The Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum will induct four accomplished athletes and one pioneer of the ski industry into its Hall of Fame on Friday, Oct. 17. The ceremony will take place at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield. Tickets to the event are still available through the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail.
The Class of 2014 includes Breckenridge’s C.J. Mueller, along with athletes Jeremy Bloom, Mike Brown and Johnny Spillane, and ski industry pioneer Kingsbury “Pitch” Pitcher.
“The five new inductees join a prestigious roster of Hall of Fame athletes, sport builders and visionaries who have made major contributions to Colorado’s ski industry over many decades,” said Susie Tjossem, executive director of the museum’s Hall of Fame. “The annual event is not just about who is being inducted any given year, it is about honoring the institution and all the previously elected Hall of Fame members.”
John ‘C.J.’ Mueller, Athlete
Mueller qualified for the U.S. national downhill championships in 1978 and 1979 and was one of the leading speed-skiing pioneers of the 1980s — becoming the first skier ever to exceed 130 mph in 1987. A three-time speed-skiing world record holder whose top speed was clocked at 137 mph, Mueller was a member of U.S. Speed Skiing Team and a top-10 finisher at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, where speed skiing was a demonstration sport.
To elevate acceptance of the sport, he worked with Swix to perfect wax performance and with the International Ski Federation (FIS) to improve safety. Since retiring from speed skiing competition, Mueller remains one of the most colorful characters in Breckenridge, where a ski run on Peak 7 bears his name: “C.J.’s.” Those initials come from his equally colorful nickname, “Crazy John.”
“C.J. is a strong supporter of winter sports in Summit County and was one of the founding members of the Breckenridge Elite Athletes Foundation that has provided support for several Olympians,” the Board of County Commissioners wrote in support of Mueller’s nomination.
Jeremy Bloom, Athlete
Bloom is a three-time mogul skiing world champion, two-time Olympian and 11-time World Cup gold medalist who now adds Hall of Fame induction to his list of accolades. In 2005, he won a record six straight World Cup events, the most in a single season in the sport’s history. Born and raised in Loveland, Colorado, Bloom was also a standout football player at the University of Colorado. Drafted by Philadelphia, Bloom had a brief career in the NFL with the Eagles and Steelers. In 2008, he founded the Jeremy Bloom Wish of a Lifetime Foundation, which grants lifelong wishes to seniors. Bloom is a college football and Olympic television analyst and has worked for ESPN, Fox, NBC and the Pac12 Network. Forbes magazine called Bloom one of the 30 most influential people in technology under the age of 30 in 2013.
Mike Brown, Athlete
Brown succeeded at the top level of ski racing both as a junior racer and during his 10-year career on the U.S. Ski Team. He placed in the top 15 in World Cup events and was ranked in the FIS’ top 100. After retiring, Brown launched a seven-year career as coach of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, guiding the squad to its status as the strongest disabled team in the world. During his tenure as coach, Brown worked with two of the most decorated Paralympic athletes in history — Chris Waddell and Sarah Will. A Vail native, Brown also is credited with developing a disabled factoring system, still used today. The system allows disabled athletes to compete against one another for medals, under a points system that accounts for their level of disability.
Kingsbury “Pitch” Pitcher, Pioneer
Pitcher and his family acquired property and in 1951 moved to Aspen, where he joined Friedl Pfeiffer and Fred Iselin as a ski instructor. He later became ski school supervisor and was one of the first certified instructors in the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association. In 1957, Pitcher was informally commissioned to look into a location for a major new ski resort in Colorado and was involved in the planning of Snowmass from 1958 to 1960. Pitcher acquired an interest in Buttermilk Mountain, which was later sold to Aspen Skiing Co., and he was involved in the planning and development of Arrowhead (now connected to Beaver Creek) and potential ski properties near Telluride. Pitcher purchased Wolf Creek in the late 1970s, an iconic Colorado resort still owned by the Pitcher family and operated today by one of Pitcher’s six children, Davey.
Johnny Spillane, Athlete
Spillane is a four-time Olympian from Steamboat Springs who competed in Nordic combined. After successful junior cross-country racing and ski-jumping careers, Spillane first made the U.S. Olympic Team in 1998. Although he didn’t medal in any of his first three Winter Games appearances — 1998, 2002 and 2006 — Spillane gained invaluable experience that ultimately paid off at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Spillane competed in three events and won three silver medals, including the first-ever American medal in the sport of Nordic combined; it was only the third American medal ever earned in a Nordic sport. He announced his retirement on April 18, 2013.
