This is the first part in a two-part series about the effects of legalized marijuana on children and law enforcement agencies.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo hugged Silverpeak Apothecary owner Jordan Lewis just before the store made its first recreational marijuana sale March 5.
“I’m glad you’re doing this,” DiSalvo told him. “This is a big deal for all of us. You’re doing this the right way — this is the model.”
It was a sight that might not have seemed unusual in Aspen. Still, it was a bit of a head-scratcher: A sheriff hugging a pot shop owner — you don’t see that every day.
Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws, which were written, rewritten and revised throughout 2013, took effect Jan. 1 of this year. Since then, law enforcement agencies around the state have been adjusting to the times, with many police chiefs and sheriffs reacting with less enthusiasm or optimism than DiSalvo has.
But DiSalvo feels he has no reason to respond any other way. The first two Pitkin County dispensaries to open for recreational sales — Stash and the Silverpeak Apothecary, both on March 5 — acted responsibly throughout the entire application process, DiSalvo said.
“I think they waited to do it right and I think that’s a big part of why I feel a little more comfortable,” he said. “I just want it to be done right.”
A right to weed
“Nobody wakes up at 9 a.m. to buy weed.”
That’s what Bryan Welker, of Carbondale, said after becoming the first person to buy legal recreational marijuana in Pitkin County March 5. It was 9:30 a.m. and Stash, located in the Aspen Business Center in unincorporated Pitkin County, had been open for recreational sales for 30 minutes. Only a handful of customers had walked through the doors by mid-morning, though.
Welker handles marketing for the business and arrived that morning to snap a few pictures. When he saw no one in line, he immediately realized he had the opportunity to become a part of Pitkin County history.
“So, I took that opportunity,” he said with a smile.
It was an exciting time for the store’s owners and employees. The guy checking IDs in the foyer area struggled to get his ID swipe machine to work, but other than that it was smooth sailing. Customers, most of whom did not look like stereotypical potheads, trickled through the doors all morning to buy marijuana.
A couple in their 60s came in dressed in designer ski gear, including a Descente jacket and a Gucci belt. They curiously looked at the display cases and quickly asked a staff member for help choosing the right marijuana products to smoke through an electronic smoking device.
The Texas couple has a second home in Aspen and wanted to stock up before skiing Aspen Mountain for the day. They didn’t want their names published, because “you never know who, of your friends up here, would be totally against this,” the woman said softly in a Southern accent.
Her husband said they hadn’t tried marijuana in 35 years and wanted to experiment again. They chose the electronic device because they don’t like the smell of weed or the idea that it might coat their clothing or furniture when smoked.
Weed on the brain
An Aspen mother of two, Jenn, came in around 9:45 a.m. after dropping her kids off at ski school for the day. The 40-something mom, who didn’t want her last name published, said she used to protest for marijuana legalization 20 years ago while attending college in Northern California. She made her purchase and was thrilled to finally exercise her right, she said.
While her children are not old enough yet, Jenn said that she’ll someday be the one to educate them about substances like alcohol and marijuana. She admits she feels more guarded about legal marijuana than others might because she’s a mother. She questions whether the legal purchase age of 21 is too young since research shows that brains are still developing at up to 25 years old.
That’s a point that DiSalvo and the Valley Marijuana Council, a group organized by DiSalvo and including community and business leaders, want to drive home. The group has worked to promote marijuana education for children in the Roaring Fork Valley as legal recreational marijuana integrates into the community.
“The main message is, ‘It’s not for (children) — delay, delay, delay; put this off as long as you can,’” DiSalvo said. “If you can make it past 21, you’ve done yourself a big favor. … This is not a product for children. We have to keep hammering that home like we do with alcohol, driving, coffee — all the things we don’t want kids to do when they’re developing.”
Early marijuana use points to severe cognitive consequences, according to a study by University of Wisconsin researchers on the impacts of alcohol and marijuana on the young brain.
“Converging lines of evidence suggest that regular use of marijuana, starting before 18, is associated with increased deficits in poorer attention, visual search, reduced overall or verbal IQ, and executive functioning,” the report states.
