Saturday, December 31, 2011

EpicMix photo sharing widespread

 As of early last week, Vail Resorts claimed that just under 40 percent of skiers and snowboarders at its resorts had activated EpicMix accounts, generating more than 280,000 posts on Facebook and Twitter — that's more social posts already than in the entire 2010-11 season.

The reason for the success is attributed to the new photograph addition to EpicMix, allowing skiers and snowboarders to get a photo taken that is quickly uploaded to that person's EpicMix account.

Visitors and local residents alike can be seen stopping for a photograph when they might have otherwise just kept on skiing. One reason is that it's free.

“It's awesome,” said Lyall Gorenstein, from New York. “What better way to describe it — free — because not much in Vail is free.”

Gorenstein had three Epic Mix photos taken with his family and plans to pick the best one and frame it for what he calls his wall of shame, which features nothing but ski photos. Vail Resorts offers a higher resolution version of the photos for $19.95, while the digital lower resolution versions are free.

For those that use social media, the photographs are a great way to share images with friends almost instantly. The Epic Mix photographer scans each person's pass before taking the photo, and that's how the photo automatically uploads to that person's EpicMix account. Once the photo is there, you can post it to Facebook or Twitter, or you can arrange your Epic Mix settings to do that for you automatically.

Local professional skier Drew Rouse said the new photo feature isn't for him, but he has seen his friends “go crazy with it.”

“The tourists I talk to at work love it,” Rouse said. “I would say that Vail Resorts has a big hit with the public.”

And that was the point all along. When Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz announced the new photography component of Epic Mix in August, he knew it would be hugely valuable for the company as a marketing tool.

“If you think about social media, and especially for resorts and vacation destinations, word of mouth always comes up as the No. 1 reason why people choose (a destination) — not that marketing and other things don't help, they do — but word of mouth is so strong and powerful,” Katz said. “... Photo sharing is the fastest growing area in social media. We want people to take these photos and show them to other people.”

For some visitors, the new system will take some getting used to. Ben Barrocas, from South Florida, said he'll give it a shot but said he misses the Sharp Shooter photographers.

Vail Resorts replaced the Sharp Shooters, a company it contracted out to take on-mountain souvenir photographs, with its own EpicMix photographers this year, but Barrocas said the EpicMix photographers are harder to find.

“On top on one of the lifts, near Buffalo's, there was nobody to be found,” he said. “I didn't find that many photographers — only found one today. The Sharp Shooters were visible — they were everywhere.”

Vail Resorts hired about 200 photographers total for all six resorts — Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Northstar. The Epic Mix mobile application and website debuted last season, which brought the resort a lot of buzz in the social media world.

The photo addition, however, seems to be surpassing all the buzz created in 2010-11. With more than 280,000 Facebook and Twitter posts as of Dec. 13, and with Facebook's estimate that each user has an average of 130 friends, Vail Resorts estimates that Epic Mix has already generated more than 36 million social impressions.

Vail Ski and Snowboard instructor Stacey Burns said she sees EpicMix photos being uploaded to her friends' Facebook accounts every day.

“I like it, I think it's fun,” Burns said. “I don't have to bust my phone out on the lift to take a picture anymore.”

Local resident Nathan Malone said because it's free, how could anyone not use it?

“It certainly seems that skiers are engaging more with social media, too,” Malone said, via the Vail Daily's Facebook page. “That kind of advertising is priceless for (Vail Resorts).”

Courtesy Summit Daily News

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Summit County Year in Review: October-December 2011

Max Dercum, A-Basin and Keystone co-founder, dies at 98

Co-founder of two of Summit County's four ski resorts and local legend Max Dercum died Sept. 30 just days shy of his 99th birthday.

Dercum passed away at a retirement home in Evergreen, where he died of natural causes.

The champion skier, former forestry professor and visionary, along with his wife, Edna, was among a group of seven who started Arapahoe Basin in 1946 and was the driving force behind the founding of Keystone Resort in the early 1970s.

Woman killed in collision with moose near Frisco

A 31-year-old woman from New Castle was killed the night of Oct. 2 when the vehicle she was in struck a cow moose on Interstate 70 near Frisco.

The moose was killed in the accident, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said, adding that the meat was donated per protocol. Tishe Marie Quintana was the passenger in the vehicle. The driver was taken to Denver Health Medical Center and was released with minor injuries, according to Colorado State Patrol trooper Nate Reid.

On Sept. 25, a young bull moose was hit and killed in a traffic collision in nearly the same spot, though it was on the eastbound side of I-70. The car was totaled but there were no injuries. There have been six moose killed along Summit County's roads this year, including the two along I-70.

Others have been hit on Highway 9 both north and south of Silverthorne.

Dirt bikers seek Tenderfoot terrain near Dillon

October became a big month for off-road motorcycle riders on Oct. 11, as the Forest Service initiated the evaluation process for the Tenderfoot Mountain Motorcycle Trails System, which could add nearly 30 miles of trail on Tenderfoot Mountain to the recently revised White River National Forest travel management plan.

Due to an oversight in the travel management plan process, 15 to 20 miles of existing trails on Tenderfoot Mountain weren't inventoried along with the roads and the rest of the travelways in the White River National Forest and therefore weren't considered for inclusion, Dillon Ranger District recreation staff officer Ken Waugh said.

Now, he's working with Summit County Off-Road Riders (SCORR) to design an approved trail system in the area.

CDOT gives I-70 pacing green light for 2012

The Colorado Department of Transportation plans to implement a pacing program, intended to keep traffic moving smoothly, on eastbound Interstate 70 on peak Sundays next year, officials announced Oct. 18.

In a Sept. 25 test of the program — also known as rolling speed harmonization — traffic slowed from 60 mph down to approximately 30 mph when the test ended near Empire Junction.

CDOT and local law-enforcement agencies will pace traffic primarily on Sundays from 1 p.m. until approximately 5 or 6 p.m. as needed.

During rolling speed harmonization, law-enforcement vehicles pull in front of traffic with emergency lights activated and lead cars at a steady speed through a specific stretch of highway.

A new middle school for Summit County?

A new private middle school is being developed as an educational option for Summit School District families.

The idea is to start with grades 6-8 before expanding one grade each year to include grades 6-12 within five years. Roughly a dozen people are working on details ranging from admissions and enrollment to curriculum and accreditation to tuition and tuition assistance.

The Peak School's lead organizer, Chris Renner, said creating the school has nothing to do with current issues in the school district — such as contention about equal access, multiple initiatives being implemented at once and more.

$60 million approved for Twin Tunnels widening

The $60 million widening of the eastbound Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs is a go, after members of the Colorado Transportation Commission approved a plan to fund the project along with several others Oct. 20.

The budget supplement approved by a unanimous vote distributes $222 million in found dollars statewide, furnishing Summit County's CDOT region 1 with $76 million for the Twin Tunnels project, surface treatment work and other regional priorities.

Crackdown coming on booze, tobacco sales to kids in Summit County

For the first time in years, tobacco and alcohol compliance checks are happening in Summit County.

The initiative, which started in November, is a collaboration between local law enforcement and the Summit Prevention Alliance in an effort to prevent local retailers from selling such products to minors.

“We're pretty confident (selling to youth) is actually taking place — it's not unlike anywhere else,” Summit County undersheriff Derek Woodman said. “We know that's an ongoing issue and it has not been really monitored over the past few years. It's time for us to re-educate the retail market and make sure we get everybody in compliance.”

Student-led equal access petition submitted to Summit School Board

Eighth-grader Jackie Myers was among eight students to stand before the Summit School District Board of Education during the Oct. 25 meeting to present more than 2,000 signatures agreeing with a petition against equal access.

Equal access is an instructional method implemented school-wide at Summit Middle School and in some classes at Summit High School that puts students of all learning levels in the same classroom to be taught high-level curriculum. Teachers then divide students into ability levels to work together on the material and form assessments by ability. The practice is in contrast to the traditional model — where honors and other high-achieving students are taught separately.

“The majority of honors students feel we are being cheated out of the education we could have without equal access,” Myers read to board members. The Summit Honors Alliance letter stated that assignments are average, curriculum is explained repeatedly and non-honors students seek to use honors students as a source for answers, which they say is distracting.

Voters shut down DA's bid for a third term

Summit County voters shut down District Attorney Mark Hurlbert's bid for a term-limit extension to three terms, with 60 percent voting no on ballot question 1A.

In Eagle, Lake and Summit combined, close to 66 percent of voters opposed extending term limits for the district attorney.

“I'm disappointed, but also I appreciate that (the question) got to a vote,” Hurlbert said. “Part of being a prosecutor is the will of the people, whether it's a jury or in politics. I always defer to the will of the people, and I'm glad we got this to a vote.”

With the Nov. 1 electorate decision, Hurlbert will be term-limited in 2012 and will leave office in January of 2013.

Summit School Board incumbent ousted; new board takes shape

Election results showed a close race for the four vacant seats on the Summit School District Board of Education.

