Saturday, December 30, 2006

Another Big Snowstorm Hits Colorado

Government offices and some businesses closed yesterday after a second storm in a week socked the foothills west of Denver area with more than 2 feet of snow.

Snow falling at up to 4 inches an hour blanketed Evergreen in the foothills west of Denver with 28 inches of snow Thursday and several highways were closed by slick, icy conditions or by accidents that took hours to clear.

Interstate 25, the main north-south highway through the state, was closed about 60 miles north of Denver.

Crews were scraping sidewalks early Friday and private contractors were plowing parking lots after 16 inches of snow fell in the Denver metro area by morning.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Keystone Opens Superpipe

Keystone Resort opened its superpipe this past Wednesday.

The Superpipe is 450-feet long and 18.5-feet tall. It's been moved to a new location within Keystone's A51 Terrain Park in order to allow for equal sun exposure to both sides of the pipe, making for a smoother, more consistent ride.

This is the earliest opening for the Keystone pipe, according to park manager Julian LaMarche.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dillon Reservoir Freezes Over - On Schedule

Dillon Reservoir is frozen. The average date of ice-over, as the Denver Water dam keepers call it, has held steady at Dec. 25 for the past 40 years, with no visible trend toward earlier or later.

But that doesn't hold true for lake ice in general, according to the Alaska Ice and Snow Observatory Network, specializing in studying lake ice. According to the researchers' web site, "the duration of ... ice covers has decreased in response to a general increase in air temperatures."

This year, the ice on Dillon Reservoir formed on the night between Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, just a couple of days ahead of schedule. By the evening of Dec. 23, the ice was already a couple of inches thick near the Dillon Marina.

The earliest the lake has ever frozen was Dec. 10, back in 1972, but last year wasn't far behind. In 2005, the ice formed on Dec. 11, the second-earliest date ever. Records from last year don't show particularly cold temperatures in late November or early December. In fact, the average daily minimum temperature for Nov. 2005 was 12.6 degrees, well above the historic average of 9.7 degrees. But the average high temperature for Dec. 2005 was quite a bit colder than the norm, at 26.4 degrees, compared to the historic average of 32.8 degrees.

The latest date for the lake to freeze up was Jan. 31, in 1981. That late date was a real anomaly in the records. There have been only four other years since 1966 when it took until January for the ice to form, and all those ice-over dates came early - within the first few days of the month.

If there is a slight trend to be spotted in the graphs and figures provided by Denver Water, it's the melt-out dates, which does seem to have occurred slightly earlier during the past 10 years or so. Since 1996, the melt-out date has been earlier than the long-term historic average.The earliest ice-melt on record is April 28, 2002. The latest date on record is May 31, in 1982.

To learn more about lake ice research, visit the Alaska Ice and Snow Observatory Network online at The web site includes cool ice photos, tons of basic ice physics, a basic introduction to the laws of thermodynamics that govern ice formation, and even an interactive quiz on ice.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Affordable Housing Fees Causing Frustrations

After some town council members had a chance to vent their frustrations with the last-minute bickering over the new affordable housing impact fees set to take effect Jan. 1, the Breckenridge Town Council got on with it, approving a policy that would exempt garages from the fee calculations, as long as all other local jurisdictions exempted them as well.

That doesn't look like it's going to happen, said housing authority director Bonnie Osborn.

The Board of County Commissioners did adopt an impact fee policy that includes a partial garage exemption, but Silverthorne and Frisco seem to be holding firm in their intent to include garages in the fee calculations.

That basically means garages built as part of single-family homes in Breckenridge will not be exempt from the impact fees, town manager Tim Gagen said after Tuesday's work session.

They will be included in calculating total square footage to be assessed for the fee. The conditional language adopted by Breckenridge was an effort to create some uniformity in the way the fees are applied around Summit County. But that hoped-for consistency is not quite coming together as envisioned, Osborn said.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Big Storm Rolls into the Mountains

A powerful winter storm brought heavy snow and strong winds to Colorado on Wednesday, prompting airlines to cancel dozens of flights and triggering the partial closure of Interstate 70 on the state’s Eastern Plains.

The National Weather Service said up to 2 feet of snow could fall in the foothills west of Denver and up to 3 feet was expected in northern Colorado.

Up to 20 inches was forecast for the eastern half of the state from Denver to the Kansas border some 150 miles away.

United Airlines, the busiest carrier at Denver International Airport, canceled all of its flights into and out of Denver from 1 p.m. until midnight MST. United spokesman Jeff Kovick said he wasn’t immediately sure how many flights were affected. Kovick said the flights were canceled early so passengers could be rebooked. Frontier planned to cancel up to 40 flights Wednesday afternoon, spokesman Joe Hodas said.

