| VailDaily.com

Sustainability Tip: Sorting your recyclables properly means protecting the workers that sort them

Many are working extra hard to keep their families and communities safe during the coronavirus pandemic by cleaning hands and surfaces more frequently, staying home and maintaining safe social distances. 

Waste hauling is essential business for keeping our communities safe and clean. So while we’re all following orders to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, our trash and recycling is getting picked up and managed as normal. In order to keep those doing the work protected, it is important to be extra mindful of what you’re putting in your bins. They are exposed to everyone’s bacteria and germs, and the less they have to sort, the safer they’ll be from exposure.

Properly diverting and separating your waste is as important as ever these days, but you might be dealing with some extra items you’re not used to disposing of. Be aware of which bin these items should go into, and follow these tips to make sure you’re safely disposing of waste.

  • Disinfecting wipes should always be thrown away in the trash – never in your recycling, compost, or flushed down the toilet, according to Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.
  • Paper towels are normally compostable (not recyclable), but we have to be extra careful with anything that has potentially come in contact with viruses, according to Eco-Cycle. If you are or might be sick, please throw paper towels away in the trash, not in your recycling, compost or flushed down the toilet. Additionally, please do not compost any paper towels that have been used with disinfectants or bleach. 
  • Tissues are generally compostable. However, any tissues used for coughing or blowing your nose should go in the trash, not compost, if you are or might be sick. 
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that the coronavirus causing COVID-19 can be spread through food, so keep composting food scraps if you have access to composting. In fact, if you’re finding yourself cooking much more these days, consider signing up for the residential compost drop off program with Vail Honeywagon.

With more people in the home for longer than usual, the recycling and trash bins are filling up more quickly than they usually would, and it’s important to know what goes where.

  • Many recyclables are sorted by hand, so haulers are being extra cautious and may reject contaminated bins. Never put food or hazardous materials in your recycling bin.
  • Never put plastic bags in your recycling bin. Plastic bags in the recycling always pose a health and safety risk, as they cause shutdowns at the processing facilities and can compromise the health of employees if they rip them open to sort materials. If you bag your recycling at home, make sure you are emptying the recyclables and throwing the plastic bag in the garbage. 
  • Check the Eagle County Waste Wizard app if you’re unsure where to put an item. It’s always better to know before you throw, and the Waste Wizard is a great tool to stay educated on recycling rules, which can change over time. You can also ask recycling questions through the app and the Wizards will get back to you.

Nina Waysdorf is the sustainability programs coordinator at Walking Mountains. Contact her at ninaw@walkingmountains.org.

Outdoor recreation during COVID-19: Forest Service limits some access, backcountry open

While outdoor recreation is expressly allowed under Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order, there are still restrictions, and the White River National Forest is tightening access in some areas.

“Most backcountry access points and trails remain open,” the Forest Service said in a news release.

But the Forest Service will close developed recreational facilities like rental cabins, toilets and group sites through April 30, a Friday news release states.

The popular Hanging Lake trail is closed through at least April 11, and no permits are available for purchase until after that date.

The boat ramps at Grizzly Creek and Shoshone are currently open.

The Vail Pass Winter Recreation area is open from the Redcliff and Camp Hale access points, but the Interstate 70 parking lot is closed.

Backcountry trails are open, but that could change if authorities see violations of the social distancing orders.

“The Forest Service will be monitoring access points and adjusting management of these areas as appropriate to best meet social distancing direction and keep group sizes small. Safe and responsible use of our national forests will reduce impacts to local communities who may be at risk from the virus,” according to a Forest Service fact sheet.

Polis’ order, which took effect Thursday, tells all Coloradans to stay home for the next few weeks to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, unless someone is running necessary errands, working in an essential role, or going outside for exercise.

 “We want people to be able to get outside,” said Carrie Godes, spokeswoman for the Garfield County Public Health department.

Outdoor recreation is important, but further restrictions could be put in place if social distancing guidelines are not followed, Godes said.

“Right now it’s a privilege, and I would encourage people not to ruin that privilege. We want people to be healthy, to get outside, to breath clean air, to get physical exercise,” Godes said.

But locally, some activities and access to public lands has already been restricted.

“I think an example of that is Sunlight being closed, due to a number of factors, but some of those were social distancing complaints in the parking lot,” Godes said.