Colorado Teen Weed Brain is another group that formed in the Roaring Fork Valley to tackle this very subject. The group hosts educational forums to spread the word to parents and children in the community that marijuana, although legal, is not OK for kids. The group’s next meeting features a panel of medical and industry professionals on April 17 at Carbondale Middle School.
Roaring Fork School District spokeswoman Sheryl Barto said school principals have been reporting increased use and availability of marijuana since the legalization of recreational marijuana.
“Much of this is what students are reporting and what adults are observing; we haven’t yet seen statistical confirmation,” she said. “It will be interesting to see if we find spikes when we do our annual health surveys.”
School district officials had tried to examine discipline data over the past few years to determine whether there were changes in disciplinary action since medical marijuana was legalized, but data samples were too small, she said.
The 2011 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, a risk behavior survey of middle and high school students in Colorado done every two years, shows that marijuana use had not increased among high school students since medical marijuana became legal. Results from the 2013 survey are not yet available.
Pot legalization is running pretty smoothly in Breckenridge, Police Chief Shannon Haynes said. Although there hasn’t been an increase in marijuana-related issues since recreational shops opened in town at the beginning of the year, she said she still has concerns about local children and teenagers.
Still illegal for children
“That’s my only fear, I think, in this whole big picture,” Haynes said. “Sometimes we lose sight of the education piece that is so important for our youth. Because of the medical piece and being around that for a couple of years, I think our youth start to think of this as not an intoxicating substance like alcohol. We have to work hard to ensure we’re education our young people about the risk.”
Haynes said that’s happening in Summit County — that schools, social services and nonprofits are partnering to spread the message. She’s encouraged by results in the community, too. Between the start of ski season and the end of December, she said Breckenridge issued 15 tickets to minors openly consuming marijuana.
“But it’s dropped off drastically since Jan. 1,” she said.
The Eagle River Youth Coalition, a nonprofit in Eagle County that works with schools and youths throughout the region on reducing substance abuse, has multiple efforts underway to prevent marijuana use.
A program in its pilot stage at Berry Creek Middle School, called Project Alert, was so successful last fall that it will be growing this year, Michelle Hartel Stecher, the coalition’s executive director, said.
For high schools, a similar program, called Project Towards No Drug Abuse, is also successfully underway. Both programs teach students about drugs during health classes at school.
There are no recreational marijuana stores open yet in Eagle County, but the coalition is already well prepared for challenges relating to the new industry.
“The biggest shift we’re seeing is that kids are reporting that marijuana is less harmful,” Hartel Stecher said. “When less harm is perceived, typically kids will start doing that behavior more. … Another shift we’re seeing is that they’re reporting it’s easier to get, so that’s concerning for us.”
In Eagle County, surveys show that kids report that “someone gave it to me” as the most common way they access marijuana, she said.
The news has prompted new programs for parents, such as parent-education workshops that teach parents how to handle conversations about drugs with their teenage children. The next program is six sessions, spread over six weeks, beginning April 7.
In the Eagle County School District, which also works closely with the Eagle River Youth Coalition, lessons about drugs focus on the consequences of drug use so students can make the right decisions, spokesman Dan Dougherty said. Instruction has also adapted with the times as educators see new issues to be concerned about.
“The legalization of marijuana has elevated the sophistication of the drug culture — vapor cigarettes can be adapted for marijuana, prescription inhalers, the odor is being reduced and/or eliminated to make it harder to detect — so our instruction is responding to include these new techniques,” Dougherty said. “This has a two-fold effect: It conveys that we know what is going on (and how to catch wrongdoing) and warns them of what to be leery of.”
Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson likes the community collaboration he’s seeing in response to legalized marijuana, but he’s not so sure the true effects of legalized marijuana will be known for some time. When medical marijuana was legalized, he was pleasantly surprised that his department saw a lot less trouble with it than anticipated. He said there was, however, “a proliferation of 16-year-olds showing up at high school smoked out of their gourds.”
