Monday, September 26, 2011

The aspens in all their autumn glory

The aspens, and other plants, in their fall colors.  Michael shot this just across Hooser Pass on Saturday.  That's Mt. Lincoln on the right and Mt. Democrat on the left.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tax compliance not so simple for vacation rentals

The county has begun using new software to identify and collect unpaid sales and accommodations taxes from vacation rental owners, but some owners say they'd be happy to pay if they only knew how.

Complying with local municipal sales and accommodation tax and licensure requirements may not be as simple as it sounds, some owners say.

“I truly want to get into compliance,” said one vacation rental owner, who asked that his name be withheld. “It hasn't been clear … who is trying to collect the tax. Is it the county? Is it Breckenridge? Is it the state? I've had a business license, but there are no instructions, rules or anything about what you do. Actually collecting and delivering the taxes to somebody, that wasn't part of the explanation.”

Owners of vacation rental properties can contact their local municipality's clerk or finance offices for more information on how to comply with local tax and licensure laws. Private companies, like Hotspot Tax Services out of Denver, can also help individuals understand and file taxes on their short-term rentals.

From the Summit Daily News

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Breckenridge Oktoberfest Video

A short video from yesterday's Oktoberfest in downtown Breckenridge and the first Annual RE/Max Properties of the summit Oktoberfest party.  Even though it rained off and on all day, everyone had a good time.  The festivities continue through today, ending at 5 p.m.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Breckenridge Oktoberfest Underway

Breckenridg's Oktoberfest is underway today - in the RAIN.

I can't remember a September that has been as wet as this one in the last 20 years!

But there are a ton of people downtown braving it out.  The beer probably helps!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Breckenridge Receives a Gold Award for being Bike Friendly

With enhanced bike lanes, a communitywide bike-to-work program and, recently, some of the best cyclists in the world passing through its streets, Breckenridge was upgraded this week to a gold-level bike-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists.

The town is now one of only 14 communities in the country to have received a gold designation, an elite group that includes Fort Collins, Steamboat Springs, Seattle and San Francisco.

Breckenridge's ties to and note in the bicycling community now rival those in the ski community, town officials said following the announcement of the award Tuesday.

“This is one of those arrows in the quiver to make Breckenridge more of a sustainable community,” town spokeswoman Kim Dykstra-DiLallo said. “The more people ride bikes and the easier it is to ride bikes, the less people have to rely on fossil fuel vehicles. It's a testament to how committed we are to cycling. It's a reflection of this community.”

This year, Breckenridge has put a renewed focus on improving the community for cyclists through infrastructure projects, events and programming that promote cycling in the community.

In the last year the town has created designated bike lanes on Main St. and Park Ave., as well as increasing educational resources about biking on its website, passing bike-friendly ordinances and increasing signage for bikes. This summer, Breck hosted a bike week complete with around-town rides with Mayor John Warner and director of the Colorado Tourism Office Al White and the stage five finish of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, one of the biggest spectator events in state history.

“We think that those are some of the reasons why we were increased up to the gold level,” Dykstra-DiLallo said. “The USA Pro Cycling Challenge put a good spotlight on Breckenridge. That probably had something to do with it as well.”

The League of American bicyclists ranks communities on a four-level scale - with bronze being the lowest, gold being the second highest and platinum the highest level - as part of its Bike Friendly America Program.

There are currently only three platinum-level bike-friendly communities in the country, one of which is Boulder, but Breck already has its sights set on getting to that highest level. Officials said they will be communicating with the League to get suggestions on ways to improve the ranking.

There are currently 190 ranked bicycle-friendly communities in 46 states nationwide that have implemented “successful, long-term bicycle plans and programs that provide quality of life improvements for their citizens,” League president Andy Clarke stated in a recent release. “Cities are choosing investment in bicycling, even in tough economic times as a key to building the places people want to live, work and visit.”

The bicycle friendly community award is given to communities that commit to improving conditions for bicycling, educational programs, infrastructure and pro-biking policies. The application process too receive the award is “rigorous,” according to the League. Out of 490 applications, only 190 communities have been given a bronze, silver, gold or platinum designation. The designation lasts four years, and in renewing their application communities can attempt to improve their rankings.

Additional information about the Bicycle Friendly America program is available online at

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Will Return to Breckenridge in 2012

After a successful inaugural year, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will be back in 2012 for seven days of challenging cycling from August 20-26, officials announced Tuesday.