Godes also asked that people be careful in the backcountry since a medical emergency there would draw upon needed resources from local hospitals during the pandemic.

The governor’s order lists many activities as examples of allowable activities, such as “walking, hiking, nordic skiing, snowshoeing, biking or running.”

Those and other activities must assume social distancing, and some physical recreation should be avoided altogether under the governor’s order.

“I don’t know if there’s a way to practice social distancing in soccer that would be exempt,” Godes said.

Violation of the governor’s order could be punished by up to $1,000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail.

But local law enforcement would ask potential violators to voluntarily comply with the order first.

“The first step that they’re going to take is an educational approach, asking for compliance,” Godes said.

If the matter escalates, it could result in a cease and desist letter and eventually a citation.


Beaver Divers offers online scuba training during COVID-19

For many people, one consequence of the coronavirus pandemic is a sudden overload of free time. And while Netflix is a great way to spend it, if you’ve ever wanted to learn to scuba dive, now might be a good time to do it.

Beaver Divers in EagleVail is offering e-learning courses for divers of all ages and ability levels, and several of them are coming at discounted price points. Snorkeler, scuba discovery and inactive diver are now being offered for free, and the open water and advanced e-learning courses are $99. Advanced courses for divers with their certification are $139.95 and the beginner course is $129.95. After the e-learning course, new divers should sign up for the in-water training and get certified before starting the advanced courses.

Valerie Rivera and Cyrus Horne complete their in-pool SCUBA certification with Beaver Divers.
Special to the Daily

Beaver Divers offered online courses for a while before COVID-19, but this is the first time you can purchase a beginner class separately from the in-water certification — they usually come as a bundle.

“We don’t want to nickel and dime people,” co-owner Casey Zwaan said. “We’re dedicated to training divers to become the best divers they can be.”

Beaver Divers has been teaching Vail Valley locals how to dive since 1986. Husband-wife owners Casey and Emily Zwaan are experienced divers and Casey has been working in the industry for more than 40 years.

The shop’s online courses come from the Scuba Diving International certification agency, based in Florida. SDI was one of the first agencies to offer online learning, Casey said. Beaver Divers has been partnered with them since the beginning: Casey’s instructor number is 201.

Beaver Divers is also the only scuba pro platinum scuba store in Colorado, bringing a special distinction to the Vail Valley over stores on the Front Range.

But one of the main pillars of Beaver Divers’ business is the international scuba trips it offers. Now taking out third-generation divers, Beaver Divers loves taking people out on the water to explore at all skill levels. Many who have signed up for trips into the summer haven’t yet canceled in the hope of an adventure at a time when the ethos is the opposite: stay at home.

“I think they’re very adventurous people. A lot of people up here are. People don’t want to sit around and do nothing,” Casey said. “The idea is, the ocean isn’t that far away.”

“Locals only” coronavirus closures of Colorado public land may not be legal. But mountain communities say it’s needed for safety.

More resorts are banning uphill traffic as skiers flock. And as a second snowy weekend approaches with the entire state now under stay-at-home orders, more health departments and sheriffs are following that lead with both orders and requests to limit outdoor activity by visitors from afar. 

San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad on Saturday took the closures an extra step. He limited access to 220,000 acres of federal land to the roughly 700 residents of the one-town county. He joins the Southeast Utah Health Department as the only two jurisdictions to close public lands to everyone except locals.

But there’s a snag in those protective orders prodded by health officials and intended to stop the spread of COVID-19 in — and to — rural areas where local hospitals could easily be overwhelmed: Federal land policy prohibits limiting access to a select few. 

In times of an emergency or public safety issue, like a wildfire, high avalanche danger or an accident, local authorities can and do temporarily suspend all access to public lands. 

“I don’t think anyone would have a problem with that type of closure. But this seems to be an effort that quite explicitly discriminates against people who are not from the local area,” said Mark Squillace, a professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder. 

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Hike of the Week: Get outside for your mental health, but be responsible

Many of us here in the valley do not need to be told about the mental health benefits of time spent in the wilderness. We live here because we experience it on a daily basis. Getting outside, whether we actively acknowledge and plan it, is part of our self-care routine. However, since it is always nice to be proven right, scientific researchers have found a correlation between aerobic exercise — cycling, hiking, running (a study even lists gardening) — and a decrease in anxiety and depression. 

