Mountain Town News: Ski town reactions to the presidential inauguration |

Mountain Town News: Ski town reactions to the presidential inauguration

Allen Best
Mountain Town News

Wieners in Steamboat among Trump protests

PARK CITY, Utah — Women and their male supporters took to the streets in many ski towns on Saturday, Jan. 21, in response to the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

In Aspen they skied from the top of the gondola at 11,320 feet back to the town. There’s a trail on Aspen Mountain called Pussyfoot that many people think should have been the route down the mountain. Once in Aspen, 500 to 800 people marched, the most in the city’s modern history, the Aspen Daily News reported.

In Park City, the Sundance Film Festival was underway, helping yield 5,000 to 7,000 marchers on the town’s steep main street. That may have been the most of any ski town unless you count Santa Fe, which has a ski area nearby. New Mexico’s capital city had 10,000 to 15,000 marchers.

But the march in Steamboat Springs may have had the most amusing antic. The Steamboat Pilot reports that Andrea Wambach stood outside a restaurant called the Hungry Dog and passed out free hot dogs while holding a sign that read “Grab him by the wiener.”

It was a reference to the 2005 recording of Trump in which he talked about “grabbing women by their genitals,” as the Pilot delicately put it.

On the California-Nevada border, more than 500 people marched in South Lake Tahoe even as forecasters warned of another major storm.

In Wyoming, Jackson had about 1,000 marchers, while across the Teton Range in Idaho, Driggs had a march, too. So did Sandpoint, at the foot of Schweitzer Mountain, in Idaho’s panhandle.

On the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as the U.S. president, the mood in the Colorado town of Durango was mixed. About 100 people gathered at the Elk’s Club to toast the installation of the new president. But at coffee shops and cafés on the city’s main street, TVs were studiously turned to other channels, reported the Durango Herald. Later, students from Fort Lewis College joined locals in an impromptu march.

The marches were billed as rallies for causes, not a protest against Trump. But in Park City, marchers were clearly dismayed by Trump’s ascension. “Some mocked him, and there were moments of crassness as they advertised their disgust with the president,” reported The Park Record. “At least one woman was dressed in a vagina costume.”

Syrian family settling into the ski town life

WHISTLER, B.C. — A family of Syrian refugees taken in by Whistler is coming to terms with its new surroundings.

“Not all of it is good, and not all of it is bad. It’s a change, and it’s a challenge for us, but I know we can survive this,” said Bassam Alshami, who is 32 and the eldest son in the family.

He told Whistler’s Pique that the pipes in the house that is to be their home for the first year had broken. Neighbors sprang into action to get the water flowing again.

“When you look at these people, all of them tried to get us some water,” Bassam said. “They are your people, they are not strangers here. It is a good feeling, no?”

The family fled Syria soon after civil war broke out in 2012. That was just 15 days after a brother had opened his own hair salon. They then spent several years in Lebanon.

A church-led group in Whistler raised $50,000 to cover living costs for the family. Two of the family members now have jobs at hotels and elsewhere while they attempt to improve their skills in English.

They say they intend to stay in Canada even if peace returns to Syria. As for skiing — no, it looks dangerous, said Alshami.

Canada (lynx) born, lived, and died in Colorado

DURANGO, Calif. — In the early 1990s, the absence of Canada lynx started to become a major issue in Colorado. Vail, the ski company, wanted to expand ski terrain on its signature mountain in an area bureaucratically called Category 3, usually shortened to Cat 3.

You may now know that area as Blue Sky Basin, a giant trove of landscape far from any highway.

By the 1990s, there was scant, if any, evidence of lynx in Colorado. If once tolerably common, to cite one report from early in the 20th century, the last clear evidence of lynx was in 1973, when a trapper killed one near Vail.

Why had lynx disappeared from Colorado? The ski industry said that trappers killed lynx. Environmentalists argued back that it was habitat loss. Vail Associates, as the company was then known, offered to underwrite a reintroduction. That reintroduction occurred in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado starting in 1999. More than 200 lynx from British Columbia and Alaska were released.

Lynx have been seen occasionally at ski areas, but perhaps never so brazenly as occurred early in January at Purgatory, a ski area located north of Durango. The lynx just calmly walked across a ski run in the middle of the day, as if it was just one of the gang. The video was seen by a million people.

But the lynx was desperate. The body was found later. It had a tumor in its neck that prevented it from eating. That’s what drove it to the ski trail.

A chip found in the body revealed that the cat been born in the Bear Creek area near Telluride in 2005. The lynx’s mother was one of the original lynx reintroduced to Colorado beginning in the late 1990s.

Biologists say they’re still not sure how many lynx are in Colorado.

The first lynx were outfitted with radio-collars, to track their every movement. That technology enabled biologists to determine that lynx had wandered as far as Iowa. But as lynx have reproduced, the tracking is more difficult.

