Saturday, January 31, 2015

Breckenridge celebrates 25 years of international snow sculpture championships

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

Krista Driscoll / The sun begins to set over Breckenridge and "Earth, Life and Sun," the sculpture by Team Germany.

Each year for the past 25 years, the Riverwalk Center parking lot in Breckenridge has been transformed. Blocks of snow weighing 20 tons and standing 12 feet tall appear in rows. Over the course of five days, competitors in 16 teams from all over the U.S. and the world work like maniacs to carve the gigantic blocks into large three-dimensional works of art.
The Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships take over the Riverwalk Center area for two weeks — one week of competition and one week of viewing the finished pieces. This year, the last few hours for competitors to complete their sculptures fall on the morning of Saturday, Jan. 31. After 10 a.m., the judges step in and choose the winners.
“It’s exciting that we have a community that’s so much behind this event and it really helps us create a fantastic experience both for the sculptors and for the spectators that come and visit,” said Rachel Zerowin, public relations manager for GoBreck.
During the 1980 Ullr Fest, Rob Neyland flipped a coin with his team from Breckenridge Associates Real Estate over whether they would do an Ullr Parade float or a snow sculpture. The coin came up heads — snow sculpture — and changed the history of the town forever.
A few years later, a passerby stopped and asked Neyland’s team if they had ever competed nationally.
“And we said, ‘Holy crap — there are nationals?’” said Neyland. “That, then and there, was when we were set on the course of, ‘We need to elevate this art form for Breckenridge to make Breckenridge become known for this art form.’”
Over the next few years, Team Breck took its game outside of Colorado borders and quickly became a force to be reckoned with. After building up its reputation nationally and abroad, Team Breck, with the help of the town of Breckenridge, finally hosted its first international competition in 1991.
“It’s a monstrous behind-the-scenes (effort) to pull all this together,” said Sandy Metzger, events director for GoBreck.
Before the competitors even make it to Colorado, people are working to prepare for the championships. The parking lot is cleared of snow and ice, scraped down to the tar. Then the snow is brought in from Breckenridge Ski Resort, put into large casts and stomped into shape. Breckenridge Crane Service steps in to move the gigantic blocks to their places.
“In addition to all the operations you see outside, we also house the teams, feed the teams, we transport the teams from Denver,” Metzger said. Essentially, once the teams touch down at Denver International Airport, they’re taken care of. Local residents offer up their homes and act as guides for the various teams — and occasionally as gofers to Walmart in case a specific scraping tool is required.
While the sculptures are being made, teams are working to remove all of the extra snow that gets scraped off.
It’s a lot of work, but every year when she sees the end result, Metzger says, “OK, it was all worth it.”
While Metzger has been in her role with GoBreck for four years, she’s a longtime local and has been around for all 25 years of snow sculpting in Breckenridge. When asked what moment has stood out over the years, she chose a moment from this, the 25th year.
Due to weather, Team Argentina got stuck in New York and wasn’t able to arrive to the competition on time.
Instead of coming in Tuesday morning, they arrived on Thursday morning, having missed several days of carving. They weren’t about to give up, however, and jumped to it. What happened next was “heartwarming,” Metzger said. The other teams stepped in to help — offering tools, advice.
Several Breckenridge locals have been helping them carve as well.
“They’re competitors, but they’re also friends,” she said. “All the teams asked how they could help Argentina.”
Now that competition is over, the public is welcome to walk through the Riverwalk Center lot and admire the sculptures from every conceivable angle. Lights are strung up to enhance the artwork.
“I’m still amazed every time I see them,” said Metzger.
New this year, complementing the snow championships, is the Fire Arts Festival, which offers a week’s worth of events, from fire dancing performances to concerts.
“We just keep looking for ways to improve the event, just breathe new life into it,” said Metger. “That was a way to add something new for the 25th year and get people excited for 25 more.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Friday, January 30, 2015

In Denver, ski industry experts ponder business uncertainties


The state of the ski and snowboard industry in the United States is that it’s changing.
Some of that change is good, some bad, but overall the industry has serious challenges ahead, including climate change, an aging customer base and aging infrastructure, to name a few.
Industry leaders gathered at the Colorado Convention Center on Wednesday for The Assembly, an unofficial kickoff to the annual Snowsports Industries America Snow Show, which features panel discussions and interactive sessions about the ski industry’s place in the larger tourism industry. The Denver mountain resort research firm DestiMetrics hosted the event.
“If you’re nostalgic for the good ol’ days, you weren’t there. There is no comparison to what we’re selling today to what we sold as recently as 20 years ago.” 

