| SummitDaily.com

After bike accident with mountain goat, repaired Dillon local rides cross-country to raise funds to fight pediatric cancer

On his 2,500-mile bike journey across the majority of the United States, there are two things that have taken Dillon resident Len Szmurlo aback, in a good way.

The first is that humbling feeling when cresting, say, a hill along the grasslands of Texas’ panhandle. When atop a hill, with large swathes of America’s flatland in view all around, Szmurlo said you can’t help but be impressed by the ability to see for 40 to 50 miles in each direction.

“You can really see beyond what’s in front of you,” Szmurlo said. “You’re in awe as to how vast the United States really is, how much land there really is. It’s interesting to notice just how big the country can be.”

The second is what — or, rather, who — has helped Szmurlo to continue pedaling no matter what kind of conditions have been thrown his way since he embarked on his cross-country ride along the Route-66 corridor on April 27. Whether it be the pushing through the heat in the deserts of Arizona, the snow in the mountains of New Mexico or the blitzing winds in Oklahoma, Szmurlo has been inspired each morning by the shared stories of the very people he’s doing this ride for. The lifelong, avid long-distance cyclist Szmurlo is in the middle of a month-plus, cross-country bike tour from Santa Monica, California, to St. Charles, Illinois, known as “W.A.R On Wheels.” The event is an annual fundraiser for Cal’s Angels, a St. Charles-based pediatric cancer foundation.

“W.A.R.,” Szmurlo said, stands for “wishes, awareness and research.” With that, each morning of the ride, Szmurlo and the 10 other cross-country cyclists are told the stories of two to four of the pediatric cancer patients Cal’s Angels has helped. Szmurlo said it’s those stories, no matter how sore his body is or how tired his mental state is, that inspire him to push through whatever conditions he’s encountering at whatever stretch of this country he’s cycling.

“It’s very moving,” said Szmurlo, who’s worn a red, white and blue American flag-themed bike top during the tour. “It’s very touching to hear these kids who can be anywhere between several months old to young adults. And some have just recently been diagnosed with a certain form of cancer, and some of them have lost their battle and passed away. It really gives some meaning to the day’s ride. No matter how tough the day ride might be, whether riding in the rain or snow, or like last three days, some really tough winds, it’s nothing compared to what these kids and these families have gone through.”

Szmurlo has his own inspiring Summit County story behind why he chose to take part in the W.A.R. On Wheels. A retired police officer who served 30 years in Omaha, Nebraska, and who also led a Boy Scout troop for 25 years, Szmurlo found his way to Summit County nearly five years ago. Since living here, Szmurlo has continued his hobby of long-distance cycling, taking part in such events as last summer’s Ride The Rockies. As part of his routine training to take part in events like that, Szmurlo said he often rides around the county’s recpath, including one of his favorite portions, past Officers Gulch and Copper Mountain Resort, up toward Vail Pass.

It was during one trip back up Vail Pass last July when Szmurlo realized it’d been a couple of months since he noticed the mountain goats who often are in view from the bike path near Officers Gulch. On the way back down from Vail Pass, Szmurlo suffered a broken collarbone, two broken ribs and a punctured lung after a mountain goat stepped into his bike’s path while riding at about 24 miles per hour.

Too sudden to stop, Szmurlo crashed hard to the pavement and was rushed to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center. In the wake of his treatment at the local hospital, Szmurlo worked with the local Axis Sports Medicine to ultimately get back on the bike.

It was during that recovery period through the remainder of the summer of 2018, before Szmurlo was able to get back in the saddle in September 2018, when his brother mentioned that one of his friends was doing the W.A.R. On Wheels ride. Previously, Szmurlo had done many cross-state bike tours in places like Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa, but a cross-country ride of some sort was still on his bucket list. With that, Szmurlo thought the ride to benefit Cal’s Angels would be the perfect way to accomplish this life goal while also giving back to young children, a group of the community he always worked closely with during his time giving back in law enforcement and with the Boy Scouts.

