To be honest, I can’t imagine hiking with a severe condition or handicap of any sort, whether that’s blindness, hemophilia, multiple sclerosis, an amputation or countless others. Hiking is by far one of my favorite summertime activities, and it’s partly due to the fact I have no qualms hiking, well, just about anywhere and anything I want. I can wake up, pack a bag, grab the dog and choose a trail at will. Few day hikes in Summit require special equipment or skills — even Quandary Peak is one of the shortest, punchiest 14ers in Colorado — and I have faith in my body to pull through anything Mother Nature throws my way. Part of it is preparedness, sure, but it also comes back to ability: I know my limbs and muscles and guts are going to work.
With that in mind, I’m humbled by nonprofits like No Barriers USA, Colorado Hike MS, the National Hemophilia Foundation and literally dozens of other, smaller groups that have visited Summit County this summer to support a cause. And, what sets them apart from other outdoorsy style benefits — say, a golf tournament fundraiser, or a massive event like Denver’s Race for the Cure on Sept. 27 — is that the majority of participants are the primary benefactors.
Take No Barriers as an example. In early August, the Fort Collins-based nonprofit brought nearly 100 people from across Colorado and the nation to Breckenridge for a benefit dinner, followed by a trip up three of the state’s most approachable 14ers: Lincoln, Democrat and Bross in the Fairplay area. The nonprofit was founded by a small collection of disabled adventurers, including blind mountaineer Erik Weihenmayer, who was the keynote speaker and lead guide for the 14er climb. Over the years, the group’s target audience has grown from folks with physical disabilities to just about anyone imaginable: Stroke survivors, transplant patients, even corporate groups.
When I interviewed Weihenmayer — one of the most thoughtful and insatiable athletes I’ve ever encountered — he told me the story of a woman who attended last year’s 14er hike. She was afraid of heights, as in deathly afraid, and so, when her small group of hikers reached the crest of the peak, she felt a moment of sheer, chest-pounding terror. She was even tempted to turn around with less than 100 vertical feet remaining.
But she didn’t, and after crawling a few feet on her hands and knees, she slowly, slowly rose to a crouch, then bent over, and finally stood upright for the final push to the summit. She left soon after the mandatory group photo, Weihenmayer said, but she left feeling the sort of high no one — not even someone with crippling vertigo — can fear.
And so did everyone else in the group. For Weihenmayer, a small, shared victory like hers proved that No Barriers has always been more than a few hikes and excursions for the blind and disabled.
“We started realizing quickly that this theme, this message, applies to everyone on the face of the Earth,” he told me.
Now, hikes like the 14er trip earlier this month are signature events for No Barriers, just as Race for the Cure is a signature event for Susan G. Komen Foundation. That event also attracts hundreds of runners who have survived or been affected by breast cancer, but these outdoor-themed events — the ones that truly take people out of their comfort zones — seem to find a home in mountain communities like Summit County.
Why is that? I understand why fundraisers are tied to an event or activity. It gives everyone — benefactors and participants alike — a reason to rally, something to cheer for. (Imagine if the NFL’s Pink October campaign was spread across an entire season and, more importantly, an entire season’s worth of revenue.) And, when the cause is already tied to high-level athletes like Weihenmayer with No Barriers, it simply makes sense.
But what about something like hemophilia, the disease that severely hampers a person’s ability to recover from otherwise innocuous cuts or scratches? Just like hiking blind, I can’t imagine the process of preparing for and then following through with a long, potentially arduous hike through the wilderness. I’m something of a klutz around sharp rocks and branches, with the mutilated ankles and forearms to show it.
So, when the Colorado chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation hosted a supported hike up Quandary on July 28, I couldn’t help but wonder how participants mentally prepare for a dangerous activity, even if the true danger comes from a condition. Humor helps — the event was part the foundation’s “Backpacks and Bleeders” series — and when the afternoon was finished, all six “bleeders” and their counterparts reached the summit with no major complications.
Truth is, I won’t ever be able to fully imagine what a blind mountaineer or adventurer with hemophilia experiences on a hike. But, if group photos on the summit are any indication, we all feel the same rush of adrenaline mixed with sublime calm. It’s a feeling these hikes foster, whether or not they’re tied to a purpose.
With a cast of nearly 60 Summit County performers, the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s presentation of “The Jungle Book” puts the community in community theater. But the musical doesn’t just feature local talent on stage — both the script and music are homegrown works.
