Mountain Town News: Armed protestors take protest to newspaper |

Mountain Town News: Armed protestors take protest to newspaper

KETCHUM, Idaho – A group of 30 gun-toting men, women and children marched down Main Street in Ketchum recently to the steps of the Idaho Mountain Express.

“We stand without shame,” said John Casey, a resident of the Wood River Valley, on the steps of the newspaper office. As it was a Saturday, nobody was inside.

The newspaper had angered the protestors by publishing an editorial calling for public shaming of those who insisted on “packing guns everywhere and all the time, including inappropriately during political gatherings.”

“Society should return to the place where it is unacceptable to show up in a school, theater, park, restaurant or political rally with a gun,” the newspaper said.

The Express says the protesters belonged to a group called 111% Idaho, and many had hoisted flags and holstered handguns on their hips.

Even as mountains rise, California farms sinking

CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. – In the West, many mountains slowly are rising. For example, Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest mountain, formerly was 14,433 feet. But a resurvey a few years ago revealed a new height: 14,439 feet, or 6 feet higher.

In California’s Central Valley, the land is sinking. This has been going on for decades, the result of farmers pumping water from aquifers underlying their fields. With the four-year drought, pumping has increased.

“Tens of thousands of square miles are deflating like a leaky air mattress, inch by inch,” says Reveal, an investigative journalism website.

“Groundwater now supplies about 60 percent of the state’s water, with the vast majority of that going to agriculture,” Reveal explains. The news organization estimates that 5 percent of California’s total electrical use is being used by groundwater pumps.

Some places in California are subsiding a foot a year.

The U.S. Geological Survey says that the accelerating pumping is starting to destroy bridges, crack irrigation canals, and twist highways across California.

Devin Galloway, a scientist with the Geological Survey, says that even if farmers stopped pumping groundwater immediately, subsidence that will continue for years.

Boutique hotel debuts in downtown Jackson

JACKSON, Wyo. – A 58-room boutique hotel that charges $450 a night during July has opened in downtown Jackson, sandwiched between a ski shop and a second-hand clothing store.

Jim Darwiche, the patriarch of the family that developed the hotel, told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that the demand for upscale lodging has grown at Teton Village, at the base of the valley’s big ski resort, but that high-quality lodging wasn’t available in Jackson, which is 10 miles away.

“Jackson needs a new, modern, very high-end facility to match the customers that we’ve been getting in here,” he said.

But in addition to building a high-quality hotel, he said, the family aimed to build something that would last 50 years.

Jackson Hole Resort keeps ‘em returning

JACKSON, Wyo. – The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this winter, and by all accounts the resort seems to have ratcheted itself up a notch among ski areas in the West during recent years.

Executives interviewed by the Jackson Hole News&Guide point to something called the Net Promoter Score, a Fortune 100 metric of guest satisfaction. “It measures the percentage of people out of 100 who would recommend your product or service with a 9 or 10 on a 1 to 10 scale,” explains Adam Sutner, the chief marketing officer, who not long ago was serving in the same capacity for Vail Resorts.

“We have moved, with our very best performance last year, into the top 10 nationally of all ski resorts.”

He went on to explain that a high score translates into repeat visitations and loyal customers but also invaluable word-of-mouth advertising.

Jerry Blann, the president, who in the 1980s ran the show at Aspen Skiing Co., credits delivery of service —with a special attention on frontline people. “We get more return folks — clearly patrol, clearly a lot of ski school folks — but even in the depths of lefties. It makes a difference. People are truly engaged in this place.”

At Jackson Hole, 75 percent of the business comes from destination guests. Obviously, the airport is crucial, and it has 13 nonstop flights to various places around the country, topping any other ski resort airport.

Knee bone connected to the thigh bone, the thigh …

VAIL, Colo. – Business continues to pick up in Vail and the Eagle Valley, but growth in wages has lagged.

The Vail Daily talked to one banker, who reported loan requests that indicate a “gradual” strengthening of the valley’s business economy. This includes a recovery in commercial rents.

Unemployment is down, but average weekly wages lag the Colorado average by about $200 per week.

And then there’s the housing crunch. A recent survey of employees said 34 percent reported that finding desirable housing at an affordable price was a “major problem.” That’s up from 9 percent just two or three years ago.

Electric hybrid groomer tested on Whistler slopes

WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler Blackcomb, the ski area, substantially reduced its carbon footprint in the last decade, particularly because of installation of an hydroelectric plant in the middle of the ski area. The electricity is used for snowmaking and lift operations.

The next challenge? Snow grooming, which account for two-thirds of the ski area’s carbon footprint, says Arthur De Jong, the mountain planner.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions further, Whistler Blackcomb last winter tried out a new model of groomer manufactured by Kassbohrer. The Germany company’s new model has a diesel-electric drive that the company claims reduces fuel use by 20 percent. Mechanics at Whistler Blackcomb say the product delivered as advertised on that account. The performance in grooming, however, fell short. De Jong thinks that is something that can be fixed with refinements.

If the natural gas replaces diesel, the greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced another 35 to 40 percent, he says.

