As the owners of Aspen Skiing Co. near completion of purchasing Intrawest Resorts LLC and Mammoth Resorts in the next few weeks, it remains to be seen if the buying binge is over.
Steamboat and Mammoth ski areas are the big prizes in the two acquisitions orchestrated by affiliates of Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners. But Aspen Skiing Co.’s development of a Limelight Hotel in Ketchum, Idaho, has fueled speculation among some observers of the ski industry that Skico covets Sun Valley as well.
“That rumor has been out there for a long time,” Skico president and CEO Mike Kaplan said last week. There is no purchase being pursued, he said.
Skico spent $70 million acquiring land and building a 99-room hotel at the base of the iconic ski area. The Limelight in Ketchum opened last ski season. The project also has 14 condominiums.
A source in the Aspen hotel industry, who didn’t want to be identified by name because of business relations with Skico, said that size of investment only makes sense if Skico operates the ski area and has access to the customer base. It can help drive business to its hotel, the source said.
But Kaplan said Skico’s business model for the Limelight in Ketchum never depended on a bigger presence in the ski resort. The money raised by the sale of the condos underwrites the construction of the project and reduces the amount of invested capital, he said.
So far, 11 of the 14 condos have sold at prices ranging from $1.5 million to $3.9 million, according to Don Schuster, Skico vice president of hospitality.
Ron Throupe, associate professor at the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, said it is plausible that Skico saw an opportunity to open a hotel in Ketchum without a grander design of buying the ski area.
If Skico has what’s called a finance-free cash flow — more money than it needs for its operations — that might have fueled its interest in looking at other investments, he said.
“If a corporation doesn’t have local opportunities for whatever they’ve done in the past, they’re going to have to put their money to work some place else. That’s a possibility of what’s going on,” he said.
“What are they familiar with? They’re familiar with ski resorts,” Throupe added.
Since making its move into Ketchum, Skico has gotten very busy. It teamed with KSL and East West Partners earlier this year to acquire Snowmass Base Village. The partnership has embarked on a $600 million development push that includes a Limelight Snowmass.
Kaplan noted that Sun Valley and Aspen Skiing Co. are rare in the ski industry in that they are among a handful of family-owned resorts. The Crown family of Chicago owns Skico. The ownership will remain separate from an affiliate that will own the ski areas acquired from Intrawest and Mammoth.
Sun Valley is privately owned by the R. Earl Holding family, which also owns Sinclair Oil Corp. The family owns Snow Basin resort in Utah and hotels in various locations.
Kelli Lusk, Sun Valley’s public relations and communications manager, said Earl Holding purchased the resort in 1977. He was credited with restoring the luster to the resort. Holding died in 2013 at the age of 86. His family retains ownership of Sun Valley.
“There are no plans to sell it at this time,” Lusk said in an email.
Meanwhile, the Intrawest and Mammoth deals are progressing toward closing this quarter, Kaplan said. Skico chief operating officer David Perry left his post to become a consultant for the Crowns and KSL on the new venture. He also will have a role with the new company once the acquisitions are completed.
Perry said recently that the purchases could be completed in early August.
By acquiring Intrawest, the affiliates of Skico and KSL will obtain Steamboat, Canada’s Tremblant and Blue Mountain, Stratton in Vermont and Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia as well as a heli-ski business in British Columbia. Intrawest also holds a long-term operating agreement for Winter Park resort in Colorado. Skico and KSL will take on Intrawest’s debt, boosting the deal to $1.5 billion.
KSL is bringing two resorts it already owns to the table. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will be part of the new company.
“We don’t anticipate any of what I would call customer-facing changes for this year,” Kaplan said at an event in Snowmass Village this week. He also assured an audience that the purchases of all the ski resorts wouldn’t deflect Aspen Skiing Co.’s focus from the Roaring Fork Valley and specifically Snowmass Base Village.
“We’re staying totally focused and grounded here,” Kaplan said.
However, he added that Skico officials are “excited” that Perry is joining the new company, which hasn’t been named yet.