“I truly don’t believe we’re going to understand the consequences for 10 to 20 years,” he said. “Are we going to raise a generation of people less developed and less productive because of allowances we’re making? The answer scares me.”
Tomorrow’s installment looks at the law enforcement side of legalized marijuana.
Lauren Glendenning is the editorial projects manager for Colorado Mountain News Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 777-3125.
Sebastian Foltz / email@example.com | Summit Daily News
While the top snowboarders in the world wrapped up competition at the Burton U.S. Open in Vail Saturday, freeskiers and snowboarders ranging in age from under 10 to over 50 took to the slopestyle course at Copper Mountain Resort for the final Rocky Mountain Series regional qualifier for the U.S.A. Snowboard and Freeski Association Nationals later this month, also at Copper.
“The competition today was awesome,” Rocky Mountain Series director Paul Krahulec said.
A reported 10 inches of fresh snow fell at Copper in the 24 hours prior to the event, but the skies cleared in time to give the athletes a bluebird day. Still, the new snow presented a tall order for the crews who set up the course.
“Conditions were challenging,” Krahulec said. “The park crew did an amazing job.”
Speed was an issue early in the competition, according to a number of competitors.
“The course was a little slow, but it got faster in the end,” Robby Brown, 17, of Steamboat Springs, said. Brown took second in the Open Skier Men division, scoring a 74.33. Gregory Spaulding, of Frisco, took top honors in that group. Lindsey Lumpkin, also of Frisco, took first in the Open Class Women’s division
Fellow Summit County residents laid claim to top spots in both the youngest and oldest age groups competing Saturday. Alina Cospolich of Team Summit won the 8-9 Grommet Girls category, and Julio Machado took first in the 50-59 Kahuna Men age group. Both competed unopposed in their divisions.
USASA is an amateur-level competition for freeskiers and snowboarders that can serve as a feeder to higher level events, including NorAms and the World Cup.
“This is the premier thing for getting kids into those big events,” Team Breckenridge and Hawkes Freeride coach Chris Hawkes said.
Past USASA competitors have included Olympians Aaron Blunck, slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kennworthy and bronze medalist Nick Goepper. Blunck, who last competed in USASA two seasons ago and is now a U.S. Freeskiing Team pro, was on hand to watch part of the competition.
USASA Nationals will be held at Copper Mountain later this month. All regional series winners, along with a number of nationally ranked USASA athletes, will receive invitations to compete. Regional series winners will be announced Wednesday. Other top-ranked competitors will receive invitations in the weeks leading up to nationals.
Forty acres in the Lower Blue River Valley of Summit County are now protected with a permanent conservation easement donated to the Continental Divide Land Trust by the Hill family of Dillon. The easement closed in December 2013.
Conservation easements protect the natural qualities of private land by a voluntary agreement that limits development or other activities potentially harmful to conservation values. The grantor of the conservation easement continues to own the land and use it as he or she historically has. The Continental Divide Land Trust (CDLT) is qualified to hold conservation easements and is certified by the state of Colorado.
The conservation value of the Hills’ 40 acres includes Blue River frontage, the confluence of the Blue and Rock Creek, scenic views along Highway 9, wildlife habitat, a native spring and a wide variety of ecosystem types, including riparian, sage scrub and aspen and spruce forests.
“Even though we (the public) might not have public access, we still benefit from the scenic views, from the protection of the natural habitat and wildlife habitat, from watersheds and riparian areas,” said Leigh Girvin, executive director of the CDLT.
The property is bisected by Highway 9 and all development rights have been removed from the 10-acre section along the Blue River, helping to preserve scenic views. One homesite has been reserved away from the river and wildlife habitat areas.
The conservation easement was a longtime wish of Raymond Hill, who died in December 2012. The easement was donated by Raymond’s wife, Marjorie Lott Hill, and their daughter, Ann B. Hill, who own the land.
The Hill family has a long history in Summit County. In 1896, Marjorie’s great-uncle Joseph H. Gould received a homestead patent for 137 original acres near the confluence of the Blue River and Rock Creek at a stagecoach stop known as “Naomi.” On the other side of the family, Raymond Hill’s grandfather Frederick Horatio Hill was married in the Naomi Hotel in 1884. Generations later, Raymond Hill married Marjorie Lott at Father Dyer Church in Breckenridge. Neither was aware of their common history and their connections to Rock Creek.
