Consistent snow appears to have finally hit the region, which is a welcome sight for most, but can also come with its own set of hazards.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), the state Department of Natural Resource’s program providing avalanche information and education, provides daily backcountry forecasts for 10 regions in the state including one for Summit County and Vail. Yesterday was no different, with predictions of moderate danger — a 2 on a 5-level scale — in the zone on north-, northeast- and east-facing slopes near tree line and above for Tuesday and Wednesday. Even with sparse coverage in many areas under current conditions, there is potential for setting off an avalanche big enough to cover an individual.
“Later in the year there are a lot of options for (backcountry) terrain, but there aren’t that many yet with deep enough snow to ride and not hit a rock,” said Ethan Greene, director of the CAIC. “That same terrain is also where you’re most likely to trigger an avalanche. Right now, the best riding conditions are also where there’s the highest avalanche danger.”
An average of 27 people die in the United States each winter from avalanches. The 2016 ski season was about normal for slide fatalities with 29, including five in Colorado.
Since consistent records started being kept in 1950, Colorado has led the nation in avalanche deaths, with 275 — nearly twice as many as any other state. January tends to be the most treacherous for both Colorado and throughout the country, with February a close second. That said, such incidents are still possible as early as October or November, warns Greene.
“There’s fatalities in every month of the year,” he said. “Something to remember about Colorado is the periods where we typically see more deaths are around midwinter, but we can have dangerous avalanche conditions any month of the year. It just depends on the weather and snow cycles.”
PLAYING THE ODDS
In the past decade, there have been two November avalanche deaths in the state, one in 2006 and another in 2011. The same midwinter-type conditions can exist later in the season as well in April and May, and it was April 2013 that saw the state’s deadliest avalanche accident since the ‘60s when six were buried — five of them perished — in the Sheep Creek drainage just north of Loveland Pass.
Avalanches are most likely on 30-to-45-degree slopes, but can be triggered on lower-angle inclines, too, or below these steeper slopes. Understanding such key elements of prospective slides, and how to properly evaluate snowpacks, are fundamental aspects for avoiding getting caught in one yourself.
Aside from keeping up to date on current conditions (colorado.gov/avalanche), the CAIC recommends always carrying life-saving rescue equipment in the backcountry now that we’ve entered the period of deeper snowpacks. That means every member of a crew packing an avalanche beacon, probe pole and collapsible shovel, no exceptions. For those desiring an even higher level of security, individual airbag packs are one choice, with some built right into backpacks, vests and coats.
Greene also suggested the RECCO Rescue System, which is a reflector integrated right into high-end ski and outdoors equipment. The device’s antenna transmits a specific frequency signal that gets picked up by detectors commonly used by search and rescue outfits.
‘KNOW BEFORE YOU GO’
Depending on one’s goals with amount of time spent out in the backcountry, various classes are available each year, from short online courses to multi-day safety seminars that include time in the field. CAIC’s own free avalanche awareness program, “Know Before You Go,” is a solid entry point and will be offered at Elevate coSpace in Frisco (711 Granite St.) at its season kickoff on Saturday, Dec. 10. That event, featuring OpenSnow’s Joel Gratz, runs from 4-8 p.m. and is open to the public, though a $5 donation is requested to go toward the sponsoring nonprofit groups.
Avalanches were also affirmed an inherent risk of skiing at the state’s ski areas by the Colorado Supreme Court earlier this year, meaning having some small amount of schooling on the subject in the unlikely event you encounter an inbounds slide could be valuable. The RECCO system and/or bringing along rescue equipment no matter where you are skiing or snowboarding is not a bad idea either.
“If you want to know about avalanches, but the backcountry is not necessarily your main goal, ‘Know Before You Go’ is a good start,” said Greene. “A little bit of knowledge can save your life.”
Generally speaking, because there haven’t been a massive number of storms at this stage in the game, a momentous or life-threatening avalanche is indeed less probable. It doesn’t mean one can’t happen, however — two compact ones were reported in Summit County just last week — or that a smaller and sudden layer of snow couldn’t push you into a gully or knock you off your feet and into a pile of rocks at high speeds. It’s why planning ahead and knowing the signs ahead of departure remains essential.
