Monday, January 26, 2015

Copper Mountain instructor offers tips on improving your snowboarding skills

#Copper Mountain, Colorado.

Tripp Fay / Copper Mountain

Snowboarding is about progression. Whether you’re strapping on a board for the first time or headed to the X Games, there’s always something to work on. A few weeks ago the Summit Daily went back to the basics with ski tips to help correct some common mistakes we saw on the slopes. This week it’s time to take a look at the other guys on the mountain.
With that in mind we talked to Ronnie Barr, longtime snowboard instructor at Copper Mountain Resort, to learn more about frequent flaws in the snowboarding world. As an American Association of Snowboard Instructors certified trainer, he’s one of the guys who teaches the guys who teach you how to snowboard; we figured he might know a thing or two. Here is a quick look at what he came up with.
The upper body rider
Barr started with the snowboarder who turns by swinging the arms and shoulders.
“Starting turns by rotating the upper body is a habit you want to break,” he said. “It’s something most people do because it’s the easiest way to do it.”
Turning with the shoulders is an ineffective way to turn, and a dead giveaway that you don’t know what your doing, or haven’t been at it that long.
“Like in skiing, snowboarding turns should be based on motions from the hips on down. The movement is a combination of turning the front knee and hip while also shifting pressure from the front to the back of the foot or vice versa depending on if it’s a toe-edge or heal-edge turn.
“Learning that the (front) knee can steer the board is a breakthrough for a lot of people,” Barr said.
Shifting weight from front to back while turning is also key. Barr encouraged riders to play with weight distribution and not simply stand rigid as beginner or intermediate riders are prone to do.
“You always want to be moving around on your snowboard, front of the board, to the middle of the board, to the back,” He explained. “It’s huge for taking the next step. Moving around is something I suggest everybody play with. If your body moves, it’s much easier to turn.”
Start by leaning downhill and into a turn while twisting the front leg to help initiate it.
He also reminded boarders that — again like skiing — keeping weight toward the back of the board all the time makes it harder to turn on a groomer. In powder it’s a different story, but we’ll get there.
The side-slipping slope groomer
Another common beginner trait is the rider who locks in on the heel edge and rides the board sideways down a hill. You’ll recognize boarders doing this because you can follow the trails they make as they slide down the hill like grooming machines.
If you’re afraid to turn or point the board downhill, there’s a really good chance you’ve over-terrained yourself — meaning you’re on a slope that’s above your ability level. In the ski and snowboard world there’s also a slightly more explicit description for this mistake.
“Over-terraining yourself can be one of the worst things you can do,” Barr said. “When you’re intimidated on top of the run, you’re tense.”
Even Olympic-level skiers and riders can work on their form on a green slope; there’s no shame in it.
On a less steep slope, you’re going to be more confident pointing the board straight downhill — that’s where it’s supposed to go.
Living on the edge
Properly using the edges of a board — just like in skiing — is an underdeveloped skill in snowboarding.
“It’s something a lot of people don’t learn,” Barr said. “The higher the edge angle, the more the board performs. You always want to be on one side or the other. Riding flat is not a great way to stay in control.”
When you see someone really carving a turn, you can read the bottom of the board because it’s that far up on edge. Now every turn doesn’t have to be like that, but it’s good to keep in mind. Think of the edge of your board like the bottom of an ice skate; that’s basically what you should be riding on. Turning is simply switching from one edge to the next.
Using edges properly also avoids catching the dreaded heel edge or toe edge and landing on your face or smacking the back of your head. It’s the riders who stay flat on their boards that are most prone to catching an edge, because the slightest terrain feature will catch and flip the board and the rider on top of it. Then end result? You’re going to have a bad time.
Beginner and intermediate riders, for whatever reason, also tend to be more comfortable on the heel edge of the board at first. But Barr said learning to be good on your toe edge is a lot more fun, and will actually give you much more control. Eventually it’s about smoothly linking turns, where the rider is transitioning back and forth from toe to heel edge.
To kick it up a notch, Barr encourages students of all skill levels to try putting pressure on the toes of one foot and the heel of the other while turning to really torque the board.
“That will cause the new edge to engage very quickly,” he said. “It can put you in a sweet carve.”
It’s snowboarding, not surfing
Some riders also have a tendency to try to steer with their back leg, or kick it out during a turn. This tends to come with people who have experience surfing. While it’s correct in surfing and can be a fun way to ride, it’s not necessarily efficient. Try engaging turns with the front leg, as previously mentioned, and you might find it much easier to carve. Snowboarding with a surfing style may also lead to riding “flat” and, again, being prone to catching an edge. Remember, it’s all about riding on edges, not catching them.
Getting to the deep stuff, handling the pow
Finally, we turn to the magical world of powder. For beginners and intermediates it can also be pretty intimidating. The trick there, Barr said, is smooth motions.
“Rule No. 1 of riding in powder is you have to slow everything down,” he explained. “The board needs to slowly turn from side to side.”
Powder makes it much easier to catch an edge, which will kill momentum and in all likelihood get you stuck.
Smooth, gentle motions are the way to go, like buttering toast. Also, the deeper it gets, the more acceptable it is to lean back so you can keep the board above it. The rider’s body should shift back and forth from the middle to the back of the board in powder.
A powder-specific rockered board can also make your life a lot more pleasant when it comes to the fluffy stuff. Rockered or reverse cambered boards curve more in the tip and tail to create more floatation under foot.
“It can make all the difference,” Barr said of board choice.
You’re never too good
One more thing.
No matter how good you think you might be, a lesson can still make a world of difference.
“You’re never too good to take a lesson,” Barr said. “You’re always going to learn something. Even the best snowboarders in the world are still learning.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Frisco Gold Rush features Nordic ski races, community bonfire, fireworks

