Mountain Town News: Snow King Mountain in Jackson Hole looks to stay afloat |

Mountain Town News: Snow King Mountain in Jackson Hole looks to stay afloat

JACKSON, Wyo. — Finally, some breathing room for Jackson Hole’s “other” ski area.

Snow King Mountain, unlike the bigger ski area with the couloirs and so forth, is within the town of Jackson. It’s respectably steep and within six blocks of the famous elk-antlered arches of town square.

For years the ski area has lost money during winter, $500,000 annually, according to the owners, who made their case public several years ago.

Nonprofit public ownership was one option. Bridger Bowl near Bozeman, Montana; Bogus Basin near Boise, Idaho; and Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, are all operated by nonprofits.

In Jackson Hole, public or nonprofit ownership didn’t look like viable options. Instead, new investors were recruited, and now they are putting $8 million toward paying off debt.

“The infusion of cash will clear the way for more investment and new development,” explains the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Crucial to the investment was the decision by the town council to fast-track approval of an alpine coaster on private land owned by the resort at the base of the mountain. The partners intend to also invest in a lift extension on the mountain.

$50M promised for

Utah’s Park City-Canyons

PARK CITY, Utah — Vail Resorts announced on Monday that it will invest $50 million in capital improvements at Park City and Canyons in making it the largest ski resort in the United States as measured by acreage.

Assuming approval by local authorities, the two ski areas will be connected by an eight-passenger high-speed gondola. In addition, two existing lifts will be upgraded and restaurants will be improved or expanded.

Not least, the Colorado-based company will invest $5 million in “catch up” maintenance and upgrades at Park City and improve snowmaking in a vital interconnect area.

Blaise Carrig, president of the mountain division of Vail resorts, called it “one of the most ambitious and impactful plans undertaken at any resort in industry history.”

With the interconnection, the two resorts can boast of 7,300 acres, pushing Park City/Canyons ahead of Big Sky’s 5,750 and Vail Mountain’s 5,289. Whistler Blackcomb, however, will remain numero uno in América del Norte at 8,171 acres.

What will this combined ski area be called? No word from Vail on that just yet.

Vail gets specialized

heart lab, physicians

VAIL — No more helicopter flights to Denver for those on the edge of death from cardiac arrest in Vail. Vail Valley Medical Center in January will have a state-of-the-art cath lab and two coronary experts.

One of those physicians, Dr. Jerry Greenberg, specializes in interventional cardiology, and the other, Dr. Nelson Prager, specializes in electrophysiology, heart rhythm disturbances, and coronary artery disease.

“As Vail’s aging population requires greater healthcare support and expanded services, the hospital is responding to accommodate this need,” says Doris Kirchner, chief executive of the hospital.

New brewer seeks to

reverse Colorado flow

FAIRPLAY, Colo. — The Western Slope of Colorado gets about 80 percent of the precipitation in Colorado, but 30-some tunnels, canals, and other conveyances divert water eastward across the Continental Divide.

The new South Park Brewing Co. hopes to reverse that flow, at least a small bit. The new craft brewer is located in Fairplay, which is 34 miles from Breckenridge but across the Continental Divide. Like most everything in Fairplay, the brewery hopes to make money by selling its beers in Breckenridge and elsewhere in Summit County.

This new craft brewery is part of a major trend. The Brewers Association says the United States has 3,100 breweries, nearly all of them low-volume in production, with another 2,000 now being planned or under development.

Air rights bought to

save penthouse view

ASPEN — In a rare if not unique case, the buyers of a penthouse in downtown Aspen have also purchased the “air rights” above a adjacent building to ensure preservation of views of Aspen Mountain from the penthouse.

The purchase of the 5,053-square-foot condominium penthouse along Hyman Avenue had set a record for real estate in Aspen at $3,126 a square foot, or $15.8 million altogether.

The penthouse buyers also purchased air rights above an adjoining property that is home to a restaurant. No price of the air space was reported.

Chris Bendon, Aspen’s community development director, told the Aspen Daily News that he has heard of other easements of “view planes” being sold, but said “it’s not common.”

Klaus Obermeyer

celebrates his 95th

ASPEN — With his own yodel and a little oom-pah from a Bavarian band, ski outerwear entrepreneur Klaus Obermeyer celebrated his 95th birthday last week.

Obermeyer, says The Aspen Times, greeted every guest with his signature smile and, usually, a quip. He said his health is good and he comes to the office every weekday.

Arriving in Aspen in 1947, Obermeyer went to work at the ski school. He guessed that he could retain business if he could ensure that skiers stayed warm and dry, so he set out to create a down ski parka from a goose-down comforter. The company bearing his name has been making innovations in the industry ever since.

Ski pole company gets

push from Kickstarter

PARK CITY, Utah — A Kickstarter campaign by a Park City-based manufacturer of bamboo skiing and hiking poles yielded $26,000 with a week in the campaign to go, well above the $17,000 goal.

Bryon Friedman’s Soul Poles two years ago has made high-end customized bamboo poles for the last two years. They cost $129 and above and are marketed as environmentally friendly.