About the Hall of Fame
The Ski & Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame is located in the Vail Village parking structure across from the Vail Village Covered Bridge. The museum’s collection is displayed in galleries containing artifacts, narratives and film documentaries. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (970) 476-1876 or go to www.skimuseum.net.
After investing almost 14 years in the effort, Jenn Cram’s most impressive art project to date was unveiled last Thursday in Breckenridge.
“My back is really sore right now, my hands are raw, my eyes are tired, but I’m so excited my adrenaline has just kept me going,” Cram said the day after the unveiling of the Breckenridge Arts District. “I was borderline exhausted, proud, excited, honored and a little teary-eyed.”
Krista Driscoll / firstname.lastname@example.org
For Cram, the Arts District preview this weekend in Breckenridge was the pinnacle project for a lifelong artist and a longtime town employee.
“It’s been more than 13 years,” she said. “And in the last three weeks I’ve been working 15- to 16-hour days six to seven days a week, but I have loved every moment of it.”
Originally from Michigan, Cram moved to Breckenridge 16 years ago on a whim. She had earned a bachelor’s in landscape architecture from Michigan State University.
“I was considering art after high school, but my parents told me I had to major in something in school that I could make a living at,” she said. “I started out majoring in architecture. One of my professors noticed early on that I paid particular attention to the site and how the building relates to the site. So he suggested I look into landscape architecture. I looked into it and it was an amazing fit.”
It was that career turn toward something unexpected that helped make her so instrumental in creating the new Breckenridge Arts District.
Cram labeled herself at that time as a professional student. In graduate school she dabbled in engineering before going back to fine arts, where she focused on printmaking until she moved to Breckenridge. Her first job there was a position in Summit County government. Six months later she was recruited to work for Breckenridge.
Working for the town she had a chance to pursue artistic ends while climbing the administrative ladder.
She started out as a Planner 1, then moved on to Planner 2 and Planner 3, doing long-range planning. Today she is manager of the Breckenridge Arts District and of the town’s public and cultural arts programs. In 2015, she’ll be in charge of Breckenridge Creative Arts, an independent 501c3, still supported by the town, that will manage local cultural assets.
In 2003, Cram started conducting art projects and workshops in the Robert White House.
“We did printmaking and ceramics in a tiny studio,” she said. “I had no budget. I scrounged for scissors and things to put the studio and workshops together. The council heard about it and gave me a little budget to continue the workshops.”
Next she partnered with the Saddlerock Society to resurrect the Tin Shop building as an art studio. That has become one of the most popular spots for artists in residence in the Arts District.
Cram helped develop a master plan for the district back in 2004. Keeping a long-term goal like that on track through ever-changing elected officials and town priorities was challenging.
“A town council is constantly juggling responsibilities,” Cram said. “There are streets to repair or putting a new roof on the rec center. There is always something pressing. This really could have sat on the shelf.”
But thankfully, town council members over the years understood and appreciated the need for cultural arts.
“When I first moved here, I wondered where I was going to create art,” Cram said. “I learned there were a lot of artists in the community, but everyone had kind of been going it alone. And so I had this vision of creating an arts campus to bring artists together to work — building relationships with artists around the nation and internationally to bring here. We are building an artists community. They can all bounce ideas off one another. For me, as an artist, it was important.”
MAKING ART ACCESSIBLE
The Arts District became much more than a plan on a shelf. This week it became reality.
What appeals so much to Cram is the potential of the district to draw more people into the art world. That starts with transforming historic buildings into studios.
“One of the things that I see as an artist, is when I talk to people, they always say, ‘Oh, I’m not an artist,’” she said. “But I believe that everybody is artistic. But because people believe they aren’t an artist or creative, sometimes they are intimidated by art.
“I think one of the wonderful things about the Arts District is there are these quaint buildings. People are curious. They get pulled in. Then they are asking questions, and suddenly they are involved in a conversation with an artist from Brooklyn or L.A. They realize this isn’t scary. This is fun. This whole arts campus makes art accessible to people that might normally feel uncomfortable talking to artists or about artwork.
“That is something that has been a priority and a passion to me — to make art accessible to everyone. Now anyone can come and hang out and watch and be part of it.”