No deaths from avalanche have occurred in Colorado for the 2016-17 season, but it’s likely only a matter of time.
“Not yet,” said Greene. “It doesn’t have to happen every year, but we have an average of six killed each year, and the most likely outcome of the winter is more than one person will die of avalanche in Colorado.”
Summit County was treated to a fresh helping of powder over the weekend and into Monday morning as an early winter storm dropped four to ten inches of fresh snow on local ski resorts. Saturday and Sunday nights’ snow came from the first in a series of two storms passing through Summit, and forecasters predicted another wave of precipitation after a brief lull on Monday.
“There is an active cold weather pattern across the Western US, and these two distinct storms are coming in back-to-back,” said Joel Gratz, a meteorologist with forecasting website opensnow.com. “After this storm we currently have, the next systems are still ill-defined. I think we won’t see much snow Wednesday through Saturday, but there are possible storms this weekend.”
Forecasters at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center agreed, saying that while a storm was filling in on Monday afternoon, Tuesday would bring colder, drier air and clear skies would persist throughout the rest of the week.
Early on Monday morning, the National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory that included most of Summit County and remained in effect until 5 a.m. Tuesday morning. The advisory predicted snow accumulations of three to six inches across the High Country, winds gusting up to 45 miles per hour and visibility as low as quarter mile in some areas.
SLOWLY BUT SURELY
The storm was a welcome respite for ski resorts after a slow start to the winter that forced some resorts, including Breckenridge and Copper Mountain, to push back their opening days one week. On Monday morning, Breckenridge reported nine inches of fresh snow, while Copper Mountain and Keystone both reported six and Arapahoe Basin four. All of those ski areas are currently reporting mid-mountain base depths of 18 inches.
Still, the unusually warm and dry November has mountains across Summit County playing catch-up. So far, snowpack at Summit County ski areas is between 38 and 41 percent below average compared to previous years, according to an analysis by Open Snow.
This is a weak La Niña year, which can be associated with greater precipitation in the northwest U.S. and parts of Colorado that include Summit County, although forecasters caution that a La Niña doesn’t necessarily mean more snow in a given year.
“There is a rough correlation with La Niña, but all things are not equal and no predictions can really be made from it,” said Gratz.
The fresh snow has inched the resorts closer to opening more terrain, as operators hope to get more of their base areas ready for skiing in time for the holiday season.
“We’re definitely getting there,” said Copper Mountain communications manager Steph Sweeney. “We strive to get the solid base we need to make sure our terrain is safe and ready for our guests, and we will continue to work on opening more terrain into December.”
A TAMER STORM ON THE ROADS
Snowplows were out in force across the county as periodic flurries continued throughout the day on Monday. An accident near Georgetown prompted a brief closure of eastbound Interstate 70 on Saturday afternoon, and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) invoked a safety closure at the Eisenhower Tunnel Sunday afternoon, citing heavy traffic and increasing snowfall. Loveland Pass was closed Sunday evening due to avalanche danger and was re-opened Monday morning.
But the High Country was largely spared the mayhem that accompanied the season’s first snowstorm on Nov. 18, when traffic was snarled by accidents including a 20-car pile up on Interstate 70 near Evergreen.
“It was kind of what we expected for this time of year,” said CDOT spokesperson Tracy Trulove. “We have people up there watching very closely and deciding when to invoke the traction law, and we just hope people take us seriously when we do that.”
Trooper Colin Remillard of the Colorado State Patrol said that there were no major snow-related accidents in Summit County beyond typical small property damage and light collisions.
Every summer for the past four years, spectators have packed into Dillon’s Marina Park to watch WWII-era planes streak across the sky pulling remarkable feats of aerial acrobatics for the town’s “Highest Air Show on Earth.” Next year, however, the skies over the waters of Lake Dillon are likely to be quiet, as cost increases have all but scrapped any prospect of a fifth consecutive show.
