Mountain Town News: Aspen Skiing tries to leverage influence in the U.S. Senate |

Mountain Town News: Aspen Skiing tries to leverage influence in the U.S. Senate

ASPEN — The Aspen Skiing Co. is trying to muscle into the pivot point of national politics, particularly on the issue of climate change.

The company’s marketing campaign for this winter zeroes in on three Republican senators considered to be swing votes on climate policy: Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Maine’s Susan Collins, and Ohio’s Rob Portman.

Each of the three has expressed a clear understanding of the science of climate change yet has failed to take meaningful action, according to a press release issued last week by the company.

“Our founding vision, the Aspen Idea, was never about escaping reality or retreating from the world’s challenges,” said Mike Kaplan, the chief executive. “That’s why we are taking the bold step of launching the Give a Flake campaign.

To push the three senators, the company’s Give a Flake advertisements in national magazines will feature tear-out, prepaid postage cards for readers to sign and mail to the senators.

In the second installment, the company’s marketing campaign will focus on social concerns, including tolerance and LGBTQ rights. “Not only does Aspen Snowmass have valued visitors who are diverse in their sexual orientations and ethnicities, but our co-workers, friends and community members are too,” said Kaplan.

For most of the last two decades Aspen has played out different marketing themes than were conventional in the ski industry. For example, instead of skiers charging down slopes, it has had pictures of unbroken snow in an aspen forest.

On the political front, it has engaged in the traditional fights of the ski industry about water rights and disagreements with federal land management.

On climate change, though, Aspen Skiing has been at the front edge. It has called for mountain resorts and their well-heeled patrons to use their influence to push for actions from local to national levels. If less boldly, the ski industry in the last 15 years has come around in the same, general direction.

Continued warming and other effects of accumulating greenhouse gas emissions also pose an existential threat to the traditional ski industry business model. A study conducted by Cameron Wobus several years ago of 247 different resorts in North America found that, in Aspen, ski season could shorten by 15 to 30 days by mid-century and 30 to 50 days by 2090.

This year’s marketing campaign is, according to The Aspen Times, an “obvious extension” of the company’s “Aspen Way” marketing mission of last season. In that campaign, the company touted the words “love, respect, unity and commit” in ads and videos, plus also at various locations at its four ski seasons.

At a public forum covered by the Times, Kaplan said some had admonished him for “bringing politics into skiing.” Some said they would stay away from Aspen as a result.

“But honestly, those were very few, and we really heard from a vast majority of long-time customers and millennials who hadn’t been here before saying, ‘That’s cool you stand for something.’”

Museum for mountain rescue groups planned in Colorado

IDAHO SPRINGS — Ground has been broken along Interstate 70 in the foothills west of Denver for a Colorado Mountain Rescue History Center.

Once the building is finished by early next year, reports the Clear Creek Courant, more than 30 teams from throughout Colorado will bring their documents to be preserved at the history center. Organizers plan to work with graduate students and preservation experts from Denver-area museums and libraries to archive and catalog everything.

“The first (Colorado-based mountain rescue) team started in 1947, and some of the founders of these teams are still alive,” explains Paul “Woody” Woodward, the field director for the Evergreen-based Alpine Rescue Team. It’s among the largest of Colorado’s 30-plus rescue teams. “We want, before they’re gone, to be able to get their history from them—whether that’s interviews or video, or collecting artifacts in their garages.”

The museum was inspired by the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum in Vail and the American Mountaineering Center in Golden. The budget for this initial archives-heavy enterprise has been set at $500,000. Later, says Woodward, the museum can shift attention to creating exhibits.

Alterra Mountain Co. will have 14 ski areas in stable

DENVER — Alterra Mountain Co. has plans to buy another ski area, its 14th in North America. The latest acquisition target is Crystal Mountain, located on the flanks of Mount Rainier about two hours from Seattle. The mountain has one gondola and 10 lifts, with a vertical drop of 3,100 feet. Alterra said in a press release that it expects to close the sale later this year.

Internet rental regulations working, but tweaks needed

CRESTED BUTTE — Regulations governing internet-based short-term rentals seem to be working well, if some tweaking needs to be done.

In Crested Butte, the town expects $300,000 in taxes by year’s end, the first for the town’s regulations. The money will aid affordable housing efforts.

A 5 percent sales tax on all short-term lodging transactions generates the bulk of the money. Also contributing have been license fees for those wanting to rent their homes or other properties for short terms.

One license, which costs $750 annually, allows the property owners permission to rent as many nights as he or she wishes. The town wants to cap these unlimited home rentals to 30 percent of all dwellings in Crested Butte. That worked out to 212 permits this year, and all such permits were purchased. The town expects to add one or two more each year, based on the town’s growth rate.

A second category, for those who have homes in Crested Butte they consider to be their primary residences, can be rented for up to 60 days per year. The license for that is $200.

In drawing up these regulations, Crested Butte officials were concerned about parking, noise, trash, and lighting impacts to neighbors, but also to the safety of rental units. The town’s program seems to have worked well.

The added cost, however, has raised eyebrows. “Some return visitors to Crested Butte really noticed the price difference and chose to rent outside of town,” said Kat Hasebroke, director of vacation rental management for Peak Property. Total taxes and resort fees approach 20 percent.

Eyebrows may be rising, but so is everything else in Crested Butte. “Used to be that a house selling for $190,000 was pretty expensive,” writes Mark Reaman, the editor of the Crested Butte News. “These days, a house selling for $190,000 is cheap (okay, almost impossible) and will be sold within minutes.”

