Breckenridge Ski Resort continues its 25 days of pass-holder appreciation event through Feb. 10, offering access to exclusive deals and giveaways each day of the week.
The event, which began on Jan. 17, features an extensive list of premier perks, many of which involve food and drink at specific Breckenridge locations such as Sevens Restaurant, Pioneer Crossing, T-Bar, The Maggie, Ten Mile Station and the Overlook Restaurant. In addition, pass holders will also receive a 15-percent discount (excluding alcohol) at all on-mountain food and beverage locations before 11 a.m. and after 2 p.m. A free breakfast is also being served up with First Tracks on both Jan. 31 and Feb. 7.
In addition, anyone looking to stay the night will receive up to 30 percent off lodging when staying at one of the Breck-owned and operated properties. Once guests arrive, there are still other ways to save corresponding with each day of the week:
-Monday: 50 percent off demo packages at Breck Sports
-Tuesday: Pass holder First Tracks
-Wednesday: Complimentary Epic Mix racing
-Thursday: Aprés specials and live music at The Maggie
-Friday: Hospitality First Tracks (for guests staying in official resort properties)
-Saturday: Aprés with live music and DJ
-Sunday: Bud Light promo team at T-Bar; Super Bowl Sunday at The Maggie/T-Bar
On Saturday, Feb. 4, the Frisco Nordic Center will host the inaugural Frisco Freeze Fat Bike Race. The 8-mile course will make its way along the Nordic center’s groomed trails, the first time they have been used for fat bikes.
The race will begin at 3 p.m. with an awards ceremony at the Spontaneous Combustion bonfire at 6:30 p.m. There will be five categories for racers: Pro-Open Men, Amateur Men 18-39, Amateur Men 40+, Junior Boys 17 & Under and Open Women. Awards will be given to the top three racers in each category.
The Frisco Freeze is the second race in the Summit Mountain Challenge Fat Bike Series, which is made up of four races total including two in Breckenridge and one at Copper Mountain.
After the race, Frisco will host Spontaneous Combustion, a community bonfire and fireworks show. The event will also feature beverage and chili sales benefiting the Summit Nordic Ski Club. The bonfire will begin at 6 p.m. with fireworks at 8 p.m. at the lot on the corner of Summit Boulevard and Marina Road.
The town will be accepting Christmas trees to fuel the bonfire through Friday, Feb. 3. Trees must be stripped of all lights, tinsel, garland, tree stands and decorations prior to drop-off at the Frisco Bay Marina dirt lot. Only real trees will be accepted.
Registration fees for the fat-bike race vary from $20-$30. More information and online registration is available at FriscoRecreation.com. For further information about the tree drop-off and Spontaneous Combustion, please contact Nora Gilbertson at (970) 668-9132.
The Frisco Historic Park and Museum will kick off a winter lecture series next month that will feature talks every Wednesday from 3–4 p.m. at the museum’s Log Chapel.
The first lecture of the series, on Feb. 15, will feature stories about Camp Hale from 10th Mountain Division ski pioneer and WWII veteran Dick Over. Attendees will learn about the history of the camp as well as the training missions and battles its soldiers endured.
On Feb. 22, Glen Kraatz will give a lecture on the history of Summit County Mountain Rescue, which has been responding to calls for help in the backcountry for 44 years. Attendees will also hear stories of some of the group’s more daring rescues over its nearly half-century history.
Next, on March 1, district wildlife managers from Colorado Parks and Wildlife will meet with locals to discuss coexisting with the wide variety of winter wildlife species that call Summit County home.
On March 8, Dr. Sandie Mather, a local author and historian, will share some of the history behind the Dillon Reservoir project and the feats of engineering to build the enormous structure.
Breckenridge Ski Resort is full of runs whose names have little-known backstories, like “Frosty’s Freeway,” “Tom’s Baby” and “Debby’s Alley.” On March 15, local historian Rick Hague will shed light on where these names came from and reveal some of the ski area’s long-lost secrets.
The final installment of the series, on March 22, will feature a presentation from Bob Schoppe, co-author of Summit’s newest local railroad history book, “Summit County’s Narrow-Gauge Railroads.” During a slideshow, guests will enjoy photos and stories of a ride on the rails from Como to Leadville and learn all about railroading in the Rockies.
For more information regarding the Frisco Historic Park and Museum and its programs, visit FriscoHistoricPark.com or call (970) 668-3428.
The month of November is the tail end of the shoulder season in Summit County. Despite the slow start to winter this year, sales tax numbers remained strong for most of the towns in Summit.
