At the turn of the 20th century, dredge miners turned Summit County's rivers upside down in search of gold.
Now, more than 100 years later, restoration workers are flipping the Swan River right-side up again, allowing surface water to flow freely. They hope to eventually transform the barren rubble field back into a healthy ecosystem and trout fishery.
"If we've done our job right, no one will even know we've been there in the next 20 years," said Jason Lederer, a resource specialist with the Summit County Open Space and Trails Department.
The Swan hasn't flowed freely since the dredges chewed up its banks, kept the gold and spat the rocks back out. All of the sand and silt that kept the water out of the ground washed downstream, so the river has quietly gurgled under the rocks for the century since.
"One way to think of it is like a bathtub full of marbles, and the water is just sort of flowing through those," Lederer said. "Sometimes you see it on the surface and sometimes you don't."
The Open Space and Trail Department has teamed up with Breckenridge and at least a half-dozen other partners to breathe life back into the Swan. Clearing out all of the marbles is the first step.
For the past two years, workers have been collecting and milling hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of the gravel and rocks that have been suffocating the river.
On Wednesday, Nov. 22, crews are set to wrap up another season of work, pulling out more than 43,000 tons of material since July. Over that time, the county netted roughly $122,000 in royalties from the sale of that processed material.
A big load of the rock from last season was used for the Iron Springs bypass project, an ambitious re-routing of Highway 9 between Breckenridge and Frisco that was finished just weeks ago.
"The royalties add a lot of value to the project," Lederer said. "These are really expensive projects, but if we're able to get a revenue source out of our contractor's work out there, that's a real win-win for everybody."
Last summer, the project liberated one of four sections of the Swan, digging out a channel that now meanders across a wide floodplain.
"We look at the geometry of the valley as a whole: how wide it is, how steep it is, how big the floodplain is," Lederer explained. "And looking at these different parameters, we can make an inference into what the channel should look like."
This summer, workers planted thousands of willows along the new banks of the Swan to help anchor the river while it stretches it legs for the first time in years. But it's not stuck in place just yet.
"We've given the stream a lot of flexibility to move across the floodplain," Lederer said. "It's able to move a little bit over time, and that's OK — that's kind of what we want up there."
After a dry start to the season, the area greened up nicely before the first snowfall, a stark contrast to the moonlike surface from just two years ago.
The stretch that's flowing, dubbed Reach A, is one of four sections identified for de-dredging. That phase cost around $2.3 million total, provided by a combination of state and local government grants.
Gravel milling work this summer has taken place upriver on Reach B, and that's set to continue next summer. Workers need to clear at least 195,000 cubic yards of material before restoration can begin.
The final two sections, however, are being actively quarried on private land and could take some time to free up for restoration.
"Everyone in the valley is sort of supportive of this work, but I don't have a good idea of the timing on anything on private property," Lederer said. "But ideally, we'll continue to move upstream as the opportunity allows."
Vail's Opening Day will feature skiing and riding on the Born Free trail accessed via the Born Free Express (Chair 8) lift.
Beaver Creek's Opening Day will feature skiing and riding on the Gold Dust and Haymeadow trails accessed via the Centennial Express and Buckaroo Gondola lifts.
The chairs start turning at 9 a.m. Wednesday at both resorts.
“Vail’s mountain operations team was able to take full advantage of the colder temperatures and natural snowfall during the last several days, allowing us to move up our Opening Day to Wednesday,” said Doug Lovell, Vail chief operating officer, in a Monday afternoon news release. “We are excited to be able to join Beaver Creek in opening on Wednesday and believe it gives our guests options heading into the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Every home at some point requires maintenance. Some of that maintenance doesn't have to cost you a lot of money if you keep some basic tools around the house. Here are some helpful tools you can keep on hand.
Make sure you have both flathead and Phillips-head screwdrivers of various sizes. A complete set is even better, letting you do everything from tightening loose fixtures to putting together furniture. For light projects, you could opt for a single, multi-bit screwdriver that stores detachable heads in the handle and doubles as a nut driver.
A good hammer is an absolute staple for everything from hanging photos to repairing fence pickets. The most common size weighs 16 ounces. Consider investing in a good hammer with a claw head and an anti-vibration rubber grip. Utility knife
A trusty utility knife or box cutter can come in handy, especially if you're just moving into your home and need to unpack those well-taped-up boxes. And as long as we’re on the subject of knives, consider getting a putty knife. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll reach for it.
It only takes a few millimeters for a shelf or artwork to look off-kilter; a wall level takes the guesswork away. Unless you have an experienced eye, a level will help you hang items on the wall evenly the first time.
You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration if you measure appliances and furniture before trying to fit them into your new place. A long, 35-foot tape measure will do the job in big and small projects. A more modest, 12-foot measuring tape also is a good alternative, particularly for jobs like hanging artwork.