Incumbents Alison Casias and Erin Young and newcomers Dave Miller and Sue Wilcox won seats on the new board, while incumbent Brad Piehl trailed in early results and lost in the final results, totaling 17.9 percent of the vote.

Frisco, Breck voters give pot tax the thumbs up

More than 70 percent of voters in both Frisco and Breckenridge supported ballot questions proposing 5 percent excise taxes on the sale of medical marijuana.

Both towns said the taxes were needed to help offset the administrative, legal and enforcement costs brought on by the centers and the still-changing regulations on medical marijuana coming down from the state and federal levels.

The taxes will go into effect in January.

Outlets at Silverthorne working to attract more stores

Despite the departure of a few big-name stores and a vacancy rate of 22 percent, the Outlets at Silverthorne is slowly recovering from the economic downturn and stepping up its game to attract more “quality brand names” to the center.

Outlet sales and foot traffic are up within the past year, and sales tax revenue for the town was up 1.38 percent in November, even with the store closings.

Today, the outlets make up 35 percent of the town's total sales tax revenues.

Dillon's town manager leaves for Front Range post

After four-and-a-half years in the town's top post, Dillon Town Manager Devin Granbery is moving on.

Granbery recently accepted a position as city manager of Sheridan, a role he stepped into Dec. 5. His last day with Dillon was Dec. 2.

“I'm definitely going to miss Dillon, and I'm really going to miss working with the great Town of Dillon staff. They're one of the best staffs I've ever worked with.” Granbery said prior to his departure. “It's bittersweet, but at the same time, I'm excited at the opportunity in Sheridan.”

Summit County wins lawsuit against same-sex couple

After only a few hours of deliberation, a seven-member jury ruled in favor of the Summit County government Nov. 10 in a discrimination lawsuit brought by a same-sex couple, who claimed officials delayed the construction of their house ultimately causing foreclosure.

Hazel and Rodgers accused specific county officials of treating them differently from straight couples in similar situations when resolving problems that arose with the installation of the septic system in the couple's house and with the damage of surrounding wetlands.

The county claimed there had been no discrimination, but that the plaintiffs were inexperienced homebuilders who got themselves into a mess they could not afford to get out of.

Silverthorne: ‘Walkway' definition under contest in Blue River Trail trial

In Day 1 of a two-day trial concerning whether the Town of Silverthorne can build a multi-use trail in its “public walkway” easement across private land, plaintiffs — who are property owners in the Blue River Mesa Subdivision — brought Metro State College linguist Marina Gorlach to the stand Nov. 15.

Much of the day was spent establishing the definition of the term “walkway” as plaintiffs understand it, because the language of Silverthorne's easement through the Blue River Mesa Subdivision states the easement is for the purpose of “installation, use and maintenance of public utility services, drainage services and public walkways.”

Dillon bank robber pleads guilty, gets 10 years

The man who pleaded guilty to robbing Alpine Bank in Dillon in November 2010 was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the minimum mandatory sentence for his crime, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert announced Dec 1.

Lincoln Carpenter, 24, entered a guilty plea to charges of aggravated robbery in September.

He will serve his sentence in a state prison.

Carpenter, originally from Massachusetts, was arrested two days after he entered Alpine Bank in the fall of last year, demanded money from a teller and threatened to use a weapon.

ATM Bandit nabbed in Avon

A man authorities believe to be the so-called ATM Bandit was arrested in Avon Dec. 1 on suspicion of involvement with as many as 35 burglaries over the last two years, police said.

Eric Callaghan, 24, is being held in the Eagle County jail on $100,000 bond while the district attorney's office compiles the charges against him.

“He's looking at a significant amount of jail time,” DA Mark Hurlbert told the Vail Daily.

Callaghan is thought to be the same individual who broke into at least six ATMs in Summit County and several in Eagle County earlier this year, Hurlbert confirmed Saturday. He is suspected of involvement in dozens of burglaries totaling an excess of $100,000 in damages and losses.

Fugitive Breckenridge lawyer Scoop Daniel nabbed in Calif.

Almost five years after he disappeared with more than $500,000 of his clients' money, notorious Breckenridge attorney Royal “Scoop” Daniel III was arrested Dec. 7 as he crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.

Daniel was extradited from San Diego and is being held on a $500,000 bond at the Summit County Jail. He faces eight counts of felony theft and five counts of commercial bribery.

Daniel went missing April 27, 2007 after, it was later discovered, he allegedly bilked clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars through real estate exchanges, which allowed him to hold large sums of money during property transfers.

Walgreens wall debacle reaches a conclusion in Dillon

The Town of Dillon is being partially reimbursed for its costs associated with fixing the 2010 Walgreens wall failure, which released about 170,000 gallons of water onto Little Beaver Trail below.

Town council voted unanimously Dec. 13 to approve a proposed settlement, in which Dillon is splitting $1.625 million with Walgreens and Pace Dillon, the owners of the property.

The town's take is $623,350, or 78.5 percent of its out-of-pocket expenses related to the incident, which amounted to an estimated $793,258 for staff time, emergency water line installation, road closure expenses, wall installation and legal counsel.

The wall failed in May of 2010 after a push-on joint in an underground water line separated and released about 170,000 gallons of water, spilling onto Dillon Valley's Little Beaver Trail below. The road, one of two entrances to Dillon Valley, was shut down to stabilize the wall and move debris before opening up as one lane. The road closed again earlier this year for reconstruction, which finally finished up a few months ago.

Silverthorne Lowe's opening delayed until summer

Frigid temperatures in Summit County are causing construction projects in Silverthorne, including Lowe's, to be delayed.

Lowe's anticipates pushing back its opening several months to late June or early July, according to spokeswoman Stacey Lentz. The home improvement warehouse was originally slated to open toward the end of January or early February.

“This delay is due to two reasons beyond Lowe's control. The initial construction was delayed due to the pending resolution of the original lawsuit against the town concerning the town's approval of our project,” Lentz said. “The second delay has been weather conditions that make certain construction materials and activities either infeasible or cost prohibitive.”

Breckenridge marks 50 years of skiing Dec. 16

The morning itself may have been similar to Dec. 16 half a century ago, but celebrated skiing pioneer Trygve Berge noticed quite a few changes.

In particular, he was treated like a celebrity. And, as he skied the fresh corduroy he's come to enjoy, he pointed out that the soft, man-made snow churned up by groomers was a commodity not available in 1961.

There were just a handful of Breckenridge celebrities gathered for the “understated” start of Breckenridge Ski Resort's 50th birthday, spokeswoman Kristen Petitt-Stewart said, but it was great to see Berge doing what he's been doing for the last 50 years. He rode the first chair along with his friend Greg Gutzki; Nancy Macy, who rode the first chair in 1961 and still skis four days a week; and Bob Brown, who was born on Dec. 16, 1961 and was granted the wish to ride first chair.

The Breckenridge Ski Resort is celebrating its semi-centennial anniversary by granting birthday wishes, offering giveaways and focusing on the guests this season. The town threw a birthday celebration Dec. 16 complete with fireworks, a concert and a champagne toast to those who have been a part of Breckenridge from the beginning.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Shuttle Service from Fairplay to Breckenridge

A new private transit service, Blue River Shuttles, is now open for business, providing a long-awaited connection between Fairplay, Alma, Blue River and Breckenridge.

Long-time local and owner Eric Munden said he started the fledgling shuttle business where he saw the greatest need.

“As far as I know, there isn't any sort of shuttle system that does exactly what I do,” Munden said. “I know that Summit County is incredibly easy to get around without a vehicle, but up until now that wasn't the case from Blue River onward. I'm hoping to change that.”

Many people who work in Breckenridge live in Alma or Fairplay and, without a bus service, have to commute by car. Limited parking availability is an ongoing problem in Breckenridge.

The Summit Stage, Summit County's free public bus system, doesn't run any farther south than Breckenridge.

The new shuttle service doesn't eliminate the need for a southern public bus route in Summit County, Blue River officials said. But it does provide a needed service while the Summit Stage transit board and the Town of Blue River are working on the expensive project of a expanding the Stage service.

“(A bus route) is still in our visioning and our long-range plans,” Blue River Mayor Lindsay Backas said. “But for the interim we're thrilled (to have Blue River Shuttles). It's wonderful for the people of the town and the people who are renting out their homes, because up until this point we've had nothing.”

Hoping for tourist business too

This is the first season Blue River Shuttles has been in business. So far, its riders have been primarily employees commuting between Fairplay and Breckenridge, but Munden said he hopes the service will catch on with tourists as well.

“It's designed for employees and tourists,” Munden said. “It might take a season or two, but I think this is going to be a pretty dependable system.”

Currently, the shuttle runs as a “call and demand” service with regular routes. Blue River Shuttles operates two vans and two buses, which depart from Fairplay at 90 minute intervals in the morning, stopping when and where they're requested in Alma, Blue River and finally in Breckenridge. The buses and vans then leave Breckenridge, again at regular intervals, in the afternoon.