Race organizers have already begun planning for the 2012 race, and an official request for proposals for cities across Colorado to apply to be a 2012 host city will be issued at the end of the month.

Breckenridge, Copper Mountain Resort and Frisco have been specifically invited to submit proposals, said Allison Johnson, spokeswoman for the challenge.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge considers a number of criteria when evaluating a potential host city, which at a minimum includes full city services support. The race also considers commitments in the areas of lodging, volunteer recruitment, marketing and local tourism.

In return, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge supports in-bound tourism efforts, attracting spectators from all over the world to stay, shop and dine in the host communities, according to the challenge.

In November of 2010, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge named 11 host cities for the inaugural race in August. Those cities included Colorado Springs, Salida, Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte, Gunnison, Aspen, Vail, Avon, Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Golden and Denver. All 11 of these cities have expressed interest in returning as a host city in 2012.

“The 2011 host cities were our earliest and most significant supporters. We are deeply grateful for that,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the challenge. “Now our attention turns to 2012. We are proud of the postcard we have created for Colorado with this race and are excited to offer the opportunity for other cities to also be showcased to a worldwide audience. So while our loyalty is with the cities who stepped up as early supporters, the field is wide open for which communities might be a host city in 2012.”

The request for proposals will be posted online at the end of September at as well as sent directly to numerous Colorado cities that have expressed interest. Proposals are due on Oct. 31, and an announcement will be made by the end of November to name the next host cities for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

For seven consecutive days, 135 of the world's top athletes raced across 518 miles through the Colorado Rockies, reaching higher altitudes than they ever had to endure, more than two miles in elevation. The race featured the best in professional cycling, competing on a challenging course through some of America's most beautiful scenery, including cities such as Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs.

Nearly 1 million spectators viewed the race from the roadsides along the route while more than 25 million watched the race on television in 161 countries and territories, including NBC and Versus. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge was one of the largest cycling events in United States history.

Spectators of the race saw Olympians, World Champions and the Tour de France podium finishers Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck and Frank Schleck.

On the final day, Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack was awarded the Quiznos Leader Jersey and crowned the first-ever champion of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in front of a crowd in downtown Denver. Elia Viviani took the Smashburger Sprint Jersey, Tejay Van Garderen the Sheets Best Young Rider Jersey, Rafael Montiel captured the Nissan King of the Mountain Jersey and the Exergy Most Aggressive Rider Jersey of the final stage went to Timmy Duggan, a part-time Summit County resident.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Summit County: Remembrance on Peak 1

On Sept. 16 nearly a decade ago, yet another Western family formed at the base of Mount Royal. They gathered to carry timber, steel and an American flag to the summit of Peak 1 to erect a memorial for those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
Michelle Foster was one of those gathered for the original Hike for Freedom, which brought roughly 40 people together not only in their love of nature, but for their love of country. She was also one of about 20 people who came together Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the hike and the 9/11 tragedy.

“I read about it in the paper. I didn't know a lot of these guys then,” she said. She now knows many of them well through work and the close-knit community. “It was a big event for everybody, and I wanted to take part in it. Everyone was united and came up here... These guys did a good job of bringing the community together.”

Between that day and Sunday's hike, Foster has visited Peak 1 at least twice.

“It always holds that meaning,” she said, referring to the first time she summited, just days after the trauma rippled across the country.

Others involved in that first hike returned to the summit on Sept. 11 each year until about 2005, said Kurt Kizer, a mastermind behind the memorial. They'd replace the flag, which is weather-worn after a winter on the blustery peak.

Visits dropped off for a few years after the Forest Service opted to remove the flag in 2004, said Dave Simmons, another original organizer. The Peak 1 site has been the center for other political statements — like the 2003 incident where the flag was burned, presumably in protest of the war in Iraq, based on handwritten notes and computer printouts left behind.

While it lasted, though, scores of people ascended the 12,805-foot peak to contribute to the memorial or just to take it in. Tim Putz, who was also on the hike, said he's encountered New Yorkers who climb the peak just because they'd heard there was a flag on its summit.

Though revisiting the site dropped off when the memorial disappeared, Simmons and Kizer felt they had to revive the event on its 10th anniversary.

“Neither of us wanted to make the hike. We're fat and out of shape,” Simmons said. “But this is what we do. Kizer and I started brainstorming (a decade ago). We gotta do this because this is what we do and we gotta pay our respects. And it's gotta be something unique — Summit-County style.

