Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Telluride woman tested on Everest

This year, 10 climbers died on Mt. Everest and 240 summited.

Telluride resident Hilaree O'Neill summited Everest this spring. But while she's proud of that, the sublime experience in mountaineering was on the adjacent 8,000-meter peak, Lhotse. She and climbing partner Kris Erickson became the first women to summit two 8,000-meter peaks within a 24-hour period. They were accompanied by the legendary Conrad Anker.

O'Neill told The Telluride Watch that climbing Everest was stressful, partly because the jetstream parked overhead, limiting the climbing window.

"The jetstream wouldn't move off the summit," she said. "There were winds of 100 miles an hour plus. It sounds like a fricking freight train over your tent; it's one of the most disturbing sounds I've heard: that jetstream charging over your tent."

Few windows for climbing were available as a result of this difficult weather, yielding large crowds of climbers on the steep slopes when the wind slowed.

Too, the winds had removed the snow, and climbing on rock with crampons is difficult for climbers who have no experience doing so, which applies to many attempting to climb Everest. And that creates a slow crawl both up and down. She said that she waited for an hour at the Hillary Step, a difficult and steep section of the ridge—where a simple mistake can send a climber catapulting thousands of feet down the side into either Tibet or Nepal. The Hillary Step is located a few hundred feet below the summit.

"At the end of the hour, there were 60 people waiting to get down, one at a time," O'Neill explained. People can literally freeze to death as they wait in lines.

Returning to Camp 4 at great length, she coughed up blood. But then the wind died and the weather warmed. And, after a rest, O'Neill and her two partners—Kris Erickson and Anker—set out for Lhotse.

Including his ascent of Lhotse, Anker was without oxygen for 31 hours while at altitude. O'Neill believes she has the lungs for climbing high without oxygen, too, and testing at Base Camp by Mayo Clinic researchers seemed to confirm that.

O'Neill has two young children at home in Telluride. That bothers some people, but not O'Neill.

"There are a million fathers up there -- a ton -- but not so many moms. It doesn't affect me when I'm climbing and it isn't a big deal amongst my team."

Romney passing hat in West's ski towns

JACKSON, Wyo.—Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, is spending time in ski towns of the West, hustling donations.

In Park City, Romney huddled with 700 of his best friends, described by the Wall Street Journal as a diverse set of new supporters and veteran, million-dollar bundlers. Also on hand were assorted Republican governors, strategist Karl Rove, and former Bush administration figure Condoleeza Rice.

Donors had to give a minimum $50,000 to be invited to the Utah event, the Journal said.

"You had extremely well-heeled, wealthy, elderly businessmen. You had younger entrepreneurs," one donor told the newspaper

In July, Romney will pass the hat in Jackson Hole, first at a cocktail party hosted by former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynnette, who maintain their official residence in Jackson Hole. The "donation" for attendance at the party is $2,500, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide. Cost of attending the subsequent dinner will probably be much higher, the newspaper adds.

Jackson Hole is a particularly fecund source for Republican candidates. In the 2011-12 cycle, residents of Teton County have donated $3.5 million to candidates, according to The Center for Responsive Politics. Foster Friess was the single largest donor, ponying up $2.3 million for Rick Santorum, a Romney rival in the Republican primary.

Anecdotal evidence of those who know ski towns holds that the wealth in Jackson Hole is unrivaled except perhaps by Aspen. Other ski towns and resort valleys -- Vail-Beaver Creek, Park City, and Sun Valley -- are all down the list.

Internal Revenue Service records studied by Jonathan Schechter, of the Charture Institute in Jackson Hole, say the same thing. Teton County routinely ranks No. 1 or No. 2 in terms of per capita wealth, often vying with the exurban counties of Connecticut that are home to Wall Street executives in New York.

Arts & culture drive economy in Jackson

JACKSON, Wyo.—Arts and cultural organizations are an important economic driver in Teton County, instead of being freeloaders, a new report finds.

The report was commissioned by -- well, don't be surprised by this -- a group called the Americans for the Arts.

The report found that nonprofit arts and culture support 1,011 jobs in Teton County, generating $4.7 million in revenue for local and state government.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide talked with several local arts official. Cindee George, executive director of the Center for the Arts, described the study as a "stamp of approval for arts and cultural organizations in Teton County."

Although dampened by the recession, according to the study, the economic value of arts and culture remained strong between a previous study in 2005 and 2010, the year for this study.