Silverthorne saw its second highest boost of the year with November revenue coming in at nearly 14 percent over the same time in 2015. Year-to-date revenue is more than $9.5 million. Breckenridge saw slower growth in November, coming in 3.23 percent ahead, while remaining 8 percent ahead for year-to-date totals. Frisco brought in $563,778 during November, $45,000 more than last year. Dillon was the only town in the red for Summit, falling $4,185 short of last year. The town is ahead for year-to-date numbers by 2.7 percent.
Carri McDonnell, the finance director in Dillon, said that large business closures such as Sports Authority and Natural Grocers’ relocation to Frisco have impacted the town’s monthly numbers.
Marty Ferris, the finance director for Summit County, said that the unincorporated area brought in $230,000 through November, and is 5.39 percent ahead of last year. Copper Mountain Resort and Keystone Resort are the two biggest contributors to that portion of the county’s sales tax, and the county’s strongest months are when the ski resorts are up and running. Because many of the resorts had to delay their start dates due to a lack of snow, county sales tax revenue suffered as well.
“We’ve been down the last couple months, which is odd,” Ferris said.
She added that December is typically a stronger month for tourism and sales tax revenue for Summit.
For both Frisco and Breckenridge, revenue categories that are strongly impacted by tourists also saw slower growth. Restaurants in Breckenridge fell behind by .75 percent from November of last year, and short-term lodging saw a similar decrease. However, Brian Waldes, the director of finance and information technology in Breckenridge, said that part of this is because of the high rates of growth in previous years.
“That’s the first time we’ve seen that in a big month in a while,” he said. “If you go back over ’14 and ’15, (there’s) 16, 18 percent jumps from combinations of ’14-’15. It just can’t keep going.”
Restaurants in Dillon on the other hand, were up by 13 percent for November. McDonnell said that there were several restaurants in Dillon that opened recently. Both Dickey’s Barbeque Pit and Cheba Hut opened in 2016, contributing to the increase.
The Outlets at Silverthorne saw an increase in sales tax revenue for the first time in several months. The shops brought in $22,851 more in revenue than November of last year. For year-to-date revenue, the Outlets is still behind by nearly $100,000.
In Frisco, grocery sales tax revenue was nearly 16 percent ahead of numbers for November of last year. Grocery taxes in Frisco have brought in more than $1.5 million total through November of 2016. Silverthorne’s food and liquor revenue also saw a 13.73 percent increase for the month. Chad Most, the revenue specialist in Frisco, said that some of the boost may be from incoming seasonal workers.
“We really are, I believe, becoming more of a hub for local shopping, especially in relation to groceries,” Most said.
A projected drop in residential property taxes in Colorado could leave commercial property owners to cover the difference.
The assessment rate for residential properties in Colorado has stayed at 7.96 percent for nearly 14 years. But the Department of Local Affairs recently released a study that projects the rate will drop to 6.56 percent. The new rate would go into effect for 2018.
The tax cut comes from a measure in Colorado’s constitution known as the Gallagher amendment.
In the ’70s, Colorado saw continuous increases to property taxes. The amendment was passed in 1982 to combat rising taxes, and stipulates that residential properties only make up 45 percent of the state’s overall assessed value. Commercial value makes up the remaining 55 percent. The report from Local Affairs adds that in 1958 the residential rate was at 29 percent, but had quickly risen up to 44 percent by 1982. If home values begin to rise over commercial, the ratio needs to be adjusted to ensure homeowners are not covering more than 45 percent, causing a tax cut.
Once tax rates drop, getting them back up again is more complicated. Through Colorado’s Tax Payers Bill of Rights, rates cannot be raised without voter approval. In the 34 years since Gallagher was put into place, the assessment rate for commercial property stayed at 29 percent. Residential rates on the other hand have dropped from 21 percent to their recent rate of 7.96 percent, according to the report from Local Affairs.
“It’s very difficult to look at an amendment and just kind of think about its long-term impact,” said Beverly Breakstone, the Summit County assessor.
Breakstone said that the drop could mean that any taxes not covered by residential property owners get pushed to the commercial taxpayers, primarily business owners and people who own vacant land.
“It’s a very meaningful thing here,” she said. “It’s an inequity in the tax system.”
However, Bill Wallace, the public trustee and treasurer for Summit, said that the new rate would not have a strong impact on the county and that it’s meant to help equalize tax payments between commercial and residential property owners.
In Summit County, 13 percent of the total property value falls under commercial. Breakstone said that under the projected tax rates, that small group will be covering 38 percent of the property tax. The change also hurts the county’s revenue for the coming years.
‘The fact that the overall assessment ratio is dropping, coupled with the fact that commercial properties in Summit County are also going up considerably, we are going to come out probably pretty close to flat in terms of what our 2016-2017 property tax collections are, compared to what our 2018-2019 property tax collections will be,” said Scott Vargo, the county manager.