After the frame of his Trek bike cracked in the Officers Gulch mountain goat accident, Szmurlo bought a new all-carbon Cannondale Synapse bike for the cross-country tour. He’s riding on it now, as of Saturday taking a day-long break in Clinton, Oklahoma, a town shy of 10,000 residents and located about two-thirds of the way between Amarillo, Texas, and Oklahoma City.

Szmurlo and the rest of the W.A.R. On Wheels tour group will approach their destination near suburban Chicago on the final day of the tour, June 2. Once there, some of the young children whom Cal’s Angels has helped — and some of the same children the riding group have been told about in their morning prayer sessions — will join for the final 50 miles of the ride. At that point, after Szmurlo has biked through the stop-and-go traffic of southern California, the dry heat of Arizona, the snow of New Mexico, and the driving winds and increased humidity of north Texas and Oklahoma — the true effect of his first ride across the country he loves dearly will set in.

“It’s going to be emotional,” Szmurlo said, “and satisfying at the same time.”

Mountain Town News: A lot of what-ifs in case of hospital switcheroo

KETCHUM, Idaho — In 2002, Thomas Johnson Jr. retired as the longtime fire chief in Ketchum. Only recently did the 77-year-old learn that he wasn’t really Thomas Johnson but instead Herbert Benjamin Reibman.

By whatever name, he was born on Dec. 7, 1941, the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed, drawing the United States headfirst into World War II. This was in a hospital in Michigan, shortly after the news arrived.

A hospital employee switched two newborn infants, and the parents never learned of the mistake. Neither did the other man, who was actually a Johnson but went through life thinking he was Herbert Reibman. He died in the 1990s.

All of this was reported by a newspaper in Challis, Idaho, and reported again by the Idaho Mountain Express. Plus, CBS Sunday Morning recorded the meeting in Phoenix of the fire chief with his biological siblings.

His biological family was of Lithuanian-Jewish and French-Canadian ancestry. As a Johnson, he went through life thinking he was Irish-American.

A logical question, left unanswered in this reporting, is whether Johnson will become Reibman?

Staff housing cosmopolitan at high-end hotel in Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C. — In addition to the Syrian family of five who arrived in Whistler in 2016, eight more refugees, from both Syria and Afghanistan, are to make their homes in Whistler.

A luxury mountain resort town is nearly another planet when compared to the war-torn Mideast, points out Pique Newsmagazine. But so far, at least on the surface, it looks like a splendid success.

Five of the eight new residents have jobs at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, where they work in housekeeping. They live in staff housing.

One of the refugees, 30-year-old Murhaf Ghaibour, spent years living in Lebanon, sometimes illegally, while awaiting resettlement. He says he likes the international makeup of the staff housing and, for that matter, the resort altogether.

Two of his roommates are from England and one from India. “So I don’t seem like a stranger,” he explained. “Everyone came from someplace else, so I don’t feel like — how to say — like I’m in special conditions. I just feel like I’m like everyone here.”

Crystals at Jackson Hole intended to aid healing

JACKSON, Wyo. — Two crystals can be found at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, an attempt to produce healing and protectiveness at the resort. They were placed there last winter indirectly because of the retirement of Jerry Blann, the long-term chief executive of the ski area.

“We named a (run) after him, Jerry’s Way, but that got me thinking: what would I want as my legacy on the mountain?” Connie Kemmerer, the resort’s co-owner, told the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

About the same time, she was introduced to Marta Barreras, a Hawaii-based feng shui master who had worked since 2015 with Rob Deslauriers. Deslauriers is a ski mountaineer of note (he has skied from the summit of Mt. Everest) and a real estate agent in Jackson Hole, a valley frequented by an uncommon number of billionaires. He also is a crystal user.

One thing led to another and ultimately a smoky quartz, a stone believed to help with letting go, was placed at Solitude Station — a two-minute ride up the gondola from the base. The larger crystal, a 3,000-pound chunk of milky white quartz mined in Brazil, was located at the base, called Teton Village. It is supposed to help relieve distress.