Power outages can happen anytime, so be ready with at least one durable flashlight and batteries. They also come in handy when you're working on repairs in those darker and tighter spaces. Look for hybrid versions, which use solar power and contain a back-up battery. If your new place has electricity upon move-in, you also can purchase a rechargeable work light.
Wrench and pliers
Start with an adjustable wrench that can handle many different jobs. Six-, eight- or 10-inch long wrenches are the most popular. Pliers also are indispensible; look for ones with serrated jaws that grip objects firmly.
Store your most commonly used tools in a single place, such as an easy-to-carry toolbox, and you'll always know where to find these tools when you need them.
Do you have a favorite go-to tool? Share it below!
Are you thinking about buying a house? You'll need a lot of information – and not just about tools! Contact me today to help you find the right home for you.
Nearby ski resorts got an early season boost from Friday night's snowstorm that continued into Saturday morning, leaving a foot or more on Summit County's highest elevations with less accumulation in the low-lying areas.
By early afternoon, both Loveland Ski Area and Breckenridge Ski Resort were reporting a foot of new snow in the last 24 hours.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area reportedly got 11 inches in the last 24 hours, and Keystone Resort received 8 while Copper Mountain Resort welcomed 7-and-a-half inches of new snow, according to the resorts' snow reports.
Hazardous conditions also fouled-up travel across much of the High Country on Friday night, and chain laws put into effect from Silverthorne to the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel and Vail Pass were lifted Saturday morning.
Loveland Pass reopened in the early afternoon after closing Friday night for avalanche-reduction work.
Plows have made good progress getting to most thoroughfares and many side streets in Summit County, but the roads remain snow-covered.
Additionally, there were two wrecked vehicles on Interstate 70 in a 2-mile stretch between Frisco and Silverthorne on Saturday morning, one that went off-road in the eastbound lanes and overturned, and another headed west that had spun out and gone into the ditch.
Neither accident stopped traffic completely in either direction, but both illustrated that hazardous driving conditions persist.
According to the National Weather Service, gusty winds will increase over the mountains Sunday night with speeds up to 55 mph possible. A high in the mid-40s is in the forecast for Sunday with a low around 17 degrees.
There will be another chance for snow in the mountains Monday night and early Tuesday, with a weak upper-level disturbance expected to pass through the mountains, according to the NWS, which expects drier conditions to return Wednesday through Friday.
The number of active real estate listings for residential properties and vacant land zoned for residential use in Summit County is the lowest it's been in at least the last 10 years, according to statistics tracked by Land Title Guarantee Company of Summit County.
The company's director of sales and marketing, Brooke Roberts, says that inventory is at a record low at the same time the monetary volume of total real estate sales is up 20 percent in a year-to-date comparison, but the actual number of transactions is up only 4 percent.
Based on her 25 years of experience in the industry, Roberts said new listings have never been harder to find, and that scarcity is having its effect on prices and the time a new listing spends on the market.
"Oh yeah, it's very competitive," Roberts said of the current market in Summit County. "You have to be on your game. If you see something you like, it doesn't stay on the market very long."
Even scarier for buyers, Roberts continued, is some properties are selling so quickly they never even show up in the inventory of active listings before they're gone.
According to a pair of weekly real estate reports from Liv Sotheby's in October, inventory is traditionally lower this time of year, but "there has never been a better time to list a property for sale in Summit County." In another weekly report, the Summit County real estate giant called this "a once in a generation opportunity to sell your property."
According to Roberts' figures, that's largely because of scarcity. Right now, she said, there are 551 active listings for residential homes and vacant land on the market. That's 141 fewer than there were in November 2016 and 301 fewer than there were in November 2015.
In fact, after registering 966 active listings for residential or vacant land zoned for residential in November 2007, the number of listings didn't drop below 1,000 again until 2015.
The availability of active listings peaked at 2,085 in November 2009 — just as the country was starting to come out of the 2008 recession — and has steadily declined since then with the fewest postings this year that Roberts has ever seen.
She added that, as a result of simple supply and demand, the average price of a single-family home is now at a record high — just over $1 million — while the average price of a multi-family home stands at over $460,000.
Roberts said that means the average price of a single-family home is up about 15 percent year to date, while a multi-family home is up about 13 percent and vacant land has remained about the same as it was through November last year.
Breaking down where those buyers are coming from, Roberts said about 42 percent of September's real estate sales in Summit County featured buyers who lived on the Front Range.
That's not terribly uncommon because about 39 percent of real estate sales so far this year have featured buyers from the Front Range, 32 percent featured buyers from out-of-state and 28 percent of sales went to Summit County locals. Meanwhile, international buyers made up just a tiny fraction of the total sales.
"We're a drive market," Roberts said matter-of-factly, explaining that Summit County's proximity to Denver and other nearby population centers on the Front Range makes this an enticing place to buy real estate.