“We are really disappointed because we love the event, but we looked at the proposal this year and decided it wasn’t feasible,” said Kerstin Anderson, who added that the quoted price was up to about $68,000 from $44,000 last year. Coupled with potential cost overruns that can accompany such big-ticket events, town officials decided the airshow would’ve been too big of a bite out of next summer’s programming budget.
Breckenridge local and former Air Force pilot Gary Rower has put on the event each year through his company, Rower Airshows. Rower has been a perennial headliner, engaging in mock dogfights and leaving a thick trail of billowing smoke in the wake of his 1942 Stearman biplane.
His wife and business manager, Gwen Rower, said the main reason for the price hike was the recent departure of Bob Evans from his role as Dillon Marina manager. An airman himself, Evans used to play the role of air boss and organize the event in his capacity as a town employee. Since he’s no longer on the payroll, however, the town would have to bring someone else in to do that work.
“He put in a lot of hours organizing the event, and I doubt he or anyone else would want to do it for free,” said Gewn Rower.
IN A HOLDING PATTERN
While the town hasn’t completely abandoned the possibility of having an airshow next year, it’s unlikely it would be able to find another vendor in time, due to both the complexity of putting together the event and the limited number of pilots who are able — or willing — to pull aerial stunts at 10,000 feet.
“We will put out an RFP (request for proposals) to see if there are other contractors who could put on the air show,” Anderson said. “We like the event so we don’t want to kill the idea, but we’re not very confident it’ll come in at the right price point.”
It’s not clear, however, if many other contractors could even put on a show over Lake Dillon given the myriad challenges of flying at such high elevation.
“Just like it’s harder for you to breathe, it’s harder for an engine to breathe,” said Gwen Rower, referring the High Country’s thin air, which she added could cut the horsepower of an engine in half compared to sea level. “There are only a handful of pilots trained to fly at high elevations — it takes a lot of training and specialized engines.”
On top of that, pilots have to fly from an airfield in Kremmling just to get to the event site, tacking on extra miles and fuel costs. And while there’s a slightly closer airfield in Leadville, Rower said that it was at an even higher elevation and had fewer places along the way to put a plane down in case of emergency.
There’s also the question of time. Even if Dillon were able to find a contractor that could offer a cheaper price, they would already behind schedule planning-wise, Rower said.
“It takes a whole year to organize this — getting all the vendors, the pilots, requirements with the FAA, the fundraising.”
Because of all the legwork required, Gary Rower probably won’t be taking his red and white Stearman to the skies for a High Country airshow next summer, but his wife said they were currently scouting for other possible venues in Summit County for 2018.
As for Dillon, Anderson said officials are hoping to find another event that could replace the airshow in the town’s summer lineup, but she couldn’t speculate as to what that might be.
Carl Scofield / Courtesy Breckenridge Tourism Office
The town of Breckenridge gets into the holiday spirit the first weekend in December with a variety of activities, from the Handmade Holiday in the Arts District to the Lighting of Breckenridge. On Saturday, Dec. 3, hundreds of Santas race down Main Street for the annual Race of the Santas. Below is a schedule of activities for the weekend.
HANDMADE HOLIDAY, FRIDAY, DEC. 2 TO SUNDAY, DEC. 4
Activities will take place at the Breckenridge Arts District; Friday, Dec. 2: 4-8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 3: noon to 6 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 4: noon to 4 p.m.
A winter open house where guests can stroll the Breckenridge Arts District campus to meet local artisans, tour open studios and create one-of-kind, hand-crafted holiday gifts. Presented in conjunction with the Lighting of Breckenridge.
RACE OF THE SANTAS, SATURDAY, DEC. 3
Join hundreds of holiday enthusiasts of all ages, dressed in festive costumes, to race down historic Main Street, Breckenridge. Those who can withstand the thin mountain air are encouraged to start at the front of the pack, as the top finishers will be awarded Ullr helmets and prize packages. Not a runner? Walk, jog or skip through the six-block course. Children dressed in holiday costumes are welcome to join their parents in the Santa Race. All proceeds benefit the local charity, the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.
LIGHTING OF BRECKENRIDGE, DEC. 3
Noon to 6 p.m.: Check out the Handmade Holiday Craft Market where you can pick up some unique gifts including jewelry, ceramics, candles and more in the Breckenridge Arts District located on Washington Avenue just off Main Street.