Vargo added that before the rate dropped, the county had projected a 5 percent increase in revenue from property taxes. He estimated that for the county about 30 percent of its revenue comes from property taxes.
But Summit is lucky because the high demand for housing and commercial property helps to offset the Gallagher amendment. In Vargo’s eyes, having flat revenues is better than losing it, which could be the case for counties that aren’t seeing growth in residential and commercial properties.
“It changes some of our longer term planning,” he said. “We’re not looking at it seeing a situation where we’re going to have to make significant cuts, which is fantastic news for us.”
Come August, Colorado’s newest professional bicycle race will roll through downtown Breckenridge.
On Jan. 25, event promoter RPM Events Group announced stages and preliminary plans for the inaugural Colorado Classic, a brand-new, pro-level cycling race scheduled to debut in Colorado Springs, Breckenridge and Denver this summer.
From Aug. 10-13, an international field of professional male and female cyclists will race more than 300 total miles on multiple circuits, according to the release, with start and finish lines for each stage located in the same town. Racing begins in Colorado Springs on Aug. 10 with men’s and women’s races before moving to Breckenridge on Aug. 11 for a men’s-only race. While the guys are in Breck, the women wrap up their portion of the Colorado Classic with a circuit event under the lights in Denver. The event wraps up on Aug. 12 and 13 with two men’s races, also in Denver.
“From the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic to the Coors Classic and on to the USA Pro Challenge, professional bike racing has become a part of our identity in Colorado,” said Ken Gart, chairman of RPM Events Group, the organization formed to oversee the event. “I can’t wait to once again show off this wonderful state to the world during the Colorado Classic. The Colorado Classic is being developed to appeal not just to cycling fans, but a wide array of Coloradans and visitors to the state.”
“I raced in Colorado in 1977 for the first time in the race known as the Red Zinger, which grew into one of the biggest bike races in the world,” said Connie Carpenter Phinney of Boulder, who won the first-ever gold medal in a women’s Olympic road race. “Now, 40 years later, I’m excited to see Colorado once again leading the way forward for men’s and women’s pro racing.”
Each day of the Colorado Classic is designed to showcase an interactive start/finish area, the release continued, and the daily routes will combine downtown circuits of each city with the beauty of Colorado’s legendary terrain and landmarks. The Denver portions of the race will feature a companion festival, with national music acts, a marketplace and much more. Details on those plans will be released in the coming weeks.
“Coloradans love pro bike racing,” said Derek Bouchard-Hall, President & CEO of USA Cycling, “and we’re extremely pleased that the Colorado Classic will continue the state’s proud tradition with both men’s and women’s events.”
The race is designated a 2.HC stage race by the sport’s governing body, Union Cycliste Internationale, meaning it’s one step below World Tour races like the Tour de France, Tour of California and now-defunct USA Pro Challenge. Organizers are expecting 18 domestic and international teams, comprised of six riders each. The women’s field is expected to draw some of the top professional cyclists in the U.S.
The 26-unit apartment complex, located just behind Breckenridge Stor-N-Go, is the first split partnership of its kind between the two municipalities in the countywide struggle to keep up with home demands for local employees. The rentals will require that tenants work a minimum of 30 hours per week within the county, as well as meet a number of other income and application parameters to qualify to live there.
Town and county officials are still hammering out a handful of those precise stipulations based on staff recommendations, but with full completion of the projected planned for June 30 — almost exactly a year to the day from groundbreaking — and a housing lottery on the first of that month, those details should soon be finalized. What is already settled, though, is that half of units will be dedicated to those who work in the Upper Blue Basin, as defined as Farmer’s Corner to Hoosier Pass, and the other half from throughout the county also including the Upper Blue area.
The 1.7-acre property is broken into two sections, one building slightly further up the hill and one closer to State Highway 9, with 52 on-site parking spaces. The east building includes 15 two-bedroom, one-bath units, while the west building has 11 two-bedroom, two-bath units.
The county and town will maintain two apartments each — four total units — for transitional employee housing while more permanent situations are found for individuals accepting a job with either government. That leaves 14 one-bath and eight two-bath — 22 total — residences available for rent.
Preliminary suggestions put monthly rent at $1,550 for the one-bath units, and $1,700 for those with two bathrooms. According to current metrics, that makes the apartments affordable for households with an annual income of $62,000 and $68,000, respectively, positioning them at 95- and 102-percent area median income (AMI) for homes occupied by two people. That pricing includes utilities, including gas and electric, trash service and snow removal, which is estimated at a value of about $150 a month depending on usage. Tenants would need to purchase their own internet or cable television.
“We feel we’re right in the appropriate rental range to fill up the building, and keep it highly functional,” Nicole Bleriot, county housing director, told the Board of County Commissioners at a Tuesday morning meeting.
