Saturday, September 30, 2006

Blue River "Pumpback" a No Go

The Breckenridge Sanitation District last week suspended plans for a proposed $10 million Blue River pumpback after negotiations with the Board of County Commissioners failed to resolve issues related to the county's permitting authority over the project.

According to district manager Andy Carlberg, talks collapsed after the county added "unreasonable and unlawful" language to a hotly debated Memorandum of Agreement.

As approved by the BOCC, the agreement would subject the district and its board of directors to civil and criminal penalties, Carlberg said.

The permitting negotiations have been complex, but essentially, the county wants to ensure that it retains what it believes is a state-mandated responsibility to review and regulate any "unintended consequences" resulting from operation of the pumpback outside the parameters outlined by the agreement. At issue during the district's Sept. 21 board meeting was language that would have established a "strong presumption of immediate and irreparable harm," from operation outside those parameters, according to county attorney Jeff Huntley. "We have to have a remedy in the event there is a violation," Huntley said.

That clause was unacceptable to the district board, Carlberg said, sounding frustrated but still passionate about the pumpback's upside.

"It's too good of a project to go away," Carlberg said, continuing to tout the potential benefits to water quality and quantity in the Upper Blue Basin.

As proposed, the pumpback would shunt up to 17 cfs of water from near the district's Farmer's Korner treatment facility through a pipeline back upstream to Breckenridge. The exact point of discharge back into the river hadn't been determined. But Carlberg said all along that the project would boost water in a depleted section of the Blue, where minimum streamflow standards set to protect aquatic life frequently go unmet, especially during snowmaking season. As well, the recycled water would have helped meet treatment needs at the district's Iowa Hill facility, and potentially even provided a source for a new reservoir in Breckenridge that is on the drawing board. Carlberg said the pumpback could also help address a sticky well water issue by providing an augmentation supply for groundwater users in the Upper Blue. Finally, he said the project would save a substantial amount of money by eliminating the need for costly upgrades at the Farmer's Korner plant, foreseeably needed to address water quality impacts within 10 to 15 years.

Carlberg said the district would now start to look at making plans for those improvements. "What was really sad was, we never liked the agreement, but we were at a point where we were going to sign it anyway," Carlberg said, explaining that the "presumption of immediate and irreparable harm" clause was the monkey wrench that gummed up the deal.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Best Snowboarding Parks - Breckenridge is Number 3

TransWorld SNOWboarding readers name North America's top snowboard parks in the magazine's November issue, on newsstands October 3.

For the third season in a row, Park City, Utah, retains top honors as North America's No. 1 Snowboard Terrain Park.

Mammoth Mountain, Calif., also maintains its place on the list as the No. 2 Best Park.

Summit County resort Breckenridge moves up to No. 3 from No. 8 in last year's poll, and Keystone was a new addition to the top 10, checking in at No. 9.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Skiers Lay Down First Tracks of the Season

Silverton Mountain Ski Area saw the first skiers of the year after two major storms dropped heavy snowfall last Thursday and Friday.

The lucky skiers and riders were waiting and ready to ride when they woke up to what looked like February storm conditions.

After two days of heavy snow, Silverton Mountain's slopes were chock full of new snow 28 inches to 36 inches deep at 11,600 feet with substantially more up at higher elevations.

Silverton Mountain (near Durango in southwest Colorado) is America's highest ski area, with a peak elevation of 13,487 feet.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Snow is Falling by the Foot!

Snow is falling by the foot in Colorado's mountain towns. Some ski resorts are considering opening earlier than anticipated.

The picture to the left is my deck, taken this morning.

While today is the first day of autumn it looked a lot more like the first day of winter. As of yesterday evening the Breckenridge Ski Resort was reporting 22 inches of snow about halfway up the mountain.

"We might have 3 feet of snow," said Nicky DeFord, spokeswoman for the resort.

Other ski towns reported: Keystone, 15 inches, Beaver Creek, 20 inches; Vail, 24 inches; Silverthorne, 8 inches; Dillon, 7 inches.

Friday, September 22, 2006

BIG Early Snowstorm Hits Summit County

An early fall storm descended on Summit County these past few days. Yesterday morning Breckenridge Ski Resort had eight inches of snow at the base with almost a foot of new sonw at the top of the mountain.

Last night I had an additional foot of snow at my home in Breckenridge. That probably means at least twice that much on the mountain.