2–3:30 p.m.: Summit Choral Society will be singing timeless holiday classics in the Blue River Plaza.
3–3:45 p.m.: Gather in Main Street Station Plaza with the dogs before the Bernese Mountain Dog Parade. There will be light refreshments, free Santa dog costumes for people who would like to join in the parade (because even the extra large is way too small to fit a Berner).
3:30–7 p.m.: Holiday carols by the “Jingle Singers” will be strolling Main Street in Victorian costumes, singing classics and a fun modern spin on old favorites
3:45–4:10 p.m.: The Bernese Mountain Dog Parade will march up Main Street from Main Street Station Plaza to the Blue River Plaza. Anyone is welcome to join with their dog and be an honorary Berner for the day.
4:15 p.m.: Race of the Santas starts on Main Street by the Blue River Plaza. Registration and bib pick-up in the Breckenridge Welcome Center located at 203 S. Main St. starting at 2 p.m.
4:30 p.m.: Free hot cocoa and cookies in the Blue River Plaza
5:15 p.m.: Santa makes an early visit to Breckenridge to light the town tree. Don’t miss the moment when Breckenridge turns on the lights and turns up the holiday spirit as Santa flips the switch in the Blue River Plaza just outside the Breckenridge Welcome Center at 203 S. Main St.
5:30–7 p.m.: Visits with Santa at the Barney Ford Museum, 111 E. Washington Ave. Let the little ones share their holiday wishes with Santa and take a photo in the beautifully decorated Barney Ford House.
6:30 p.m.: After party with pasta bar at the Village at Breckenridge (535. S. Park Ave.), cost $25 per person, dogs welcome.
FAT BIKE OPEN
Celebrate the opening of the Gold Run Nordic Center — now welcoming fat bikes to groomed trails three days a week — with free demos (starting at noon) and a casual race.
The Summit County Friends of the Library will host its annual winter Book & Bake Sale on Friday, Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday, Dec. 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Buffalo Mountain and Mount Royal Rooms at the County Commons in Frisco. The proceeds raised from this event fund library programs and events at all three Summit County Library locations.
The winter book sale covers two rooms — one for non-fiction and another room for fiction books.
Stop by to find that perfect book for holiday gift giving. There will be hard cover books, CDs, books on tape and DVDs. The book sale hosts a “Bag of Books” time from 3–5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. Simply fill a bag to the brim with books, CDs, books on cassette tape and DVDs and for one price.
In addition to the reading and listening materials for sale, the Friends of the Library host a bake sale with many treats. Donations of baked goods such as pies, brownies, cookies, cakes and breads are needed. Please list the ingredients such as eggs, flour and nuts which may affect persons with allergies. Drop off time for the baked goods is by 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 2 or 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1. Helping hands could also assist with take-down and clean-up, starting promptly at 5 p.m. on Saturday after the book sale. If you are available to help, please call the Main Library at (970) 668-5555.
To learn more volunteer opportunities available and how you can help the Summit County Library, please visit the website at http://www.summitcountylibraries.org; “like” on Facebook; follow on Twitter and Pinterest; or simply come by and check with staff at any of our three locations, in Frisco, Breckenridge and Silverthorne.
Big changes could soon be coming to the Summit Combined Housing Authority.
The agency’s board of directors met Wednesday morning in Frisco to begin considering a reorganization of operations. One proposed restructure could almost entirely dismantle the award-winning entity, which is charged with helping community members attain long-term housing within the county’s towns and unincorporated areas.
With this alternative, internal personnel would no longer exist to offer current services such as homebuyer education classes, down-payment assistance, deed-restriction eligibility determinations and monitoring, or home-resale calculations, among several other programs. The idea is that if the housing authority’s shoestring staff of four full-timers cannot meet growing demands across a multitude of diverse duties, to either add employees, or essentially dissolve it altogether.
“There are a boatload of activities,” said Nicole Bleriot, interim executive director of the housing authority. “It is clear to me in my interim role that we’re not able to service the complete expectations of these activities as we are currently staffed.”