“He’s going to bring what we call our DNA and our approach into that new company and allow us to stay here and focus on what we’re doing,” Kaplan said.
The good news is that the recent construction of several wildlife crossings on Colorado Highway 9 north of Silverthorne appear to be working, according to state data.
Since the Colorado Department of Transportation completed two overpasses and five underpasses on a notoriously dangerous 10-mile stretch of road between Silverthorne and Kremmling, collisions have decreased by 87 percent, down from an annual average of 64 to just eight.
Now, federal, state and local officials have identified other hot spots where they'd like to build wildlife crossings, specifically on Interstate-70 east of Vail Pass and near Laskey Gulch, on Colorado Highway 91 near Copper Mountain and on Highway 9 north of Silverthorne and in the Blue River area.
The biggest obstacle is money, although officials were optimistic about possible funding sources at a public meeting to present the plans in Frisco on Wednesday night, July 26.
"This is not going to be a project that relies on one big agency," said U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist Ashley Nettles. "The funding is going to have to come from the community, and we have to get creative…. The Forest Service is broke, CDOT is broke, but I think together we can start thinking of innovative ways to make this happen."
While the U.S. Forest Service has spearheaded the planning effort, responsibility for actually building the crossings would fall on CDOT, an agency with roughly $11 billion in unfunded projects that is straining to just maintain current roads.
Thus, the most promising way to get the new projects off the ground would be to provide matching funds for CDOT with a mix of private donations and money from local governments.
That's how the Highway 9 project got done, with local residents pitching in with small donations and a single donor contributing $5 million of the roughly $50 million total cost.
All told, about 20 percent of the money for the project came from sources other than CDOT.
"There were contributors from all over the United States on that project," said CDOT planning and environmental manager Mike Vanderhoof.
To select the new priority areas, consultants worked with the Forest Service to analyze crash data and rank areas based on how important they are to wildlife movement — and how feasible a crossing would be.
Wildlife collision data, however, tend to understate the problem and are based only on cases where drivers stuck around at a crash scene and waited for a state patroller to take down an official report.
When collisions don't result in major damage or involve smaller animals, they often go unreported. Experts estimate that this happens for at least half of all collisions that occur, and carcass survey data from Blue Valley Ranch near Kremmling suggests that as many as 80 percent go undocumented.
Deer and elk are the most common animals to be hit, although moose, bears, coyotes and even goats make the list of casualties. Officials hope they can bring those down by replicating the success of the Highway 9 crossings.
"This is kind of the first and most successful system where we've been able to stop animals from getting onto the road and also mitigate the effects" of animal crossings, Vanderhoof said.
The Breckenridge Music Festival welcomes the Branford Marsalis Quartet to the Riverwalk Center as a part of their Blue River Series. NEA Jazz Master, renowned Grammy Award®‐winning saxophonist and Tony Award® nominee Branford Marsalis is one of the most revered instrumentalists of his time. Leader of one of the finest jazz quartets today, and a frequent soloist with classical ensembles, Marsalis’ most current recording with his quartet is Four MFs Playin’ Tunes. On this album, the song takes center stage, with the band members bringing their considerable musical expertise to bear, as they focus on each tune as an important musical entity unto itself and not merely a vehicle for showcasing individual talent.
Charles Gans from the Associated Press exclaims, “Saxophonist Marsalis leads one of the most cohesive, intense small jazz ensembles on the scene today…. This album shows that Marsalis’ quartet hasn’t skipped a beat with the change in the drummer’s chair, effortlessly playing often complex original tunes that are thoroughly modern while referencing past jazz masters.” The Branford Marsalis Quartet is one of the most innovative and forward‐thinking jazz ensembles around today! Tickets go on sale April 18.
The first edition of the Colorado Classic will include 96 of the sport's top men and 75 of the best women pro cyclists, including second-place Tour de France finisher Rigoberto Uran and Colorado native and three-time Olympian Taylor Phinney, officials with the Colorado Classic announced today. With a total field of 16 men's and 13 women's teams, the return of pro racing to the Centennial State is set up for a high-energy week of racing.
