The etiquette of backcountry turns |

The etiquette of backcountry turns

ALLEN BEST special to the daily

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Newcomers to mountain towns can justifiably be amazed at what is considered a breach of etiquette. This seems to be especially true of users in the backcountry during winter.For instance, cross-country skiers get cranky about snowshoers messing with their tracks, as was evident in a spat at Crested Butte several years ago. And both get outraged at the rapid demolition of the snowy landscape by snowmobilers. Of course, if you are a cross-country skier, you understand the reason for this crankiness, and it doesn’t entirely have to do with aesthetics or proprietary instincts. (Skiing across frozen snowmobile tracks amid a slope of powder is almost akin to encountering a patch of dirt.)In Jackson Hole, Teton Pass is like a mini-ski area, except that it’s all backcountry. And there, even among backcountry skiers, there are mostly unspoken rules of etiquette. Vanessa Pierce, a guest backcountry columnist for the Jackson Hole News & Guide, notes a recent excursion when she took big, arcing tele turns.Reaching the bottom, she looked back upslope to admire her work, but was instead chastened. “Um,” her skiing partner said diplomatically. “We’re going to have to learn how to farm our turns.”The goal, she explained, is to use only as much space as you need, leaving room for others to get fresh turns.Snowy winter, but still too little water for all? MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – It’s been a snowy winter in Mammoth. But even as cars sport big chunks of snow on their roofs, making them look like Glen Plake, the community is confronting water scarcity.One response is a plant that will recycle water, dispersing it on two golf courses, among other things. It is expected to cost more than $10 million, reports The Sheet. Aspen has similar aspirations.But while water managers are preparing plans for population growth, some in the community wonder if they have contemplated the full effect of the newer, bigger, fancier housing. One concrete example: Jacuzzi tubs that are “bigger than I’ve ever seen,” according to one individual.Mammoth had a storm in early January that was so gigantic that most of the lifts at the ski area were closed down. Eight feet of snow were reported in a 36-hour period.High winds derail two gondola cars in BanffBANFF, Alberta – High winds caused two empty gondola cars to come off their railing and fall four feet to the ground at Sunshine Village. Although then tumbling farther down the slope, they were only slightly damaged. The resort was closed for several days while the gondola was inspected, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook.Calendar said January, but it felt like March REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Unseasonably temperate weather prevailed in Revelstoke during January, so much so that plants began bursting from the soil, some bushes sprouted leaves, and mushrooms were reported on some local lawns.The Revelstoke Times Review reports that some longtime residents say is it’s the first green January in living memory. Whereas the daily average for January is -5.3 degrees Celsius, this year it had been 5.2 degrees. (While the daily average for January is 22 degrees Fahrenheit, this year it has been 41 degrees.)Biggest slab ever in Ketchum cost $100,000KETCHUM, Idaho – What was proclaimed to be the biggest slab of concrete ever poured in Ketchum was installed in mid-January. The concrete pad is for a 20-unit condominium project that will include underground parking.To keep the reinforcing steel warm, a circus-type tent was assembled. It took 10 cement trucks to deliver 440 yards of concrete, about $40,000 worth of material. To get this done in one day, the services of 50 people from two companies were used at a total cost of $60,000, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.Off-the-tracks coal train derails the data highwayASPEN – Union Pacific tracks have become not only rail corridors, but an information highway. A case in point is a the derailment of a coal train near Winter Park in January.Buried adjacent to the tracks is a fiber-optic line that transfers data of Comcast subscribers. When the derailment severed the line, it interrupted service to internet users westward from Winter Park almost to Grand Junction, including Aspen.Service had also been interrupted in October because of another derailment, this one at Kremmling, about 50 miles west of Winter Park.A financial advisor, Michael McVoy, told The Aspen Times that his brokerage was forced to revert to dial-up service to place trades and gather financial information. Others wondered why their information highway had no alternative routes.The derailment at Winter Park also disrupted the weekend of passengers on the ski train, the storied institution that has ferried passengers from Denver to the slopes of Winter Park for more than 60 years. They were forced to take buses or otherwise make arrangements to get back to Denver.Does Sundance really deserve the ink it gets?PARK CITY, Utah – The Park Record during recent weeks has had little news other than stories having to do with the Sundance Film Festival. And, for that matter, major national newspapers such as The New York Times gave the festival major stories.Is it really that big a deal?Robert Denerstein, the film critic for Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, similarly wondered whether Sundance deserves the exalted position it occupies in American film culture.Although feeling cranky when he asked the question, he reported