While we’re doing our part to help slow the spread of this pandemic through physical distancing, these activities that brought us to the valley can be even more important than ever. Local ski touring shops have seen online sales spikes and posts on online gear swap pages inquiring about borrowing or buying snowshoes happen daily.

But just because we’re seeing a positive trend in already frequent outdoor recreation, getting outside and reaping the benefits of our wilderness access doesn’t mean that we need to go hard. We don’t need to travel far, ski the biggest lines of the year, or suddenly run every inch of trail in Eagle County.

This is the time of the year where it is more important than ever to respect seasonal trail closures, many of which impact some of the trails that begin to dry out the soonest, including the Minturn Mile and the Avon Preserve trails.

Additionally, the Vail Mountain Rescue Group has asked our community to refrain from backcountry adventures that have the risk of straining our medical resources. They remind us that now is not the time to pick up a new sport or ski that line you’ve been eyeing for the past decade because medical staff are obviously busy and have shifted priorities to the coronavirus

However, luckily, no research study I’ve read has stated that the mental health benefits of getting outside and moving are any more pronounced for a 15-hour dawn-patrol summit mission than they are for a five-minute walk. Even if we are not getting deep into the wilderness, almost all of us have the ability to walk down the street or take a five-minute stroll up the trail behind our house.

When I was a freshman biology student in college, we had a weekly assignment to pick a “solo spot” in a wild place where we would spend 45 minutes every week. As a biology student, the goal was to observe and learn about our new solo spot’s environment not by traveling through it but by simply being in it. Here in the valley, our wilderness is full of wonder. The magic is right here in our backyard, not just miles up in the mountains.

Perhaps this is a time to take a different approach to the mountains and embrace the opportunity to walk five minutes up the trail and slow down. 

Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center. You can reach him at nathanbr@walkingmountains.org.

Aspen Mountain, Snowmass close for 2019-2020 season

Despite a blanket of new snow, the coronavirus-interrupted 2019-20 ski season officially ended Friday. 

That was the word from the Aspen Skiing Co., whose spokesman said Friday afternoon that Wednesday’s extension of statewide closures until April 6 by Gov. Jared Polis effectively shut down skiing this winter because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“… (We) are officially calling it a season at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass,” Jeff Hanle said in an email. “Crews are completing breakdown work now and will start to prep the mountains for summer construction projects next week.”

Hanle, however, left the ski season door slight ajar when it comes to Aspen Highlands, which he said is “closed for the foreseeable future.”

“If we are given advice that we can reopen sometime late in April by state and local health agencies, we would evaluate conditions for a limited opening,” Hanle said in a subsequent email. “This would likely be a bare-bones, limited services opening.”

Skico previously announced that Buttermilk is closed for the season. 

The state’s ski mountains closed starting March 15 under orders from the governor. Polis announced Thursday that bars and restaurants in the state will remain shuttered until April 30, in addition to other “non-essential services” like hair salons and barbers, tattoo and massage parlors and racetracks. 

Skico wasn’t the only one ramping down Friday amid the unfolding coronavirus epidemic. 

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority announced cuts to service across the board that will affect both local Aspen riders and downvalley riders, according to a news release. The following changes are in addition to previously announced reductions and will begin Monday: 

• In Aspen, all local routes will see reduced evening hours, with the last Hunter Creek, Cemetery Lane and Castle Maroon buses leaving Rubey Park at 11 p.m. The last Mountain Valley departure from Rubey Park will be at 11:15 p.m., while the last Burlingame bus will leave at 11:20 p.m.

• The Cross Town Shuttle will cease operation. 

• Direct bus service from Aspen to Snowmass Village will cease operation.

• The Woody Creek Shuttle will cease operation.

• Downvalley service will continue to run every half-hour throughout the day, then cut to every hour starting at 4:08 p.m. going upvalley and 8:15 p.m. heading downvalley. 

• The last local upvalley bus will depart the West Glenwood Park and Ride Lot at 9 p.m. 

• The last local downvalley bus will depart Rubey Park in Aspen at 11:15 p.m.

• BRT service will be reduced to every 20 minutes during peak hours and less frequently during non-peak hours, with service ending with the 10:47 p.m. bus from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. 

• The Carbondale Circulator will continue to operate.