"This field represents cycling's fiercest competitors from 23 nations, including Kelly Catlin, Rigoberto Uran, and Colorado's own Taylor Phinney, " said David Koff in a statement, CEO of RPM Events Group, the organization formed to put on the race. "For four days, Coloradans will have a front-row seat for incredible racing and Velorama, a three-day music festival while the race is in Denver."
The inaugural Colorado Classic features cyclists that have done well in major international races, including one-time Tour of Italy stage winners: Luxembourg's Silvan Dillier of BMC Racing, Italy's Marco Canola of team Nippo-Vini Fantini, and New Zealand's Greg Henderson of United Heathcare Pro Cycling.
This year's men's field includes riders who have fared well in prestigious North American races: Trek-Segafredo will feature former USA Pro Challenge stage winners Kiel Reijnen of the United States and Laurent Didier of Luxembourg; Holowesko-Citadel presented by Hincapie Sportswear's Robin Carpenter, last year's Tour of Alberta champion; UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team's Janier Acevedo, a stage winner and podium finisher in the Tour of California; Canada's Rob Britton of Rally Cycling, third overall in the 2015 USA Pro Challenge; Sergei Tvetcov of Team Jelly Belly presented by MAXXIS, third overall in the 2014 USA Pro Challenge; Cannondale-Drapac's Alex Howes, a past stage winner of the USA Pro Challenge and Lawson Craddock, third place finisher in the Tour of California; and UAE's Vegard Stake Laengen of Norway, the sixth place finisher in this year's Tour of California.
"Our high-caliber field means fast-paced, competitive racing on courses that offer fans multiple chances to see the action," said Jim Birrell in a statement, race director with Medalist Sports. "Not only will they be competing on extremely tough terrain, they'll be ripping through the course multiple times, testing their own strength and endurance."
Among the Coloradans to watch are Rally Cycling's Danny Pate of Colorado Springs, Trek-Segafredo's Gregory Daniel of Denver, Alex Howes from Golden, Peter Stetina and Taylor Phinney from Boulder.
Riders to watch for the overall title include: Americans Brent Bookwalter of BMC Racing, Rally Cycling's Evan Huffman, Daniel and Carpenter, a recent winner of the Cascade Classic in Oregon; and Colombians Uran, Acevedo and Daniel Jaramillo.
"This is an exciting, new approach to bike racing in the U.S," said Phinney, a Coloradan and pro rider with the Cannondale-Drapac team, "and I can't wait to once again be a part of pro racing in my home state."
Women's stages of the Colorado Classic will be held Aug. 10-11 in Colorado Springs and Breckenridge, respectively. Teams for that event were announced last month. (Separate women's criterium races featuring pro, amateur and collegiate riders will be held Aug. 11 and 12 in Denver).
Notable women to watch during the two days include two U.S. Olympic & World Championship medalists from women's team pursuit, Kelly Catlin of Rally Cycling and Jenn Valente of Sho-Air Twenty20. Sho-Air Twenty20's Allie Dragoo recently won the Cascade Cycling Classic and will be one to watch.
Team ISCorp is coming in with three big names including the Schneider sisters, Skylar and Samantha and cyclocross legend, Katie Compton.
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling is bringing a very strong squad including Ruth Winder, Tayler Wiles, Katie Hall, Lauren Hall, Janelle Cole and Rushlee Buchanan.
A young U.S. rider to watch is Emma White from Rally Cycling who has had a successful year to date.
Pro cyclists in the inaugural Colorado Classic men's race will cover 313 miles and endure more than 20,000 feet of intense, high-altitude climbing in the following four stages that showcase the state's incredible terrain:
Stage 1: Colorado Springs (Thursday, Aug. 10) Presented by UnitedHealthcare
Stage 2: Breckenridge (Friday, Aug. 11) Presented by Helix
Stage 3: Denver / Peak to Peak Hwy out-and-back: (Saturday, Aug. 12) Presented by Drink RiNo
Stage 4: Denver city circuit (Sunday, Aug. 13) Presented by Centura Health
The Colorado Classic race routes will test the field and create new and unique experiences for spectators over the race's four-day run, Aug. 10-13. Courses start and finish from the same location — as opposed to point-to-point races — and stages 1, 2 and 4 are "circuits" featuring multiple laps on challenging courses. As such, the Colorado Classic promises repeated opportunities for fans to see the riders up close over the course of the event.
