Friday, December 30, 2005

Snow Keeps Pilling Up

Without any obvious large-scale patterns influencing the weather, Colorado seems to have returned to a normal winter storm pattern, with wave after wave of Pacific moisture rolling onshore and delivering a steady series of snowstorms across the Northern Rockies.

“The westerlies across the Pacific are strong now and are driving repeated storms into the western mountains. It has not, however, been far enough south to produce snow and rain for the southwest USA, including southwest Colorado,” said state climatologist Dr. Roger Pielke.

Thursday’s storm snarled holiday traffic but also delivered a fresh blast of new snow at all local areas, with 6 inches at Copper Mountain, five at A-Basin, 3 at Breckenridge and 2 inches at Keystone, as of the 2 p.m.

Just across the Divide, Loveland picked up 9 inches for the highest storm total of the day.

Breckenridge weather watcher Rick Bly hasn’t compiled the month-end totals for Breckenridge but December is sure to wind up as the third month in a row with above-average precipitation, the first time that’s happened in quite some time.

As of Thursday morning, snowfall for the month was about 40 percent above average, Bly said. And there’s more snow on the way, with the forecast calling for waves of moisture to roll in every few days, at least through early next week.

“It’s a very progressive, active Pacific Ocean,” said Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecaster Scott Toepfer, indicating that another storm is due Saturday night, with another system ringing in the New Year with fresh powder Monday night into Tuesday. Toepfer said it looks like the jet stream could drop a little further south with that system, bringing heavier snows to the Northern Mountains along with a good blast for the San Juans, where precipitation has been lagging a little bit.

The snowpack at Red Mountain Pass is at about 84 percent of normal, Toepfer said.In general, the southern mountains have been drier than average this season, especially compared with the past few years.

“It’s just the luck of the draw where the storm track decided to stroll this year,” Toepfer said, explaining that the jet stream has just stayed that tad to the north, which means the San Juans haven’t seen the southwest flows coming in from Southern California. The recent series of storms has been originating in the central Pacific rather than the Gulf of Alaska, which means the temperatures have been slightly warmer than average for this time of year.

Looking at large-scale satellite images, Toepfer said there’s a zonal flow beginning in China and Russia and extending all the way across the Pacific before ridging and troughing as it hits the West Coast.

“In that kind of flow, the storms move in fast and move out fast, and there’s not a lot of time for dry slots to form in between,” he said.

The current weather pattern comes close, but doesn’t quite meet the definition of a Pineapple Express, when copious subtropical moisture from near Hawaii hooks up with the Polar jet stream for what can be exceptionally heavy snows. But should the present pattern shift just a little, with storms coming in slightly colder, conditions could resemble the winter of 1983, “when we were tunneling down Main Street (in Breckenridge) to get our mail,” Toepfer said.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Keystone Wins Enviornmental Award

Keystone Resort’s ongoing environmental accomplishments have earned it a reputation as a leader in the ski industry for green efforts, according to Rick Cables, regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region, which covers Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas.

Over the past year, the Keystone Lodge signed a one-year contract to buy enough wind energy to offset the electricity used by 40-percent of its room nights, the Outpost restaurant began composting vegetable scraps at 11,440 feet and the resort partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and the Keystone Science School to create a mountain naturalist tour for its guests.

That’s on top of already using wind energy to power its night-skiing operation, composting at the Keystone Ranch and the conference center and employing a successful recycling program that consistently recycles 1,200 tons of materials every year.

“The whole ethic at Keystone is about sustainability and a very light environmental footprint. We just thought that was neat stuff and they should get acknowledged for it,” Cables said.

Cables and his two deputy foresters recently selected Keystone out of numerous nominees for its prestigious Caring for the Land Stewardship Award, marking the first time a ski area has ever won the honors.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Kids NextSnow Search 2006

The 2006 Sports Illustrated For Kids Next Snow Search is a series of ski and snowboard competitions in the U.S. and Canada. Boys and girls age 9-13, both skiers and snowboarders all compete in the one class.

Members of the Breckenridge Freeride team will judge the performance of each participant. Events include moguls, carving, big mountain, riding, half pipe, slopestyle, rails, racing, and big air jumps. Athletes must compete in all events. Style attitude and sportsmanship are also considered in addition to athletic skill. The goal is to discover the best kids on snow.