While the show is an adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic, the theater’s artistic director, Christopher Willard, created the show in collaboration with Arvada Center musical director Keith Ewer, Henry Award winner Donna Debreceni and Backstage veteran actor Cory Wendling.
“Chris wrote this with a lot of characters in mind as we went through it, a lot of these animals were created specifically for the actors that play them,” said Mark Lineaweaver, executive director of the Backstage. “That’s a super cool opportunity and something you don’t get to do too often. … We have so much incredible talent in this community.”
The cast features a mix of talented Summit County kids with professional actors who have also been featured in previous Backstage productions. Wendling, who helped write the music, also plays Shere Khan and is a regular at the Backstage Theatre, having performed in “Avenue Q,” “Spamalot,” “Easy Living” and “Hidden.” Nina Waters, who plays Bagheera, was featured in Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s “Big River” and “1940s Radio Hour.” The young, talented Brody Lineaweaver, from “Shrek” and “A Christmas Story,” plays Mowgli, a human boy raised in the jungle by wolves. A gaggle of Summit County parents and their kids — ones reared in the mountains by humans and not apex predators — round out the cast, playing elephants, jackals, monkeys and villagers.
“The more families we can bring together onstage we do,” Willard said.
Mark Lineaweaver said they wanted to incorporate as many young, talented community members as possible.
“When you mesh that level of professional talent with the up-and-coming youth talent and give them a taste of what a real Broadway theater production is like, it’s cool for the community to see, cool for the kids to mature and fall in love with it, and to see them come back year after year,” he said.
Willard said the theater’s version stays true to Kipling’s darker tale while being conscious of the fact the musical is intended as family entertainment. The essence of the story, Willard said, is about Mowgli’s coming of age; it’s about a boy trying to find his place in the world.
For those more familiar with the Disney version of “The Jungle Book,” there is still the same dramatis personae. But don’t expect a jazzy rendition of “The Bare Necessities.”
Willard said he likes to tell the famous story of Walt Disney hiring a screen writer to transform Kipling’s books into a screen play back in the ’50s. The first draft that was submitted to Disney was very true to Kipling and also very dark. Disney fired the writer. When he had a meeting with the new screen writer, he famously handed him the book and said, “The first thing I want you to do is not to read this.”
“It’s true that the books are rather dark, but there’s still such great iconic characters like Mowgli and Baloo and Bagheera … and you want to see those characters interact,” Willard said. “They’re going to still see that great bond that exists between Baloo and Mowgli, a bear and his boy, and recognize the character of Kaa, the funny but a little scary snake … They are able to take a journey to experience what it might be like if a human is raised in the jungle. Get a little bit of wildness in their life.”
Wendling, who plays Shere Khan, the musical’s big bad, said audiences will be able to relate to the story.
“Very little of this is done for strictly public appeal, there’s a darker side and there’s more of a human struggle,” he said. “The themes that are evident in the show are more relatable than a Disney product.”
Willard emphasized the show isn’t children’s theater, but is geared toward both adults and kids. “We’ve been doing that for quite some time in our theater, so we have a good handle on what’s accessible for all ages.”
The production’s music was written to reflect the attributes of the characters. Everything has a tinge of Indian flavor, Willard said, but there is also a lot of other influential music. They looked at “Lion King” as a blueprint, and tailored the songs to the individual characters performing them. The monkeys are tied to a funk beat, while the elephants stomp to marching songs and big anthems. “We tried to listen to the characters, and let the characters dictate the style,” he said.
This is the last show of the season for the Backstage Theatre, held at the Riverwalk Center Amphitheater in Breckenridge, as the theater is currently undergoing extensive renovations at its home location. The show opened Friday, Aug. 28, and continues throughout the weekend, with a performance on Saturday, Aug. 29 and Sunday, Aug. 30. The show continues into September with performances Sept. 3-7, at 7 p.m.
It’s summer in the High Country, and nothing quite says summer in Colorado like a festival celebrating craft beer. Breckenridge is a popular beer festival location in Summit County, with both the spring and summer festivals drawing large crowds.
This year, the Breckenridge Summer Beer Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It will be held in the open air, in the parking lot space just beside Beaver Run Resort. More than 50 brewers from Summit, Colorado and the U.S. will be on hand to offer tastes of their various craft beers, which range from flagship favorites to limited seasonal offerings.
10 YEARS OF BEER
“It’s been a fun, wild ride of beer festivals,” said Jen Radueg, beer festival event director.