Raymond was born on the Mumford ranch, which now lies beneath Green Mountain Reservoir. He graduated from Leadville High School in 1939. Raymond’s father, Horatio F. (Ray) Hill, was a Summit County commissioner and in his younger days worked in mines in Summit, supervised the Dillon Dam construction, owned the Dillon Garage and worked for the Public Roads Administration and Summit County Road and Bridge. Raymond’s mother, Mildred Mumford Hill, taught in a one-room school house in Lakeside, now also under Green Mountain Reservoir.
Gould’s land, reduced in acreage through time, was passed on to his niece, then to her children, including Marjorie Lott Hill. Through a complicated transaction and subdivision process among family members, Marjorie combined her acreage with adjacent land owned by her husband, Raymond, to achieve the 40 acres.
Marjorie and Ray were married for 65 years. Their son Richard died in 2008. Their daughter Ann has lived at Rock Creek Ranch since 1979. The family loved hiking, cross-country skiing and backpacking. Marjorie and Ray climbed 43 of the 53 Fourteeners in Colorado and had both of their kids climbing 14,000-foot peaks at an early age. Raymond and Marge retired to Dillon in 1986 and spent a lot of time at Rock Creek Ranch.
According to a family history shared with the CDLT: “All generations on both sides of the family have loved the property at Rock Creek Ranch. Raymond and Marjorie wanted this property in a conservation easement to always protect it. Raymond Hill was instrumental in his quest to get this conservation easement accomplished and to know that the property would always be protected. Although Raymond passed away before the completion of the conservation easement, he knew that it was in the final stages of completion and was very happy.”
The Continental Divide Land Trust holds conservation easements on 17 properties in Summit and Park counties, permanently protecting the natural qualities of over 2,600 acres.
In addition to open-space protection, the CDLT also offers educational opportunities and events to connect people to the land. The CDLT’s next events are the Phantom Ranch Ball on April 1 and the Wild About Colorado Art & Outdoor Festival at Breckenridge’s Carter Park Pavilion, July 16-19.
Breckenridge Ski Resort officials announced Friday that they will extend the ski season by one additional week, from Monday, April 21, through Sunday, April 27.
The added time was made possible by a deep snow pack and a favorable weather forecast. In January, Breckenridge was reported to be the snowiest resort in the U.S., having received more than 28 feet of snow so far this season.
During the last two years the resort has extended its regular season by adding additional weekends. With this year’s significant snowfall, resort officials made the decision to include weekdays.
“It’s been such an amazing season for snowfall in Breck that even with a month and a half to go in the regular season, we are confident that we will be able to offer terrific conditions in the extended week,” executive vice president and Breckenridge COO Pat Campbell said. “This additional week will be a great way for us to thank our loyal passholders, our locals and our destination visitors, who now will have the option to book their spring vacations the week after Easter as well.”
The resort expects to open Peaks 6, 7 and 8 during the extended week, with Rip’s Ride, 5 Chair, Colorado SuperChair, the T-bar, Imperial SuperChair, Independence SuperChair, Zendo Chair and Kensho SuperChair all slated for operation.
In past years’ extended seasons, only terrain on Peak 8 was open. This year’s package will give guests another chance to ski or ride the resort’s new Peak 6 terrain during the final days of its inaugural season.
Passes & Tickets
Skiing during this extended week will be free for 2013-14 Vail Resorts season pass holders. In addition, the mountain will offer a specially priced, $66 lift ticket at the ticket windows.
Adult group lessons, children’s group lessons and private lessons will be available during the extended week and start at $95 for adults or $105 for children. The resort also announced that season passes for the 2014-15 season will go on sale starting March 10
More information can be found at www.Breckenridge.com or on social media at www.Facebook.com/Breckenridge and @breckenridgemtn on Twitter and Instagram.