The other two potential options discussed during the meeting included simply hiring a new executive director and maintaining the organization’s present composition, or adopting a framework based on that of Summit’s 911 emergency response dispatch center. The housing authority’s board of directors would be retained in addition to its advisory group with that choice, though more of the support side of daily operations — resources like licensing and office management — would fall beneath the county government, while each municipality might tend to its own housing assistance programs.
The analysis of the countywide housing agency comes on the heels of its longtime executive director, Jennifer Kermode, departing on unpleasant terms in early October. Kermode, who’s for some years been thought of as a leader in the industry, asserts she was the victim of consistent discrimination and retaliatory tactics by the board — all of which individual members named in a corresponding document emphatically deny — and she is in the process of filing a lawsuit.
The board appointed Jim Curnutte, the county community development director, to a supervisory role, and subsequently Bleriot, currently the county housing director, to oversee the organization during the transition. The board has since directed the pair to review existing housing authority direction and performance to get a better handle on day-to-day function, as well as what changes might better suit the needs of each municipality and perhaps also improve consumer experience, to meet future goals.
“A lot of the problems that we’ve really started seeing to develop was a lack of oversight from the board on looking at what activities they were doing,” said Frisco Councilwoman Kim Cancelosi, board secretary. “In the last four years the staff at the housing authority started developing their own program plan and started adding in a bunch of different stuff that didn’t necessarily even come to the board.”
The disbanding of a relationship between the Summit housing authority and Clear Creek County was also briefly addressed in Wednesday’s agenda. The neighboring county previously had a member of staff working out of the Breckenridge office to increase their understanding of the purpose and procedures of a housing authority, but on Nov. 15 decided to develop its own individual organization. That arrangement will officially conclude next March.
An amendment to the projected 2017 housing authority budget to include $25,000 in legal reserves, up from $500, to contest Kermode’s prospective litigation was also briefly discussed. However, the board tabled that, as well as the conversation on what the housing authority’s restructure may look like, until its Dec. 7 meeting. Members noted they did not anticipate a final reorganization decision until at least January.
As part of a long-term project to reduce traffic congestion in town, Breckenridge will begin a paid parking program on Dec. 1.
For the past two years, the town has used a parking and transportation task force to look at the various traffic issues, in addition to hiring traffic consulting firm NelsonNygaard. Although the town had talked about building a parking garage at the F Lot, NelsonNygaard said that this could only worsen traffic.
From there the town began to take smaller steps toward lessening their traffic woes. Roundabouts and a trolley system were put into place, and walkability was improved. But the next step from the town is one that has been received with less than favorable input from locals: paid parking.
“Like any issue, change is difficult for people. However, once we explain the reasons for paid parking and the parking pricing, the reactions have generally been one of understanding,” said Kim Dykstra, the director of communications for the town.
The town has embraced the fact that paid parking will not be a popular decision. Ads in the Summit Daily, as well as on the town Facebook page, show a man splattered with snowballs with a line saying “we’re not expecting confetti.” The town created a new campaign around paid parking called Breck Forward. The website compiles information useful for locals and visitors, such as where the paid parking is and how to use it. It also has information on some of the other components in the town’s plan to mitigate traffic. Zipcar, a car sharing company, will be bringing in cars that will be available for rent starting Dec. 1. This will be Zipcar’s first entry into a mountain resort, Dykstra said. There will be a ribbon cutting at the Blue River Plaza Dec. 1 at 10 a.m. for the company.
The campaign has also included videos. One video features town Mayor Eric Mamula telling people about the technology aspect of the new parking. The kiosks are solar powered, and people can either pay for parking through the kiosk, or through the PassportParking Mobile Pay app. A newer video features town council member Jeffrey Bergeron showing exactly how to use the new parking.
Under the new system, parking will be free for the first 15 minutes; then it’s 50 cents for the first hour after that. For Monday through Thursday, the first additional hour ranges from 50 cents to $1 depending on where the car is parked. The third hour and beyond on Main Street bumps up to $3 because the town is trying to prevent people from parking there all day. There is a different rate for weekends, holidays and special events. The town is offering a merchant validation program. The program allows businesses to validate customer parking through the app. The town has included a tutorial on the site to help get businesses started. They will also do a webinar on Nov. 29.