In between, the shuttle service runs 24 hours a day on reservations wherever and whenever its customers ask to be picked up and dropped off.

“Currently it's reservation only,” Munden said. “That's because I cover so much ground from Fairplay to Breckenridge. There are so many stops it would take to be convenient that it would take an hour-and-a-half for the route to be complete.”

By working on a reservation-only system, Munden said his route takes a total of about 45 minutes.

A shuttle ride between Fairplay and Breckenridge costs $10 roundtrip for an adult and $8 roundtrip for kids age 15 and younger. Blue River Shuttles offers discounted 10 one-way-trip and 40 one-way-trip punch passes as well as discounts for employees.

More details are available online at

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Deep-sky Gazing at Keystone Science School

Look up at the sky.

Do you wonder the name of that bright celestial object?

How about the Zodiac constellations crossing the sky at 9 p.m.?

Keystone Science School's StarQuest program has been a go-to family adventure for Summit County visitors in summer and winter — and the organization is looking to build its winter participation this year.

“As the new specialty programs coordinator, I'll be largely in charge of our StarQuest program ... our weekly astronomy program open to the community, held on Monday nights throughout the winter (pending weather, of course),” Keystone Science School specialty programs coordinator Audrey Dignan said.

She's becoming versed with the delicate, $50,000 reflecting telescope donation. It can be finicky: It's very particular about being “put to bed” in the right alignment, and having the operator know-how to tell it to enhance the view of various celestial objects.

The biggest challenge, Dignan said, is learning what's in the sky in winter. She's more familiar with guiding star-gazing in the summer, which has a completely different night sky.

Nonetheless, Dignan is excited to put her knowledge to the test come early January, when the winter StarQuest program is scheduled to kick off. It runs every Monday evening starting at 8:30 p.m. and costs $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12.

She plans to use the two hours to show off the sky's most unusual objects, and to talk about the science and stories behind the stars and objects passing through the sky all the time.

Like Jupiter. Or the Andromeda Galaxy. Or the Orion Nebula. Explaining (and showing) the differences between red giants, white dwarfs, yellow stars, double stars and more should also be part of several of the lessons.

She's able to use star maps with the naked eye, binoculars and low-powered telescopes to keep participants engaged throughout the program.

“It's very romantic,” Dignan said, implying that it's good for couples on vacation or looking for something different to do. The Keystone Science School is looking to partner with Keystone Ranch's sleigh ride program to do a “drive-by” star program after dinner, which they plan to call “Cosmic Cowboys.”

The StarQuest program can also be catered to children, and it's her duty to make sure the program meets the needs and desires of her participants.

“Families are very excited to be able to look at deep space objects,” said Seth Oglesby, who used to run the StarQuest program, but now serves as Keystone Science School's camps and outreach assistant director.

He said participants are often surprised that they can see the cracks and crevices of the moon, or view Jupiter as closely and clearly as it appears in the telescope.

“They're amazed and they leave happy and appreciative of what we've shown them,” Oglesby said.

“How could you not be excited when you're looking at a galaxy in a high-powered telescope?” Dignan added.

Courtesy Summit Daily News

Monday, December 26, 2011

Breckenridge, Ski Area Working on a Transit Agreement

Four months ahead of the April municipal elections, Breckenridge Town Council members and ski resort executives are still working on a transit agreement that might keep a lift ticket tax question off the ballot.

After several weeks of closed-door meetings, council members involved in the talks with Vail Resorts and Breckenridge Ski Resort (BSR) executives wouldn't say whether the two entities were nearing an agreement.

Breckenridge Mayor John Warner did say that nothing is on the table yet.

If they have not reached an agreement with the resort by the deadline to add to the April ballot, councilmembers said they would move forward with the tax question.

“I think we have the support from the council to put it on the ballot and then let the voters decide,” Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron said. “That's if the ski area and the town can't come to terms.”

The revenue from a lift ticket tax could help fund a coordinated ski area/town bus system in Breckenridge, town officials have said.

But the lift ticket tax — also called an amusement or admissions tax — question seems to be getting mixed reviews from the public, based on the results of an informal Summit Daily poll.

The majority, 56 percent, of the more than 370 respondents to the online survey as of Sunday said they wouldn't vote for a lift ticket tax at all, and only 6 percent said they would support the tax because the town needed the money to improve transit.

Almost 35 percent of respondents said they would vote yes on a lift ticket tax because they thought Vail Resorts should have a tax on its sales as other businesses do.

Close to 15 percent of those who participated in the poll said they didn't think the town needed the lift ticket tax revenue and 40 percent held that it's not the right time to be imposing new taxes on Breck's visitors.

Vail Resorts collects a sales tax on food, merchandise and rentals, but no tax is currently imposed on lift or admission ticket sales in Breckenridge.

The Town of Vail does levy a 4 percent lift ticket tax, which Mayor Andy Daly called “a major revenue source for the town.”

Breckenridge Ski Resort executives have expressed strong opposition to the tax proposal and have made it clear if the question is put on the ballot and approved, the cost will be passed on to their customers.

“Ultimately an amusement tax is not a tax on Breckenridge Ski Resort, but a tax that would be borne by guests and locals alike who ski and ride at Breckenridge,” Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kristin Williams said. “There is a strong anti-tax sentiment across our state and across the country — with intense scrutiny being put on even the hint of a new tax.”

Town officials said many people's support for the tax is “vindictive” against Vail Resorts and said it was possible a citizens' group would put the tax question on the ballot even if the town and the resort reached a transit agreement.

If approved by voters, the tax could be applied to summer fun park revenue, bar and restaurant cover charges, theater tickets, sleigh ride revenue and event ticket sales as well as lift ticket sales.

A 4.5 percent tax would bring in an estimated $2.9 million annually from lift ticket sales alone. No decisions on the size or scope of the tax have been made.

The Vail Daily contributed to the reporting of this story.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas Bird Count Begins

The Christmas Bird Count has begun.

During the holidays, thousands of bird watchers armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists get ready to bundle up and head out in search of feathered friends during the 112th annual Christmas Bird Count.

What's been deemed the longest-running citizen science project in American history runs until Jan. 5.

The purpose is for volunteers to identify and tally every bird in their specific route and designated 15-mile-wide circle counted annually. The goal is to get an annual census of which birds — and how many of each species — are using a particular habitat. By repeating the process year after year, wildlife managers are able to document and analyze long term trends in species abundance and health.

“The information gathered by scientists and volunteers is invaluable to determining long-term trends in bird populations,” said John Koshak, a watchable wildlife specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Birds are sensitive to changes in the environment. By studying trends, we can determine which bird species are declining and which ones are on the increase.”

According to Leon Bright, membership coordinator for the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society, this year's counters in his area are seeing lots of species, but not as many individuals as in years past. “We documented 127 species at Pueblo Reservoir, which is two short of the all time record. The total number of birds, however, was down.”

Bright said the same trend was observed in the Wet Mountain Valley count near Westcliffe.

“The lower number of birds might be related to the drought conditions,” he said.

According to the Audubon Society, the Christmas Bird Count is a family tradition for their members.

On Christmas Day 1900, the first Christmas Bird Count was done as an alternative to what was known as a “side hunt.” According to the Audubon Society's web page, a “side hunt” was when people formed teams to see which team could shoot the largest bag of feathered and furred wildlife. Recognizing that this kind of intense hunting might have a serious impact on wildlife populations, the national association of the Audubon Society began organizing volunteers to count birds on Christmas Day rather than shoot them.

By tradition, the modern Christmas count takes on the guise of a friendly competition, as groups vie with each other and with history to find more species than their peers did. After a day in the field, often in raw conditions, birders gather to compile their totals and recount the best sightings of the day.

Bright cites two reasons people participate in the Christmas Bird Count.

“They love birds and want to help out as citizen scientists. And they love the camaraderie of being with others,” he said.

The Christmas Count is a way for new and novice birders to learn about bird habits and bird identification skills from experienced birders. Old hands derive satisfaction from knowing that their observations are part of an enormous body of scientific data that's important to bird conservation in Colorado and beyond.

For many birders, the highlight of the day is spotting a species they have never seen and adding it to their life list. Others will marvel to the unpredictable and sometimes dramatic interactions between species like raptors and their prey. A lucky few may see a unique bird or a species never before recorded in their circle.

Give the gift of science this holiday

Avid bird watchers or folks even slightly interested can give the gift of time and viewing skills as a participant in this year's Christmas Bird Count.

There is a specific methodology to the CBC, but everyone can participate. Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. Each circle is led by a Count Compiler. Beginning birders can join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher.

The CBC tallies species but also counts all birds all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. If observers live within a CBC circle, they may arrange in advance to count the birds at their feeders and submit those data to their compiler.