This time around, it attracted a few more folks who, through their 2011 Peak 1 experience, have joined the family. For many of Sunday's hikers, it was their first time ascending Peak One. It was also a chance to reflect for several hours.

“I wanted to commemorate the event and think about the friend I lost,” Denver's Susan Harrington said, her voice choking up and tears welling up in her eyes. “It's just peaceful to be in nature and have a lot of time to think while hiking,” she added.

Kenny Cubas had become like an older brother to her when she moved to Boston for work. He and his wife befriended Harrington, inviting her over for dinner and just to make her feel at home. They'd vacation on Martha's Vineyard, and stayed in touch when Cubas and his wife moved to New York City. Harrington said Cubas had made it out of the building safely, but because he was a designated safety person for his area of the building, he went back in to help.

“He didn't make it out,” she said. “So many amazing people were lost. Can't we stop the fighting and have peace?”

Ray Anderson wore a New York Police Department T-shirt he purchased on a visit to Ground Zero sometime during the last decade.

“It was a very solemn experience,” he said, adding that he chose to do the hike to “be in nature and be closer to some of those we lost.”

Remembering the day most of us can't forget, the electrical engineer said he heard something unclear about planes hitting the World Trade Center on the radio as he pulled into his office in Golden that fateful day 10 years ago.

There's also the stories of the college students who left a class their teaching assistant didn't cancel to watch what was happening across the country.

And the stories from high school seniors, who were confronted with the news as they walked to class and thought the news was a bad joke — until their friend didn't smile or deny that it was true.

“It's been a heck of a decade,” Anderson said. “Everything has changed for us. Everything will change from here out.”

Despite the ripple effects of 9-11, including altered personal philosophies, political strategies, security measures and war on an ambiguous threat, people across the country found ways to re-unite over their patriotism on Sunday — and Summit County was no different.

Overlooking the Earth below, Kizer and Simmons pulled a tattered American flag from a pack, calling to the family of about 20 to come together for a photo. Everyone held a corner of the flag or each other, snapped a photo and became quiet for a moment of silence.

“It's simply amazing,” said Johnny Welsh, who runs Peak One regularly to train for competitions, of the hike. He added, “Out here, we're family. We stick together through thick and thin.”

Friday, September 09, 2011

Summit Stage Awarded $35,000 to Study Future Needs

The Summit Stage was awarded $35,000 to fund an extensive future needs study that could look at, among other things, ways to streamline routes and reduce delays, Stage officials announced Thursday.

The grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation, which will have to be matched locally, will help cover the expenses of the study to be conducted during the winter season.

“This study is needed because the Summit Stage is facing a number of service capacity issues now and in the near future,” Stage board president Kent Willis said in an email. “The study will allow us to address the current and future needs and growth of the Stage in a proactive manner instead of reacting to problems after they have occurred, which is never as efficient or satisfactory.”

The study will confront ongoing problems in the Summit Stage's service, from falling ridership to increases in expenses and to political discord over an internal Frisco loop. The service is also experiencing growing route times, which inconveniences riders.

“Actual travel times are increasing on the Frisco to Breckenridge route and the Silverthorne to Keystone route due to increased number of stops on these routes, traffic and ridership patterns,” Willis said. “Because it takes longer to travel these routes, our service is not as convenient to our riders as it used to be, which adversely affects ridership numbers. In addition, the Stage is receiving requests for additional services, such as a bus to Blue River. This study is needed in order to determine the best way to address these problems.”

The $70,000 study, which will include feedback from riders, is a starting point for the Summit Stage, allowing officials to take stock of the transit service before confronting serious questions regarding the funding, future service and administrative structure of the system.

Among those questions are requests for service from the towns of Blue River and Heeney, both of which have asked to be included in the system.

Facing a $500,000 budget shortfall next year, Stage officials are also considering asking voters for a .25 percent increase in the transit tax.

Another possibility on the table is a complete restructuring of the Summit Stage administration. Currently a division of the county government funded by taxes, officials are contemplating the idea of transforming the Stage into a rural transit authority, a move that would mean breaking with county government to establish an independent system.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

This Summer's Countywide Pilot Composting Program to Continue

This summer's countywide pilot composting program had more than 60 participants — causing proponents to call it a success and shoot to keep the program running for individuals.

Summit County government and the High Country Conservation Center recently partnered with Faction & Company, owned and managed by Erick Becerril and Ethan Mason, to hand off the project on Sept. 22 to the private entity.