The Colorado Classic is sanctioned by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and designated as a 2.HC race, which is the highest category outside of World Tour races. The Colorado Classic is also part of the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour, which showcases the premier domestic road events in the United States.
The race will be televised on NBCSN and live streamed on NBC Sports Gold — NBC Sports Digital's live streaming direct-to-consumer subscription app. Paul Sherwen will call the action on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold, joined by analyst Christian Vande Velde and reporter Bob Roll.
Presented with four locations for the construction of a new parking structure in Breckenridge, town council finally settled on the Tiger Dredge parking lot as the best option.
With council coming to a general consensus on the location during Tuesday's work session, town manager Rick Holman said Breckenridge is ready to take the next step with the long-anticipated project that could ease one of the town's most pervasive and closely followed issues — public parking.
"We want to be clear," Holman said. "We're not studying it anymore; we're designing it."
Town officials are pursuing more detailed designs at Tiger Dredge and it remains a long way from a done deal.
“What council has decided on is well short of the 500 incremental spaces in (the) core of town with the bulk of new spaces at the ice rink. The ice rink is not in (the) core of town and is certainly not skier parking.”John Buhler Breckenridge Ski Resort COO
Council will need to approve the new designs and find a way to pay for the project, and the town must get approval from the state transportation department before any real work can begin.
"There's a lot of work to do between now and, hopefully, the next 10 months or so," Holman said. However, if everything goes according to schedule, he told council, work on a new parking structure at Tiger Dredge could get underway as early as next year.
In trying to decide where to build, council looked at the pros and cons, rankings and cost estimates at four different locations, all detailed in a report produced by Walker Parking Consultants.
The firm was hired by the town in April to study Breckenridge's options for a new parking garage at the four locations identified by the town. In addition to Tiger Dredge, the other three sites considered were the adjacent parking lots at East Sawmill and Wellington, F-Lot and the ice arena.
For the report, Walker Parking Consultants produced two options for each site, and offered up preliminary sketches to give council an idea of what each option might look like and how it could function.
Representatives of the firm said they considered more than two scenarios for each of the four sites but only included the two most appealing options for each one.
To compare the eight different options against each other, the consultants took into account increased parking capacity, impact on traffic, walkability to downtown and transit connections, cost per space gained, year-round usage, impact on the historic district and community as a whole, and the overall cost.
Both options at East Sawmill and Wellington and one option at Tiger Dredge were presented as the most appealing.
However, seeing that building at East Sawmill and Wellington would effectively cut off the existing alleyway there and leave one of the structure's walls facing traffic on Main Street, council expressed no interest in pursuing either option and scuttled any further aims to build there.
"I don't like Wellington at all," Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said during discussions. "On Main Street, to put a 50-year structure where you have a front on our historic Main Street on that north end, and then it covers the alley, to me, it's a no-go."
Other council members agreed, and Mayor Eric Mamula came out in favor of the first option at Tiger Dredge, which would occupy some of the land at F-Lot, provide direct access to transit connections and the Riverwalk Center, and effectively provide a new connection between Adams and Park avenues.
The structure could be built in phases and add 234 additional parking spaces at a cost of $8.9 million, according to the consultants' report. However, cons include a limited potential for future expansion and a slightly higher cost per additional space.
The mayor said he especially liked the idea of a low-profile building built at grade that didn't affect any nearby sight-lines. However, he added that building at Tiger Dredge would likely preclude building a parking structure at F-Lot, but could mean other developments on the property in the long term.
The consultants added that council could look at any of the options alone, or a combination of them, to address Breckenridge's parking problems now and in the future.
In addition to deciding to move forward with designs at Tiger Dredge, council also instructed town personnel to continue studying parking structure designs at the ice rink, though there appears to be much less support for moving on that project before beginning construction at Tiger Dredge.