Cram’s passion for the project has been contagious, spreading from volunteers and town staff to artists and contractors.
“It was great to use so many local subcontractors on the job,” Cram said. “Alpine Engineering, Mary Hart Design, 2V’s Landscaping, All Electric, Zoni Concrete … The site was chaotic at times and everyone got along fantastically and put forth a great effort to get everything done for the preview. The guys doing the pavers had the hardest jobs. I really respect them. This is a legacy project and everyone gave their best.
“I would like to thank the team at Base Building Solutions,” she added. “T.A. Rosko guided the project and made it all happen within an aggressive time frame and assisted me with all the fine details to complete the vision. Nick Farkouh was the man behind the scenes, but integral to the project. And Stanley Vrba is an excellent carpenter and handyman by day and amazing climber in his free time. He helped me with so many things I can’t even begin to list them.”
LASTING CULTURAL LEGACY
Cram recently had a showing of some her artwork at a local business. She said she hopes to get into the studio more now that the Arts District is completed, but right now she can enjoy the success of her greatest art project, the transformation of a historic slice of town into a lasting cultural legacy.
“My artist friends asked me what I’d been working on,” Cram said. “So I tell them I’ve been building this Arts District, and it’s my biggest art project ever. I designed the metal fence and the walkways. Worked on the angles and views. I worked on every little detail from colors on the building to light fixtures to counters. I feel so honored the town trusted me with that responsibility, and I took it very seriously. This was the biggest accomplishment of my career as an artist and as someone who loves this community.
Everyone was proud and excited to be part of this project. It’s a legacy project for the town.”
The final day of the preview event continues today.
Piles of boulders, splintered asphalt, waving grasses, gravel and golden aspen surrounded by bright orange netting mark the spot of Breckenridge’s future park.
The new park will be located at 114 North Main St., a spot of green nestled between Alpine Bank and Local’s Market.
The park will have a playground with a slide, climbing boulders, tree stump jumpers and climbing logs. It will also have public art and create an aesthetic pathway from Main Street to the Edwin Carter Museum on Ridge Street.
It’s slated for completion by next summer at the latest.
But one thing is missing from the project: a name. For that, the town is turning to the public for assistance.
The town is encouraging all interested to submit a name through the website www.engagebreckenridge.com or via email to email@example.com.
In July, the town council approved a resolution outlining an official policy for naming public places. Now it’s time to put that policy into action.
For one, the name needs to “reflect geographical, historical or cultural significance to the specific area or the community in general.” It can also be named after an individual; however, if that individual is dead, he or she must have been that way for at least a year to ensure that his or her “historical significance and reputation is secure.”
The submitted name also can’t duplicate or be too similar to any other landmark in town.
The deadline for submission is Oct. 15. Town staff will review the submissions and town council will ultimately decide the winning name. Whoever proposes the chosen name will be recognized at the park’s grand opening next year. So now let the naming begin.
The town of Breckenridge will host a preview event for the new Breckenridge Arts District campus, located at the corner of S. Ridge Street and E. Washington Avenue, from Thursday, Sept. 25, through Sunday, Sept. 28, featuring dozens of artist workshops, demonstrations, music and more.
The preview celebrates more than a decade of work by the Breckenridge Creative Artsdepartment to establish a cultural vein through the center of town, stretching from the Riverwalk Center to the arts campus and, eventually, to the new Speakeasy Theater in the Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center and Library on Harris Street, scheduled to open in early December.
Kim Harrell, a silversmith from Aurora, will be giving two demonstrations and leading a workshop at the preview event. During the first demonstration, she will create silver earrings, showing the entire process from start to finish.
“I’ll pierce out a design, push it out, oxidize the surface and use an abrasive pumice powder to get rid of some of the black (caused by the oxidation),” she said. “I’ll probably make a simple pair of sterling earrings with some beads that are incorporated into the design, like an oval or a triangle, and the beads will be at the bottom of it, and I solder on the piece with the beads on.”
The artist also will demonstrate how she makes her own earring wires, and she will have some of her completed work on display to show the breadth of her skills. Harrell’s second exposition will present a different element of silversmithing: raising a bowl. She said though she’s originally from Denver, she spent 14 years in London, where that style of silver product was more popular.
