Friday, February 28, 2014

Frisco’s Romp to Stomp fundraiser showcases growing sport of snowshoe racing

#Frisco, Colorado.
Daily file photo

For most people, snowshoeing isn’t so much a sport as it is a way to get out and enjoy a nature hike in the wintertime. But for competitors like Michelle Lyman, of Breckenridge, Darren Brungardt, of Boulder, and a niche group of summertime runners turned winter athletes, it’s much more than that. It’s another way to quench their year-round competitive thirst.
“I didn’t know anything about it until I moved to Colorado,” said Lyman, a triathlete turned sponsored snowshoe runner. “I think a lot of people just think it’s a hiking activity.”
But for those in the competitive snowshoe world, it’s an organized circuit, complete with sponsors and a national championship. This year’s snowshoeing nationals are in Vermont this weekend.
“It definitely has its pockets of popularity,” Brungardt said, explaining that competitive snowshoeing exists primarily in Colorado, the Midwest around Minnesota and the Northeast.
Here in Colorado, Lyman said, a tightly knit community of athletes compete regularly throughout the winter. “It brings out a certain type of people. I see the same hundred-plus people at every race.”
Earlier this year, Brungardt hosted the annual Powerbar Colorado Cup, one of the qualifiers for nationals. He said that in years past, nationals have been right here in Summit County. Brungardt — a runner through college — came in ninth overall in 2009, but knee injuries have kept him from getting back to racing form in recent years.
Both Brungardt and Lyman found the sport somewhat by chance.
“I needed something to do in winter,” Brungardt said. “I tried it out and I really loved it. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Lyman found her way to the sport through sponsorship, and enjoyed the added winter activity.
“It’s a way to keep in shape for sure,” she said.
When asked how running compares with snowshoeing, Brungardt explained, “I wouldn’t say it’s a lot different. You definitely feel like you’re working a lot harder than if you were doing a 5K or 10K on the roads.” He added that conditions play a large role in the challenge. In the Northeast, courses often have thicker, heavier snow, whereas courses in Colorado can throw a runner into knee-deep powder.
Lyman said there is a definite strategy to snowshoeing that differs somewhat from running.
“In snowshoeing the technique is to keep your feet high. The stride has to be a little bit longer and a little bit higher.”
She explained that passing on singletrack courses can be especially challenging with deep snow outside of the packed-down trail.
One of Colorado’s largest, longest-running snowshoe-racing series concludes this weekend outside of Vail with the final race in the Beaver Creek Running Series, Sunday, March 2.
Romp to Stomp Returns to Frisco
For those interested in giving snowshoeing a try, the 12th annual Tubbs Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer returns to Frisco Sunday with three snowshoe walking or racing options.
“The Romp to Stomp in Frisco is the biggest snowshoe event in the entire country,” Brungardt said. The event raises money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer foundation and locally for the Community Care Clinic. Participants can take part in either the 5K or 3K walk or the 5k race. Organizers expect around 2,000 participants, most of whom will take part in the walks.
“We get a lot of first-timers,” Claudine Norden, Colorado regional coordinator for the organization, said. “It’s a fun family event and it raises money not only locally but also nationally for breast cancer.”
Participants of all ages are encouraged to sign up and to dress in pink to support breast cancer survivors and cancer research. In addition to raising money for charity, the event — sponsored by Tubbs Snowshoes — is also intended to promote wintertime activities to those less inclined to participate in more aggressive winter sports.
“It’s easier to get someone who’s not used to the winter lifestyle out and about,” Norden said of snowshoeing. “It’s less intimidating than downhill skiing.
Day-of registration will be available at the Frisco Nordic Center.
More information can be found at
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Vail Resorts destroys illegal smoke shacks after Inside Edition video