In such ways, Whistler Blackcomb continues to inch its way toward carbon neutrality.

What dieticians say about the paleo diet

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – What do dieticians think about the paleo diet that has been so popular of late?

Also called the primal, ancestral or caveman diet, it emphasizes food that predates agriculture and domestication of animals.

“I’m not a huge fan of it,” Jamie Lamb, a registered dietician in Steamboat Springs. Lamb tells the Steamboat Pilot and Today that humans lived different lifestyles than today, lived far shorter periods of time, and even had different teeth. She sees some benefit, but counsels caution.

Dietician Cara Marrs told the newspaper she doesn’t recommend or promote the paleo diet primarily because she’s against anyone sticking to a strict rules-based diet that restricts whole food groups.

Ex-White House chef killed by flash flood

TAOS, N.M. – You don’t necessarily think of high mountain slopes as being the location of deadly flash floods. But that’s what claimed the life of Walter Scheib, the executive chef in the White House for 11 years during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Scheib, 61, was found dead along a hiking trail near the Taos Ski Area. New reports said the chef had hiked up the 4-mile-long Yerba Canyon trail, which starts at 8,400 feet and climbs to a 12,115-foot peak. Searchers said he probably reached near the summit. His body was found 1.7 mile from the trailhead.

One online guide,, says the trail winds “through lush alpine scenery … With all the stream crossings and greenery, you’ll find it hard to believe you are in New Mexico with the high desert of Taos just a few miles down the road.”

The Christian Science Monitor reports that 64 people have died in flash floods and 8 seriously injured since 1959 in New Mexico. Two-thirds of those who died were either driving into high water or were swept away in their cars.

What people said about the gay marriage ruling

DURANGO, Colo. – Upon hearing news of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that gay marriages are legal in all 50 states, many people in mountain towns were ecstatic.

In Park City, Liana Teteberg, who is rearing a child with her wife, said it’s a great step forward on a longer journey. “Having a law is only one step. The next step is becoming part of our fabric.”

The Aspen Skiing Co. in March had signed an amicus curiae brief along with 378 other companies in the United States, urging justices to consider affirming a uniform principle that all couples have the right to marry. A local Democratic Party official, Blanca O’Leary, said she was “just numb with happiness.”

In Durango, the Herald sampled opinions on the street. Most, but not all, people were supportive.

“If it’s ruining anybody else’s day, then they’ve got a problem,” said Tyler Kasper, 22, from nearby Farmington, New Mexico. “I think we need to have respect for all people,” said 62-year-old Ed Kerr, who was visiting from Illinois.

Darren Ferris, 45, who is from Texas, had a somewhat different take. “I’m happy for them. Whoever wants to get married and divorced has my blessing. I’ve been married twice. They have my condolences.”

But the most interesting stories came out of Wyoming. In advance of the Supreme Court ruling, the Jackson Hole News& Guide had talked with a number of people, younger and older, male and female, to find out what it’s like to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in what is called the Cowboy State.

Ben Clark, who is now 51, grew up on a ranch in Jackson Hole where quarter-horses were raised. He was a wrangler, an outfitter, and did a little rodeo. In a sense, he grew up as a cowboy. He also realized when he was 12 that he was attracted physically to boys, not girls. But he kept that fact to himself for 20 years before he felt comfortable enough to come out fully to his hometown. Clark is now married, to a man.

The newspaper also talked with some who are 18 years old and found some hesitancy to be outside the norm. But it’s easier than it used to be.

“Although it is still a very big deal to come out to family, friends and even to oneself, today’s youth are afforded a bit more tolerance from straight people than their predecessors were,” explained the newspaper.

Telluride nonprofit plans science-based sessions

TELLURIDE, Colo. – A new nonprofit called Telluride First Foundation has scheduled Deepak Chopra for its inaugural conference, the Telluride Integrative Wellness Summit.

Chopra is a medical doctor who combined Western medicine with ancient Hindu principles of Ayurveda. He will be joined by several other speakers, including Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor, a neuroanatomist and author of “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Injury,” who delivered the second most-viewed TED talk of all time. Also talking will be Rich Roll, author of “Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men.”

The new foundation aims to bring science-based talks and events to Telluride. Chuck Horning, a founding director of the new nonprofit, says the organization intends to “develop leading-edge, science-based conferences for an audience who shares the desire to make the world better by advancing our understanding of it.”

Is the bluegrass festival truly sacred in Telluride?

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Talk about tilting against windmills, Jon Nelson had a letter in the Telluride Daily Planet in which he questioned the local value of hosting the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the thousands of “festivarians.”

The festival is an icon on the American musical landscape, and over its 42 years has drawn a mile-long list of performers. This year’s show included Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck and Ry Cooder, and a few dozen others.

“Most of the store and restaurant owners and employees dread the weekend as it involves a lot of work with little financial return, unless, of course, you have a cannabis shop,” Nelson wrote. “The whole town and mountainside is inundated with campers and camps, many that you would like to be a part of — and many that should require donning a Hazmat suit prior to entry.”

Nelson says his question is “what is the economic and cultural gain of having Bluegrass?”

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