It is starting off just like last year when we had a big snowstorm in early October.

The 2007 Farmer's Almanac is predicting this winter to be more snowy than normal for the Colorado Rockies. Snowmaking is set to begin in mid-October for Breckenridge and Keystone.

The early snowfall has resort officials excited for opening day with Breckenridge and Keystone both opening on Friday, November 10.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Summit Foundation Hires New Executive Director

A new leader has taken over at the helm of the county's largest nonprofit organization.

Recent Breckenridge transplant Lee Zimmerman began as the new executive director of the 22-year-old Summit Foundation last Monday

.Zimmerman, 59, has 25 years' experience working for nonprofit organizations, most recently at Investment Management Consultants, a professional association in Denver. Before that, he devoted 19 years to the United Way of Walla Walla County in Washington state as executive director. In that role, Zimmerman said he enjoyed being involved with a community-based, human services oriented, charitable nonprofit organization, and is looking forward to a similar opportunity with The Summit Foundation.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blue River Will Not Vote on Paving Roads

The fur is flying in Blue River and the feathers are ruffled. The mayor resigned last week after a heated meeting about paving the town's streets.

This week the town of Blue River Board of Trustees voted Tuesday night to pull a controversial question off the November ballot that would have asked citizens whether they wanted to pay to pave the town's network of gravel roads.

The town will hold public work sessions beginning next month to discuss with residents how best to move forward with the paving issue.

One option could be paving only specific neighborhoods that want to make the investment, as opposed to smoothing all the unpaved streets in town.

The board passed a resolution at its September 5 meeting officially placing the question in the November 7 general election. At the time, trustees estimated it would cost each of the 597 affected lot owners about $18,000 - without interest - for paved roads, which they would have up to 15 years to pay.

The board decided to move forward with putting the paving question to voters several months ago after years of listening to people ask when the town planned to fix the 11 miles of gravel roads in town. The decision soon raised tensions in the small town south of Breckenridge, and opponents characterized the project as the haves vs. the have-nots, saying only the rich would be able to afford the cost of paving and others might have to move. Supporters, though, said they viewed the cost as an investment because it would boost property values.

Former Mayor Darcy Lystlund resigned the day after the board's last meeting, saying she had been verbally abused and physically threatened after the meeting by a resident who was upset over the the possibility of paying for paved roads.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Aspen Trees at their Peak

Next to July's blooming wildflowers, the brilliant color change of fall is nature's second beckon to don hiking boots and hit the trail.

While the aspens and other foliage on Summit County's highest peaks already turned their mellower hues of yellow, gold and brown, trees at lower elevations will peak in seasonal color soon.

Late last week I was on Boreas Pass Road and snapped the photograph above.

Boreas Pass Road - A popular dirt road that is passable by two-wheel-drive vehicle is Boreas Pass Road out of Breckenridge to Cuomo, a 17-mile route. From historic Cuomo, take Highway 285 to Fairplay and Highway 9 over Hoosier Pass back to Breckenridge.

SKI Magazines Top Resorts

Vail is Number 1 again.

The resort returned to its familiar spot as the top ski resort in North America in this year's SKI Magazine readers' poll. It is the 14th time in 19 years that Vail's has had the top spot. Last year, Vail was No. 2 and Deer Valley in Utah was No. 1. The two resorts swapped places this year.

Breckenridge was ranked sixth.

Beaver Creek was ranked eighth, down from sixth last year.

Vail Resorts' five ski mountains ranked in the top 20 among Western resorts. Besides Vail and Beaver Creek and Breckenridge, Keystone was 14th and Heavenly at Lake Tahoe was 17th.

Copper Mountain, just east of Vail, ranked 19th.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

New "Welcome to Summit County" Sign in the Works

Bob French wants to make a simple statement. The county commissioner suggested, "Welcome to Summit County" be written on new signs placed at county lines. The old phrase, "Welcome to Colorado's Playground" irked French and others because it was panned by jokesters who removed the "l" to create "pay-ground."

"It was a little slam at the real estate people and the way the county operates," French said. "I think that's inappropriate."

So simplicity was in order, and that's just how road and bridge employee Jim Slivka designed a prototype sign introduced to commissioners recently. He used the county government logo and plain text.

"I like it," French said. "It tells you where you are, has balance, is conservative but is also an attractive piece of art."