On January 8, 2006 the series comes to Breckenridge.

The winner of the qualifying event will be sent (expenses paid) to represent Breckenridge at the Next Snow Search Finals at Killington, VT, on March 3-5, 2006

For more information to to or contact Heather Nordquist at 970-453-5000.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Skyway Skiway to Open One Year Early

This Friday, Breckenridge Ski Resort will celebrate the opening of the Skyway Skiway with a ribbon cutting on the skier bridge that serves as a link for Breckenridge skiers and riders from Peak 8 to the Main Street Breckenridge and free skier parking lots. The Skyway Skiway also will provide ski-in access to the Mountain Thunder Lodge and Townhomes.

The Skyway Skiway opening was originally planned for the 2006-2007 season, but crews worked into the fall to complete the project early. While the resort still needs to put in snowmaking on the Skyway Skiway next summer, plentiful snowfall has allowed Breckenridge Ski Resort to open the skiway more than a year ahead of schedule.

The Skyway Skiway is an example of the ski resort and the town working together to better meet the needs of our guests including easier access from the mountain to the parking lots and Main Street, said Roger McCarthy, chief operating officer for Breckenridge and Keystone. And, thanks to all the snow that has fallen, we are able to open this new ski run into town a year early to all our skiers and riders.

In May 2002, the Town of Breckenridge and Breckenridge Ski Resort signed a landmark agreement outlining a development plan for Peaks 7 and 8 designed to uphold both the resort town's world-class stature and quality of life. The construction and completion of the Skyway Skiway is an integral part of implementing the agreement.

With its completion, we are one step closer to making the Peak 7 and Peak 8 villages a reality, said Alex Iskenderian, vice-president of development for Vail Resorts Development Company.

The Skyway Skiway ribbon-cutting will take place at the head of the new skier bridge at 10 a.m. this Friday, Dec. 23. To get there via Peak 8, take 4 O'Clock ski run down to the Skyway Skiway.

Monday, December 19, 2005

'98 Vail Fires had Summit County Effect

You have probably read about the recent arrests of two persons suspected of being involved with the 1998 arson on Vail Mountain.

The 1998 arson on Vail Mountain that destroyed Two Elk lodge and destroyed or heavily damaged several other buildings and lifts at the Eagle County ski area was accompanied by a veiled warning that hinted at future strikes against other ski resorts in the region.

Taking credit for the fires, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) warned skiers to stay away from Vail Resorts-owned ski areas, suggesting that more attacks could be in the cards if the resort company didn't back away from its path of what ELF characterized as unwarranted destruction of wildlife habitat.

As a result, the fires had repercussions in Summit County, as Vail Resorts boosted security measures at Keystone and Breckenridge. At the start of the 1998 season, for example, security vehicles were more visible than usual at the Keystone base area. Patrols were stepped up around the ski resorts, and some on-mountain facilities were staffed day and night.

While a similar attack is not near the top of the list of present concerns, at least some of those security measures are still in place, including increased use of video surveillance at all four of the company's resorts, said VR spokesperson Kelly Ladyga.

"The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority," Ladyga said, adding that she couldn't discuss any additional security measures.

The Vail arson also had a direct impact on Summit County's law enforcement resources, said former Sheriff Joe Morales, now director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety. The top concern at the time was securing the access routes to Vail's Category 3 expansion area, now known as Blue Sky Basin. Since the main route to the area started on the Summit side of Vail Pass, the sheriff's office was involved in that effort, Morales said.

The threat of additional attacks against Vail Resorts meant local deputies had to step up patrols around Summit County resorts. Morales said a new lift on Peak 7 at Breckenridge was under consideration at the time, raising security concerns in that area.

"We were concerned enough that those people would go to that level that people could potentially get killed," Morales said, emphasizing that it was lucky no one died at the mountaintop fires at Vail.

Morales said there were several other incidents of eco-sabotage, or vandalism, that were investigated while he was sheriff, including some tree-spiking, as well as damage to heavy equipment around construction areas at Keystone, as well as some equipment under contract to the Forest Service for work on public lands around Montezuma.

Any imminent threat of a ski area attack has faded to the background, but it's still on the radar screen, as is the potential for other types of eco-sabotage, according to Summit County Sheriff John Minor.