To find the posted date of a count near you, or to join a CBC, go to

Friday, December 23, 2011

65 Years at A-Basin

This season, it seems ski areas are just bustin' at the seams with birthdays. One week after Breck celebrated its big bash, the Basin is right on its heels, 15 years wiser, with its 65th year of turns.

Rather than recite some boring timeline, we're including some fun quiz facts to keep aging brains sharp, as well as a look back at ski business notes. But before we do, here are a couple things you need to keep in the forefront of your mind:

Saturday: From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Santa and his elf will hang out in the Basin's base area surrounded by the music of the Summit Chorale Society. At 1 p.m., swing by for free birthday cake and wassail.

Now, a glimpse at highlights from the Basin's 1946 annual report:

The first line of the 1946-47 “Annual Report of Arapahoe Basin, Inc.” reads: “The first year of the corporate existence of Arapahoe Basin, Inc. has been a difficult one at times and only now after twelve months is the picture considerably brighter.” It built its assets from “nothing to over $117,897.45 as of April 30, 1947; by selling 113,388 shares of stock ... and by operating on a small scale during the past winter.”

The best part about owning stock: If you made a $500-$1,000 investment, you got a “life pass on lifts and tows and a $1 reduction on lift tickets for family members, as well as reduced waiting time on crowded days.” More than $1,000 earned a free life pass for an individual and immediate family members plus the opportunity to purchase private land and build a cabin in the basin. However, below the benefit list it reads: “The details of some of the before-mentioned benefits have yet to be definitely decided.”

Ironically, the annual report reads: “Luckily, the December and January snows were light ...” Huh? Seems the lack of snow saved on costs; it “permitted operation of a truck service into the basin at no great expense.” The truck actually served as a substitute for a chairlift.

The report points to a day where people didn't take debt so lightly. It says: “It can be seen that despite the continuing stock sales the corporation has been seriously hampered by having tied so much money up in materials ...” and talks about people like Max Dercum making trips back East to sell stocks — resulting in $59,657 and “a vast amount of fine publicity ...” making the Basin “already well-known in the skiing world.”

But already, resort owners compared the numbers Loveland. “Some 2,500 people visited Arapahoe Basin this ski season — small in comparison to the estimated 20,000 at Loveland Pass, but gratifying nevertheless. The general impression created has been most favorable. The skiing is constantly being compared to that at Aspen and Sun Valley and never to our disadvantage.”

Interestingly enough, groups and individuals already were asking to build homes in the basin, and in the annual report it reads: “This possibility still exists although it is now felt that the price of the land is too high for the corporation to consider taking up its option to buy at this time.” If they only knew ...

Now for a little quiz:

• What year did A-Basin open?

If you can't get this one, you either a) smoke way too much “medical marijuana,” or b) need to go back to first-grade math, c) completely missed the big, fat headline on the top of the page, or d) all of the above.

• How did people get up the mountain?

Skiers were transported to the base of the tow rope, situated midway up the mountain, in an Army weapons carrier pulled by a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

• How do you really spell Pallavicini?

We at the Summit Daily toiled over this question for years so rigorously, it pained us to no end. We found ourselves tossing and turning at night, shouting in the newsroom, getting into such embroiled, passionate arguments that one, if not all of us, had to immediately grab our gear, drive up to the Basin and head to said lift to memorize the exact spelling of the double-seater. And, once there, it was not enough to merely jot down the spelling at the base of the lift. No, we were deeply committed to our journalistic duty. We rode up the lift to ensure mountain operations spelled it the same way at the top as they did at the bottom.

Then, of course, we had to double check the spelling at the bottom, and then again at the top. Then, after triple and quadruple checking, we'd return to the office, only to check the ski area map we stashed at the office and see that, indeed the map spelled it differently than the sign at the chairlift. So, the next day, we began our quest for the truth. And on it went, day after endless day, season after long season.

So, finally, as the intrepid A&E editor, on this 65th anniversary, I asked — through email — the great communications coordinator Leigh Hierholzer if she remembered the debacle, because over the years, after diligent research, I have noticed A-Basin, has, indeed, resolved the inaccuracy.

“Yes, of course I remember it,” she replied, immediately. “We sometimes have people write in and tell us what the correct spelling is and why, that's why it has changed occasionally. We finally decided on ‘Pallavicini' a few years ago, and we're sticking to it. ... Sometimes it takes a while to make the full transition with all of the signage, trail maps, etc. We hope we are getting closer to completing that transition.”

So there.

And, now, back to the mind-bending quiz:

• How much did a lift ticket cost in 1946?

$1.25; in 1974, a ticket set skiers back $7.50.

• In 1945, a development team estimated construction of A-Basin would cost about $150,000. In 1972 a ski patroller, Joe Jankovsky bought it for how much?

It all depends who you talk to. The Ten Mile Times reported in 1997 that he bought it for $400,000, while says he paid $850,000 — quite a discrepancy. Still, if you look what the Ten Mile Times says it sold for six years later, Jankovsky didn't do too poorly, no matter who's right.

• The first season, 2,500 skiers visited the Basin, according to the annual report. How many came the second season?


• And these days?

More than 425,000

• (Put your second-grade silly joke brain on for this one) Why did dogs fall in love with the Basin in 1978?

Because Ralston-Purina bought it. Arf, arf, arf! OK, ya might've found that one funnier if you were on “medical marijuana,” because if you're in second-grade, you probably don't know the brand Ralston-Purina and wouldn't get the joke. (Here's a stat to feed a bit of your brain: The dog-food company purchased it for about $1 million, according to a 1997 Ten Mile Times report; now that's the way to be a ski patroller.)

Sad but true: We've used all our brain cells on that last one, so we're out to make some turns and eat some cake. Maybe afterward, we'll crash into our Corporate Suites (which, during this holiday season is turning into corporate sweets, where readers drop off snowflake cupcakes and cases of Strawberry Crush (who knew such a drink even existed), and hijack a Summit Up writer, or something). Happy holidays!

Courtesy of  Summit Daily News

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Summit Foundation: A unique community foundation

Community foundations are nonprofits that serve a large region of people by working to improve the quality of life in their area. The Summit Foundation is the only community foundation in Summit County and is a little different than your average foundation — read on to learn how!

How do community foundations differ from other nonprofit organizations?

Instead of specializing in certain programs or a specific need like individual nonprofits, foundations research the entire community to find the areas of greatest need. Then a foundation's board and staff identify individual nonprofits and programs best suited to meet these needs. By granting funds to multiple nonprofit organizations in one region, community foundations can cover a larger scope of programs and meet more needs than one small nonprofit.

Why invest in a community foundation like The Summit Foundation?

Individuals, families, businesses, and organizations create permanent charitable funds, such as Donor Advised Funds or Scholarship Funds to help their region meet challenges and needs as they arise. The foundation manages these funds to meet a donor's desires.

The Summit Foundation (TSF) provides donors with thorough research on community need, effectiveness of programs, and recommendations from experienced board members who interview all grantees. With more than 90 nonprofit organizations funded this past year, TSF also ensures a broad distribution of funds throughout the community.

The Summit Foundation is like a United Way, right?

Well, yes and no. The Summit Foundation is a unique organization in that it shares some characteristics similar to United Way and characteristics more typical of the average community foundation. The majority of community foundations were founded from large endowment gifts, meaning the organizations operate from the interest on these large sums of money. Because of this, most community foundations do not undertake (or need to perform) large annual fundraising campaigns to meet the financial needs of their communities.

United Way agencies on the other hand, operate mostly through annual charitable contributions, like donations obtained through payroll deduction programs. The Summit Foundation utilizes a combination of all strategies mentioned above in order to be most effective in Summit County.

What else makes The Summit Foundation unique?

The Summit Foundation is one of a few community foundations in the U.S. established by a ski resort. TSF began as the charitable arm of the Breckenridge Development Corporation, which in 1984 decided to broaden the impact and scope of charitable work in our community by turning their giving arm into a stand-alone nonprofit, The Summit Foundation.

Want to know another great thing about being established by a ski resort? Thanks to the generosity of our local ski area partners, TSF is one of a few foundations able to sell transferable ski privileges as a fundraising mechanism. So you can support our community by purchasing a ski pass that can be used not only for yourself, but for all your friends, family, and clients too!

Utilizing multiple fundraising strategies, TSF is able to accomplish a very high distribution (or giving) ratio. The Summit Foundation is able to grant a tremendous – and increasing – amount back to the community each year.

What does all this mean for you?

It means if you would like to contribute to our community, but aren't sure where to put your funds, we can help! The Summit Foundation's board and staff take care of all the research for you. Each grant cycle, we research community needs, program effectiveness, and interview each nonprofit's staff to make sure your money is going to the most efficient and necessary programs. Each year, The Foundation donates nearly $1.5 million to local nonprofits operating in Health & Human Service, Education, Art & Culture, Sports & Recreation and Environmental Stewardship. Your gift to The Summit Foundation, at any level of support, can make a $1 million dollar impact.

