Mountain Town News: Ski instructors look into joining a union |

Mountain Town News: Ski instructors look into joining a union

Even the aspens are a little spooky on Halloween.
Bill Linfield / Special to the Daily |

AVON, Colo. – A group of ski instructors at Beaver Creek has instigated action that might yield representation by the AFL-CIO’s Communications Workers of America.

If ski instructors at Beaver Creek decide to unionize, they will be the first in the nation. However, ski patrollers at Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte, Telluride, all in Colorado, and at Canyons, in Utah, already have union representation. Taos, located in New Mexico, is scheduled to have a vote in November.

A representative of the AFL-CIO tells the Vail Daily that it wants organizers to get signatures from 30 percent of Beaver Creek’s ski instructors saying they want a union and that they want the AFL-CIO’s affiliate to run it. If that happens, union organizer Al Kogler said, then the union will ask the National Labor Relations Board for a vote.

The issue appears to be compensation. The Vail Daily reports that Vail Resorts sent an e-mail to ski instructors trumpeting a pay raise to $10.50 for non-certified instructors. Level 3 certified instructors will get a $4.05 pay raise to $18 an hour.

But cost of ski lessons to customers has gone up, and there appears to be worries that clients are tipping less because they think the employees are being compensated.

Smoking areas ID’d on Bachelor’s slopes

BEND, Ore. – Customers at Mt. Bachelor this coming winter will have to go to designated areas if they want to smoke tobacco, chew tobacco or use e-cigarette-type devices.

As for marijuana, the rules are the same in Oregon as in Colorado: No consumption on federal land. Bachelor is on federal land.

How about drones? The Bend Bulletin says that ski area officials require written authorization before any unmanned aerial vehicles are flown there.

Strong U.S. dollar may puff off foreign visitors

ASPEN, Colo. – Excitement continues to build in Aspen about a great snow season. One meteorological service, AccuWeather, predicts 200 percent of average snowfall during November and December.

But having snow is one thing. Having guests is another, and 25 percent of Aspen’s visitors come from outside the United States. In that case, the strong U.S. dollar tends to discourage foreign visitors, Aspen Skiing Co. officials tell local elected officials.

Free parking gone like skiing in jeans

WINTER PARK, Colo. – Back in the era when people wore blue jeans to ski at Winter Park, parking was all free. Of course, lots were also unpaved.

Some lots remain unpaved and others consist of crushed asphalt. But parking is getting expensive, $15 a day this winter at close-in lots or $22 at the parking garage. Some outlying lots will remain free, reports the Sky Hi News.

Rotten cattle blood draws grizzly bears

JASPER, Alberta – One way to capture the attention of a passing grizzly bear is to concoct a potion of rotten cattle blood mixed with canola oil, poured onto piles of moss and tree branches.

That, at least, is what researchers in Alberta did to draw grizzlies. The piles were encircled by barbed wire, and the barbed wire caught the hair from the grizzlies. That hair was used to identify the individual DNA of the bears and hence provide an accurate population count.

That counting has revealed a 7 percent increase in grizzly bears in the foothills east of Jasper. Researchers aren’t sure how to explain this increase. A cessation on hunting since 2010 may be one cause. In addition, bears who have caused “problems” in other areas, such as killing livestock, have been relocated to that particular area.

Grizzly bears have been listed as threatened in Alberta since 2010 after studies concluded that fewer than 700 grizzles remained, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook. However, the newspaper also notes that grizzlies move between Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia, and that population has been increasing.

Bad year for grizzly bears in Yellowstone

JACKSON, Wyo. – This has been a bad year for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. As of early October, 46 bears in the three-state region, including Yellowstone National Park and adjoining areas, had been killed at the hands of humans. That represents 6 percent of the grizzly population.

Some years have been better, such as 2013-14, when mortalities were less than 30. There have also been bad years before.

Frank van Manen, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team leader, said the high mortality is not surprising given the limited amount of native food sources, both whitebark pine nuts and berries.

Of the 46 bears killed this year, 14 were dispatched in response to slain sheep or cattle. Another 10 were killed by hunters.

Louisa Willcox, a grizzly bear activist, told the News&Guide that the greatest number of killings was justified as self-defense. She said it would be a boon to grizzly bear conservation to be able to review the outcomes of those investigations into self-defense killings. Ordinarily, she noted, such investigations drag on for months and years.

Jackson Hole aims to boost waste diversion

JACKSON, Wyo. – On any given day, five trash trucks depart from Jackson, in the heart of Teton County, to deliver refuse to a landfill nearly 90 miles away at Idaho Falls, Idaho.

That’s a lot of trash, but there could be more. A quarter-century ago, recycling in Jackson and Teton County was minimal, points out the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Now, 34 percent of trash is diverted.

