Mountain Town News: Vail latest community to put kibosh on plastic |

Mountain Town News: Vail latest community to put kibosh on plastic

Header: Should Vail Bag the PLASTIC BAG?

VAIL, Colo. — Plastic shopping bags have become non grata in Vail. In a 4-3 vote last week, the Vail Council agreed to ban the dispensing of single-use plastic bags altogether at the town’s grocery stores and to assess a fee of 10 cents for paper bags.

In doing this, Vail follows on the heels of Telluride, then Aspen, Carbondale and Breckenridge, among other mountain towns.

Dick Cleveland, a former mayor and longtime resident, said it’s time for the curtain to fall on the bags. “The bags barely make it home,” he said. “You can’t reuse them, so it’s time to get rid of them.”

The Vail Daily reports no single reason for dissenting votes. One council member argued that paper bags pose a greater environmental cost than plastic. Another said he was skeptical about “consciousness-raising by law.”

Grocers will be allowed to keep 20 percent of the money from the sale of paper bags. The town, in turn, will create a reusable “Vail bag,” similar to what is sold in Breckenridge and Telluride after they instituted bans.

Next year, Vail will take up the issue of how to discourage use of disposable bags at other retail stores.



PARK CITY, Utah — Time to give idlers in Park City a nudge? We’re talking about people in stationary cars, not rich people making small talk at cocktail parties.

City staffers in Park City say a lot of drivers are still idling, especially during the Sundance Film Festival, in violation of the city’s three-minute cap on idling cars.

That law allows unlimited idling when temperatures reach below freezing or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The city staff wants elected officials to lower the idling cap to one-minute and eliminate temperature exemptions.

The Park Record reports that no violators have been fined since the law was adopted in 2010.



TELLURIDE, Colo. — Ski patrollers at Telluride have voted 47-1 to join the Communications Workers of America.

Ski patrollers, according to the Telluride Daily Planet, say they want a structure for effectively communicating to management their needs and to establish economic compensation that is equitable and predictable.

The statement issued by ski patrollers also said they want to ensure that every employee “works in an environment that is free from fear and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect and where an equitable system exists to resolve complaints through arbitration, if necessary.”

The same union also represents ski patrollers at Steamboat, Crested Butte, and The Canyons.



PARK CITY, Utah — A two-year contract between ski patrollers and management at The Canyons is ending, and this time the patrollers will negotiate with Vail Resorts.

Pete Earle, president of the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association, tells The Park Record that one consideration for ski patrollers is being able to afford to live in Park City.

“I moved here 11 years ago, and one of the reasons I chose Park City is it was one of the few ski towns in the West that I could afford to live and work in the same town,” he said.

People are now getting priced out, he added. “We have more and more people moving every year to Salt Lake or to Heber (both located about 30 minutes away). We want to be a part of the community. That’s a big thing for us.”



TRUCKEE, Calif. — The snow story in the Sierra Nevada continues to be glum. A snowstorm in late February and early March barely moved the needle on snow readings.

“We’re kind of hovering … nudging up against the lowest snowpack on record,” said Frank Gehrke of the California Department of Water Resources.

South Lake Tahoe, home to the Heavenly Resort, got just 0.1 inches of precipitation in January, and then in February 4.25 inches. It’s a little better in the southern Sierra Nevada, notes the Sierra Sun.

The Associated Press reports that the long anticipated El Niño has finally arrived but it is “weak, weird and late,” in the words of Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

“This is not the answer for California,” he said.



ABIQUIU, N.M. — Plans for a Family Dollar store in Abiquiú are moving forward despite the objections of newer residents in the town of about 600 residents in northern New Mexico.

KRQE reports that the Rio Arriba County Planning and Zoning Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval for the 8,320-square-foot store.

Located an hour from Taos and Santa Fe, Abiquiú was made famous by the residency of the artist Georgia O’Keeffe. She lived nearby at the Ghost Ranch from 1949 until shortly before her death in 1986.

“Steeped in culture and tradition, Abiquiú is a centuries-old community where it’s not unusual to see a tractor on the highway, cows grazing or relatives chit-chatting at the post office,” reported the Santa Fe New Mexican’s Daniel J. Chacón in a recent story. “There are no street lights, and most of the roads are dirt.”

Chacón further explains that Family Dollar’s plans have exposed existing racial and economic tensions between the locals, who are primarily Hispanic, and newer residents, who are usually Anglo.

