Mountain Town News: Shelter-in-place one option in case of wildfire at Squaw |

Mountain Town News: Shelter-in-place one option in case of wildfire at Squaw

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Potential for wildfire has become a focal point as officials consider whether to allow the real estate development proposed at the base of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

The proposal would add 1,500 bedrooms and additional retail and resort amenities to the Olympic Valley during the next 25 yeas. The resort lies between Truckee and Lake Tahoe.

Developers have acknowledged that wildfire could burn through the valley faster than people could evacuate. Approvals by Placer County are being challenged in court.

Benjamin Spillman of the Associated Press talked with a resident, retired flight attendant Laura Haneveld, who fears being trapped. The fire at Paradise, California, which killed 85 people last November, and other fires in California in recent years cause her to worry even more about having too many people trying to flee down a twisting, curvy 2-mile road to a highway that itself is only two lanes and is also curvy. Truckee and Interstate 80 are about 10 miles away.

Under some circumstances, says Squaw Valley developers and government officials, thousands of people might have to take refuge at the resort.

Allen Riley, chief of the Squaw Valley Fire Department, said the acres of bare pavement and village area would be sufficient harbor for people to survive a quick-moving fire, although evacuation would be the first choice.

He cites communities in Australia, the Rancho Santa Fe development north of San Diego, and Pepperdine University, between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, as places where shelter-in-place strategies have worked.

California state legislators have been considering laws that would toughen the requirements of local governments for approving housing developments in high-risk areas, according to another AP report.

Mountain counties rank high in health

JACKSON, Wyo. — Teton County, which is roughly synonymous with Jackson Hole, was ranked No. 6 in the nation for healthy communities in a data analysis conducted by Aetna with U.S. News and World Report.

Chaffee County, home to the river towns of Salida and Buena Vista, ranked No. 11 in the same study, while Utah’s Morgan County (just north of Park City) was 12th, and Routt County (Steamboat) was 14th, San Miguel County (Telluride) 17th, and Pitkin County (Aspen) 19th.

Top in the country was Douglas County, a high-income area just south of Denver.

Teton County led rural counties. The magazine’s website noted that “access to care and transportation barriers can pose challenges, but residents of rural communities with high-performing economies typically live in healthier natural environments and fare better in terms of housing than their urban counterparts.”

Study seeks to define role of arts in Aspen’s economy

ASPEN — A study that seeks to measure the economic impact of the arts and culture sector in Aspen will soon begin.

“Collectively, to be able to tell a fuller narrative of the importance of arts and culture to our community is really important,” said Sarah Roy, director of the Red Brick Center for the Arts, which is among the arts organizations pitching in to cover the $63,000 cost of the study. The Aspen Chamber Resort Association and the City of Aspen are together paying $53,000.

Boulder-based RRC Associates will define many metrics: number of jobs associated with the arts, the secondary impact to local businesses, and the attendance at art, music and other venues. Second-home owners will be surveyed as to how much the arts and cultural scene influenced their decisions to buy in the Aspen-Snowmass area.

“Our perspective is that the arts are probably the most undervalued sector in Aspen,” Heidi Zuckerman, director of the Aspen Art Museum, told the city council members. “The economic impact is huge, and I actually think it should be a number that anyone sitting on your side of the table should be able to cite.”

Crested Butte thinking about urban avalanches

CRESTED BUTTE — In March, one man died in the Crested Butte area and another nearly perished after being buried under an avalanche of snow from building roofs.

That has the Crested Butte Town Council considering regulations intended to forecast such urban avalanches from roofs onto public rights-of-ways.

The Crested Butte News explains that certain buildings within the town have been known to shed snow during winter, damaging cars when they do. Other roofs haven’t slid but certainly looked like they might after the series of heavy snowfalls this winter.

Six buildings have been identified, including the town hall itself. The council leans toward an ordinance that would require owners or tenants to remove the snow once it becomes an obvious danger. It wasn’t clear from the report how town officials intend to define an obvious danger.

But not all snow loads seem to pose a similar threat. One roof is said to have shake shingles, hence posing less risk. But another building in the town’s commercial sector slid with what one speaker at the meeting estimated was up to 8 feet of snow.

Construction firm fined in trench deaths of two workers

JACKSON, Wyo. — A resort in Jackson Hole has been fined $10,832 by Wyoming for workplace failures that led to the deaths of two laborers at a construction site.

The two men were working in a 12-foot deep trench at a house under construction when the trench collapsed. The men, one aged 42 and the other 56, died of compression asphyxiation, the Jackson Hole News&Guide reports.