The roll-out of the new system hasn’t been without its hiccups. At the town council meeting on Nov. 22 Police Chief Dennis McLaughlin reported that one of the solar panels on a kiosk had already been damaged.
“Breck PD reports that it was intentional damage but there is no evidence as to the reason,” Dykstra said. “However, I would like to emphasize that instead of using funds for solutions to our parking and transportation issues, the town will now need to use it to repair this machine due to vandalism, which is unfortunate.”
During the meeting the council also did a first reading on an ordinance updating town code that would allow the town to enforce new parking laws. The first reading was passed by all town council members, except Mike Dudick and Mark Burke, who were absent.
The town will continue to hold pop-up meetings to help the town transition into paid parking. People unable to attend these meetings can also stop by the Breckenridge Police Station during office hours or schedule a demo with Sergeant Lyn Herford.
The following is an editorial in the Denver Post today.
The Town of Breckenridge has a $3.5 million mess on its hands, and seems intent on using revisionist thinking to find its way out of it.
Vail Resorts has agreed to pay the town $3.5 million every year beginning in fiscal year 2017 through a 4.5 percent lift ticket tax that voters approved in November 2015. The owners of Breckenridge Ski Resort came to the table with the town and in good faith agreed not to oppose the tax and to guarantee the tax revenue would be at least that much every year.
Vail Resorts CEO Robert Katz says what brought his team to the table was the understanding that the tax revenue would be used to build a large parking garage in the heart of downtown Breckenridge that would also serve the Peak 9 ski lift. According to archives for the Summit Daily News, in the summer of 2015, the unambiguous expectation on the ground was that a new garage was in the offing.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the tax, 1,100 to 223, but now the city is backing away from plans to design and build a downtown parking garage with 500 to 900 spaces.
The turnabout looks bad for the town and sets a bad precedent that should be carefully weighed moving forward.
For once, big corporate attorneys didn’t get it in writing, however. Neither the ballot language nor the agreement with Vail Resorts specifies that a parking garage must be funded by the tax, as the tax also contemplates transit and other improvements.
We’re sympathetic with the current Town Council, which is grappling with the reality that a new study shows that adding parking capacity downtown probably won’t solve the congestion problems that snarl the community during ski season. The new findings and public outcry against the garage have complicated the desire to build the garage.
Shannon Haynes, assistant town manager, argues that the purpose of the tax was to create a long-term funding source to try to solve a massive congestion problem that has plagued the town for years. Asking the ski resort to pick up a share of that burden isn’t unreasonable (or outside the norm for Vail Resorts) given the amount of traffic generated by skiers.
This specific tax, however, is being paid by customers of Breckenridge Resort, not exclusively residents of Breckenridge. Many out-of-state skiers and snowboarders will show up, pay the tax on all lift-ticket sales at the resort (season passes are excluded) and not have increased parking options.
We would argue with its generous new funding stream, and the good-will agreement made with Vail Resorts in mind, that Breckenridge ought to be able to find a way to honor its commitment to building the garage.
Vail Resorts is a member of the community, too, a big employer and economic driver that fuels many businesses in the small mountain town.
Going back on this agreement, even if it wasn’t in writing, sets a bad precedent, not only for the corporate-town relationship, but for ski towns across the country looking for ways the industry can share in the civic burden of infrastructure, affordable housing and community building.
Should enough citizens truly insist that their elected officials renege, then the town ought to at least find some sort of significant compromise that leaves the biggest business in town feeling a little less sore.
Winter motor vehicle use season begins on the White River National Forest this Wednesday, Nov. 23.
Winter Motor Vehicle Use Maps identify routes and areas designated for “over the snow” motor vehicle travel and are available for free at all ranger districts. The Vail Pass area switched to winter use and “over the snow” vehicles on Nov. 15, but the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area, which traditionally opens the day after Thanksgiving, will postpone charging fees until at least Dec. 1 or until sufficient snow has fallen to begin grooming operations.
