Mountain Town News: Author goes under cover for Aspen marijuana store event |

Mountain Town News: Author goes under cover for Aspen marijuana store event

ASPEN — The book signing scheduled for Aspen on Dec. 30 was different in two ways. First, the event was held at Silverpeak Apothecary, a store that sells recreational marijuana. And second, the author, who goes by the pseudonym H. Lee, wore a disguise to shield her identify.

The book, “Grassland,” was created by a former Aspen resident who spent several years taking photographs in Humboldt County, California.

“When I landed in Humboldt, my world was pretty rocked,” the author told The Aspen Times.

“I had never seen a pot plant, never mind rows and rows of them. Everyone who lived in the area, in the county, it seemed, touched the industry in some way, whether by growing, trimming, selling, peddling tools, dirt — you name it.“

The Aspen Times says that while establishments like Silverpeak aim to make cannabis mainstream and market it like an artisan luxury good, “there is still an unavoidably illicit tinge to the business, which remains at odds with federal law.”

By extension, that same cloud hovered over Lee’s project. To protect her identity, she signed books wearing a disguise. That shadowy approach also somehow allowed her to gain access to the world of cannabis crops.

“I promised the growers, trimmers and anyone I photographed that should the project come to light, I would publish it under a pseudonym,” she explained. “People felt more comfortable with that, and some, who may not have been willing before, opened their doors to me.”



VAIL — Why did the Vail Resorts purchase of Park City benefit people in the Vail-Beaver Creek and those in Summit County of Colorado?

Rob Katz, the chief executive of Vail Resorts, told a group in Vail on Monday that it’s because of California. Los Angles and the Bay Area are not particularly strong markets for Colorado’s I-70 resorts, he said, but they have been for Utah.

Now, Park City’s customers will be encouraged to buy Epic Passes, giving them incentive to give Colorado a try when Colorado has the superior snow.

The Epic Pass has been purchased in all 50 states and 88 countries, he said.

As for Vail’s $182.5 million acquisition of Park City Mountain Resort in 2014, he said that it “provided a little bit of drama over the last year, probably more than we bargained for.”

“Combine that purchase with the 50-year lease for neighboring Canyons that Vail inked in 2013 and the continent’s largest resort operator added 7,300 acres of ski terrain for $489 million,” pointed out the Denver Post on Sunday.

“The two resorts are expected to earn Vail $60 million to $80 million a year in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA. Suddenly, the very high price Vail paid for canyons — more than 11 times EBITDA, a high ratio for ski area sales — was a bargain eight times EBITDA when combined with Park City’s Mountain Resorts.”

The Post on noted that stockholders rewarded the aggressive moves by Vail in pushing the price of stock form the mid-$70s in January to $90.18 the day after Christmas. Stock at the company’s IPO in 1997 was $16.



CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – The paving of Colorado’s high country continues. The Crested Butte News reports that Gunnison County expects to pave the west side of Cottonwood Pass next summer. The east side, from Buena Vista, was paved many years ago.

The notch in the Sawatch Range is at 12,126 feet. It has been prominent during the last several summers as a leg of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, as riders have pedaled from Crested Butte to Aspen. Part of that day’s stage has included 12,095-foot Independence Pass. Both passes remain closed during winter.

Gunnison County for years has talked about paving the 12.4-mile segment to the summit but has refrained because of the cost. The key to the breakthrough, county public works boss Marlene Crosby tells the News, is that the federal government apparently will pick up a much larger share. With the new formula, Gunnison County wil have to pay just $1.4 million of the total $27.1 million cost.

A paved road is considered to be safer than a gravel road, Crosby says, and the maintenance costs are expected to decline.

Also targeted for pavement in Colorado are two other high mountain passes, Guanella, which links Georgetown and Grant, about 50 miles west of Denver, and Tarryall Pass, located southwest of Denver.



ASPEN — Mountain resort towns famously swell in population during holiday periods. One time-honored tradition for measuring the influx is to measure the sewage effluent, what is sometimes called the flush factor.

But another might be to measure the electrical use. In Aspen, the average demand of the city’s electrical utility is around 6 or 7 megawatts, but at Christmas or the fourth of July demand can rise to 14 megawatts.

By any measure, Aspen was stuffed to the gill in the days after Christmas. Rooms in hotels and lodges in Aspen itself were gone, with just a few units available for rent at nearby Snowmass Village. Whether this is any different from last year or some other years remains unknown. Still unknown are rental rates for the Christmas week lodging.

