Mountain Town News: The West stands with Stand Rock (column) |

Mountain Town News: The West stands with Stand Rock (column)

Allen Best
Mountain Town News

Cars, campers and even kayaks have been making their way from mountain towns along the spine of the Rocky Mountains in recent months toward the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Since April, the Sioux and sympathizers have been protesting construction of a 30-inch-diameter pipeline that would convey crude oil 1,172 miles from the fields of North Dakota to a terminus at Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline avoids the reservation but would cross land that the Sioux say was an ancestral burial ground.

Protestors also argue that the Dakota Access pipeline would threaten their drinking water, even if it is 20 miles from the source of the tribe’s water supply.

The issue has become a flashpoint for the climate-justice movement, notes Rolling Stone, but the issues are broader yet. Sioux object to potential water pollution. ProPublica says there may be reason to be concerned, given the pipelines that have leaked in Yellowstone and other rivers in recent years.

For many, there’s also a question of whether the Sioux and other tribes have been poorly treated by the U.S. government.

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 50 students, professors and others set out from southwestern Colorado for the 16-hour drive to Standing Rock.

“I just felt a calling to be up there,” Damon Young, a Fort Lewis College student, told the Durango Herald. “I’m looking forward to the spiritual connection more than anything, and to be able to bring back what I learn to my own people, who are also facing water right battles.”

Young is from the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Student enrollment at Fort Lewis College is about 36 percent Native American.

Crested Butte residents and students from Western State College in nearby Gunnison have also made the journey. Several recently joined a group of Native American paddlers floating from the headwaters of the Missouri in Montana to Standing Rock “as an act of solidarity, a plea for heightened awareness, and a prayer to the river.”

Chris Christian was among protestors from Jackson Hole who drove 11 hours to Standing Rock to deliver supplies and camp out for two nights. “It’s always windy,” he told the Jackson Hole News&Guide. “The wind there is terrifying. It will knock you down.”

“We gathered up a bunch of snowboard jackets from all of our houses and chopped down a tree and filled up a Subaru full of wood to bring out there, because they need that,” Anders Berling, also a Jackson resident, told the newspaper.

While there has been some violence on the part of protestors, activists say police have over-reacted with their water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and concussive grenades.

“The police may have shaky legal ground to stand on — they are protecting private property in violation of treaties — but they have lost moral ground with the escalation of violence,” Shawna Foster, minister of Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist church in Carbondale, told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Residents of the Roaring Fork Valley have made several trips to deliver supplies to fellow protestors. A recent trip included 1,200 pounds of water, food and medical supplies. Donations of warm clothing are also being solicited.

Trump’s vow to change name of highest peak

ANCHORAGE – As a developer of high-end real estate, President-elect Donald Trump has mostly profited from licensing use of his name for branding purposes. Might this brand-conscious president try to get his name on something much bigger than a mere hotel skyscraper? Say, a mountain?

That’s unlikely to happen. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names has strict rules that mountains and other such fixtures on the landscape cannot be named after living individuals.

But it’s another matter what the highest mountain in North America will be called. The natives, in the Athabascan language, called it the great one, or Denali. But the U.S. government named it after William McKinley after his assassination in 1901.

In Alaska, the name never quite took, though. As The Associated Press notes, the state had a standing request with the federal government to rename the 20,310-foot (6,190-meter) mountain beginning in 1975.

But representatives of Ohio, from which McKinley hailed, fought the shift, helping block the federal U.S. Board of Geographic Names from taking up the issue.

Finally, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell last year issued an order citing a 1947 law that allows her agency to replace names unilaterally when the board fails to act within a reasonable time. President Barack Obama announced the change last year on his trip to Alaska.

In a tweet, Trump called the name switch a ”great insult to Ohio,” where McKinley was from, and vowed to change the name of the mountain again.

Trump has done quite a lot of backpedaling since election night. And, in any event, changing a name might not be as easy as flipping a toggle switch on your chainsaw. Keep in mind that Alaska wanted this change in 1975, when Gerald Ford was president.

More ski areas add summer attractions

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. – Colorado’s Vail Mountain and California’s Heavenly were first to use the new authority given by the U.S. Congress for summer use of ski areas. In June, the two ski areas both introduced mountain (also called alpine) coasters on federal lands among zip courses and other warmer-weather attractions.