that he ultimately decided that, at least to filmmakers who show their wares in Park City, it is. “I rappelled nude once off the Oakland Coliseum at a Nirvana concert,” answered the comic Bob Goldthwait as he debuted his film. “I’m more nervous now.”Steamboat-based engineer gives $50,000 to PakistanSTEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Although the human consequences of the earthquake that hit Pakistan last fall were far, far greater than that of the tsunami or the earthquakes, the response from ski towns – like that of the developed countries in general – has been tepid.That said, relief efforts have lately been reported in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, Vail and the Eagle Valley, and British Columbia’s Revelstoke.Now comes news from Steamboat Springs. It turns out that a major Chicago-based environmental engineering firm, MWH Global, also has an office in Steamboat Springs. That location allows people like Alan Krause, the president of the company’s division for natural resources, industry and infrastructure, to go cross-country skiing during his lunch hour.It also turns out that this company has been working in Pakistan for 50 years. Krause recently was in Pakistan to deliver a $50,000 check for earthquake relief to the Pakistani president. Krause told The Steamboat Pilot that he believes most Americans, being focused on stories of Islamic extremism, grossly underestimate the sophistication of Pakistan.”It’s a strange place to work; it’s a crossroads for American interests.”Employees in the Steamboat office are working on everything from gold mining in Romania to projects in Peru, Indonesia, and Australia. It is consulting on two dam-building projects in water-scarce Pakistan.This firm, which had $1 billion in revenues last year, gained a Steamboat presence in a roundabout way, explains The Pilot. Krause moved there about 1991 to assume leadership of a much smaller engineering firm, ACZ Inc. That firm merged with another, which in turn merged with Harza Engineering Company. Still in Steamboat, Krause took on increasingly bigger roles and more responsibility with the engineering giant that had acquired his little company. MWH employs more than 6,000 engineers and scientists in civil, structural, and mechanical and geotechnical engineering. The company was ranked first in the world for consulting engineering services in the hydropower field by Engineering News Record magazine.Brewing biz robust in the Ketchum/Sun Valley areaKETCHUM, Idaho – Cabin Fever Ale is among the latest offerings of what the Idaho Mountain Express reports is an expanding number of brewers in the Wood River Valley.The oldest, founded 20 years ago, is Sun Valley Brewing Co., which is located about 10 miles downvalley at Hailey. It is now large enough that it recently began selling its White Cloud Ale at 25 grocery stores in Idaho owned by the Albertsons chain.Another company, River Bend Brewing Co. is a one-man operation in Hailey who distributes to local restaurants. The latest addition is Trail Creek Pub, which opened in November in Ketchum.The Brewers Association reports annual 7 percent annual expansion of the microbreweries even as sales of the major breweries are declining. Still, the biggies dwarf the sales of the locals, yielding this exhortation from the micro guys: “Drink Local.”Crested Butte/Gunnison hear about Robin HoodCRESTED BUTTE – In 2000, Aspen and Pitkin County began what has sometimes been characterized as a Robin Hood arrangement. More officially called the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, it effectively exacts a luxury surtax on heavy energy use at homes.The Crested Butte News suggests some interest in Gunnison County and Crested Butte in mimicking that program, as witnessed by attendance of public officials at a recent presentation.A nonprofit group was established in the Roaring Fork Valley, where Aspen is located, in 1994. Called Community Office for Resource Efficiency, the group aims at promoting renewable energy and fighting wasteful energy use even as Aspen became ever more extravagant.By 1996, government building officers were starting to see five boilers in homes: one for the house and four for the snowmelt systems, explained Joani Matranga, a volunteer with CORE. She said builders proposed a fee-based system that would allow them to install features that more efficiently use energy.In 2000, Aspen and Pitkin County adopted the REMP program, exempting all homes of 5,000 square feet and less.Above that size, builders have a budget for energy use. If they choose to have snowmelt driveways, outdoor hot tubs, and other extravagances, they can – but they must offset that extravagant energy use by installing solar panels or other renewable energy sources.They can also opt to pay a fee in lieu, and early on many builders of huge homes elected to do so. Fees could range from $12,000 for a 1,000-square-foot outdoor pool to $30,000 for a 20-square-foot outdoor spa. That money has then been used to finance a car-sharing program in Aspen and interest-free loans for residents and businesses investing in solar and other renewable energy systems, The program has yielded $3 million in pay-in-lieu fees, although builders of big houses have increasingly opted to install solar panels or ground-source heat pumps.One key question from Gunnison County suggests that this is being viewed as a program supporting economic sustainability. Money spent on energy almost entirely leaves the local community. If less money leaves the local economy, the net effect is the same as increasing the local economy.

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