Around the Mountains: Crested Butte mulls ban on exterior heat
CRESTED BUTTE The difficulty of containing the expansion of carbon is evident in a Crested Butte discussion currently underway. Following Aspen’s lead, Crested Butte has taken aim at global warming, vowing informally to reduce or at least slow its demand for electricity. Burning of coal to make electricity is one of the primary causes of greenhouse gas emissions.Aspen has allowed home-owners an energy budget, and if they exceed that budget, they can pay in-lieu of fees for such things as heated driveways, heated outdoor swimming pools. The money is then diverted to energy efficiency and alternative energy projects elsewhere in the broader Aspen community.But Crested Butte rejected in-lieu fees, and instead is drawing the line on what is considered extravagant energy use. One provision would require that any building of more than 20,000 square feet meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Design) certification, which requires water and energy conservation. Another would increase mandatory insulation for new roofs.Other provisions, reports the Crested Butte News, are more controversial: a ban on snowmelt systems for residential driveways, sidewalks and roofs, although they would be allowed on public thoroughfares if powered by alternative energy sources.Alan Bernholtz, the mayor, said private outdoor heating tends to be convenience, rather than an issue of public safety. But local resident Josephine Nelson said climbing on roofs to shovel snow is not safe. And instead of a snowmelt system, people might use chemicals. And what about the costs to elderly or disabled residents who cannot physically remove snow from roofs themselves nor afford to hire others to do so?Bernholtz believes that the old-fashioned snow removal method has worked for more than a century. “I don’t feel like we’re backing people into a corner by not allowing them to heat their roofs,” he said.Durango-Silverton train deals with coal smokeDURANGO Increasingly over the years, people in Durango have become cranky about the anything-but-romantic smoke coming from the coal-powered steam locomotives that take excursionists to Silverton on summer days. Last year, a study was commissioned to plot solutions. Now, the owner of the Denver and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has promised $1 million during the next five years to implement some of the solutions. The Durango Telegraph reports that the study, by Wasatch Railroad Contractors, outlines 26 options. Among the ideas is keeping the engines of the locomotives burning at night by feeding them sawdust briquettes.Snow-tire mandate favored by WhistlerWHISTLER, B.C. Both business leaders and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police want to see snow tires required on the highway from Vancouver to Whistler. The highway is sometimes closed for hours by collisions that could be avoided if vehicles were required to use snow tires or chains during winter months, says Scott Bowden, a corporal with the Mounted Police.Other mountainous areas have the snow-tire rule, reports Whistler’s Pique newsmagazine, but apply it in different ways.Parks Canada officially has a requirement of snow tires or chains in Banff, Jasper and other national parks in the Canadian Rockies, but it’s actually more of an advisory. “If people get into trouble, then they have no recourse against us,” one Parks Canada official explained.On the Coquihalla Highway, near Kamloops, B.C., snow tires are required, but cars are rarely checked, simply because it takes so much staffing to do so. Motorists are almost never fined except in the event of an accident.Chinese tourists may not be lucrative floodWHISTLER, B.C. Tourism operators in the Pacific Rim which some definitions have extended as far as the Rocky Mountains have been salivating for several years about the day when Chinese become tourists in large numbers.In Canada, that day is likely to be sooner than in the United States, because of somewhat friendlier Chinese-Canadian relations. For some time, China has been considering granting something called approved destination status for Canada. Currently, only Chinese traveling on business or visiting their families in Canada can obtain exit visas.But Ralph Forsyth, a municipal councilor in Whistler, argues against over-stated expectations once the door is fully opened. Writing in Pique, Forsyth quotes two books, “One Billion Customers” and “China’s Outbound Tourism,” that probe China’s growing discretionary income.Their evidence, buttressed by a report from the Economist magazine, suggests that most first-time travelers from China are deeply frugal and usually visit the most famous attractions. Favoring poor hotel rooms and cheap food, they instead spend their money on luxury branded goods. “In 2005, they spent more on shopping, per day and per trip, than travelers from Europe, Japan or America,” said the Economist. The Chinese appetite for shopping is equaled only by a lust for gambling. Whistler and few other ski resorts favor gambling.On the other hand, an estimated 1.5 million Chinese are being introduced to skiing per year, if only 7 percent of Chinese skiers own their own equipment.Finally, there is the matter of Chinese politics. The government, for example, was annoyed with Canada for conferring citizenship to the Dalai Lama. It is, says Forsythe, a governing regime that can be brutal and repressive. Forsythe’s bottom line: Whistler can eventually cater to Chinese tourists, if the money to be made is far less than has been suggested. But he says that “we must be clear that business must be on our terms and consistent with our values.”Pellets promoted as way to use dead treesKREMMLING Sawmills have come and gone during the last 60 years in Kremmling, a town of 1,200 people that sits in the triangle between Steamboat Springs, Vail, and Winter Park. Now, a new $10 million plant is being constructed that aims to convert the beetle-killed trees in surrounding forests into sawdust and then pellets.The entrepreneur, Mike Mathis, is now drumming up interest in installing boilers to burn the pellets from his factory. He estimates it will cost $10,000 to install such a wood-pellet heating system in a home.Mathis argues that wood pellets, purchased in bulk, produce heat far more economically than other forms of energy. He figures $9.09 per million British thermal units for bulk pellets, $10.30 for bagged pellets, $14 for natural gas, and $21.47 for propane.While many ski communities converted to natural gas burners to avoid the pollution of wood-burning stoves, Mathis has a new argument in favor of wood. First, the newer generation of stoves burns wood cleanly, resulting in fewer emissions. But with the growing concern about global warming, Mathis argues that this is a carbon-neutral technology. He says that burning the pellets does not put any carbon dioxide into the environment that wouldn’t naturally be emitted when trees decompose.The Vail Daily reports that Mathis, whose company is called Confluence Energy, was in Vail to demonstrate the operations of a boiler to local governments and builders. His sawmill sits about halfway between Vail and Grand Lake, an area where up to 90 percent of lodgepole pine may be killed by pine beetles.Cold, but not enough to freeze bark beetlesTELLURIDE If this is the worst that winter can deliver, it’s far from enough to brunt the epidemics of bark beetles in forests of the West. While temperatures have reached 20 to 30 below in areas, even 35 below in a few locations, the cold has been too short-lived to have any telling effects on the beetles, which remain burrowed inside trees.Roy Mask, one of the most knowledgeable entomologists for the Forest Service in the West, told The Telluride Watch that the temperatures of 20 to 30 below must last a week to kill the beetles.For example, one beetle epidemic that began in 1939 in the Flat Tops area of Colorado peaked in 1950. That story was recounted in the spring 2004 issue of Forest Magazine. While the U.S. Forest Service has declared war on the beetles, hiring large crews to douse trees with poison and opening up large areas to timber harvesting, none of the efforts blunted the advance of the beetles. What caused the beetles to vanish almost overnight was horribly cold weather, 49 below zero in the town of Kremmling and 56 below in Eagle.
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