Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tiki trailer coming to Dillon summer bar

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

With a new season comes change, and that doesn't mean just in the weather. The Tiki Bar, a favorite summer hangout right down by the Dillon Marina, is working on an expansion that will increase its food production, seating capacity and visual appeal just in time for the warm, lazy days of summer.

Previously little more than an outdoor kitchen and small seating area, the Tiki Bar has been stretched to its limits to serve the crowds coming by the marina or flocking to the free concerts at the nearby amphitheater.

“Our ability to cook massive amounts of food is stretched every sunny day,” said Travis Holton, owner of the Tiki Bar and the nearby Pug Ryan's Steakhouse and Brewery.

For the past 14 years, the Tiki Bar has run under the management of Pug Ryan's. Before that, it was an even smaller affair, with a small deck, a few bar chairs, four tables and a gas grill. Since then, it expanded to include a 400-square-foot tent with seating for 40 people and a 500-square-foot deck area with seating for 50 more, not to mention more equipment including a stove, fryers and a griddle, and access to the tent area of the nearby Dillon Yacht Club.

This year, the yacht club has moved to the other side of the marina. The Tiki Bar will incorporate the space where the club previously had pitched its tent, putting up its own new 20 by 20 foot tent. This will complement the bar's existing tent. Ten more tables will be added, which Holton estimates will bring the seating capacity up to 130-150 people.

“Our kitchen is insanely too small for that,” said Holton.

To address this problem, Holton has purchased a 28-foot kitchen concession trailer. The custom-built vehicle is a completely self-contained unit, with its own hood system over the cooking area, fire suppression system, sink with hot water and food preparation area.

Holton said he is looking forward to seeing what the new trailer can do, not only for the convenience of the staff but the improvement of the menu. “This is going to open my chef's capacity to serve more fresh foods.”

A new menu is currently being worked up and will include things like multiple types of tacos, with fresh ingredients, all made possible by the added equipment. While the Tiki Bar has always served lunch, Holton said he is interested in testing out some possible weekend dinner services. He's looking at offering a changing, three-item menu during warm, mid-summer nights.

Additional changes

The kitchen trailer, which will arrive sometime in early May, will not be designed to stand out but rather fit in and blend with its surroundings, with the help of a small fence and decorative flowers.

“It looks like something you would see around a patio at a downtown Denver restaurant,” Holton said. “That's going to help delineate our space a little better.”

Holton is also working on commissioning a new mural. The previous mural, painted by local artist Bonnie Wakeman, depicted the lakeside scenery, including the Tiki Bar, lake and mountains. The new project will be taken on by a handful of Summit High art students under Wakeman's guidance.

“That was just something we wanted to do. The town council was super excited about the idea and I'm really happy that they have students that were interested,” Holton said.

The project will most likely be ongoing through the summer.

Plans and expansion

“The town is very excited about the expansion of the food and beverage selection from the Tiki Bar, we think that there is a greater demand, not just in the numbers of meals that are served but also in the level of the meals,” said Dillon town manager Joe Wray. “Along with being able to provide more efficiently, there's a larger seating area, so it really will take on a whole new look down at the marina this year.”

The Tiki Bar isn't the only change to the marina, which recently won the national Best Marina of the Year award from Dock Age magazine. As part of the 2008 Marina Master Plan, the marina parking lot is being expanded this year.

While the Holtons brought the details of the upcoming Tiki Bar expansion to the town council, the bar is a part of the Marina Master Plan, with the idea of creating a more permanent, brick-and-mortar building hovering some years ahead in the future.

In the meantime, the Holtons, the Tiki Bar and the town of Dillon are looking forward to a successful summer season.

“The town of Dillon is going to be extremely active this year with a lot of people coming in to enjoy all of our concerts, the farmers market, the special events that we put on and most certainly the marina, because that is one of the biggest draws and a highlight of the experience of coming to Dillon,” Wray said.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Monday, April 29, 2013

Parking dilemma looms in Breckenridge

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the  Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

 Parking has long been a point of contention for Breckenridge leaders and residents, and the planned development of at least three of the community's largest parking lots is pushing the issue again to the forefront of talks at town hall.

Officials and developers plan to replace all the parking lost when the two gondola parking lots and the skier satellite lot — also known as the overflow lot — on Airport Road are developed in the next few years.

The challenge, Breckenridge leaders say, will be in finding locations for thousands of replacement parking spaces without impacting the look and character of the town.

“It is a lot about parking and it's a lot about maintaining or improving our capacity relative to the parking of automobiles,” Mayor John Warner said. “We don't want these three and four-plus story parking structures like you see along the highway in Vail. Everybody on council thinks that's just too much mass for our community.”

Vail Resorts Development Company, the agency heading up the gondola-lot development, is proposing two three-story parking structures — each with one story below ground and two above — to offset the spaces that will be lost on the lots.

The gondola lots are slated for development in the next three to five years, which will mean building over 490 parking spaces in the north lot and 550 spaces in the south lot.

Council members talked last week to developers about the visual impacts of the parking structures on the downtown area and discussed potentially doing three smaller structures instead.

“Maintaining the character of Breckenridge is still our No. 1 goal and objective through the development of all these lots,” Warner said.

The north-side skier satellite lot poses a problem for town leaders as well, with the property tagged to become the site of a new affordable housing development in the next few years.

Officials will likely compensate for those parking spaces with a new lot on the McCain Property, but some council members worry about the visual impacts of that plan too.

“I'm getting frustrated with the way town looks, with cars parked on every vacant piece of land,” Councilman Ben Brewer said earlier this month.

At the heart of a similar debate are the F and Tiger Dredge lots, which town leaders have discussed converting into green space and additional lodging developments at the expense of two more town parking reservoirs.

The future uses of the two lots are still being determined.

While Breckenridge officials have said they will replace all of the parking lost if the lots were developed, they have not indicated where the new spaces would be located.

The issue of maintaining the town's parking reserves through the next phase of development will likely be a topic of conversation for the town council at their bi-annual retreat in early May.

“It's something we all need to look at on a bigger scale,” Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dykstra-DiLallo said. “It is a priority for us.”

The spring retreat is usually when the council hashes out top priorities for the town.

A second retreat held in the fall is dedicated to the next year's budget.

Post your opinion about parking in Breckenridge by visiting:  www.townofbreckenridge.com

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ski report: Spring in full swing at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

It didn't take long for the first parking lot to fill at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area Saturday. Officials stopped letting people park in the slope-side lot shortly after the lifts opened at 8:30 a.m.; cars were diverted to secondary lots.

By 9 it was the first day of spring all over again. Grills were being fired up, and the crowd parked front row at “the beach” was out in full force.

With a sunny weekend forecast and other area resorts closed, marketing manager Adrienne Saia Isaac said she expects this weekend to be one of the busiest of the season. She also credits the big snow earlier in the week.

“Wednesday was amazing,” said one skier. Both the traverse and hike on the East Wall were re-opened Wednesday after patrollers had a chance to run avalanche mitigation work.

A-Basin officials reported 72 inches of snow fell in April. Forecasts call for more sun through Monday with a chance of snow and colder temperatures mid-week.

Expect another nice day today with similar conditions.

“Montezuma Bowl was crusty this morning,” said Rich Linke of the Denver area, on Saturday. He suggested staying on the groomers until closer to midday.

“It was like skiing Pennsylvania,” said Sheila Pelczarski of Denver, referring to morning conditions.

By 11 a.m. the sun-soaked slopes softened considerably making for excellent spring skiing with good coverage. While there was a large turnout, lift lines were reasonable, as many were enjoying the beach scene and soaking in the warm sun on the decks at the base and at mid-mountain.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily  News

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Snow, no longer so white due to desert dust

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

The recent online series, Trip, features Swiss free-skiers Nicolas and Loris Falquet skiing through snow colored with yellow, blue and umber dyes, all apparently non-polluting. It's beautiful, slow-motion cinematography that captures the complexity of snow, with vivid contrasts between storm layers, cornices, powder and slabs.

It's also a timely metaphor, because the color of snow is actually changing across the globe, including in the West. The phenomenon is attributed to various human activities and carries big implications for everything snow-related, including skiing, farming, forest health and municipal water supplies.