The airport was plenty busy, too. The Daily news reports 23 inbound flights on Christmas Day, 28 flights the day after and 33 on Saturday, all of them full.

The latter day’s flights delivered 2,300 passengers.

Then comes Jan. 5, when things get quiet again, or at least less busy.



GRANBY — Granby Dam holds back of the Colorado River so that it can be diverted via a tunnel under Rocky Mountain National Park to farms and cities on the Great Plains of Colorado.

But the reservoir must release water for eventual consumption in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. In 2015, turbines will be installed in the dam to produce electricity from that falling water.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board provided a $5.7 million loan to cover the full cost. The unit can deliver a maximum of 7 million kilowatt-hours per year, producing revenue of $390,000 annually.

The 298-foot-tall dam was constructed between 1941 and 1950.



St. ANTHONY, Idaho — Last May, a 23-year-old man and his wife were hunting black bears in the area west of Yellowstone National Park when he shot a grizzly bear. He said it charged him, and only after he had shot it with a 7-mm rifle — with a bullet to the forehead — did he realize it was a grizzly.

True story? No, a jury in Idaho has decided. Studying the paw prints, three investigators concluded that the bear had never veered toward the hunter.

The 12-year-old, 400-pound male had been radio tagged as part of a research program but had never before had conflicts with people.

According to a NEWS release from Idaho Fish and Game, the prosecuting attorney argued that the hunter had “wanted to kill a black bear that day, shot first and identified second.”

It was the first time in Idaho that the state had successfully prosecuted a grizzly bear case since grizzlies were listed as a threatened species in 1975 under the Endangered Species Act

The hunter will have to pay $900 in penalties but will avoid jail time if he keeps his nose clean during the next year.

Mountain Town News is an e-magazine published by Allen Best. Contact Best at:



VICTORIA, B.C. — Ten years ago on Dec. 26, a tsunami in the Pacific Ocean left 250,000 people dead in Thailand, Indonesia and other countries. Could it happen on the West Coast of North America?

Of course it could — and it has. The Vancouver Sun explains that the last big earthquake occurred in 1700. There’s no predicting exactly when the next one will occur, but experts say there is a 12 percent probability that a Cascadia megagthrust earthquake will hit in the next 50 years.

Because the Pacific Northwest coast is not heavily populated, a Cascadia quake and tsunami is not expected to be as deadly as the Sumatra quake of 2004, the Sun points out.

Emergency planners in British Columbia and the United States estimate the death toll, if such a tsunami occurred, now, would exceed 10,000 people. Communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island and the U.S. states will be hit hardest, but aging buildings and infrastructure in Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle and Portland are also at risk of damage and collapse.



TELLURIDE — A new but somewhat small hotel has survived one key hurdle in Telluride, although several more remain. The town’s planning commission recommends approval for Hotel Ajax, which would have 50 short-term rental rooms plus 12 condominiums, a coffee shop and a bar and grill.

Local merchants like the prospect of a new hotel, reports the Telluride Daily Planet, as a response to the erosion of “hot beds,” as rental short-term lodging is called.

Richard Betts, of ASAP Accounting and Payroll, said he knows the books of companies in Telluride and is struck, by “how fragile our economy is. Anything we can do to make a stronger economy, it just raises everybody’s boat.”


ASPEN — The 1980s, they’re so yesterday. That was the essence of a recent report given by representatives of the Hotel Lenado.

Owners of the 17-room boutique hotel want to raze the 9,524-foot structure, which opened in 1983, and replace it with a 14,800-square-foot hotel.

The property would lose rentable lodging units: It has 17, but the new hotel would have 9. Those remaining units, however, would be much larger, an average 570 square feet compared to the existing 300.



VAIL, Colo. — The 100-room Sebastian hotel opened in January 2011 and quickly picked up plaudits. Condé Nast Traveler sand Travel + Leisure both named it among the top 100 hotels. The former also distinguished it as the No. 1 Best Hotel in the West.

But that was four years ago. The Vail Daily reports that during the off-season the hotel rooms were reduced to concrete and walls and reinvented in a manner described as “mountain chic.”

In addition to recreating the ordinary hotel rooms, the hotel now has 16 executive suits, which include living rooms, two bathrooms and connected master bedrooms. The units sleep four. Before, the hotel had just a handful of such suites.

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