university bought the technology with aid of a $140,000 federal grant administered through the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

Nathan King, director of sustainability at Western, estimates the dining halls at Western generate 25 gallons of compostable waste daily.

Vail Resorts has partnered with a company called Eco Products to address strategies at its various resorts.

Mountain town high school drops the Redskins mascot

DRIGGS, Idaho – The NFL football team may continue to be the Washington Redskins, but Idaho’s Teton County High School will be adopting another mascot. The school board in July voted 4-1 to abandon the Redskins mascot that had been used since 1929.

The move was bitterly opposed by a segment of the community. There were two walk-outs by students at the high school last spring and T-shirts with the message “Save the Redskins” were distributed.

At least in the immediate aftermath of the vote, there were recriminations, The Washington Post reports. “Will all of you that wanted the change please wear shirts saying such. That way I know who to hate,” one user wrote on a Facebook page “Teton High Mascot Debate.” “You’ve stolen from me and I will not forgive or get.”

The debate began in 2013, when Teton’s schools’ superintendent unilaterally decided the 450-student high school should drop the moniker. The school board didn’t back him. But the high school slowly began distancing itself from the mascot. Some teachers stopped using the school’s letterhead to write letters of recommendation or conduct official business. And the school newspaper changed its name from “The War Cry.” By last year, only the football team still wore uniforms that displayed the word “Redskins.”

No replacement mascot has been chosen, and the school board specified that no public money will be spent to make the changes. The cost has been estimated at $30,000.

Idaho’s two largest tribes, the Shoshone-Bannock and the Nez Percé, both advocated for the change. Shoshone-Bannock have also asked the Idaho State Board of Education to stop using names such as savages, redskins and Indians as school mascots, reports the Teton Valley News. Maine this year banned use of Native American mascots by public schools, colleges, and universities.

Some 49 schools still use the name “Redskins,” down by almost half from 1989. But the Washington Post notes that a 2016 poll found that 90% of Native Americans said the Washington Redskins’ team name did not bother them.

More questions about security cost as candidates pass hat

ASPEN, Colo. – Democratic and Republican candidates continue to make their way to Aspen to pass the hat. The Aspen Times reports Kamala Harris planned to be in Aspen this week for a fundraiser at a private home, where $500 will get you in the door but $5,000 gets you named as a co-host.

Before that, Vice President Mike Pence was in Aspen to rustle up a lot more money than that, also at a private affair. There were hard feelings afterward on the part of Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, who complained that the Pence camp had failed to pony up the $24,000 in extra staffing needed to provide adequate security. That bill was dropped to $17,500 when the Aspen police said they didn’t need monetary compensation.

The sheriff’s policy is that if the individual meets with the public, there is no charge. In this case, in addition to collecting checks, Pence spoke with the Republican Governors Association at a private meeting.

Then came an anonymous donor who offered to pick up the cost, just as the Trump and Clinton campaigns had done two years ago.

The Aspen Times and Daily News both report quite a lot of hard words on social media. One person wondered whether Michelle Obama was charged for security when she and her daughters took a skiing vacation in Aspen in 2015. More recently, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner took a similar ski trip to Aspen shortly after her father was inaugurated.

What would GOP spinmeister say about climate emergency

BASALT, Colo. – What would Frank Luntz tell the Basalt Town Council when they meet on Aug. 13 to discuss whether to adopt a resolution endorsing the declaration of a “climate emergency.”

As of mid-July, more than 750 governments worldwide had declared a climate emergency, according to one of the council members, Katie Schwoerer.

“What this would do is set the tone of the town and our government to make climate action our first and foremost priority and set the groundwork to let our communities know this is the greatest challenge that human civilization has ever encountered, and we must act immediately,” said Schwoerer at a recent meeting covered by The Aspen Times.

Luntz lives in Los Angeles, not Basalt, and he’s what Grist describes as a GOP master messenger. For example, he persuaded conservatives to rebrand the “estate tax” as the “death tax.”

But Grist says Luntz testified before a Senate committee last week that he believes in climate change. “It is happening,” he said, and he admits that in 2001 he was wrong to say it was not.

Luntz said to drop the word sustainability, because it rings of the status quo. Better: cleaner, safer, healthier. And talk about clean energy careers, not jobs. “A job is something that you can’t wait to get out of. A career is something that you embrace.”

Stay away from the complicated science of climate change and personalize the message about people who have lost their homes because of hurricanes, tornadoes, or forest fires, he advised.

The Facebook response to all this was somewhat predictable: eco-fascists, said several commentators.

Telluride getting its first public parking structure

TELLURIDE, Colo. – As goes Aspen and Vail, so goes Telluride. The town is adding 70 parking spaces in a new parking facility in its downtown area, its parking garage first not associated with a lodge. How much to charge?

The Telluride Daily Planet says Vail gets $20 to park for three to four hours during winter (free in summer). But like Vail and also Aspen, Telluride plans to allow electric cars to charge for free. “We’ll see what the electric bills look like in a year,” said town planner Lance McDonald.

Gondola would link two areas but not add skiers

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Alterra Mountain Co. now has approval from Placer County to erect a gondola spanning 11,700 feet to connect its twin resorts, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. The Sierra Sun, citing the resort, says the primary purpose of the gondola will be to improve the skier experiences. It said Alterra expects the gondola to result in 70 more skiers per day on average, although more on peak days, resulting in 211 additional cars traveling to the Squaw parking lot, a point of contention.

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