Mountain Town News: Grizzly gives climbers an emphatic warning |

Mountain Town News: Grizzly gives climbers an emphatic warning

A pine martin plays in a pine in Breckenridge.
Jayne Weliska / special to the daily |

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – Two rock climbers scouting a planned 12-pitch, 500-meter climb in Banff National Park were attacked by a grizzly bear on the Sunday after the American Thanksgiving holiday.

Both survived, and a human-wildlife conflict specialist for Parks Canada said it was probably because the bear did not intend to kill them.

“These folks startled the bear. It came out of the den and attacked them in a defensive way,” Jon Stuart-Smith told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “As the bear is trying to den, it’s quite sensitive to disturbance and, unfortunately, they got too close to the den.”

“The bear,” he added, “was just trying to tell these guys ‘you are in my area, go away.’ It wasn’t necessarily trying to kill them or injure them in any way, just trying to get its message to them.”

Greg Boswell, a Scottish climber described by the Outlook as one of the most talented of his generation, was with Britain’s Nick Bullock when the bear attacked him directly above steep cliffs, roughly two-thirds of the way up the 3,261-metre Mount Wilson. The mountain is located about a 45-minute drive north of Lake Louise along the Icefield Parkway.

Bullock posted a blog about the encounter, and it sounds dramatic. “Greg kicked at Ursus arctos horribilis and it bit straight through his brand new boot as if it were a carpet slipper,” he wrote. And there’s also mention of one of them prying open the mouth of the bear.

The story doesn’t explain what caused the bear to retreat, but apparently it did as the two climbers were able to rappel down the rock face and then drive to Banff for treatment, which took them five hours altogether.

Not all grizzly bears let encroachers to den sites off so easily. In 2006, a grizzly bear killed a man near Whitehorse, in the Yukon, when he came within five metres of the den, which had two cubs inside.

Akido a key for aging, says Klaus Obermeyer

ASPEN, Colo.— At age 95, Klaus Obermeyer skis most days and swims, too. “Being out in nature keeps you young,” he tells The Wall Street Journal.

Even more than skiing, he tells the Journal, the secret to his vitality is his devotion to aikido, a Japanese martial art, which Obermeyer has practiced for 35 years.

Unlike martial arts, he explains, the practitioner isn’t trying to defeat or injure the opponent, but rather to redirect the momentum of the opponent’s attack.

“The idea is not to hurt, but to control your opponent,” he says.

He says he has applied this principle in business and everyday life. “Every attack that comes at you can be seen as an opportunity,” he says. “You can make it work in your favor.”

Born in Germany in 1919, he arrived in Aspen in 1947 and taught skiing there for the next 12 years. He founded Sport Obermeyer in an attic in his home and there assembled a down ski parka, stitched together from his goose down comforter, the first of many innovations.

Obermeyer practices akido every day and tells the Journal that working out is the only way to keep his body and mind sharp enough to run a business and still have fun on the slopes. “Your body is like a car,” he says. “It needs maintenance and care. If you don’t work out, your body will slowly deteriorate.”

He also swims a bit more than a mile every day, but also does pushups, sit-ups and other gym exercises. In swimming, he says, he likes that it forces him to breathe deeply and to stretch fully. “I like to think it prevents me from shrinking as I get older.”

And then this: “Being old is not an excuse to be lazy.”

As for eating, he eats more robustly at breakfast, then slows through the day. He tries to be a vegan, but admits to cheating. “My concern is not to eat more calories than I burn.”

The charming life of a young adventurer

KETCHUM, Idaho – Ah, it sounds like quite a life, that of Alexis “Lexi” duPont. She lives in a geodesic dome in the Sun Valley area when she’s not out sailing or skiing.

In 2010, she circumnavigated the globe with Archbishop Desmond Tutu through a study-abroad program while in college. In October, she sailed off the coast of Florida with a group of non-profit leaders, artists, scientists and 18 self-made billionaires. She tells the Idaho Mountain Express of a comedic interview by the CEO of Google of the CEO of Uber.