The logo is used for marketing and government business, and was originally designed by Kevin Mastin of The Mastin Group. The business won a national award for the work.

The new signs will likely be about six feet wide. They will be placed on Ute Pass and Highway 9 north of Silverthorne, Interstate 70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel and at Vail Pass, and on Hoosier and Loveland passes.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"BreckConnect" is New Name for Gondola

This winter, Breckenridge is getting its first gondola, and the new, 8-passenger lift linking the town to the Breckenridge Ski Resort has a name and an identity: the BreckConnect.

The BreckConnect Gondola is scheduled for completion during the 2006-2007 ski and snowboard season, creating a streamlined link to transport large numbers of visitors between the town and the ski resort's base area at Peak 8 and, in the future, Peak 7. The fanfare in Breckenridge began earlier this year with final approval of the project, a joint venture between Breckenridge Ski Resort and the Town of Breckenridge.

Breckenridge-based advertising agency Wilson Lass was charged with creating the identity of the BreckConnect Gondola. The new logo design depicts arrowheads pointing opposite each other at either end of the name "BreckConnect," with "Breck" displayed more prominently in bolder type. The arrows represent the gondola's connection of the town of Breckenridge with the mountain and signify the direct route and speed of travel. The use of the term "Connect" was chosen as a compliment to Breckenridge Ski Resort's popular Peak 8 SuperConnect chairlift, promoting continuity between the resort and the town.

The BreckConnect Gondola will be one of the most modern gondolas in North America with seating for eight and room for ski and ride gear inside.The new gondola will start near the Breckenridge Transportation Center located in the parking lot right off historic Main Street and will eventually have terminals at both Peak 7 and Peak 8, providing an integral link for skiers, riders and visitors from town to the ski resort base areas. It will allow the ski resort and the town to upgrade the skier experience and improve the overall experience by reducing the number of people that need to be bussed to the mountain.

Setting the stage for the planned developments on Peak 7 and 8, the 8-passenger gondola is expected to be completed by January 2007. Right now, the ski resort plans to operate the BreckConnect Gondola in both the winter and summer seasons. It will have a ride time of approximately seven and a half minutes from the transportation center to the base of Peak 8 and will be able to carry 3,000 people per hour.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Snow White Chutes for Breckenridge

An area of seven steep chutes between Peak 8 and 9 that has always been off limits at Breckenridge Ski Resort will likely be open for the taking this ski season.

The resort plans to open 150 acres of terrain named Snow White, which is located in the saddle between Peaks 8 and 9 and would be accessible from the Imperial Express SuperChair, said resort spokesperson Nicky DeFord.

The above-timberline terrain skis similarly to the nearby Lake Chutes, she said.

“It’s steeper than Imperial Bowl, it’s not going to be groomed, so it’s definitely for the stronger skier,” DeFord said.

The Snow White chutes feed skiers onto the advanced Double Barrel or Way Out trails on the backside of Peak 8. Even though Snow White has always been in the resort’s operating boundary, it hasn’t been open to skiers and riders because it was at least a 45 minute hike from the top of the T-Bar before the Imperial Express opened last season. Because of that, ski patrol was more limited in how much terrain it could open at the top of Peak 8 due to the high avalanche danger, which requires control work before it can be opened to the public, DeFord said.

The new terrain isn’t offical yet; officials from Breckenridge will meet with the Forest Service this fall to put Snow White in the resort’s new master plan. After that, it should be official, DeFord said. At that time, the total cache of terrain accessed off Imperial Express will grow from 400 acres to 550 acres, DeFord said.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Biofuel Facility Up-Date

A proposed biofuel facility to heat the County Commons and the new Medical Office Building near the hospital (both near Frisco)has drawn intrest from some big multinational players in the energy sector, including Siemens and Johnson Controls, chosen as the final two bidders.

As envisioned, the plant would use wood chips from beetle-killed trees to heat the two buildings. The county received six bids for the $2 to $5 million project.

Planners met Sept. 1 to narrow that list down to the finalists, who were invited for interviews in mid-September, said Steve Hill, the county's special projects planner.

The goal is to have a plant up and running about one year from now, in time to produce heat for the winter of 2007-2008, said County Commissioner Bill Wallace.