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

A swirling storm of social media backlash hit Vail Resorts this week as beloved secret structures on ski resort lands were destroyed in an effort to prevent marijuana consumption.
A number of structures reportedly associated with prohibited marijuana use, and constructed illegally on U.S. Forest Service land, have been destroyed during the last few weeks. The structures, often known as “smoke shacks,” have been destroyed as Vail Resorts and the Forest Service are made aware of them. Mountain operations teams and USFS officials have destroyed “several” over the last year at Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge.
On Feb. 14, an “Inside Edition” video showed skiers and riders smoking what appeared to be marijuana inside one such structure at Breckenridge Ski Resort — a two-story building known as “Leo’s.” Officials destroyed the structure using explosives shortly after the video aired. A Facebook page, “Leo’s Rebuild Project,” has received more than 2,300 likes since Feb. 22.
In a prepared statement, Blaise Carrig, president of Vail Resorts’ Mountain Division, said: “In addition to destroying illegal structures where this kind of illegal activity may be taking place, we are communicating the legalities around marijuana use with our guests and the community.”
Public consumption of marijuana is illegal under Colorado law, even though the state now allows for retail sales. The four Colorado ski resorts operated by Vail Resorts — Vail, Beaver Break, Breckenridge and Keystone — all are located on Forest Service land, where possession and consumption of marijuana is illegal. Using any ski lift, ski slope or trail while under the influence of drugs or alcohol also is prohibited under the Colorado Ski Safety Act.
In her report to the Breckenridge Town Council on Feb. 25, Breckenridge Ski Resort executive vice president and chief operating officer Pat Campbell said she heard about the video after the fact, and “Inside Edition” did not follow normal media protocols for filming on the mountain.
Russ Pecoraro, Vail Resorts’ spokesman, said the company is taking a “zero tolerance” approach to skiing or riding under the influence. The consequences of being caught smoking marijuana include the suspension of skiing and riding privileges. On the official Breckenridge Ski Resort Facebook page, the company responded to numerous comments during the past few days questioning the decision to tear down Leo’s.
“Ski Patrol has worked over the past decade to take down smoke shacks as they’ve become more dangerous, or elicited more illegal activity. With the “Inside Edition” report, Leo’s was moved to the top of the list,” the resort wrote.
Bill Kight, USFS public affairs officer, said he was not previously aware of Leo’s, but he couldn’t say whether other Forest Service personnel knew about it. It was taken care of, he said, as soon as it was reported. A permit is needed to build any structure on Forest Service land, he said.
“Suppose someone went into a structure and got high, and collided into a child, who they killed or hurt,” he said. “The first question is if we knew about the structure, and if so, why didn’t we tear it down. It’s a safety and liability issue.”
John Hall, a former full-time resident of Breckenridge now living in Golden, said he does not smoke but has previously stopped into Leo’s with friends to rest or eat a snack.
“This whole thing was disastrous from the start, and it is very upsetting to know the consequences of opportunistic and tabloid journalism,” he said. “Blaming and punishing everyone else for those idiots in the video is like categorizing your entire family over its least-desirable member. It was too quick a move.”
Pecoraro said he was “not in the loop” as to how long Breckenridge might have known about certain structures.
“There is an unbalanced perception of what is, and what is not, permissible in Colorado and at resorts,” he said. “We are taking a proactive stance.”
Hall said he believes the method of destruction for Leo’s was an “intimidation tactic” that left him questioning the impact to the environment and to wildlife, as well as the fact that debris was left in the forest.
“This has really made me consider, for once in years, to not obtain my Epic Pass next season,” he said. “The attitude of Vail Resorts is one that has scoffed at the local population, and I don’t think this violent act was the end of their actions.”
Finding these structures is common occurrence, Pecoraro said. “It’s our responsibility as stewards of that land to work with the Forest Service to identify and dispose of those illegal structures.”
Some can be disassembled by hand, he said, while in other cases, such as the high-profile Leo’s, explosives have to be used. “I don’t know the specifics of that decision; it’s based on the safety of everyone involved,” he said.
“We don’t want to provide a place to get higher and higher and then go out on the slopes,” Kight said. “Forest Service land is public land, but if we let everybody do what they wanted to do it would be total chaos. There’s a lot we’d rather be doing than chasing people who don’t want to obey the law.”
Pecoraro said Vail Resorts has destroyed “several” of the structures in the past week, and while it is a common occurrence, he did not reveal how many had been found or destroyed so far this season, or in the past.
When asked about the process for removing or destroying one of the structures, Kight said the ski patrol provides assistance. When the Summit Daily News asked to speak with Breckenridge Ski Patrol for clarification, Pecoraro responded: “I’ve provided you with our company’s position and there’s not a lot patrol would add at this point. … From our perspective, the story is about what we’re doing globally at our resorts to protect the rights and preserve the fun for all our guests and employees. It’s not about the physical act of actually finding or taking down the structures. ... Our mountain operations personnel consult with the Forest Service on the most appropriate methods to remove the structures based on location, materials, size, the safety of guests and the safety of the people bringing the structure down.”
Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest, said in a prepared statement that marijuana is prohibited at all 22 ski areas in Colorado that operate on national forest lands.
“You can be cited and fined for marijuana use and possession on national forests,” he said. “I will also add that it is against the law for anyone to build any structures on national forest system lands without a permit.”
Pecoraro said the company is not making judgments, but wants all guests to know the rules so they do not lose their pass privileges or get cited by law enforcement.
When asked if Vail Resorts had any other proof besides the “Inside Edition” video that the structures were being used to smoke marijuana, Pecoraro said: “Whether we actually saw people smoking marijuana in the structures or not is relevant, but kind of irrelevant, because those are illegal structures.
“If we didn’t have direct proof of that, the ‘Inside Edition’ story did provide some proof,” he said. “The long and short of it is, we don’t need a reason because it’s an illegal structure on the land and that’s within our rights.”
Pecoraro said this is not new practice, and wants to make it clear what is permissible at the resorts.
“It’s this game; we knock one down and people go out and put up another,” he said. “Ski patrol in routine sweeps can find these places, and we hear rumblings here and there. There’s not a task force or investigative unit tracking this. We have to be made aware.”
Jordan Schultz, coordinator of the Summit County Healthy Futures Initiative, said: “It’s pretty clear to us, as far as legality, there’s really no gray area in Amendment 64 as far as it being legal (in public). We support the ski resort keeping it safe, family friendly, and following those federal land statutes about not using marijuana.”
The Healthy Futures group works on a number of strategies to help reduce substance use among youths and to strengthen community agencies to work together.
Schultz said she watched the Inside Edition video, and said: “My first thought was, you are up here in Breck in Summit County on a beautiful day, you’re doing it wrong. These people stop and get high, and they are missing the point of getting out and doing something amazing that gives you a natural high.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Celebrate Mardi Gras with events in Breckenridge, Frisco, Keystone

