Mountain Town News: Less smoke in summer, but more in spring and fall? |

Mountain Town News: Less smoke in summer, but more in spring and fall?

BEND, Ore. — It’s still smoke season across large swathes of the West. In the future, smoke season might extend into the spring and fall, at least in central Oregon.

The Bend Bulletin reports that residents at recent hearings broadly supported loosening restrictions applying to smoke coming from controlled burns.

Controlled burns typically occur in spring and fall. More controlled burns could mean fewer wildfires — and hence less smoke — during summer and early fall.

Minimum wages rise for very simple reason

ASPEN — The Aspen Skiing Co. will be paying a minimum wage of $13.50 this coming winter, plus another $1 an hour if employees stay the season. The old minimum wage was $12.

“There just aren’t that many employees out there,” says Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz.

The wage increase is to be covered by $40 million cash savings.

In addition, employees get ski passes, health insurance, and deep retail discounts.

Colorado’s minimum wage is $10.50, but in many parts of Colorado the de facto minimum wage is higher. Vail Resorts two seasons ago raised its minimum wage from $11 to $12.25 an hour.

Mountain town continues conversations about bags

JACKSON, Wyo. — Kroger, by far the largest grocery store retailer in the United States, last week announced its plans to discontinue the distribution of free plastic shopping bags by 2025. In some places, such as Colorado, the end of plastic bags could come sooner, a spokesman told The Denver Post.

In Colorado, Kroger has 143 food stores, operating under the name of City Market in mountain towns and, along the Front Range, King Soopers. In Utah, it has 51 food stores under a variety of names, including Smith’s. In Idaho, it has 15 stores, and in Wyoming, 9 stores.

Jackson aims to be Wyoming’s first town to move away from the proliferation of throw-away shopping bags. To that end, it has been holding workshops with the business community.

“We don’t want to harm businesses. We don’t want to harm consumers,” said Mike Yin, a community member who helped shape the proposed law. “But we do want to change behavior.”

The shift from plastic freebies to alternatives had been proposed to occur on July 1, 2019. But that’s the busiest time of year for Jackson. Plus, many businesses may already have stocks of plastic bags which won’t be exhausted by then, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Then there’s the debate about paper vs. plastic. Though paper decomposes faster than plastic, according to Johnny Ziem, interim director of public works, creating paper bags requires three times the energy.

In Colorado, eight towns and cities have ordinances limiting plastic bags. All but one, Boulder, is a mountain town. In Utah, only Park City has banned the bag, according to a website called In New Mexico, both Santa Fe and Silver City have bag bans.

Neither Idaho nor Montana have bag bans.

Sometimes, they’re right about seeing more grizzly

WHISTLER, B.C. — Hikers on local rails around Whistler have been reporting more sightings of grizzly bears. Sometimes, they’re right.

A 2012 population estimate identified 59 bears in the region. But biologists believe the population has increased somewhat. The number of backcountry users has also increased.

Wildlife biologists tell Pique Newsmagazine that it’s easy to mistake a black bear for a grizzly bear.

“Color doesn’t help you necessarily at all,” said Johnny Mikes, field director of the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative. “You can have brown black bears, (and) you can have grizzly bears that are very dark, especially when they’re wet,” he said.

Size, too, can be problematic. Full-grown male black bears can be larger than a small female grizzly, he said.

Mikes said he sometimes can’t tell the difference. “I’ve seen scores and scores of grizzlies, and I’ve had instances where … I haven’t been able to identify them,” he said.

The most telling characteristics of grizzly bears are prominent shoulder humps, long claws, and dished, concave faces.

Neither species is normally aggressive, but grizzly bears can be more aggressive than black bears in protecting their young and food sources.

A softening of the market of foreign visitors to Vail

VAIL — The Vail Daily reports the Vail municipal government forecasts only modest growth during 2019. Part of the story seems to be the softening foreign market.

Vail has long had a strong visitation from foreign countries, particularly Mexico and in recent years from Brazil, too. But there’s been a faltering.

Part of it is the exchange rate. The Mexican peso has lost almost half its value against the dollar since 2008. The euro has lost a third. That makes visits to Canada more attractive.

Of course, there are people for whom money is no object. But Tom Foley, of Inntopia, said the fierce competition is among those who have money, but not so much that cost is irrelevant.

Then there is the Trump factor. Ralf Garrison, a travel consultant, says that the politics of the Trump election have also played a role in more Latin Americans traveling to Canada instead of the United States.