A Wyoming state official told the News&Guide that the fines aren’t a reflection of the severity of the consequences. “If the exact same violations existed at a job site but nobody was killed or injured, the fines would be more or less the same,” said Ty Stockton, communications manager for the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. The role of the fines, he said, is to “hopefully change behavior.”

The citation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal agency administered by the state, found that “no support systems, shield systems or other protective systems” were in place.

A civil lawsuit against the developer that alleges wrongful death is in the works.

Republican sees leftward tilt to school ceiling tiles

HAILEY, Idaho — If you look at the ceiling in a hallway at Wood River High School, which has students from the Ketchum and Sun Valley area, you will see some imaginative artwork. Some of that artwork obviously has a low regard for U.S. President Donald Trump.

One of those ceiling tiles has a representation of Barack Obama’s “Hope” campaign poster alongside a painting of Trump reading “Nope” in the same style.

There are more ceiling tiles that might offend a fervid Donald Trump supporter, reports the Idaho Mountain Express. One lampoons Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border. Another notes Trump’s efforts to deport children.

All the tiles were done by advanced-placement students at the high school, and to an outraged Republican candidate in Idaho, the messages represent clear evidence of indoctrination by educators.

Educators say there’s more nuance. For example, a cartoon on one ceiling tile shows inflation pilfering money from an unsuspecting wallet. Another cited the banking industry for its role in the economic downturn of 2008.

The school district superintendent explained that the students who choose to paint a tile pick a subject based on what they’d learned the past year. “The students have to justify why their topic resonated with them,” explained GwenCarol Holmes.

She pointed to other tiles, one a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, and another pro-Trump political cartoon showing the president freeing a balloon labeled “business” from sandbags of “regulation.”

How Sun Valley chit-chat led to a White House visit

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — In June 2017, Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, were at the annual Allen & Co. gathering at Sun Valley of celebrities, chief executives and tech titans. Patio conversations have yielded some big business news over the years.

And so it came about that Charles Barkley and Jared Kushner exchanged phone numbers. Barkley, the former NBA basketball player and now TV personality, has an interest in advancing vocational schools to train plumbers, electricians and mechanics, especially for African Americans. He came by this cause after visiting his hometown in Alabama and finding nobody with the requisite skills who was African American to work on his house. He then created a $1 million endowment.

Kushner, in turn, has been interested in the same thing, and he invited Barkley to visit him at the White House to discuss what could be done in greater depth.

Barkley, who has let the world know his unfavorable impression of Donald Trump, told former ESPN podcaster Jemele Hill that he said he would, but only if there was no camera time and if he could be assured he wouldn’t have to see Donald Trump. And so it came to pass that Sir Charles, as he is sometimes called, surreptitiously was spirited into the White House. No word yet on what came of that conversation.

Construction underway on 45 affordable housing units

ASPEN — Construction has begun on 45 affordable rental units in Aspen. Rental prices will start at $632 per month for a one bedroom.

These units will be only rentals and will not have a workforce history requirement, explains the Aspen Daily News. That contrasts sharply with most of Aspen’s affordable housing, which consists of for-purchase units available only to those who have been employed within Pitkin County for four years.

The land for the project had been purchased by the city government in 2007.

Massive housing plans for a former gravel pit

EDWARDS — Big plans were announced recently for the site of a former gravel pit along the Eagle River at Edwards. This is about 3 miles from Beaver Creek and 10 miles from Vail.

The Vail Daily reports that a project called Edwards RiverPark has plans for 594 real estate units, only 27 of them in single-family homes. The project would be very dense, with all 1,600 parking spaces within buildings.

The plans going before Eagle County do not envision price-capped affordable housing, but instead a 1% real estate transfer fee would be levied on all purchases by those who are not members of the local workforce. The money would then be given to the Eagle County Housing and Development Authority to develop workforce housing.

Winter was very, very good for Vail Resorts

BROOMFIELD — It was a very good winter for Vail Resorts. The ski company reported a 9.3% gain in revenue from lift tickets at its North American mountain resorts, a 6.5% increase in ski school revenue compared with the same period last year, and a 7% increase in dining revenue.

Buzz Schleper, who has been a ski and snowboard retailer in Vail for decades, told the Vail Daily that his business has never had a year like this one before — and it was a good one in particular after two relatively lackluster seasons.

Stock in the company was trading at $220 per share on Friday, still well below its maximum of $298 in August 2018.

Ski patrollers strike deal with Vail at Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE — Ski patrollers at Crested Butte now have a contract with Vail Resorts. Citing a press release, the Crested Butte News reports that the agreement provides a retroactive increase for the 2018-19 season to members of the Crested Butte Professional Ski Patrol Association and financial incentives for continuing education. The agreement also provides patrollers a four-fold increase in training opportunities and enhanced input into workplace safety.

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