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

Carl Scofield / Daily file photo

Though Summit County is situated thousands of feet above sea level, the High Country will be throwing down New Orleans-style parties over the next week in honor of Mardi Gras. Join the carnival of chaos at one of these local events.
River Run Village transforms into The Big Easy
River Run Village at Keystone will host a Mardi Gras Party on Tuesday, March 4, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Fat Tuesday in Keystone is fit for all ages and includes free live music, giant games, a cash bar and Summit County’s best gumbo and beignets prepared by local chefs inspired by the official cuisine of the great state of Louisiana.
Whether you prefer Cajun or Creole style, you surely won’t go hungry, as restaurants from Keystone and beyond put their pride on the line and whip up their best batches of gumbo to be judged in both the professional and people’s choice categories. A cash prize of $500 is up for grabs for first place in the pro division, and the people’s choice trophy gives a lucky chef bragging rights for a year. Unlimited gumbo tasting bracelets are $10 and available at the event.
It wouldn’t be a Mardi Gras party without some tunes. Local favorite Funky Johnson will take the stage at 3:30 p.m. This high-energy, Summit County-based band will be delivering the funk while the partygoers dance away or kick back with a hurricane from the bar.
The Keystone Mardi Gras Party combines food and music into one grand Fat Tuesday celebration while doing its part to bring a little Southern hospitality to the mountains. Free parking is available at the River Run Lots located off Highway 6 on Gondola Road.
A portion of the proceeds from the day will benefit the Snake River Community Association. Visit for more information.
Hazel Miller performs at Breckenridge Mardi Gras Ball
Some 15 years ago, a tight-knit group of New Orleanians decided to trade Mardi Gras crowds for skiing and sunshine in Breckenridge. It wasn’t long before they realized they couldn’t do without hometown traditions, but since the group loved Breckenridge too much to leave, they brought a little bit of NOLA to 9,600 feet.
The town of Breckenridge continues to observe carnival season in the mountains. Featuring a Mardi Gras Ball with Denver-based soul singer Hazel Miller and a street parade, Breckenridge’s family-friendly celebration this year mixes New Orleans style with mountain-town fun.
On Saturday, March 1, Hazel Miller’s soulful vocals provide the backdrop to the mountain-formal Mardi Gras Ball at Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center. From snow boots to sequined gowns, anything goes for guests sampling the New Orleans-style cuisine. The masquerade ball, which runs from 6 to 10 p.m., will also feature the crowing of the Mardi Gras Rex and Queen.
The dinner menu includes fresh, live Louisiana crayfish; captain hushpuppies with remoulade sauce; Atchafalaya shrimp po-boy on baguette; New Orleans black beans and rice; fried green tomatoes; eggplant etouffee; blackened Louisiana drum fish with crayfish sauce; stuffed pork with Tasso spinach and goat cheese; and New Orleans beignets and bananas foster for dessert.
Get into the carnival spirit with costumes, beads and masks, which will be sold at the event. Tickets are $60 per person, or purchase a table of 10 for $500, which includes food and a cash bar. Tickets are limited and can be purchased online or at the Breckenridge Welcome Center, 203 S. Main St.
Summit County’s only Mardi Gras parade begins at 4:30 p.m. on Fat Tuesday, March 4. Free float registration is now open if you want to be part of the action, or hang out on Main Street to see floats and colorful characters handing out trinkets to the crowd. Post-parade parties will be held at restaurants and bars around town, with drink specials, music and more.
For more information on the Breckenridge Mardi Gras celebration, visit
Seafood boil at T-Bar Restaurant at Peak 8
The T-Bar Restaurant on Peak 8 at Breckenridge Ski Resort will host a seafood boil each day from Friday, Feb. 28, through Wednesday, March 6.
Choose from Maine red lobster, head-on shrimp, Louisiana whole crawfish, Dungeness crab clusters, mussels or a whole boiled artichoke prepared in one of three chef’s flavors: zesty Cajun lime, French Creole seasoning or spicy Thai mix. Add a full size or mix-up, including smoked Andouille sausage, oven-roasted red potatoes or fire-grilled corn on the cob. T-Bar also will be serving up Mardi Gras-theme cocktails, including hurricanes, mint juleps, Bourbon Street mules and dark and stormys for $8 each or Cajun Bloody Marys for $13.
On Tuesday, March 4, T-Bar and Sevens will celebrate Fat Tuesday with a Mardi Gras Barefoot wine event from 2 to 5 p.m., with the Barefoot Refresh photo booth and Barefoot giveaways and drink recipes.
For a full menu of Big Easy offerings at Breckenridge resort, visit
Mardipaws parade on Main Street in Frisco
The Mardipaws Barkus Parade, inspired by the Bacchus Parade in New Orleans, comes to Frisco on Saturday, March 1, with its own version for our four-legged friends. The League for Animals & People of the Summit and The Lost Cajun Restaurant, located at 204 Main St., Frisco, are combining forces to create a costume parade for dogs and their families. The parade will travel from Second Street, down to Seventh along the sidewalk and back up the other side of the street for a full viewing of the colorful canines and their entourage.
Prizes will be awarded for dogs in costumes only, for a King and Queen along with a full court of winners. There will also be specialty categories, including a “Best in Pink Pooch” and “Belinda’s Pink Wild Card” to highlight those who either did the Romp to Stomp or who just want to support finding a cure for breast cancer. The parade, judging, games and refreshments will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Event day registration starts at 2 p.m.
Visit for more information.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Breckenridge tourism indicators for 2013 beat previous best year ever