Link between rivers and real estate sales

ASPEN, Colo.—A $100,000 study is likely to be commissioned that seeks to spell out the relationship between the Roaring Fork River and other local waterways and Aspen-area real estate values.

It seems intuitive that there would be a connection between the rivers and high property values, said John Ely, county attorney for Pitkin County. The goal of the study, he said, is to find out if that relationship can be teased out and quantified. In doing so, that value will have to be compared against festivals, skiing and other recreational activities that are also thought to be economic drivers.

The value of this study? To use as a reference if plans are hatched that would diminish the volume of local rivers. Already, the local rivers are greatly diminished by transmountain diversions constructed in the 1960s and earlier, prior to Aspen gaining economic and political clout as a resort. The water is diverted from the headwaters creeks along the Continental Divide to farms and cities on the plains of eastern Colorado.

Water managers in eastern Colorado have statistical models that quantify the economic impact of the diverted water in terms of jobs and tax revenue generated. Pitkin County wants a similarly powerful tool.

Pitkin County created the Healthy Rivers and Streams Board in 2008 after voters approved a property tax, which generates up to $1 million a year.

Good, bad & ugly of Colorado's drought

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.—As forest fires spring up, the hot, dry and windy weather continues in Colorado, with no end in sight.

In Steamboat Springs, where temperatures crept above 90 degrees, the flow of the Yampa River fell to 82 cubic feet per second, compared to the normal flow on that day of nearly 1,600 cfs.

The low flows ended the commercial tubing season of three commercial outfitters. "It really hurts," outfitter John Kole told Steamboat Today.

Hoteliers tell the newspaper that bookings are up significantly, despite the drought. "We're just making little shifts to reflect the changes in the environment this year," said Tom Kern, chief executive of the local chamber. Instead of focusing on river activities, for example, the promotions now highlight rodeo, cycling and horseback riding.

Looking for a silver lining, Today's columnist Tom Ross points out that mosquitoes are also in short supply. "I know they are present in the high country this week, but the continuing bouts of gusty wind have blow many of them to Nebraska, never to buzz round our heads again," he writes. "Even in the high country this year, I predict that the skeeters' reign will be a brief one."

Aiming for economic & environmental resiliency

OURAY, Colo.—Despite the profusion of new hydrocarbons from the Bakken shale of North Dakota, the oil/tar sands of Alberta and deep-sea sites off the coast of Brazil, a great many people feel it's time to begin transitioning to a post-carbon societies.

Spawning this core belief, 40 to 50 people from Ouray County -- located on the edge of the San Juan Mountains, near Telluride -- met recently to launch a local affiliation of The Transition Movement.

The Telluride Watch explains that the movement was spawned in England in 2006 and has quickly spread. Rob Hopkins, the Scotsman who initiated the movement, was in Telluride awhile back, and he outlined the key goals: "significantly rebuild resilience (in response to peak oil)," and "drastically reduce carbon emissions (in response to climate change)."

These goals, he said, should be pursued with "joy" and with "neighborliness."

In Ouray, according to The Telluride Watch, there's plenty of enthusiasm for the base principles, but not a clear game plan just yet. But committees within the new Transition Movement affiliate have taken on the responsibility to start thinking about localizing energy, food and transportation.

Jasper train service likely to be trimmed

JASPER, Alberta—Citing an unnamed source within the rail industry, Jasper's Fitzhugh newspaper reports that passenger service of the Canadian, which stops in Jasper on its route between Vancouver and Toronto, will get trimmed in winter months. The train currently passes through Jasper three days a week: the cut, if executed, will yield just two stops a week.

Tough Mudder draws big crowd in Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C.—Tough Mudder, the obstacle race, continues to thrive this year. In Whistler, 14,000 people swam through ice cold water, dodged electrified wires, carried logs and otherwise negotiated a 16-km course at the Whistler Olympic Park. Also on the Tough Mudder network this summer will be a competition in Calgary. Rocky Mountain and Sierra resorts are likewise hosting a variety of Tough Mudder and similar obstacle races.

Skateboard accident sparks helmet proposal

BANFF, Alberta—Banff Mayor Karen Sorenson wants to explore whether helmets should be mandatory for skateboarders. Her investigation was sparked by an accident that involved an 18-year-old who was a family friend.

"All of a sudden, I felt this huge sense of obligation and responsibility to do whatever I can in my position to limit that type of accident as much as possible and keep skateboarders safe," she told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

"To be perfectly honest, I don't know what my end goal is, but I am interested in seeing research and information of where helmets are used and I am interested in getting information on head injuries in our town," she said.




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