Kathie Chandler, who uses crystals in a holistic healing practice at Wilson, a hamlet near the ski area, tells the News&Guide that she believes she has detected a different energy in Teton Village since the crystals were placed there. “They’re intensely powerful and intensely huge.”

New electrical transmission line must go underground

KETCHUM, Idaho — Blaine County, which includes Sun Valley and Ketchum, is telling an electricity utility that it can build a redundant transmission line along the state highway leading to the resort community only if the transmission line is buried. This would add $34.5 million to the cost.

Where does that money come from? The Idaho Mountain Express identifies a number of possible sources, but even in a valley as well-heeled as Ketchum and Sun Valley, the price tag seems to be causing eyelashes to bat.

The line is needed to provide redundancy to the existing transmission, such as if a plane crashed into that existing line.

Colorado has a parallel issue about undergrounding and cost in a case near Vail. There, Holy Cross Energy, the local electrical cooperative, needs to build a new transmission line through Minturn and to a substation at Gilman, an old mining camp. Holy Cross has agreed to underground the line through much of Minturn, but the question remains of just how much. Some of the line will cross U.S. Forest Service property.

After a big fire, figuring out electrical resilience

BASALT — Brainstorming has begun in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley after a 12,500-acre fire that nearly caused Snowmass Village, portions of Aspen, and all the surrounding areas to lose electricity on the July Fourth weekend last year.

The Lake Christine Fire had taken out three transmission lines, and flames were licking up a wooden pole of the fourth and final transmission line near Basalt when firefighters arrived.

Holy Cross Energy, the primary electrical cooperative, has partnered with the Rocky Mountain Institute to explore how to make the Aspen area more resilient not just in the event of wildfire but in many situations.

Consider gas pumps, which require electricity to operate. Could dedicated solar and battery storage be used to provide backup power, allowing customers to continue to pump gas during an outage?

Microgrids represent another opportunity. They would allow each community or neighborhood to retain power independently in the case of a grid power outage. The project will likely focus on designing a pilot microgrid in a small region that already contains generating assets, such as near a solar farm. For example, a solar farm is proposed in the Woody Creek area east of Aspen, where the writer Hunter S. Thompson used to hang out.

In a post, the Rocky Mountain Institute pointed out that resilience is not just about emergency preparedness, but also should take into account a range of considerations from blue-sky to black-sky days. This core concept was reflected in many of the ideas that were developed at a workshop conducted in early April.

Many first responders and other community organizations reported having diesel or natural gas backup generators. This provides an effective and simple way of ensuring the lights stay on, but most stakeholders reported they only get used about 30 minutes in a typical year. Solar coupled with storage could be used year-round, not just for emergencies.

Another example of resiliency, according to RMI, is improved energy efficiency. Making buildings more efficient lessens the electricity needed to keep them up and running during an emergency or outage.

This was the first principle espoused by RMI founder Amory Lovins beginning after the Arab oil embargoes of the 1970s. He founded RMI in the service territory of Holy Cross Energy, at Old Snowmass. RMI offices several years ago were moved to a state-of-the-art building in Basalt. It is very, very energy efficient.

Whistler updates evacuation plans amid worries of wildfire

WHISTLER, B.C. — Temperatures soared in British Columbia last week, scuttling old records and igniting worries of sparks, cigarette butts and whatever else might start a forest fire.

In Whistler, municipal officials issued a warning that the fire danger was expected to climb to “extreme.” It was a new reminder to homeowners to move combustibles at least 10 meters away from homes and take other measures to retard wildfire, if it should occur.

The community has been working on revising its evacuation plan, not just for wildfire, although that is the most immediate concern. Since 2014, the resort community has had what the emergency planning coordinator described as a “fairly robust” plan.

But that plan did not contemplate a need for a mass evacuation. The new plan does. On a peak summer day, nearly 49,000 people would have to be evacuated, of whom 17,000 would be without cars. On peak winter days, Whistler has 53,000 people. Of them, almost 22,000 would be without cars.