And then she skis and is sponsored for her expeditions by Eddie Bauer, K2 and Smith Optics. “I am in search of first descents and epic conditions,” she said. She spoke with the Express while en route to Seattle for the premier of “Chasing Shadows,” a film based on a heli-ski trip to Valdez, Alaska, in an RV by an all-female group. The trip was sponsored by K2.

This winter, duPont will join a camera crew and guides on a journey to Kyrgyzstan, where the group will explore the possibility of establishing snow sports tourism in the remote mountainous country of central Asia.

DuPont lived briefly as a child in Delaware, where her family name is well known. Her father moved the family to Ketchum, where she learned to ski at age 2. “My dad moved out here to raise us as full-on mountain girls, and he wanted us to be self-reliant.”

She offered this bit of wisdom: “If you’re all caught up in your money and who’s driving what kind of car, you can lose empathy for others. This world goes around on meaningful relationships, and to have those you need to have empathy.”

She was skiing on Halloween on Independence Pass, between Aspen and Leadville, before heading to Moab to rock climb. There, she did her first 5.10 lead on a crack — and, she confided on her Facebook page, she did so topless.

“Just put some climbing tape on your nipples so you don’t scrape them,” she advised the Mountain Express.

Jerry Groswold was a bridge to early skiing

WINTER PARK, Colo. – Jerry Groswold, the chief executive at Winter Park Resort from 1975 until he retired in 1997, died on Thanksgiving. His life and personal experience bridged downhill skiing in Colorado from its earliest roots to the era of million-skier-days.

At Winter Park, he oversaw a major expansion of ski terrain and infrastructure, particularly with the opening of the Mary Jane, arguably Colorado’s best terrain for bump skiers, but also the Vasquez and Parsenn expansions.

“He kept Winter Park in a ferociously competitive environment,” says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association. Shortly before he took over, the Eisenhower Tunnel had opened, making Winter Park arguably more difficult to reach than newer resorts such as Copper Mountain, Keystone and Breckenridge.

But his fingerprints were also on the creation of the Winter Park Handicapped Program, which evolved into the National Sports Center for the Disabled. He was passionate about making the sport of skiing accessible to thousands of people with disabilities. In this, Winter Park was the clear leader, and to this day you can find an unusual number of “gimps,” as those with lost limbs called themselves, in Winter Park and the Fraser Valley. In the early 1980s, a great number of them were Vietnam veterans.

Cale Kenney, one of those “gimps” at Winter Park, says that Children’s Hospital in Denver approached Winter Park about teaching people with disabilities how to ski. Hal O’Leary jumped at the invitation and was always the heart of the program, she says, but Groswold was the head. He made things happen as the program grew from a “closet in the base lodge” in 1977 to the much greater operation that it is now.

“He was just hands-on,” she says. “His hands were all over that place.”

Groswold’s life altogether reflected a broad span of Colorado’s skiing history. He was born in 1931 in Denver, and his father, Thor, was Colorado’s first manufacturer of alpine skis.

His involvement with Winter Park began in 1939. Originally called West Portal, it became easily accessible from Denver after the Moffat railroad tunnel was completed in 1928. This was at a time when highways were poorly maintained, and many weren’t plowed of snow during winter.

Denver’s parks department decided to create a winter sports area there. In 1939, the first J-bar tow began operations. Groswold’s formal involvement began the summer before, when, as an 8-year-old, he carried water to volunteers who cut the first trails. He also skied there on opening day.

After World War II, Winter Park was arguably in the same peer group as Aspen, the two major destination ski resorts in Colorado. That soon changed as first a few, then many ski areas opened. But if Winter Park was a very different place than an Aspen, Vail, or even a Breckenridge, it annually chalked up about a million skier days a year by the 1990s.

Ski towns wonder if it could happen here?

TELLURIDE, Colo. – The shootings of recent weeks, first in Colorado Springs and then in California, have lots of people thinking what-if’s.

“I think everyone recognizes that any community is not immune to those types of things – that it can happen anywhere, regardless of the size of your jurisdiction,” Jim Kolar, the chief marshal in Telluride, told the Daily Planet.