Breckenridge Ski Resort will follow next year. Arapahoe Basin Ski Area has received authority for a more pared-down summer program of a canopy adventure tour and challenge course. The summer activities will add 21 year-round positions related to the summer activities and three summer seasonal positions.

But other ski areas are now arriving with proposals of their own. What the Aspen Skiing Co. has in mind for Snowmass looks a lot like what Vail has done on Vail Mountain. The Aspen Daily News says the gravity-fed downhill coaster is to wind 3,300 feet downhill before being pulled 2,300 feet uphill.

Unlike Vail or Heavenly, however, Aspen proposes to operate its mountain coaster winter and summer but also at night. This is among three alternatives being examined by the Forest Service.

The Forest Service estimates the summer attractions will draw about 2,000 people per day but will not draw new people to the Aspen area. Rather, the attractions will give visitors additional options after they have arrived, the Forest Service has concluded.

Rainbow crosswalk to come to Jasper?

JASPER, Alberta – OUT Jasper, an advocacy group for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community in Jasper, has started sounding out support for creating a rainbow crosswalk. Town officials seem supportive, although details need to be worked out.

“When I first got here, I thought it was amazing to see how much support a small gay community had,” said Mychol Ormandy, director of OUT Jasper. “I remember seeing rainbow stickers in a lot of business windows, and since then it’s been my dream to see those rainbows grow.”

Municipal public works manager Gordon Hutton said the rainbow crosswalk doesn’t seem to be an issue. Fundraising for the $5,000 installation has begun. No decision has been made about the ongoing costs of maintenance, however. “The drawback is that they don’t stay new looking for long,” Hutton told the Jasper Fitzhugh.

Aspen gifts dinner in lieu of snow

ASPEN, Colo. – With another week of sparse or non-existent storms in Colorado, the Aspen Skiing Co. decided last week to offer dinners on three nights this week to seasonal workers, such as lift operators, who would otherwise be getting hours by now.

But with a significant storm arriving over the weekend, both Aspen and Snowmass opened for business by Sunday. Still, the meal will be offered.

This isn’t the first early season soup kitchen at Aspen or, for that matter, at other ski resorts. Aspen most recently provided dinners to about 40 seasonal workers at the dry start to the 2007-08 season. Something similar occurred in the early 1990s, notes the Aspen Daily News

Aspen talking about limiting chain stores

ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen’s elected officials this week were scheduled to take up the question of whether to dampen the ability of chain stores, also called formula retail, in the city’s downtown core.

Councilman Adam Frisch tells the Aspen Daily News that he’s willing to have the discussion, and he thinks even building owners and developers who have a long-term vision will, too.

“If we become only a luxury mall, we will start to dilute our brand and dilute what makes us special,” he said. “ … Even the wealthier people who fly in on private plains complain to me” about the proliferation of international luxury chain stores crowding out businesses with local character, he added.

Consultants retained by the city’s planning department concur about the goal of preserving local character. But they also point out that chain stores serve important purposes. They cite Ace Hardware, Radio Shack, Verizon and AT&T, as well as the local grocery store, part of the Kroeger chain.

Study of high-speed rail from Vancouver to Whistler?

WHISTLER, B.C. – In British Columbia, the hat is being passed for a feasibility study of a high-speed rail between Vancouver and Whistler. Squamish, located about two-thirds of the way between them, is on board.

“We have to start thinking about more than building highways wider and bigger and faster,” Mayor Patricia Heintzman told Pique.

Whistler, the municipality, has issued a letter of support. Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden says there have been several prior feasibility studies. “For whatever reasons — cost or demand and so on — it’s never been pursued,” she added.

Commuter planes between Silicon Valley and Truckee

TRUCKEE, Calif. – In January, a California company called Blackbird will begin offering air shuttles between Palo Alto and Truckee, which is near Squaw Valley, Northstar and other resorts. Costs start at $125 one-way. The drive-time is about five hours. Presumably, the air shuttles will shave about four hours off that commute.

Snowboarder dies in deep snow at Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C. – Only two days after opening, a 27-year-old man died at Whistler Blackcomb while snowboarding. He was found unconscious and later died after becoming separated from his girlfriend. He was pulled out of deep snow in a gladed area.

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