Still somewhat unresolved is how compatible ski areas — and backcountry recreation — are with lynx. The argument was that hardened surfaces — whether from snowboards or from snowmobiles or even backcountry ski trails — provide a relatively strong platform that allows coyotes and bobcats to reach areas of deep snow. That allows them to compete with lynx in trying to kill snowshoe hare. Lynx otherwise have a natural advantage in the form of larger paws that allow them to more readily stay afloat in soft snow.

Eric Odell, species conservation coordinator, doesn’t necessarily buy these arguments. Ski areas don’t necessarily provide a whole lot of habitat. “Generally, as long as there is forest cover and good prey, lynx seem to be at least somewhat tolerant of recreational activities,” he says.

Aspen gears up for EVs, plans a climate summit

ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen city officials hope to get a chunk of money from the Volkswagen fraud case to pay for public fast-charging stations for electric cars.

The number of electric cars in Aspen remains miniscule, but a newly formed team of city staff members expect adoption to accelerate. Since April 2015, the city’s parking garage has had a fast-charging station, able to refuel a car in 30 to 60 minutes. Last year, use of the charging station nearly tripled.

With blessings of elected officials, city staff members will seek grants for installation of new charging stations. A portion of Colorado’s $61 million share in the settlement resulting from the Volkswagen emissions fraud is earmarked for electric vehicles.

The fast charging station can cost $25,000 minimum, and probably higher. Slower-charging stations cost less.

While sales of electric vehicles grew 30 percent last year, they remained just 1.13 percent of all new passenger vehicles in the United States. But new lower-cost models with longer range may boost sales.

A report in October called “Sustaining Electrical Vehicle Market Growth in U.S. Cities” said that public-charging infrastructure remains a key barrier to electric vehicle sales in many areas.

“Public charging infrastructure expanded 50 percent from 2014 to 2015,” the report, which was prepared by the International Council on Clean Transportation, said. “In particular, expansive networks in northern California and isolated areas elsewhere such as Portland, Austin, and Nashville are linked with higher electric vehicle sales.”

Aspen is also looking to stimulate demand for chargers through a “group purchase program” this spring where anyone from the public can participate in a bulk order of electric vehicles at a discounted price. A similar program in Boulder resulted in 248 new electric vehicles for area residents.

Among ski towns, Aspen has been particularly active in trying to decarbonize its economy. It adopted a climate change program in 2005 called the Canary Initiative that specifies ambitious goals. It has lagged the pace envisioned in 2005 but has scored notable triumphs. One major gain was the success of the city’s electrical utility, which serves roughly two-thirds of the city, in buying enough renewable energy, primarily wind and hydro, to claim 100 percent carbon-free energy.

But the local economy continues to be heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

The 2014 Aspen Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory found that transportation was responsible for 32 percent of Aspen’s greenhouse gas emissions. Vehicles alone were responsible for 20 percent, with the balance from airport operations, including jet travel. Aspen Electric in 2015 achieved a break-through of 100 percent renewables, mostly wind and hydro. The city-owned utility delivers about two-thirds of the electricity consumed by the town.

When it started the Canary Initiative, Aspen hosted a conference to drill down into the issue. Mayor Steve Skadron and other city officials are planning another major summit, to be held May 18-19.

Skadron told The Aspen Times that the idea for the summit is “shamelessly copied” from a similar forum held in conjunction with the global climate change meeting held in Paris in December 2015 — the Climate Summit for Local Leaders, included such hosts as Michael Bloomberg. Skadron says he hopes to have some “heavy hitters” at the event, even mentioning Ivanka Trump, who is a ski-season visitor to Aspen.

Among the goals for the conference: Gain support for carbon-fee-and-dividend legislation.

Skadron said he is confident that the event can be accomplished with little or no taxpayer money.

Cannabis amnesty boxes in Aspen can get odorous

ASPEN, Colo. — In 2014, soon after sale of cannabis for recreational purposes became legal in Colorado, an amnesty box was set up at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. Now there are three, reports The Aspen Times, and they’re getting used.

Cannabis remains illegal in most other states, of course. During busy times, the boxes need to be emptied every couple of weeks. More commonly, it’s every month or two.

Sometimes, the pot itself can be extremely odorous. Other times, it can be the trash people put into the boxes, like baby diapers, that makes them stink.

Sheriff’s officials say they are surprised by some of the large amounts and unopened containers left behind. They say they believe tourists often over-purchase products, including edibles, when they visit Aspen’s marijuana stores.

Pineapple Express has a California valley very wet

BISHOP, Calif. — The unrelenting rain and snow storms of the Pineapple Express have put the Owens Valley on track to outstrip the wettest year on record. That was 1982-83.

The Owens Valley is located on the east, or dry side of the Sierra Nevada, near Mammoth Mountain.

As of Jan. 11, reports the Inyo Register, snow courses in the Owens Valley came in at 261 percent of normal. The Register notes that much of this happened in just the first week of January, when 19.4 inches of water — not just snow, but water — fell on the snow courses.

In some places, more than a year’s worth of “average” rain has already fallen in Owens Valley towns. This compares with the winter of 2014-15, when the snowpack never contained much more than 5 inches of precipitation.

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