Officials from the White River National Forest and Breckenridge Ski Resort hosted a public information session Wednesday to introduce the resort’s plan for summer expansion to a crowd of about 50 locals.
Representatives from both groups presented a map of the proposal along with images of similar summer facilities at other resorts. Breckenridge’s plan includes zip lines, ropes courses and canopy tours, as well as expanded mountain bike trail network and jeep tours. Additionally, the plan calls for construction of an outdoor climbing wall — at mid-mountain on Peak 8 — and summer operation of two high-alpine chairlifts — Chair 6 and Imperial. Officials said all of the proposed facilities fall under the resort’s Forest Service special-use permit and the guidelines of the 2011 Ski Area Recreational Enhancement Act — co-authored by Colo. Sen. Mark Udall and designed to allow resorts to expand summer offerings on public land. The act is in part an attempt to help ski-town economies during the off-season, and was intended to allow ski areas to use “existing infrastructure,” like chairlifts and gondolas, in order to expand summer activities.
“I think Congress very much wanted us to do this,” White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said as he introduced the Breckenridge project.
Whether the plans falls under the guidelines of the enhancement act was a source of some contention among those opposed to the expansion.
Chief among public concerns were the broad scope of the project, the potential additional construction required, the preservation of high-alpine — above-tree-line — terrain and a proposed canopy tour in the heavily forested Ore Bucket area on Peak 8.
For Breckenridge resident John Rossman, the extent of the expansion seemed unnecessary. “I’ve seen a lot of unsustainable growth in the last decade,” he said of Summit County, calling the resort’s plan “more of an amusement park,” which is explicitly prohibited under the guidelines of the enhancement act.
Jeff Carlson, who sits on the Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Commission, agreed that the proposal was somewhat excessive, but acknowledged that portions of the plan closer to the base area could be positive.
“A lot of it seems a little too much,” he said looking at the map, adding that some of it “could work.” His primary concern was the canopy tour of the Ore Bucket area, currently a popular tree-skiing run. He worried that the structures involved in building the zip-line canopy tour would affect ski runs, involve tree cutting and bring summertime traffic to an area that was closer to wilderness than other parts of the mountain.
Jeff Zimmerman, director of mountain planning for Vail Resorts in Summit County, pointed out that the proposed towers for the activities were intentionally placed in areas with minimal tree coverage. He also said that the terrain in question would still be ski accessible.
“Our goal is to minimize cutting trees,” he said, adding that the project is intended to get people who may not ordinarily explore wilderness a chance to get into nature in a safe environment supported by staff and medical services.
“I just don’t see it, man,” Carlson countered as he looked at the map. “I feel like there are better locations.”
Breckenridge officials also said they believe the project has the potential to help the local economy and expand summer tourism, just as the enhancement act intended.
“We want to give guests a reason to stay for more than the one night,” Breckenridge spokeswoman Kristen Petitt Stewart said. “This is all about creating a more robust summer experience so people will stay in town longer.”
She explained that the facilities would have the potential to attract more summer guests who would in turn support local businesses and lodging in town and potentially stay for other area activities.
While Carlson agreed, he also expressed concern that the project would not generate any tax revenue for Breckenridge.
The proposed expansion remains in the initial stages of the National Environmental Policy Act process. The Forest Service will accept public comments on the first stage of the proposal until March 12. The plan will then be assessed through an initial environmental impact study conducted by the Forest Service and the SE Group — an independent consulting firm contracted by the Forest Service.
Forest Service officials anticipate that the first draft of the environmental impact statement will be released some time this fall for public review. After a second comment period and public session, the proposal will undergo final review. Pending approval Breckenridge could begin construction in 2015.
Ben Trollingerfirstname.lastname@example.org | Summit Daily News
The “topknot” on the aptly named Sumo citrus peels away like butter. This mandarin bred for giants cracks open as John Gengel inhales the tangy air. The highly seasonal fruit from Japan is a featured display at the Whole Foods Market in Belmar, west of downtown Denver, where Gengel is the store’s team leader.