The latest example comes from southwest Idaho, where March winds transported a layer of desert dust onto the snowpack at an Owyhee Mountains research station. Snow surveyors over 60 miles away also observed the dusty snow. Dust absorbs heat and can be ruinous for snowpacks. During the following 10 days, research cameras showed accelerated melting that contributed to an early runoff in local rivers — a big deal for farmers, rafters, fly-fishers, fish and wildlife. Scientists blamed the event on exceptionally dry conditions in the Great Basin desert.

Water specialists told the Idaho Statesman they'd never seen anything like it. But in Colorado, I remember the umber-colored snowstorm the day after Valentine's Day, 2006, during one of my last winters in the high country. Weather observers reported dusty snow from Durango to northern Colorado, across over 100 miles of mountains.

The dust stained every mountain face and plagued the snowpack for the rest of the winter. It happened again in 2009, leading some snowpacks to melt 48 days early, according to University of Utah researchers. Scientists tied these events to drought conditions as well: an abnormally dry desert Southwest.

Dust kills snow dead. It reduces the reflectivity that keeps snowpacks cool. Its dark particles also absorb heat, further warming snow. And the accelerated melting uncovers vegetation and soil, revealing dark surfaces that absorb additional heat and melt more snow. With snow producing up to 75 percent of water for many Westerners, and climate change already diminishing Western snowpacks, the events are causing alarm.

Research adds to concerns. Satellite imagery and analysis of dust confirms its origins in U.S. deserts. In Colorado, researchers using pond sediments created a 5,000-year dust-deposition record that showed dramatic increases in the late 1800s, synchronous with the arrival of hordes of settlers with herds of cattle, which destabilized soils.

Current dust deposition remains 500 times pre-settlement levels, and contributors to the problem include grazing, development, off-highway vehicles, and drilling.

The impacts are felt high in the mountains and follow rivers downward, from ski areas to reservoirs, farms and cities — all the way to thirsty Los Angeles. One researcher estimates dust on snow reduces the Colorado River's flow by 5 percent, stealing enough water to supply Los Angeles for 18 months.

Pollution is also changing the color and impact of snow. Department of Energy research shows soot from coal-fired energy plants and diesel engines causes widespread snowmelt in the Cascades and Rockies. This reflects a growing global threat to snow and ice. Industrial soot travels far and increasingly is blamed for the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice and Alaska's incredible shrinking glaciers. Asian coal-fired energy plants enhance melting in the Himalayas. Meanwhile, millions of wood-burning stoves in Africa launch additional soot into the atmosphere, to be later carried Earthward by faraway snows. In Greenland, researchers tied melting to soot from fires in the Alaskan Arctic.

Here in the American West, scientific models show a hotter, drier region with less vegetation and more dust. In both Idaho and Colorado, abnormally dry desert conditions contribute to dust-on-snow events. Increasing forest fires, including last summer's blazes downwind of the Owyhees, can also remove vegetation and destabilize soils. In the Arctic, increasing fires produce soot destined for sea ice and globally significant ice caps.

The implications are wide-ranging. For instance, if off-roading and drilling are sending dust aloft from increasingly arid deserts, it lends ecological credence to long-standing proposals to designate some of Utah's BLM lands as wilderness, places where the dust itself can remain undisturbed. And if soot from Asian coal plants is dirtying snow and melting glaciers, including on our own continent, it undermines the economic argument for building enormous coal export facilities in Washington. This new world we're in also makes the December 2012 decision to strengthen Clean Air Act soot standards — lambasted by Republicans as “job-killing” — look like a good idea. The same goes for the multi-national initiative to reduce soot that was announced last year by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In these and other examples, seemingly distant policy decisions have a bearing on snow and the people who rely on it, including here in the West.

Tim Lydon is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He writes from south-central Alaska.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Friday, April 26, 2013

New forest service web tool helps evaluate risk of wildfire to homes

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

The Colorado Forest Service has designed an online tool that allows Summit County residents to assess the wildfire risk in their neighborhoods.

“We wanted to create awareness of wildfire risk for the individual who lives in Colorado,” said Rich Homann, a staff forester with the Colorado Forest Service. “We also wanted to inform decision makers about the risk, so they could have information available to them to base decisions on and prioritize actions.”

The Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment, or CO-WRAP, allows web visitors to view maps and download information about neighborhoods and watersheds.

The portal was created using GIS (geographic information systems) and combines information from fire departments, the National Weather Service, the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources to evaluate the risk of wildfire to individual homes.

“We wanted to gather as much information as possible from a lot of different sources and put it in one place where it was accessible for anybody who wanted to use it,” Homann said.

The wildfire tool also allows community leaders, planning professionals and forestry professionals to use the information to inform future development decisions.

The professional viewer, which requires web registration, could also aid in the creation of fire protection and forest stewardship plans for local agencies, forest service officials said.

“Wildland fires continue to threaten people, property, drinking water and forest assets across Colorado,” Interim state forester Joe Duda said in a news release. “Heightened awareness of wildfire risk and the forest management measures necessary to mitigate that risk are becoming increasingly important to ensure public safety.”

Colorado residents who use the fire risk tool can learn more about what to expect if there is a wildfire in their area. The tool can also be used to get assistance from local agencies.

Summit County residents had the chance to view the tool at a wildfire protection meeting Wednesday evening in Frisco. Speakers at the meeting, sponsored by the Forest Health Task Force, urged community members to use the online tool to learn more about their specific situations.

However, they also urged residents to not become overly reliant on the tool. Houses listed in a low-risk area could still be susceptible to wildfires. And residents whose homes are found to be in high-risk areas can make important strides to protect their property from possible wildfire damage, said Forest Health Task Force representative Howard Hallman.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Vail Resorts reports seasonal gains

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

Snow for ski areas is a little like grandmothers, sick kids and chicken soup — it usually helps, and it sure can't hurt.

The results of a better snow season showed up in a Vail Resorts report Monday detailing “ski season metrics” including revenue and skier numbers compared to last season.

According to the report, the numbers were adjusted as if Kirkwood, which was acquired in April 2012, was owned in both periods. The reported ski season metrics do not incorporate the recently acquired urban ski areas of Afton Alps and Mt. Brighton.

The report's highlights include:

• Season-to-date (through April 14) total lift ticket revenue at the Vail Resorts' seven mountain resorts, including some season pass revenue, increased 10.2 percent compared to the prior season.

• Other spending by guests outpaced growth in skier visits, with dining revenue up 13.1 percent and ski school revenue up 11.6 percent, with retail and rental revenue up 8.9 percent compared to the prior season-to-date period.

• Season-to-date total skier visits increased 5.5 percent.

“As the 2012-2013 ski season comes to a close, we are very pleased with the strong results this season,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz wrote in a press release. “The growth in skier visitation continued to accelerate through spring break and the Easter holiday, which contributed to our double-digit growth in lift ticket, dining and ski school revenues compared to the same period last year, offset by somewhat slower momentum at our Tahoe resorts and our retail business.”

Reached at his Denver office, National Ski Area Association President Michael Berry said Vail Resorts' success this season has been mirrored across the industry, for a simple reason: This was a better snow year.

Berry said final numbers won't be in until next week, but said resorts in the eastern part of the country did “very, very well.”

Last year's snow in the east was mostly gone by March, Berry said. In comparison, the snow measurement site on Vail Mountain was reporting no snow in early April. Business was better in the northwest in and in California this season, too, Berry said, again due to snow.

As a result, the national ski industry will end up with about 57 million skier visits for this season, Berry said. That's close to the 10-year average of 57.5 million skier visits. Two seasons ago, the epic winter of 2010-11, the nation's ski industry recorded 60.5 million skier visits.

“Snow really does determine success,” Berry said. “At the end of the day, you have to have a strong snow message.”

That success this season is translating into more optimism for next season, Berry said, adding that ski pass sales this spring are stronger this year than last.

Katz made a similar comment in the press release accompanying the latest report from Vail Resorts:

“I am pleased to report that our spring season pass sales for the 2013-2014 ski season are off to a strong start, showing good momentum over last spring's record results for the program.”

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Billionaire bankrolls Hwy. 9 improvements

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

A project to expand State Highway 9, which runs north through Grand and Summit counties, received a $4 million matching grant from the owner of Blue Valley Ranch. The announcement came during Tuesday's meeting of the Grand County Board of Commissioners, who all voiced their support for the project.

The Blue Valley Ranch, located outside of Kremmling, is owned by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul T. Jones II of Greenwich, Conn. Jones previously donated $945,000 to kickstart the improvement project.