Due to the generosity of local businesses, full and part-time residents, The Foundation has been able to make a difference in our mountain community by granting over $14.4 million since 1986!

Giving Back is written by Jennifer Stein and Kasey Geoghegan, specialists of marketing and development at The Summit Foundation, the leading philanthropic organization for Summit County and its neighboring communities. Submit questions to Giving Back at or visit

Courtesy Summit Daily News

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Breckenridge Marks 50 Years of Skiing

The morning itself may have been similar to Dec. 16 half a century ago, but celebrated skiing pioneer Trygve Berge noticed quite a few changes.

In particular, he was treated like a celebrity. And, as he skied the fresh corduroy he's come to enjoy, he pointed out that the soft, man-made snow churned up by groomers was a commodity not available in 1961.

There were just a handful of Breckenridge celebrities gathered for the “understated” start of Breckenridge Ski Resort's 50th birthday, spokeswoman Kristen Petitt-Stewart said, but it was great to see Berge doing what he's been doing for the last 50 years. He rode the first chair along with his friend Greg Gutzki; Nancy Macy, who rode the first chair in 1961 and still skis four days a week; and Bob Brown, who was born on Dec. 16, 1961 and was granted the wish to ride first chair.

“It was a special moment,” she said. “It probably wasn't that dissimilar to when they took the lift 50 years ago. It was a cool, crisp morning that was memorable.”

Berge, who turns 80 on April 19, doesn't mind being recognized for his work in starting the ski resort; in fact, he says he sort of likes feeling like a movie star. But he acknowledges he's just a regular person.

“It's fun to be recognized, but other than that, I'm just me,” he said.

He's also quick to say his wasn't the only hand at work in recreating the town of Breckenridge by starting the ski resort.

“It was Sigurd (Rockne) and me who got the ball rolling,” he said.

Rockne, who still lives in Breckenridge, was not available for comment Friday.

Berge was invited to the United States by 1952 Olympic gold medalist Stein Eriksen, his friend and employer in Voss, Norway, where Berge mounted steel edges on 12,000 pairs of skis to make a living during ski racing. (He competed in the 1956 Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, but didn't place. He lost his ski just before the finish.)
Eriksen had come to the United States, lending a hand and making a living off ski area startup. He wanted Berge to run his ski schools in Heavenly, Aspen and Boyne Mountain, Mich. — a role he'd fall into again once Breckenridge's lifts started turning. Trygve's is still the learning area at the mountain. (Ericksen still lives in Deer Valley, Utah.)
While he was in Aspen, a friend, Bill Rounds, encouraged Berge and Rockne to visit the open valley between the Continental Divide and the Tenmile Range that was to be flooded to create Dillon Reservoir. They saw the opportunity to build there, and created the Norwegian Construction Company and built the Anthem Lumberyard, which would eventually become the Breckenridge Building Center. That was in the fall of 1960.

Birth of a ski area

“There was nothing here, just rock piles all over,” Berge said. They planned to build cabins around the lake, but wondered what people would do in winter.

Rounds asked if it might be possible to ski. So they set out to scout.

“We looked at the slopes, the snow, the exposure, and rode up the old mining road to where the Colorado Superchair ends right now,” Berge said. The threesome hiked to the top, and decided they'd build the ski area. They headed back to the car, pulled out some scotch, mixed it with spring water spouting from the hillside nearby, and tossed one back to the ski area. Not long after, they had the permit to move forward.

They marked the runs in the spring and summer of 1961, and crews from Aspen came to cut the slopes. That winter, the ski area opened with Springmeier (named for an old mining character who lived next to the Gold Pan), Rounder's Run and Callie's Alley (named after Rounds and his wife), Eagle Lane at the bottom and the Constam T-bar on Trygve's beginner area.

Building a town

A sliver of the land of opportunity, Breckenridge attracted all kinds of entrepreneurs. Unlike Vail, which was funded by investors, Breckenridge was build more haphazardly, with developments scattered throughout the valley.

“It was a crazy time,” Berge said, though it was exciting for him to see people coming with new ideas; ideas both for building the town and having fun. “The enthusiasm was incredible.”

Locals who remained in the mining version of Breckenridge thought the skiers were nuts.

“They didn't understand the future of the skiing business,” Berge said.

Meanwhile, the town was dying, and just a few hundred people remained.

“Without the ski area, there would be nothing here,” he said.

Changes: The best and the worst

Berge commends the direction leaders have taken the town — from its visual appeal to the economy on which it thrives. He appreciates the investments (though, he admitted he sometimes thinks it's too much) in various activities that cater to broad audiences, such as the recpath.

However, he laments the change in opportunity. It's not as easy for people to come and make a life here, between the town's red tape and the already developed valley.

“It's so hard to do something small anymore,” Berge said.

And though skiing has remained a somewhat social activity, younger generations view it somewhat less so than the old-timers, who still take the time to meet each other at Fatty's on Ridge Street after a day of skiing — as they did on Friday to kick off Breckenridge's afternoon of festivities. Some of them have known each other since the beginning, or at least for several decades.

Nonetheless, Berge

Looking back and looking forward

The expansions since the start of the Peak 8 Ski Area fall into Rounds', Berge's and Rockne's original vision. Berge said he vizualized the entire Tenmile Range being a ski area, with Peak 1 and Bill's Ranch making the most ideal terrain. He'd walked the land in its entirety, and envisioned a monorail connecting it all together.

Berge smiles and his gaze is far away as his hand demonstrates the graceful turns and jumps of the long, wide moguls formed by straight skis.

He remembers the days when he and Rockne were strong youths, building houses, cutting trails and creating the ski area's foundations for ski instruction.

“We've always been close friends and nothing will change that,” Berge said. He laughs and looks away shyly when asked to share stories of their friendship — he never did spill any beans.

Eventually, Rockne moved into the restaurant business while Berge stayed in ski school and ski shops. Both still live close, with Rockne in Breckenridge and Berge renting here and living primarily in Lakewood.

“I don't like to shovel snow, but I like to ski on it,” he said with a grin.

As he reflected on the many years spent dedicated to Breckenridge, he said, “It's good to look back, but it's kind of sad; I don't know where those 50 years went. It's also good to look forward, because the future doesn't seem to come as fast as the past goes.”

Courtesy Summit Daily News

Friday, December 16, 2011

Loews to Delay Opening in Silverthrone

Frigid temperatures in Summit County are causing construction projects in Silverthorne, including Lowe's, to be delayed.

Lowe's anticipates pushing back its opening several months to late June or early July, according to spokeswoman Stacey Lentz. The home improvement warehouse was originally slated to open toward the end of January or early February.

“This delay is due to two reasons beyond Lowe's control. The initial construction was delayed due to the pending resolution of the original lawsuit against the town concerning the town's approval of our project,” Lentz said. “The second delay has been weather conditions that make certain construction materials and activities either infeasible or cost prohibitive.”

Crews will continue to seal off the rear of the store and finish the roof in early winter, and they aim to complete the interior during the cold months. Silverthorne planning director Mark Leidal said crews have also completed the $2 million in off-site improvements, with some on-site items left to complete.

“They'll wait for things to warm up until they finish up the exterior,” Leidal said, explaining that materials like stucco and concrete require curing periods and temperatures the weather's not permitting.

Silverthorne spokesman Ryan Hyland said it's not uncommon for winter weather to affect construction projects.

For instance, construction of the new AutoZone in town is complete, but will have to wait on exterior paint and landscaping. Leidal said they'll be able to open prior to Christmas, as planned, but town officials will hold cash or a letter of credit in the value of the work to be done in escrow, to guarantee its completion come spring.

“Summit County weather is great for ice castles and skiing, but lousy for construction,” Hyland said.

Leidal said AutoZone was issued its certificate of occupancy this week, so employees will likely be stocking shelves and getting ready to open in the next week or so.

Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church and Buffalo Mountain Metro District are also facing delays, according to Leidal, but they're not necessarily weather-related.

Buffalo Mountain Metro District has completed a new sand storage building, but is still working on its new employee housing unit and new office building.

“We've been talking to them for years for a land swap so the intersection (at Lowe's) could be accommodated. We finally finished that land swap,” Leidal said. He said he suspects completing the land swap prompted them to move forward with reconstruction.

“Sometimes construction activities take longer than expected,” he said.

Courtesy Summit Daily News

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dew Tour Hits Breckenridge

Between the U.S. Grand Prix and the Dew Tour's Nike Open, which kicked off with competition yesterday, Summit County has been packed with freeskiing and snowboarding superstars the last couple weeks, and they're just getting warmed up.
Returning for its fourth year, the Nike Open at Breckenridge is the first of three Winter Dew Tour stops and includes six competitions spanning across three rounds: qualifiers, semifinals and finals. The Breckenridge event will include contests in men's freeskiing superpipe and slopestyle, and both men's and women's snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle.