It will keep momentum on the effort to divert food waste from the landfill and thereby lend a hand to Mother Nature and the Earth.

“When food waste ends up in the landfill, it breaks down anaerobically (without oxygen) and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas,” HC3 officials say.

Becerril and Mason currently collect compost, recycling and trash from residences and businesses and, later this month, will take on transporting what's dropped off at the Frisco Recycling Center to the landfill operation.

“We're already partnered with HC3 in our compost and recycling curbside pickup,” Becerril said. “So we decided to take on the drop-off because there's a lot of interest from not only existing participants, but HOAs who are looking at doing something similar to that.”

For $17 each month, compost program participants receive a 4.5 gallon compost collection bucket that can be emptied once a week at a time that's convenient to them. Faction & Company will provide a lock combination in lieu of scheduled drop-off times.

It's an honor system, where people tally their visits and Faction & Company tracks the weight of their pick-up and compares it to a rough calculation of what the weight should be.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Tunnel pace car idea to get another trial

An Aug. 13 test of a pacing process that keeps cars moving at a constant, but controlled speed to the Eisenhower tunnel from Silverthorne was successful, Colorado Department of Transportation officials said.

They plan to follow the test up with a longer trial run to Empire Junction later this month.

“Operationally, it went well,” CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said.

Regional law enforcement and CDOT, agencies that partnered for the first test, will join forces again Sept. 25 to implement the longer trial pacing process from Silverthorne through the Eisenhower Tunnel to Empire Junction.

“Then what we'll do is another test in December when we have colder weather and driving conditions may be more winter-like,” Wilson said. “If all goes well, we'll start looking at possible implementation.”

The first test, conducted on a slower Saturday in the summer, allowed CDOT and law enforcement agencies to try out the pacing process, known officially as “rolling speed harmonization.” The various entities involved were able to communicate effectively and soon discovered they were able to keep traffic moving at a constant 55 miles per hour — just 5 miles per hour slower than the posted speed limit — by running patrol vehicles ahead of traffic with their lights activated in five-minute intervals from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

The practice is intended to keep cars moving up the 10-mile incline from the Silverthorne interchange to the Eisenhower Tunnel and beyond at a slower, more constant pace, which officials hope will prevent accidents and cars getting stuck with wheels spinning on icy roads.

“The idea was we could reduce accidents that happen when there are differential speeds or uncontrolled drivers in icy conditions,” CDOT traffic engineer Bernie Guevara told the Summit Board of County Commissioners at a recent joint meeting.

The process might also reduce the need for metering at the tunnel, officials said. Often, on busy weekends when traffic gets heavy, CDOT has to stop, or meter, traffic at Eisenhower for up to 20 minutes to prevent a gridlock inside the tunnel, which would isolate cars inside and prevent emergency vehicle access.

“If it results in the benefit of less metering we're all better off,” CDOT regional director Tony DeVito said of the pacing process. “What we'd like to do is delay that congestion if at all possible.”

If the longer test of rolling speed harmonization later this month and the December test both produce positive results the program might be implemented early next year, most likely on Sunday afternoons or peak travel days and weekends such as Martin Luther King Day. Officials said specific details are still to be determined.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Ambiance after dark in your yard

The love of being outdoors lures us to drift from afternoon to evening to nighttime enjoyment of our patios and backyards. That's partly because outdoor living resonates with our primal needs to connect with nature that get thwarted as we fight for space on the freeway and work in hermitically sealed offices.

At the end of the day, that lounge chair on the patio by the pot of petunias is ever so inviting. And when we can stretch late-day relaxation into the nighttime hours, it's all the better.

But if your patio or deck is well lit and the rest of your yard is pitch dark, you know that uncomfortable feeling of sitting in light while being surrounded by darkness. The cozy ambiance of soft lighting and candles where you relax is simply undone by the darkness that stretches beyond. That can feel a little creepy.

The solution, of course, is to add more light — but not too much and not too bright. Adding light to outdoor living areas has to be done strategically and with subtlety.

Lighting up interesting areas of the yard makes the whole landscape more enjoyable after dark — and it cures that uneasy feeling of being surrounded by total darkness. Adding better light to the area by the grill means more food prep can be done outdoors, and that's also a convenience factor with fewer steps back and forth to the kitchen.

Outdoor lighting is one of the more recent bells and whistles for landscaped areas — but it's also one of the most affordable options. It can be installed cost-effectively in a new yard and it can also be retrofitted later for not much more expense.

