Mountain Town News: Helicopter tours drown the quietude of Glacier |

Mountain Town News: Helicopter tours drown the quietude of Glacier

Allen Best
Mountain Town News
A white tail deer plays hide-and-seek with the photographer earlier this week in Summit.
Bill Linfield / Special to the Daily |

COLUMBIA FALLS, Mont. – Commercial air tours are banned over just one national park in the western United States and that’s Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Congress enacted the ban in 1998 in response to a push by the League of Women Voters in nearby Estes Park.

But in Montana, there’s still plenty of whoof-whoof-whoof over Glacier National Park during the peak season, reports the Hungry Horse News. A 1998 plan for Glacier called for a “phase-out of commercial” air tours over the park but it was never implemented. In fact, the numbers have increased, to 500 per month in summer.

The National Parks Conservation Association, the Sierra Club and others groups are calling for an end to the “incessant noise pollution” produced by the helicopters.

One helicopter tour operator tells the newspaper he’s heard it all before and is unimpressed. “When they ban Harleys (motorcycles), then I’ll talk to them,” said Jim Kruger. “Fifteen seconds after I’m gone, you’ll never know I’m there.” Motorcycles, he added, deliver almost constant noise.

Monolingual justice in a bilingual town

JACKSON, Wyo. – Justice doesn’t speak Spanish in Teton County, according to the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Roughly 20 percent of people charged with crimes in the town of Jackson are Latino residents, and a large percentage of them don’t speak English or do not speak it well. In the judicial system of Teton County, just five people speak Spanish fluently, and none of them are legally allowed to interpret in court proceedings.

In 2013, the Wyoming Supreme Court created a translator program, including a registry of approved translators able to pass Wyoming’s test. The position in Teton County is currently vacant.

Mountain bikes in news from spikes to rogue trails

WHISTLER, B.C. – From spikes being placed in trails in Colorado to rogue trails in British Columbia, mountain bikes were in the news across the North American West last week.

In Colorado, the Denver Post reported that bikers on trails in the foothills southwest of the city found a long nail sticking out of the dirt.

“They tried to pry it up but it was mounted in a concrete brick. More riders on the trail that day reported flats,” the newspaper said. Two mountain bikers uncovered three 2-pound bricks that had been formed around 3-inch nails and buried in the middle of a one-mile span of Little Squiggly Trail.

What astounded the biker who discovered the sabotage is that mountain bikers built the 9 miles of carefully sculpted singletrack. In other words, the bikers considered it their trail to begin with.

The Post notes other instances of sabotage, including one in British Columbia. In January, a 64-year-old woman was convicted of criminal mischief and sentenced to probation and community service after wildlife cameras caught her dragging tree limbs across trails in North Vancouver. The trail had been built by bike riders.

In Whistler, newly constructed rogue bike trails on Blackcomb Mountain are being dismantled. Whistler Blackcomb’s Rob McSkimming lauded the spirit of volunteer trail building, but wants trail creation supervised to ensure they meet environmental and safety standards and are sustainable.

“We totally recognize and support volunteer trail-building that happens here and really, all kinds of places all over North America,” he told Pique.

Whistler Blackcomb in 2014 did add some pirate trails to the resort’s vaunted mountain bike park. Trail names included Khyber, Kashmir, and Kush, and also these: Ride Don’t Slide and Golden Boner.

What 2 degrees means for town water supplies

ASPEN, Colo. – What will climate warming by another 2 degrees C mean for towns, cities and farms? Plenty of people have been asking that, and it’s impossible at this point to answer with precision. Climate models just aren’t good enough yet for very local areas.

In Colorado, models have said that the northern part of the state is more inclined to get additional precipitation, including heavier snow, while the southern part of the state less. What is unequivocal, though, is that winter will become shorter, runoff earlier and summer longer.

Still, to get a step-up in planning, municipal officials in Aspen commissioned studies by consultants to assemble a 50-year outlook of supply and demand. The Wilson Water Group found that under a worst-case scenario, local creeks tapped for water by the city could fall below the minimums needed to sustain aquatic life.