"Domestic or international terrorism is never off the radar screen," Minor said. In the context of environmentally motivated attacks, Minor said local law enforcement officials take heed when there are activities in other parts of the state, or even in adjacent states. For example, after a series of arsons targeting SUVs at car dealers in California, the Silverthorne Police Department stepped up patrols around local dealers. Similarly, arson attacks against trophy home construction sites elsewhere spurred local authorities to try and better secure local construction sites. But a bigger concern is a more general threat to all sorts of facilities in the county after Sept. 11, Minor said, referring to increased efforts to protect important infrastructure like Dillon Dam and the Eisenhower Tunnel.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Silverthorne Nordic Center Open for the Season

Silverthorn's cross-country, snowshoe and ski skating center opened for its fifth season Thursday.

The Silverthorne Nordic Center is located at the Raven at Three Peaks Golf Course, 2929 Golden Eagle Road, off Highway 9.

The center offers beginner through advanced trails. The trails will be groomed approximately three times per week, as weather permits. No rental equipment is available.

The Silverthorne Parks, Open Space, Recreation and Trails committee established the center in 2001.

The 5th annual Swift Skedaddle Snowshoe Race, a qualifier for the National Snowshoe Championships, will once again be held at the Center on January 14, 2006. For more information contact Danelle Ballengee at

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Santa to Visit RE/MAX in Breckenridge

Santa's making a special visit to RE/MAX Properties of the Summit before his big trip on Christmas Eve.

Santa will be at the Breckenridge office, located at 220 S. Main St., for the third annual Santa Claus is Coming to Town celebration from 4-6:30 p.m. Friday to visit with children and pose for pictures.

Light refreshments and a variety of free gifts provided by RE/MAX for boys and girls will be available at the event until they run out.

Black Timber Property Maintenance, Majestic Mountain Mortgage, Goode Construction and Development, Summit Daily News and KSMT are sponsoring the event.

Also, RE/MAX in Breckenridge has a mailbox for letters to Santa Claus outside its office. Kids can drop off their wish lists and greetings to the North Pole until the day before Christmas.

For more information about the event, call RE/MAX Properties of the Summit at (970) 453-7000.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix Visits Breckenridge

The world's finest athletes have arrived in Breckenridge for the first stop of this USSA sanctioned snowboard series.

From December 13 - 17, Breckenridge hosts scores of well-known and unknown riders, hoping to make their mark in the field. Kicking off the snowboard season, the Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix promises high energy and excitement for both athletes and spectators.

This year, the top finishers in the Grand Prix series will heat to the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy.

This year's competition includes two half-pipe contests, as well as a nighttime exhibition, in town, under the lights.

For more information contact Heather Nordquist at 970-453-5000.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Peak 7 Base Area Development Gets Green Light

The schedule for a new base area development at Peak 7 stayed right on track as planning commissioners unanimously approved a master plan amendment and density transfer for the project last week.

The approval means construction of roads, bridges and utility installations at Peak 7 is set to begin next May, barring any unforeseen snags, said Alex Iskenderian, vice president of Vail Resorts Development Company (VRDC).

"It's a three-step approval process for us," Iskenderian said, explaining that VRDC will seek the go-ahead for site-specific infrastructure plans in early January.

"We'll see how that goes. We're hoping we can get it approved in one meeting," Iskenderian said.

The company intends to subsequently submit site plans for specific buildings at Peak 7, he said.

The planning commission approval was for the overall Peak 7 and Peak 8 master plan, including a density transfer of 48 units from the Mountain Thunder complex along Park Avenue. The initial focus will be on the Peak 7 area, with construction of residential condo-hotel units and some skier service facilities expected in the next couple of years. Overall, the entire Peak 7 and Peak 8 development has been described as a phased eight- to 10-year project.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Plan for Widening Highway 9

The latest version of the plan for widening Highway 9 between Farmer's Korner and Breckenridge shows some significant improvements, especially for most residents in the Lakeview Meadows area, assistant county manager Thad Noll said after an open house Tuesday evening.

Noll said the latest plan includes a traffic signal at Jarelle Drive and Dickey Drive, providing better and safer access to the highway from the main residential areas at Farmer's Korner. Additionally, the highway has been pushed east, away from the Farmer's Grove subdivision.

"It looks like they really listened to the residents and homeowners association," Noll said."

What the attempt is ... is to reduce the impacts as much as possible with context-sensitive design," said Wes Goff, project manager for consultant PBS&J.