However, Tuesday's debates didn't come without some criticism.
Chief operating officer for Breckenridge Ski Resort John Buhler twice reiterated the resort's position — once at the work session and again during the regular council meeting later in the day — that council has reneged on a promise made before the November 2015 election, when voters approved a new sales tax on lift tickets, to build a new parking structure at F-Lot.
"For months, the Breckenridge Town Council furiously campaigned on a promise that 500-700 (parking spaces) needed to be and would be built in the core of town on F-Lot," Buhler said. "All studies were done, they said. All they needed was a lift-ticket tax to pay for the structure and related traffic-transit improvements, they said.
"Two years later," he continued, "what council has decided on is well short of the 500 incremental spaces in (the) core of town with the bulk of new spaces at the ice rink. The ice rink is not in (the) core of town and is certainly not skier parking."
In response, Mayor Eric Mamula, who along with half of the current council wasn't elected until April 2016, after those promises would have been made, contended the town has already green-lighted roughly 600 new parking spots at the ice rink and is doing what it can to address the parking problem.
"I get it that you guys don't like the ice rink," the mayor said, "but we can't put (500-700) more at F-Lot, we can't put (that many) more at Tiger Dredge, (and) I don't think Sawmill-Wellington is really viable, and those are our options."
Over the last couple meetings, council members have repeatedly expressed an interest in working with the ski resort on public planning issues but said the resort has little interest in working with them until it sees council commit to building a massive 500-space parking structure at F-Lot.
That seems highly unlikely with the makeup of this council, but the mayor added, "If Vail Resorts (owner of Breckenridge Ski Resort) decides there's another solution that's next to the gondola and we can partner up, I am willing to work with you. I know the rest of the council is willing to work with you and your bosses to make that happen."
Vail Resorts is launching an ambitious effort to eliminate the environmental impact of its operations by 2030.
Rob Katz, the chief of the world's largest mountain resort operator, announced at an employee meeting Tuesday that the company was aiming to eliminate emissions, deliver zero waste to landfills and offset its overall impact to forests and habitat in the next 13 years.
The company is calling the effort: "Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint."
"Committing to green energy is not only good for the environment, but it's good for business," Katz said. "We talk about an environmental goal of needing to use less, but that's an important business goal too. It means we are being smart about not only the resources we use inside the company, but also how we use any resources outside the company … particularly when the environment is both our product and our passion."
“It is inspiring to see ski resorts voluntarily doing their part to cut emissions and waste streams and improve forest health.”Geraldine Linkpolicy director,National Ski Areas Association
Rejoice! The high water has subsided. Despite the intermittent rain storms that have muddied the waters here and there, the fishing has come right around and we are experiencing truly fantastic fishing yet again.
Drys, nymphs and streamers are all in the works right now — if you know what to throw and when.
Of course, the right fly to use is situational and changes day to day at any location.
Keep your eyes peeled for those BWOs with the light cloudy mornings, as well as PMDs.
We are experiencing truly fantastic fishing yet again.
My personal favorite is the extended-body BWO or PMD in size 20-22 (or even smaller).
If you are struggling to see the little flys, don't be afraid to tail it behind a Rubber Leg Stimulator, Amy's Ant or Chubby Chernobyl, which can act as an attractor and a visual cue for that strike.
For nymph rigs, I have been doing very well with Jiggy Princes, Squirmy Worms in the purple or pink, Kyle's Spring Creek, Mayhem BWOs and JuJus in the purple. For my personal fishing, my ideal rig is a Rubber Leg Stimmy to a Two Bit Hooker, to a JuJu or squirmy depending on the situation. A big ugly streamer with flashbou is never a bad call, but I generally use that just before leaving a hole as to not disturb the water too much (always a good idea to try the less-invasive rigs first). Never be above throwing a streamer!
What rivers are fishing well?
The South Platte has been improving daily, and we are excited to see the fisheries healthy and producing large fish.
The Colorado has come down and we are now able to fish some of our favorite holes more effectively.