The county and town will hash out those rental rates for the one-year leases in the coming months, and at least an additional month’s rent would be expected up front as a security deposit. Final pricing and the application process, including a fee and credit check, will be released in early April. Applications will then be accepted between mid April and mid May before the June lottery, and the two buildings filled by August. Those accepted into Huron Landing will need to prove monthly income of 2 ½ times the cost of rent.
Each apartment comes with a 4-by-3 personal storage unit for gear, and all are slated to for a single parking space, with the opportunity to rent a second from a supply of 20 for $40 per month on a first-come, first-serve basis. That leaves six spaces for guests, where a resident would acquire a temporarily pass from the Corum Real Estate Group, which will handle property management services.
A maximum of two pets will be allowed per unit at the complex, at a cost of $25 each month on top of a nonrefundable deposit. Residents will also be required to carry rental insurance, estimated at an annual rate of about $120, and no guns or smoking of any kind will be permitted. Subletting will not be allowed, and decks are expected to only provide for gas grills, patio furniture and possible some minimal recreation equipment like a single bicycle.
The two municipalities are still forming the renewal framework for rent increases, in addition to income and/or annual AMI caps. The thought is, should tenants shift to a total household income above a set ceiling — whatever it ends up being — during their year in the unit, their lease would not be renewed for the next term. It is possible renewal limits could be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the number of occupants in each unit, and whether or not they are related.
“What is appropriate in terms of a limitation should probably vary upon what kind of a household makeup you have in the unit,” said County Commissioner Thomas Davidson. “If you have four unrelated people, each with their own separate income, that’s one thing. If you’ve got a family in there, then that’s something else.”
The town and county will be in discussions on these restrictions leading up to the late-June completion of the complex. Those conversations will help establish rates and expectations for any future collaborative housing ventures.
Arizona would be the first state to feel the effects of Colorado River cutbacks if the water level continues to fall at drought-stricken Lake Mead, an environmental advocacy group says in a new report.
The Western Resource Advocates reached its conclusion as the vast reservoir behind Hoover Dam sits at 39 percent of capacity.
The group concluded that farmers would be first to feel the pinch; that suburban growth in Phoenix and Tucson could be slowed by cutbacks; and the cities themselves could face water reductions by 2020.
“These cuts are looming because Arizona’s ‘bank’ for 40 percent of its water supply, Lake Mead, is being drained faster than it can be filled,” said the report titled “Arizona’s Water Future: Colorado River Shortage, Innovative Solutions, and Living Well with Less.”
“Lake Mead has this growing bathtub ring, even though everyone is using their legal amounts of water,” said Drew Beckwith, an executive with the organization.
Central Arizona Project official Chuck Cullom said water managers have known for years that more river water is promised to users than enters the system — even in non-drought years. He said Arizona is not alone.
The Colorado River brings Rocky Mountain snowmelt from headwaters in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico downstream to Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico.
“There is a structural deficit that poses risk to all water users,” Cullom said.
But he added that “current projections show it’s highly unlikely that we would affect municipal supplies in this decade.”
The report release came the same week that outgoing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell warned that key drought contingency plans aimed at reducing the risk of water shortages in seven Western states remain unfinished as a new U.S. president takes office.
One issue involves a binational share-the-pain pact reached in November 2012 with Mexico that is set to expire. It lets Mexico store water in Lake Mead, which helps keep the lake above a trigger point where the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation would cut water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada.
The lake level on Friday was 8 feet above the line — down about 130 feet since 2000. The lake was last at full capacity in 1983.
Lake Mead is the biggest reservoir in the system that irrigates Southern California crops and provides drinking water to some 40 million people.
Federal water managers say it’ll take a lot more snow and rain than parts of the West have seen in recent weeks to make a dent in the drought.
“Even if we have a good water year like we did in 2011, that doesn’t undo 16 years of drought,” said Rose Davis, a Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman in Nevada.
In 2011, the river flow into the Lake Powell reservoir east of the Grand Canyon was 47 percent above normal, Davis said. Projections this year, so far, are for a 12 percent bump.
The bureau says there’s still about a 50-50 chance that a water shortage declaration will be made in August to trigger cuts in supplies to Arizona and Nevada in January 2018.
Arizona could lose 11 percent of its annual allotment, and Nevada could lose about 4 percent. The amount of water at stake could, combined, serve more than 625,000 homes. But deliveries to farms in Arizona would be affected first.
Nevada water managers say the effect would be felt less in and around Las Vegas, which draws 90 percent of its water from Lake Mead, because conservation and reuse programs have in recent years cut the amount of water the area uses.
Western Resource Advocates said it reached its conclusions after crunching data from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Project.