Both Wallace and Hill said there don't appear to be any significant stumbling blocks in terms of permitting or other regulatory issues.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Parade of Homes

Yesterday marked the first day of the Summit County Parade of Homes.

The Parade of Homes is open today and tomorrow, and September 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tickets are available at the homes for $5.

This year's Parade features homes in Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Keystone.

There are a total of 19 homes, four of which were built using many green building technologies and products. More companies are assessing their "green" practices. Consumers are also becoming more aware of the important role they play in the upkeep of our environment.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

26th Annual Breckenridge Film Festival

The 26th Annual Breckenridge Film Festival kicks off this week. Film Festival dates are September 7 - 10, 2006 – four full days of films, festivities and fun.

Hosted by NBC-TV film critic and “Reel Talk” co-host Jeffrey Lyons, the Breckenridge Film Festival affords filmmakers and audiences the opportunity to meet and mingle with each year’s special guests in a relaxed atmosphere.

For the past 25 years, Breckenridge Film Festival audiences have enjoyed meeting actors, directors, writers and producers. In the past, many of the premieres have gone on to be honored with Academy Awards, including “L.A. Confidential,” “American Beauty,” “Frida” and “Lost In Translation.” Other outstanding premieres include ” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” “Lord of War” “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Being Julia,” “Shark Tale” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Pleasantville” to name just a few.

Every year, the Festival selects the best Independent Films and invites the Filmmakers to the Festival where they have an opportunity to answer questions after their film screening.

This year a new Educational Program will be added to the line up. Christie Barnes, member of the Board of Directors, will host veteran director, Irvin Kershner (“Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”). Mr. Kershner will hold two seminars “Acting in Movies” and “What I Taught George Lucas”. Mr. Kershner will be presented the 2006 Breckenridge Film Festival Life Time Achievement Award.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Animal Rescue Says Thanks

Animal Rescue of the Rockies sends a big thank-you to all of the wonderful volunteers who helped make our Second annual Carter Park Bark Festival & Rummage Sale a success.

We raised $3,500 for our shelter fund to help Mariah's Promise build a facility near Divide, Colorado before winter arrives.

Special thanks to the Summit Daily, Krystal 93, RSN T.V., Starbucks, Mi Zuppa, Doc P.J., Tommy and Elisabeth Shreve & "D.J. Mike", Airport Road Auto Care, The Nenninger Real Estate Team, Breckenridge Animal Clinic, Alpine Bank, Paws & Claws, Summit Landscaping, and everyone else who donated their time and efforts to this fundraiser for the animals.

Way to go.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Vail Resorts Partners with National Forest Foundation

Starting this winter, Vail Resorts will tack a dollar onto sales of season passes, online lift tickets and hotel rooms to fund forest conservation projects, the company said recently.

"It's very consistent with our philosophy, which is we're looking for ways to communicate with our guests about the environment," said Rob Katz, Vail Resorts' chief executive officer.

The partnership between the resort company and the National Forest Foundation seeks to raise $600,000 this winter for projects in the White River National Forest and Lake Tahoe forests.

The announcement comes on the heels of the resort company's recent decision to go 100 percent wind power.

Customers will be able to elect not to add the extra dollar for the program.

"Whether they give the dollar or don't give the dollar, they're going to have to be educated about what it is," Katz said.

Katz said he expects a participation rate of more than 75 percent.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Season Passes on Sale

Through Labor Day weekend, skiers and snowboarders can purchase Vail Resorts' season passes at last spring's prices - the Colorado Pass at $379 for adults, $279 for teens and $159 for children, and the Buddy Pass for $349.

The passes will be on sale at Ski-Rex at Colorado Ski & Golf in Aurora the Sports Authority's Sniagrab in Denver, all other Front Range Colorado Ski and Golf and REI locations, FlatIron Crossing and Park Meadows Mall.Beginning Sept. 5, pass prices will increase to $399 for adults, $299 for teens and $189 for kids for the Colorado Pass and $369 for the Buddy Pass.

The Colorado Pass and Buddy Pass will be on sale until Nov. 5, but prices are only guaranteed through Oct. 15, 2006.

Vail Resorts is also bringing back the $99 Four Pack pass for Colorado snowriders. The Four Pack features four days of skiing throughout the 2006-2007 winter season at Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. The pass is restricted on several dates during holidays and peak Saturdays. It must be purchased in person as a photo will be taken for the pass, however pass holders from last season can renew online at