Average days, the numbers sag: 33,000 would have to be evacuated, and they would have access to 12,700 vehicles.

The valley has been spliced into 29 evacuation zones, with six sites called muster points, where people could arrive and expect to be picked up by buses.

In Colorado, Pitkin County commissioners meeting in Aspen have agreed to a perpetual summer fireworks ban. The issue will have to be revisited each year, but Sheriff Joe DiSalvo seems to think that lifting the ban because there is so much moisture will be the exception. Danger is now a constant threat every summer.

“This is the new normal,” he said at a meeting covered by The Aspen Times.

A study by scientists on the West Coast has come to the same conclusion about a new normal. Their research, published in Nature Communications, found that forest fires are causing snow to melt earlier in the season, a trend across the Western U.S. that may affect water supplies and, in turn, trigger even more fires.

They found that more than 11% of all forests in the West are currently experiencing early snowmelt. The snow is melting an average five days earlier after a fire, but the accelerated timing of the snowmelt will continues for as many as 15 years.

Kelly Gleason, of Portland State University, explained that the shade provided by the tree canopy gets removed by a fire, allowing more sunshine to hit the snow. More important, the soot — also known as black carbon — and the charred wood, bark and debris left behind from a fire darkens the snow and lowers its reflectiveness, called albedo.

In the last 20 years, the amount of energy absorbed by snowpack because of fires across the West has grown four-fold.

Annoyances fester at hut high in Rocky Mountains

BANFF, Alberta — Abbot Pass Hut, a picturesque stone building that sits high in the Rocky Mountains of Banff National Park, has been a refuge for hardcore climbers since its construction in 1922. Now, it’s drawing a new category of users — hikers who see it not as a launching place but instead as a destination.

Conflicts have been brewing, representatives of the Alpine Club of Canada tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “Not everybody is there for the same reasons … so it’s better not to party,” explained Peter Hoang, of the Alpine Club. Climbers, he added, sometimes start their day at 2 a.m.

The problem seems to be sufficient that the Alpine Club has been sending people to the huts to explain, more or less, what the etiquette is.

A record price for land sale at entrance to Banff

CANMORE, Alberta — Two residential lots along the Bow River in Canmore, at the gateway to Banff National Park, recently sold for $6 million.

That’s believed to be a record for residential land in Canmore, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook. The previous high-market was $4.3 million at a site being redeveloped into townhouses and condos.

These two vacant lots have 210 feet of river-view frontage as well as unencumbered views of Mount Lady Macdonald. Of course, there are no bad views in Canmore.

Guardrails coming after 2 deaths at Inspiration Point

KREMMLING — If you want to follow the Colorado River down from its origins in Rocky Mountain National Park and are driving, you have to take a detour at the Gore Range.

The river flows through Gore Canyon, where the river drops 300 feet in just 3 miles, the steepest increment drop of the Colorado River after it leaves the national park, according to a 1968 U.S. Geological Survey report. A road was chiseled into the 1,000-foot-tall canyon walls in 1906, but there’s too little room for a road, too.

Instead, you need to get on the Trough Road, which crosses the range in relatively gentle fashion. Emerging on the west side, though, there’s an impressive view at a site called, appropriately enough, Inspiration Point.

Last winter two people died when they missed the corner and tumbled down the steep slope. In response, reports the Sky-Hi News, Grand County plans to install 730 feet of guard rail.

This Week In History: Offers to sell light plant to Breckenridge

This week in history as reported by the Summit County Journal 100 years ago.

The Tonopah Placers Company, owners of the distributing system supplying Breckenridge with electric current, have opened up negotiations with the city officials in which they offered to sell their plant for use in the proposed municipally-owned project.


Bandits operating in the heart of the business district held up Frank Buckley, federal reserve bank messenger, and robbed him of checks worth thousands of dollars and a small amount of currency. They escaped. Buckley was carrying a suitcase containing the money and checks to the clearing house.


It has been reported that the molybdenum concentrates that were stored at Climax during the past winter have been shipped to the eastern market and sold.