“I used to do a lot more silverware in Europe than I do here — there’s no demand for it — but I love doing it, it’s the preferred thing I do in my studio,” Harrell said. “I’m taking a square and making it into a circle and I’ll start raising a bowl. It’s a pretty simple process but takes technique and skill to do it properly.”
In addition to watching artists exhibit their skills at the Breckenridge Arts District preview, creative types will have a chance to try their own hands at producing everything from photographs to ceramics. Denver artist Victoria Eubanks specializes in encaustic painting and will teach a workshop on the art form.
“Encaustic painting is an ancient medium, I’m talking ancient Greeks and Egyptians used wax as a binder for pigments,” she said. “The medium I use, I make my own, with beeswax, resin and colored pigment. I use damar resin, the sap of a pine tree, so there are very natural ingredients going on. My studio often smells like honey, and the bees are always flying around.”
The combination of resin and wax is translucent until pigment is added, at which point it becomes an encaustic paint. Eubanks applies the molten material with a soft brush across a wood panel, where it quickly cools.
“I can put another layer on top and fuse it with heat. I’ll fuse it to the substrate, or fuse a layer of wax to a layer of wax, and while I’m doing that, I can add color and imagery,” the artist said. “Translucency is a huge appeal to the artist that uses this medium because you can let the light go into the piece of art and kind of bounce around and it affects the way colors look. It’s kind of magic the way that happens.”
Eubanks’ all-day workshop will teach attendees about different waxes and how they work together, how to apply wax to smooth and rough surfaces and transferring images from photos or drawings. Participants will make their own medium of resin and wax, and everyone will go home with his or her own encaustic painting.
“I’m always amazed with what folks do with just a little information,” the artist said. “They make some amazing art, and there’s no barriers, really. They jump right in and create these little pieces of art.”
Ben Pond, of Eagle, is a former artist-in-residence at the Tin Shop in the Breckenridge Arts District and is returning to host a workshop and exhibit some of the drawings he created during his time in Summit County in March.
“It’s five drawings,” Pond said of his half of the exhibit, which will share a space with local photographer Liam Doran’s work. “They’re sort of mixed-media works, fairly large. What I did was I explored the town, went on some walks and documented my walks and drew from the images, the photographs I took. It’s really layer upon layer of image on top of itself. I was really inspired by the historical buildings of Breckenridge. A lot of the imagery is of siding, bits of rooftops with mountains peeking through.”
Pond said though many towns on the Interstate 70 corridor have thriving art scenes, what’s special about the Breckenridge Arts District is that it really caters to local artists and members of the community who are interested in the arts.
“I think other towns here do that, but if you look at a place like Vail, there isn’t a place to go to take a course or see a Colorado or local artist,” he said. “That’s one of the things I really like about what they’re doing there with the arts district. … They’re encouraging and inspiring this destination, cultural district.”
Five years ago, Vail Resorts started an annual volunteer day with 400 employees and six projects. This year, about 1,600 Vail Resorts employees gathered Saturday, Sept. 20, to complete 13 trail, habitat and school restoration projects as part of the company’s newly launched EpicPromise brand.
Echo, the branch of the company focused on environmental and community sustainability efforts, will now be known as EpicPromise, a new brand designed to expand the company’s positive engagement to resort guests and residents of the communities where the company operates.
The name change doesn’t change how the company gives, said Kristen Petitt Stewart, spokeswoman for Breckenridge Ski Resort.
EpicPromise simply aims to highlight the company’s commitment, better integrate those efforts with all the company’s operations and divisions and inspire guests to identify and commit to a personal environmental or social improvement project.
“We have a special responsibility to preserve and protect the iconic landscapes, which frame our mountain resorts, and help strengthen our local communities. We have implemented many sustainable practices at our company for years, and now we have the opportunity to inspire others to follow our lead,” said Rob Katz, chairman and CEO for Vail Resorts, in a news release. “EpicPromise is how we will work together to create a more promising future for generations to come.”
On Saturday, about 250 company employees from across the Breckenridge and Keystone resorts, Colorado Mountain Express and the Vail Resorts lodging division volunteered with their families to work on the Wirepatch trail in French Gulch.
They constructed about 3,200 feet of new trail, Stewart said, and partners and other volunteers included the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, Keystone Science School, the town of Breckenridge, the county Open Space and Trails Department and a local Boy Scouts troop.
