Mountain Town News: Do your pushups, but also be clear of your aims in life
ASPEN — Klaus Obermeyer celebrated his 99th birthday in Aspen recently with a Bavarian band, servings of apfelstrudel mit schlag and scores of friends, family and co-workers.
The celebrated purveyor of winter sporting wear was in his customary good cheer when Scott Condon of The Aspen Times later caught up with him.
“There’s so much new. It’s a dynamic world that we’re living in and dancing in, which makes it very wonderful,” he explained. “It never gets to wondering, ‘Oh, what should we do next?’ There’s always opportunity to make things better.”
Obermeyer, who founded Sport Obermeyer in 1947, said a fundamental operating principle for the company, as for his life, has been to “create win-win situations. Never make a win-lose. That keeps everybody happy. Our suppliers are happy, our dealers are happy, and consumers are happy. So whatever it takes to get a win-win, that’s kind of the thing to do.”
In longevity, it helps to have good genes. A great-grandfather of his lived to be 112. If he lives to 103, he will have skied for 100 years. He takes care not to eat more food than he can burn off in exercise. He swims a half-mile every day, very slow, breast stroke and on his back, half of it.
“I think we (receive) by nature a gift by having a body. If we don’t use it, it goes to hell, so it’s really important to keep using it. Do pushups and whatever you can to keep it going.”
The near-centenarian also testifies to the virtue of aikido, the martial arts discipline. “In aikido, you don’t hurt your partner, you control your partner,” he explained. “If you hurt him, he may come back two days later and hit you with a two-by-four. Aikido brings about peace. Aikido exists spiritually as well as physically. The older you get, the more you use of the spiritual part and a little less on the mat.”
Obermeyer also spoke to Condon about the importance of intentionality in life. “It’s kind of like a dance on a floor that’s moving. But you always end up where you aim for. Aim is a very important thing in one’s life. If you aim up Aspen Mountain, you’re not going to get up Red Mountain. It’s a powerful thing,” he said.
Composting program turns profit, lengthens landfill life
ASPEN — The composting program operated in conjunction with the Pitkin County Landfill, has not only been reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it’s actually turning a profit.
The Aspen Times reports the composting operation in 2017 made almost $371,000 from sales of soil and other composted byproducts. This is in stark contrast to another composting operation at a landfill about 50 miles west that loses more than $329,000 a year.
Cathy Hall, the landfill director in Pitkin County, credits a program called SCRAPS as a primary reason for the success of the composting program. The joint Aspen-Pitkin County program has put bear-proof bins at various locations where the compost can be deposited. It was launched with the aid of a $200,000 grant from the Colorado state government.
Rates also matter. Regular landfill trash costs $86 a ton. Compostable material costs $15 a ton. That has induced businesses to participate in composting.
City Market, the dominant grocery retailer in western Colorado, began composting in January. It’s a subsidiary of Kroger, one of the nation’s major grocery retailers, which began a “Zero Hunger-Zero Waste” initiative in January. In Aspen, this has meant that the grocery store fills three commercial-size dumpsters with compostable material thrice weekly. City Market stores also operate in Vail, Avon, Carbondale and other towns along I-70 and in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Fires that burn hotter and larger, and why that’s so
KETCHUM, Idaho — As snow piled higher and cold deepened, deep thinkers from Ketchum and Sun Valley gathered to ponder various futures, including one of more wildfires.
If natural, fire was rare when skiing came of age as a sport and industry in the mid-20th century. As of 1985, in Blaine County — where Ketchum is located — no wildfire had occurred in decades.
Now, there’s more woody material with higher energy and less moisture. That produces more energy out of any given square foot of fuel now as compared to 1985-1994. This contributes to the quick spread and extreme nature of wildfires burning across the West.
“What used to be high is now simply average,” said Matt Filbert, a wildfire expert with the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho. “Consequently, if there’s a fire, it grows quickly.”
Fires are getting bigger. Relatively close to Ketchum, the Beaver Creek fire in 2013 burned 111,000 acres. Filbert said conditions have ripened for a 200,000-acre fire.
Think also of the sagebrush steppes. Historically, sagebrush-covered terrain in the Wood River Valley would burn every 30 to 100 years, he said. Now, it’s burning every 5 to 15 years.
At mid-elevation forests, the fire interval used to be 120-plus years.