#Frisco, Colorado.


On Saturday, Feb. 7, the Frisco Nordic Center and the town of Frisco will host the 45th Frisco Gold Rush benefiting the Summit Nordic Ski Club, with a portion of the proceeds helping to send local athletes to Junior Nationals.
The Gold Rush is the longest running Nordic event in Colorado, and the races are open to skiers of all ages and abilities. The event includes a 30-kilometer skate-ski race, a 10K classic or skate race and a 3K fun race. The 3K fun race is untimed and intended to draw inexperienced racers or experienced racers in search of a relaxed cruise on their skis. Each 10K and 30K racer will receive a commemorative Frisco Gold Rush buff, one hour of tubing at the Frisco Adventure Park on Saturday, Feb. 7, and hot soup at the Nordic Center Lodge.
New this year, racers will experience skiing on the snow-covered terrain of the Frisco Bike Park, Frisco Ski and Ride Hill and, most exciting of all, portions of the 10K and 30K courses will take racers onto Dillon Reservoir.
“We really wanted to mix it up a bit in our 45th year and offer an experience that you can’t find every day, so we did some serious legwork over the past year and came up with some exciting new terrain for skiers, which will just be available for these races,” said Linsey Kach, town of Frisco recreation programs manager.
Again this year, the Colorado High School Activities Association will bring racers from around the state to compete in 3K or 5K skate ski events.
“You are likely to see future Olympians in this group, and these 200 to 300 young racers bring a really fresh energy to this wonderful historic race,” Kach said.
The day of races will be capped off with the Spontaneous Combustion community bonfire and a fireworks display at the Frisco Bay Marina. The community is invited to the marina lot at the corner of Summit Boulevard/state Highway 9 and Marina Road at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7, to watch the bonfire and fireworks light up the Frisco sky. Beverages, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic, and food will be available for sale.
The town is accepting Christmas trees to fuel the bonfire through Saturday, Jan. 31. Trees must be stripped of all lights, tinsel, garland, tree stands and decorations prior to drop-off at the marina dirt lot. The tree drop-off is open 24 hours a day. The town of Frisco, Frisco Nordic Center, Baymont Inn and Suites, Western Enterprises, the Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, the Forest Service and the Summit Daily News are Gold Rush sponsors.
For information, contact Kach at LinseyK@townoffrisco.com or (970) 668-9133.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Social Summit: Volunteers help pack molds full of snow for sculpting

#Breckenridge.