• Ride Glenwood will cease operation.

The RFTA service cuts were necessary because of decreased ridership, staffing constraints and the need to continually disinfect buses throughout the day, according to the release. 

Those with disabilities can call RFTA at 970-945-9117 “to discuss your travel options due to the absence to service,” the release states. 

The governor’s closure orders, which are likely contributing significantly to RFTA’s reduced ridership, are hammering the state economy. At a media briefing Friday morning, Polis mainly focused on easing the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent containment efforts. 

He said that while Colorado will need help from the federal government, the state is ready to help immediately with various efforts to help residents and business weather the crisis. Those initiatives include loans for small business, ensuring that people who can’t pay rent and mortgages aren’t evicted or face foreclosure and efforts to keep utilities on if people can’t pay the bills. 

Polis asked financial institutions and landlords to be merciful to people who don’t have money because they’ve lost jobs due to the virus. He also said state income tax payments will be extended 90 days until July for all filers with no conditions. 

“This will get worse before it gets better,” Polis said. 

Black Hills Energy announced Friday that is temporarily suspending disconnections because of nonpayment and directed customers to the company’s website to “explore options to assist those hardships,” according to a press release. 

The company also asked customers diagnosed with the virus or experiencing symptoms of it to consider postponing non-emergency calls. Crews that do respond to emergency calls “will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and following health practices as recommended by the CDC …” the release says. 

Better health practices prompted officials at Aspen Valley Hospital to erect a heated tent in front of the facility near the emergency room to screen patients referred to the hospital with respiratory symptoms, said Elaine Gerson, chief transformation officer at AVH. 

Previously, a nurse wearing protective equipment would have to walk outside and evaluate a patient before allowing access the emergency room, which is currently restricted, said Dave Ressler, AVH’s CEO. 

Gerson emphasized that the tent is not a COVID-testing tent, but rather a place to evaluate patients with respiratory issues. 

Ressler also clarified statements reported Thursday that AVH had zero patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Four patients have been admitted with COVID-19-like symptoms, though tests for two of them came back negative. The hospital was waiting for the results of the other two tests Friday, he said. 


National parks are open — with some changes — amid virus

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Most national parks are open as a refuge for Americans tired of being stuck at home during a global pandemic, but despite now being free to visit, people may find it more difficult than normal to enjoy them as parks close visitor centers, shuttles, lodges and restaurants to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Parks are trying to keep up with ever-changing rules and recommendations from government officials who are urging people to avoid gathering in large groups but allowing them to get outside for fresh air and exercise as long as they keep their distance from others. The National Park Service says it’s adhering to the latest guidelines from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vowing to keep outdoor spaces open while giving park superintendents the power to close or modify operations.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Wednesday temporarily waived National Park Service entrance fees to make it easier for people to get outdoors and “implement some social distancing.”

“Getting out into the wilderness is perfect for what we call the ‘shack nasties’ — being cooped up inside your home,” said Trish Jacob, an employee of a backcountry guiding company near Rocky Mountain National Park.

But not everyone is on board with the idea of people descending on parks and their gateway towns to escape the virus.

Bernhardt’s decision to waive entrance fees will lead to overcrowding and puts park staffers at greater risk of getting the virus, said an organization that represents current and former National Park Service employees.

“It is irresponsible to urge people to visit national park sites when gathering at other public spaces is no longer considered safe,” said Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.

Executives at a hospital in Moab, Utah, implored state officials to slow the flow of people coming to see the red rocks and unique formations at Arches and Canyonlands national parks over fears the city’s hospital can’t handle an outbreak. In response, officials this week limited hotel stays there to people in town for work and banned in-person restaurant dining.

Nationally, park superintendents are devising ways to stay open while keeping people at safe distances from one another and trying to ensure park employees stay healthy. Many parks closed visitor centers, museums and entrance booths while rangers are stationed outside to field visitors’ questions. Though rangers are working, some parks warned people to be extra cautious and prepared, especially in places with wintry weather, because resources are strained amid the pandemic and rescues may be more difficult.

Zion National Park in southern Utah halted shuttles used by most people visiting its red rock vistas nestled in a narrow canyon. Tourists now must wait for limited parking to free up before driving into the canyon. Grand Canyon National Park stopped its shuttles and closed its restaurants.