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

File Photo / Summit Daily New

Breckenridge has reported its best year ever with key tourism indicators up in 2013 from 2007, which was previously its strongest year.
Denver-based DestiMetrics, which provides destination resort lodging data, recently released numbers reporting 2013 lodging occupancy in Breckenridge was 2 percent up from 2007, and the 2013 average daily room rate (ADR) was up 9.5 percent over 2007.
The company collects data from non-hotel lodging outlets, such as property management companies and vacation rental units, so destinations are able to get a more complete overview of lodging activity, meaning a better understanding of related impacts on tourism.
Rachel Zerowin, spokeswoman for the town’s marketing organization GoBreck, said the takeaway looking at five years of this data is how the market is recovering since the recession.
“We’ve has a steady climb, and are really well positioned as a vacation destination,” she said. “We have a great community and it just keeps upping the ante.”
Zerowin attributed much of the success to visitors having longer length of stays. She said weekdays, especially surrounding events, were the most noticeable contributor to increased stays. GoBreck is looking ahead to a five-year marketing plan in the future, she said.
“The economy at any time could still dictate otherwise, but we want to continue on this track,” she said. “We are cautiously optimistic.”
International travelers rose for the past two winter seasons as well. Summer and fall events contributed to gains in tax collections, as well as occupancy. According to the report, the USA Pro Challenge, which began in 2011, helped drive August retail tax collections up 38 percent over 2010.
When the recession hit, Zerowin said they had to just focus on marketing holidays. Now, there has been progression since the economy crashed, she said, and the marketing plan has shifted back toward those longer stays and “need” periods, slow times such as mudseason around October.
“Back then we were planning quarter to quarter,” she said. “It’s been an evolution of marketing plans. Then, it became seasonal again, and now it’s annual planning.”
The winter occupancy for the 2013-14 season in Breckenridge is up 13 percent year-over-year, and the ADR is up 1 percent.
“Our continued improvement is especially notable since our business levels didn’t fall as far as some during the economic downturn,” said GoBreck vice president Bill Wishowski in a prepared statement. “We’re feeling good about the upcoming summer and right now, stars and snow are aligning. We’ve got heightened awareness of winter sports thanks to the Olympics, plus major snowfall here in Breckenridge.”
Early season snow, large group travel and the opening of Peak 6 set high expectations for this season, Zerowin said, which Breckenridge seems to be on track to meet. January bookings this year alone were up 14 percent over 2013.
For all of 2013, Breckenridge occupancy was up 8.8 percent over 2012, while the Colorado as a whole was up 6.7 percent. Breckenridge is doing well compared to other Colorado resorts, and even more so with the Western group of resorts as a whole.
“You look at other Western resorts, those destinations are not really getting snow,” Zerowin said. “In the snapshot of this winter, when we look at the Colorado comparative set, they are the other ones also getting snow.”
She said one goal looking toward the future is to address the daily occupancy numbers, and lay those out over the seasons to see exactly where the slow periods are, and focus on those.
“Those need periods, we want to think about a bigger plan and strategies to fill those,” she said. “Knowing where things are now and the outlook, what can we do that will be most beneficial?”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Monday, February 24, 2014