Summit Daily News

A crane sets a towering wood- and steel-framed mold onto the snow-scraped Tiger Dredge Lot adjacent to the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Workers from Breckenridge Crane Service bolt the four sides of the frame together as the massive SnoGo snowblower claims its place alongside.
A bucket of snow is dumped into the churning maw of the snowblower, where it is pulverized into tiny crystals before being shot into the mold.
Volunteers clamber up scaffolding and down into the mold to pack the first layer of snow the old-fashioned way, with shovels and boots.
“We stomp the block to eliminate the air holes,” said Gavin Dalgliesh, of GoBreck.
“The first level you sink up to your knees, then it starts packing down.”
The group of nine stomps away until everybody’s satisfied with the work and climbs out of the box, awaiting another layer of snow.
Then they jump back in and start all over again. Donna Horii, with GoBreck, said each mold takes about 30 minutes to pack.
“We’re Breckenridge’s version of Lucy and Ethel,” she said.
The International Snow Sculpture Championships run from Tuesday, Jan. 27, through Saturday, Jan. 31, with public viewing through Sunday, Feb. 8. For more information, visit www.gobreck.com and click on “Events.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Keystone’s Winter Bluegrass Weekend stars Sierra Hull and more

#Keystone, Colorado.


A top-notch lineup of bluegrass musicians will make its way to Warren Station at Keystone on Friday, Jan. 23, and Saturday, Jan. 24, for Keystone’s annual Winter Bluegrass Weekend. Celebrating its fourth year, the event brings together acoustic roots and mountain culture to benefit the Dercum Center for the Arts and Humanities.
On Friday, Jan. 23, catch familiar favorites such as Summit County’s Local Folk, The Pine Beatles and Colorado’s own tempo-kicking Railsplitters. Saturday, Jan. 24, features popular pickers including Finnders & Youngberg, the Haunted Windchimes and bluegrass big shots Sierra Hull with Justin Moses.
To add a bit of spice, bluegrass lovers are invited to tote their instruments and strum with fellow players at 5:30 p.m. each afternoon during the event. Led by local musicians, the acoustic jam takes place in the Warren Station ballroom just before the bands take the stage. All pickers and grinners are welcome, though standard bluegrass jam etiquette applies. If you can tune your instrument, make basic chord shapes like G, C, D and A and can maintain rhythm, you will fit right in. Camaraderie and meeting other musicians is all part of the fun. Although donations are appreciated, participants do not have to purchase a concert ticket to join in the jam, so pick on.
These two nights of stacked concerts star amazing string bands and will entertain listeners with music new and old, all to raise funds for a cultural legacy left by Keystone’s founders, Max and Edna Dercum. Tickets start at $12 for an adult single-day pass and $20 for a two-night pass.
FRIDAY’S MUSIC
Local Folk is an up-tempo mountain-grass party playing a fresh mixture of bluegrass, old-time, Western swing and fiddle tunes from local Summit County musicians with an arrangement of guitars, bass, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and dobro.
The Pine Beatles are as cheeky and irreverent as their name. Born from the simple desire among friends to play and share music with others, the band was born out of spontaneous Sunday-evening jams. Playing private parties, nonprofit fundraisers, cookouts and weddings, this community-based band soon became known around Summit as a fun component of any friendly gathering.
From their home in the Colorado Rockies, The Railsplitters have been scaling new heights with a refreshing and charming range of bluegrass and beyond-bluegrass music. The Railsplitters are nothing if not enthusiastically bluegrass and contagiously so, with rapid tempos, unusual instrumentals and good-time breakdowns. Using powerful female and male vocals, enchanting harmonies and masterful playing, The Railsplitters have the kind of raw power that can raise mountains and even a few eyebrows.
SATURDAY’S MUSIC
Colorado’s Finnders & Youngberg proudly swim in the deep currents of American music — classic bluegrass, tried-and-true honky tonk, country swing and skillfully spun folk tales. While their sound evokes timelessness, it is a decidedly contemporary, well-traveled, 21st century sensibility that informs their songwriting. Their tunes draw on the bumps, bruises and laugh lines earned when we find ourselves in the “bogs” of backroads, dive bars and long, lonesome nights
The Haunted Windchimes’ sound is very traditional folk and blues and the songs have a vintage quality, as if they might have been written yesterday or 75 years ago. It’s the vocal harmonies that really set them apart, a three-headed juggernaut of Desirae Garcia, Chela Lujan and Inaiah Lujan. When their voices blend, it’s nothing short of beautiful. The sound is often moody and melancholy but is always deeply affecting. That sound is embroidered by the instrumental mastery of Mike Clark and the standup bass foundation of Sean Fanning.
Sierra Hull has already earned considerable respect in the bluegrass world, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s voting members having nominated her for no fewer than five awards over three years, and there’s a good chance she’ll be the first woman to win the mandolin category. But as a player, a singer and a songwriter, she also has remarkable range, the potential to win over ears unfamiliar with Bill Monroe and give performances of broad cultural importance, as she’s done at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and the National Prayer Breakfast.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Breckenridge water rates increase by 5 percent to fund new water plant