In Northern California, visitor centers at several destinations managed by the National Park Service, such as Muir Woods National Monument, Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge, are closed.

Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado followed suit. Most facilities and roads in Yellowstone — which spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho — and Rainier normally are closed this time of year because of deep snow. The Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island in New York are closed entirely.

Workers at Grand Canyon have shifted from duties that put them in close proximity with tourists to other posts within the park.

“We’re just coming up with different ways for them to do their jobs that’s mindful of the CDC guidelines,” park spokeswoman Lily Daniels said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But for the elderly and people with existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority of those who are infected recover.

The Utah hospital’s concerns aren’t related to being out in the wilderness but rather the social interactions before and afterward at hotels, bars, restaurants and often crowded trailheads or entrance gates.

Expecting thousands of tourists this weekend, Moab Regional Hospital executives urged the governor to ban visitors. A subsequent prohibition on tourists staying at area hotels complicated matters.

“We’re just encouraging people stay home and stay in their residences and to wait out this two weeks and hopefully things will return to some kind of normal,” said Elaine Gizler, executive director of the Moab Area Travel Council.

Like the interior secretary, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah has encouraged people to enjoy the parks and open spaces where they can keep distance from others.

That’s just what Katarina Takahashi of Longmont, Colorado, did in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Takahashi trudged through fresh snow during a three-hour hike to Emerald Lake last week, passing other alpine lakes surrounded by towering peaks. The 3-mile (5-kilometer) trek was a much-needed escape into what she called “a stark and empty landscape.”

“It’s a very refreshing time to be outdoors, to get the health benefits of exercising, be in the sunshine, and get away as well from the anxiety I’ve felt, that we’re all feeling, about the virus,” said Takahashi, a 32-year-old freelance Japanese language translator who blogs about the outdoors.

Businesses in Estes Park, a gateway town for Rocky Mountain National Park, are watching virus developments warily. The town of 6,000 relies heavily on the park, which drew a record 4.6 million visitors in 2018.

“We are open for business until the city tells us otherwise,” said Jacob, who works for Kirk Mountain Adventures, which offers snowshoeing, fly fishing, hiking, backpacking and other excursions into the park.

Kirk employees were out this week leading snowshoeing and fly fishing trips — each limited to three people, not because of the virus but because many visitors want a more intimate experience in nature. But spring break business is slightly down, Jacob said.

Like its Moab counterpart, the Estes Park Chamber of Commerce is focusing more on helping its members deal with the virus than promoting tourism. The town’s already been hit by a statewide ban on dining at restaurants and bars.

“We’re not encouraging visitation to Estes Park right now,” chamber executive director Keith Pearson said.

If there’s any silver lining, Pearson said, it may be better that the first shock waves from the coronavirus are hitting now, rather than during the peak summer season. He noted that Estes Park has bounced back before: It was isolated by devastating flooding in 2013.

“By Memorial Day, if the worst can be in the rear-view mirror, that would be fantastic,” Pearson said.

Sustainability Tip: This is how recycling works in Eagle County

As our community moves towards protecting visitors in turbulent times, this week’s Sustainability Tip is about protecting functions in place that are saving our environment. Whatever outdoor activity drew you to the valley, there are plenty of ways that you can help us keep our mountains pristine. 

As a community, we work really hard to be sustainable stewards. Eagle County has a Climate Action Plan that guides a lot of the environmental work we do. In that plan, we have a goal of 30% waste diversion by 2030, meaning we want to recycle or compost at least 30% of the materials that typically end up in the landfill but don’t need to. Organics like food and yard waste, which could be composted locally, make up about 37% of our landfills. Recyclables make up another 37%.

A vital part of achieving our goals is the recycling program here in the county. In many of the public areas on the mountains and in the towns you’ll notice recycling bins paired with trash cans. Recycling is easy and important, but it can be confusing. The rules sometimes change when you’re not looking, and what can and cannot be recyclable varies depending on where you are and how you recycle. What is recyclable where you live may not be recyclable up here given our location, geology, and infrastructure.

Even within our county, we have two different types of recycling: single stream and dual stream. Some people have recycling picked up from their homes and businesses, and some people take their recycling to our drop sites located throughout the county. 