Michael Berry
National Ski Areas Association president
Millennials make much less money on average than the ski industry’s core market — households with $100,000 annual incomes — but that’s not stopping ski-industry leaders from coveting the millennial generation more than ever.
The reason is simple: Baby boomers are dropping out of skiing and snowboarding as they age, and the industry hasn’t yet figured out how to grow the sport with younger generations in order to offset those baby boomer declines.
In morning panel discussions, nearly every presenter uttered the word “millennial” more than a few times.
What was perhaps most interesting in the discussions was what presenters didn’t say. Nate Fristoe, managing director of the market research firm RRC Associates, talked of millennials’ financial hardships as compared with older generations, but he also touted average daily room rates across mountain resorts — currently standing at about $366 — as great news of strength in the industry. He proclaimed a “strong accomplishment for the industry” when he revealed the average gross revenue per skier or snowboarder visit as $59 during the 2001-02 ski season compared with $90 last season.
Yet, as the industry talks of ways to attract younger folks to the sport — millennials were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s — the elephant in the room is skiing and snowboarding’s lack of affordability to the masses. There was even a brochure for an “affluent marketing network” in the goodie bags passed out to attendees. Its slogan: “Reach the wealthy where they play.”
National Ski Areas Association president Michael Berry talked of the industry’s “trial and conversion issue” — referring to its ability to bring new people to the sport and keep them consistently participating — as a real challenge for the future of the sport. But it’s a challenge that has existed for at least 15 years, he said, adding that it’s only been about three or four years since the industry turned a corner on the issue.
“It just kind of proves that nothing is easy,” he said.
He took a few stereotypical jabs at millennials — they’re more concerned about the hottest food truck in town or living the urban-hipster lifestyle, he said. But joking aside, the industry needs to craft the right products for them in order to capture their business, he said.
The challenge of attracting new participants barely scratches the surface of what the industry faces, though. Bill Jensen, a ski-industry expert with decades of experience in ski-company management across the United States and Canada, including at Vail Resorts and Intrawest, separates the 470 ski resorts in the United States into five tiers: Uber, Alpha, Status Quo, Survivor and Sunset. The 10 Uber resorts and 35 Alpha resorts account for 40 percent of ski business, while 125 Status Quo resorts with flat annual revenues skate by, and another 150 so-called Survivor resorts will do just that — survive — while the remaining 150 so-called Sunset resorts, as Jensen defines them, won’t make it.
New realities for success have to include sufficient hospitality infrastructure — something the Sunset resorts lack — a reinvigoration of winter sports culture, resort alliances and partnerships and continued capital investment into snowmaking and other infrastructure, he said.
When asked how the industry can grow when it’s so unaffordable for so many, Jensen said the Aspens, Vails, Jackson Holes and Park Cities of the industry will be fine. It’s the lower tier resorts — the Status Quo and Survivor resorts — that have the biggest hill to climb.
Harry Frampton, a Vail developer who was president of Vail Associates in the 1980s, said that municipalities, ski companies, developers and communities also have a lot of work to do in order to get new development projects built in the coming years.
He pointed to consumer confidence, declining unemployment and healthy ski business revenue as reasons one might expect to see new mountain-resort development, but the economics are making less and less sense for developers.
“Our company hasn’t started a single real estate project in the mountains since 2007,” Frampton said of East West Partners. “That is just almost impossible to believe.”
Partnerships are how new projects will get built, he said. He used the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek as an example of a municipality stepping in — selling developers the land for $1 as well as giving them a convention center and parking as part of the deal — stating the project never would have happened without such a partnership.
He then used Vail Resorts’ proposed $1 billion Ever Vail project in Vail as an example of a project that might never happen because of all the conditions required by the town of Vail, including a transit center, inclusionary housing, a 102-room hotel and 250 public parking spaces.
“This project won’t get built anytime soon,” Frampton said.
Perhaps municipalities could build lodging projects, such as the city of Denver’s Hyatt project near the Colorado Convention Center, Frampton said. Jensen also said municipalities could wind up getting into ski-resort ownership, especially when talking about the Survivor and Sunset resorts.
“My sense is that the survivors — they’ll survive because a light will go on and people will realize it’s important for their quality of life,” Jensen said.
One thing that’s less of a challenge these days is the quality of the skiing experience, according to Berry.
“If you’re nostalgic for the good ol’ days, you weren’t there,” he said. “There is no comparison to what we’re selling today to what we sold as recently as 20 years ago.”
And in terms of affordability, Berry contends that skiing has never been more affordable for the core participant, pointing out the value in pass and cluster products.
The best way to grow the industry, he said, is to do it through existing participants.
“There’s no broad-based campaign that will alter our trajectory,” he said. “The existing customer will deliver the new customer. ... I think you’ll see more dynamic ways of rewarding the individuals who delivered the customer.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News/Aspen Times.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Silverthorne community dinner serves 90,000th meal