If you're thinking about lighting up the night around your home this season, think about security and safety as well as atmosphere. Notice whether people can see your address clearly at night, whether the sidewalk — and especially steps — are well lit. Outdoor lighting increases home security, and it's one of the top items on the list for curb appeal to consider if your home is about to go on the market.

Courtesy Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado and Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company based in Silverthorne that is a member. You may contact them at (970) 468-0340.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Tips for Travel Along I-70 this Weekend

From the Colorado Dept. of Transportation:

The last major summer holiday is nearing and that means motorists can expect more vehicles on Colorado highways. In general, traffic volumes increase about 10 percent during the summer months including over the Labor Day weekend. Typically, Friday tends to be the busiest travel day of the holiday weekend with steady traffic volumes the remainder of the weekend.

The heaviest traffic volumes during the weekend are expected on I-70 from Summit County to Denver as motorists head to the high country for the weekend. Last year, 164,535 vehicles traveled through the Eisenhower Tunnel during the holiday weekend. The peak travel time for westbound I-70 will be on Friday, September 2nd from approximately 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. The heaviest travel time for eastbound I-70 will be on Monday, September 5th from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“The traffic volumes at the Eisenhower Tunnel give us a good perspective on travel patterns for the entire state during the holiday weekend” said Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Don Hunt. “To minimize delays during the holiday weekend, CDOT will suspend all construction projects, but motorists are encouraged to plan ahead and avoid the peak travel times.”

You can plan your trip or check current traveler information by visiting or calling 511. You can also sign up for e-mail and text message alerts by visiting and clicking on the cell phone icon in the upper right corner under the search function. Once on the sign-up page, you can select the lists that pertain to your travels and interests.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Colorado Ski Resorts are Spending More on Projects this Year

Colorado ski resorts are pumping more money into chairlift improvements this year after taking a breather last season.

Four new chairlifts are being built this season compared to only two last season, according to Colorado Ski Country USA, a state trade association, and Vail Resorts, which doesn't belong to the association.

Colorado Ski Country USA said Tuesday its 22 member resorts are spending $50 million on capital improvements for the 2011-12 season. That includes everything from high-profile projects such as chairlifts and terrain enhancement to essential but less sexy steps such as grooming machines.

In addition, Vail Resorts' four ski areas are spending tens of millions of dollars on improvements, easily boosting the state ski industry's investment over $75 million. Vail Resorts operates Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone.

VR said it is making up to $90 million in on-mountain and lodging improvements company-wide, but that includes ski resorts outside of Colorado. No figure was available for the improvements just in Colorado.

The Aspen Skiing Co. is one of the resorts investing in a new chairlift. The new Tiehack Express at Buttermilk will be a high-speed, four-passenger chair. It replaces the Eagle Hill and Upper Tiehack lifts and reduces the ride time from 18 to 7 minutes. The Tiehack side of Buttermilk will also add gladed terrain.

Other new chairlifts in Colorado's ski country include:

The Rose Bowl high-speed quad chairlift at Beaver Creek. It will serve all terrain levels from novice to extreme.

Copper Mountain is replacing the High Point Lift in West Village. The Union Creek high-speed quad chairlift will have a new alignment designed to improve skier circulation out of West Village.

 Loveland will replace a Chair 4 with a fixed-grip triple-seat chair.

Several resorts are also building new restaurants or remodeling existin g eateries.

At Aspen Highlands, the Skico is gutting and remodeling the interior of the Merry-Go-Round Restaurant. The Skico also started construction on a new Elk Camp Restaurant which will open in the 2012-13 season. The new restaurant, which will replace Cafe Suzanne, will seat 300.

Vail is opening a 13,000-square-foot restaurant that will offer table service.

Other notable projects include Copper Mountain's development of a training center in a partnership with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “To support and develop the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper, the resort is implementing a new automated snowmaking system, as well as safety, communications and timing equipment necessary to develop a unique training venue,” Colorado Ski Country USA said in a press release.

The training center will operate from Nov. 1 through Dec. 10 each winter to bolster the U.S. teams' ability to train for speed events before their competitive season begins.

Ski resort spending dropped before the 2010-11 season as operators dealt with the effects of the recession and the lingering economic hangover. Ski areas across the country invested heavily in high-speed chairlifts over a 20-year period starting in 1990. Now, many of those first-generation, high-speed chairlifts are nearing the point where they need to be replaced, according to an industry official. That will likely absorb capital improvement funds for the next several years.