The project will be submitted to the Colorado Department of Transportation's Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) program, which seeks to expedite important road improvement projects in the state. To qualify under RAMP, local governments must raise 20 percent of the total cost of a venture and submit an application that explains why a project should be put on a fasttrack for completion.

Total cost of the Hwy. 9 project is estimated by CDOT to be $46 million, which means the local match for the improvements would be approximately $9 million. With Blue Valley Ranch's existing $945,000 donation and the $4 million matching grant, $4.3 million is needed to meet that goal.

Citizens for a Safe Hwy. 9 Committee, headed by lifetime Grand County resident Mike Ritschard and formed by area residents, will assist Grand County commissioners in raising the necessary funding to make up the local government's share of the costs.

“The Citizens for a Safe Hwy. 9 Committee is deeply grateful for this incredibly generous matching pledge from Blue Valley Ranch,” Ritschard said. “This is a great start to our campaign to raise the other half of the money we need to ensure safety improvements to Hwy. 9 in order to qualify for RAMP fasttrack consideration.”

“We all know how dangerous it is to drive Hwy. 9,” Ritschard added. “Too many of us have lost loved ones or seen them injured in accidents involving wildlife on that highway. Hwy. 9 deserves RAMP consideration.”

From 1993 to 2012, CDOT reported 590 accidents on the stretch of Hwy. 9 that would be rebuilt if the project went through. Of those, 191 people were injured; 16 died. Wy. 9 has also been identified among the top 100 miles in Colorado impacted by wildlife migration. The highway also does not meet state construction standards.

Since 2006, there have been 455 documented wildlife mortalities from the Summit County line to the Colorado River.

“Almost daily we witness collisions between wildlife, cars and trucks out on Hwy. 9,” said Perry Handyside, Blue Valley Ranch manager. “We decided we had to step forward and help.”

“Blue Valley Ranch is showing the way here,” said Grand County Commissioner Gary Bumgarner in a written statement supporting the project. “I hope others in this region will follow their lead and help us raise the remaining $4.3 million we need to get Hwy. 9 safety improvements on the front burner.”

A pre-application for the RAMP program is due to CDOT by May 1, at which time CDOT officials will review each application and will sign the proposals that meet the minimum criteria for the program. On July 1, the full application for the project will be due to CDOT.

The project

The project would include enhancements to help prevent accidents spawning from wildlife crossings on the highway from mile marker 126 to mile marker 137 if approved by CDOT. The stretch of highway included in this project is located between Green Mountain Reservoir and the Colorado River crossing.

The project would include five wildlife underpasses and two overpasses, the first of their kind in Colorado, as well as 8-foot fencing along the right of ways to push wildlife toward the crossings.

The project would also entail widening of the highway to meet state standards and vertical and horizontal alignments to meet the 65 mph design speed. Eight-foot shoulders would also be constructed along the highway, which would be large enough to accommodate a bike lane, and side slopes of the highway would be flattened to allow for a vehicle recovery area.

Hwy. 9 in this part of the Lower Blue River Valley runs through a winter migration path for wildlife, separating prime winter range on the east side of the highway from the only winter water source in the Blue River on the west side of the highway. This daily migration puts wildlife in the path of cars and trucks on the stretch of road, according to a press release from the Citizens for a Safe Hwy. 9 Committee.

The road is frequently used by school buses and by visitors traveling to recreation destinations in Summit, Grand, Routt and other counties in northwest Colorado. The highway can regularly become congested with traffic, according to the press release, which creates an even higher risk of collision between wildlife and vehicles, particularly at night.

“We have to do something to stop the collisions between vehicles and wildlife on Hwy. 9. They threaten the lives of all of the people who use that highway,” Bumgarner said. “I want to thank Mike Ritschard and the other members of the Citizens for a Safe Highway 9 Committee. We have a lot of work to do and not much time to do it in.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vail Resorts reporting higher skier visits

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

Skier visits this season at Vail Resorts Inc.'s seven resorts in Colorado and California have risen 5.5 percent from last season, with growth picking up through spring break and the Easter holiday, CEO Rob Katz said Monday.

Meanwhile, season-to-date lift ticket revenue, including some season pass revenue, was up about 10 percent from the comparable period a year ago. Dining revenue was up about 13 percent, ski school revenue was up more than 11 percent, and retail and rental revenue was up almost 9 percent, the company said.

Exact revenues and skier visit numbers weren't released. The results were for the season through April 14 and didn't take into account the reopening of Vail and Breckenridge resorts last Friday through Sunday for one more weekend of skiing and riding after both resorts got hammered with new snow.

The results don't include recently acquired Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mount Brighton in Michigan. Results were adjusted as if Vail Resorts had owned the newly acquired Kirkwood resort last winter too.

Katz said season pass sales for next season are off to a strong start. He didn't release details.

Vail operates the Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone ski areas in Colorado; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mount Brighton in Michigan; and the Grand Teton Lodge Co. in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

The company's shares rose 10 cents to $59.79 Monday.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Monday, April 22, 2013

Breckenridge Speakeasy goes dark

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

The Speakeasy movie theater in Breckenridge is only 14 years old — young by Breckenridge standards — but this year a tide of changing technology and a new era in the movie business threatened to leave the town's only movie theater behind.

The business, tucked in the basement of a 100-year-old schoolhouse, faced closure when Hollywood announced plans to convert to a new digital format, ending the days of film projection for theaters across the country.

“They're going completely digital in their distribution, which means all small theaters have to … convert or die,” said Karin Litzmann, owner and operator of the Speakeasy for the last four years. “Every small theater in America is faced with this choice and it's really expensive so a lot of them are being forced to close.”

Unable to come up with the money to change her system over, Litzmann would have had to shut her doors as well if help had not arrived at the perfect moment in the form of a major town renovation project.

Breckenridge and the Summit County government joined forces last year to restore the Old CMC building, which houses the Speakeasy, as a renovated space for a library, community center and digital movie theater.

The conversion to digital will be included in the renovation, allowing the community theater to return to its former glory at the end of a nearly two-year closure, which began Friday.

Members of the Breckenridge Town Council prioritized theater's conversion — expected to cost $183,000 — as part of the project, saying the theater was an asset for the community that they did not want to lose.

“This council and the council before it and the council before that all seem to have valued the Speakeasy that the town really wants to embrace and nurture,” Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said.

“If our community wanted to have a first-run film, the only way to do that is ultimately to end up with a digital projection room. This council really thinks that's important.”

The Speakeasy said a temporary goodbye to its patrons with a pizza party Friday night and a showing of Casablanca, it's last feature film presentation before it reopens after the renovation. Crowds packed the small theater for the event.

The party included a presentation by Warner on the history and future of the theater space as well as a silent auction to support the renovation.

The estimated $7.4 million cost of the building upgrade will be split between the town and the county and supplemented with private donations.

For Litzmann, the closure will mean an extended vacation, which she said she plans to spend traveling.

“I'm buying a backpack and I'm going to see parts of the world I haven't seen,” she said. “It will definitely be a nice break and it's great that I have something positive to look forward to. It's not just time off, but something really wonderful to come back to Breckenridge for.”

Opened in the late 1990s, the Speakeasy plays up its historic location in both name and décor, with an interior dedicated to the old-time glamour of an earlier era in the film industry.

Its refreshment lounge is cozy and dated, the walls are papered with movie posters and hand-painted renderings of Hollywood legends and the lone auditorium packs only a few dozen seats, flanking a red carpet.

The transition to digital will impact that image in a way. Conversion will mean cleaner film projection, comparable to the difference between vinyl and compact discs.

“It will be crisper, sharper and maybe not as rich a medium,” said Litzmann, who spent 20 years editing movies and began her career working with actual film. “It's kind of sad for me. I'm old school that way.”

The renovated theater will feature an upgraded auditorium, snack bar and restrooms.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Sunday, April 21, 2013

New health insurance options to offer a range of affordable options

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

Having insurance doesn't only give a person access to medical care; it also provides financial assurance in case of emergencies, as well as peace of mind. However, many Summit County residents and Coloradans generally are either underinsured or without insurance altogether. While sometimes this is by choice, often it's a matter of cost.

That may soon change, however.

In October, the Connect for Health Colorado plan will go into effect. The program, also referred to as the Health Benefit Exchange or simply “the exchange,” is a system for connecting people with affordable insurance plans on the private market.

Unlike the publicly funded Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) programs, the exchange is not a single insurance plan, but a collection of plans from insurance companies on the private market. The plans are designed to be affordable for low- to moderate-income individuals, families and small businesses. This may also include families in which some members qualify for Medicaid or CHP+ and other members do not.

