Mountain Town News: Ski towns, Republicans, and the Trump candidacy |

Mountain Town News: Ski towns, Republicans, and the Trump candidacy

Westies, Toby and Meagan, were enthralled by the double rainbow outside their owner's home in Silverthorne.
John Mirro / Special to the Daily |

PARK CITY, Wyo. – Oh, whatever will high-minded and deep-pocketed Republicans do now that the loose-lipped Donald Trump has their party’s nomination sewed up?

That’s the essential question at confabs in ski town where the well-heeled of the nation gather. Last week, Mitt Romney held his meeting in Park City, sparking national news when Meg Whitman had some choice comments about Trump, comparing him to Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

This isn’t the first time Whitman had sharp comments about Trump. In March, she cited comments he had made about women, Muslims and reporters. “It’s just repugnant,” she told CNBC.

In Park City, she urged Republicans to take a principled stand against Trump. Supporting them — as Paul Ryan, the House majority leader has done tepidly — only opens the door to more candidates like Trump in the future, according to a report in the New York Times.

Aspen and Jackson Hole are usually involved in some presidential wheeling-dealing. The 2004 effort by billionaire George Soros to defeat George W. Bush was launched over lunch in Aspen, as reported later by the New Yorker. More publicly, Jackson Hole’s Foster Friess has been a major donor to Republican candidates in past years and has reportedly lined up behind Trump.

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Vail money is more quiet in presidential campaigns. But Charles and David Koch, who have been major funders of Republican candidates in recent years, will be convening their annual secretive meeting in the Vail area. In the past, they have held their invitation-only enclave at Beaver Creek’s Ritz-Carlton.

Whitman led eBay from 1998 to 2008, its boom years, and now is chief executive at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. For the record, she also has strong ties to Telluride. She bought a dude ranch there in late-2009 and also more than 800 acres of land that had been approved for development. She put it into a conservation easement. She has also contributed to Telluride’s $50 million purchase of open space at the town’s entrance.

Ryan, although from Wisconsin, has climbed most of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. David Koch owns a place in Aspen.

Millenials, these are the summers you can expect

BOULDER, Colo. – If you’re a millennial, think back to the hottest summer you can remember. Got it in mind now?

OK, think ahead to the years 2061 to 2080. You’ll have gray hair then, as you’ll be 60 to 100 years old during that time frame. You’ll also probably want more air conditioning, even if you live in a mountain town.

A new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research finds that if greenhouse gas emission are not curbed and climate change continues on its current trajectory, we’re in for much hotter summers. The probability that any summer between 2061 and 2080 will be warmer than the hottest on record is 80 percent across the world’s land areas, excluding Antarctica, which was not studied. Across much of North America, the probability is greater than 90 percent.

Hottest summer you can remember? Every summer will be even hotter by the time you get wrinkly. Tame the greenhouse gas emissions soon and the climb won’t be so steep.

Hotel pays tribute to Scottish roots of town

CANMORE, Alberta – The name of a new hotel in Canmore will pay tribute to the Scottish roots of the community. The Malcolm Hotel and Conference Centre is named after King Malcolm III of Scotland. In Gaelic, the king was known as Ceann Mor, or big head, from which the town’s name was derived.

The town of Banff, located 27 kilometres (20 miles) from Canmore, also has Scottish inspiration: Banffshire, Scotland.

Aside from the name, Canmore’s new hotel testifies to the community’s thriving tourism economy.

“As everybody knows, tourism is our industry,” Mayor John Borrowman told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “That is our economy, and we have been talking for years about a conference centre and the need for more ability to bring visitors to Canmore off-season,” he said. “We are pretty busy in the summer months, but in the slower seasons, having a conference centre is exactly what is required.”

Canmore’s thriving economy contrasts starkly with Alberta’s flagging oil and gas sector. Alberta six years ago was booming, with glassy new skyscrapers for oil companies sprouting in downtown Calgary, based in part on production from the tar/oil sands near Fort McMurray. Since then, production of oil and gas from shale deposits in the United States has produced a glut, dampening prices and forcing cutbacks in production from Alberta.

Fewer roads will mean more surviving grizzlies

CANMORE, Alberta – In 2006, the legal grizzly bear hunt in Alberta was discontinued. Since then, at least 131 grizzlies have died in interactions with humans. Poaching leads the list, followed by collisions with vehicles or trains; those killed in self-defense, mostly by hunters; and black bear hunters who misidentified and shot grizzly bear.

Can the population, which was estimated at 700 in Alberta as recently as 2010, grow if some existing roads are dismantled?

That’s at the core of the draft provincial recovery plan in Alberta. Conservationists tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook that it’s a step in the right direction. They note that much of the grizzly bear habitat in Alberta is highly fragmented by roads and motorized trails. The density of roads is many times greater than what research indicates is good for bears.

“The main thing that kills grizzly bears in Alberta is access, and anytime we’re reducing access to core grizzly bear habitat, we’re making progress,” said Stephen Legault, program director for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservative Initiative.

The Y2Y’s enthusiasm for the plan, however, is tempered by its provision that would tolerate more human-caused mortality in the area between Banff and the Montana border. “This is a capitulation to off-highway vehicle use and to logging in that area,” Legault said.

Of special consideration is an area called Porcupine Hills, where the Great Plains abuts the Rocky Mountains. The grizzly bears, as Legault notes, once were a species that roamed as far east as Manitoba and, in the United States, to the Mississippi River. They’re gone now, of course, but in this area of southern Alberta a few still can be found on the prairie.