The event has expanded over the years. Last year, it moved from Ridge Street in Breckenridge — where the spring festival is held — to its new location near Beaver Run Resort. In 2014, it took up about half of the parking lot, while this year it has expanded to fill the entire space with brewer tents, vendor tents and a stage for live music performances.
The VIP experience this year is also improved, Radueg said. Beer available in the tent will include draft beer from Breckenridge Brewery as well as specialty kegs provided by the brewers. Two cicerones will be on hand to discuss the beer styles and flavors with interested guests.
Compared to the spring festival, which often draws crowds of spring skiers looking for a diverting afternoon, “the summer festival is a little more laid-back,” Radueg said. “I think it speaks to the summer visitor in Breckenridge. … The summer festival is more about the beer. We’re looking at some options for future years to bring in some educational elements and just continue to grow on that whole opportunity of making it about the beer.”
LOCAL CRAFT BEER
This is not brewmaster Cory Forster’s first rodeo, but it’s his first round of summer festivals representing The Bakers’ Brewery, which opened its doors in Silverthorne earlier this year. It will also be his first time specifically at the Breckenridge summer festival.
Forster will be bringing Bakers’ Cottonmouth Killer session IPA, his Barking Dog Brown and his Rye’d Open Belgian Pale Ale, as well as a brand-new brew — an imperial Belgian red called Intense Bike Rider.
“It’s very big and bold but also balanced,” said Forster of Intense Bike Rider. “There’s eight different kinds of malts in it, big layers of flavor, layers of caramel and toffee and sweet malts to balance out the bitterness and spice of the hops, and also some toasty nutty graham cracker-like malts in there.”
Among the offerings from Breckenridge Brewery will be the P.O.G. saison, a traditional farmhouse ale fermented with passionfruit, orange and guava. Broken Compass Brewing will have their flagship beers on hand as well, from the lighter Ginger Pale Ale and Chili Pepper Pale Ale to the Chocolate Stout and FDFH Brown.
Left Hand Brewing Company from Longmont is also capitalizing on the light summer beers, bringing its Good Juju summer seasonal ginger pale ale, as well as its Pole Star pilsner.
Among its usual flagship brews, Aspen Brewing Company will offer tastes of its summer seasonal Silver City wheat beer.
These are just a few of the beers that will be on hand at the festival. There will also be some gluten-free options from Wild Cider and Colorado Cider Company. Wild Cider will sample three flavors — apple, berry and pineapple — while Colorado Cider will bring along their popular Glider Cider for the tasting.
Hailey Steele from Nashville, Tennessee, will open the live music portion of the festival. Steele provides a country twang with a touch of rock to get people on their feet.
Muskateer Gripweed is a blues-fusion band from Fort Collins and, according to their website, create “American revival, stomp, shake and holla” music.
Finishing up will be Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line, also from Nashville, with a mix of country and rock.
TIPS AND TRICKS
Since the event takes up the parking lot, attendees of the festival are encouraged to park in Breckenridge parking lots, including F Lot and Tiger Dredge. People can either take a short walk up the hill to the Beaver Run lot or take advantage of the Free Ride bus service, with stops located throughout Breck, including near the lots.
Attendees may also bring an empty water bottle, to fill up at the event, for re-hydration, which Forster recommended.
“You need to re-hydrate what you dehydrate,” he said. He also suggested sunscreen.
Courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation
Matching fund pledges by Vail Resorts, Breckenridge and Summit County allowed the Colorado Department of Transportation to fast-track the State Highway 9 Iron Springs realignment, helping close a $1 millon gap in needed funding.
The proposed realignment would cover just over four miles of Highway 9 between Breckenridge and Frisco, moving the road away from Dillon Reservoir and eliminating the tight turn known as “Leslie’s Curve.” However, the future of the project was uncertain when cost estimates jumped from $17.5 million in 2013 to $22.6 million earlier this year. The increase stemmed from higher construction costs and the implementation of additional wetland habitat protection measures.
For the project to be constructed within the next decade and be eligible for CDOT’s RAMP (Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships) program, local partners must match at least 20 percent of the total cost. As it stands now, the Transportation Commission selected the project for competitive RAMP funding, with the project going to bid this fall, groundbreaking scheduled for the summer of 2016 and completion estimated for the summer of 2017.
“The Transportation Commission approved this as a RAMP project as it met their criteria — broad partnership and good local participation “match” and ability to be complete by end of calendar year 2017,” said CDOT project manager Grant Anderson.
The three partners managed to cover 20 percent of the $5 million cost increase, with the county, Vail Resorts and the town of Breckenridge each pledging $337,000.