The Breckenridge Town Council will be discussing both the new water plant consultant review as well as the engineering report for Park Avenue at their work session on Jan. 24. In order to have time to talk about the reports, the council will be starting the work session an hour early.
After postponing the first reading of an ordinance concerning waste disposal, the council has moved the item to this meeting’s agenda. The council will also look at an intergovernmental resolution on collection, transportation and disposal of trash.
The council will be doing a first reading on an ordinance regarding a easement for a well on Coyne Placer Valley Lot B plot that was recently purchased by the town and Summit County.
Blocks packed with 25 tons of snow are all set up in and around the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge, ready to be carved at the 27th annual International Snow Sculpture Championships.
Visit town this week to see the sculptors in action, beginning on Tuesday with the official cannon start at 11 a.m. Artists will work live each day, and then all through the night on Friday until Saturday at 9 a.m. The awards ceremony will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m., and then viewing week will continue through Sunday, Feb. 5, weather permitting. The event is free and open for the public to enjoy.
“This outdoor sculpture gallery is erected in downtown Breckenridge within a matter of days,” said Rachel Zerowin with the Breckenridge Tourism Office. “And spectators can see the process as it’s happening.”
Check out the Thaw Lounge, located inside the Riverwalk Center, for some snow sculpture history and a chance to warm up from the outside chill.
The uniqueness of the medium of snow is very special, creating an impermanence as the sculptures are chiseled into beautiful forms. Part of the magic is that the sculptures are not meant to last forever, so they must be enjoyed in the moment.
Next week, artists like Tom Day, Tim West, Margo Jerfovitz and captain Keith Martin of Team Breckenridge will carve for 65 hours across five days. On Friday night when they work through Saturday morning, the extra cold nighttime temperatures will really help them refine the details in their pieces. No power tools are allowed, so it’s all about the intricacies.
SNOW SCULPTING FOR ALL AGES
Artists submit a design for approval in September. Day and company made a clay model of their sculpture — a St. Bernard honoring ski patrol. The model was one inch to one foot in scale. So a 14-foot tall sculpture starts as a 14-inch tall version in clay.
This is Day’s 22nd year participating in this competition. He said, on a phone interview while still in France at another snow sculpting competition, the art and the camaraderie make the Breck event one of the top five of its kind in the world.
Winners of the competition don’t get a bag of cash or an oversized check, but a commemorative token of achievement — each year has a different award. Doing well in the competition is of course a plus, but the event as a whole is really what stands out.
Kids can try their hands at snow carving as well this year. On Saturday, the Main Street Station Snow Sculpture begins at 11 a.m. and is open to children ages 9 and up.
This year’s theme will focus on animals. Young participants will use the same type of snow that the main competitors use, and will learn the basics of snow sculpting with instruction led by Mauricio Meneses, one of Breckenridge’s own artists.
Tools including small buckets, gardening tools, ice scrapers and glove covers, as well as multiple blocks of snow at approximately 3 cubic feet each will be provided. Space is limited and preregistration is recommended at RockyMtnEvents.com.
Breckenridge Creative Arts announces the return of the Fire Arts Festival, a four-day exhibition that runs from 5–9 p.m. on Jan. 26, 27 and 28, and from 5–8 p.m. on Jan. 29. Now in its third year, the free, family-friendly event features an array of massive, fire-breathing sculptures; performances by fire dancers while a DJ spins tunes; make-and-take art projects; and nightly demonstrations of hot arts, which encompass any art form that uses heat or fire, such as silversmithing, ceramics, candle making, glasswork and encaustics.
“The past couple of Fire Arts Festivals have proven to be extremely popular with locals and guests, especially with the activities being held in conjunction with the International Snow Sculpture Championships” said Robb Woulfe, president and CEO of Breckenridge Creative Arts, in a statement. “For our 2017 edition, we are expanding the program to include even more burning sculptures, pyrotechnical performances, and other spark-filled attractions.”
Guests are encouraged to attend the spectacle of the Fire Arts Festival before or after viewing the icy marvels featured at the International Snow Sculpture Championships, located just down the street in the Tiger Dredge Parking Lot, immediately next to the Riverwalk Center.
Highlights at this year’s Fire Arts Festival include large- and small-scale pieces by nationally known fire sculptors that will be illuminated in and around the Arts District campus, including flammable metal works by Keith D’Angelo, Ryon Gesink, Justin Gray, Shane Shane, Jamie Vaida, Joshua Birkmaier and Caitlin Morris. In addition, the campus’ outdoor kiln yard will be lit with raku- and wood-firing demonstrations, and the indoor studios will be aglow with flame-related demonstrations by local artists, including glass blower Todd Brower, silversmith Martha Peterson-Glomb, encaustic painters Victoria Eubanks and Marco Montanari, and candle makers Bernadette Foley and Chris Simoni with Breckenridge Candle Cabin.