Gengel, 37, will be the big cheese at the newFrisco Whole Foods Market, which is set to open April 29. It will be the company’s highest-elevation store. After 14 years working at Whole Foods, Gengel is excited to finally call Summit County home.
The round button pinned to Gengel’s gray sweater, worn over a red-and-white plaid button-down, shares that he is a product of New York. Born 60 miles outside of New York City, Gengel spent the majority of his youth in Lake Placid, where he participated in a future-Olympic prep program.
He would complete his classes by 11 a.m., then get on a bus to the mountain and ski the rest of the day. He frequently spends his weekends in Summit County, he said, winter and summer.
“I really think of that as home,” he said. “It reminds me of Frisco, actually — a rich history of winter sports. It’s a mountain town that’s touristy, but with a really good sense of community.”
Gengel dropped out of school in Oswego to play in a band, touring up and down the East Coast. Then, three weeks after moving to Boulder, he was short on cash and heard from a friend the local Whole Foods was hiring. He started as a produce team member, stacking lemons into perfect pyramids.
“I was like, ‘I don’t want to work in a grocery store, but I need a job.’ Very quickly it transformed from being like, ‘This is going to be a temporary thing until I figure out what I want to do’ into, like, ‘I love coming to work every day,’” he said.
As he continued to work at Whole Foods, Gengel started eating healthier and even learning how to cook. He has worked at multiple Colorado stores, in addition to a stint of exactly 365 days at a Santa Fe store.
“Some people come to Whole Foods because they hear it’s a great place to work, or their personal goals align with the company mission,” he said. “It was kind of opposite for me. I came to Whole Foods because I needed a job, and Whole Foods changed me.”
From the ground up
In order to account for the seasonal worker population, Gengel is staffing the Frisco store using a 55 percent full-time, 45 percent part-time ratio.
“A lot of those people like to play hard, and they like to work hard,” he said. “If they are going to be there for a short term, we can hire on a part-time basis and it’s a win-win.”
He has already hired most of the team leaders — employees in charge of sections such as meats, seafood and produce. He said people from Whole Foods stores all over the country applied to come to Summit.
“What an amazing opportunity both professionally and personally,” he said. “As the store team leader, it’s your baby. You’re the first person on the project, and it’s about making key decisions that are going to form this store and bond with the community.”
Whole Foods offers its employees a 20 percent discount, which can increase to 30 percent with a voluntary health evaluation. Gengel said innovation comes from the bottom up, and employees are encouraged to put ideas out there.
“My job is really to create an environment where team members are happy, healthy and we dialogue,” he said. “Some ideas are awesome, some are epic failures, but that’s not a bad thing.”
The 68,000-square-foot Belmar store Gengel has called home for nearly four years is more than double the size of the Frisco store, which will total 32,000 square feet, closer to the company’s average.
“This is where it all happens, where the magic happens,” he said. “I’m not the cubicle type; this is the marketplace. You never know what’s going to happen.”
When he arrives, Gengel throws down his bag and hits the floor, connecting with different departments to see what challenges or tasks they’re facing for the day.
The bakery in Frisco will offer doughnuts with jelly filling stuffed to order, as well as an espresso machine and fresh juice bar. Though his background in produce makes him slightly biased, Gengel said seasonal offerings are a huge part of the Whole Foods culture in every department. The Belmar store features more than 1,500 local products, and the Frisco store will focus on hyper-local offerings, too.
“We do inspections of facilities, too, so from creation to your mouth, we know what’s happened to all of it,” he said.
A different set of standards
Whole Foods follows welfare and food safety guidelines and holds its products to high standards, including no antibiotics, no hormones. Over in the barbecue section, a smoker the size of a Volkswagen bus is waiting patiently to start the day.
“If I’m ever having a bad day I just open the doors to the smoker and feel better,” Gengel said.
Signs on every item in the cases identify where the meat comes from and highlight local items. It took almost a decade for the store to bring in a local chicken, but now it has that as well.
Bob Wickwar, Belmar meats team leader, said the quality of the meat is incredibly important. Customers can pick up anything and know it meets the store standards.