What does it mean if wildfire season lasts seven months a year instead of five, as in the 1970s, asked Katherine Himes, director of the McClure Center for Public Policy. Wildfires have quadrupled in the western United States since 1986, she said.
A new policy in Yellowstone to make wolves more afraid?
COOKE CITY, Mont. — To see wildlife in Yellowstone you need to go to the Lamar Valley, on the park’s northeast side, where there are buffalo aplenty but also wolves.
And so it was several years ago that two Colorado visitors rounded a bend in the road to see a mob, 80 or so people, both young and old, their most common denominator being optical equipment glued to their eyes. These were the wolf watchers and, when we had squeezed our Subaru through them and joined their ranks, there were wolves lounging thereabouts in the relative heat of a warm October afternoon.
The wolf pack kept its distance there, along Pebble Creek, until the shadows grew long, then one by one, and by pairs, they arced their bodies across the road 100 yards or so from the wolf-watchers and vanished into the dark timber and the coming dark of night.
These wolves seemed wary, given their circumstances. Nobody will shoot them in Yellowstone National Park, but just a few miles away, outside the park boundary in Montana, there’s a hunting season for wolves. Montana allows up to four wolves to be killed annually.
The Jackson Hole News&Guide says it’s among the most conservative harvest quotas in a state that does not cap harvests in most areas. But it’s too many in the mind of Deby Dixon, who lives in Gardiner, Montana, who tells the story of a wolf called 926F that was habituated to people such as the wolf watchers of the Lamar Valley. It was legally killed near Cooke City.
Doug Smith, the senior wildlife biologist in Yellowstone, told the News&Guide he wants to adopt tactics that cause wolves to be more wary of people. Now, when he and others see wolves crossing the road, he leaves them alone. He’d like a new policy that condones hazing wolves, using either paintballs or beanbag guns.
The National Park Service in 2002 looked into the issue. At that time, Smith was among those who concluded that aversive conditioning and hazing wouldn’t be effective at reversing the behavior of Yellowstone’s 100 wolves who, when they wandered outside the park, weren’t wary enough of people pointing guns, not cameras, at them.
Recycling the dairy before the boutique hotel goes up
SILVERTHORNE — The old Robinson Dairy located along the Blue River in Silverthorne has largely been taken down. In its place will arise a hotel, a very small one, to be created from 16 prefabricated shipping containers. The working title for this small hotel: The Pad.
The Summit Daily News explains that Rob Baer and Lynn Parrish Baer chose to disassemble the old dairy using a technique called green deconstruction. They’re trying to recycle the building as best can be done.
Parts of this creative deconstruction were easier than others. The old-growth redwood siding will get incorporated into the new hotel. Railings, doors, cabinetry and lighting can get recycled through programs such as Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.
But other things like the roof, framing and Styrofoam will, for various reasons, get carted off to the landfill.
Up the road a couple miles in Dillon, officials have started debating a question that returns again and again in ski towns: How tall is too tall in buildings, even amid mountains that climb to 12,000 feet and higher?
Dillon town codes allow buildings up to 50 feet in the business core, plus another 8 feet for non-inhabitable architectural elements. Codes allow lesser heights in outlying districts.
A recently approved condo complex called Uptown 240 will actually be able to reach 68 feet, because of a variance. That, explains the Summit Daily, has triggered the new debate.
One sentiment is that the code needs to be more straightforward, to let developers know explicitly what will be allowed and what will not. Another thought is that developers, if they cannot build vertically, will instead build horizontally, to achieve the same mass.
More howls about wolves in the Rocky Mountains
DURANGO — A couple of ranching organizations in Colorado were fit to be tied after a pro-wolf forum was held recently in Durango with only one speaker of a similar mindset on the program.
“When it comes to wolves, if we’re not at the table, we’re on the menu,” said Charly Minkler, who is president of the La Plata County Farm Bureau.
In a lengthy letter submitted to the Durango Telegraph, the ranchers said they were clearly shunted aside at the forum sponsored by the Sierra Club and the Durango-based San Juan Citizens Alliance.
“Farmers and ranchers are concerned about loss of livestock, which historically have not been fairly compensated,” the letter said. “There’s also concern about increased operational costs, decreased livestock weights and birthing impacts. None of those topics were given adequate consideration.”
Colorado is in the middle ground for wolves. Gray wolves transplanted into the Yellowstone area have been loping south. In 2004, one was hit and killed on Interstate 70 about 30 miles west of Denver. Since then, there have been frequent reports about single, male wolves. However, there has been evidence of a pack. Ditto for southern Colorado, where Mexican wolves ranging from New Mexico have been seen—but have not stayed.