The Eagle is rocking and rolling as usual. You gotta love a freestone! Remember folks: When fly-fishing, if you ain't dying, you ain't trying.
Eric Zamudio is a guide with Breckenridge Outfitters. Stop by the shop throughout the weekend for updated conditions, flys and everything for a day on the river.
RIVER FLOWS BY CFS
Upper Arkansas (Nathrop) — 1,060
Lower Arkansas (Salida) — 956
Blue River (below Dillon Reservoir) — 222
Blue River (below Green Mountain Reservoir) — 732
Colorado River (Windy Gap) — 211
Colorado River (Kremmling) — 1,300
Eagle River (Minturn) — 163
Eagle River (below water treatment in Avon) — 351
Eagle River (Gypsum) — 551
Middle Fork South Platte River (below Montgomery Reservoir) — 25.9
Middle Fork South Platte River (Hartsel) — 905
South Fork of the South Platte (Antero) — 48.2
South Platte at “Dream Stream” (below Spinney Reservoir) — 228
South Platte at Williams Fork (below reservoir) — 131
Note: All CFS (cubic feet per second) data taken on July 24 from U.S. Geological Survey data.
Completing your checklist of Colorado 14er hikes comes with an exhaustive physical toll, but that's nothing compared to a multi-million-dollar price tag.
Culebra Peak, one of the state's 54 — or as many as 60, depending on who's doing the counting — iconic 14,000-foot mountains is on the market as part of a massive wilderness estate on the edge of the San Luis Valley that borders the New Mexico state line. The more than 83,000-acre Cielo Vista Ranch, meaning "View of Heaven," can be all yours for a cool $105 million.
"Rarely do you see a private tract of land that has that type of mountainous areas," said Pat Lancaster, broker for the Mirr Ranch Group selling the property. "Just the alpine country, with all of the 13,000-foot peaks, let alone the one at 14,000 feet, it really doesn't happen in the lower 48 (states), or anywhere that I know of."
Spanning 23 miles of ridgeline on the eastern boundary of the Sangre de Cristo Range, Cielo Vista Ranch boasts 18 "13ers" in addition to Culebra and has been up for sale for about a year and a half. Interest in the property has ramped up recently, though, and Lancaster said he anticipates a deal may come soon.
The land has an official history dating back to before Colorado gained statehood in 1876, when Mexico granted it to a French Canadian trapper. Under his watch, part of what is today Cielo Vista Ranch was deeded to Mexican and Spanish settlers, which included rights for logging, hunting and grazing.
Colorado's first territorial governor eventually bought it from the trapper's descendants before sale to a North Carolinian logger in 1960. It changed hands again in 1988 for $20 million and became the source of a decades-long legal battle that nearly made it to the U.S. Supreme Court where the heirs of the Mexican and Spanish settlers sought to recoup their previously guaranteed access to the prized terrain.
Colorado's high court finally reinstated some of those permissions in 2002, awarding logging and grazing opportunities, but ending those rights to fishing or hunting. Bobby Hill, a Texas-based rancher and land speculator, last bought the property with business partners in 2004 for between $40 and $60 million.
MOUNTAINS FOR SALE OR RENT
Hill and his gang now look to nearly double their money on the investment at roughly $1,260 an acre. With the neighboring 172,000-acre Trinchera Ranch selling to wealthy hedge-fund manager Louis Moore Bacon in 2007 for $175 million, or approximately $1,000 per acre, the asking price might not be so outlandish in comparison.
As part of the purchase price, the next owner will also have the ability to establish how the ranch's commercial enterprises carry on — if at all. It could be bought, for example, and wiped entirely from Colorado's stock of bucket-list mountains.
"That is the whole thing, they can continue on or do their own thing and keep it a private sanctuary for family, guests, business associates — however you'd like to do it," said Lancaster. "But just the fact that ranch is what it is and the wildlife there, that's more of a selling point than the commercial operation."