With the closing of the big ammunition factories, the demand for molybdenum had ceased temporarily and the Climax company was compelled to store its products.


The Denver News editor comments thusly on a certain fish handed to the news and to the journal by R.J.A. Widward for publication:

“From Breckenridge on the Blue, the deadcenter of the land of golden nuggets, big as hen’s eggs, comes a fish story, the first of the season.

‘The story goes back, as all good stories go a number of years. A prospector, a disciple of Isaak, went a long distance and secured a couple of cans of young trout which he placed in a lake he discovered. Returning last year he went to the lake to find out how his trout were getting along. Perhaps he intended to hook a few.

But he never got a chance to cast his line. In the 30 years that had gone, the trout or their progeny had become organized into a Bolsheviks colony. Things came easy for them; they were in complete control of the lake, the Summit County prospector discovered. The bourgeois pike and other fish were banished; there was nothing to do but live and grow fat.”



Advice from the headquarters of the Home Service section of the Red Cross is to the effect that soldiers returned should all now have their war bonus of $60. If this has not been received, soldiers should go to the local chapter of the Red Cross Home Service section.

The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance is a nonprofit founded to promote and protect Breckenridge’s unique heritage. The organization offers year-round guided tours and hikes. Go to BreckHeritage.com or call 970-453-9767.

Summit’s adoptable pets for the week of May 19

The following animals are available for adoption. Please contact the Summit County Animal Shelter at 970-668-3230.


PENELOPE, 2 years, domestic shorthair, gray tab, spayed female

BUTTONS, 1 year 6 months, domestic shorthair, black and white, spayed female

IRIS, 2 years, domestic shorthair, brown tabby, spayed female

MISSY, 7 years, domestic mediumhair, tortie, spayed female

BUGSBY, 6 years, domestic shorthair, black, spayed female

LARRY, 3 years, domestic longhair, orange and white, neutered male

FRANKLIN, 4 years, domestic shorthair, black and white, neutered male

MISS KITTY, 7 years, Norwegian forest cat, tortie and apricot, spayed female

CATALONIA, 7 years, domestic shorthair mix, white and gray, spayed female

MR BISCUIT, 7 years, domestic shorthair, gray tabby and black tiger, neutered male

BINX, 9 months, domestic shorthair, black, neutered male

LIBBY, 11 months, domestic shorthair, white and orange, spayed female

LILY, 11 months, domestic shorthair, white and orange, spayed female


TIGER, 2 years, American bulldog mix, brindle and white, neutered male

RUDY, 4 months, Labrador retriever mix, black, neutered male

MABEL, 4 years, Irish terrier mix, red and white, spayed female

SHANE, 1 year 1 month, Chihuahua — smooth coated, blonde, neutered male

CHANCE, 5 years, boxer mix, tan and black, neutered male

BLUE, 5 years, greyhound and Alaskan husky mix, brown, neutered male

LADY, 5 years, German shepherd dog, black and tan, spayed female

HARLEY, 3 years, pit bull terrier mix, tan and white, spayed female

NELLIE, no age, Chihuahua — smooth coated and dachshund mix, black and white, spayed female

PAM, 11 weeks, Chihuahua — smooth coated mix, black and white, spayed female

MICHAEL SCOTT, 11 weeks, Chihuahua — smooth coated mix, brown and black, neutered male

DWIGHT, 11 weeks, — smooth coated mix, black and white, neutered male

JIM, 11 weeks, Chihuahua — smooth coated mix, black and white, neutered male

OSCAR, 11 weeks, Chihuahua— smooth coated mix, black and white, neutered male

PHYLLIS, 11 weeks, Chihuahua — smooth coatted mix, black and white, spayed female

VAUGHN, 11 months, Labrador retriever mix, black and white, neutered male

VINCE, 11 months, Labrador retriever mix, chocolate, neutered male

LUCKY, 2 years, Australian shepherd mix, tan and brown, neutered male

MOOSE, 2 years, black and tan coonound mix, black and tan, unaltered male


PEEP, no age, Guinea pig, black and tan, unaltered female

JELLY BEAN, no age, Guinea pig, black, unaltered female

Steamboat’s Manic Training owner pedals across the Alaskan tundra in fat bike race

If Jack London’s character in “To Build a Fire” had a fat bike, maybe he would have survived. Manic Training gym owner Graham Muir certainly did, albeit with a bit of suffering, in his entry into the Iditarod Trail Invitational.