What does this say about the need for gun control? San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters says he understands the impulse to want to control sale of guns, but questioned the reality. And, too, he thinks there’s evidence that armed civilians can deter violence.

Kolar agrees. “I know of incidents where security guards or off-duty officers have engaged with someone who’s intending to do harm,” he said. “I can’t even remember the last time when a citizen carrying (a firearm) under a (concealed carry) permit intervened, but sometimes those things might not make the news.”

Variable speed limits on Whistler highway

WHISTLER, B.C. – New variable speed signs are being installed along the Sea to Sky Highway between Whistler and Vancouver. The electronic signs will adjust the speed limits to reflect changing weather conditions using an extensive system of traffic, pavement, and visibility sensors.

Whistler’s Pique reports that similar electronic signs will be installed at two other highway segments in British Columbia known for their rapidly changing weather conditions.

Snow in the Sierras, but still below subpar

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Last week, the snow in California’s Sierra Nevada was double that of the year before. Still, El Niño so far has been something of a dud. The Los Angeles Times reported the water content was 56 percent of 30-year average for Dec. 1, compared to 24 percent the year before.

“We are still not getting the rain and snow frequency amounts we would like to see,” David Rizzardo, chief of snow surveys for California’s Department of Water Resources, said. To restore the state’s reservoirs to pre-drought levels, California would need the snowpack to reach 150 percent of average, Rizzardo said. The snowpack provides about a third of California’s water supply.

Coal plants dwindle as air gets cleaner

DURANGO, Colo. – Coal plants have fast been going down, and many more will in the next 15 years across the West.

Only two coal-fired power plants have been built in the West since the 1990s, says Patrick Cummins. And by 2030, half of the coal plants will be 50 years or older, at the end of their useful lives, he said at a recent presentation in Durango covered by the Durango Herald.

Cummins used to work for the Western Governors Association and now works for the Center for the New Energy Economy, a think-tank formed by former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. Cummins was tasked with becoming an expert on the federal government’s Clean Power Plan, the most ambitious effort by the United States yet to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Colorado is well-positioned, he said, because of conversions to natural gas in recent years. But there are still 55 fossil-fuel burning units, 21 of which need to come into compliance.

In northwestern New Mexico, just south of Mesa Verde National Park, two major coal-fired plants have reduced coal burning. The Four Corners Power Plant on the Navajo Nation closed three of its five units just two years ago. And the nearby San Juan generating station recently shut down two of its four units, with their future operation uncertain.

Colorado is halfway to meeting its 2030 standards, but there’s still much work to do.

Talking the bigger picture, he says that the Clean Power Plan shows the U.S. commitment to the global community to reduce emissions. “And there’s reason to believe the Clean Power Plan will be successful,” he said.

Park Record sold to Swift newspaper chain

PARK CITY, Utah – The Park Record is in a new newspaper family, and as much as anything, the sale speaks to the difficulty of being a smaller, stand-alone news enterprise in the era of the Internet.

The newspaper had been owned by Digital First Media, which also owns the Denver Post. Now, it’s owned by Swift Communications, which has a string of mostly smaller newspapers in Colorado, California, and Oregon, including the Aspen Times, Vail Daily, and Summit Daily News.

Taking stock of the transition, The Park Record pointed to the value of being part of the chain founded by Dean Singleton, the founder of MediaNews Group, which later merged with Digital First. “He prodded publishers and editors to explore the Internet as an opportunity rather than an impediment, even though it shook their business model to its core,” The Record noted in its editorial.

“The challenges generated by web and mobile platforms were especially difficult for smaller community newspapers without the staff or budgets to establish their own IT departments, but MediaNews Group was able to provide the infrastructure and training to ensure all of its properties, including The Park Record, had top-notch websites,” The Record noted.

The Record seems to think that Swift, which is based in Carson City, Nev., brings the same sensibilities to the table, but in a family of newspapers more specifically focused on mountain towns. No immediate changes seem to be in the offing.

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