During the winter season, all wheeled vehicles (including bicycles) are limited to plowed routes or those opened up through special order. Fat-tire mountain biking is also allowed on roads that are plowed and open to wheeled vehicles, though currently all trails are closed to fat-tire bikes during the winter, in accordance with the White River National Forest 2011 Travel Management Plan.
The Forest Service is presently working with local International Mountain Biking Association representatives to develop a potential proposal for winter routes that would be open to fat-tire snow biking. The mountain biking organization is encouraging users and interested members of the public to work with local agencies on how the process will work and what routes can be considered or not. Until then, forest users are asked to obtain and adhere to the winter maps and special order to provide for visitor safety and protect underlying vegetation and wildlife habitat. Winter use ends May 20.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area expansion is officially a go.
The White River National Forest issued its final decision on the Summit County ski favorite’s significant enlargement, chairlift overhaul and summer activities additions late Monday morning, approving a majority of the original application requests. Of biggest note in the plan is The Beavers project, which will add more than 330 acres of skiable, lift-served expert terrain. New winter grading projects to enhance efficiencies and guest circulation, as well as construction of both an aerial adventure tour and challenge course for the summer, are other projects included in the U.S. Forest Service’s concluding authorization.
“The decision will enhance both the winter and summer recreation opportunities at A-Basin,” Scott Fitzwilliams, White River National Forest supervisor, said in a news release. “Lift replacements and grading will improve the experience for skiers and snowboarders. The summer aerial activity will reach a wide audience and provide experiences for an increasingly diverse recreating public.”
The town of Silverthorne Art Board, a citizens’ advisory committee, is seeking letters of interest from community members who would like to serve on an Art Selection Committee to make recommendations regarding permanent and temporary art installations in town. The primary focus of the committee will be selection of artistic displays in the new Silverthorne Performing Arts Center (SPAC), but other areas will also be considered over time. The committee is being formed to support the goals of the Silverthorne Arts and Culture Strategic Plan, which was adopted by town council in January of this year.
In an effort to strengthen Silverthorne’s downtown through vibrant and welcoming activities, the Silverthorne Town Council has pursued several new arts- and culture-focused initiatives. The design and construction of the SPAC is clearly the largest investment with an overall project cost of $9 million. The SPAC is funded through a public-private partnership between the town and the nonprofit corporation, Lake Dillon Theatre Company (LDTC), which resided in nearby Dillon for over 20 years before outgrowing their facility. With the town looking to enhance its identity through the arts and LDTC requiring expanded facilities, the two entities combined forces to create what Silverthorne Art Board chairperson and Lake Dillon Theatre Company Board member, Ann-Marie Sandquist, calls “the most ambitious economic development project in Silverthorne’s history.” Sandquist said in a statement she believes one of the very exciting aspects of the SPAC is the public spaces that provide an opportunity to showcase a variety of artwork that will be accessible to community members and visitors.
However, selecting artwork for public spaces is never easy. Therefore, the Art Board is looking to choose a diverse group of community representatives that will be tasked to make recommendations to the Art Board for art installations that fulfil the mission and vision of the town’s Arts and Culture Plan. The work will not be easy, with a broad list of values outlined in the plan. Through an extensive public process, the community said they desire Silverthorne’s art to be multi-cultural, diverse, welcoming, relaxed, natural, creative, progressive, playful, colorful, adventurous and energized. It’s a tall order, and the Art Selection Committee will be focused on fulfilling that request.
“The Art Board will select committee members that represent our diverse community, will support the vision and mission of Silverthorne’s Arts and Culture Plan and have discretionary time available to fulfill the goals of the committee,” stated JoAnne Nadalin, who serves as a town council representative on the Art Board, in a statement. “Anyone who is interested in this effort should submit a letter of interest. We are very interested in meeting you.”
Letters of interest are being accepted through 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16. Residency in Silverthorne is not required. More details, including information about how to submit a letter of interest, can be found at silverthorne.org or by contacting Recreation and Culture director, Joanne Cook, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vail Resorts announced that it sold the Inn at Keystone for $6.4 million. The company sold the property to Realty Capital Partners, based out of Dallas. Despite the sale, Vail Resorts has made a deal with Realty Capital Partners to continue managing the property.