Over the last three years, for example, the Summit County-based Family & Intercultural Resource Center, or FIRC, has enrolled more than 400 children in CHP+, but limits to the program mean that there are many who cannot benefit. It only covers children and pregnant women, not any other parents. And some families' incomes are just high enough to make them ineligible for the program.

“There are a lot of parents out there whose kids qualify for Medicaid or CHP+ but the parents don't qualify,” said Robert Murphy, FIRC community support manager. “The exchange will be an opportunity to find coverage for themselves.”

The exchange program isn't restricted only to low-income individuals and families. The range of eligibility is meant to be broad, and anyone is allowed to take a look at what plans are available.

“I think the most important thing would be for people to understand that the exchange is intended for a very broad audience,” Murphy said. Even those who don't qualify for Medicaid and CHP+ may find that the plans offered by the exchange offer some appealing and affordable options.

While some people are reluctant or refuse to take part in government-sponsored programs, that shouldn't be a problem with the exchange, Murphy explained, because it is not that kind of program. “Government certainly has a role in this but not as the actual provider of insurance,” he said. “It's a partnership and the insurance is being provided by the insurers.”

Assistance in Summit County

In Summit County, FIRC and Social Services plan to work together to assist residents with the process of navigating the exchange, including understanding what it is, finding out about eligibility, choosing a plan and getting signed up. To do this, FIRC is hoping to receive a grant through the Family Resource Center Association. The FRCA is applying to the state government on behalf of FIRC and other family resource centers around the state.

The grant, if approved, will provide FIRC the funds necessary to hire at least two new staff members to act as guides to the health exchange process. Those with potential to benefit from the program include not only families and individuals but small businesses and the self-employed.

“Many employers are able to offer insurance that is good coverage and a lot of times affordable for maybe the employee, but once you try to add a spouse, family, children, things like that, it becomes much more unaffordable, and it's very difficult for the business, as much as they would like to be able to keep costs down, to provide any decent coverage while still keeping the amount of premium that an employee has to pay down,” Murphy said. Through the exchange, more small businesses will be able to find an insurance plan with better coverage at an affordable rate.

Avoiding penalties

The exchange, similar versions of which are being planned out in states across the nation, comes from the Obama administration's Affordable Health Care Act. The exchange program is just one aspect of many. The insurance mandate is another aspect. Going into effect in 2014, the mandate will require that most U.S. citizens and legal residents purchase insurance or pay a tax penalty. While there will be exceptions, it will certainly be something that is a consideration for many citizens, Murphy said. The hope is that the exchange can provide an affordable insurance option for people and help them avoid any tax penalties from the mandate.

“I know a lot of people are going to want to avoid having to pay a penalty,” Murphy said. “And even more importantly, a lot of people are going to want to have an opportunity to be better insured, so we want to make ourselves available to help as many people get signed up for a good plan as we can.”

FIRC hopes to start building up its outreach this summer and then push to get people enrolled in plans from October onward.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Colorado's black bears are back in town

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

It might not look like it outside, but spring is in the air and Colorado black bears are emerging from a long winter's nap.

Although it's hard to track exactly how many bears are out there, wildlife officials said the frequency of sightings indicate that Summit County has a healthy bear population.

Living with bears is part of what makes this area special, wildlife officials said. But sharing habitat with these wild creatures comes with responsibility.

“We enjoy the forest and the wildlife and the scenery,” said U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist Ashley Nettles. “That's why we live here. But what we forget sometimes is that bears aren't in our habitat, we have encroached into theirs. We need to be cautious and do what we can to protect and enjoy them.”

Spring awakening

Bears can come out of hibernation as early as late February and March, but the bulk of the bears, including those in Summit County, emerge from their dens in mid-April. When bears hibernate, their bodies become dormant. They subsist on stored body fat, but don't eat, drink, urinate or defecate.

“It's pretty fascinating,” Knox said. “When they are hibernating everything slows. Their bodies pretty much shut down.”

One thing bears are able to do during hibernation is give birth. When many female bears, or sows, emerge from their dens they will be accompanied by babies.

“If you come across a cub, assume that mama's nearby,” Knox said. “Don't get between a sow and her cub.”

A black bear's normal response to any perceived danger is to run away, but caught off guard a bear can turn aggressive.

“They might huff and charge but usually stop before they come in contact with anyone,” Knox said. “But they are wild animals. With any bear keep your distance.”

Wildlife officials said there is nothing wrong with viewing a bear in the wilderness.

“If you see a bear while hiking, give it space and enjoy a cool wildlife sighting,” Nettles said. “It's amazing how many bears there are and how infrequently people actually see them in the woods.”

The problem comes when bears are spotted too close to human dwellings.

Human threats

Bears are sharing space with a growing human population. Wildlife officials agree we are more of a threat to bears than they are to us.

Nettles described bears as “forest generalists.” They will live anywhere they can find food and shelter — the things they need to survive. Bears are also opportunists. This makes them keen on human food sources.

Food found near homes, campgrounds, vehicles or communities are fair game for bears.

“Bears are so intelligent that once they learn about human food sources, they will start looking for it,” Knox said. “It's hard to un-teach a bear.”


Now is a good time to start bear-proofing properties.

Not everyone realizes it, but bird feeders attract bears and should be taken down in the springtime or put inside at night. Also, residents who keep cat and dog food on the porch are asking for trouble.

“You are almost guaranteed to invite a bear as a visitor,” Nettles said. “Not only is it not good for them, you are also creating a bear-human safety issue.”

Human trash often equates to an easy meal for bears. Don't put trash out until morning, or better yet, use bear-proof trashcans, wildlife officials suggested.

If you don't, bears will figure it out and start making the rounds, Knox said.

Wildlife officials said they're amazed by the number of people who still leave trash out overnight, or who don't pick up after themselves.

“A lot of it is from lack of education or recognizing what the consequences can be,” Nettles said.

Once bears are introduced to human food, they can go to great lengths to get their paws on it. “Bears are incredibly strong. They can peal off the door of a car if they want too,” Knox said.

Two strikes

Bears that become aggressive in their pursuit of an easy meal often must be destroyed.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials operate with a two-strikes rule. The first time a bear becomes a nuisance to humans, it will be tagged and relocated.

The second time officials are forced to use a “hands-on” approach to bear control, they have to kill the animal.

“The public doesn't like to see that happen, but it is the public that sometimes puts the bear in that situation,” Nettles said.

Even relocating the bear is becoming a more difficult option. It's getting harder and harder to find habitat that doesn't already house a bear or human population, wildlife officials said.

“We are focusing on trying to educate people and solve conflict issues to keep bears from getting into trouble in the first place,” Knox said.

If someone sees signs of a bear, or sees a bear close to human property, residents are urged to take proper measures not to persuade the bear to come back.

“Talk to the neighbors and make it a community effort,” Knox suggested.

If a bear starts acting aggressively, breaks into property or becomes a human safety issue, residents are urged to call wildlife authorities.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Friday, April 19, 2013

Summit leads Western Slope in home value recovery

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

Assessed property values in Summit County declined only 3 percent on average during the last valuation period, a number that puts the local housing market at the forefront of price recovery on the Western Slope.

It will mean a smaller savings for taxpayers, but adds to the growing list of positive trends in the local real estate market.

“We are stabilizing,” Summit County Assessor Beverly Breakstone said in an email. “Originally when we started collecting the data in July of 2010, we were a little concerned, but values have increased slowly but continuously over the two years.”

Property values were assessed between July 2010 and June 2012 to determine property taxes due in 2014 and 2015.

Property values plummeted 17 percent between 2008 and 2010 in the midst of the recession and have continued to decline as much as 4.35 percent in some parts of the county. But the latest data seems to indicate the downward spiral is coming to an end locally, while Summit's neighbors to the west, including Eagle County, are still in free fall.

Eagle County and other counties on the Western Slope saw 12 percent to 28 percent drops in property values during the last assessment period.

“I do think it's going to be a low-end price recovery,” said Allison Simson of Summit Real Estate in Dillon. “It's going to start from the low end, and our county has always been price-per-square-foot and overall price lower than those other counties.”

The number of property sales in Summit County has climbed slowly but steadily over the last several months. Recently real estate agents have seen multiple offers come forward on appropriately priced properties, something that was very rare a few years ago. Sale prices have been slower to improve, particularly on the south end of the county, industry experts report, but they are beginning to move in an upward direction.