The fat bike race is 350 miles across Alaska on the Iditarod dog sled trail. While it offers three distances — 150, 350 and 1,000 miles — Muir chose the middle length, pedaling across the frozen finish line in four days, 16 hours.

“The race has a lot of different challenges, from the distance and sleep deprivation to minus 25 degree temperatures and miles of glazed ice to ride across,” Muir said. “There was also a lot of open water and ice bridges to navigate.”

Riders stopped at six checkpoints, two of which also were spots where racers could stash bags of food.

“The bikes are loaded with all the equipment you need to survive, including sleeping systems, expedition clothing, food, stove and more,” he said.

One setback for Muir was a flat tire suffered when it was a balmy minus 15 degrees. It took 90 bone-chilling minutes to fix. His riding partner also broke his seat clamp with just 100 miles to go. Still, from riding under the aurora borealis to experiencing the unadulterated beauty of Alaska in the winter, it was worth every crank of his iced-up pedal.

To earn a spot in the invitational, Muir competed in the Jay Ps Fat Pursuit 200-kilometer and 200-mile races in Yellowstone and joined Jay and Tracey Petervary’s five-day Fatbike Camp.

“The logistics are pretty hard,” Muir said. “It would be easier next year, but still difficult. I’m on the fence about doing it again.”

The same holds true about ever doing the longer race.

“The 1,000 is a different league entirely,” he said, adding that the winners finish in about 18 days and 30 days is the cutoff. “It would have to be the right circumstances. Work wise and financially, it’s definitely an expedition-like undertaking.”

Photos: Frisco’s remodeled skate park

Skateboarders ride on the lunar-like concrete landscape that fills 28,000 square feet, surrounded by the natural high-alpine terrain at the Frisco Adventure Park. The new skate park design now features jumps, bumps, bowl pockets and endless, continuous-route options. The skate park remodel and boulder garden grand opening party will be on June 4 at 4:30 p.m.

Opinion | Lark Ascending: Escape to Wine Country

It’s 5 o’clock at the Palisade Café. The chef called in an hour earlier with news of a broken tooth — he won’t be showing up to oversee tonight’s wine tasting dinner.

That, and about half a dozen other emergencies have owner John Sabal in high gear as he manages tonight’s shift in course at the busy and, at times, chaotic creative enterprise that is his restaurant: the Palisade Café. John thrives on the energy of improvisation, and is in excellent spirits as guests begin to arrive for the dinner.

“I guess I’ll be working the kitchen tonight, too,” he laughs. Which is not the crisis that it may seem, as John was once general manager at the Keystone Ranch Resort before moving west to Palisade, Colorado’s wine country.

Arriving from cold, grey Summit County into full-blown springtime in the Grand Valley, Alan and I are in a happy daze. Stunned, actually, by the nearly psychedelic green of peach and apricot orchards beginning to leaf out, grape vines shooting out tendrils in the vineyards. As far as we are concerned, it will all be fine.

A few minutes later, I see our friends Don and Suzana, who’ve also come over from Summit, parking their car across the way. They shed their heavy winter coats, and wander across the quiet Main Street toward the café, taking in the quaint, slightly scruffy, downtown with bemused expressions.

It is a good time of year to get out of Summit County and go west. The water is rushing impressively now through Shoshone and down into Glenwood Canyon. In Palisade, it’s warm and light, and the steep slopes of Mount Garfield are an uncharacteristically plush, grassy green because of the wet spring. Tractors and other big farming vehicles share the road as you come into town, and everything just slows down to a dreamy pastoral pace.

I am ready for a glass of wine.