#Silverthorne, Colorado.

It was a typical Tuesday evening at the Elks Lodge in Silverthorne. Cars filled the parking lot to capacity, and the sounds of bright conversation and the smells of delicious food hung right in the doorway.
Since March 2009, the lodge has been host to the community dinner — a free hot meal served every Tuesday for any and all who wish to stop by. Event organizer and Rotarian Deb Hagestood by the front door, welcoming people as they came in, while another volunteer made tally marks on a piece of paper.
Near the end of the night, one of those marks registered a milestone.
When Silverthorne resident Kevin Crowley walked through the door, he set off a ruckus of cheers and clapping.
As it turned out, Crowley’s meal was the 90,000th that the community dinner had served since its beginning.
“Get the candles,” Hage called to the kitchen, while taking Crowley’s arm in hers and giving the announcement to the room. Cheers followed, then Copper Mountain Resort chef Terry Higgins emerged from the kitchen with a plate heaped with mashed potatoes and fried chicken. Elks Lodge general manager Bob Knorr lit the candles on top of the potatoes proclaiming “90,000.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Hage, her eyes filling with tears as she surveyed the full room. “I’ve overwhelmed that the community has made the commitment to the project over the years.”
When she started the dinner six years ago, she expected it to last no more than a year and a half. But the response she received told the real story — the need was there, and people were willing to help.
Each dinner is served by a different group of volunteers.
Tuesday’s volunteers were fourth- and fifth-graders from the SOS Outreach program, and the cooks were volunteers from Copper Mountain.
Crowley was surprised to be the 90,000th person served, but he smiled and gave a thumbs-up for some photos.
Sitting down to dinner with his friend Jim Kelly, Crowley said that he’s often come to the community dinners. He and his roommates live nearby in Silverthorne, so it’s an easy trip for a good meal. He recalled one summer when he was particularly strapped financially, and how he could always count on the community dinner every Tuesday.
In Hage’s honor, the dinner has not been canceled once in any of its six years, nor has it ever run out of food. Thinking of the project overall and all it has accomplished, she spoke aloud the quote with which she ends every email about the dinner — “Together, we are doing a very good thing.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Summit County pets available for adoption

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

Chester by Michael Yearout Photography

Pets available for adoption at the Summit County Animal Shelter.

The Summit County animal shelter can be reached at (970) 668-3230.