“Generally speaking, I think it's becoming a healthy market,” Remax real estate broker Butch Elich said. “New properties are coming onto the market at prices that seem realistic and they're being absorbed. … I think the future's bright.”

Trends from the Front Range seem to agree.

A market dominated by second homes, Summit County tends to lag 18 months to two years behind the housing trends in the Denver metro area. If that pattern holds true, the local real estate market may in fact have good times ahead.

Counties across the Front Range have seen modest improvements in property values over the last two years and local real estate agents say sales have accelerated.

Still, if Summit County's market does continue on a positive track, industry experts don't expect it to be one instant upward surge but rather a gradual climb.

“I think we're going to see what I'm calling a sawtooth recovery,” Simson said. “We'll see things go up a bit, and then people who've been waiting to put properties on the market will and that will make prices come down a bit. This year will be a bit of that sawtooth of uncertainty, but generally moving in an upward direction.”

So far, Frisco has led the charge in home-value recovery, with valuations improving slightly less than 1 percent in the last assessment period. The north end of the county has generally done better — or rather less badly — than the south end, and new construction has also made a comeback in recent years, according to information from the assessor's office.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Homeowner series on wildfire risk

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

Local fire officials and experts will offer homeowners insight into the risks of wildfire at the next installment of a speaker series hosted by the Forest Health Task Force.

Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue chief Jeff Berino, U.S. Forest Service wildfire expert Ross Wilmore and others will discuss how the drought and the changing conditions in the forest will impact wildfire danger this year.

The event is set for 7 p.m. April 24 at the Frisco Community and Senior Center.

“It's intended to give homeowners, property owners and visitors a greater understanding of wildfire behavior and wildfire risk,” Forest Health Task Force member Howard Hallman said. “Knowledge is always good.”

The series will continue monthly through August with topics to include preparing essential infrastructure and services, potential implications of a catastrophic wildfire and real-life homeowner wildfire experiences.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Breckenridge and Copper Mountain resorts to reopen for one last weekend

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

Mint snow conditions sparked Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Vail ski resort officials to announce their season will be extended this Friday through Sunday.

The last day of the season for all three resorts was originally scheduled for April 14, but now each resort will be open this weekend operating on limited terrain Friday through Sunday.

“Last Sunday the conditions were so amazing, and we knew we had more snow forecast during the week, so we didn't have the heart to shut the lifts yet,” said Kristen Pettit Stewart, the communications manager at Breckenridge Ski Resort.

Breckenridge has been dumped on with more than 5 feet of snow so far in April, including a new foot of snow since the official closing on Sunday.

Copper Mountain also cited more than a foot of snow since closing day, with up to 20 more inches expected in the forecast through Sunday.

“Mother Nature is a fickle business partner, and apparently she wasn't ready for the ski season to be over. We can't think of a better way to thank our loyal guests for celebrating our 40th anniversary season with us,” said Gary Rodgers, president and general manager of Copper Mountain Resort in a news release.

Copper will open American Flyer, Sierra and Timberline lifts from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Skier services including food and beverage offerings and rental and retail options will be limited to Center Village.

Breck will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day as well. The open terrain at the resort this weekend will include 1,180 acres on Peak 8.

Lifts open include the BreckConnect Gondola, Colorado SuperChair, Rip's Ride, 6 Chair, T-Bar and the Imperial Express SuperChair. Park Lane and Trygve's Terrain Parks will also be open.

“We are expecting powder conditions,” Pettit Stewart said. “This should be one of those spring ski weekends you dream about all season long.”

Mike Sweeney is a longtime Breckenridge resident who is happy to change his plans from bicycling to staying in his hometown and riding instead.

“Yesterday, I heard the rumor mill. But you never want to trust anything until you know it's for sure,” he said.

Sweeney says it “just makes sense” to stay open when conditions allow for it.

“I think Vail Resorts is missing the mark when they have a set closing date in spring and try to be open as early as possible in the fall when the best snow is this time of the year,” he said.

At the beginning of the year, ski area officials and their partners have to agree on a closing date, Pettit Stewart said, adding that there are quite a few challenges involved in extending the season.

“We have to make sure we have the staff and the ticket product to be able to pull off a great weekend. We believe we can, so we are moving forward with it,” she said.

Bill Kight, public affairs officer with the Forest Service, said his agency tries to allow the public to have the best experience possible on the White River National Forest.

“For that reason, when snow conditions permit, we accept an extension of resort closing dates with a simple phone call to forest officials and their operating plan will be updated,” he reported.

All Copper Mountain season pass products will be valid including Rocky Mountain Superpass and Superpass Plus, Four Pack's with remaining days and Copper Mountain season passes. The Snow Day pass will be valid if 4 inches or more are reported. Lift tickets are available for a special 40th anniversary rate of $40.

Vail Resorts' season passes will be valid for the extended weekend at Breckenridge and Vail. A $50 lift ticket for casual skiers and boarders can be purchased at the ticket windows. There will also be a special $25 lift ticket for guests who hold season passes from non-Vail owned and operated resorts. Free parking will be available this weekend in the Breckenridge gondola lots.

The Vail Resorts' extension will include special lesson prices, with half-day adult lessons starting at $59 and full-day children's lessons for $99. Discounted private lessons with a reservation will also be available.

“We are already receiving a great response,” Pettit Stewart said. “People are so excited that we are able to be flexible and keep the pass open, and are adding value for season-pass holders and other skiers and snowboarders across Colorado.”

Loveland is scheduled to close on May 5, and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is aiming for June 2.

Heather Jarvis contributed to this story.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Breckenridge Heritage Alliance seeks nominations

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance is seeking nominations for the second annual Theobald Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the history of the Breckenridge area.

The award will identify a person, business or project that exemplifies the town's commitment to historic preservation; celebrates the history of Breckenridge in a unique way; demonstrates leadership and volunteerism, or both, for historic preservation and heritage tourism; or uncovers new facts or stories about the town's history.

Visit www.breckheritage.com for more information.

The deadline for nominations is Friday.

The award ceremony will take place late summer 2013.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Breckenridge turns heat on summer road projects

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

They say there are two seasons in Summit County: ski season and construction season.

The end of one heralds the beginning of the other and Breckenridge intends to take advantage of the brief annual break between snowstorms this year to begin or continue road projects in four different locations, including the start of a new roundabout at Four O'Clock Road.

Gold Pan Alley and Andorra Alley are also on the docket for improvement work this summer, according to a statement from the town.

Breckenridge officials also plan to tackle the next section of a multi-year revitalization of Main Street. The town is targeting the section between Adams Avenue and South Park Avenue this summer, installing bulb-outs, surface, streetlight and sewer improvements and enhancing sidewalks and crosswalks in the area.

Construction is set to begin on Main Street by the middle of this month, but it is not yet clear whether recent snowstorms will delay the work.

The project will close the south end of Main Street in the northbound direction. Traffic will be rerouted onto South Park Avenue and then directed back onto Main Street via Ski Hill Road, according to the town statement.

Pedestrian access to South Main as well as the southbound lane of traffic will remain open during construction, which is set to wrap up in June.

Work will also begin on a new single-lane roundabout at Four O'Clock Road and Park Avenue this summer, and likely continue into the 2014 construction season.

Pedestrian safety concerns prompted plans to restructure the intersection, which some studies indicates was in need of a traffic light. The town opted for a roundabout instead, citing better safety and aesthetic features.

Crews will begin relocating utilities in the intersection this year, with the construction of the roundabout set for next summer.

Safety concerns also prompted the improvement project planned at Andorra Alley. Traffic studies indicated there was not enough sight distance in the area between North Main and North French streets. To increase sight distance, crews will reconstruct the intersection of Andorra Alley and French Street, shifting the alley entrance to the east. Landscape improvements will also be made near the intersection, according to a statement from the town.

The public will still be able to access the alley from the south at the intersection of Wellington Road.

In addition, town officials are planning improvements, including new storm sewer inlets, concrete valley pans and an asphalt overlay at Gold Pan Alley, which will close temporarily this summer.

The town will also continue work repaving and patching streets around town this year, including parts of White Cloud Drive, Gold Flake Terrace and Morningstar Drive. It will cause minimal traffic impacts, according to the town statement.

Breckenridge's construction coincides with a number of larger road projects on Highway 9 and Interstate 70 this summer.