High Gear looks at the iON AirPro 3, an alternative to GoPro

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

Courtesy of the Summit Daily News

In the world of action sports cameras it’s rapidly become GoPro and the other guys.
But there’s one other guy out there looking to put up a fight, even if it appears to be a David vs. Goliath matchup. That underdog status seems to be just fine with iON Worldwide CEO and founder Giovanni Tomaselli, because he believes strongly that his line of cameras delivers. From a marketing standpoint, iON has jumped into the game swinging, adding its name as title sponsor to a number of extreme-sports events, including Breckenridge’s Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships. In the lead-up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, iON also signed a number of big-time freestyle skiers and snowboarders, including freesking medalist Nick Goepper and four-time Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark.
We’ve been product testing iON’s latest camera, the AirPro 3 Wif-Fi, since the Dew Tour to see if it can hold up to the mountain lifestyle, and it’s biggest competition — the GoPro Hero 3.
To put it simply, there’s a lot we liked and a few things we didn’t. Put to the test, it stacks up well against the competition, offering a lot of the same features and a few that may even give it a leg up, starting with the lower retail price.
What we liked
The Air Pro 3’s strongest feature would have to be the waterproof case. Unlike the GoPro, there’s no plastic shell. Its metal casing is already waterproof. (Note: We haven’t had a chance to take it to whitewater yet, but it’s been solid in snow.) Not having a case yields quick assess to functions and doesn’t muffle the sound when used with the built-in microphone. The mic quality is excellent in certain situations, but limited in others (see dislikes). For optimal audio it also has a microphone jack under its Wi-Fi backing.
The next big sell is the AirPro 3’s wireless app functions — similar to the Hero’s. iON’s smartphone app lets you sync the camera to a mobile phone, allowing for direct viewing of recently shot video along with remote start and viewing functions from the phone it’s linked to. The wireless feature also makes it possible to quickly share video in social media and connect to a laptop.
It’s one-click filming switch lets you turn the camera on and film in a single motion. Or, it can be turned without starting filming, using a separate power button. The camera’s vibrating signal is a handy feature to indicate if it’s filming or has stopped — especially convenient when it’s mounted on a helmet.
An area where the AirPro 3 clearly surpasses its Hero counterpart is with mounting options. Unlike GoPro’s company-specific mounts, the AirPro has a standard tripod thread, making it possible to use with any third-party camera mount.
As for video quality, it offers a wide range of HD options up to 1080p, with a customizable switch to alternate between two resolutions. Our managing editor thought it might exceed even GoPro. It also has 12 megapixel photo capabilities.
What we didn’t like
While the AirPro is a well-rounded versatile camera, there are a few shortcomings, though they might not really matter to most of its potential users.
Chief among the flaws is the noise-reduction setting, intended to minimize wind or extraneous noise. When on, it muffles audio substantially with slight distortion. When off, the audio is excellent, but the internal microphone placement makes it highly susceptible to wind noise while skiing. Still, in trees without wind the audio was OK.
For someone looking to overlay music to accompany a video, this wouldn’t be a factor. A user could also plug in an external mic, but the camera will no longer be fully waterproof while the backing is removed.
Battery power was strong — iON advertises a 2.5-hour shooting time — but the battery is not removable, should the user desire to operate it for longer lengths of time. There is also no indicator on the camera showing remaining battery life. Amount of charge can be determined when the camera is connected to a smart phone via Wi-Fi.
The last word
As a whole, the iON AirPro 3 is a neat little alternative to the GoPro Hero series. And with Tomaselli looking to constantly improve his camera’s capabilities with new models, it’s entirely possible that the company will gain ground on its largest competitor. With its lower asking price and its intended market being the more casual videographer, iON likely has plenty of customers to appeal to. It certainly offers a user-friendly feel with a quick learning curve.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Breckenridge ski run history: A final look at the Breckenridge ski run names and their origins