“We are so lucky to have these creative individuals living and working within our community,” said Jenn Cram, director of public programs and engagement for Breckenridge Creative Arts, which puts on the festival each year. “The Fire Arts Festival is a celebration of fire and the hot arts. The Hot Shop is the studio where several of the hot arts come to life. We will be firing it up that weekend.”
Of course the fire sculptures return, this time lighting up an expanded area in and around the Breckenridge Arts District campus. Artist Jamie Vaida returns to unveil his “Music Tree,” a fire sculpture hewn of musical instruments he designed for partner fire arts festivals in Breckenridge and Telluride. Keith D’Angelo returns with a kinetic, interactive piece reminiscent of a mandala entitled “Operation of Creation,” and Ryon Gesink returns with “Kali,” “Jabberwock,” and “Mini-Spinner.” Several new sculptors add their talents to the mix this year, including Justin Gray of Graywrx Fabrication, who will showcase two fiery robots; Shane Shane from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who will show “Obelisk” and “Biodiversity Fire Sphere,” made from a 1950s-era, 500-gallon propane tank; and Joshua Birkmaier and Caitlin Morris of Gammaspace Artist Collective in Denver, who are bringing their large-scale work “Arcus Hymenoptera” to Breckenridge.
Recognized as one of the top mountain resort destinations in the world, Breckenridge is a beautiful and historic Colorado town that attracts over a million visitors yearly. Nestled in the heart of the Central Rocky Mountains, the town offers year-round activities to please outdoor enthusiasts, vacationing families and cultural travelers.
“We’re achieving exactly what we wanted to do, which is one to two open spaces per block even on the busiest days,” said Kim Dykstra, the director of communications for the town.
Although official numbers for parking are currently being reviewed by town staff, there has been an impact on the amount of people who use mass transit. Bus ridership within the town has already seen a spike. Dykstra said that in 2016 the town had more than 885,000 commuters take the Free Ride bus system in Breckenridge. The numbers for January are continuing to increase as well.
“We had our highest ridership number on a day basis on Jan. 14, last Saturday,” Dykstra said.
Nearly 9,000 riders got on a bus in Breckenridge that day.
The road to paid parking was a bumpy one, with the town council creating an advertising campaign acknowledging that the decision was an unpopular one. The website for the campaign, Breck Forward, included videos from councilmembers on how to use the parking kiosks and a breakdown of the long-term plan from the town’s parking task force.
“I don’t know why the damage was done and at this time we don’t have a suspect, although we are keeping a closer eye on the kiosks now,” McLaughlin wrote in an email on Thursday.
He added that there has not been any damage to the kiosks recently, but that they have had to clean stickers off of some of them.
The town has also had their hands full with incoming calls when the system acts up. Sergeant Lyn Herford with the Breckenridge Police Department said in an email that during the first week of paid parking the community service officers in Breckenridge were averaging 15 phones calls a day from people needing help with the kiosks. Herford is in charge of parking and community service in the town. She said that every parking machine has a sticker with a phone number that will forward to the community service officer on duty. The phones are managed during the paid parking window, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
Some of the errors are due to the machine. Herford said that they are working with the company to keep screen prompts up longer on the kiosks. Dykstra added that they are also working to improve issues with the 15 minutes of free parking, as well as credit card problems.
For people looking to park in town, who are having problems with the kiosks, there is also a mobile option. The app, PassportParking, seems to be popular with users. More than 13,000 people paid for parking in Breckenridge through the app in December.
Paid parking is not entirely new to the town. The town added streets within the downtown core to a list of parking lots that were already charging hourly. The town changed the rates for those lots, so that they better matched the new plan. The added parking locations have caused a bump in town revenue. Compared to last year, Breckenridge saw an additional $65,000 coming in from December parking. The money goes right back into the town’s parking and transit budget, improving walkability within town, general maintenance on buses as well as potentially adding new lines.
“We didn’t implement paid parking to make money,” Dykstra said. “It’s to help the businesses there, and we are finding that it is actually working that way.”
The western side of the city block leading up to the 4th Street and Blue River Parkway intersection in Silverthorne was covered in mounds of snow on Wednesday morning. Peeking out between the leftover masses of frozen ice is the small handful of businesses that call the area home.
The open spaces between the buildings give the block a barren look. While most of the businesses still have open doors welcoming customers, there is one exception. Sitting on the corner, right after 3rd Street, is the boarded up Old Dillon Inn. The building has been vacant for nearly 10 years.