Presently 14er peak-baggers must pay $150 per permit for groups of up to 25 people to hike Culebra, and reservations are open on Fridays and Saturdays only, late-June through the end of August, though there will be no climbs this year after July. Commercial fishing and hunting trips, among its 100 miles-plus of streams and trophy-level big game, are other activities that can be booked through the ranch.
The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative estimates that fewer than 1,000 people attempt to climb Culebra Peak — a Class 2 (of 5), 5-to-7-mile hike with about 3,000 feet of elevation gain, depending on the starting point — each year, at least in part due to the associated fee. In fact, because so few make the trek to the ranch, located 45 minutes outside of Alamosa in Costilla County, the mountain's northwest ridge route has no established trail, making for an even more unique experience.
THE PURSUIT OF PROPERTY
Whether someone should have a right to own one of the state's premier hiking destinations is a debate for public versus private land advocates. It's not a conflict the CFI — a nonprofit with the defined mission of protecting these geographical marvels' ecosystems, building and maintaining existing public trails and teaching hikers about leave-no-trace practices — plans to wade into.
"We're not principally an advocacy group, but rather focused on trail stewardship, alpine tundra vegetation restoration and hiker education," said Lloyd Athearn, CFI's executive director. "We've been expanding our interest a bit in trying to intervene on some of these access-related issues, but we're just dipping a toe into that and it's not a principal focus of the organization."
To settle a quarrel between hikers and existing landowners on the Sawatch Range's Mount Shavano, CFI raised about $50,000 to buy three mining rights at the peak's summit in late-2016 so it could begin to make trail improvements and ensure continued public admission. That followed assistance negotiating conditional access in 2009 on Mounts Democrat, Lincoln and Bross — the popular Front Range DeCaLiBron Loop that also includes Mount Cameron — and ongoing efforts to do the same for a section of Mount Lindsey in the Sangre de Cristos that traverses private land.
Another erstwhile dispute entailed a landowner who took exception to hikers crossing a section of his land along the main approach to Wilson Peak of the San Juans, occasionally threatening passersby with a shotgun. That was ultimately resolved when a public land trust bought that portion and conveyed it to the U.S. Forest Service for public right to entry in perpetuity — what the CFI plans to do with Shavano once the updated route is constructed.
That doesn't mean the private-public argument is dead, and Culebra Peak is the one that primarily perpetuates the clash.
"When recreating on the 14ers, people need to understand not all 14ers are alike and not all 14ers fall within public lands," said Athearn, a lifelong mountaineer. "There aren't police out there on the mountains, so people need to be informed about what the status is and willing to be responsible for following or not following the regulations.
"That may fly in the face of some people who say, 'It's on the list, I want to climb it, I'm going to climb it,' and 'Mountains should be free,'" he added. "But that's not the legal status. Maybe it's an inherent conflict in a list-oriented society, when some mountains may not legally be eligible to be on the list."
The Dillon Ranger District has reopened the recreation trails temporarily closed due to the Peak 2 fire.
According to a news release, fire crews have completed much of their work on and around the Miners Creek Trail. Approximately a half mile of the Miners Creek Trail, also section 7 of the Colorado Trail, is within the burned area of the Peak 2 fire.
The Peaks Trail, Miners Creek Road and Gold Hill Trail are also again open for use.
Deputy district ranger Adam Bianchi released a statement saying, "The crews conducted a lot of good work this past week on the Miners Creek Trail. They focused on felling and clearing snags in the vicinity of the trail that posed a safety risk. This section of trail can now be used again."
Signs have been put up on the Miners Creek Trail where the trail passes through the burned area. The signage will remind people to stay on the trail within this section for safety reasons.
"We cannot stress enough how important it is for people stay on the Miners Creek Trail for the section that goes through the burned area," Bianchi said. "Beyond the trail corridor, there are still snags and safety hazards created by the dead, down and burned trees."
At this time, the fire is not active. However, within the interior of the fire there is a chance some heat still exists and could flare up, and people should stay out of the burned area for safety reasons.
Currently, one engine continues to patrol and monitor the Peak 2 fire. Crews set up a monitoring camera early on in the week to monitor for any potential smoke activity within the perimeter of the fire.
