San Juan looks at backcountry cabins |

San Juan looks at backcountry cabins

ALLEN BESTspecial to the daily

SILVERTON – San Juan County has very little that’s flat. It’s a place of vertical. So even though it remains a place of only 600 year-round residents, most of the flat is already used up or contaminated by mining.So reports the Silverton Standard in a story about a proposal to build on old mining parcels located in the rugged mountains that surround Silverton.The newspaper notes that a majority of the private land in San Juan County is contained within the 3,000 mining properties that are scattered across hillsides, steep slopes and sometimes even cliffs.”Most mining claims are long, narrow 10-acre strips, and each is considered an individual parcel, able to be sold or developed without going through a subdivision process,” the newspaper says.What this could yield is a 3,000-lot subdivision scattered willy-nilly across the landscape, with homes placed in locations not because that’s where it makes sense to have homes, but rather that’s because minerals had once been found. In the current case, a developer is proposing to combine three parcels into one, still building three cabins but in the replatting process making better use of the land than if the original land parcels were adhered to. The idea is drawing mixed reviews.Newest major resort in U.S. now 25 years oldBEAVER CREEK – Beaver Creek turns 25 this month, and by almost any measure of financial success, it has been among the top resorts in North America during recent years.Skier days have routinely increased in the double-digits, hitting 815,000 last winter, even as most ski resorts have faltered or bobbed. The real estate market bulges with sales of $6 to $10 million for homes. And the sales taxes collected by merchants would be the envy of most towns.The resort would now be 30 years old if officials from Vail Associates, the developer of the resort, had had their way. They wanted it to be a premier venue in the 1976 Winter Olympics. However, Colorado voters in 1972 yanked the subsidy for the games, causing Denver to withdraw as host.Slow-growth-minded state officials, meanwhile, insisted on a more methodical approach to the development of Beaver Creek. While some protagonists in the dispute remain adamant that they could have done it right, a story in the Rocky Mountain News suggests a better ski area resulted from the greater patience.The newspaper also notes rumors during recent months of a new bid by Denver and Colorado for the 2018 Winter Olympics. However, U.S. Olympic Committee representatives note that post 9/11 travel restrictions enacted by the U.S. government make any U.S. bid more difficult.One footnote on Beaver Creek is this: It was the most recent major ski resort built on federal lands in the United States, at least until last year. There were small ski resorts built on private and even federal lands, but no major resorts. Idaho’s Tamarack opened last year with some dimensions of a major resort. It is located on state lands.Aspen pledges action on global warmingASPEN – Aspen’s city government has joined the Aspen Skiing Co. – as well as the Ford Motor Co., the city of Chicago and the state of New Mexico, among others – in committing to reducing the greenhouse gases it creates.The city joined the Chicago Climate Exchange. In doing so, it committed to a 4 percent reduction in gas emissions in 2006 as compared to the 1998-2001 baseline. Those who exceed 4 percent reductions can sell their credits to those who have not. And those who have not can purchase credits from those who do.Adaptation to warming climate urged by paperTRUCKEE, Calif. – With Lake Tahoe two degrees warmer than a century ago and one degree warmer than only three decades ago, it’s clear that the Sierra Nevada – like most of the world – is growing warmer, notes the Sierra Sun. Whatever the cause of global warming, says the newspaper in an editorial, it behooves local governments, business groups and tourism forces to begin planning now about how to adapt.Climate change poses risk for low, smallish ski areaWILLAMETTE PASS, Ore. – Business is looking sketchy at Willamette Pass, a ski area 60 miles southeast of Eugene. Three years ago, the ski area invested $3 million in a high-speed, six-passenger lift to the summit. Owners hoped the investment would push skier days toward 100,000.Instead, skied days have plodded along well below that, skidding in the drought of last winter to less than 30,000.While some question the wisdom of spending that much money on a major lift upgrade, Eugene’s Register-Guard suggests that snowfall is becoming an issue. An Oregon State University study of climate change during the 20th century in the Pacific Northwest last year revealed that average temperatures increased 1.3 degrees. Temperatures are projected to increase another 2.7 degrees in the next 20 years, says the newspaper.Deep freeze may slow bark beetle spreadVAIL – The only sure way to stop the spread of bark beetles in the forests of Colorado is deep and extended cold. While the cold of early December was certainly the most extreme so far this century, with temperatures dropping to 30 below or less, it might not have been cold enough to