Mountain Town News

Reports from Allen Best, ALLEN.BEST@COMCAST.NET

New summer activities but no alpine coaster?
TELLURIDE, Colo. – Telluride is getting ready to expand its on-mountain summer activities. There are to be family-friendly mountain bike trails, an aerial adventure park and canopy tours.

What about an alpine slide or mountain coasters? Both Vail Mountain and Heavenly, the first out of the chute to use new federal authority for on-mountain activities during summer, now have them. The federal law adopted in 2011 specifically bans amusement parks, but is silent about wheeled rides other than mountain bikes.

The Telluride Daily Planet’s list of activities planned on the mountain makes no mention of an alpine coaster. Jeff Proteau, vice president of mountain operations at Telluride Ski Resort, told the newspaper that the company, locally called Telski, had chosen “organic activities that can blend in with the environment and are non-mechanical.”

Bill Jensen, chief executive of the Telluride Ski Resort, said nothing about coasters, but did say this: “I don’t think ski resorts in the summer should turn into theme parks. I’ll leave it at that.”

The ski area’s new plan seeks to boost winter visitors, which run an average of 3,900 but with a maximum of 8,800 last year. An option is a new beginner area equipped with a Magic Carpet in place of an existing Nordic area.

Mixing pot and alcohol frowned on in Aspen

ASPEN, Colo. – Denver voters decided to allow marijuana consumption in specific public places. Many voters thought that it would result in bars and restaurants allowing places to imbibe.

But in recent months, reports The Denver Post, state licensing officials adopted regulations that bans consumption of marijuana on the premises of businesses with liquor licenses.
Mason Tvert, a marijuana legalization activist, called the new state liquor rule “absurd.” He said the state agency was “openly fighting a turf battle on behalf of the liquor industry. They seem to think it’s fine for patrons of bars and concert venues to get blackout drunk, but unacceptable for them to instead use a far less harmful substance like marijuana.”

But was Tvert missing the point? Even before the Denver Post story, local officials in Aspen said that they didn’t like mixing alcohol and marijuana.

“It’s a whole other monster we are not ready for,” Linda Manning, the city clerk in Aspen, told the Aspen Daily News.

Joe DiSalvo, the Pitkin County sheriff, favored legalized use of marijuana for recreational use but also opposed the mixing of the two intoxicants.

Meanwhile, a new report from the Valley Marijuana Council found few examples of accidental ingestion of edibles causing a problem in the Aspen area. Edibles constitute only 12 to 14 percent of total sales.
The same report, reports the Daily News, found no uptick in teen marijuana use since sales began in 2014. However, there’s been a reduction among both teens and adults of perception of cannabis as harmful.

Park City’s ambitions to become net-zero energy

PARK CITY, Utah – At last report, both Park City and Aspen were at the top of Georgetown University Energy Prize rankings, with Jackson Hole down the list among the 50 national finalists.

In January the winner will be declared. At stake is $5 million in prize money—but also reduced energy and hence fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Park City had put great muscle into this effort. It now gets 15 per cent of power from renewable sources but expects to ramp that up to 67 per cent by the end of next year because of a substantial increase in utility-scale solar provided by Rocky Mountain Power, the utility that serves Park City.

“We think it is impossible with current technology to produce no carbon,” said Andy Beerman, a city council member.

“So we’re looking at ways as a city that we can produce enough renewable energy that we can offset what we use”

The city government has articulated a goal of having a net-zero energy use for municipal operations by 2022.

At an event covered by the Park Record, Beerman also reported that Park City will soon be getting six electric buses, the first of what will be about 50 electric buses in the next decade.
Meanwhile, Park City and Summit county energy strategies are using elementary school students to communicate the idea of switching to low-energy LED bulbs.

“The students have pestered their parents into switching over 10,000 light bulbs we’ve documented so far,” said Mary Christa Smith, project manager for Summit Community Power Works.

In addition to switching to LED bulbs, 95 families installed solar panels through the Mountain Town Community Solar Program. Many more are making the move to weatherize their home, Smith told ABC 4 in Salt Lake City.

“Already our community has saved $5 million on their utility bills in the first 18 months,” said Smith.

Learning sustainability while still in high school

WHITEFISH, Mont. – Two-thirds of the $1.7 million needed to build the Center for Applied Sustainability at Whitefish High School has been secured from private sources. Construction is expected to begin next spring.

The Whitefish Pilot explains that the center is to include a greenhouse, laboratories, gardens, and an experimental forest.

Energy for the three acre campus is to come from passive solar, solar photovoltaic, and geothermal/geoexchange. While unable to provide enough energy to meet demand mid-winter, over the course of a year it is to be net-zero in its demands for external energy.
Mark Van Everen, of Bridgewater Builders, told the Pilot that achieving that net-zero goal won’t be easy.

“It’s difficult to do in Montana,” he said. “We live in a harsh climate.”

Scott Elden, of Montana Creative Architecture + Design, said investing too much in current technology is to be avoided, given the rapid rate of change in solar technology.

“If tech goes the way we hope it does, then it’s reasonable that the amount of space required to be covered by solar panels would go down,” he said.

The Green Schools Alliance, an international organization, hopes that the Whitefish school takes a lead among several Montana schools in helping other schools get sustainability projects started.