#Breckenridge.


For the first time in recent memory, the town of Breckenridge will raise water usage rates by 5 percent for residential and commercial customers across town.
In an effort to both encourage conservation and kick-start funding for a proposed new water plant, the town council last year approved a higher water utility rate for 2015. Historically, water fees have increased at a low pace of 1 percent annually. Beginning this March, the town’s water usage rates will increase by 5 percent and plant investment fees (PIFs) will jump by 10 percent, the steepest hike since 2007, according to town records.
“Rapidly increasing demands, especially in the drought-prone West, are placing an immense strain on this limited, precious resource,” Mayor John Warner said. “It is our duty to address this critical issue for our community.”
The 5 percent rate increase for residential and commercial users will raise the base residential usage charge from $31.26 to $32.81 over a two-month billing cycle, an increase of $1.55. That translates to a $9.30 increase annually per customer.
For customers beyond town limits, such as homes in the Blue River neighborhood, the two-month rate is 50 percent higher, according to the town’s 2011 water plant feasibility study. Those customers will pay $18.60 more per year.
Excess usage rates will also increase in turn. The base rate for maximum usage will drop from 12,000 gallons to 10,000 gallons per two-month billing cycle. Rates for excess usage will increase from $3.11 per 1,000 gallons to $5.00 per 1,000 gallons. These measures were put in place to encourage conservation efforts, according to a town release.
To assist customers with conservation efforts, the town will send individual water usage history reports shortly after the rate increase. These reports will detail two-year usage history for each customer. Town officials hope the reports can help guide and track conservation efforts, and they come paired with a link to water conservation tips on the town website.
Over the past 10 years, water has factored heavily into council discussions about the town’s future. After noting that water is essential to the community’s economy, natural environment and quality of life, the council made water-related issues a priority and in 2014 completed a comprehensive study on the town’s water system, which strongly recommends the addition of a second water plant.
The PIF increase of 10 percent for 2015 is double the historical annual increase rate of 5 percent. This rate hike is the first step for financing a new plant. Only new customers connecting to the municipal system pay PIFs.
The 2014 water study indicated that the town’s sole water treatment plant, a 41-year-old facility, will not be able to meet future demand. As a result, the town has started the process of planning for a new facility that will help the town meet future water demand as the town continues to grow.
While the town has made strides in conserving water and management efficiency, the current water plant is nearing 80 percent capacity. The current plant will not be able to support new customers outside the current service area, which is supplied by private wells with a high likelihood of failure.
Another benefit of a new plant is emergency readiness. In the event of a wildfire, natural disaster or mechanical malfunction at the current plant, a second water plant would provide a critical back-up system.
The study also found that the Breckenridge system supplies high-quality drinking water at a low cost to customers in comparison to other communities in Colorado. Funding currently comes from user fees, tap fees and water system maintenance fees. The upcoming usage rate and PIF increases are the first such increases. The town council and utility department have not yet decided on any future increases.
“The town is working with water system consultants, engineers and water rights attorneys to secure our community’s water future,” Warner said. “Increased water rates are just one part of taking steps to improve our water utility system. The council and staff are aware that increased rates are rarely welcome news, but we believe that our citizens will understand the critical needs for water conservation and system improvements.”
The Breckenridge Water System study and an informational Q&A on the rate increase are available on the town website at www.townofbreckenridge.com.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Forest Service releases environmental analysis of Breckenridge Ski Resort summer expansion