Most of eastern Colorado was under a blizzard warning, and winter storm warnings were issued for much of the rest of the state.

Early reports showed between a half-inch to 5 inches in eastern Colorado as the storm first worked its way across the mountains.

Eastbound lanes of I-70 were closed for 90 miles from Limon to the Kansas border. Westbound lanes were closed from the Kansas line to Burlington, about 13 miles. Other roads on the plains were closed as well.Winds up to 30 mph could pile up snow in deep drifts and make travel dangerous, forecasters said.

The storm dropped more a foot of snow in the state’s southwestern mountains Tuesday, on top of the foot or more than had fallen there over the weekend.Durango Mountain Resort reported 17 inches of snow Tuesday and Wolf Creek ski area had 19 inches of new snow.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Peak 7 Development Given Extension

An agreement between the Town of Breckenridge and the Peak 7 Development Company, LLC would give the developers of the base area complex an extended period of vested development rights of up to six years to complete the project, including residential units and commercial skier service facilities.

The Breckenridge Town Council first considered the agreement several months ago, asking the developers to propose some financial commitments (public benefits) to the town in exchange for the extension, commonly granted for large and complex projects.

Under Colorado law, the vested property rights preclude any action by a local government (such as a change in the development code) that would "alter, impair, prevent, diminish" or otherwise delay development of the property.

At the most recent council meeting, the agreement was revived, with the developers offering to pay the town $50,000 for the extension, to be used for affordable housing or for the installation of artificial turf at Summit High.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Frisco Visitors' Study Results

At the Frisco Town Council work session this week, the council heard the results of a visitors' study designed to help with marketing strategies and to design a brand for the town.

The presentation by Hill & Company marketing agency determined a profile of summer visitors based on 617 surveys taken during four events.

They found that 75 percent were overnight visitors between the ages of 35 and 64 with an income between $50,000 and $150,000. Fifty-eight percent were from other parts of Colorado, mainly Denver. Many of the out-of-state visitors were from Arizona, California and Florida.

The average stay is one to three nights and the average expenditure per person is $37. Currently, a 2006/2007 overnight visitors study is also being conducted by Hill & Company to get a complete profile.

The company was hired for about $50,000 to complete a discovery process on a brand for the town, to do research work studying and profiling the consumer, to assist in creating a 2007 marketing and media plan and to begin brand development.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Backcountry Snowsports Alliance Seeks Volunteers

The Backcountry Snowsports Alliance is looking for volunteers for its Vail Pass Ambassador program, helping the Forest Service manage the area for all users.

At issue are potential conflicts between motorized and non-motorized travelers in the heavily used area. A management plan purports to separate the uses as much as possible with designated non-motorized routes and motorized play areas, but in reality, activity on Vail Pass can be a crowded mess, with use far exceeding a reasonable capacity on busy winter weekends.

A $20,000 grant from the National Forest Foundation will help fund the citizen-based monitoring and education program, running every Saturday and Sunday from December 16 through mid-April.

Volunteers work in teams of two or more, educating Vail Pass visitors on regulations and use boundaries, as well as tracking user types and numbers. The volunteers will also monitor whether users are respecting motorized and non-motorized usage boundaries and report violations to USFS Rangers, fill out observation forms and conduct surveys.

In short, the volunteers will serve as eyes and ears for the Forest Service while backcountry skiing, ski touring, or snowshoeing on Vail Pass.

A short training session is required. In exchange for service, volunteers will receive a free season parking pass for the area. To sign up or receive more information contact Heath McKay at (303) 494-5266, or via e-mail at

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Barney Ford House Museum Exhibit

Former Summit County artist Ann Weaver brings a new perspective to Breckenridge's history with "A Moment in Time: Paintings of Breckenridge Past & Present."

The exhibit features 35 new watercolor works with a focus on Breck architecture.

The exhibit at the Barney Ford House Museum will remain up through July of next year and marks a new phase for the historical building.

Museum director Beth Carlson said the informational exhibits in the Barney Ford House had been the same since its opening two years ago. Beginning with the Weaver show, however, the museum will host two new exhibits a year in hopes of attracting more visitors to the site at the corner of Washington Avenue and Main Street in Breckenridge.

"We really just want to get new people in the museum - especially locals" Carlson said.

The exhibits will support the museum's mission to promote interest and education in Breckenridge history and black American history. Carlson is already looking ahead to what they hope to bring to the museum next year.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Silverthorne to Get New Fire Station

The Lake Dillon Fire Protection District, the Town of Silverthorne and the Silverthorne-Dillon Joint Sewer Authority (JSA) are working on conceptual plans for a joint fire/public works facility on about 5 acres at Highway 9 and Golden Eagle Road, across from the Raven Golf Course.