Can the city divert less water? That’s one of the alternatives being examined by the city, reports the Aspen Daily News. One idea is to pump treated wastewater uphill from the treatment sanitation plant to irrigate the city’s golf course.

Wyoming dialect means bashing EPA

JACKSON, Wyo. – If you’re running for statewide office in Wyoming, it helps enormously if you speak the Wyoming dialect. For Republican candidates, the only ones with much chance of getting elected, that dialect includes badmouthing federal efforts to limit carbon pollution of the atmosphere.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide reviewed comments from candidates for statewide office, and nearly all talked about federal overreach, trimming the sails of the Environmental Protection Agency and pushing back against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Coal generates 11 percent of all state revenues in Wyoming, according to a 2014 study by the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy. The Clean Power Plan would require Wyoming to reduce carbon emissions by at least 19 percent and could mean a reduction in state revenues of up to 60 percent by 2030, the same study found.

Steamboat allows cannabis store in uptown location

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Cannabis will be moving into areas where tourists actually go in Steamboat Springs. Elected officials there have reversed an earlier decision and decided to allow a cannabis store to relocate to an area with two restaurants and a hardware store. It has been at a service-oriented location on the city’s edge.

The decision reflects the continuing conflicted thoughts about cannabis in some Colorado mountain towns. While the majority of residents in nearly all mountain towns voted in 2012 for the state’s constitutional amendment that legalized marijuana, many towns remain leery about actually allowing cannabis stores in the same neighborhoods as, say, liquor stores.

Steamboat’s council originally voted 4-3 to prevent the cannabis store from moving to the new location. Later, evidence was reported that one of the city council members, who had voted against the move, had a conflict of interest. With that conucilmember removed from voting and another councilmember changing his position, the new location was approved 4-2, reports the Steamboat Today.

Finding a location for sale of cannabis remains difficult in Steamboat, because of a requirement that it cannot be within 1,000 feet of schools, daycare and parks, along with a prohibition of being adjacent to land zoned for residential housing.

Too, writes Bill French, the owner of Natural Choice Co-op, there’s this problem: “It’s incredibly difficult to find a landlord who is able to lease to a cannabis business if their property is subject to a mortgage.”

That’s because mortgages are handled through the federal banking system, and the U.S. government still has not allowed recreational sales.

Long weekend entirely too long for Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C. – For more than a decade, Whistler has been trying to quell the trouble that seems to always accompany Canada’s long-weekend celebration in late May. It’s the busiest weekend of the year in Whistler, as it follows the end of classes for many college and university students.

But violence has marred the festivities. Assaults have occurred and weapons have been seized. Last year a 19-year-old from the Vancouver area died of wounds after being stabbed multiple times by a crowd of older men as he emerged from a convenience store. Another stabbing victim survived.

Whistler has responded with the family-geared Great Outdoors Festival and beefed up policing. The strategies may be working as Pique Newsmagazine reports a “relatively uneventful” start to the weekend.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden describes the challenge of “taking back the weekend” as a work in progress. “We’ve had some success in refocusing the weekend to a family-oriented celebration and festival and away from a weekend of hooliganism from undesirables from the Lower Mainland,” she said, referring to the Vancouver area.

But Dr. Clark Lewis, who pronounced the stabbing victim dead last year, thinks the violence is a result of the resort’s drive to maximize lodging occupancy.

“We’re so desperate to fill our beds all the time, just take anyone and turn a blind eye. That’s the unspoken part that no one wants to talk about.”

Double-digit gains for Whistler Blackcomb

WHISTLER, B.C. – Wow, what a roaring business Whistler Blackcomb did this winter. The second-quarter results, ending in March, showed a 22 percent increase in visitors. Snow was good, of course, but for bargain-hunting visitors, Canadians low-trading currency was even better, drawing more Australians than ever before but also producing a double-digit gain from Mexico, a developing market for Whistler, company officials tells Pique Newsmagazine.

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