OCTOBER BY THE NUMBERS
324: Total real estate sales
264: Total real estate sales (2016)
$213.5 million: Total value of sales
$141 million: Total value of sales (2016)
$5 million: Most expensive sale
$2.63 million: Most expensive sale (2016)
46: Sales of at least $1 million
Source: Summit County Assessor
TOP 5 SALES: OCTOBER
1. $5,080,000 — Breckenridge, Lot 57 Shock Hill (residential home)
2. $3,700,000 — Silverthorne, 70 acres at Shadow Creek Ranch (land not integral to ag use)
3. $3,350,000 — Breckenridge, Lot 13 at Boulder Ridge III (residential home)
4. $3,000,000 — Breckenridge, Lot 2 of the Bartlett and Shock Subdivision (merchandising land)
5. $2,825,000 — Breckenridge, Lot 4 Cottages at Shock Hill (residential home)
Elected officials didn't slam the door on a proposed 150-key, four-star hotel at the base of Peak 8 in Breckenridge, but after hearing preliminary details surrounding the project, they didn't exactly roll out a red carpet, either.
The hotel, which it turns out would come with 50-60 wholly owned residential condos, cropped up at the end of Tuesday's town council work session, as representatives of Breckenridge Grand Vacations offered council a slideshow presentation.
BGV chief operating officer Nick Doran explained the agreement to council, saying Lionheart Capital has the cash on hand and experience building luxury hotels in resort markets to see a large-scale project like this through, while Vail Resorts owns the land and BGV brings longstanding community relationships and a wealth of local know-how to the table.
With development agreements, council also has the authority to negotiate for a “public benefit” component of a proposed project, and the hotel’s developers floated a $50,000 donation toward the preservation of Cucumber Gulch on Tuesday...
Additionally, because BGV will continue building on the Grand Colorado on Peak 8, foreseeably for the next three to four years, it presents an opportunity to piggyback some aspects of hotel construction with BGV's ongoing work at the Grand Colorado, which is just down Ski Hill Road from the location of the proposed hotel.
The contract with Vail Resorts stipulates Lionheart Capital and BGV would decide the sales team for the condos, and Vail Resorts' subsidiary, RockResorts, would manage the hotel, Doran said.
That revelation came as a surprise to Councilwoman Elisabeth Lawrence, who wanted to know how many new jobs the hotel could bring to Breckenridge, but was disappointed to learn BGV wouldn't be the managing the property.
It should be noted that Tuesday's presentation was purely informational, and no action was taken.
As promised, Councilman Mike Dudick, who's also co-owner and CEO of Breckenridge Grand Vacations, recused himself from the discussions, standing up from his seat and leaving council chambers before the presentation.
For the remaining council members, the initial meeting was important so they could get an idea of the project, how it might fit into its surroundings and what might need to happen on the town's end to make it work.
For the developers, they were trying to gauge how willing council might be to relax some provisions in town code that they say will be necessary to make the luxury hotel project viable.
"Based upon how this discussion goes, (the developers) may or may not decide to file a real application," town staff told council. "If they file the real application, you'll be back with a draft development agreement to look at, that you can then decide how you want to handle it, so this is a little bit unusual."
According to Doran, the hotel would be a branded, four-star hotel — think something like The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott or Hilton — and unlike anything that currently exists in Breckenridge.
There would be approximately 150 keys with the possibility that number could rise as high as 200, depending on how many condo owners want to participate in the hotel's rental program.
Doran emphasized the condos won't be timeshares, like other BGV properties are, and said the project doesn't work financially without a little over 100,000 square feet of residential condos, which won't happen without some additional density being added onto the roughly 2.75-acre parcel next door to One Ski Hill Place on Peak 8.
In Breckenridge, any given piece of property is zoned for a certain level of density, but a developer can request additional density, approved by town council or the town's planning commission, as long as that density comes from somewhere else in the basin.
That has the hotel developers looking to buy 58 individual transferrable density rights — or TDRs — from a pool of unused TDRs held by the town and county.
The going rate for each TDR can fluctuate year to year based on the set formula that dictates the price, said a town planner, but TDRs currently cost $47,800 apiece.
That means the developers will need about $2.9 million worth of additional TDRs to build the desired hotel and condo units.
During their presentation, the developers incorrectly labeled the payment a "contribution" to the town's and county's open space funds, a mistake Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula was quick to correct.
"I would like to just change one part of your verbiage here," the mayor told the developers. "This is not a contribution — this is what it costs you to buy this density. … Scratch off 'contribution' next time you bring these slides to us."
Developers are also hoping to only build 0.85 parking spaces per unit, a 15 percent reduction from the town's one-to-one requirement. The request was similar to one council approved in 2014 for the Marriott Residence Inn, but as council members noted, the Marriot didn't come with any residential condos tied to it.