“All the meat end-to-end, none of it is raised with antibiotics or steroids or anything to make it grow quicker,” he said. “We make all the sausage in house, smoke the bacon, all of it is cut in-house and ground in-house.”
As Gengel rips open a box of parmesan crisps to snack on, he explains that the store in Frisco will also eventually offer catering. There is a prepared hot-and-cold bar, with rotating themed selections, such as Mardi Gras or African foods. All of the food in the prepared section follows the same standards — all-natural, no preservatives.
“I imagine someone who just skied eight hours, is super tired, super hungry, and we’ll have this nice dining area and a heated outdoor area with fireplaces,” Gengel said. “It’ll be a very après ski environment.”
Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rGBH) is commonly given to dairy cows to make them produce more milk. No dairy items in any Whole Foods store come from hormone-treated cows — milk, cheese, all of it. A sign hanging over the egg cartons reads: “Only two out of 100 eggs eaten are cage free.” All of the Whole Foods eggs are cage-free, including the ones used in the bakery.
“We aren’t a health food store, we’re an all-natural, organic grocer,” Gengal said. “We try to do our best to put the information out there, so people can make the most informed decision.”
The seafood department sets the same high-quality standards for its fish, whether wild-caught or farm-raised. There are no antibiotics, steroids or hormones, and as seafood team trainer Robert Reynolds explained, the water levels must also be safe for the fish.
Whole Foods does not use chemical dyes to color salmon, but rather adds pigment using algae and shrimp. The seafood team will cut any fish and season it, for free, and will provide recipes and cooking tips. A cooking kitchen in the store offers a number of classes, even beginner knife skills (picture kids chopping Play-Doh).
Back in familiar turf, Gengel makes a beeline toward the wall stacked high with colorful produce, shelves of broccoli, peppers and cucumbers. He passes a bin of tomatoes that come from a farm less than 1 mile away.
“No matter what your health restrictions are, everyone eats produce,” he said. “It’s fresh and vibrant and full of nutrition.”
Produce presents a certain challenge in Summit County, especially in the winter. Whole Foods has a store in Basalt, so Gengel is consulting with the store team leader there about what it’s like to traverse the mountain pass from the Denver warehouse.
“There will be challenges on certain days, but we will do our best,” he said.
Produce team leader Dan Luther also cracks open a Sumo. Whole Foods is big on letting customers try items before buying them. Luther is passionate about organics, but wants everyone to feel comfortable shopping at the store.
“If we didn’t sell conventional products, we’d miss out on a huge part of the market,” he said.
The produce team — like the other departments — keeps extensive logs of where a product comes from. Luther said integrity is key, making sure the customer isn’t being lied to about their food.
“If people say, ‘Prove this is organic,’ we can say, ‘Here you go,’” he said.
Local community is a driving force for Whole Foods. Stores give back a percentage of their net sales to local nonprofits and host event days for local vendors to come set up shop in the stores to promote their products.
A pile of “whole trade” organic red peppers is Whole Foods’ version of fair trade. The store offers whole-trade peppers, pineapples, bananas, cucumbers and more. Whole-trade items ensure farmers are using sustainable and environmental practices, but also help support the community in Mexico.
Farmers are paid a fair wage and have access to education and health care. The money they make from the peppers goes into building clinics and schools.
“Sometimes it’s more expensive, but it’s justified,” Luther said. “The quality of this stuff is excellent, it’s out of control — wicked good.”
As Gengel finishes his loop around the store, he points out a small table near the registers with “Whole Planet” products. With the sale of these items, Whole Foods helps provide micro-loans to women all around the world to start small businesses.
“We are here to serve the community,” he said. “It’s their store, and that’s why we’re there. We’re going to bring it big time.”
Fishing attracts certain types of people; those who fish for sport, those who fish for food and those who do a little bit of both.
Although in the last several years I have grown from an aspiring fisherman into a guy who on most days can catch fish, I’ve never really cared for their taste. However, being a catch-and-release fisherman doesn’t mean I haven’t developed a deep appreciation for the sweet stench of trout, salmon, bass, crappie and perch.
It’s a smell that reminds me of every fish landed and safely released. It’s a smell of satisfaction.