The Peak 2 fire remains at 85 percent containment. It is not unusual for fires to continue to smoke on warm, dry days for weeks or even months. The fire could become active again, but firefighters do not anticipate much, if any, growth and the likelihood of the fire threatening communities is low.
A new addition at Breckenridge Ski Resort's summer fun park, Epic Discovery, entices children and adults alike to see if they can be as agile as a fox or bite down as hard as a beaver.
Just don't tell the youngsters it's supposed to be educational, because mixed in with the alpine coasters and slides, ziplines, bungee trampolines and mini golf course are numerous informational displays and interactive stations, complete with tidbits about the mountain environment, its wildlife and local history, and it's possible the children might learn something without even realizing it.
The new Alpine Camp at Epic Discovery was unveiled to the public during a Friday morning ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by a handful of local dignitaries, representatives of the ski resort, a conservation group and the Forest Service, and one of the state's highest ranking elected officials.
Speaking to the crowd, Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a mother of three, said she doesn't shy away from riding the coasters, tubing down mountains or taking on a ropes course, even at 63 years old.
The ropes gave her some trouble, she said, but more important is there are few pleasures greater for a parent "than tricking your children to have fun and learning at the same time."
And she wasn't the only one who spoke from that perspective.
"I know, for my family, the climbing wall, the coaster, the challenge course, that's what is going lure my kids out," said Chris Jarnot, executive vice president of Vail Resorts Mountain Division. "And they're going to learn along the way through the interpretative elements. That's Epic Discovery."
Vail Resorts owns Breckenridge Ski Resort, and the informational displays at Epic Discovery's Alpine Camp are not unlike what someone would expect to find at a major zoo, only this zoo is 11,059 feet above sea level and comes with all the aforementioned activities, like ziplines, that most zoos don't offer.
"We're embarking on an entirely new way to engage people in the national forest and public lands through play and recreation," said Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest. "That's what excites me about the future, it's a different type of engagement and much more intimate than in the winter. Here everything is slowed down a little bit for people to learn and engage."
A spokeswoman for the ski resort, Kristen Petitt Stewart, said she can also see Epic Discovery as a kind of warm-up run for people who might want to get into hiking or biking in the mountains but don't have much experience in the environment.
For most patrons, a day at Epic Discovery begins with a scenic gondola ride from downtown Breckenridge up to the base of Peak 8. It's about a 12-minute trip that no one seems to mind.
Once at the base, Epic Discovery takes on the feel of a small-scale amusement park, with all the aforementioned fun stuff, in addition to ticket sales, a meeting place for guided tours of the mountains and options for refreshment.
From there, a quick ride up the super lift seating up to six people per chair carries patrons to the Alpine Camp.
The camp sits at just over 11,000 feet elevation, and it's where visitors will find a handful of short hiking trails, the challenge course and a full 360-degree rock climbing wall with 16 routes and self-belaying ropes.
Also at the camp is one trail loop with a vast array of scattered informational displays, some of which are purely informative while others come with hands-on activities. One of the stations is dedicated to foxes and another compares the bite of a beaver to that of a human, which is actually surprisingly strong but not nearly as powerful as the buck-toothed wood-chomper's.
Then there' a new observation tower at the Alpine Camp, which sits no more than a couple hundred feet from the chair lift, features stairs wide enough for a wheelchair and offers one of the most breath-taking views of Breckenridge, the Continental Divide and the greater Rocky Mountains that Summit County has to offer.
In addition to teaching people more about the mountain environment and its inhabitants, Epic Discovery also stands as one of the resort's biggest summertime draws, and Lynne made sure to thank Vail Resorts for all the tax dollars it collects on behalf of the state throughout the year.
One other bit of good news, the resort is donating 1 percent of all its summer-activity revenue to The Nature Conservancy, a conservation group that promotes wilderness education and awareness.
Weather permitting, Epic Discovery is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Passes range from $40-$82. Individual tickets for some of the activities are available. For more info, go to Breckenridge.com and click the "Epic Discovery" tab at the top of the page.