#Breckenridge, Colorado.
Courtesy of Rick Hague - Trygve Berge

In seven previous articles, we traced the story of the naming of many of the runs at the Breckenridge Ski Resort.
It’s been a fun journey — seeing that many of the run names actually mean something, that they were named for real people or real places or events in local history. Frosty, Debbie, CJ and Callie are real people who played a part in building the area as we know it through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
We’ll complete this series with several stories and photos that have come to light since the series began in November.
First up is Frosty Cooper, the cat skinner (bulldozer driver) after whom Frosty’s Freeway is named. He drove a bulldozer in the summer doing trail-cutting work and was a snowcat driver in the winter. On occasion, he drove his snowcat up to the microwave relay station on Peak 10 and was nearly lost, at one point, in a whiteout but was rescued by the ski patrol. He was a much-beloved local character. Alas, he moved on to Grand Junction at some point and passed away some years ago. But his name lives on, associated with a trail that he probably cut himself.
And then there are Peak 8’s Rounders and Callie’s Alley, namesakes of Bill and Callie Rounds. Bill was a principle in Rounds and Porter of Wichita, Kan., and was the main force behind the development of the ski area in 1960-61. Callie was his wife. After an extensive — and mostly fruitless — search, a photo of the couple, taken probably in 1958, finally came to light thanks to a Rounds family member.
If you have ever bounced down Little Johnny on Peak 8, you may have wondered, “Who is this guy?” “Little John” Sheron, as he was well known, was a high-living, party-loving lifty in the 1960s. We have also located a photo of Little John, taken, appropriately enough, in the Gold Pan Saloon sometime in the early 1970s.
ski bum makes good
We told many stories — most thanks to CJ Mueller — of the naming of the upper runs on Peaks 7 and 8. Another of the more interesting stories is that of Debbie’s Alley, named in the mid-1970s after Deb Mason. Having vanished — leaving no trail — shortly after her mid-1970s skiing adventures, Deb Mason Thorlakson recently surfaced — in Breckenridge, no less. We recently had a very pleasant lunch and afternoon of skiing with Deb and her husband, Thor.
Turns out, Deb went on to cooking school, traveled the world with Thor and enjoyed a career as a professional chef. Now retired, Deb lives in the Methow Valley of Washington state, has two grown children and is still a very active outdoor sportswoman (although not yet a grandmother, as implied in the recent article). Not bad for a woman who started out as a ski bum, ski instructor and waitress in Breck.
We mentioned, in a previous article, that the venerable and privately owned Peak 9 Restaurant will — after operating for 40 seasons — be closing its doors forever at the end of this season, having reached the end of its lease. The name of the new owner begins with a “V” — three guesses, the first two don’t count. Longtime owner Kevin Brown and his business partner, Barbara Tunnicliffe (who passed away in late 2012), began operating the mountain watering hole in 1974. Goodbye, Kevin and Barbara, and many thanks for all of those years of great hospitality, friendship and good food. We’ll miss seeing the two of them up there on Peak 9. One final factoid about the restaurant — did you know that the very first resident (dating to 1973 or so) of the apartment unit beneath the restaurant was Guest Service’s own supervisor, Tom Kramer? True fact.
One of the unsung heroes of the earliest days of the ski area is Sigurd Rockne. He, along with Trygve Berge, was instrumental in assisting Bill Rounds in the 1960-61 planning and development of the Breck ski area. The two men became the co-directors of the first ski school at Breck, and both are alive and well in Breck to this day. Who’s for changing the name of either Twister or Dyersville (two runs on Peak 8 near Trygve’s) and giving Sigurd his place?
In our travels on Peak 10, we noted a rather strange run name, particularly in relation to its placement among the airplane and prospector food names found on Peak 10. Double Jack is an old Cornish mining term that refers to a manual underground drilling technique used back in the old days. One man held the drill (the steel) while a second man pounded the steel with a sledgehammer (then called a jack hammer).
And finally, we come to another unsung hero of days past, Jim Nicholls (who passed away in April 2012), husband of longtime local historian and retired ski patroller Maureen Nicholls. Jim was there at the very beginning, doing building and property design work in the early development of the ski area infrastructure. Among many other things, Jim hand-painted the first trail map, on a piece of plywood, of the initial five runs, which opened on Dec. 16, 1961. Jim’s slope-side sign, placed near the original Heron No. 1 chair lift, guided skiers to the initial five runs — 4 O’Clock, Springmeyer (the correct spelling), Rounders, Ego Lane and Callie’s Alley.
Jim also was an early ski school instructor.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

10th Mountain Division comes to life in Warren Miller’s Climb to Glory

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

Western History and Geneology, DPL

Here in the High Country stories about the 10th Mountain Division are ingrained in the culture — a sort of mountain lore now passed down through generations.
Spend enough time in Summit or Eagle counties and you’re bound to walk by a statue or a plaque dedicated to the men who came here to train to be part of the first division of American ski troopers in World War II and who then returned after the war to lay the foundations of the ski industry that so many of us came here to be a part of. Take a bike tour on Vail Pass in the summertime and those stories may even start to fringe on folklore. A guide may point out Machine Gun Ridge and explain how soldiers trained up there through the winter. They say there’s still an old howitzer gun up there somewhere, or at least that’s how the story goes.
Lost artillery legends aside, many of the famed division’s influences are far more concrete. From Vail founder and 10th Mountain Division veteran Pete Seibert’s work to open Vail Mountain to today’s Alpine touring ski technologies, all have their ties back to those Army skiing pioneers.
“Without the 10th Mountain soldiers, we wouldn’t have the ski resorts we have today,” Copper Mountain ski patrol supervisor Shauna Cocksch said. “The equipment that they used revolutionized our ski equipment.”
Many 10th Mountain veterans helped forge the industry’s boom in the post-World War II era and into the 1950s and ’60s.
“(They) helped bring the European experience to Colorado,” said Susie Tjossem, executive director of the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum.
That story is the inspiration behind one of Warren Miller Entertainment’s most recent films, “Climb to Glory: Legacy of the 10th Mountain Ski Troopers.”
The film is a collaborative effort, funded by the Ski and Snowboard Museum and Warren Miller Entertainment.
“We realized that these experiences would be lost if we didn’t capture them firsthand,” Tjossen said. “We thought that they (Warren Miller) were a perfect partner to do this.”
The film originally started as a 7-minute segment in the Warren Miller movie “Flow State,” from 2012, and was expanded into a full 45-minute documentary.
“This project was five years in the making,” Tjossen said.
Part documentary and part lighthearted Warren Miller feature, the story follows the development of the 10th Mountain Division with old film clips and recent interviews with surviving veterans. It also connects their pioneering efforts to the present. Well-known Warren Miller athlete Chris Anthony first proposed the project and was involved in production. He and Seibert’s grandson Tony Seibert — who recently died in an East Vail avalanche — both are featured prominently in the film, at times skiing on gear from that era.
After showing an initial version of the film in Vail in January 2013, the producers went back and “retouched” film, Tjossen said. The new version premiered locally last month in front of a sold-out crowd in Vail, shortly after Seibert’s death. It will premiere in Summit County Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Sky Chutes Theater in The Edge building in Copper Mountain’s Center Village. The screening is part of Copper Mountain Safety Patrol’s annual 10th Mountain presentation. Admission is $15 a person, with proceeds benefiting the Copper Mountain Safety Patrol and the 10th Mountain Division. Division veterans Warrant Officer Dick Over and Capt. Earl Clark are expected to be on hand for a brief presentation and question-and-answer session. The film also will be screened at the Breckenridge Festival of Film in March.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Breckenridge Ski Resort summer expansion under environmental review