To create a line of lower-cost poles, starting at $69, he wants to cut production costs by using an injection mold, explains The Park Record. But for that, he needed financial investors.

Whitefish clergy

stands up for love

WHITEFISH, Mont. — The Rev. Deborah B. Schmidt had a letter in the Whitefish Pilot recently, and it was full of both anguish and strength.

“Having lived in Whitefish for almost 14 years and witnessed several iterations of white supremacist vitriol, I wonder: what attracts these values to our valley? Take a look on the websites of the various media outlets in our valley. Anti-semitic and racist hatred is rampant,” she wrote.

“When people make ‘sophisticated’ hate-filled comments that urge ethnic-cleaning, advocate forced sterilizations of minorities and disparage the right of all to participate in our democracy, we must present a bold repudiation of these values.”

Schmidt then explained that she was moved to write the letter by the experiences of her father, who is 94 and was a member the U.S. Army that invaded Germany in 1945 and freed prisoners from the death camps.

“My father’s witness to the horrors of the effects of attempts to create a ‘European White state’ causes me to refuse to remain silent,” she explained. “When people come to our community espousing hateful values like those of the Nazis, we must resist.”

She advocates a response of information, love and an alternative vision.

“Jesus embodied the revolutionary idea that love casts out fear. He knew that no one that professed to love God could fail to strive to love their neighbors — not just people who looked, sounded and lived like themselves — but all neighbors.”

Y2Y Initiative objects

to Peace River dam

BANFF, Alberta — A dam proposed on the Peace River in north-central British Columbia is being opposed by the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

The Y2Y Initiative aims to preserve and expand a connection for wildlife between Yellowstone and the Yukon.

Karsten Heuer, president of the Y2Y, tells the Rocky Mountain Outlook that the proposed dam near Fort St. John, B.C., would constrict an already narrow corridor, with adverse consequences to wildlife.

“To avoid inbreeding and to survive disturbances like fire and disease, wildlife need large areas to roam,” Heuer tells the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “We know from history that if they don’t have these big connections then they go extinct.”

He also contends that pathways become even more important when the climate changes, as animals will need to shift their behavior in response to changing temperatures and rainfall patterns.

Snow in Tahoes, but

big picture looks bad

TRUCKEE, Calif. — December delivered snow to the Sierra Nevada, a sign of at least temporary relief after the three driest years in measured history in the mountain range.

“We’re far ahead of last year’s precipitation pace,” Jim Matthews, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the Sacramento Bee.

The snow didn’t bless all ski resorts. Those lower in elevation got rain, not snow. Tahoe Basin resorts, however, had good reason to rejoice.

California is still not out of its drought hole. California state water officials tell the Associated Press that California would need 150 percent of its normal annual rainfall to recover from drought. Before the storms last week, the southern Sierra had received just 47 percent of its normal rain and snow so far, and the Northern Sierra 79 percent.

Meanwhile, Associated Press climate writer Seth Borenstein reports stark numbers since international climate discussions began several decades ago.

“Carbon dioxide emissions: up 60 percent. Global temperature: up six-tenths of a degree. Population: up 1.7 billion people. Sea level: up 3 inches. U.S. extreme weather: up 30 percent. Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica: down 4.9 trillion tons of ice.”

“Simply put, we are rapidly remaking the planet and beginning to suffer the consequences,” says Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University.

Jackson Hole scientist

thinks theory is wrong

JACKSON, Wyo. — If not in the United States, it’s almost certain that 2014 will be the warmest globally in recorded history.

That fits in with a pattern. Most of the available evidence supports the theory of greenhouse gas emissions. The theory holds that solar energy travels through the atmosphere in waves and then, like a greenhouse, cannot radiate back into space because of the lid of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

But Peter Ward, a retired geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey who lives in Jackson Hole, thinks the theory depends upon a flawed assumption about how radiation travels through the atmosphere.

“To this day, if you ask physicists how light travels in the atmosphere or in space, it travels in waves or as photons,” he said. “All of the radiation codes used to calculate the models about climate change assume that energy travels through the atmosphere as waves.”

That’s wrong, he believes. Ward instead believes the Earth’s warming has been caused by depletion of the ozone layer, which is 12 miles from the earth’s surface.

“When ozone is reduced (depleted), more of this sun-burning, cancer-causing radiation reaches Earth, cooling the ozone layer and warming Earth,” Ward says.

“This ultraviolet energy is 48 times hotter, 48 times more energetic than infrared radiation absorbed by greenhouse gases.”

Ward has a Ph.D. from Columbia University and once headed the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. In other words, he has some scientific cred.

He tells the Jackson Hole News&Guide that he has been unable to get any audience in the scientific community — and, for that matter, not much of one elsewhere. His YouTube video, called, was seen just 127 times in the week after he posted it.

What if he’s right?

Then we go about addressing global warming in an entirely different way. Right now, it appears that we need to dramatically curb our use of fossil fuels, which produce carbon dioxide and methane.

Allen Best is publisher of the e-magazine Mountain Town News. Contact him at

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