Last week, I basked in that glorious stink after a morning of ice fishing on Lake Dillon with Randy Ford, a part-time guide with Big Ed’s Fishing Ventures. It was my first experience with what is arguably the least common form of fishing.
I met Ford and three clients from the east coast shortly before 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25 on Lake Dillon near Summit Cove. With more than 30 years of fishing experience in Colorado, Ford is a man who knows his water and he had already pitched a shelter and drilled several holes at the inlet of the Snake River.
After a short tutorial about the finer points of ice fishing, we manned our holes and experimented with a variety of baits and lures, including spoons, white jig heads outfitted with brightly colored tubes and the occasional salmon egg. We employed the strategy of vertical jigging, dropping our lines into the frozen water and bouncing our bait off the bottom of the riverbed in hopes of inducing a strike.
I can’t say it was the most action-filled day in my fishing career, but it certainly wasn’t the slowest. After a little more than two hours of persistent jigging, we collectively landed two rainbow trout, two kokanee salmon and two Arctic char.
In addition to the breathtaking views of the Tenmile Range, Ford said the diversity of the fishery is one of Lake Dillon’s greatest attractions. Although there are numerous reservoirs throughout the country that provide anglers with the opportunity to fish for kokanee salmon, Lake Dillon is one of the few — and possibly the only reservoir in the state —that features a naturally reproducing population.
Then there’s highly elusive and widely prized Arctic char, which can be found only at one other reservoir in the lower 48 states.
Arctic char were first introduced in 1990 to control Lake Dillon’s over population of Mysis shrimp. Arctic char, a species of trout, tend to inhabit the coldest, darkest depths of the lake, which also serves as prime habitat for Mysis shrimp, a staple of the Arctic char’s diet.
However, when the temperatures drop and the ice begins to form the Mysis migrate to shallower water, Ford said. The Arctic char follow, making the ice fishing season the best opportunity for anglers to land the imported species.
“I’m seeing this year, for the first time ever, that more char are being caught in shallower water,” Ford said. “Only a handful of anglers are catching them, but it’s cool to see the angling opportunities for Arctic char are getting better.”
In addition to spending most of the year at depths beyond the reach of the typical angler, Ford said Arctic char are highly prized because they are so hard to catch, even under the most promising conditions. Because they have such small mouths, they have to be pursued with equally small bait.
“I relate it to golf in the sense that you are trying to take a small object and knock it into a small target, which is a hard thing to do,” Ford said. “As with fishing, sometimes in golf you can get lucky and I’ve always said being lucky is just as satisfying as being good.”
It can be argued that the group I fished with last week benefited from some first-timer luck, considering we landed two Arctic char. One was pushing 15 inches in length, which Ford said was on the larger side for Lake Dillon’s population.
However, the sport is relatively inexpensive and easy to learn. It’s potential appeal to a wide range of people is what motivated Nate Crawford, owner of Big Ed’s Fishing Ventures, to add this year ice fishing to his collection of guided services. In the summer, Big Ed’s also offers guided fly-fishing trips on the Blue River and charter fishing on Lake Dillon.
“We operate under the condition of providing family-friendly fishing adventures,” Crawford said. “We cater to everyone from the novice to avid anglers alike and we strive to make fishing feasible for everyone, especially families with young children.
“It’s the perfect activity for people looking to rest their legs after a couple of days skiing or people who enjoy the satisfaction of catching their own dinner.”
Ford, who said he never gets tired of seeing the excitement of a client’s first catch, dovetailed off of Crawford’s comments, saying people of all ages can apply the easy-to-learn techniques of ice fishing.
“All it takes is a few minutes of instruction and boom, you’re into fish,” Ford said. “No one is ever going to reach the pinnacle of skiing in just one day, but you could find yourself reeling in that big, hog-daddy of a fish your first time on the ice. I’ve seen it happen and there’s always that chance of having a memorable day of fishing.”
For more information about ice fishing and summer guided trips offered by Big Ed’s Fishing Ventures, call 389-1720 or visit www.bigedsfishing.com.