Other Dew Tour stops include Killington, Vt., and Snowbasin Resort in Ogden, Utah, early next year. At season's end, the overall points leaders are crowned champions and awarded the Dew Cup — and a bunch of cash — in eight disciplines. For the first time this year, women's freeskiing will also be thrown into the mix (at later venues).

Last season's Dew Cup champions include Louie Vito (men's snowboard superpipe), Kelly Clark (women's snowboard superpipe), Torstein Horgmo (men's snowboard slopestyle), Jamie Anderson (women's snowboard slopestyle), Kevin Rolland (ski superpipe) and Breck's Bobby Brown (ski slopestyle).

With all the star power of the X Games, the Nike Open is a great opportunity for spectators to witness the best in the business without the zoo-like atmosphere and competitive viewing of the annual Aspen event.

And this year, when we say the “world's best” will be on hand, we mean it quite literally as gold medal-winning Olympian Shaun White will be returning after a two-year hiatus with hopes of reclaiming the Dew Cup, which he won in the 2010 season. If history is any indicator, the rest of the field, made up by the likes of 2011 U.S. Grand Prix podium finishers Luke Mitrani, Vito and Greg Bretz, among others, will be battling it out for second.

“The Dew Tour does an awesome job of putting on a really good contest in Breckenridge,” said Olympic halfpipe snowboarder Elena Hight. “There's always a really good pipe and a really good turnout of athletes. It's a fun contest because it's the first one of the year, so everyone is just getting back together and there's a lot of fun energy.”

Finding their groove.

Every athlete approaches these early competitions differently — some are looking to simply get back in the groove, while others are hoping to charge out of the gate and debut new tricks and concepts. Hight, for one, plans to pull out a couple new inverts this week, while Kelly Clark, coming off a decisive win at the Grand Prix, hasn't yet thrown her season into sixth gear.
“Early-season, I really think everyone is looking to get their feet back underneath them. I think everyone really looks at (the early comps) as an opportunity to get back into the competitive mindset and get their bodies back into it. I typically have been a bit of a slow starter,” said Clark, this week's frontrunner.

For Summit County resident Simon Dumont, the Nike Open is a sweet event because it's close to home. “The slopestyle course here at Breckenridge is usually pretty top-notch. They build a good park all year, so it's not too hard to transition to adding a couple features and making the jumps a little bigger,” he said.

This year is more of a fun, less-intense season for veterans like Dumont, who will spend time filming before buckling down in anticipation of halfpipe skiing's Olympic debut in 2014.

Size matters.

This will be the second year that the Dew Tour will feature an Olympic-size, 22-foot halfpipe. The event was previously held on an 18-footer, which lent itself to inconsistency among the X Games, Grand Prix and Olympics. Athletes are pleased that the size seems to finally be standardized throughout the major competitions.

“With the 22-foot pipe, it adds a little more room for error because you have more transition,” Dumont said. “It makes it more capable for higher airs, and I think its more exciting.”
In past years, especially Olympic years, the 18-footer prevented top-level athletes who didn't want to mess with their rhythm from participating.

“The 22-foot pipe has been the natural progression for snowboard halfpipe,” Hight said. “It was necessary for the Dew Tour to remain a serious event to bump up to a 22-foot because that's all we ride anymore.”

For women of the Dew Tour, one step forward and one step back
With the acquisition of women's freeskiing for the 2011-12 season, women's snowboarding has consequently lost one of its events at the Dew Tour (and incidentally the Grand Prix as well).

While there seems to be universal agreement among snowboarders that involving female skiers is a positive addition, there is also concern about eliminating events.

“Obviously, for us, that's a huge step back in the wrong direction,” said Hight. “We've worked over the past eight years or so to get equal prize money for women, equal contests. So to have them take away an event like that is really unfortunate. … I think it's great they added the girl skiers; they should have been added a long time ago because they're killing it. But not having equal events and limiting prize money is unfortunate.”

Clark agrees that female skiers deserve a spot on the circuit, but she shares Hight's concerns about eliminating women's events.

“Unfortunately, snowboarding was kind of taken away to add the skiing events,” Clark said. “Although I'm happy for the skiing women to get an opportunity, at the same time I don't think we're really solving the problem by pushing it around. Hopefully we'll see more women's equality in the events to come.”

Courtesy Summit Daily News

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Summit County Gets Green Light for Recpath Extension

Summit County gets green light for recpath extension

Summit County government's proposal to extend its recpath to Copper Mountain's Far East Lot has been approved by the U.S. Forest Service.
Though it's approved, the best-case scenario shows trail construction beginning in late summer next year, Summit County open space and trails resource specialist Brad Eckert said. Because it hasn't gone to bid, no price estimate has been released.
With the decision issued, those in the public who have commented can appeal the decision for roughly the next month.

The trail extension is designed to improve safety on the county's recpath system east of Highway 91 near the Interstate 70 interchange, where the path currently disintegrates into utility trail and frontage road access to Copper Mountain and Highway 91.
“It's confusing and deteriorating and it doesn't allow a smooth flow of traffic through that area,” Eckert said.

The proposal includes construction of a 12-foot-wide asphalt recpath and two-foot soft shoulders to connect the Highway 91/Copper Road intersection and Highway 91 south of Copper Mountain's parking areas. The proposed trail extension covers roughly 7,200 feet, Eckert said.
A bridge to be constructed on Copper Mountain's land will span Tenmile Creek and allow users to gain access to the Highway 91/Copper Road intersection. The existing stock bridge east of Copper's parking lot will be replaced to allow users to continue riding along the west side of Tenmile Creek between it and Copper's Far East Lot before terminating the trail at Highway 91. The existing bridge at the northern terminus of the recpath will be upgraded with new railings and resurfaced with asphalt. All bridges will be designed to meet Forest Service scenery guidelines.

Two letters were received during the environmental assessment comment period, one support letter from Copper Mountain and one from the Colorado Trail Foundation, which recommended additional design criteria to protect the existing integrity of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which has similar general alignment with the recpath.

White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said in his decision that the paved recreation path will be immediately adjacent to the existing Copper Mountain Far East Lot, and the Continental Divide Trail will be located to the east of the paved recpath as it extends to Highway 91. A vegetated buffer between the paved recreation path and the Continental Divide Trail will be maintained and/or created, where appropriate.

Summit County Government is responsible for constructing the recreation path.
Fitzwilliams specified that “all project design criteria ... as well as two additional design criteria requested by the Colorado Trail Foundation, are required to be adhered to by Summit County Government.”

For instance, where the recreation path abuts Tenmile Creek and associated wetlands, the width of path shoulders will be minimized to avoid and minimize impacts. French drains will also be installed under the recpath to allow water to continue flowing beneath the paved surface. Where the stream channels intersect the path, culverts and bridges will be built to accommodate or restore the flow.
“Each of these features will improve how water is currently transferred to Tenmile Creek and at the bridge location where the stream channel is restored,” Fitzwilliams said. “Aquatic habitat will be improved adjacent to Tenmile Creek.”

An environmental assessment was created and distributed for public comment in October. It was the basis for Fitzwilliams' decision.

He evaluated another alternative, the no-action alternative, as required by the analysis process, but found the proposed action more suitable.
View the full environmental assessment and record of decision online at

Courtesy Summit Daily News

Monday, December 12, 2011

Avalanches - Take Note

Summit County: Efficiency in avalanches

According to Swiss “beacon expert,” Manuel Genswein, guide companies can rely on their guests to rescue them from an avalanche — if they're taught properly.
It was part of a two-day public avalanche rescue training at Copper Mountain hosted by the Summit County Rescue Group, the Summit County Sheriff's Office, and Copper Mountain. Genswein spent several hours lecturing ski patrollers, rescue group volunteers and trainers, and the interested public on Friday, reviewing beacon technology history as well as practical training techniques. On Saturday, he exercised the group's application skills in the field.
Genswein's focus was effective training and streamlined practice. Many of his points came back to meticulous training, including being a strict trainer who corrects mistakes immediately. Being a well-oiled machine makes for an effective rescuer, he pointed out.
Genswein addressed the time crunch that prohibits guides from running through basic avalanche safety with guests. He said many guides claim a guest would be unsuccessful in performing a beacon search, locating a victim or victims, and digging them out in a reasonable amount of time, even with basic instruction. So Genswein did a study.
He found that guide service clients, at the median age of 53, could recover a burial in 4 minutes, 20 seconds at the best, and 22 minutes, 30 seconds at the worst. Men aged 73 and up, another clientele demographic, performed the simulated rescue in nearly 7 minutes at their best and 27 minutes at their slowest.
That was after giving them a fine-tuned 15-minute tutorial on avy basics.
“Even though you only have a quarter hour of time, you can be very efficient,” Genswein said, noting that streamlined instruction must also be coupled with the best and easiest to use equipment. According to Genswein, the added bonus of teaching novices avalanche basics, is that they enjoy it. The clients in his study enjoyed themselves — even though they were digging into bottomless powder instead of skiing it.
John Reller, a Chicago Ridge snowcat guide at Ski Cooper, said as he listened, he considered ways he could change his own safety talk. Given more equipment, he might cover the more detailed 15-minute training, he added.
“The more people who know how to use the tools correctly, the better off we all are,” he said.
Genswein has done several of these studies, which take a look at how training can impact backcountry safety.
In another study, he found that giving three 45-minute modules in companion rescue can be highly effective. A four-burial situation was cleared in about 36 minutes with the short course.
Genswein said that the key in any sort of training is to teach how to be systematic.
“This is the key to success in mountain rescue,” he said, pointing out that eager participants who chaotically searched the debris field were far less effective than those who were systematic.