The Colorado Department of Transportation will be adding new lanes to both highways this summer, causing closures and traffic impacts throughout the construction season.

Additional information is available online at www.coloradodot.info.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Social-media giants eyeing piece of travel industry's pie

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

It's April, and winter doesn't want to surrender its grip.

All you can think about is getting out of the mountains and onto a beach after being cooped up since November. Two social-media giants are salivating over the opportunity to help connect you and a destination.

Google and Facebook are racing to expand their empires into the next frontier for them — the travel industry. They want to influence how consumers select places to spend their vacations and how destinations sell themselves to prospective customers.

Representatives of the two companies outlined the opportunities and how they plan to grab them for roughly 1,200 attendees at the Mountain Travel Symposium on Wednesday in Snowmass Village.

Both companies' strategies rely, to some extent, on mining data from their users.

Erik Hawkins, Facebook's industry manager for travel, claimed that the social-media site is “an underappreciated source of travel bookings” and one the travel industry should tap to a greater degree.

Facebook users, he said, are ripe to be “relying on the wisdom of our friends to make choices.”

He advised the audience — which included representatives of everything from skiing companies to tourist accommodations to recreational firms — to use Facebook to connect with special audiences.

“When Facebook first started, it was really a mad rush to get friends,” Hawkins said. “What we've discovered is it's not how many friends you have but who your friends are.”

Companies don't want to “junk up” their Facebook pages with casual friends; they want to connect with their best customers, Hawkins said. The company can help them accomplish the goal.

“There are mechanisms now on Facebook where you know who your best customers are and you can find them on Facebook and make them your friends,” he said.

The target audience can be engaged “with frequent, lightweight interactions,” Hawkins said. Essentially, Facebook will help companies plant subtle ideas in potential customers' minds. One method is to amplify the favorable actions of a person's friends. In a fictitious example, Facebook will partner with Acme Hotel Co. to make sure that John Doe's friends on Facebook know that he used www.acmehotels.com to book a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Facebook reached 1 billion active users in September, according to media reports. Hawkins acknowledged that some Facebook members take a “holiday” of undetermined length but that others check their homepages every day. Users average about 11 hours per month on the social-media site, he said. The amount of content shared on social media is doubling every two years — exponential growth —so, there is vast potential to tap friends' experiences to sell vacations and for destinations to use their content to sell themselves, Hawkins said.

Imagery on something like a Facebook page is key to how a destination is perceived, according to Hawkins.

“Sometimes their images are bad, and that's how they are representing themselves to millions and millions of people,” he said. His advice was to “invest in high-quality content.”

Rob Torres, Google's managing director for travel, concurred. He is touting Google and its affiliate YouTube as great tools for the travel industry.

YouTube has 1 billion unique users visiting the site each month, according to media reports. There are 8.5 million video versions of the “Harlem Shake” dance floating around on YouTube, a prime example of how something goes viral and inspires imitations.

“Generation C” — which he described as a group of people with a shared mindset rather than an age — has exploded. They rely on video for entertainment rather than commercial television, and they increasingly rely on video for research on topics such as vacation destinations.

“If you're not reaching them by video, you should be,” Torres said.

Content is king, he added, so places such as mountain-resort hotels should post fresh video as often as they have something relevant. But, Torres warned, the video shouldn't just be a “sales push.”

“People see right through that,” he said.

User-generated content, on the other hand, can be valuable in gaining credibility. Consumers trust it, he claimed, so he encouraged attendees of the conference to make arrangements with the producers to fold user-generated content into their marketing when it's good.

Google also plans to harness the search-engine capabilities it's famous for as well as its YouTube affiliate to get more involved in the travel business.

Google will use “social indicators” from a person's previous searches to help find “what might be interesting to you” in future searches, Torres said. It results in more relevant content “upfront,” he said.

It's also working on a program that uses travelers' search habits and trip iteneraries to provide information on where they might want to eat or what activities they might want to engage in. Google would make suggestions rather than just provide answers, Torres said.

The Mountain Travel Symposium will continue today with sessions to help attendees understand major trends and issues unfolding in the travel industry.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Despite higher cost, Copper Mountain recpath extension approved

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

Summit County officials are moving forward with an extension of the recpath network to Copper Mountain's far-east lot even though it will cost about $375,000 more than originally budgeted.

The project includes the construction of a 12-foot-wide asphalt recpath and 2-foot soft shoulders to connect the Highway 91/Copper Road intersection and Hwy. 91 south of Copper Mountain's parking areas. The trail extension will cover roughly 7,200 feet.

County representatives said the benefits of the recpath project outweigh the unexpected costs.

“The section behind the Conoco at Copper behind the far-east lot is really important because it was a section where people had to ride on frontage road. It wasn't the normal, comfortable experience you have while on the recpath,” said assistant county manager Thad Noll.

“This will be the section that eliminates the frontage road. It will run across from the river and will be an absolutely different experience,” he said.

This extension is also part of a larger vision to connect the recpath network up the pass near Climax Mine and into Lake County.

Officials dipped into the county's Open Space and Trails funds to make up for unexpected costs. Noll said county employees will also work with the contractor to come up with ideas to lower costs along the way.

“There are a lot of wetlands and a river, so it's been a difficult area to get an extension established,” said County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier.

When constructing the original budget, county officials said they underestimated the difficulty of getting equipment to the site.

“We may cut down our mobilization costs if we pay a little more to make the bridge more heavy duty,” Noll said.

This would allow the paver and other equipment to cross the bridge and obtain easier access to the construction site, he added.

A rise in the builders economy is also making contractor bids more competitve than in the past few years, county officials said.

“For a while now, because the economy has been in a hole, we have had remarkably low bids on a number of maintenance projects, and we've been able to push forward on trail and maintenance projects on a lower budget,” Stiegelmeier said. “Now the economy is coming back to the degree that there is more work to choose from, and they aren't willing to bid as low as they were before.”

Summit received seven bids on the project, so those involved with the project felt confident they were getting fair and accurate offers on the recpath extension.

The original budget for the extension was $970,000. The engineer's final estimate for the project came in at $1,114,902. The lowest of seven bids came from local contractor Columbine Hills Concrete at $1,335,543.65.

“They do amazing work and we are thrilled they won the bid,” Noll said.

The county has funding partners contributing to the recpath extension. The Colorado Department of Transportation is providing $500,000 toward the project. Copper Mountain is offering $250,000 and the Climax Community Investment Fund is adding another $95,000.

Representatives say they didn't hesitate to move forward with the more costly recpath construction because the network of paved trails has come to be recognized as more than just a transportation corridor. Locals and tourists of all ages and fitness levels use the recpaths as a way to get outside, exercise and enjoy the landscape.

“It has slowly evolved and slowly been appreciated, but a this point we understand that people are coming from all over because we have this great network,” Stiegelmeier said.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Copper Mountain 40th anniversary: ‘It feels like yesterday'

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

Copper, silver, gold, charcoal, timber, sheep and, finally, snow have all at one time been products of Copper Mountain, from the early 1800s up to the present day. This weekend, the Copper Mountain ski area, which opened in 1972, celebrates its 40th anniversary. While much has changed since those early years, the memories of those who experienced them have not, presenting us with a rich view of a history that stretches over four decades.

Pre ski

It was an unknown miner who gave Copper its name, disappointed after digging a mineshaft into the peak and only turning up low-grade copper ore. Gold and silver were mined from around copper through the 1880s, alongside which cropped up the town of Wheeler and a railroad station.

While eventually ski areas like Vail, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin became established and started drawing skiers into the mountains, Copper remained silent. Although a few had noted it favorably, it wasn't until the U.S. Forest Service mentioned the mountain in a 1969 report that people began to recognize its true potential.

“If ever there was a mountain that had terrain created for skiing, it would be Copper Mountain,” the report stated and many believed it.

The beginning

Just as the birth of any great endeavor, Copper's wasn't easy. A reluctant private landowner and a need of large amounts of funding during a shaky economic period were just a few of the challenges facing the ski area's inception.

A group of about 16 initial investors gathered to organize the purchase of the 280 acres of private land in the valley and then raise the rest of the funds necessary to build up the ski area itself. The group was led by Chuck Froelicher, who in turn brought in Charles D. “Chuck” Lewis, a man whose name would become almost synonymous with Copper.

Lewis already had experience in the ski business, having served as general manager and later vice president and treasurer at Vail Mountain. He is described as an accomplished skier and avid outdoorsman, whose passion for skiing and the mountain shone through in everything he did.