"Doing our strategic plan and our community fire plan we have determined that as call load goes up and as development is spreading rapidly to the north, the town of Silverthorne definitely needs a fire station," said Lake Dillon Fire Deputy Chief Jeff Berino.

The existing fire station on Blue River Parkway in Silverthorne, which was not built to accommodate an overnight crew, has been used for administrative offices and equipment storage since 1997 when the fire department began staffing a crew in Dillon 24/7.

While the crew in Dillon arrives at calls for service in North Silverthorne in about 5 minutes, a new station in Silverthorne would eliminate the 3 miles of roadway and 12 traffic lights it takes to get there, Berino said

.A Silverthorne station has been on fire officials' radar since the mid-1980s when a developer donated three-quarters of an acre of buildable land at Golden Eagle Road to the fire department - then called the Silverthorne Fire Department.

Since then, Silverthorne Fire merged with the Dillon, Dillon Valley and Frisco departments to form the Lake Dillon Fire Protection District, which retained the land in that consolidation.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lighting of Breckenridge on ABC

The Lighting of Breckenridge, which took place downtown on Dec. 2, will be aired on ABC's "Good Morning America: Weekend Edition" on Sunday, Dec. 10.

Breckenridge, and the annual lighting event, will be featured in the Weekend Window segment during the hour-long program.

The ABC crew taped all day in Breckenridge on Dec. 2, getting shots of the town and the Breckenridge Ski Resort in high definition.

"The Weekend Window segment is a piece that breathes," said ABC producer Jennifer Pirone. "This one will highlight the sights and natural sounds of Breckenridge during the holidays."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lance Armstrong to Ride the Leadville Trail 100

The rumors are true: Lance Armstrong is scheduled to ride in the Leadville Trail 100's mountain bike race in August 2007.

Yes, that Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France.

Leadville Trail 100 race director Ken Chlouber confirmed, after speaking with Armstrong's coach, that the race was on Armstrong's schedule.

He does one or two races per year, Chlouber said, adding: "This is huge for Leadville."

Mark Higgins, Armstrong's manager, this week reiterated the information Chlouber had gotten from the cyclist's coach. "I can confirm that he will be participating in the Leadville Trail 100 (bike race)," Higgins said.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Seedling Tree Program

The Seedling Tree Program is under way once again in Summit County to provide property owners with seedling trees to create wildlife habitat, promote growth on bare slopes and to prevent erosion.

To apply for seedling trees, property owners must have at least one acre of land, and they must not use the nursery stock in ornamental or landscaping plantings.

No plants purchased from this program may be resold as a living plant.

Trees are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and the nursery does run out of certain species.

For information and application form to purchase seedling trees, contact Summit County Extension Office at (970) 668-4140 or visit

Monday, December 04, 2006

Conceptual Plans for Breckenridge's Gondola Area

Town council members got an early look at conceptual plans for some of the last open land between Ski Hill Road and City Market, as ski area executives and planners outlined three different development concepts for the area around the new gondola terminal, and farther south, on what is now known as the Miners or Sawmill lot at a Nov. 28 work session.

Some of the land is owned by Vail Resorts and some of it by the town. Skier service facilities, including a ski school drop-off, food services and rental facilities will be the focus for the area closest to the gondola station, with residential resort development planned on the Miners/Sawmill lot.

Roger McCarthy, co-president of Vail Resorts' mountain division, and Mayor Ernie Blake said they envision a joint master planning process between the town and the resort, with a big focus on creating a connection between the new development and Breck's popular Main Street, as well as enhancing the Blue River and tying everything together with the planned expansion of the Riverwalk Center.

.The three scenarios were sketched out by Whistler-based Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners Ltd.

Concept A maintains the town's grid pattern of streets, providing vehicle and pedestrian access throughout the site. A path along the west side of the Blue River provides the link between the Riverwalk and the existing riverbank cycling trail. It would result in the loss of 760 parking spots. Building sizes would be most closely matched to the existing sizes.

Concept B, identified as "transitional," would include Main Street-style buildings on the east side of the Blue River to "tourist residential" development on the east side. Two additional levels of parking would be need at the Tailings lot to make up for the loss of about 830 spots.

Concept C is the "resort village idea, with more intensive "condohotel" developments increasing in scale and height moving west from the Blue River toward Park Avenue. It would result in the loss of about 690 spots, requiring 1.6 levels of new parking on the Tailings lot to make up the deficit.

Plan C was described as more of a resort-village development, along the lines of Copper Mountain or River Run at Keystone.