“The Iron Springs segment of Highway 9 is the culmination of many years of work by the town, county, Frisco and Vail Resorts, (which) joined together to improve this important corridor, which serves one of the most popular ski resorts in North America,” Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said in a statement.
The county previously pledged to contribute $1.9 million in land, $1.1 in in-kind donations and Vail Pass Recpath maintenance valued at $90,000. The town of Frisco also donated $360,000 worth of land and $90,000 worth of parking and recpath maintenance.
“We’re very excited. It’s a great partnership to be able to have that state investment,” said Julie Sutor, a public information officer with the county. “Vail Resorts and the town of Breckenridge and the town of Frisco have all been in conversations from the start of this 10 years ago or so. This is one of the chapters of that much larger discussion, that much larger effort.”
The new highway will be broadened from two to four lanes, located further away from the reservoir and restoring the area where the highway is currently located back to the land’s natural grade. The project will also include wildlife crossings and offsite wildlife habitat work to restore the wetlands previously located next to the reservoir.
The recpath will also see significant changes, as it will follow the current highway’s trajectory, curving along the reservoir. While the new recpath is under construction, cyclists and other users will be able to cross beneath the new Highway 9.
Officials hope that the widened, straightened road will reduce accidents between the two towns, removing a bottleneck area for traffic between Farmer’s Korner and the intersection of Highway 9 and Peak One Drive in Frisco. From 2006 to 2011, the Colorado Department of Transportation reported 256 accidents along the four-mile stretch of highway, including one fatal accident in 2010.
“This is one of the last remaining stretches of the Highway 9 corridor that features only one lane in each direction, and traffic can be awful there during weekends and holidays, particularly in snowy weather,” Summit County commissioner Thomas Davidson said in a statement. “Without this additional local match, the opportunity to pursue these improvements could have been pushed out decades into the future, and we would have missed the boat on a $17 million investment of state money into our transportation infrastructure.”
The Breckenridge Town Council and Vail Resorts reached an agreement Tuesday, Aug. 25, to revise the town’s lift-ticket ballot question for funding a comprehensive parking and transit plan.
The town will exclude season passes, multi-resort lift tickets and summer activities from its proposed 4.5 percent admissions tax, and Vail Resorts will guarantee that the tax, if passed, will raise at least $3.5 million per year, adjusted for inflation by 1 to 4 percent annually.
“In the spirit of compromise, the council felt this amount would be adequate to begin to work on the much needed improvements for this vital issue for our community,” said Mayor John Warner, in a statement. “The community has been telling us that parking and transit are an extremely important issue for the future of Breckenridge. Although we may not always agree, a positive relationship with the ski area is important, and the council felt this compromise still meets the community’s needs.”
The seven council members explained why they each supported the tax and urged people to vote yes on the ballot question in the Nov. 3 election. Without voter approval, the tax and the agreement won’t happen.
About 100 people packed the council chamber, including at least five Vail Resorts representatives.
“Parking and transit are real issues for the Breckenridge community and we are pleased to have an agreement that provides the Town the funding required to address these needs,” said John Buhler, Breckenridge Ski Resort COO, in a statement. “We have concerns regarding any tax increase, but reaching these terms protects the greatest number of Breckenridge guests. We commend the town council for their engagement on this topic and their willingness to address some of our concerns.”
The proposed tax would begin July 1, 2016, to provide time for implementing the systems to collect the tax from winter lift-ticket purchasers. Vail Resorts agreed that it will not oppose the tax headed to voters.
Community members repeatedly applauded and thanked the town and Vail Resorts for cooperating on a solution.
Vail Resorts recently announced the launch of EpicMix Time – an expansion of the company’s ski and snowboard app – that will allow guests at Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek to access real-time lift line wait times.
Debuting in the 2015-16 season, EpicMix Time will display up-to-the-minute chairlift and gondola line wait times across 55 core lifts and gondolas and 13,600 acres of skiable terrain to help skiers and riders make the most of their resort experience.
After piloting the program in Colorado, Vail Resorts plans to expand EpicMix Time to its other destinations in upcoming seasons. App developers plan to add updates on on-mountain restaurant and rental shop wait times, as well.
Vail Resorts is currently testing the ground-breaking technology at Perisher Resort in Australia, the company’s latest resort acquisition now in the middle of its ski season.
“Providing real-time lift line wait times is a first for the ski industry,” said Robert Urwiler, Vail Resorts executive vice president and chief information officer. “Similar to apps showing traffic flow, like Google Maps or Waze, we’re applying unique and sophisticated analytics to aggregated anonymous location data generated by smart phones and other mobile devices across the distinct topography and layout of our chairlifts to calculate reliable wait-time information for our guests.”