Other Vail Resorts projects around the country included planting sugar pines critical to habitat in Tahoe, making a children’s facility feel more like home for kids in Jamaica, restoring habitat in Minnesota, rebuilding a popular nature center in Michigan, making Grand Teton National Park’s popular Jenny Lake more accessible and rehabilitating schools in Truckee.
With at least 100 volunteers at most of the 13 projects, employees quickly rack up company-sponsored volunteer hours, said Laura Parquette, Keystone Resort spokeswoman. That’s something the company is promoting more with its Epic Volunteers program, introduced last year.
The program allows year-round and seasonal full-time employees with at least 750 hours to apply for 40 hours of paid time off they use to volunteer with an effort they choose.
Parquette said she knows of employees who have used that program to volunteer with all kinds of organizations from local animal shelters to international children’s nonprofits.
Putrid, slowly liquifying fish mung. Burlap strips soaked in butterscotch and strawberry extracts.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife researchers used the horribly pungent and the sickly sweet to bait bears in the backcountry north of Summit County this summer.
The two-month study was the latest addition to an ongoing project that wildlife managers hoped would give them a more accurate measure of the state’s bear population and a better gauge of the bears’ behavior.
“One of the big struggles with bears is they’re not particularly easy to count,” said Jerry Apker, Colorado Parks and Wildlife carnivore biologist. When bears aren’t hiding in hibernation, they don’t roam in herds like elk or deer.
So five years ago, the agency started experimenting with a new surveying method called hair snares. Here’s how it works:
The researchers decide on a survey area of around 500 square kilometers, and within that area they set up around 30 hair snag sites. Each one is about 20 square feet, and they surround the site with a string of barbed wire suspended a certain distance from the ground.
In the middle, they hang the bait.
The researchers don’t want their data affected by bears repeatedly coming back for more, so they ensure the bait is hung too high for the bears to reach.
Curious bears follow their noses, and in the process of crawling over or ducking under the barbed wire, they leave behind a few hairs of fur.
Once a week, the researchers check each hair snag site, collect the bears’ DNA samples and then burn off any residue on the wires using a propane torch.
The samples are shipped to a lab in Canada, where they’re analyzed and later used to identify each individual bear. From that genetic information, researchers can tell how many bears live in a particular geographic region and track where the bears move in set time periods.
The results from the closest study to Summit County, completed by biologists working out of Hot Sulphur Springs 30 miles north of Silverthorne, won’t be available until next summer. Analysis from the bear hair snares over the last few years, however, has already shocked wildlife managers.
Researchers found that in every study across the state, in habitats that ranged from good to poor quality for bears, the bear population was double the numbers wildlife managers had been using before.
“I was expecting the numbers to be higher but not twice as high,” Apker said. “We were so surprised and taken aback by the densities that we got.”
The studies have also shown bears using the landscape in a dynamic way, responding to changes in environmental conditions like poor forage quality or drought, faster than expected.
“In the snap of your fingers they’re not in the same areas we thought they would be,” he said.
Not only are the bears moving faster, they’re covering more ground than predicted in response to those habitat factors.
In areas with good-quality habitat, like near the Roaring Fork Valley, bears move around less. They tend to wander through forests following “the green line,” meaning they move up or down in elevation hunting the best vegetation as the seasons change.
During the first hair snag study near Trinidad, researchers found an average of 1.2 bears per square mile. The next summer, that number dropped to 0.5 bears per square mile.
Researchers were stumped by the bear density dropping by more than half until they realized not only had most of the bears moved out of their study area, the females also had synced up reproductively that year.
Colorado’s black bears normally give birth every other year or so when healthy, but after a few years of drought conditions, all the females near Trinidad gave birth to cubs at the same time. Mother bears don’t move around as much, so they had lower chances of encountering a hair snare site.
The next year, all the bears returned.
For decades, Apker said, wildlife managers have relied on old studies that estimated Colorado was home to between 10,000 and 12,000 bears.
“That’s what we hung our hat on for almost 15 years because we didn’t have anything else,” Apker said.
Since then, Parks and Wildlife have tried to estimate bear populations by mapping vegetation and extrapolating from the number of bears killed during hunting season. The hair snag method has improved the agency’s estimates of bear densities in different types of habitat.
“The methodology we’ve got now, it’s better,” he said. “Is it perfect science? No, but we have to use the best we have.”
