Around the Mountains; Vail hopes to replace H-2B drivers |

Around the Mountains; Vail hopes to replace H-2B drivers

ALLEN BESTspecial to the daily

VAIL Vail town officials last year had 35 Australians with H-2B visas driving buses. With none of them coming back, the town is scrambling to recruit drivers, going to Yosemite and other national parks to see if summer-time bus drivers want winter jobs. Although the town isnt ready to cut back service, if that happens, the evening schedule will be hit first. Some routes to outlying neighborhoods currently get buses every 15 minutes, notes the Vail Daily.Dissatisfaction continues with Western Slope groupGUNNISON Several of the ski-anchored counties of Colorados Western Slope are threatening to bolt from Club 20, the regional public-interest lobbying group. The flashpoint for the dissatisfaction is the increasing domination of the group by the booming oil-and-gas industry.Tellurides Art Goodtimes, a commissioner from San Juan County, resigned from the organization in April after losing his spot as an elected official within the group to an oil-and-gas industry consultant.The club has been taken over by the oil and gas industry, from its recent leadership to its big-gun funders, he said in his resignation letter.Two other ski-dominated counties, Gunnison and Pitkin counties which include Crested Butte and Aspen respectively similarly compared grievances at a recent meeting.Rachael Richards, a former Aspen mayor who is now a Pitkin County commissioner, said she is dismayed with Club 20s stance on oil and gas regulations, which she says pays little attention to the agriculture, tourism, and recreation industries.Too, there is dissatisfaction with Club 20 being seen as broadly representative of the Western Slope.The organization was seen as trending away from its conservative roots and being more welcoming of resort-valley environmental interests in recent years.Club 20 voting is premised upon a one-member, one-vote arrangement. Private companies, as well as local governments, are eligible to join. Of late, the membership has swelled with oil and gas companies, who have advanced an agenda that, as seen from the perspective of Richards and Goodtimes, puts people and the environment in the back seat.Is it time for other ski counties to leave Club 20? Richards told a reporter in April that she didnt plan to push for Pitkin Countys exit, but in a meeting in Gunnison, she sounded more exasperated in comments reported by the Crested Butte News. Club 20 must figure out better how to issue formal positions that better reflect minority opinions, she said.Reeves Brown, executive director of Club 20, disputes the charge of steamrolling. The majority rules, but the minority always have their day in court, he told the same newspaper.Does climbing 14ers cause brain damage?TELLURIDE Does climbing 14,000-foot peaks cause you to lose brain cells, because of hypoxia? A study done in Spain came to the conclusion that time spent at high elevations resulted in a significant loss of brain cells, leading even to permanent damage.But a study conducted by Tellurides Institute for Altitude Medicine is coming to a different conclusion. Dr. Peter Hackett, the centers director and one of the nations foremost experts in high-altitude medicine, has spearheaded a study of climbers of Alaskas 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley, a.k.a. Denali. Brains of the climbers were analyzed by magnetic resonance imaging both before and after their climbs.Results of the study remain incomplete, but Hackett told The Telluride Watch it appears that climbing the occasional 14er wont cause irreparable damage.Aspen Skiing partners for non-Vail shuttlesASPEN The Aspen Skiing Co. isnt about to share its mailing list with rival Vail Resorts Inc., and so it has thrown its business for transporting people from airports to a company called Gray Line Worldwide.A company called Colorado Mountain Express for the last decade had cornered the business of transporting people from Denver International Airport, as well as from Eagle County Regional Airport, to ski resorts along and near Interstate 70.The company was owned by East West Partners, the land-development company.But East West earlier this year decided to sell CME to Vail for $40.5 million. The deal is expected to be completed this fall.Chuck Murphy, the managing member of Gray Line of Colorado, asked Aspen whether it was a concern that Aspens guests would be transported by Vail.After all, that would open up the data base of a larger chunk of Aspens customers to Vail. Murphy told the Aspen Times that 20,000 to 30,000 destination travelers go to Aspen each winter from either DIA or Eagle County Regional Airport. Murphys firm hopes to get at least a quarter of that business.Whereas CME exclusively uses vans, the new company has an array of vehicles, from 10-passenger vans to 56-passenger buses, also called motorcoaches. The proposed fare from DIA to Aspen will be $105 one-way, and from Eagle County it will be $60.Steamboat real-estate market half of 2007STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Still whooping with exuberance a year ago, the real-estate market in Steamboat Springs and Routt County this year is slumbering. The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports $501 million in sales through July, compared with $1 billion during the same time period in 2006.

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