ZENA, 14 years, Domestic Mediumhair mix, black, spayed female
SOBE, 5 years, Domestic Shorthair mix, black, neutered male
LUKA, 5 years, Domestic Shorthair mix, gray and white, spayed female
CLARA, 1 year 3 months, Domestic Longhair mix, black, spayed female
PIPPIN, 1 year 1 month, Domestic Shorthair mix, gray, spayed female
GEORGE, 2 years, Domestic Longhair mix, black, neutered male
JAZZ, 3 years, Domestic Shorthair mix, white, neutered male
CHESTER, no age, Domestic Shorthair mix, white and gray, neutered male
TAMALE, 6 years, Domestic Shorthair mix, gray and white, neutered male
BIRDIE, 8 years, Domestic Shorthair mix, black and white, spayed female
CHLOE, 6 years, Domestic Shorthair mix, black, spayed female
SMOKIE, 6 years, Domestic Mediumhair mix, gray, spayed female
ARABELLA, 1 year 3 months, Domestic Shorthair mix, black, spayed female
ASHLEY, 2 years, Domestic Shorthair mix, brown tabby, spayed female
TAZ, 8 years, Domestic Shorthair mix, orng tabby, neutered male
KATIA, 3 years, Domestic Shorthair mix, gray, spayed female
GIZMO, 4 months, Domestic Mediumhair, dil calico, spayed female
POOKIE, 10 years, Domestic Shorthair mix, tortie, spayed female


JOSEY, 1 year 5 months, Labrador Retriever mix, black and white, spayed female
WILLOW, 5 years, Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix, brindle, spayed female
BAILEY, 3 years, Pit Bull Terrier and Welsh Corgi - Pembroke mix, white and brown, spayed female
SARAH, 1 year 6 months, Labrador Retriever mix, black and white, spayed female
DARWIN, 1 year 6 months, Beagle, tricolor, neutered male
CHAI, 4 years, Australian Cattle Dog mix, red merle, spayed female
MABEL, 8 years, Australian Shepherd and Siberian Husky mix, black, spayed female
PENNY, 4 years, Chihuahua - Smooth Coated mix, red, spayed female
NICKIE, 1 year 1 month, English Pointer and Chinese Sharpei mix, white, spayed female
SAMANTHA, 2 years, Black and Tan Coonound and Dachshund mix, black and tan, spayed female
SASHA, 3 years, Australian Shepherd and Catahoula Leopard Hound mix, black and gray, unaltered female
GOOSE, 11 months, Guinea pig, calico, unaltered male
MONKEY, no age, Guinea pig mix, white and brown, unaltered male
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

$4.4 million renovation for Frisco water treatment plant underway

#Frisco, Colorado.

At the Frisco wastewater treatment plant next to Highway 9 just south of Main Street, officials say they are set to complete a $4.4 million renovation on time.
The Frisco Sanitation District recently received a $700,000 grant from the state that will help build wetlands for the plant’s discharge and will keep water rates and fees from going up.
Unfortunately, the plant has created foul smells while using half its equipment during the holiday influx of people and some contingency plans failed, said Butch Green, district manager.
“We apologize to our neighbors,” he said. “We’ve had a bunch of plans, just not all of them have been good ones.”
Crews with the Fort Collins contractor Hydro Construction Co. will start pouring concrete at the plant Tuesday, Jan. 27, and Green expects to finish that stage by the end of February.
In November, workers used a crane to lift and move the 29,000-pound dome off the plant and Green said he would be on edge for the next few months hoping the system would work with half its equipment.
Under the dome, which is 100 feet wide and 15 feet deep, were steel tanks that were installed in 1975 and have outlasted their expected lifespans, Green said.
The tanks will be replaced with concrete ones, which should last 40 to 60 years, and other aspects of the treatment process will be changed to meet new regulations required by September 2016.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Copper Mountain instructor offers tips on improving your snowboarding skills

#Copper Mountain, Colorado.