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

Breckenridge Ski Resort took another step toward expanding its summer offerings with the initial approval by the U.S. Forest Service of the resort’s 2013 Master Development Plan, which includes a number of additional summer activities and improvements to existing infrastructure.
White River National Forest officials are currently preparing the environmental impact statement on the project and seeking public input on the proposed plans.
“We’re just initiating the environmental review process. This is the very initial stages of (the project),” said White River Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. “We’re asking the public and interested stakeholders what their thoughts are.”
Breckenridge’s plan — which falls under its Forest Service special use permit and the guidelines of the 2011 Ski Area Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act — involves adding zip lines, ropes courses, bike trails and other amenities to the resort’s existing activities in an effort to continue promoting itself as a year-round travel destination. The proposal also includes expansion of the resort’s off-road tour offerings, a high mountain lookout tour, a climbing wall and summer operation of two existing above-tree-line lifts — 6-Chair and Imperial Express. Resort and Forest Service officials say the goal of the project is to offer a wider range of opportunities to attract new guests to public lands.
“It’s a new set of opportunities for people to experience the outdoors, taking advantage of areas that are somewhat developed already,” Fitzwilliams said.
Both Fitzwilliams and Kent Sharp of the SE Group — an environmental impact consulting firm affiliated with the project — said that there is a growing market for these activities. They believe that summer resort offerings give a growing urban population — less accustomed to outdoor activities — exposure to nature in a safe and controlled environment.
“Americans as a culture are developing away from outdoor activities,” Sharp said. “Four-season resorts offer an opportunity to get people out into the outdoors that ordinarily wouldn’t.”
Fitzwilliams agreed with Sharp.
“Opportunities that are shorter in duration kind of reflects the busy world we live in,” he said, also emphasizing the project would be less like an amusement park and more of an opportunity to experience nature.
“There’s quite a difference between what we’re looking at and an amusement park,” he said. “Even though it’s thrilling and fast, it’s really about the context of the whole experience. We’re going to make sure that we integrate the whole experience with the forest, trying to instill long-term stewardship of our public lands.”
Private forest management consultant Rocky Smith, formerly affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Wild conservation group, offered a different perspective.
“There’s a number of things that concern me about this,” he said of the project.
Chief among his concerns is the project’s size and scope and the potential for it to bring increased traffic to sensitive high-alpine environments.
“I’m OK with some summer use and maybe a little more. This would be a lot of new facilities and it would take people up to areas that see very little human use in the summer.”
Sharp acknowledged some of Smith’s concerns.
“Areas above tree line need to be looked at very, very carefully,” he said, explaining that was what the environmental impact study will be about. But he also added that below the tree line — where much of Breckenridge’s activities are planned — “a lot of activities are low impact.”
Fitzwilliams also acknowledged the extensive evaluation the project will receive from the Forest Service.
“It’s a long, organic process of environmental analysis,” he said. “We’re eager to hear what the public has to say.”
Of reservations like those Smith expressed, Fitzwillaims said, “We try to dig into these concerns and determine what are the effects on these alpine areas. That’s why we go through this process.”
He also added that while the initial proposal has been approved, “that doesn’t mean we have to do everything that’s proposed.”
Construction on the project would likely begin in summer 2015.
The White River National Forest is currently accepting public comments and will hold its first public open house regarding the proposal on Wednesday, March 5, at the Mountain Thunder Lodge from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The deadline for public comments is March 12.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Four sculptors vie for installation spot in Breckenridge roundabout