Hoping to hold the grand opening in 1971, Lewis traveled back and forth across the country seeking funding. For a long while he was unsuccessful and it wasn't until June of 1971 that he finally reached his goal.

Copper Mountain opened for the 1972-73 season with around 20 trails and five lifts. Now, the ski area boasts 126 trails and 22 lifts, with 2,465 acres of terrain.

Passion passed around

Nearly every story about Copper's early years seems to involve Lewis in some way, and many afterwards as well. Former employees praise his skiing skill and passion almost as much as his friendly personality.

“He was something,” said Bob Winsett, who started working at Copper in 1973. “He'd go out and tell the lift operators to take a break and bump chairs for a while. He was that kind of guy. There was nothing elite about him, nothing about him that wanted to be separate from the employees. He was one of the best bosses you could ever have.”

Lewis was in his mid 30s when Copper started and could often be found on the mountain, working, chatting with employees or spending time with his family — wife Penny and three young children.

“He was a great guy,” Chuck “CJ” Julin, Copper's 116th employee, recalled. “He had a passion for skiing; he really loved to ski, so as a founder and as someone who runs a resort or is responsible for it, his love and passion filtered down to the employees.”

The employees loved him not only for his passion but for the opportunities he gave them to be a part of Copper. According to former Copper employee and current general manager of Eldora Mountain Resort Jim Spenst, many of the new hires were young and eager to join the ski industry.

“When he started Copper, he allowed a lot of us that were young to do things,” Spenst said. “A lot of other ski areas were already entrenched — they had their mountain managers, they had their head cat drivers, they had their head lift guys. ... Chuck was willing to let us younger guys, I was 19 years old when I went to work at Copper, loading lifts, driving cats, helping work on trails, ski patrolling, busing tables, doing whatever needed to be done, it was a real family kind of atmosphere.”

As a result of that trust, Lewis was able to get his crew to do “just about anything,” Spenst said. One example is the 1976 U.S. Nationals. When lack of snow drove the event out of Heavenly at Utah, Lewis decided that Copper would step up, which it did, preparing in just two weeks.

“He gathered a bunch of us together and said this is what we're going to do and we're going to get it done,” Spenst remembered. And they did. Spenst also credits Lewis for many of the tricks and methods that he's used during his ski industry career.

The spirit of the mountain

Lewis cared very much about the community among his employees, working to make sure that they felt supported, by the resort and each other. Many of the former Ski Patrol members still speak fondly of the tight-knit group that formed.

“It was a whole lot of fun, back in those days,” said Chuck Tolton, who worked at Copper for 35 years as a ski patrolman.

“When I was patrolling, there were probably less than 25 of us,” Winsett said. “It was a privilege to work for Chuck Lewis at Copper in any capacity, but it was definitely a privilege to be on that Ski Patrol with the people that were there, because they were all super qualified mountaineers and skiers. ... Back in those days, everybody was there because they wanted to be there.”

Not only did the employees work together all day, but they often spent their free time together as well. Many of them lived in condominiums right in the village, Spenst recalled.

“A lot of us ended up marrying those that we worked with and having kids,” he said.

He was one of them. Though he had known her before, his future wife worked at various positions in the resort and her sister was one of the first woman snow cat operators in Colorado.

Although now Copper employs many more people, that doesn't mean there still isn't a sense of camaraderie to be found.

“Yes, there's been an extraordinary amount of change, but the essence of the sport, the simple enjoyment of being outside, for ski area workers, I think, is largely the same,” Tolton said. “Why else would you do it if you really didn't enjoy yourself and the people that you're out there working with?”

While 40 years may seem like a lot, time can be tricky, particularly when it comes to memory.

“It seems like it was just yesterday,” Julin said. “It did go by very fast. I think it's great to celebrate it, because it is a chance for all of us to celebrate our opportunity to meet Chuck and be a part of his dream, but also to re-connect with people that we haven't seen for many years. (That) was a big part of it, because we all had a chance to stand at that threshold of a frontier, the frontier which is now the modern ski industry, and we shared that together.”

He added, “Chuck Lewis, he's there — his spirit's there, his heart's there, so those things just continue on.”

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Breckenridge OKs $1M Backstage Theatre overhaul

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

   The town of Breckenridge signed on Tuesday to help fund an estimated $1.3 million renovation and expansion of the Backstage Theatre, helping the local nonprofit put on bigger shows and host casts from across the region.

Town leaders opted to support the improvement and expansion of the existing theater rather than scraping the building and constructing a new one, saying they hoped to preserve the quirky character of the little performance center.

“I want to support the Backstage Theatre, but I believe there is magic in it being a small community theater,” Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said Tuesday. “That is partly captured and encapsulated in the fact that this is an eclectic building with the organic nature of the whole arts district.”

The building, officially the Breckenridge Theatre, is owned by the town and leased to the Backstage Theatre, a private nonprofit that town leaders have recognized as a partner and anchor tenant of the Breckenridge arts district.

The renovation will include a new shower and dressing room, additional storage, extra space for set construction and rehearsals, a bigger, taller stage and improvements to the small lobby area where the theater sells tickets and drinks.

The council passed on the theater's request to increase seating.

Backstage representatives say the improvements — particularly the addition of the shower and dressing room, which would allow them to host professional actors — are “vital and necessary” to the continued growth and health of the operation.

Although they would prefer a new theater.

“It introduces the exciting ability … to start fresh and create a theater experience that is contemporary, modern and state of the art,” artistic director Chris Willard told the council Tuesday. “I think we will always be quirky, because we understand this community and we understand what our place is in that community.”

The council was divided on the question. Councilman Mike Dudick suggested the issue be put on hold until money could be saved for a new theater, which would cost up to $3 million.

But others said reconstruction wasn't a realistic option.

“It's not going to happen,” Councilman Mark Burke said. “I don't think there's the passion on this council to spend that kind of money, so it would have to go to the community and I don't think there's this kind of money in the community right now.”

The Backstage has been operating in Breckenridge for more than 30 years, claiming to be the oldest and most-award wining theater on the Western Slope.

But in recent years the theater has hit a wall, representatives say, unable to accommodate the musicals and better-known productions that attract larger audiences.

The improvements will allow the organization to implement five and 10-year plans to increase profitability and attendance and reduce “dark days” — the amount of time the theater has to close for turnover between productions.

The Backstage currently goes dark for 10 days to two weeks between shows.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Breckenridge to levy 10-cent fee on bags

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Coloraso

#Breckenridge, Colorado

The Breckenridge Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a new 10-cent fee on paper and plastic bags at all local retail and grocery stores.

The law will go into effect Oct. 1.

“This was good government,” Councilman Mark Burke said ahead of the vote. “When this first began in the beginning of my term on council, it was a very divided decision and this council has come to a compromise.”

Money generated from the fees will be split between the town and the retail businesses, who will be given a portion of the fee to help recoup the cost of implementing the program, up to a certain amount.

The town will use fee revenues to purchase and distribute a branded reusable Breckenridge bag and to educate the public about the fee program.

The charge for paper and plastic bags is part of an ongoing sustainability effort by the council to reduce the use of disposable bags in town.

“My vote is because I think this is right thing to do,” Councilman Mike Dudick said. “It's also predicated on the notion that the government of Breckenridge is going to step up and spend significant dollars to educate and distribute reusable bags to the guests of this community.”

More than a year in the making, the single-use bag issue has stirred up considerable community debate, but no one spoke out against the bag fee during a public hearing prior to the final vote Tuesday night.

Three elementary school students, members of a core of 15 or 20 local children who took the well being of the local environment and the campaign against plastic to heart, were in the audience for the vote.

“Thank you to the children of this community,” Councilwoman Jen McAtamney said. “(They) have consistently come to the council and reminded us of our responsibility to take care of the earth so the snow keeps falling here. ... I thank you for your public service in reminding us to do what's right even when it's hard.”

The council approved the measure on a 6-0 vote to a smattering of applause from the audience. Mayor John Warner was absent.

The council previously discussed a full ban on plastic bags at large grocery stores and a voluntary reduction program at other retailers, but backed away from that approach after some town leaders noted that it was unfair.

Communities which have imposed fees in the past have seen up to 80 percent reductions in the use of disposable bags, according to town staffers.

Single-use fees have been adopted at the local level in Telluride, Aspen, Basalt, Boulder and internationally. Some cities where disposable bags are charged have seen a significant decline in use.