In requesting to go under the minimum number of required parking spaces, developers are proposing to commission a third-party traffic study to accurately illustrate how the lower number of spaces might affect the town and surrounding area.
With development agreements, council also has the authority to negotiate for a "public benefit" component of a proposed project, and the hotel's developers floated a $50,000 donation toward the preservation of Cucumber Gulch on Tuesday, a move based on requests previously submitted by BGV for other developers.
Council seemed willing to entertain the requests for added density and were more agreeable for having fewer parking spaces per hotel room, but seemed less willing to go that low for the condos.
For all five remaining council members and the mayor, however, the $50,000 public benefit was far too low.
"The $50,000, I will tell you guys, it's a bit laughable," Mamula said as he echoed other council members' statements after explaining he's not opposed to moving the TDRs as long as "it fits — and it has got to fit."
If it doesn't fit, Mamula said, the hotel won't get the density.
He also urged the developers to consider the tight labor market and where the hotel's employees might live going forward.
For 51 weeks each year, a wine writer can write about whatever wine whimsy that strikes his or her fancy. But there is one special week where the topic is pre-ordained. In America, wine writers are obligated each fall to pen a piece on wines for Thanksgiving.
I get it, of course. Not only is Thanksgiving our national day of gathering, one in which everyone wants everything to be perfect, it is also the kick-off of wine buying season: Thanksgiving, the Christmas holidays, New Year's Eve. This is the season when people who don't go into a wine shop at any other time of the year make the pilgrimage to find just the right bottles to serve with their holiday fare and events. So rather than just talk pairings this year, I thought it best to take a broader view of the holiday wine experience.
First of all, relax. For those of you who are a bit flummoxed by the responsibility of wine buying, this is actually not only easy, but fun. In fact, there is only one hard and fast rule to remember as a host. Ready? Don't run out of wine. Nothing is sadder than holiday revelry being short-circuited by empty glasses.
So how much is enough? To be on the safe side, figure a bottle per person. Sure that may sound like a lot, but if you have it, don't worry. It will either be consumed, held onto for the next gathering or given to friends to take home for their gatherings. Either or any way, it is a karmic win for you and well worth the investment.
Next, not a rule but a serious suggestion, get a mix of white and red wines, and lean a little heavy toward the red side. If you buy a case for example, consider mixing in a couple of bottles of bubbles to greet your guests when they arrive, four bottles of a medium to fuller bodied white and a half-dozen bottles of red. Remember you get approximately six glasses of wine in a 750m bottle.
Consider getting a mixed case. It is fun to have a dozen different bottles to choose from. Set them in one place, and let your guests pour for themselves. It is nice to know a little something about each wine if you can, but if not, let the bottles do the storytelling.
And you need not spend a fortune on your wines. If you want to impress with your best wines from the cellar, good on you, as the Kiwis say. But as long as you put a little effort into buying affordable, quality wines people will appreciate it. No plonk, but you don't need to break the bank either. For under $20 a bottle you can find fine wines for your holiday gathering.
Oh, and one other thing. I have long been a proponent of drinking American-made wines on this most American of holidays. In the past, I have made recommendations for sparklers from New Mexico (Gruet), New York Riesling (Dr. Konstantin Frank), and Pinot Noir from Oregon (Sineann).
But this year, especially, I am going urge that we all buy wines specifically from those areas in Northern California that were affected by the fires. Now, more than ever, they can use your support. And uncorking a wine from a region that underwent hardship is a great way to focus the mind and give thanks for our own good fortune.
So, here are a few suggestions. Begin with some bubbles. Domaine Chandon is a French-owned Champagne house, but their Yountville, California, outpost is a Napa Valley institution. Start your holiday gathering with the sweetly packaged Domaine Chandon Limited Edition Brut. Around $30 a bottle, this crisp and clean sparkling wine is made using the classic Methode Champenoise from the three traditional Champagne grapes — Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Let's move on to a Chardonnay. La Crema in Sonoma is perhaps the most reliable producer of California Chardonnay from many regions, but I am partial to the 2015 Sonoma Coast bottling. For around $20 a bottle, winemaker Elizabeth Grant-Douglas produces a wine worth twice as much. Soft and round in the mouth, this is a rich, food-friendly wine that will be versatile enough for the majority of your holiday offerings.
Finally, for a red wine, keep in mind that turkey, unless heavily spiced or perhaps fried, is a mild enough bird to pair well with many grapes. But because we all want a wine that impresses, I am going to recommend a 2014 La Follette North Coast Pinot Noir. While this Sonoma County winery specializes in pricy single vineyard pinot noir, this bottling is a blend from many of the small family-owned vineyards that they source. For $20, it provides a perfect medium-bodied pinot experience.
Whatever you decide to drink, have a joyous and grateful Thanksgiving.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at email@example.com