"We're making a very strong effort to reduce right-of-way and environmental impacts in the corridor."

The funding picture for the five mile, $27 million highway project is unclear following the defeat of Referendum D, passage of which would have helped pay for the Highway 9 project. The Colorado Department of Transportation is still tentatively scheduling the start of construction for spring of 2007.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Keystone to add 278 acres of terrain

With snowcat skiing operations at Keystone’s Erickson and Bergman bowls deemed a success by the resort and U.S. Forest Service, the resort is looking to open an additional 278 acres for cat skiing and hike-to access, possibly as soon as this winter.

“Everybody we’ve talked to says they want a little steeper and north-facing terrain,” said Chuck Tolton, Keystone’s director of mountain operations, describing public demand for the new terrain, which the resort for now is calling Independence Bowl.

As described in a Forest Service scoping notice, the new terrain would be on the upper reaches of the north aspect of Keystone Mountain (south of Erickson Bowl), as well as on the west and southwest aspects of Bear and Independence mountains, encompassing the head of the Jones Gulch drainage.

The proposed skiing and snowcat activities would be within Keystone’s permitted area, mostly in alpine terrain above tree line at about 11,000 feet. Snowcats would pick up guests at the Summit House or the Outpost and use established over-snow routes to access the new terrain.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

New Hospital Opening Delayed

St. Anthony's Summit Medical Center delayed its projected December 5 opening after state licensing officials pushed back their inspection date, originally scheduled to take place last Friday.

They rescheduled because other investigations took priority, said Paul Chodkowski, hospital administrator."Originally, Friday was what they were projecting, but that was a little ambitious," said Bev Lilly, hospital spokesperson.

Two inspectors arrived Monday and will complete their review of the hospital today.As of Monday afternoon, surveyors had found about five problem areas that needed to be corrected. They all included minor things related to supplies or procedures, such as needing more red trash cans, Chodkowski said.

Chodkowski said the hospital would open Wednesday. He could not give a specific time because he wasn't sure how many items the inspectors might find to rectify. The opening time also depends on deliveries, such as trash cans, and weather could delay transportation to Summit County, he said.

A sign at the hospital alerts people that it will not open until Wednesday. So far, Chodkowski said no patients have shown up at the new hospital and there has been no confusion at the Summit Medical Center or at St. Anthony's Summit Medical Center.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Local to Run for Governor of Colorado

Summit County’s hometown politician Gary Lindstrom will run for Governor of Colorado in 2006.

The 31-year local resident and former county commissioner who currently represents Summit, Eagle and Lake counties in the State House of Representatives, decided recently to make a bid for the Democratic nomination to fill the gubernatorial seat.

Lindstrom, 63, who stands on a 45-year career in government, said he will run for governor as a politician who isn’t afraid to speak the truth. That truth, from his perspective, is that the state of Colorado does not have a vision: its politicians merely are “reactive” to the main problem facing the state — growth.

“We have a five-bedroom house and we’re inviting 20 people to stay. We’re marketing something that’s over capacity,” he said. “You can tell people to try to stand up in the kitchen to sleep, but that’s not going to work.”

Lindstrom spent his freshman term in the State Capitol this year, where he said he realized too many good people are motivated but afraid to tell the truth, afraid to speak their minds about the state of Colorado.

“Many of them position themselves for a greater political office and think they may hurt their position,” he said, naming a recent example of multi-million dollar computer systems that are malfunctioning for the state.

“No one is willing to take on the governor’s office and say, ‘You made a mistake,’” he said. “Instead, (law makers) keep approving more money every time to appease the contractors.”

It’s things like that, plus more important state challenges, that Lindstrom said he wants to address.

“The state highways are a disaster. But everybody’s afraid to confront (director) Tom Norton and the Colorado Department of Transportation,” he said. “... there’s a fear of the governor’s office ... It’s terrible.”

Lindstrom said that before the state grows more, infrastructure needs to be fixed. He listed roads and water as top priorities. Less talk, more action.

While Gov. Bill Owens formed roundtables in each basin to address water resources, Lindstrom said that results in a bunch of talk and no action.

“Someone has to be assertive instead of more talking,” he said. “Nobody’s got the backbone to stand up and say, ‘We’ve got to take care of the infrastructure.’”