Tripp Fay / Copper Mountain

Snowboarding is about progression. Whether you’re strapping on a board for the first time or headed to the X Games, there’s always something to work on. A few weeks ago the Summit Daily went back to the basics with ski tips to help correct some common mistakes we saw on the slopes. This week it’s time to take a look at the other guys on the mountain.
With that in mind we talked to Ronnie Barr, longtime snowboard instructor at Copper Mountain Resort, to learn more about frequent flaws in the snowboarding world. As an American Association of Snowboard Instructors certified trainer, he’s one of the guys who teaches the guys who teach you how to snowboard; we figured he might know a thing or two. Here is a quick look at what he came up with.
The upper body rider
Barr started with the snowboarder who turns by swinging the arms and shoulders.
“Starting turns by rotating the upper body is a habit you want to break,” he said. “It’s something most people do because it’s the easiest way to do it.”
Turning with the shoulders is an ineffective way to turn, and a dead giveaway that you don’t know what your doing, or haven’t been at it that long.
“Like in skiing, snowboarding turns should be based on motions from the hips on down. The movement is a combination of turning the front knee and hip while also shifting pressure from the front to the back of the foot or vice versa depending on if it’s a toe-edge or heal-edge turn.
“Learning that the (front) knee can steer the board is a breakthrough for a lot of people,” Barr said.
Shifting weight from front to back while turning is also key. Barr encouraged riders to play with weight distribution and not simply stand rigid as beginner or intermediate riders are prone to do.
“You always want to be moving around on your snowboard, front of the board, to the middle of the board, to the back,” He explained. “It’s huge for taking the next step. Moving around is something I suggest everybody play with. If your body moves, it’s much easier to turn.”
Start by leaning downhill and into a turn while twisting the front leg to help initiate it.
He also reminded boarders that — again like skiing — keeping weight toward the back of the board all the time makes it harder to turn on a groomer. In powder it’s a different story, but we’ll get there.
The side-slipping slope groomer
Another common beginner trait is the rider who locks in on the heel edge and rides the board sideways down a hill. You’ll recognize boarders doing this because you can follow the trails they make as they slide down the hill like grooming machines.
If you’re afraid to turn or point the board downhill, there’s a really good chance you’ve over-terrained yourself — meaning you’re on a slope that’s above your ability level. In the ski and snowboard world there’s also a slightly more explicit description for this mistake.
“Over-terraining yourself can be one of the worst things you can do,” Barr said. “When you’re intimidated on top of the run, you’re tense.”
Even Olympic-level skiers and riders can work on their form on a green slope; there’s no shame in it.
On a less steep slope, you’re going to be more confident pointing the board straight downhill — that’s where it’s supposed to go.
Living on the edge
Properly using the edges of a board — just like in skiing — is an underdeveloped skill in snowboarding.
“It’s something a lot of people don’t learn,” Barr said. “The higher the edge angle, the more the board performs. You always want to be on one side or the other. Riding flat is not a great way to stay in control.”
When you see someone really carving a turn, you can read the bottom of the board because it’s that far up on edge. Now every turn doesn’t have to be like that, but it’s good to keep in mind. Think of the edge of your board like the bottom of an ice skate; that’s basically what you should be riding on. Turning is simply switching from one edge to the next.
Using edges properly also avoids catching the dreaded heel edge or toe edge and landing on your face or smacking the back of your head. It’s the riders who stay flat on their boards that are most prone to catching an edge, because the slightest terrain feature will catch and flip the board and the rider on top of it. Then end result? You’re going to have a bad time.
Beginner and intermediate riders, for whatever reason, also tend to be more comfortable on the heel edge of the board at first. But Barr said learning to be good on your toe edge is a lot more fun, and will actually give you much more control. Eventually it’s about smoothly linking turns, where the rider is transitioning back and forth from toe to heel edge.
To kick it up a notch, Barr encourages students of all skill levels to try putting pressure on the toes of one foot and the heel of the other while turning to really torque the board.
“That will cause the new edge to engage very quickly,” he said. “It can put you in a sweet carve.”
It’s snowboarding, not surfing
Some riders also have a tendency to try to steer with their back leg, or kick it out during a turn. This tends to come with people who have experience surfing. While it’s correct in surfing and can be a fun way to ride, it’s not necessarily efficient. Try engaging turns with the front leg, as previously mentioned, and you might find it much easier to carve. Snowboarding with a surfing style may also lead to riding “flat” and, again, being prone to catching an edge. Remember, it’s all about riding on edges, not catching them.
Getting to the deep stuff, handling the pow
Finally, we turn to the magical world of powder. For beginners and intermediates it can also be pretty intimidating. The trick there, Barr said, is smooth motions.
“Rule No. 1 of riding in powder is you have to slow everything down,” he explained. “The board needs to slowly turn from side to side.”
Powder makes it much easier to catch an edge, which will kill momentum and in all likelihood get you stuck.
Smooth, gentle motions are the way to go, like buttering toast. Also, the deeper it gets, the more acceptable it is to lean back so you can keep the board above it. The rider’s body should shift back and forth from the middle to the back of the board in powder.
A powder-specific rockered board can also make your life a lot more pleasant when it comes to the fluffy stuff. Rockered or reverse cambered boards curve more in the tip and tail to create more floatation under foot.
“It can make all the difference,” Barr said of board choice.
You’re never too good
One more thing.
No matter how good you think you might be, a lesson can still make a world of difference.
“You’re never too good to take a lesson,” Barr said. “You’re always going to learn something. Even the best snowboarders in the world are still learning.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Frisco Gold Rush features Nordic ski races, community bonfire, fireworks