Now, the 3.8-acre parcel of land is in for a reboot, after the town of Silverthorne issued a request for proposals on Jan. 13. Officials picked the area as the key component in developing a new town core.
“(We’re) really getting that focus on 4th Street, as sort of being that critical link across the community,” said Mark Leidal, the assistant town manager of Silverthorne.
Leidal said that back in the ’90s, the town acquired the land across the highway from 3rd up to 6th Street. Even then, Silverthorne staff and councilmembers had started creating the vision for a new downtown area that was more pedestrian-friendly.
“It’s sort of the natural extension of (the project) going across the highway,” Leidal said.
The town has been working with the two property owners on the block to ensure that “auto-oriented” businesses don’t come into the area. The town manager, Ryan Hyland, said that the meticulous nature of putting this plan together has made the process slow. The town had to work with the owners through rezoning, which took away some of the land-use options. Now he believes the community has finally reached the tipping point.
“(People are) seeing where that transformation is really starting to occur, and we’ve been talking about it for many years, but I think we’re finally at the point where it’s happening,” Hyland said.
However, planning for a project this big does not happen overnight.
Back in March of 2011, the town sent out an initial letter to property owners asking for participants for a focus group. The town partnered with a nonprofit, Downtown Colorado Inc., to create initial designs for what a new downtown area could look like. The graphic depicted a bustling street with large buildings on either side. Juxtaposed next to a photo of the current intersection, the difference is striking.
“It caused a shift in everyone’s thinking to see the potential of what could be there,” Hyland said. “That one graphic had so much power.”
But even with excitement from locals, and support from business owners, the planning process will take time.
Proposals are due to the town by 4 p.m. on March 3. From March 20-24 the town will interview selections, picking one proposal by the end of the month. From there, Leidal said that the rest of 2017 will be the planning process for the new crossing. Construction could potentially start as early as 2018.
Developers will have to create designs working with some of the features already in place on the block. There is a sewer line that runs directly through the middle of the land. There are also the businesses located there currently, which the town would like to continue working with, in addition to adding at least two restaurants and new tenants.
Ken Gansmann, who co-owns The Mint, has expressed to the town that he would like the restaurant to stay on that block. Gansmann also owns a portion of the land in question, and has been working with the town on the project. Gansmann could not be reached for comment.
Rob Lyon, the co-owner of the Mountain Lyon Café, said that he thinks redeveloping the downtown area will be good for the town, but has concerns about how construction will impact his business and what the plan will do to parking and traffic on Highway 9.
“When it gets busy up here, it gets crazy,” he said.
Traffic is a concern for the town as well. Hyland said that they have already started working with the Colorado Department of Transportation, which runs Highway 9. The crosswalk at the 4th Street intersection is one of the first projects with the department, to ensure the safety of pedestrians in the new development. The town has also identified nearly 450 potential spots for on-street parking in the area.
“It’s a huge opportunity,” Hyland said. “The big challenge now I think, it’s on our shoulders, it’s on the property owners’ shoulders to see if we can deliver a catalyst project in the downtown that will endure and create that history that many of the other mountain communities already have.”
After weeks of heavy snowfall, sunshine is finally back in the forecast for Summit County, providing a brief respite for snow removal crews that have been working double-time to clear roads getting as many as 50 inches a week. It’s meant a lot of overtime, snow hauling, and in the case of Frisco, a lot of towed vehicles.
“We were busy, for sure” said Summit County public works director Tom Gosiorowksi. “Hopefully the next heavy snow is a week or so away so we can catch our breath.”
While plowing routes have largely stayed the same, the heavy build-ups have required more man-hours for pushing up snow banks and hauling away snow to make room for the next storm.
In addition, the near-constant flurries throughout January have left crews struggling to move snow piles to storage lots fast enough.
“It’s not necessarily the biggest snowfall year we’ve gotten, but the sheer volume in such a short period of time makes it very difficult for our crews to get it out of the way and into the storage piles,” said Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dykstra.
In December, the town set a record with nearly 2,500 snow hauls, compared to last season’s 1,029 in the same month. January has already beaten that mark as well, and is on pace to be another banner month.
Even with a 25-person crew working overtime, the town has had to call in as many as 29 outside contractors to help haul away the snow.
“There was no one else to call to help us move it,” Dykstra said.
Gosiorowski said he approved nearly 100 hours of overtime in the past two weeks for his 19-person crew, responsible for clearing around 160 miles of county roads and highways.
Along with fuel, those time-and-a-half wages are the biggest added expenses when heavy storms roll in. And if the heavy snowfall continues throughout the winter, an extra cash infusion might be needed to keep up.
“We’re only three weeks into the budget year, so there’s not much panic there yet,” Gosiorowski said. “But call me in March if we’re still getting this much snow and I’ll probably be talking to the county commissioners.”