#Breckenridge.


Nearly a year after first asking for public input, the White River National Forest released the draft environmental impact statement Friday, Jan. 16, for Breckenridge Ski Resort’s proposed expansion of recreation activities.
Officials now are seeking more comments on the analysis of the proposal, which aims to boost year-round recreational opportunities at the resort with zip lines, canopy tours, ropes challenge courses, new mountain biking and hiking trails, and an observation tower.
The 321-page analysis describes the proposed activities in detail as well as their potential effects on wildlife, alpine ecosystems and human resources.
As required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the document first analyzes a “no action” alternative, or what would happen if none of the proposed designs or activities was approved or completed.
Then the document analyzes the impacts of approving and implementing everything in the ski resort’s proposal. Finally, the analysis presents an in-between option, with some of the most controversial features removed based on public input and concerns raised by Forest Service and other agency professionals.
One of the features removed in the third option was the Sawmill Zip Line.
The ski resort proposed that zip line would start at the top of the Peak 8 SuperConnect lift and cross the Sawmill Gulch between Peaks 8 and 9 twice with 1 mile of cables. It would connect near the top of the Volunteer ski run and end on the Four O’Clock run near the Freeway terrain park and pipe entrance.
The third option also removed the Ore Bucket Canopy Tour, proposed to cross gladed terrain on Peak 7 with nine ziplines. The analysis added a canopy tour on Peak 7 to replace the one removed. The Claimjumper Canopy Tour would be 0.85 miles long and include eight zip lines south, or skiers’ right, of the Independence chair.
Officials also removed the highest, northernmost part of the 14 new miles of mountain biking trails proposed on Peak 7.
The ski resort proposed 1.5 miles of new hiking trails, each 4 feet wide, that would enter the bottom of the bowls on Peaks 7 and 8 as well as one that would access the lake at the bottom of the Lake Chutes above 6 Chair.
That last hiking trail was removed in the alternative proposed by the Forest Service as well as summer guest use of the 6 Chair and Imperial lifts.
The 30-foot-tall observation tower proposed for the bottom of Horseshoe Bowl on Peak 8 was moved in the alternative option to right next to the bomb cache about 500 feet north of the top of the Colorado SuperChair.
Forest Service officials said the project as a whole aims to offer a wide spectrum of natural resource-based activities and experiences for an increasingly diverse recreating public interested in visiting the resort.
“The ski areas on the White River National Forest are important gateways to public lands. We offer world-class recreational opportunities to millions of guests each year at these resorts. These new projects will allow the forest to better reach those visitors who may not be familiar with national forests or outdoor recreation and provide activities that cater to a wider range of forest users,” said Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor, in a written statement.
More public input during the 45-day comment period will help guide the decision-making process, Fitzwilliams wrote. He is charged with evaluating the project’s recreational benefits against its resource impacts and will make the final decision on the project.
A public open house on the proposal will be held at Mountain Thunder Lodge (50 Mountain Thunder Drive, Breckenridge, CO 80424) on Feb. 24, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Representatives from the Forest Service and the resort will answer questions and provide more information on this project.
The Forest Service requests that comments on the proposal be submitted by March 2. Send comments to: Scott Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor, c/o Roger Poirier, Project Leader, 120 Midland Ave., Suite 140, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601. Comments can also be submitted electronically athttps://cara.ecosystemmanagement.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=43291.
The Forest Service requests that people submitting comments include their names, addresses, email addresses and organization represented, if any, as well as the project’s title and specific facts, concerns, issues and supporting reasons for Fitzwilliams to consider.
Only those who submit timely and specific written public comments will be legally eligible to file an objection to the project decision.
The White River National Forest plans to issue a final environmental impact statement and project decision in late summer 2015.
For more information, contact Roger Poirier, project manager, at 970-945-3245 or visit the White River National Forest website at www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=43291.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Monday, January 19, 2015

