Mountain Town News: Is Trump keeping foreign tourists away from the US? (column) |

Mountain Town News: Is Trump keeping foreign tourists away from the US? (column)

Allen Best
Mountain Town News

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Is the belligerent screw-you talk of Donald Trump keeping tourists from other countries from visiting the United States?

Writing in The Conversation, Bing Pan says probably, although it’s hard to parcel out Trump from other reasons.

Bing, an associate professor of tourism management at Pennsylvania State University, says income levels, exchange rates, hospitality infrastructure, and even the release of a movie can affect tourist volumes.

Even before Trump was elected, the number of visitors to the United States had flattened. Canadians, who constitute a quarter of all international visitors, have had a drop in the value of their currency relative to U.S. dollars in recent years.

While there is some evidence that Trump himself is causing people to steer clear of the United States, Chinese visitors are actually more likely to visit the United States under the Trump administration.

Gray wolves trot deeper into the Sierra Nevada

TRUCKEE, Calif. – A gray wolf has trotted to within a mile and a half of Interstate 80 and the Boreal Mountain ski area near the summit of Donner Pass.

This is 20 miles from Lake Tahoe and the farthest south in the Sierra Nevada that wolves have been in modern times.

Wildlife biologists tell the Sierra Sun they believe the wolf is the offspring of a wolf that is native to Oregon but wandered south in 2011. She was the first wolf to cross into California in decades.

A collared GPT transmitter on the wolf alerted representatives of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as to the whereabouts of the canis lupus, as gray wolves are taxonomically identified by scientists.

In Canada, scientists have also used a tracking device to follow a female wolf in Banff National Park. Unlike California, wolves are not uncommon in Banff and most of Alberta. What’s unusual is the existence of lactating females in the same vicinity.

“When two wolves in the same pack have pups the same year, the main breeding female may kill the other pups or they are simply abandoned,” wildlife research ecologist Jesse Whittington explained to the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

On the other hand, maybe this wolf in California has been coming and going. Wolves will travel up to 12 miles in search of food for their pups.

Is cannabis more like alcohol or tobacco? Banff sets rules

BANFF, Alberta – Should public smoking and vaping of cannabis be treated like alcohol or tobacco?

Alberta has not yet legalized marijuana use but is expected to soon do so. In Banff and other local jurisdictions, elected officials are deciding the terms of use. Banff’s council has been persuaded it should be treated like alcohol. It cannot be used in public places; consumption is restricted to private residences and properties.

Alison Gerrits, Banff’s community services director, said cannabis has elements similar to alcohol, in that it affects cognitive functioning, However, it is similar to tobacco in that it has odors but also can have second-hand smoke exposure.

“We don’t allow alcohol to be consumed in the public realm, so it makes sense that the same would be true for a substance that does, in essence, have the same type of impact on cognitive ability,” she said at a meeting covered by the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Les Hagen, who directs Action on Smoking and Health, said any restrictions on cannabis use can also be easily justified for tobacco use. This is especially true, he said, if the main goal is to protect children and youth from harmful substances

“For a 5-year-old, smoking is smoking, whether it involves vaping or cigars or cigarettes or what have you,” he told the elected officials. “Modeling is a very essential element to childhood development, and if we can model healthy behavior to kids, we’re more likely to get healthy kids.”

The Outlook points out that those U.S. states that have allowed use of cannabis still do not allow public consumption.

Taxes on Amazon sales swell treasury of Aspen

ASPEN – In January, people making purchases in Aspen from Amazon have been paying the city sales tax under an agreement with the online marketplace. The Aspen Daily News says there’s no way to say absolutely, but it looks like the added tax is producing significant revenue for the town.

Such sales would fall under the “miscellaneous” category of the city’s tax reports, and those were up 30 percent through April, an increase of around $4 million.

Whistler has new program for sort-of plastic recycling

WHISTLER – Ziplock bags, the packaging for cheese and deli-meats, and other plastic has been headed toward the landfills from Whistler and other locations in British Columbia.

But a new program will collect these smaller plastic items, sometimes called other flexible packaging. The program will be in place by the end of 2018. Officials tell Whistler’s Pique newsmagazine that the items won’t necessarily be recycled. Instead, in this pilot project, much of it will be used for other purposes, including fuel for cement kilns.

Whistler, while it has not taken the action against plastic bags of many ski towns, has a more aggressive policy that requires organic materials to be separated from trash. The former is composted, the latter is shipped to a landfill along the Columbia River several hundred miles away.

Another courthouse remodel adds new security and X-rays

ASPEN – Pitkin County’s historic courthouse, first opened in 1891, is getting a $3 million to $5 million update. Some offices are migrating to other locations, and the courthouse, which currently has two courtrooms, will have a third.

But it will also have less public access. After the remodel there will be just one door available for the public to enter, and visitors will have to submit their belongings to be examined by an X-ray machine, as has become so common in judicial buildings, state capitals and even some city buildings around the country in recent years.

Construction worker dies in trench in Colorado town

GRANBY – Construction sites can be dangerous, especially in trenches. A trench collapsed at a condominium project in Granby, killing a worker. No details were available about the circumstances. Another trench cave-in claimed a life in Granby in the mid-1990s, remembers Patrick Brower, former editor of the Sky-Hi News.

One small solution to the summer housing crunch

JACKSON, Wyo. – By allowing camping behind the community recreation center, housing is provided for a dozen town or county employees in Jackson over the summer who would otherwise be driving long commutes from towns in Idaho or perhaps packing into already crowded forest campgrounds.

Those camping on the community land have to shower in the rec center and must share a portable toilet in the parking lot. But in old trailers loaned by parents or grandparents, the 90-day wonders, as the Jackson Hole News&Guide describes them, are getting by — and pleasantly so. The newspaper describes a sometimes grim situation of crowding in local Forest Service campgrounds. The towns in Idaho require a commute of up to an hour.

Palattes and talking heads as Aspen enters high season

ASPEN, Colo. – The Food & Wine Classic wrapped up last Sunday at noon with a two-hour walk-around tasting brunch in Aspen. Cost was $150. Full cost of the three-day festival was $1,700.

Food & Wine Magazine explained that the brunch was based on a year-long road trip by editors in search of America’s most exciting, important and delicious new restaurants. This tasting session revealed what they came up with.

And so Aspen has launched into its high summer season. The Aspen Ideas Festival began on Thursday, continuing for 10 days. Think of non-stop TED talks under four circus tents and you kind of have the nature of this festival devoted to talking and thinking with some of the most provocative people around.

On the final day, for example, Katie Couric will interview James Comey, whom you surely have heard about if you pay attention to U.S. politics. He is, according to President Donald Trump, part of the conspiracy out to get him.

Ticket prices range from $1,000 for students to $10,000 for patrons.

That’s just one of two festivals underway in the Aspen area this week. Another is much more centered on energy issues, in particular, and the environment more broadly.

Later in the summer, easier-to-swallow $25 admission fees will allow locals to hear about politics from a panel of Democratic governors, from nuclear physicist and former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and from the architect Frank Gehry, and Michael Eisner, who ran Disney for 21 years before moving onto other entertainment ventures. The latter two will be talking about creating space for music.

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