#Frisco, Colorado.

On Saturday, Feb. 7, the Frisco Nordic Center and the town of Frisco will host the 45th Frisco Gold Rush benefiting the Summit Nordic Ski Club, with a portion of the proceeds helping to send local athletes to Junior Nationals.
The Gold Rush is the longest running Nordic event in Colorado, and the races are open to skiers of all ages and abilities. The event includes a 30-kilometer skate-ski race, a 10K classic or skate race and a 3K fun race. The 3K fun race is untimed and intended to draw inexperienced racers or experienced racers in search of a relaxed cruise on their skis. Each 10K and 30K racer will receive a commemorative Frisco Gold Rush buff, one hour of tubing at the Frisco Adventure Park on Saturday, Feb. 7, and hot soup at the Nordic Center Lodge.
New this year, racers will experience skiing on the snow-covered terrain of the Frisco Bike Park, Frisco Ski and Ride Hill and, most exciting of all, portions of the 10K and 30K courses will take racers onto Dillon Reservoir.
“We really wanted to mix it up a bit in our 45th year and offer an experience that you can’t find every day, so we did some serious legwork over the past year and came up with some exciting new terrain for skiers, which will just be available for these races,” said Linsey Kach, town of Frisco recreation programs manager.
Again this year, the Colorado High School Activities Association will bring racers from around the state to compete in 3K or 5K skate ski events.
“You are likely to see future Olympians in this group, and these 200 to 300 young racers bring a really fresh energy to this wonderful historic race,” Kach said.
The day of races will be capped off with the Spontaneous Combustion community bonfire and a fireworks display at the Frisco Bay Marina. The community is invited to the marina lot at the corner of Summit Boulevard/state Highway 9 and Marina Road at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7, to watch the bonfire and fireworks light up the Frisco sky. Beverages, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic, and food will be available for sale.
The town is accepting Christmas trees to fuel the bonfire through Saturday, Jan. 31. Trees must be stripped of all lights, tinsel, garland, tree stands and decorations prior to drop-off at the marina dirt lot. The tree drop-off is open 24 hours a day. The town of Frisco, Frisco Nordic Center, Baymont Inn and Suites, Western Enterprises, the Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, the Forest Service and the Summit Daily News are Gold Rush sponsors.
For information, contact Kach at or (970) 668-9133.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Social Summit: Volunteers help pack molds full of snow for sculpting