Taking it to the field
Being systematic and therefore effective was the theme of Saturday's beacon field workshop, too.
For new Arapahoe Basin ski patroller Greg Dumas, Genswein's course took his personal and basic professional knowledge to the next level.
“What I found valuable was that it was geared more toward experienced users,” Dumas said, adding it was helpful to have the rundown of beacon history and how technology has evolved, as well as getting international insight on avalanche rescue concepts.
With five stations set up that involved local professionals, the field course catered to novices as well as advanced professionals. Novices learned and asked questions while the advanced folks taught.
Dumas called the Friday and Saturday tutorial “professional development,” which was helpful. It was also helpful to interact with the broader professional community of which he's now a part.

Courtesy Summit Daily News

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Breckenridge in the 1990s

In the 1990s, when Interstate 70 wasn't the gridlock it is now and Summit County was continuing its growth as a major international ski destination, Todd Richards came to town.

The snowboarder got caught in Boulder on a cross-country trip (they were headed to Southern California, where Richards now lives full time) because of its beauty. It wasn't long before Richards and his fellow snow-loving buddies discovered the mountains. A New Englander, Richards came to Colorado thinking he was at the top of his game, but admits he was sorely mistaken.

Colorado, he proclaims, was the place where competitors were bred. Now in his 23rd year as a professional snowboarder, Richards swallowed the pill, turned up his competitive edge and took on the challenge of competing for No. 1 in the game.

Today he has “World Champion competitor” and “Olympian” to add to his list of accomplishments, and has since evolved into a commentator for circuits such as the Dew Tour and fulfills other roles in the TV and online broadcast worlds.

In the early 1990s, “day-glo” apparel still reigned from the 1980s, but it wasn't long before the urban grunge of the skaters-turned-snowboarders took over. It was the era where the single board was despised by those on two planks, and Richards' memory of Breckenridge during the decade stays true to that divide. It was clique-y, he said. The same is true today, but now there are more types from which to choose.

“The town was still funky,” he said, explaining that everyone in his circle lived 10 to a condo in the Baldy Mountain Townhomes (he might not be exaggerating) and worked at either Pasta Jays, Mi Casa or Fajitas.

There were still mining folk in town, like Buck, the “crazy,” grizzly man who lived up French Creek and showed up in town with guns and knives strapped to him, Richards recalled.

“This was before people were building million-dollar snowmobile homes,” he added.

Work for your jumps

Richards remembers it wasn't easy developing into a snowboarding trickster. You had to want it. The halfpipe wasn't built until January most years, and terrain parks were non-existent. Logs and shovels were the best tools they had. They'd create natural jibs, and use shovels to build jumps.

“We had to work for our jumps,” Richards said. “We would ride around on the hill with shovels. We had designated shovel days” when conditions weren't ideal.

“We would make do with what we have,” he said.

Now, he said, he rides the lifts and scans the entries to his old stomping grounds. There aren't even tracks to the old hotspots.

With terrain parks what they are, and resorts competing to open the first halfpipe, Richards, too, heads to the ready-to-go features.

“I paid my dues,” he said. “I feel really lazy now.”

Richards was around when snowboarding went from the ugly stepchild to an eye-popping extreme sport. The latter half of the 1990s saw the Winter X Games begin (1997) and the snowboard halfpipe and slalom added to the Winter Olympics (1998). When Richards first arrived in the county, Copper Mountain was the hotspot, but it wasn't long before Breckenridge became home base for the cutting edge athletes.

“If you wanted to ride pipe, you lived in and around Breck,” he said of that time period.

From his Baldy Mountain Townhome, he could scope out the pipe and follow the machinery as it refinished the pipe, which at that time wasn't carved into the clean “U”-shape it now has. Richards said it was more like an “L.”

Nonetheless, “We knew the cut schedule,” he said.

1990s: The heyday, and the urban transition

The late 1990s was the heyday of snowboarding — when people were making money as urban grunge hooligans said Richards.

“Everything was very urban slope-thug,” Richards said, adding that one of the main jumps once the terrain park developed was the “Wu-Tang” jump. The landing was so hard, it sounded like a gun going off.

Youth with basic editing knowledge and a camera in hand began making their own videos — Richards remembers filming footage during three weeks in spring at Arapahoe Basin — and modern snowboarding took shape.

Snowboarders who showed up without a dime began grinding rails, ollie'ing down stairs, and generally “applying the skate template to snowboarding.”

“It was gritty,” Richards said, adding that there were a few women, like Christine Sperber and Wendy Powell, who were also pushing the sport from the female side.

“The companies had no idea they should be paying us so much money,” Richards said with a sly smile. “They were paying us to (screw) around.”

Courtesy of Summit Daily News

Friday, November 18, 2011

Breckenridge bids for weekend finish in 2012 Pro Cycling Challenge

Stellar feedback from locals and businesses on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 5 finish this year has the Town of Breckenridge hankering for the opportunity to host another weekend finish for the 2012 race.

The town touted its lodging base, central location and success putting on this year's finish and other big events to tempt the tour of Colorado back to Breckenridge. Town officials have again committed up to $150,000 to a race finish for 2012.

The town's bid requested a Friday or Saturday night finish.

The winning host cities and towns for the 2012 Pro Cycling Challenge were expected to be named Thursday, but the announcement was pushed back a couple of weeks, as race organizers continue to consider the choices.

“We had an overwhelming response from so many cities,” race spokeswoman Stacie Lange said. “We were quite surprised by the reaction. We just thought we would take a little more time and due diligence and really make the right decision for 2012.”

The Denver Post reported the circulation of a proposed route map, which indicated Breckenridge could one of the possible hosts for either a start or finish, and Boulder might be the site of the final finish.

Lange insisted a final course hasn't been decided yet.

Stiff competition

For Breckenridge, the competition is fierce. Even the success of last year's Saturday finish, an event that drew approximately 50,000 spectators and concluded with a concert by Big Head Todd and the Monsters, doesn't guarantee the town will be selected to host again in 2012.

“We would do, at a minimum, as much as we did last year,” Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dykstra DiLallo said. “However, we understand and recognize that there are a lot of communities vying for a piece of this successful event. … From a global view, you need to keep that cycling event fresh and exciting and ever-changing.”

But race organizers said having hosted a finish this year will not necessarily hurt the town's chances of being selected again, either.

“We had a great year last year,” Lange said. “We exceeded expectations on many fronts and the host cities are a big reason for our success. We're looking for unique locations in Colorado that can be a post card to the world.”

Locations that boast challenging terrain and routes that will keep the race “fresh” for the professionals and can provide “great hospitality,” will also have an edge in the selection process.

Twenty-seven cities and towns statewide are pushing to be a part of next year's race, including Winter Park and Grand Junction.

Breckenridge put on a show for the Aug. 27 Stage 5 finish, complete with an expo, a day of events and a concert following the teams' arrival and awards ceremony.

“Hearing back from the USA Pro Cycling (Challenge), they do recognize that we really went over and above the call of duty last year,” Dykstra DiLallo said. “We really made Breckenridge shine and we made the Pro Cycling Challenge shine.”

Breck attributes

The town and local organizing committee held up Breckenridge's more than 3,000 lodging units, central-state location west of Denver and multiple scenic arrival routes including a possible south-entrance that would take teams over Hoosier Pass, in its 2012 bid.

The bid was submitted with the enthusiastic backing of the town, the Summit Board of County Commissioners, the Breckenridge Lodging and Restaurant associations and the many local business owners.

Local merchants who responded to a post-race survey put out by the town were overwhelmingly supportive of the event, with the majority saying it had been good for the town and their business and many calling for the town to host another finish in the future.

“I think we should aggressively seek this event again next year and (in) years to come,” said one restaurant owner, who commented in the town's survey. “We can tweak some things to make it work better now that we know how it works.”

Survey respondents suggested shifting the finish-line location and implementing strategies such as lodging packages to help keep spectators, who last year reportedly seemed anxious to follow the race out of town, in Breckenridge for the weekend.

The race was wildly successful for Colorado as a whole, with an estimated $83.5 million economic impact statewide, according to a statement from the Pro Cycling Challenge.