At this early stage, option B seemed to garner the most positive response from the town's elected officials.

McCarthy said plan B includes a diagonal component to ease access to the heart of downtown. Together with a "breadcrumb trail" of commercial and retail activity, that connection will help guide visitors between the resort base area and Main Street.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Keystone Almost 100% Open

More than a foot of snow fell in Summit County this past week, prompting local ski areas to open more terrain this weekend. Keystone Resort will open all five of its bowls today - North Bowl, South Bowl, Erickson Bowl, Bergman Bowl and its newest addition, Independence Bowl.

"We are not quite 100 percent open, but getting there, so I think we're up to 87 percent, 90 percent somewhere around there," said resort spokesperson Amy Kemp. "...There's incredible, incredible skiing."

Keystone is running the $5 Outback snowcat shuttle to provide access to North and South bowls; however, skiers and riders will have to hike to Erickson, Bergman and Independence bowls from the top of North Peak.

Guided snowcat tours are expected to start in the next few weeks, Kemp said.

The Forest Service gave Keystone final approval in September to expand its snowcat tours and hike-to skiing into Independence Bowl, which opens up 278 additional acres of steep, north-facing terrain. The bowls will only be open during the day, but the front of Dercum Mountain will remain open until 9 p.m. tonight as Keystone wraps up its annual 36 Hours of Keystone event.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Breckenridge Art Festival

Mark Beling's long-running July Art Festival, which is typically held over the Fourth of July weekend in Breckenridge, will return to Breckenridge this summer, albeit at a smaller venue with fewer artists selling their high-end crafts.

The fate of the 24-year-old festival has been on somewhat of a roller coaster ride since late July when the Breckenridge Town Council voted to end the art fair at the town-owned Wellington and Sawmill parking lots, citing traffic congestion and overcrowding during the holiday weekend.

With Breckenridge out of the picture, organizers had planned on moving the fair to Dillon for the Fourth of July weekend, but pushed that event back when some unexpected competition cropped up.

Two weeks ago, Beling found out that the town of Frisco - which he had approached about hosting his July Art Festival back in August - signed on to host its own Fourth of July weekend art fair organized by Howard Alan, a well-known Florida-based art promoter.

According to Frisco spokesperson Linda Lichtendahl, the town is in discussions with Alan to produce an art show on July 7 and 8, but the two have not yet penned a contract.

Nevertheless, fearing that the potential competition from Alan would prevent Dillon's inaugural art show from prospering, Beling and Dillon's marketing director opted to move Dillon's show to July 20, 21 and 22.

"We just didn't feel it would be successful," said Carol Craig, Beling's marketing coordinator. "We were very concerned about not getting enough artists. We didn't feel that we would be able to do the kind of marketing and advertising necessary to get people to come to a brand new show in Dillon."

At that point Beling was left without a venue for his signature event, which is held on one of the busiest summer weekends in the county.

But, while Craig was talking with the merchants' association that organizes events at the privately-owned Main Street Station about the end of July art festival Beling typically holds there, the idea came up to swap dates in Breckenridge - Main Street Station would host the July Art Festival over the holiday weekend and the town of Breckenridge would rent out its parking lots for the July 26-28 show.

That way, Beling would still have a presence in Breckenridge over the holiday weekend, and because his is an established event that people expect to see in town, it would be easier to draw visitors, even with an art fair on the same weekend in Frisco, Craig said.

"It seemed to be a really great scenario so that's kind of what we decided to do, and ixt really is going to work out well for everybody. It felt right," Craig said.

The July Art Festival will be scaled back next summer because Main Street Station is a smaller venue than the parking lots where the fair has been held in years past. About 60 to 70 artists are expected to be in attendance, as opposed to the 150 vendors who sold there last year, Craig said.

Meanwhile, the Dillon Art Festival should bring in approximately 100 artists. Beling's team is hoping this summer will be the first step in the cultivation of a solid arts event on the northern side of the county.

"I really think the show in Dillon can develop into its own signature event," Craig said.

Last week, the Dillon Town Council signed a contract with Beling for the Dillon Art Fair, despite some initial concerns over the later date in July. In early October, the town council had agreed to move forward with Beling to host the Fourth of July art festival.

"I would think that by this time in July the artists will begin to think the county is maxed out," Councilmember Don Parsons said.

Craig said she and Beling believe there are enough visitors, part-time homeowners and locals who enjoy the art festivals that the market in Summit County won't become diluted, especially with shows spread throughout the county.

"I think the people who would come to the Dillon Art Festival aren't going to drive to Breckenridge for an arts festival, especially on the Fourth of July weekend," she said.