The amount of the Breckenridge fee was set based on an analysis model used by Boulder in determining the appropriate charge for a disposable bag.

The ordinance does not address the use of disposable bags or containers in restaurants or other businesses, although it's an issue Breckenridge officials say they plan to discuss in the future.

The bag fee has drawn criticism from some locals who call it a “sin tax” and say tourists won't understand or appreciate the charge. But others, including retailers and grocers in town, support the plan. Most of the staff at Food Kingdom Grocery and Liquor is in favor of the fee.

“The less plastic bags we see coming out of there the better,” assistant manager Kyle Rouze said.

City Market, the largest grocer in Breckenridge and currently the operator of the only plastic bag recycle center in town, has declined to comment on the issue.

More than 3 million plastic bags are used in Breckenridge each year.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Silverthorne program offering $50,000 to area businesses

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

The Silverthorne Town Council and the Silverthorne Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) have announced the second year of the Silverthorne Business Grant Program.

Introduced in 2012, the two-track program offers “site enhancement” grants to Silverthorne businesses for traditional improvements such as façade improvements or architectural upgrades, and “economic development” grants for capital improvements that would bring new jobs or other positive economic impact to the community.

The grants are funded from the Town Council budget, which awarded $43,000 to a total of six businesses in 2012. Interest in the grant program was high even at its beginning, with more than 20 applicants representing funding requests totaling $223,881. The application process is competitive and each request is reviewed by EDAC, a community-based advisory group formed by the council to aid economic development decisions. Grants are open to any commercial business within Silverthorne.

“It was very successful,” said Eddie O'Brien, EDAC chair, of the program last year. “The success is based on two things — one, if it improves the business, the income to the business, and number two is, of course, will it increase the number of people that work in that business.”

Vista Auto Group, for example, with the funds granted for economic development, purchased the machinery and equipment needed to open a new oil change operation in the building. This led to the hiring of several more employees.

From the site improvement side of things, Red Buffalo Coffee and Tea received a grant to put in a patio with tables and chairs behind the shop, connecting it with the Blue River Trail and recpath.

“We constantly get compliments on it,” said owner Erin Young of the new patio. “People come to enjoy a cup of coffee or a pot of tea by the river.”

Increasing clients and customer flow is one of the goals of the grant program, O'Brien said.

“We want that economic impact. We're getting ready to go again this year,” he said. “Everyone has had a success story with it.”

According to Young, the grant program is a much-appreciated show of support from the town.

“I think it's amazing. Over the past three years I've noticed a significant increase in the level of support form the town council and the town of Silverthorne in general for small businesses,” she said. “It's such a nice way for them to show their support.

“A lot of the little guys are really appreciating it,” she added.

Both EDAC and the council are looking forward to the next round of applications in 2013, said Ryan Hyland, assistant town manager.

“It's just one of the programs that we have in our economic development menu that helps the town to help our local businesses be successful,” he said. “At the end of the day, the town can only be as successful as our businesses are.”

The 2013 Silverthorne Business Grant Program application deadline is 5 p.m. on May 8. Complete program details and applications are available at www.silverthorne.org and Town Hall, 601 Center Circle, Silverthorne.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Summit reads up on water

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

As part of the Summit Reads Project, The Next Page bookstore in Frisco will host a discussion of “Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis” on Tuesday.

The book, written by Cynthia Barnett, is the focus of a countywide reading initiative and explores the topic of water management and the importance of using water responsibly. Nancy Karklins, bookseller and regular discussion leader at The Next Page, will lead the conversation.

“The main thrust is developing a water ethic, much like we have done with recycling and littering,” Karklins said of “Blue Revolution.” “We have a responsibility to take care of the environment. … It's about taking care of our water, which we all need; we can't live without air, and we can't live without water.”

Karklins said she's not an expert on the subject matter of the book, but she read it and it raised her curiosity about the topic of water.

“It was a real eye-opener for me,” she said. “I don't have the answers, but I have good questions. Cynthia has both. I hope to learn a lot from the group. People will bring up issues that even she hasn't included.”

The format of a book discussion allows for a free flow of information without the fear of insulting the author or one another, Karklins said.

“They didn't write the book; we didn't write the book,” she said. “These people aren't social friends, so they share real ideas and critiques.”

Karklins was initially worried that local readers wouldn't have an interest in reading a book about water, but she praised “Blue Revolution” for its treatment of what could have been a tedious topic.

“Her writing is so good,” Karklins said of Barnett. “It keeps your attention.”

Protecting our water

Karklins said when she first started reading the book, she began talking to people in the community, asking if they were worried about their water.

“Summit County is proactive in protecting our water resources,” she said. “I didn't realize that we had a water task force, a sustainability task force made up of local leaders and members of the community. It was very educational to me personally.”

Establishing a water ethic in our community really begins in the schools, teaching children the value of protecting our water resources, Karklins said. She said it's a local responsibility that starts with each individual making a commitment to properly manage his or her water use, and the book is a catalyst for starting a water revolution.

“At this first book discussion, I want to focus on what participants think can happen,” she said. “How can we inform and teach our children and be role models, which we haven't been good at doing.”

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Gearing (“Beering?”) up for the Breckenridge Beer Festival

Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado

#Breckenridge, Colorado

Beer fans, if you haven't already, start marking your calendars now for the seventh-annual Breckenridge Beer Fest. If you've enjoyed it in the past, then you're in for a treat because this year it's moved to a bigger location, which means more breweries, more beer and more fun.

Last year's spring event drew in somewhere around 3,000 people - 2,000 for the tastings and between 1,000 and 1,500 just for the fun of it. While in previous years the event was held at Main Street Station, this year it will go down along the 100 block of Ridge Street, allowing for more tents and better crowd flow.

While that event had 23 different breweries, this year features 32 in total. Of these, 23 are from Colorado, including Summit County's own Breckenridge Brewery and Pug Ryan's Steak House and Brewery. Other states represented include Alaska, Missouri, Illinois and Hawaii. The farthest-traveled award will most likely go to Sapporo, which hails from Japan.

What's more exciting is that's not all the breweries that wanted to come. According to event director Jen Radeug, the festival has a waiting list, meaning breweries are recognizing that Breck's a great place for beer.

“It's really cool; I have a wait list going because our festivals are becoming so popular and all the breweries really like them,” Radeug said, adding that they know “people in Breck like to have a good time.”

Jimmy Walker, head brewer at the Breckenridge Brewery, is eagerly looking forward to the festival.

“I'm ecstatic about the new location,” he said, hoping that the new layout will make it easier for him to get around and taste all the other beers. He's also working on planning out what brews his tent will be offering. There will be a sampling of the usual lineup, of course, but that won't be all of it.

He said he wanted to have “maybe something secret, to be announced,” he said, as well as “something that was made at our brewery that you can't get anywhere else.”

This is for the locals, he said, who are familiar with the usual and are looking for something extra and fun for the festival. Two of these could be a keg of bourbon barrel-aged bock (Pandora's Bock) or his latest roasted habanero IPA.

“We put one keg aside for the beer fest for the people that didn't have a chance to get up and get it,” Walker said of the IPA. The spiciness of the chili balances the flavor of the hops, he said. “It's a big beer to begin with, it's 7 percent (alcohol by volume), and it balances with the habaneros.”

In addition to beer, there will be plenty to snack on at the festival, with food from nearby Ridge Street businesses such as Fatty's Pizzeria, Hearthstone Restaurant, Twist, Moe's Original BBQ, Cuppa Joe, Angel's Hollow and South Ridge Seafood Grill. There will be plenty more vendors, including the obligatory pretzel necklaces, provided by the Breckenridge Rotary Club.

Once thirst and hunger are taken care of, there's food for the ears and the soul, as well. The music venue includes headliner 7Horse, with Max Gomez as the opener.

“We usually try to bring in up-and-coming indie bands - the ones that you may have heard of if you really love music, but if you haven't, you'll be hearing them a lot in the next few years,” Radeug said.

Though the event is bigger, with more breweries and vendors this year, ticket prices remain the same. Unlimited beer tasting is $30, or $25 in advance. VIP tasting includes a large commemorative stein, private beer tasting in the VIP room and a catered lunch for $75, or $65 in advance. Tickets can be purchased at www.breckenridgebeerfestival.com. The event runs from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.

“It's a great day, super good value and just fun,” Radeug said. “Great views, great live music and lots of beers.”

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News