Of the 1 million spectators who turned out across the state for the race in its first year, 94 percent said they planned to return next year, according to the statement.

The Denver Post contributed to the reporting of this story.

Courtesy The Summit Daily News

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fido Not Welcome at some Breckenridge Events

Pets are no longer on the guest list for some Breckenridge events, and crashing the parties could mean fines for their owners due to an ordinance passed by town council.

The new measure, passed at the most recent town council meeting, prohibits animals, except for those involved in the event, from attending certain pre-designated “no pet” or “no animal” events.

“It's primarily based around safety issues and food issues,” Breckenridge chief of police Rick Holman said.

The ordinance requires the town to post signs saying pets are prohibited at the entrances of “no pet” events, and gives Breckenridge officers license to write tickets, associated with a possible $100 fine, to people who do not comply with warnings to remove their animals.

The ordinance follows the Stage Five finish of the Pro Cycling Challenge in Breckenridge Aug. 27. The event drew crowds of more than 50,000 people, but pets were not allowed in.

In recent years there have been more and more events held in Breckenridge that do not allow animals, usually due to the presence of food or large crowds of people. While the majority of pet owners have been compliant with the rules, authorities have recently had people challenging the policy, according to a town memo.

The ordinance gives police the power to write tickets to uncooperative pet owners, Holman said.

Not all events will be pet free. An event committee will decide whether pets will be allowed at individual events.

The town is following a precedent set in other municipalities in Colorado, Breckenridge officials told council members prior to the vote Oct. 11.

“Grand Junction passed a very similar ordinance to this, but they banned animals in all of their downtown special events categorically,” town manager Tim Gagen said. “We're not the only ones looking at regulating animals in these situations.”

Event staff or Breckenridge authorities will first give verbal warning to people that bring animals into no pet/no animal events and will “continue to educate and warn to gain compliance,” according to the memo.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Let the Ski Season Begin!

Arapahoe Basin opened today, the second Colorado ski resort to start turning lifts for guests this season.

The Oct. 13 opening is just 100 days after it closed on July 4. It's not the earliest, though. In 2009, the mountain opened on Oct. 9, and in 2007, it opened on Oct. 10.
“It seems like we just closed, but we're excited to get it open again,” spokeswoman Leigh Hierholzer said, adding that everyone has their fingers crossed for a snow year along the lines of 2010-11.

According to Hierholzer, snowmakers at the mountain have been working throughout the week to create an 18-inch base on the intermediate High Noon run along with several features in the High Divide Terrain Park. There is no beginner skiing open at the mountain.

Several inches of fresh snow this week helped snowmakers finish the task and open Black Mountain Express at 9 a.m. today.

“We're open for the season,” Hierholzer said.

Wolf Creek Ski Area in southern Colorado was first in the state this season. It opened Saturday, but has not remained in operation. Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort outside Las Vegas claims it was the first in the nation to open, beating Wolf Creek by 27 minutes.

This morning, the day begins with a tribute to Arapahoe Basin founders Marnie Jump and Max Dercum, who both died this year. The tribute will take place before the lifts open to the public. Local radio station KYSL will do a live morning show and give away lift tickets on-air. KSMT will also be on site in the base area with a live remote, playing music and handing out give-aways. More info

What: Arapahoe Basin opening day

When: 9 a.m. today

Where: Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Cost: Adults — $59; Youth ages 15-18 — $49; Children ages 6-14 — $30

The ski and snowboard rental shop, tune shop, food and beverage service, the 6th Alley bar and retail shop will be open to the public. Snowsports lessons will be available on a limited basis.

Loveland opens Friday

Last year, Loveland Ski Area beat out Arapahoe Basin in the race to opening day — their lifts started turning on Oct. 24 with the Basin following the next day. This year, Chair 1 at Loveland starts turning at 9 a.m. Friday.

“Warm weather delayed the start of snowmaking, but cold temperatures settled in and our snowmaking crew has done a great job making up for lost time,” said Rob Goodell, director of business operations at Loveland. “We still have some work to do, but the mountain looks great and we have 18 inches of snow from tree-to-tree for skiers and riders on Friday morning.”

Loveland's open terrain includes a single top-to-bottom run, dropping 1,000 vertical feet in a little over a mile via the trails Catwalk, Mambo and Homerun. Snowmaking was going nonstop since last Thursday with the exception of a short stoppage on Tuesday.

Loveland will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and designated holidays. Early season lift tickets are $47 for adults and $22 for children ages 6-14.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Breckenridge to Get New Library

A plan to construct a new, bigger library in Breckenridge seemed to win favor with Summit County Commissioners and the public this week after developers Tuesday presented two plans: one to expand and another to replace the facility.

The project is intended to fix growing crowding problems in the south library branch's current building and to identify space for the district attorney and probation offices on the justice center campus.

The architectural firm charged with designing the new facility submitted two proposals for the project. One would remodel and expand the south branch of the library located on Airport Road in Breckenridge, but wouldn't increase the size enough to meet the community's long-term needs. The other, more expensive plan proposes constructing a whole new facility on Rankin Avenue in Breck.

“Even though (expanding the existing library) would more than double the space, if you look at the type of community you are and benchmark yourself against other similar communities in the region, even at that expanded size, you'd be small for the population served,” project architect Bruce Flynn told residents at a public open house Tuesday night.

A new building would also provide more opportunities for green construction and sustainable, Flynn from Denver's Barker Rinker Seacat, the firm leading the project, said. Both projects include additional space on the justice center campus for the probation and DA's offices. If a new library is constructed, the old building will be renovated to provide the office space.

The price tag on a new facility, for which architects presented two different layouts, could range from $2.5-$2.9 million. Renovating and expanding the old facility would cost between $1.7 and $2.1 million.

From residents at the meeting, the response was almost unanimous.

“I'd just hate to see you spend $1.5 million on this building, when it might not serve the (community's) needs down the road,” Breckenridge resident Stan Hodge said. His sentiment was echoed by others in the room, who called the decision a “no-brainer” and said, as taxpayers, they'd rather see their money invested in a facility that will last.

The county prioritized the project to expand or replace the south library branch due to space and crowding problems.

The library in Breckenridge had 92,000 visitors last year, compared to 86,000 at the main branch in Frisco and 80,000 at the north branch in Silverthorne, though it is smaller than both of the other facilities.

“We do the best we can with the space we've got,” library director Joyce Dierauer said. “But we need to have a bigger, better facility so that we can do a better job of serving the public in that end of the county.”

The funding to build that facility will likely come primarily out of county government's pockets. The project rises to the top of the list for capital funding next year, county officials said.

Funds raised from private donors and revenue from the sale of the building that currently houses the DA will also help cover the cost of the project.

County commissioners are expected to select one of the proposals by later this year. Fundraising efforts and a more detailed design process will take place through 2012, with construction likely to begin in 2013.

Courtesy of Summit Daily News

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Race is On!

It's a domino effect: First Copper Mountain, now Loveland Ski Area.

Snowmakers at Arapahoe Basin shouldn't be far behind.

Making snow at Summit County's ski areas has begun, leading the way among Colorado Ski Country USA member resorts. A fall storm that pushed into the mountains Thursday lent a hand with a few inches of snow to get things going — bringing with it the race to opening day.

Crews at Loveland were on a 24-hour standby before they fired up the guns at 2 p.m. Thursday. They start at Catwalk at the top of Chair 1 and work their way downhill to Mambo and Homerun to create a top-to-bottom trail that's more than a mile and nearly 1,000 vertical feet. When it's complete, they can announce Opening Day 2011.

“We had to wait out some warm nights,” said Eric Johnstone, Loveland's snowmaking and trail maintenance manager. “We thought we might be able to start last night, but the weather did not cooperate. Fortunately, the cold temperatures arrived today and we were able to fire up the snow guns this afternoon. The forecast is looking good, and we are ready to take advantage of the cold temperatures.”

On the other side of the Divide, at Arapahoe Basin, officials have intimated a high probability they'd begin making snow Thursday night. And at Copper, “production has begun, not a ton last night, but we're coating the ground in white,” spokesman David Roth reported from the snowmaking crews.

All the while, snow gracing the valley for the first time has snow enthusiasts itching for the real season to begin.

It typically takes about two weeks for Loveland's snowmaking team to cover the opening day run with an 18-inch base and tree-to-tree coverage for opening day, Loveland spokesman John Sellers wrote in an email. Loveland opened on Oct. 24 last season. Arapahoe Basin opened a day later.

“Firing up the snow guns in the middle of a blizzard is a great way to kick off the countdown to the season,” Sellers said. “The start of snowmaking means that opening day is just around the corner. Both employees and guests alike have been eagerly awaiting this day, and we are excited to get started. We are starting a little bit later than previous years, but we are still optimistic that cold temperatures will allow our crew to be very productive and keep us on track for our typical October opening.”

Stay posted on the Loveland crew's progress at