kill the beetles.U.S. Forest Service etymologist Bob Cain told the Vail Daily he thought it was cold enough to kill some beetles, but he wasn’t sure how many. Because the bark insulates the beetles from the cold, temperatures need to be more than 25 below, some studies have shown, he said.Vail had a mere 15 below zero, although other mountain towns in Colorado shivered through temperatures of 30 below and less – just like the good old days.Fingers pointed to explain loss of goatsWHISTLER, B.C. – In the interior of British Columbia, mountain caribou herds are declining, from 2,400 a decade ago to 1,700 now. Conservationists fear mountain goats in the Whistler area could suffer the same declines and are calling for restrictions on heliskiing operations.In flying near the goats, says Kat Hartwig, program manager for Wildsight, a conservation group, the helicopters are stressing the goats. “Two thirds of the world’s mountain goat population is in British Columbia,” she told Pique. “They don’t suffer well with human intrusion.”Heli-skiing operators insist that they shy away from herds of mountain goats, often giving the animals two-kilometer berths. “We do leave the area immediately,” said Tyler Freed, owner of one heli-skiing company.Heli-skiing companies are, in turn, pointing the finger at snowmobiles.All the stars aligning for a record seasonCOLORADO – Despite all their hope, ambition and real-estate construction, Colorado’s ski areas have been plateaued for nearly a decade when it comes to people on the slopes. The record for skier days of 11.98 million was set in 1997-1998.But forecasters see all the stars lining up for that record to be toppled. The economy is roaring, destination skiers began returning two years ago, and the dollar remains weak vis a vis the euro.Now, the state’s largest ski areas have enjoyed extraordinary early-season snows, driving reservations and also encouraging the sometimes picky high plains metro skiers to throng to the ski areas.All of this had analyst Chuck Goelder, former professor of tourism at the University of Colorado-Boulder, confidently predicting 12.05 million skiers this winter – a figure he tells Denver’s Rocky Mountain News that he now believes could be conservative.Richest of rich expect to spend more this yearASPEN – A magazine that caters to the über-rich predicts that they will spend more money on their Christmas vacations this year.Elite Traveler, which claims to cater to people with a net worth of $10 million or more, says a survey of 511 such individuals shows that they will be spending more money this year than last.The magazine, reports The Aspen Times, predicts the super rich will spend an average $54,600 during the holidays on hotel and resort visits, up 32 percent, while villa and ski house rentals are expected to climb 27 percent. And so it goes for everything: alcohol, gifts, and bling-bling (jewelry).As well, they are expected to increase their charitable contributions, but only by 5 percent. After all, they’ve been giving heavily to hurricane relief efforts, says the magazine.Hunter Thompson chums writing book of memoriesASPEN – Two chums of the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson plans to issue a book of their own containing their reminisces. The two chums, Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis and local artist Michael Cleverly, spent a great deal of time in Thompson’s kitchen, where he met guests.They had joked about the book over the years, Cleverly told The Aspen Times, but after Thompson committed suicide in February, the two cranked out several sample chapters. They got 19 rejections, but the 20th publisher, Harper Entertainment/William Morrow, has forwarded what Cleverly called a “niggardly’ advance.”It’s about friendship, as far as I’m concerned,’ Cleverly said of the book’s premise.Errors upon errors may have been essential storyMINTURN – In September, a woman who was hiking up 14,005-foot Mount of the Holy Cross disappeared when she parted with her climbing companion only a few minutes from the boulder-strewn summit.Although some 700 searchers, a record for Colorado, later combed the mountain, none found evidence of the woman, a 35-year-old mother of four children. Nor, for that matter, do new police documents obtained by the Vail Daily and the Denver Post shed light on the mystery.The story now told is of errors compounded: lunch left at the car, too little clothing for hiking that time of year, and of a path mistakenly taken that led them on a much more longer, difficult route up the mountain than she was suited for. For most of the day, the woman trailed her companion by 60 feet. Near the top, she reported she could just go no higher.Searchers think that she may have wandered off the west side of the mountain, where she could have fallen on cliffs that were hidden from searchers dispatched in helicopters. They report no particular reason to suspect foul play.Hikers have frequently gotten lost on the mountain, despite the fact that they’re above treeline in full view most of the time of the trail back to the parking lot. Too, the trail is by now exceedingly well marked. However, the landscape is so vast that those unfamiliar with the geography are easily confused.