After the season ends in the spring, the Inn at Keystone will close for renovations. Plans include a more open floor plan for the lobby, a new fitness center as well as new outdoor communal spaces. All guest rooms and common areas will be re-done with a modern rustic look.
The property will also be rebranded as the Hyatt Place Keystone, making it the first big-name hotel brand in the town. The property is scheduled to reopen in the summer of 2017 under its new name.
A few of Summit’s county officials are still reveling in their election night victories from this past week, but have even more to celebrate come the start of 2017 — some hefty pay raises.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 15-288 into law on June 3 last year to address the compensation paid to certain public officials throughout Colorado. The statute, which took effect Jan. 1, 2016, provides a major salary boost for all newly elected or re-elected officeholders upon their next swearing in.
Those eligible for the raise this upcoming year are Commissioners Thomas Davidson and Karn Stiegelmeier, who were each elected to their thirdand final terms in last Tuesday’s election. Previously at a pay rate of $72,500 — the same as the county assessor and clerk and recorder positions — they’ll take 30-percent increases to $94,250. Dan Gibbs, two years into his second term as the county’s other commissioner, will remain at the prior annual wage until winning a third term, should he run again and maintain the seat starting in 2019.
The county’s additional elected positions of coroner, treasurer, sheriff and surveyor are also due the 30-percent raise once current holders either win re-election or new blood eventually takes office. Because the treasurer job in Summit County also entails the role of public trustee, that position continues its $12,500 stipend on top of the new increase as well.
As a result, the coroner’s salary will move from $44,200 to $57,460, the treasurer and public trustee from $85,000 to $106,750, sheriff from $87,700 to $114,010, and surveyor from $4,400 to $5,720. Neither Beverly Breakstone, the present county assessor, or Bill Wallace in the role of treasurer and public trustee, will qualify for the new figures because each will be term-limited come 2018. Clerk and Recorder Kathy Neel has one term available should she seek it, Coroner Regan Wood has two and Surveyor Gary Wilkinson — who also serves as Frisco’s mayor — has one.
“It’s been a while since (the General Assembly) has made it back through the process to make salary adjustments,” said county manager Scott Vargo. “Keeping pace is a big part of those adjustments to try to keep elected official positions at a level commensurate with department head and managerial positions. In many cases, these positions — clerk, assessor, so on — are managing significant staff, monitoring considerable budgets and necessary services for the public.”
The last time public officeholders received a raise was 2007. As a result, Vargo noted, there have been a number of cases where second-in-command or assistant-type positions have been earning more than their bosses in elected office for several years. For the most part, the new law should solve that issue moving forward.
In addition, the recent law set new salaries for the positions of governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer and each of the state’s senators and representatives beginning in 2019. The language of SB-15 288 declares each position’s compensation as a percentage of the income of the chief justice of the state Supreme Court or county court judges. For example, instead of the previous $90,000 salary, the governor will make 65 percent of the chief justice’s income, while all legislators will make 25 percent of the annual salary paid to county judges instead of their current $30,000.
A provision of the recent law also accounts for cost-of-living bumps every two years, to be determined by the state’s General Assembly council starting in late 2017 based on the Consumer Price Index. Those updated rates would not apply, however, until each officeholder wins either election or re-election, because salaries cannot be adjusted midterm.
And not all salaries are created equal across the state. Earnings in each region are set in the law based on the size of each county. Sheriffs and commissioners in Boulder, Larimer and Weld counties make top dollar, whereas those in the much more sparsely populated Jackson, Kiowa and Sedgwick counties make less than half of the former. Summit County, along with Eagle, Fremont, Garfield, La Plata, Mesa, Pitkin and Routt, falls into the second of five categories for pay scale.
Finally, counties have the opportunity to opt out of the default salary increases set by the General Assembly, but would have to prove financial hardship to do so. Individuals in each position are also unable to forfeit their raises.
“The intent is also to maintain salaries at a level that encourages people to become more involved and entertain running for elected office,” Vargo said, “so we continue to have high-quality folks for these positions.”