The technique is more accurate and cheaper, said Kirk Oldham, wildlife biologist in Summit and Grand counties. It’s also much less invasive than old surveying techniques, which usually involved trapping, tranquilizing and tagging the bears.
Oldham said he was surprised his team collected hair samples on 80 percent of the 36 sites set up in his Grand County study.
That could be just a testament to the researchers’ superb bear baiting abilities. It could mean many bears wandering through the sites a few times, or a few bears stumbling through many times.
Whether the DNA analysis shows 30 bears or three, Oldham said, that will play a large role in how the agency manages bears.
He said the agency likes to space bears out according to the size of their home range. Male black bears home ranges can vary between 30 to 250 square miles, while females cover about half that distance.
With public input, Parks and Wildlife soon will put together bear management plans around the state, and the figures from Oldham’s study will inform the bear management strategy for Summit and Grand counties.
Apker said a bear population much greater than expected, combined with an explosion in Colorado’s human population over the last decade, means people living even in cities have good chances of encountering bears.
That means people must learn to tolerate some human-bear conflicts and learn to minimize or reduce the things that cause them, he said. Wildlife managers will be talking with communities about how many bears they want and how to achieve those goals using methods like hunting.
“We do sometimes have to make a decision,” Apker said. “Is this the number of bears that we’re comfortable with?”
As the aspens transform from lime green to brilliant orange and gold on the mountains and hills above Breckenridge, a similar aesthetic transformation is ongoing on a stretch of State Highway 9 on the north end of town.
“At the encouragement of the public over the past few years, the Breckenridge Town Council recently approved a plan to improve the north end of town,” said Kim Dykstra-DiLallo, communications director for town of Breckenridge.
The project stretches from Valley Brook Road, past the 7-11 and on to the roundabout at the north end of Park and Main streets.
The two-phase project started last month and includes re-landscaping the roundabout and median leading up to it. Phase one includes removing all the existing landscape and installing a portion of the new features. When completed, the median and roundabout will feature color-stamped concrete, banner and hanging basket poles, electrical outlets, irrigation and stone wall work. The irrigation and electrical conduit has already been installed. The first phase is slated for completion sometime in late October. In the meantime, prepare for some minor delays and keep alert for road workers.
“We started construction in mid-August,” Dykstra-DiLallo said. “What we’re doing is continuing to make the north entrance more eye pleasing.”
Currently, one lane of traffic on State Highway 9 is closed in each direction between Valley Brook Road and County Road 450.
“Lane closures will be in place during construction hours for the duration of the project,” Dale Stein, assistant town engineer, reported to council.
“It does affect traffic, and it will continue to do so for about the next two months,” Dykstra-DiLallo said.
Drivers should expect minor delays as lane closures will continue throughout the project. Phase two will begin in the spring.
Columbine Hills Concrete, Inc., of Silverthorne, was contracted by the city to perform the upgrades. They are recycling most of the stuff they’ve ripped up. They’ve saved the flagstones, boulders, irrigation components and some shrubbery.
The rock wall from the roundabout will find new life in the new town park being developed on North Main Street. Town staff is still trying to find a name for the new park, which will be located near the intersection of North Main Street and Wellington Road.
The town has remained busy on various projects this summer. The Breckenridge Skate Park has been in the midst of an upgrade and the new arts district is slated for a soft opening Sept. 25 through 28.
Who caused the closures on Interstate 70 that made traveling on the mountain corridor last winter a nightmare? It seems to depend on who you ask.
Some angry drivers might say the Colorado Department of Transportation, while others will say out-of-towners and semi-truck drivers, and others still will insist it’s Colorado locals.
Officials and lawmakers are trying to answer that question as they look to ease congestion and accidents on the stretch between Denver and Vail. Eagle County businesses are especially eager for solutions before the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
At a recent meeting hosted by the Colorado Lodging and Hotel Association, state lawmakers such as representatives Diane Mitsch Bush and Millie Hamner, Republican nominee for governor Bob Beauprez and officials from Vail Resorts, Colorado Mountain Express and Colorado Ski Country discussed possible solutions for the too frequent jam-ups. The Colorado Department of Transportation outlined a number of improvements they plan to make, which include $6 million in operation improvements, more plow drivers for busy times, and metering trouble spots on the passes. Read more about CDOT’s winter plan at http://www.vaildaily.com/news/12870089-113/vail-transportation-department-state.