Summit Daily News

A crane sets a towering wood- and steel-framed mold onto the snow-scraped Tiger Dredge Lot adjacent to the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Workers from Breckenridge Crane Service bolt the four sides of the frame together as the massive SnoGo snowblower claims its place alongside.
A bucket of snow is dumped into the churning maw of the snowblower, where it is pulverized into tiny crystals before being shot into the mold.
Volunteers clamber up scaffolding and down into the mold to pack the first layer of snow the old-fashioned way, with shovels and boots.
“We stomp the block to eliminate the air holes,” said Gavin Dalgliesh, of GoBreck.
“The first level you sink up to your knees, then it starts packing down.”
The group of nine stomps away until everybody’s satisfied with the work and climbs out of the box, awaiting another layer of snow.
Then they jump back in and start all over again. Donna Horii, with GoBreck, said each mold takes about 30 minutes to pack.
“We’re Breckenridge’s version of Lucy and Ethel,” she said.
The International Snow Sculpture Championships run from Tuesday, Jan. 27, through Saturday, Jan. 31, with public viewing through Sunday, Feb. 8. For more information, visit and click on “Events.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Keystone’s Winter Bluegrass Weekend stars Sierra Hull and more

#Keystone, Colorado.

A top-notch lineup of bluegrass musicians will make its way to Warren Station at Keystone on Friday, Jan. 23, and Saturday, Jan. 24, for Keystone’s annual Winter Bluegrass Weekend. Celebrating its fourth year, the event brings together acoustic roots and mountain culture to benefit the Dercum Center for the Arts and Humanities.
On Friday, Jan. 23, catch familiar favorites such as Summit County’s Local Folk, The Pine Beatles and Colorado’s own tempo-kicking Railsplitters. Saturday, Jan. 24, features popular pickers including Finnders & Youngberg, the Haunted Windchimes and bluegrass big shots Sierra Hull with Justin Moses.
To add a bit of spice, bluegrass lovers are invited to tote their instruments and strum with fellow players at 5:30 p.m. each afternoon during the event. Led by local musicians, the acoustic jam takes place in the Warren Station ballroom just before the bands take the stage. All pickers and grinners are welcome, though standard bluegrass jam etiquette applies. If you can tune your instrument, make basic chord shapes like G, C, D and A and can maintain rhythm, you will fit right in. Camaraderie and meeting other musicians is all part of the fun. Although donations are appreciated, participants do not have to purchase a concert ticket to join in the jam, so pick on.
These two nights of stacked concerts star amazing string bands and will entertain listeners with music new and old, all to raise funds for a cultural legacy left by Keystone’s founders, Max and Edna Dercum. Tickets start at $12 for an adult single-day pass and $20 for a two-night pass.
Local Folk is an up-tempo mountain-grass party playing a fresh mixture of bluegrass, old-time, Western swing and fiddle tunes from local Summit County musicians with an arrangement of guitars, bass, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and dobro.
The Pine Beatles are as cheeky and irreverent as their name. Born from the simple desire among friends to play and share music with others, the band was born out of spontaneous Sunday-evening jams. Playing private parties, nonprofit fundraisers, cookouts and weddings, this community-based band soon became known around Summit as a fun component of any friendly gathering.
From their home in the Colorado Rockies, The Railsplitters have been scaling new heights with a refreshing and charming range of bluegrass and beyond-bluegrass music. The Railsplitters are nothing if not enthusiastically bluegrass and contagiously so, with rapid tempos, unusual instrumentals and good-time breakdowns. Using powerful female and male vocals, enchanting harmonies and masterful playing, The Railsplitters have the kind of raw power that can raise mountains and even a few eyebrows.
Colorado’s Finnders & Youngberg proudly swim in the deep currents of American music — classic bluegrass, tried-and-true honky tonk, country swing and skillfully spun folk tales. While their sound evokes timelessness, it is a decidedly contemporary, well-traveled, 21st century sensibility that informs their songwriting. Their tunes draw on the bumps, bruises and laugh lines earned when we find ourselves in the “bogs” of backroads, dive bars and long, lonesome nights
The Haunted Windchimes’ sound is very traditional folk and blues and the songs have a vintage quality, as if they might have been written yesterday or 75 years ago. It’s the vocal harmonies that really set them apart, a three-headed juggernaut of Desirae Garcia, Chela Lujan and Inaiah Lujan. When their voices blend, it’s nothing short of beautiful. The sound is often moody and melancholy but is always deeply affecting. That sound is embroidered by the instrumental mastery of Mike Clark and the standup bass foundation of Sean Fanning.
Sierra Hull has already earned considerable respect in the bluegrass world, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s voting members having nominated her for no fewer than five awards over three years, and there’s a good chance she’ll be the first woman to win the mandolin category. But as a player, a singer and a songwriter, she also has remarkable range, the potential to win over ears unfamiliar with Bill Monroe and give performances of broad cultural importance, as she’s done at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and the National Prayer Breakfast.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Breckenridge water rates increase by 5 percent to fund new water plant