“It’s the last vestige of Great Plains ecosystem that houses a health population of grizzly bears,” said Legault.

Legault described a complex landscape there, but added this: “We don’t think that just because it’s hard, they should give up on it.”

While the Y2Y is principally concerned about preserving and restoring wildlife habitat from Yellowstone to the Yukon, it also has been involved in species restoration on adjacent areas of the Great Plains. Bison, for example, are being restored to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, located just east of Glacier National Park.

Chamber group says don’t allow griz hunt

JACKSON, Wyo. – The greater Yellowstone ecosystem — mostly in Wyoming, but also partly in Montana and Idaho — now has an estimated 717 grizzly bears. Federal wildlife officials have proposed delisting of the grizzly, removing protections of the Endangered Species Act.

If that occurs, grizzly hunting could resume in the Yellowstone area for the first time since the 1970s. Sport hunting remains legal in Alaska and three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Northwest Territories, and Yukon.

Don’t do it — not around here, says the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. Live bears are too valuable, says the board in a position adopted unanimously.

Jeff Golightly, president of the Chamber of Commerce, told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that studies of visitors to national parks find that the top activity is wildlife watching, and they most want to see grizzly bears.

“Hunting of grizzlies is an emotionally charged topic, and some potential visitors, if they could find trophy hunting of grizzly bears around our national parks offensive, they may choose to boycott a trip because of how they feel.”

Conversely, visitors would pay more if they thought they could improve their chances of seeing grizzlies. In 2014, analysts with the U.S. Geological Survey found that visitors would pay more than double the entry fee to maximize their chances of seeing a grizzly in Yellowstone.

Between 1850 and 1920 grizzly bears were eliminated from 95 percent of their original range, with extirpation occurring earliest on the Great Plains and later in remote mountainous areas, says Western Wildlife Outreach. Further declines occurred until grizzlies survived in just 2 percent of their original range in the United States.

A horrible way to die at Yellowstone

JACKSON, Wyo. – What a horrible way to die. A 23-year-old man from Oregon, and his sister, left the boardwalk in the Norris Geyser Basin to get closer to the boiling hot springs.

Colin Nathaniel Scott, of Portland, had traveled 225 yards off the boardwalk to an area near Pork Chop Geyser when he slipped and fell into the hot spring. The temperature is estimated at 199 degrees. There, at an elevation of about 7,500 feet, that’s high enough to cause water to boil.

No significant human remains were left to recover from the boiling, acidic spring.

“It’s sort of dumb, if I could be so blunt, to walk off the boardwalks, not knowing what you’re doing,” said Kenneth Sims, a geology professor at the University of Wyoming and a member of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Simms cautioned that he had no direct knowledge of the circumstances in this fatality.

Park officials said at least 22 people have died from hot spring-related injuries in and around Yellowstone since 1890.

20th century dams being retrofitted with turbines

GRANBY, Colo. – One by one, many of the dams built during the 20th century are being retrofitted with hydroelectric turbines to created no-carbon electricity.

In May, power generation began at Granby Dam. The 298-foot-tall dam on the Colorado River was completed in 1959. It is used to hold water that is sent via a tunnel under Rocky Mountain National Park (and the Continental Divide) to cities and farms along Colorado’s Front Range.

The installation cost $5.7 million and can produce 4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. That’s enough for 370 customers of Mountain Parks, the local electrical co-operative for the Grand Lake-Winter Park area.

In Wyoming, the Snake River originates in and near Yellowstone National Park, flowing south through Jackson Hole, where it is impounded by a dam in Grand Teton National Park. Paul Hansen, who has spent the last 40 years as an environmental advocate for the Izaak Walton League and other organizations, says he would never have built a dam there. But the dam exists, and so it should be evaluated for its potential to produce electricity.

The potential, he says, is to produce enough electricity for more than 3,000 homes in the town of Jackson.

It’s also almost exactly the amount that Grand Teton National Park and its concessions use.

“That would effectively make Grand Teton National Park the first carbon-neutral national park in America,” he says. In 2012, a smaller hydro generator was brought on line in Yellowstone.

Currently, most of the power in Jackson Hole comes from hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin, including the Snake River, a tributary. That allocation is now fully subscribed. New demand is supplied from fossil fuel plants.

Hansen, writing in the Jackson Hole News&Guide, says that the hydro conversion has been blocked in the past by sentiments of “not in my backyard.” That, he says, is not a pro-environment position.

Court tells affordable housing resident to sell

ASPEN, Colo. – A court has ordered the owner of a deed-restricted home in Aspen to sell the home. Lee Mulcahy had built the home himself in the town’s Burlingame Ranch neighborhood, an enclave of deed-restricted housing designed for Aspen’s working class.

Where does Mulcahy fit in? People in the neighborhood are required to work 1,500-hours per year to satisfy the intent of the program. Mulcahy contends that through the art he produces and other jobs, he has met that requirement.

Neighbors thought he was violating the intent of the law. Last year, for example, he took an extended trip to Africa to help deliver laptops to local villages and help them get clean water systems. Mostly, though, he works as an artist.

The Aspen Daily News explains that the individual has been controversial in Aspen. As a ski instructor, he accused the Aspen Skiing Co. of exploiting employees. He was fired — for performance issues, the company said, and barred from company property. Mulcahy also took aim at what he alleged were elitist practices at the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Art Museum.

This being Aspen, even an affordable housing unit costs some money. The county assessor values the house at $791,000.

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