Connecting the carbon dots of mountain resort towns

CRESTED BUTTE — Mountain towns pride themselves as being non-cities, places where nature, and not the built environment, dazzles at every turn.

The environmental footprint of mountain town residents, however, is just as big, if not even bigger, than their city cousins. If not everybody understands this, Crested Butte’s Mark Reaman does.

“As green as we like to believe we are, we choose to live in a harsh winter environment that depends primarily on fossil fuels to stay warm, run the ski lifts and get people and food here. None of that is helpful to the environment or the long-term future of the planet,” Reaman wrote in a July op-ed edition of the Crested Butte News, which he edits.

“But we are human and we all (myself included) want the freedom of our cars, warmth in the winter, food on the table, the lifts to run and the tourists to come and spend their money so we can live here.”

Can Crested Butte more effectively put its words into action? Reaman noted two disjointed but related items on the town council agenda. First was a study of greenhouse gas emissions triggered by the town and its resort economy’s demand for goods and services. Later was a discussion about adding refrigeration to the big outdoor ice rink on the outskirts of the downtown area.

“As a hockey parent, I like the idea of consistent ice, by the way. But to discuss ways to cut electricity use in Crested Butte and two minutes later talk about refrigeration without at least noting some of the irony was a missed opportunity,” he wrote.

“Crested Butte won’t save the world by banning cars or not allowing refrigerated ice. But every little bit helps,” he adds.

The baseline inventory shows that electrical generation was responsible for 48 percent of the community’s carbon dioxide emissions. Much of the demand was caused by buildings. A recent report to city officials points the finger toward improved building designs, to enhance efficiency.

Confederate leader’s name on highway

quietly excised

LORDSBURG, N.M — It’s been 153 years since Appomattox, the official end of the Civil War. We’re still tidying up the history, as is evident in a story out of New Mexico.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that state highway officials have removed the last of the highway markers along Interstate 10 that honored Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy.

This all began in about 1910 and 1920 when people were getting cars and starting to use them. In turn, adventurers began linking together local roads into what they called highways. The Lincoln Highway —mostly dirt paths until after World War I — eventually became what is today I-80.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy had in mind something similar, with a transcontinental highway from Virginia to California traversing the southern states.

Davis’ name has become part of the landscape across the South and, for a time, even in New Mexico, says the New Mexican. But New Mexico has tended to celebrate the Union’s leaders.

But during the Civil War, it was also site of a significant battle. Confederate forces from Texas sought to make New Mexico a part of the confederacy. There is also some conjecture that they hoped to wrestle control of the new gold fields around Breckenridge and other mining camps for the Confederate treasury.

The Confederate soldiers were scuttled in the Battle of La Glorieta Pass, near Santa Fe, by a militia that had journeyed south from Denver and was aided by Union loyalists in the Santa Fe area.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation said the Jefferson Davis Highway designation was never official. In fact, the same stretches of interstate are known as the Purple Heart Memorial Highway.

Critics, notes the New Mexican, have argued such memorials are part of an effort to recast the story of the Civil War and downplay the role of Confederate leaders in maintaining the institution of slavery.

Commercial jets fly into Telluride’s

airport again

TELLURIDE — Several years ago, the federal government provided much of the $50-million plus needed to make the mesa-top airport just outside Telluride a little more usable. It is being used, if mostly by private jets.

Still, there has been some commercial service. The latest operator is Boutique Air, an affiliate of United Airlines, which began twice-daily service to Denver this week.

This allows the airport to make the claim of being the highest in the United States with scheduled commercial service. The elevation is 9,078 feet.

The Telluride Daily Planet says that about 3 percent of the resort’s visitors arrive via the small, expensive and very local airport. The vast majority who fly arrive via the airport at Montrose, about an hour away by mostly two-lane highways.

Visiting cop gets off for pulling gun on teenager

JACKSON, Wyo. — A law officer vacationing in Jackson Hole will not be prosecuted for pulling a gun and detaining an innocent teenager.

The special prosecutor ruled that the police officer from Colorado will not be prosecuted because she “lacked criminal intent or evil mind” when she heard a loud noise, saw an open window in a house, and assumed a teenager who was running had committed a felony. The teenager was in fact running to catch a bus.

Witnesses said she ordered the teenager to the ground in a prone position and threatened to shoot.

The Jackson police chief said that the visiting cop had crossed the line, as she had no authority in his jurisdiction.

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