I look around for Joe Buckel, the winemaker.

Joe has recently started his own label, Buckel Family Wine, which is an exciting development for those who know him and have followed his winemaking progress. Joe’s career began in Sonoma 15 years ago with the esteemed wineries BR Cohn and Flowers. Ten years ago he attracted the attention of the New York restaurateur John Sutcliffe who had a small winery and several vineyards in Canyon of the Ancients, Cortez. By the time Joe moved on from Sutcliffe Vineyards to start his own label, he had created for Sutcliffe not only wines that are now sold in most Colorado liquor stores, but also blends that are served under private labels at several resorts, including the Telluride Resort restaurants — all produced with grapes grown in Colorado.

As I angle for a preview of the first wine, a Cinsault, I talk to Joe about how different it feels to be here in this casual setting compared to some of the wine dinners Alan and I have attended in Summit County or over in Vail. There is an easy-going enthusiasm in the air, which contrasts with more stiff, formal dinners we’ve been to where everyone wants to come across as an expert and guests are surreptitiously analyzing the quality and price of each selection with the “Vivino” app on their phone.

Joe responds: “I think the difference really comes down to who is conducting the tasting or dinner. Distributors or importers need to impress and have a certain ‘air.’ But if it is the winemaker or someone in production or the owner of the company, you tend to have a more loose experience — more fun and down to earth.”

The enjoyment amplified when the food and wine all come from Colorado. “It gives everyone more of a connection,” Joe says. “You have a sense of place. People don’t feel ‘far away’, removed from the source of the experience. And that familiarity brings everyone into the fold and makes us all feel more like we are with our own people, we are ‘insiders.’”

Maybe that is what makes it feel so special. I think most of us, even if we are strangers, feel as if we are with “our own people” this evening: people who are maybe a little less interested in formality and more excited about enjoying John’s and Joe’s collaborative effort to bring food and wine together. If the pairing works, food and wine don’t just go with each other; each brings out the best in the other. And that is a magical thing to experience.

As the evening comes to an end, Alan and I follow Joe to his car where his trunk is packed with cases of the wines we sampled that evening. We buy several bottles of our favorites. I particularly like “Flyer,” a smoothly calibrated red blend. Throughout the evening, the wine has flowed freely and now I am laughing and talking too much and buy several more bottles than I intended to.

One week after the dinner I am home in Breckenridge. As I look out the window, it is snowing again. What more tempting moment could there be for another escape to Wine Country?

Christina Holbrook lives in Breckenridge. She is the author, with photographer Marc Hoberman, of Winelands of Colorado.

Summit County will see mud season extend into another week, with snow and rain expected into next week

It’s the mud season that never ends. After plentiful snow this winter, above-average precipitation continues to fall in the High Country in the form of mixed sleet, snow and rain. Those of us waiting for sustained sunniness will, unfortunately, have to wait another week.

Saturday saw snow showers intermittently throughout the day, dampening the mountain mood but not the spirits of volunteers who showed up to clean up their neighborhoods during the county’s annual cleanup day. Visibility on highways Sunday night should be clear but it will be cold, with temperatures forecast to bottom out at 25 degrees.

Sunday is expected to be a bit drier, but still mostly cloudy and chilly with a high of 49 degrees. Thunderstorms are possible. There is an even chance of snow showers through the day and evening, with little to no snow accumulation likely. Sunday night will also see lows below freezing.

Monday will be a slog. The day is likely to have sustained periods of snow and sleet through the afternoon and evening, with highway travel possibly becoming hazardous. Strong winds are also expected.

As with any weather forecast in Colorado, beyond the next few days things are much more uncertain. The National Weather Service predicts a chance of snow showers Tuesday and throughout the rest of the week, with a glimmer of hope that at least a day or two should be sunny and clear.

The above-average precipitation is in line with the Climate Prediction Center’s forecast of above-average precipitation for the region for the next month. The precipitation has obliterated drought in Colorado, with no drought conditions left in the state and only 10% of the state experiencing “abnormally dry” conditions.