CDOT Executive Director Don Hunt resigns after one term

#Colorado.


Don Hunt won’t take offense if the average commuter hardly notices his handiwork. Invisibility is the point.
On a sunny, unseasonably warm afternoon in mid-January, Hunt had just wrapped up a 12-day stint at work and finally found time to relax with a cappuccino at Abbey’s Coffee in Frisco. It’s a favorite hangout for the outgoing director with the Colorado Department of Transportation, found just a few blocks from his home of nearly 15 years on Tenmile Creek.
“We were living in Denver and just tired of driving back and forth every weekend, like everyone else,” Hunt says of his Frisco home, where he, his wife and two grown children have lived part-time since 1990. “We just love the area so much. We love winter, we love summer, so I’ll be glad when I have a little more flexibility to actually get away when I want to.”
Outside Abbey’s, at the intersection of Main Street and Summit Boulevard, cars splash through sporadic piles of dirty, brownish snow. Hunt watches for a bit and sips his drink, then turns away from the road and glaring 3 p.m. sun to chat about Uber — yet another of his interests in the modern transportation world.
“I’m a great Uber supporter,” Hunt says when I mention that the ride-sharing service is coming to Summit County for the first time. “They’ve had problems with driver safety and rider safety that need to be addressed, but this is an emerging trend. Even the president of Ford Motor Co. says they need to be involved (in ride sharing).”
For Hunt, it pays to know anything and everything about how people move, hence the Uber interest. Observing traffic is his career, at least for a few more weeks, and he’s often captivated by the little things most everyday drivers overlook: toll lanes, plowing strategies, the reason the eastbound bore at the Eisenhower Tunnel is named Johnson (as in Edwin C. Johnson, the two-time Colorado governor who convinced the federal government to stretch Interstate 70 through the Rocky Mountains, then considered a fool’s errand).
After explaining the Johnson connection and the intricacies of maintaining 35 mountain passes throughout the year, Hunt pauses for a beat.
“I find this stuff fascinating,” Hunt says with a shrug. “I’m not sure if anyone else thinks it’s so, but I love looking at these transportation issues.”
A DELICATE TOUCH
Hunt knows that overseeing 23,000 lane miles of roads, highways and interstates is a relatively thankless job. He knew so when Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed him to the executive director position in January 2011, nearly 30 years after the Minnesota native moved from Minneapolis to Denver for a management position with BRW. He stayed with the transportation and consulting firm for nearly 25 years before taking the CDOT position.
Hunt’s early consulting work with BRW was spread across the county. There was the realignment of Lawrence and Larimer streets for the Auraria Campus in Denver, the 1992 Coors Field construction in the heart of LoDo, even a ’90s redesign project at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Despite such high-profile projects, Hunt still believes he’s at his best when people hardly notice the work he’s done — even with an annual budget of $1.2 billion. In 2006, when Colorado set aside $550 million in capital funding, he oversaw 150 separate projects and a team of 40 managers across dozens of departments.
“I’m always looking at how we can fit something that provides more mobility for a growing population, but that still respects the fabric around that area,” says Hunt, who’s seen Colorado’s population and infrastructure area grow exponentially over the past three decades. “But there’s no one solution that works every time. It becomes a balancing act.”
Again, invisibility is something of a metric for Hunt’s role at CDOT, right alongside traffic and budgetary data. If drivers hardly feel the frustrating downsides of a construction project, then Hunt and his team of 3,300 statewide employees have done their job.