In Frisco, the frenzied plowing activity has forced the town to tow cars left overnight on Main Street that block the snow clearing.
According to a tally from the Frisco Police Department, 25 vehicles have already been towed this year, compared with 19 for all of 2016 and a total of 30 the year before.
“Main Street has always been a problem with people leaving their cars,” said streets foreman Brad Thompson. Plowing from sidewalks pushes snow into the curb lines of the street, he explained, and trucks need to be able to come through and clear it out.
Thompson said that while Frisco’s crews have been logging plenty of overtime, it’s difficult to gauge how much extra money a big storm costs because expenses are spread out across different budget items.
In past years, he said, the need to occasionally bring in outside contractors for snow hauling has driven up costs, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Silverthorne public works director Bill Linfield estimates that snow removal takes up around half of his department’s $2.6 million budget. In the 30-plus years he’s been with the town, he said, cost over-runs have never been an issue.
“We’ve always come in under budget by doing everything conservatively, and I would expect the same this year,” he said. “When we need to work longer hours we will, and this year has been like that so we’ve got some overtime.”
A big priority during this warm interlude, Linfield said, is to clear snow from drainages and inlets. That allows snowmelt to run off rather than accumulate in the roads, where it refreezes.
“With all of the snow this year, we pretty quickly run out of room and the streets get pretty narrow,” he said. “We don’t have time to haul as quickly, but we get everything done. It just takes a little longer.”
There’s also the question of where to haul all of the extra snow as open spaces near capacity. That can mean leaving snow piles in parking lots a little bit longer — and getting creative with storage space.
The county, for instance, just got special approval from state regulators to dump snow at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP) should the need arise.
“It’s just kind of ‘do whatever you can,’” said county engineer Robert Jacbos, who also heads up the road and bridge department. “There’s always something to do and not enough people to do it, but it looks like this week will have pretty cooperative weather.”
The University of Colorado Boulder is participating in a cloud-seeding effort, launched this month, to increase snowfall in the mountains of southwest Idaho with hopes of ultimately increasing power generation by hydroelectric dams.
The research project, Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds – the Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE), is a joint project headed up by CU Boulder, the University of Wyoming and the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. The idea is to increase mountain snowfall, which leads to more runoff in some rivers and increases subsequent power generation capacity throughout the year.
In many cloud-seeding efforts, silver iodide is released into clouds either from the air or by ground-based generators, said assistant professor Katja Friedrich, who spearheads the CU Boulder portion of the effort. For SNOWIE, silver iodide will be released by an aircraft funded by Idaho Power while a second aircraft, a King Air owned by the University of Wyoming, will take data to help scientists better understand the impact of silver iodide.
Natural precipitation in winter mountain storms generally develops when ice crystals form on a natural ice nuclei, like dust particles, and grow. Silver iodide crystals, which are similar in structure to ice nuclei, allow for the formation of precipitation particles like raindrops and snowflakes during weather events.
“The experiment will provide new insights into the atmospheric conditions needed for effective seeding of mountain clouds, building the scientific foundation for weather modification as a tool for precipitation enhancement,” said Friedrich of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC).
“While the experiment is being conducted in Idaho, the results can be applied to many mountain ranges in the Western United States,” said Friedrich, one of three principal investigators on the project.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project also includes the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.
Cloud seeding has been undertaken in a number of Western states, including Colorado.
Because of water shortages and drought in some states and other countries around the world, cloud seeding is seen as a potential way to increase water supplies for communities to irrigate crops. Cloud seeding is typically paid for by water resource managers, power companies and agricultural interests, said University of Wyoming Assistant Professor Jeff French, a principal investigator on the effort.
Friedrich’s CU Boulder team includes two graduate students and three undergraduate students. The team has deployed several instruments, including a radar system, high-tech precipitation gauges called disdrometers and a microwave radiometer to measure vertical profiles of humidity, temperature and water.
Two ATOC graduate students, Joshua Aikins and Matthew Steiner, are operating a Doppler radar system currently deployed on Packer John Mountain near Boise, Idaho.
Throughout the three-year project, CU Boulder undergraduate and graduate students will participate in the scientific research through independent studies, internships and doctoral theses. In addition, Friedrich will take four CU Boulder undergraduate students in the field for a week to give them exposure to experiment field work, including visits to the SNOWIE operation center and various instrument sites.
CU Boulder also is working with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research’s Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science Program, which is intended to broaden undergraduate student participation with an emphasis on underrepresented student groups in STEM fields, said Friedrich.
“Results from SNOWIE are expected to provide a new and important understanding of cold season precipitation — both naturally and augmented through cloud seeding — and will have an impact throughout the American West, a region that increasingly suffers from drought and water shortage,” said French.