As much as the lingering muck is ruining camping and hiking plans up in the mountains, it is a far cry from the danger other Americans are facing. Up to 80 million people from the Great Lakes to Texas are currently under severe weather warnings as summer approaches.

It is peak tornado season in tornado alley, with several homes destroyed by a twister southwest of Oklahoma City on Saturday morning. Widespread damage was also reported in Abilene, Texas, after a tornado touched down in the middle of a residential neighborhood there.

While the sustained precipitation across the country has been a blessing for the drought-stricken region, it has also created massive amounts of flooding throughout the Great Plains. Iowa is expected to experience flooding again, mere weeks after historic flooding breached flood barriers, submerged entire farms and left people stranded for days or even weeks.

So while the moisture in Summit hasn’t been enjoyable, it is certainly better than another dry alternative, or the kind of extreme weather our neighbors are facing. The conditions have allowed Arapahoe Basin Ski Area to stay open an extra weekend, to June 9, with additional weekends possible if conditions continue to be favorable. Breckenridge is still slated to close on May 27, accumulating 440 inches through the winter — the third best winter in the resort’s history.

For another week, at least, skis are a safer bet for use than golf clubs.

Frisco Concert in the Park series starts Thursday, June 20

Frisco’s free Concert in the Park series kicks off Thursday, June 20. The series will take place at the Frisco Historic Park and will run for nine Thursdays through Aug. 22. The series will feature musical genres ranging from bluegrass to funk and country to jazz. Each week a different local nonprofit will sell refreshments to raise funds in support of their efforts in Summit County. Concerts start at 5:30 p.m. each Thursday and are free to the public. Guests are invited to bring lawn chairs and well-behaved and leashed pets to join in on the best family-friendly happy hour in Summit County.

“It wouldn’t be summer in Frisco without this locals’ favorite, the Concert in the Park Series,” said Nora Gilbertson, events manager for the town of Frisco. “Nine great bands will take the stage at Frisco’s picturesque Historic Park with beverage proceeds benefiting nine different local nonprofits throughout the course of the summer. This is a great way to kick off your weekend and celebrate summer!”

For more information on this summer’s lineup and benefiting nonprofits, visit the TownOfFriscoEvents.com or call 800-424-1554.

Letters| Advocating for wilderness: Please no chain saws

Advocating for wilderness: Please no chain saws

The U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Regional forester, Brian Ferebee, recently approved the use of chain saws between June 1 and Aug. 17, 2019, to clear beetle-killed trees obstructing access to the Weminuche and South San Juan wilderness areas. This requires invoking an exception to the use of mechanized devices in the wilderness. Clearly intended to bridge the ongoing tension between preserving the sanctity of wilderness and promoting responsible recreational use of wilderness, this decision affects not only the Weminuche and South San Juan Wilderness areas, but all wilderness areas throughout the country. As a Friends of Eagles Nest Wilderness board member, I am greatly concerned about this decision. I think this decision is a wake-up call for the USFS and an opportunity for wilderness volunteers and donors to step forward to help.

Rather than invoking an exception to the wilderness regulations, which may save a few person work-hours, alternatively, USFS crosscut-saw specialists and trained volunteers could band together in the foregoing wilderness and solve the problem without infringing on regulations to preserve wilderness. In 2009, following a huge blowdown in Eagles Nest Wilderness on over 700 acres involving the Gore Range and parts of the Salmon Lake trails, a small team of volunteers stepped forward with crosscut and smaller hand saws to remove several thousand trees that had obstructed hiking trails. It can be done.

Let’s preserve the solitude and sanctity of our wilderness by having professional and amateur wilderness stewards take mutual responsibility to mitigate and remedy the problem of trees obstructing hiking trails. We can do this with hand saws without invoking an exception to regulations regarding use of mechanized devices in wilderness. And let’s reserve such exceptions for real emergencies, such as disastrous wildfire mitigation or life-threatening situations.

Frank D. Gutmann

FENW Board member and USFS certified crosscut sawyer