Vail hasn’t had a $190,000 home for a very long time. The town’s new short-term rental regulations seem be working, although property managers recently told the town council that tweaks will be needed. They said the regulations fail to acknowledge the “agency” relationship between property owners and management companies.

In that relationship, explains the Vail Daily, management companies can act on behalf of owners. With current regulations, owners have to do their own paperwork. One example is foreign owners of Vail homes have to get notarized affidavits from the U.S. embassies in their countries.

“We shouldn’t have to ask someone in Mexico City, London or Hong Kong to get a document notarized to attest to physical conditions,” said Michael Connolly of Triumph Mountain Properties.

“We knew there’d be unintended consequences,” Councilwoman Jenn Bruno said. “But we had to start somewhere.”

Student’s mid-day routine includes drops of cannabis

EAGLE — The Eagle County School Board has become one of the nation’s first to allow school employees to administer prescribed medical marijuana to students. The new regulation has one student in particular in mind: Quintin Lovato.

The boy, explains the Vail Daily, has suffered from epilepsy and Tourette’s syndrome since March 2014 when he fell to the ground in his first grand mal seizure. By 2017, he had full-blown Tourette’s syndrome, complete with head-bobbing and vocal tics.

The boy’s condition improved within a week after his family added Haleigh’s Hope CBD oil to his daily meds.

The boy needs three daily doses, one of them mid-day, when his parents are both working. With the new regulation, school personnel can administer the dose, given with an eye-dropper to put the oil under the boy’s tongue.

The CBD oil contains little to no psychoactive compounds of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. In the cannabis plant, as The Washington Post explained in a 2016 article, CBD and THC generally have an inverse relationship: the more THC there is, the less CBD, and vice versa. In recent years, growers have bred some plants to contain high levels of CBD.

What makes CBD especially appealing is that it doesn’t get the user high. “It wouldn’t get a mouse high,” one exasperated mother told Hampton Sides for a National Geographic article. She and her family had moved with their child, who suffered from epilepsy, to Colorado Springs to have access to CBD oil. Cannabis, with or without THC, remains a schedule 1 narcotic at the federal level.

Colorado in 2016 adopted a law, named after student Jack Splitt, that requires schools to allow parents to administer CBD oil. The 15-year-old boy later died of effects of cerebral palsy, the condition that had inspired his parents to seek to use the oil. The law adopted this year, called Quintin’s Amendment, allows designees to administer the doses.

Heather Lovato, the mother of the 9-year-old-boy, told the Colorado Springs Independent in June that with only two-a-day administration, her son’s condition regressed.

The Colorado Association of School Nurses opposed requiring nurses to administer the doses. Representatives testified nurses feared losing licenses for violating federal law.

Legislators resolved the conflict by letting school nurses opt out of the action, but allows teachers and other personnel to take the responsibility.

Local food possible even in high mountain valleys

JACKSON, Wyo. — Tables assembled long enough to seat 500 people were end-to-end in the hay meadow of a ranch in Jackson Hole. Nobody was in a hurry to get in and out. The farm-to-table dinner was sponsored by the Slow Food in the Tetons.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide explains that that local chapter is among 150 in the United States that encourages local agricultural practices and traditional cuisines to support communities and ecosystems.

Small local farms operate in entirely different ways from the industrial chemical food industry that’s so ingrained in our sociopolitical environment — and even our taste buds, says the newspaper.

“While buying food from your local farmers’ market is seen as more expensive, from a nutrition standpoint you get what you pay for,” said Scott Steen, who directs the local chapter.

Jackson Hole’s climate tends toward hot but short summers. The growing season is barely long enough to grow tomatoes. But local farmers and gardeners insist the climate is not prohibitive.

“We have a harsh growing climate, but we can do a lot more,” said Steen. “I think the growing season argument seems like a crutch to lean on.”

Lettuce, carrots, and some other vegetables thrive in colder climates.

Despite the challenges, there are many small farms in Jackson Hole, including a half-acre spread on a ranch where two young men in 2016 began farming vegetables organically.

One of those farmers, Alex Feher, said their vegetables are not certified organically, but they are grown organically. It all comes down to soil, he says. Healthy, nutrient-rich soil means healthy, nutritious plants.

Mono-cropping — planting all strawberries, for example — is not healthy, he insisted. It degrades soil quality and makes the plants more susceptible to diseases that can destroy an entire harvest.

Aspen residents cut water use as dry times continue

ASPEN – Told they needed to cut back on water use, Aspen residents complied. The Aspen Daily News reports that customers cut overall use by 12 percent in August.

“I think the community really did respond to the mandatory restrictions,” said Margaret Medellin, utilities portfolio manager.

Council approved water restrictions in response to continued dry conditions. The town has received 30 percent less precipitation for the year than is average.

Wolf not wary of humans at campgrounds in Banff

BANFF, Alberta – Don’t wolves know they’re supposed to be afraid of people? That’s the question that came up after a collared female wolf walked into a campground and looked for food.

“She walked between two people sleeping out in the open, coming within one metre of them, and then she left the campground,” Jesse Whittington, a wildlife ecologist with Banff National Park.

“She was not interested in people. She was clearly investigating the site for food, but she did not get any food rewards,” he told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

What concerned Banff officials more was that she continued to visit several sites looking for food even as people followed her with flashlights.

This story might not turn out well for this wolf. Both the wolf’s mother and sister were killed by wildlife managers after they food-conditioned, meaning they made a habit of wandering into campgrounds. Her father, more wary of humans, was not. He remained alive.

“Hopefully they get a chance to condition her if she comes anywhere near people and put that little bit of fear back into her,” wildlife photographer John Marriott said.

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