“The real reward in doing what I do, planning and design, is being involved in the creation, seeing a project completed so that it becomes part of the area it’s in,” Hunt says.
Yet along the I-70 corridor, that balancing act between form and function is tricky. Take the Twin Tunnels (now Veterans Memorial Tunnels) expansion outside of Idaho Springs: The $161 million project began in 2012, just a year after Hunt joined CDOT, and it fast became a headache for commuters, particularly ski traffic. The end is almost in sight — crews are putting the final touches on the westbound tunnel after completing the eastbound side in late 2014 — but delays occasionally stretched upwards of two or three hours during heavy traffic.
While Hunt was familiar with the project management, including public moaning and groaning, taking over at CDOT was a new challenge. Gov. Hickenlooper appreciated his input during the 2006 capital improvement projects — the two first met over beers at the governor’s Wynkoop Brewery while Coors Field was going up — and knew Hunt could handle the deep, confusing budget system at CDOT.
“With a project, everyone is rolling the same direction. You can pick the team,” Hunt says. “With an organization, there’s a culture and a history and a way things are done. You just have to create a vision and communicate that, day in and day out.”
Hunt’s vision for CDOT was straightforward: improve business practices to become more efficient and more accountable. Shortly after joining, he started poring through decades of grants and capital funds to clean up CDOT’s accounting system. What he found was shocking. Nearly $100 million in unused state and federal funds, usually a few million left here and a few million left there after projects were completed.
The rediscovered funds made the Twin Tunnels project possible, and when paired with a cash-based accounting system that will give CDOT $300 million per year over the next five years — “The final rabbit in the hat,” Hunt chuckles — the department announced Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships, or RAMP, a three-year initiative that is Hunt’s final legacy as executive director.
RAMP will address Colorado’s ever-growing transportation issues, but Hunt says it’s not a cure-all for CDOT. Take the Maglev: He says the potential high-speed train along I-70 is “entirely feasible” from a design perspective, but it would cost between $10 and $20 billion. Instead, he believes current projects like metering stations for the Eisenhower Tunnel and the “Peak Period Shoulder Lane” project on Interstate 70, between the Empire exit and Idaho Springs are better solutions.
SLOWING DOWN
As he finishes his cappuccino, Hunt leans back in his chair once more. After all, it’s nearly the weekend and he’s ready to unwind. Yet he knew his term with CDOT would last only four years — the end was always in sight. It was part of the original deal with Hickenlooper, long before the governor won a second term.
“Hickenlooper has said this before, ‘We only have one government, so let’s take care of it,’” Hunt says. “‘I think I was able to bring a new direction to CDOT. I’m proud that I was able to do some public service in my life, and I hope people who have also worked in private sector will consider doing a stint in the public sector.”
But Hunt’s heart is still in transportation. After he leaves CDOT in February and is replaced by Shailen Bhatt, the former cabinet secretary for the Delaware Department of Transportation, Hunt will remain heavily involved with the Antero Co., his Denver-based consulting firm. It just won’t be based in Denver anymore — the office will move to Frisco in about a year, as soon as he has time to breathe.
But not too much time.
“I love to work,” Hunt says. “I want a little more flexibility with my life, but I absolutely love to work. It’s what enjoy.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.