Department of Transportation research showed that road closures on I-70 usually weren’t due to mandatory closures, but accidents, mostly by vehicles that didn’t have snow tires or four-wheel drive. Officials cited a particularly infamous incident on Feb. 9, when a combination of 10 inches of snow and a number of pile-ups made drive times from Vail to Denver upwards of eight hours.
“This isn’t about a daily occurrence. It’s on the weekends during peak times. It’s season pass holders. I would ask the ski areas about thinking what their role is in solving this problem.” Don Hunt Colorado Department of Transportation executive director
PENALTIES FOR BALD TIRES?
Of the 22 passenger vehicles that received assistance from the Department of Transportation during the Feb. 9 snowstorm, 19 had “inadequate tires,” said Ryan Rice, the Department of Transportation’s director of transportation system management and operations.
Some say the problem is out-of-town drivers who have little experience driving in snow and may not be familiar with what “proper equipment” and “adequate tires” on the roads mean. More extreme solutions include setting up tire checkpoints before the passes as is done in California on Donner Pass, or issuing hefty tickets for drivers in an accident due to bad tires.
Colorado Department of Transportation executive director Don Hunt he’s skeptical that such measures will work, and said he suspects a much more local group.
“This isn’t about a daily occurrence. It’s on the weekends during peak times. It’s season pass holders,” he said. “I would ask the ski areas about thinking what their role is in solving this problem.”
Some are doing just that. Colorado Ski Country President Melanie Mills said the association would like to partner with the state Department of Transportation to educate drivers on what they need to drive safely in the winter.
“I’ve lived in Denver for 25 years and am president of Colorado Ski Country, and I can’t tell you what adequate tread is,” she said. “Can we partner a way to put out videos to educate people?”
Another solution is to limit the number of commercial trucks on the road. The number of semi-trucks going through the mountain corridor in the winter was already down 10 percent last year, but some are suggesting that the Colorado State Patrol also crack down on truck drivers driving without chains.
CHANGING THE CULTURE
One of the most puzzling challenges, said Hunt, is changing the Colorado driving culture. Transportation officials have been trying to introduce the “auto sock” for several years, without much success. The traction device is an easy-to-install cover for your tires that gives them extra grip in snowy conditions. They retail for $105 for a set. On Feb. 9, those 19 vehicles with inadequate tires were given the traction devices by the Department of Transportation to help get them over the pass, then offered the opportunity to keep the socks for $60. All but one declined to buy the product.
The Department of Transportation has also tried to work with airport rental car companies to equip rentals with the traction devices for little-to-no cost for the company and customers, but got little interest.
“When I moved here in 1982, we bought a four-wheel drive car because we didn’t want to get caught in an accident,” said Hunt. “I think we’ve lost that sense here, and I don’t know how to change that culture.”
9 p.m., Barkley Ballroom, 610 Main St. Drum set, amps, piano, mics, sound engineer and more are set up for your use. You don’t have to play music to enjoy Open Jam night with great drink specials and lots of seating. No cover, starts at 9 p.m.
Breckenridge, Sept. 15, 17, 19 & 20
7 p.m., 180 Jefferson Ave. A ghost hunt and walking tour of downtown Breckenridge. Visit some of the most haunted buildings in town. Equipment included. Adult $15, child $10. Call for reservation - Gail (970) 343-9169 or Jamie (970) 485-2894.
Gold Miner’s Hike
Breckenridge, Sept. 15
10 a.m., Iowa Hill Trailhead, Airport Roade. Enjoy an easy guided hike through the historic Iowa Hill mine site, which takes you past mining artifacts, interpretive signs, and up to a restored miners’ boardinghouse. Weather permitting, reservations required - online or call (970) 453-9767 x2.
Living History Tour
Breckenridge, Sept. 15
1:30 p.m., Breckenridge Welcome Center, 203 S Main St. Join Mrs. Engle, the banker’s wife, as she takes you through Breckenridge in 1900 on this living history walking tour. Hear stories of the locals of the day and catch up on the gossip of those Victorian ladies and gentlemen. Finish with tea and home made scones in one of our fine, historic eating establishments. Call for reservation, Gail (970) 343-9169.
Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga
Frisco, Sept. 15 & 17
7:30 a.m., Frisco Bay Marina, 267 Marina Road. All levels welcome. Please register online.