For the first time in recent memory, the town of Breckenridge will raise water usage rates by 5 percent for residential and commercial customers across town.
In an effort to both encourage conservation and kick-start funding for a proposed new water plant, the town council last year approved a higher water utility rate for 2015. Historically, water fees have increased at a low pace of 1 percent annually. Beginning this March, the town’s water usage rates will increase by 5 percent and plant investment fees (PIFs) will jump by 10 percent, the steepest hike since 2007, according to town records.
“Rapidly increasing demands, especially in the drought-prone West, are placing an immense strain on this limited, precious resource,” Mayor John Warner said. “It is our duty to address this critical issue for our community.”
The 5 percent rate increase for residential and commercial users will raise the base residential usage charge from $31.26 to $32.81 over a two-month billing cycle, an increase of $1.55. That translates to a $9.30 increase annually per customer.
For customers beyond town limits, such as homes in the Blue River neighborhood, the two-month rate is 50 percent higher, according to the town’s 2011 water plant feasibility study. Those customers will pay $18.60 more per year.
Excess usage rates will also increase in turn. The base rate for maximum usage will drop from 12,000 gallons to 10,000 gallons per two-month billing cycle. Rates for excess usage will increase from $3.11 per 1,000 gallons to $5.00 per 1,000 gallons. These measures were put in place to encourage conservation efforts, according to a town release.
To assist customers with conservation efforts, the town will send individual water usage history reports shortly after the rate increase. These reports will detail two-year usage history for each customer. Town officials hope the reports can help guide and track conservation efforts, and they come paired with a link to water conservation tips on the town website.
Over the past 10 years, water has factored heavily into council discussions about the town’s future. After noting that water is essential to the community’s economy, natural environment and quality of life, the council made water-related issues a priority and in 2014 completed a comprehensive study on the town’s water system, which strongly recommends the addition of a second water plant.
The PIF increase of 10 percent for 2015 is double the historical annual increase rate of 5 percent. This rate hike is the first step for financing a new plant. Only new customers connecting to the municipal system pay PIFs.
The 2014 water study indicated that the town’s sole water treatment plant, a 41-year-old facility, will not be able to meet future demand. As a result, the town has started the process of planning for a new facility that will help the town meet future water demand as the town continues to grow.
While the town has made strides in conserving water and management efficiency, the current water plant is nearing 80 percent capacity. The current plant will not be able to support new customers outside the current service area, which is supplied by private wells with a high likelihood of failure.
Another benefit of a new plant is emergency readiness. In the event of a wildfire, natural disaster or mechanical malfunction at the current plant, a second water plant would provide a critical back-up system.
The study also found that the Breckenridge system supplies high-quality drinking water at a low cost to customers in comparison to other communities in Colorado. Funding currently comes from user fees, tap fees and water system maintenance fees. The upcoming usage rate and PIF increases are the first such increases. The town council and utility department have not yet decided on any future increases.
“The town is working with water system consultants, engineers and water rights attorneys to secure our community’s water future,” Warner said. “Increased water rates are just one part of taking steps to improve our water utility system. The council and staff are aware that increased rates are rarely welcome news, but we believe that our citizens will understand the critical needs for water conservation and system improvements.”
The Breckenridge Water System study and an informational Q&A on the rate increase are available on the town website at
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.