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

Special to the Daily

Cruising into Breckenridge on Highway 9, drivers will soon be met with a new sight on the horizon. The town’s north-end roundabout, previously only populated by a few trees and some deteriorating flagstone, is getting a face-lift, including new landscaping and the placement of a new piece of public artwork.
Four finalists will present their concepts for the new roundabout sculptural piece to the Breckenridge Public Art Commission on Wednesday, Feb. 19. The presentations will be followed by a forum at which the public can view the maquettes and provide feedback. The four artists were chosen from a pool of more than 250 applicants collected from a combination of direct solicitations and the call for entry, or CAFÉ process, which started in October, said Robin Theobald, of the Public Art Commission.
“That’s essentially a website where entities like the town of Breckenridge who want to commission a work of art can post the work of art and artists who belong to the website can get the posting and respond to it,” Theobald said.
The commission met in a marathon session and went through the pieces, attempting to pare down the entries. Theobald said the first round eliminated only about one-fifth of the entries, but consecutive rounds of cuts brought the committee to the four finalists.
“There was a lot of discussion,” he said. “Some people would like this person and other people wouldn’t. These four, when you get to the end, they were ones that everybody agreed to. It wasn’t like I wanted one and I convinced everyone else to vote for it. Everyone was in favor of them throughout the process.”
The commission has been collecting money for three years for the art installation through the real estate transfer tax, which has generated $100,000 for the sculpture. The four finalists have had since December to create proposals based on the town’s parameters, including sense of arrival to town, making an iconic and timeless statement and being sensitive to the given space.
After the presentations have been made, the public will have until Monday, March 3, to provide feedback on the pieces, and the commission will then recommend one proposal to the Breckenridge Town Council on Tuesday, March 11. Though the individual pieces that will be presented are a secret until they are revealed to the council, the four finalists were willing to talk to the Summit Daily about their artistic backgrounds.
Ilan Averbuch
New York artist Ilan Averbuch chose to respond to the Breckenridge call for artists posting because the project seemed very much up his alley.
“In the last few years, I’ve done several public projects that were in a town or a very large project in a village,” he said, citing a sculpture he created to greet passengers at a light rail station and another project for a commuter train entry station in Tacoma, Wash.
“Breckenridge seemed to be a very interesting site,” he said. “It’s a roundabout; you travel through this roundabout, you slow down and have a moment to look at the roundabout, and it’s an entry to the place.”
Averbuch said the location is especially interesting because you see the sculpture from all angles.
“It’s one of the best ways to view a sculpture, as you move,” he said.
Averbuch has shown his work throughout the United States, Europe, India and the Middle East, but he established himself in the realm of public art in 2000, when he started working with architects on outdoor art that was more durable and had more longevity. He said there’s a certain satisfaction to creating something with a longer life span than a single exhibit.
“I am competing in Breckenridge and then it will be there for however many years that the citizens of Breckenridge decide to have the work,” he said. “It could be five years or it could be 50 years, like a building.”
View Averbuch’s previous work at
Denny Haskew
Sculpture didn’t become a part of Loveland native Denny Haskew’s life until after he’d already been a ski instructor, river guide and carpenter.
“I was just interested in furniture and carving, and my parents lived here in Loveland and it was the first year for the big sculpture show they have here, and I think that was really the first time I saw sculpture,” he said.
Haskew was intrigued by the art form and started a yearlong apprenticeship with sculptor Fritz White soon after. The desire to create a sculpture in Breckenridge stemmed from Haskew being a Colorado native, his love of the mountains and his familiarity with the area.
“I’m a skier, and I’ve skied Breckenridge, I’ve skied Keystone,” he said. “That drive over from Breckenridge over to Fairplay and on down is so much fun.”
As an artist, Haskew said he likes doing large pieces, and it’s an honor to be chosen as a finalist for the roundabout project.
“I always like the challenge of trying to design a piece that fits with a particular site or a particular feeling or whatever it is,” he said. “It’s always a challenge, and I think a lot of artists are out there that really get a joy in being able to erect something of good scale for the public domain.
“I think the group of artists they picked is really respectable. It’s always fun to compete with people you have high regard for, so it’ll be a good competition.”
View Haskew’s previous work at
Albert Paley
Albert Paley has had an independent studio since 1963, and his current space in Rochester, N.Y., is home to 15 full-time employees who help to bring his ideas to life.
“A lot of sculptors do a model or proposal and then they go to a fabricator to fabricate the piece,” he said. “Because of the complexity of my work, I have my own machinery and train my own people. Besides designing it, we also execute it.”
Paley taught at various universities for 25 to 30 years before the demands of his studio took over, and he currently holds an endowed chair at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He said his work rose to greater national prominence in 1972 when he created a piece titled “Portal Gates,” which was commissioned by the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington.
The whole dialogue between sculpture and architecture or landscape design has made large-scale sculpture very site-specific, Paley said, and applying his skills as a designer and understanding the social fabric of a community are the basis of his work. He’s executed 60 large-scale sculptures.
“I have worked all over the United States,” Paley said. “I think it’s a very challenging situation to be able to bring a cultural dimension to a community and then hopefully define some kind of sense of identity with the area.”
View Paley’s previous work at
Seth Vandable
Seth Vandable started creating sculptures in high school before moving toward painting wall murals and taking on commercial jobs.
“My future wife was actually finishing up a design degree in college,” he said, “and when she saw my sculpting, she said, ‘This is what you need to be doing.’”
The couple moved to the Loveland area and Vandable’s career took off from there. Though he’s since returned to his home state of Texas, Vandable said he chooses to return to Breckenridge to vacation as opposed to other resort towns in Colorado.
“There’s more of a sense of history,” he said. “It’s this sleepy Western mining town. A lot of the resorts, you’ve got these little villages that seem to be built more to support the ski hill instead of it feeling like an authentic, real town with history and culture.
“This is where we come very year to ski; this is where we learned to ski. We love the town. … This is something we have a feel for — a good feel for the area, the town — so we’re just excited to have the opportunity to make a kind of statement piece for the area.”
View Vandable’s previous work at
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.