Wolves will eat cattle. In Canada, a 2011 study conducted in southwestern Alberta — think south of Banff — found that cattle made up to 45 percent of wolves’ diets during grazing season. The study author, Mark Boyce, an ecologist at the University of Alberta, told the Canada Observer that it was important to understand the context. Ranchers in the study area will take yearlings into the backcountry, where ranchlands abut mountain wilderness, during spring and then return in October to round up the fattened herds.
“Wolves just can’t resist the stupid yearlings,” Boyce told the Observer. “They’re just so easy to kill.”
Joe Englehart, who spoke in Durango, ranches in that part of Alberta but asserts that cattle and wolves can co-exist. In 2016, he also spoke with the Rocky Mountain Outlook in Canmore. He said that in 2003, when he had about 2,000 cow-calf pairs and then about 600 yearlings, he began to have “quite a bit of wolf trouble.” By the next January, he’d lost upwards of 30 head.
But then he made a point to understand wolves, and to keep track of where they were denning and also where they rendezvous. With that information, he was able to alter his grazing, reducing his losses to a more acceptable 4 or 5 head per year.
In southwest Colorado, though, most livestock operations are much smaller, the letter from ranching organizations said, and have little capacity to absorb the costs that accompany wolves.
And, of course, Yellowstone was brought up. There’s evidence that introducing wolves into Yellowstone trimmed the herds of elk, which has had good effects overall on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
But again, from the ranching community, comes a con to that argument: “Wolves didn’t heal Yellowstone, a man-made policy caused the imbalance and a policy change helped correct it.”
As the late Kurt Vonnegut was fond of saying, and so it goes.
An ever-faster whisk onto the chairlifts by Vail Resorts
WHISTLER, B.C. — Vail Resorts plans to spend between $175 million and $180 million at its properties before ski season gets underway a year from now. Some of that money will go into snowmaking at its flagship operations in Colorado, Vail Mountain and other resorts.
But another twist will be a quicker whisk to the chairlifts. Rob Katz, the chief executive, says this company will “increase express lift ticket fulfillment capacity” by 40 percent through new handheld, mobile technologies that allows those who have purchased advance tickets to bypass ticket windows altogether “Reducing guest wait times is a priority across Vail Resorts.”
Of course, the money machine for Vail has been its season passes purchased well in advance of ski season. Vail Resorts expects to surpass sales of 950,000 season passes this year.
Plenty of places to buy bud, but where can you toke it?
ASPEN — Aspen began allowing sale of marijuana in January 2014, hesitating not at all after Colorado voters opened the door. But allowing consumption in public in other than private events? City officials aren’t willing to go there yet. But they are talking about it.
The Aspen Times reports that elected officials have been urged to consider designating smoking areas or clubs in Aspen, similar to what Denver is doing. Denver voters in 2016 passed an ordinance that allows designated consumption areas. No smoking is allowed, however. The psychoactive agent THC can be absorbed only through vaporizers, dabbing and edibles. Too, those consuming must bring their own goods. Also, no alcohol can be sold.
Colorado legislators last year passed a law that would allow cannabis dispensaries to have tasting rooms, but Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed it.
From the discussion reported by the Times, it appears this idea in Aspen will face two challenges. First, while Aspen is notably liberal, as reflected in the decision to treat pot shops little differently from liquor dispensaries, there are also limits. Mayor Steve Skadron noted that a sizable minority opposed the legalization of marijuana in the town.
A second challenge to such enterprises is a purely business one. How does a club make money when it offers so little? “Surviving on a door fee to consume a product, I’m not sure how that will work in the Aspen market,” said Phil Golden, who is a member of the Local Licensing Authority.
For now, users will find other ways to partake in public: firing up a bowl in a downtown alley, using odorless vaporizers or ingesting edibles.
First cannabis shop opens in gateway town to Banff
CANMORE, Alberta —Canmore, located at the entrance to Banff National Park, now has a cannabis shop. Fire & Power opened its doors to the public in December, offering sour tangie and 39 other strains of THC-laced products. Legalization in Canada occurred on Oct. 17.
Canmore has six more potential retail locations, while up the highway 16 miles, Banff town officials have received seven applications for retail cannabis operations. Banff officials won’t make decisions until February or later.
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