The company has been using RFID technology for hands-free, lift-ticket scanning for seven years.
It took two weeks of moving rocks and pushing dirt.
This August, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crews re-aligned a segment of the Gold Hill Trail, which heads west toward the Tenmile Range about 4 miles north of Breckenridge.
The youth corps employees, who range in age from 18 to 25, said their time on the Dillon Ranger District epitomized the summer they hoped for when they signed up for trail work in the Colorado mountains.
“Most intense thing I’ve ever done,” said Sarah Carter, a 20-year-old from Sacramento studying geology at a college in St. Louis. “This is just so outside all of our comfort zones.”
Besides a weekly stipend, youth corps employees are eligible to receive AmeriCorps scholarships.
Ayanna Bridges, a 23-year-old from Ohio, paused from shoveling in the morning sun and said, “Good to be able to spend this much time outside and get paid for it.”
WHY THE REROUTE
The 3-mile Gold Hill Trail overlaps with part of the 486-mile Colorado Trail and the 3,100-mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.
The CDT, as long-distance hikers call it, forms a “Triple Crown” of National Scenic Trails with the better known Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. The one-mile realignment of the Gold Hill Trail was federally funded with $30,000 earmarked for improvements to the CDT.
Originally, the trail went straight up the fall line and was prone to water damage and severe erosion, said Cindy Ebbert, Dillon Ranger District recreation specialist, who supervised the crews. Annual maintenance wasn’t fixing the problem.
Ebbert and trails specialist Tyler Kirkpatrick redesigned the trail, which is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. For one of the most important factors in trail construction — grade — they used a device called a clinometer to measure trail and slope angles.
“You really want to think about your grade because if you take a trail too steep for too long, then it just becomes another problem,” Ebbert said, “but, you also have to take into account that people want to get to their destination.”
They also turned the trail toward features that would interest hikers and bikers like views of Dillon Reservoir and what little vegetation grows tall near the trail.
Ebbert said the area around this section of trail was clear-cut about five to seven years ago and lies below a 2014 cut near the Peaks Trail — which is popular with hikers, bikers, trail runners, snowshoers and cross-country skiers — that caused public outrage last year.
Dillon Ranger District recreation staff officer Ken Waugh said the district’s partnership with the youth corps is one of its most valuable because it provides outdoor work experience for young people and allows the Forest Service to accomplish much-needed trail maintenance.
Headquartered out of Steamboat Springs, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps primarily covers all of northwest Colorado but also sends crews to other regions of the state and southern Wyoming.
In addition to work experience, the nonprofit emphasizes personal development, leadership skills, job readiness and healthy living.
“Our primary focus is on the positive development of the corps member. We are passionate about immersing young people in the outdoors to perform meaningful conservation projects as an avenue to their individual growth,” said Gretchen Van De Carr, RMYC executive director.
Shelby Weister, a 22-year-old from Vermont who graduated from college in the spring, said she plans on moving to Big Sky, Montana, for the winter and then hopes to go to law school in Portland. She landed on a summer with the youth corps after thinking, “What can I do that’s totally different from four years of college?”
Three people on her crew want to work as park rangers, she said, “and I think the rest of us just wanted to be outside this summer.”
They got their wish.
Youth corps members camp in tents throughout their 10-week minimum commitment. Usually, they car-camp close to trailheads, but sometimes they backpack into more remote locations.
The trail crews work four 10-hour days and often spend their three-day weekends exploring, hiking and climbing 14ers. Though manual labor unsurprisingly makes the corps members fit and strong, Ebbert said she was still impressed with their energy.
The crew members take turn cooking meals and spend a little time each morning on group reflection. They get used to showering once a week at a local rec center and rising and falling with the sun. And, they grow close after spending nearly all of their waking and sleeping time together for two and a half months.
Some crew members said the job is helping them save money for school or traveling; others spoke about how much they learned.
“Really what surprised me is the amount of work that goes into the trails,” said Bridges, who studied anthropology and early childhood development at Ohio State University. “It’s really cool to see the turnout.”
She chose to work with the youth corps before moving to Oregon this month to study natural medicine and yoga, and she had one tip for future youth corps members: bring good rain gear.
Emily Royer, a 21-year-old also from Ohio, said the summer went by fast.
Though she’s excited to return to school, she said, “I’m scared to go back inside for that long.”