A goal adopted by town and county officials last year aims to increase the diversion rate to 60 percent in just the next 15 years. Recycling officials have identified year-by-year strategies.

Community composting is described as the shining star of this plan. Compostable organic materials make up 40 percent or more of the waste stream, says Heather Overholser, director of the Teton County Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling.

In Jackson Hole, at least half of that is food. If just half of that is composted, it would lift the valley’s diversion rate from today’s 34 percent to 44 percent.

Shipping containers belong in ski towns?

WHISTLER, B.C. – Elected officials in Whistler are on the verge of putting the kibosh to shipping containers in residential neighborhoods. But Ken Achenbach, a resident since 1988, argues that shipping containers can have a place in Whistler. “Sure, bring in some codes,” he tells Pique Newsmagazine.

“Banning containers completely is ridiculous (when at the same time) some towns and cities all over the world are starting to open up to them for their small ecological footprint and their sustainability.”

TED talk gone from Whistler after 2 years

WHISTLER, B.C. – TEDActive, the more intimate off-shoot of the renowned TED conference, will not return to Whistler next winter.

TEDActive started in 2008 at Aspen before moving to Palm Springs, California, to be closer to the main TED event at Long Beach, California. In 2014, the main event moved to Vancouver and Whistler became the off-shoot.

Why won’t TEDActive return to Whistler? Pique didn’t get a clear answer when it talked to a TED official. It sold out, producing 3,500 room nights each of the two years.

Aspen tightens vise on greenhouse gases

ASPEN, Colo. – Both town and ski company officials in Aspen have ramped up efforts in response to accumulating greenhouse gases.

Aspen Skiing Co. this year will try to engage customers more actively in conversations about the impacts of those gases on the climate by giving cards to customers of the company’s hotels and four ski areas. The card will describe the shifting climate, 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in Aspen in the last 25 years, and correlate it to rising greenhouse gases. It will also urge that they contact elected officials about climate change.

In addition, the company will post a sign with similar information atop Aspen Mountain. Too, the uniform of every employee will feature the logo “POW,” which stands for Protect Our Winters.

Auden Schendler, the company’s vice president for sustainability, told local elected officials at a recent meeting that the goal is to educate the resort’s “powerful and influential” guests.

Schendler also said he has been encouraged by recent events — including last week’s election in Canada, where voters sent Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his foot-dragging policies on climate change packing.

He predicted similar results in the United States next year. “You can’t be a viable presidential candidate and not acknowledge the problem and have a solution,” he said.

Town officials have continued efforts to remove carbon from electricity consumed in the town. Aspen Electric, the municipal utility, in August achieved a 100-percent renewable portfolio, but it only delivers to half or two-thirds of the town. The rest of Aspen, plus the ski area and surrounding areas, is served by Holy Cross Electric.

Holy Cross Electric, which also serves the Vail area, is among the most progressive of electrical co-operatives in Colorado, with goals for renewables above any state mandates. It has long-term commitments to buy coal-fired generation.

The Aspen Daily News reports that town officials are talking with Holy Cross officials to see if special provisions can be made to carve out special renewable energy deliveries to Aspen, to remove the asterisk from its claim of 100-percent renewables.

In addition, Aspen has been taking aim at how to reduce energy use in its housing sector. This is part of a broad effort aimed at winning the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize. Utah’s Park City and Wyoming’s Teton County (Jackson Hole) are also among the nation’s 50 finalists.

Ashley Perl, director of Aspen’s Canary Initiative, said that the Georgetown Prize provides a motivation to “do a deep dive into the residential sector, which is a place where we haven’t spent that much time.” In particular, she said, there hasn’t been much interaction with owners of the larger homes in areas adjacent to Aspen. The program being developed provides incentives for property managers to do energy audits and take action.

Panhandlers out in force in Basalt area

BASALT, Colo. – Panhandlers have been much in evidence this summer in Basalt. They’ve been at key intersections nearly every day, asking for money, reports The Aspen Times. Officials point out that asking for money isn’t illegal as long as it’s done in the public right of way and that it’s not done in a way that is aggressive.

Telluride town officials last year decided they had a problem and adopted regulations governing the manner of panhandling. This year, reports town manager Greg Clifton, the number of panhandlers has declined. Just why, he’s not sure.

Lone wolf lingers near Crater Lake in Oregon

BEND, Ore. – A lone gray wolf has re-emerged in the Cascade Range of Oregon. It was originally from the Wallowa area of northeast Oregon in 2011 and had a brother that trotted into California.

The California wolf has trotted back to where it came from, but wildlife researchers located the Cascade wolf that was photographed near Crater Lake National Park, reports the Bend Bulletin.

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