“I think most of the Hispanic people what have lived here for generations seem to want it, and they’re saying that only the Anglo outsiders and newcomers don’t want it,” said Jeffrey Beeman, an opponent who arrived from California a decade ago and operates a bed and breakfast.

“They’re saying that they want an affordable place to shop. We’re saying, ‘Well, why can’t you just go down the road to Hernández, where there’s another Family Dollar and a Dollar General?’”

He added: “Once we start getting these types of stores here, it’s going to disrupt the landscape.”

Hernández, of course, has a famous landscape of its own. The photographer Ansel Adams in 1941 just happened to be passing by when he noticed the setting sun illuminating the headstones of the cemetery as a full moon arose over the Sangre de Cristo Range to the east. The masterpiece is called “Moonrise over Hernández.”



DURANGO, Colo. — Tiffin, a 4-year-old Schnauzer-Yorkie, ate an apple in a backyard, but it was no ordinary apple. The apple had been used as an improvised marijuana pipe. The dog, veterinarian Stacee Santi told the Durango Herald, exhibited the symptoms of cannabis poisoning.

Amounts of marijuana that would be fine in adult humans can be fatal in dogs, she said. “It’s a dosing issue,” she said. “That dog is 10 pounds.”

Marijuana can depress a dog’s heart rate and blood pressure enough that it can become hypothermic and even slip into a coma-like state, the veterinarian said.

Tiffin seems to have survived, but the Herald notes that veterinarians have seen a dramatic increase in cases of marijuana poisoning in the past two years.

“We see about one a week,” said Santi, echoing estimates from Telluride.

While dogs are strongly drawn to marijuana, cats are more selective, she said.



LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Studying the payments made by ski areas to operate on U.S. Forest Service land in Colorado last year, The Denver Post concludes that ski area operators made out handsomely last ski season.

All but 4 of the state’s 22 ski areas counted the 2013-14 as their highest-grossing year, reports The Denver Post. Their payments to the Forest Service are based on their revenues.

Vail ski area paid the most, at $5.4 million, followed by Breckenridge at $3.5 million, then Keystone at $2.9 million, Steamboat at $1.5 million, and Snowmass at $1.4 million.

But Arapahoe Basin led the state in terms of growth, a 45 percent increase in revenue.

The Post also points out that Vail Resorts has surpassed Intrawest as the nation’s leading ski company, and that 75 percent of Vail’s income is coming from on-mountain operations, and just 4 percent from real estate.

In the 1990s, environmental critics argued that ski areas had become the means to leverage real estate profits on adjacent private lands. About a decade ago, it was becoming clear that that was not true, as ski area managers had said all along.



PINEDALE, Wyo. — Drilling companies in Wyoming’s natural gas patch near Pinedale, south of Jackson, have complied with noise limits set to protect sage grouse.

The natural ambient sound of the sagebrush country was presumed to be 39 decibels. So a limit of 49 db was set.

And how was that ambient sound determined? The Jackson Hole News&Guide points to what was apparently sloppy rule-making. The study used to set the standard had been conducted on a tomato farm in California in 1971. There had been traffic, dogs barking, jets flying overhead, and an orchard pruner at work.

Such sounds are not likely part of the natural soundscape of a remote part of Wyoming covered by sage brush. The natural sound is 19 decibels, according to a California researcher who has studied sage grouse leks, or mating grounds, in Wyoming.

Why does that matter? The researcher, Gail Patricelli, of the University of California-Davis, documented major declines in sage grouse mating as sounds from nearby drilling grew.

The News&Guide correctly calls the issue of sage grouse decline a political hot potato in the West.

The decline, both in and out of drilling areas of the West, began to concern wildlife biologists about 20 years ago.



CANMORE, Alberta — This town at the gateway to Banff National Park has a recycling rate of just 30 percent, despite great efforts to make recycling easy for residents.

“Shame,” says the Rocky Mountain Outlook while pointing to a 68 percent diversion rate in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The newspaper also points to Vancouver, B.C., where it became illegal on Jan. 1 to put organic waste and food scraps into the garbage streams. That includes grass clippings, fall leaves, coffee grounds, and egg shells.

Concludes the Outlook: “Get on board, Canmorites, before recycling and organic diversions need to be backed by laws.”

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