But if you’re visiting, you don’t need to know the nitty gritty of all that. The most important thing to remember is to always double check when you’re not sure which bin an item goes into. By following these simple tips, you can help us recycle right, reach our climate goals and preserve our environment. 

  • Pay attention to signs. Rules vary by town in Eagle County so take note of what can be recycled where. Plastics are the most confusing: Only plastic bottles, tubs, and jugs can be recycled in Vail, Avon, and Beaver Creek. That means no plastic cups!
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Contamination is no good for recycling, so if you’re not sure if an item is recyclable, it’s better to just throw it in the trash.
  • Always look for opportunities to reduce or reuse, then recycle. The three R’s are listed in order of how positively they impact the environment, so start by looking for chances to use less or repurpose things you already have. Small actions like carrying a reusable water bottle or shopping bag add up to make a big difference.
  • Download the free Eagle County Waste Wizard app. You can check if your item is recyclable – it’s always best to know before you throw.

How to keep hiking during the COVID-19 pandemic

With business, restaurant and mountain closures, it might feel as though, even if it was appropriate to leave the house, there wouldn’t be anything to do besides push through crowds at Walmart. But there’s still a chance to get outside and do an activity that gets blood flowing and keeps people of all ages entertained: hiking.

“Hiking, outdoor recreation are great things to do with your family and we encourage that in the coming days and weeks,” Governor Jared Polis said in a press conference last week.

Similarly, in a news release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the department stated that along with practicing social distancing and self-quarantining, residents and visitors in Eagle county should “continue healthy, non-group activities like walking, hiking, jogging, cycling and other activities that maintain distance from other people.”

Trails may get a bit more crowded with schools canceled and many out of work or working from home. Still maintain 6 feet of distance between your party and others.
Casey Russell | crussell@vaildaily.com

I went on a 4-ish mile hike yesterday, and didn’t even need to drive to the trailhead, which can be pretty easy especially if you live near the North Trail system in Vail. I walked from my house to the Davos Hill Climb in West Vail, which starts at the intersection of North Frontage Road and Arosa Drive (parking is available). You could also start at Davos Trail Road, where there’s a parking lot in a cul-de-sac.

There are a few switchbacks on the aforementioned trail, and it’s a bit rougher, but quite beautiful. The latter is well-packed, but there will be more people. Both trails merge and continue for another 1.5-2 miles from there, so you can even experiment and take one trail up and the other down. The trailheads are less than a mile from each other, so if you parked, you can get to your car fairly easily. I recommend starting with the first trail and ending with the second trail because your walk to your car will be downhill.

Finding a trailhead

These images from the Davos Hill Climb reflect conditions as of Sunday, March 16. Snowshoes aren’t necessary, but yaktraks or spikes would be helpful. The trail is doable without.
Casey Russell | crussell@vaildaily.com

New to the area and don’t have go-to trails? Here are my favorite ways to find spots.


Everyone knows about this app, so I won’t go too in-depth, but make sure you click over to map view and scour the nearby area, since you’re not really supposed to leave Eagle County at this time, per the CDPHE release. This app’s best feature is its difficulty rating, which is accurate most of the time.

Hiking Project

Basically AllTrails, but way better. I frequently find that there are more trails listed on this app, and I prefer the interface – it feels faster and less clunky to me. I like using this app to track where I’m at using geolocation in real time. Of course, that feature only works when I’m not too deep in the woods.

How to take great pictures on your hike

Another photography tip is to use subjects in the foreground to frame the background. In this image, the tree and its needles frame the trees in the background.
Casey Russell | crussell@vaildaily.com

In the age of ever-present technology, it’s hard to not want to capture your hike with a tiny digital image. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to take those amazing pictures on your iPhone, here are some photography tips to help you get the perfect shot.

Hold your camera horizontally

For the love of everything that is good in this world, turn your phone horizontally (unless your subject warrants a vertical, like trees at a close range). There’s a reason they call it landscape orientation.

Rule of thirds

Draw a tic-tac-toe board visually across your viewfinder/screen, (or turn on Grid when using your camera). Try to capture your most important subject in one of the areas where the lines intersect. That’s the rule of thirds – threes are pleasing to the eyes.

Check your light

On iPhones, turn on the grid by going to Settings > Camera > Grid. Then, when in the Camera app, tap the screen to get the yellow box that focuses and sets exposure.
Special to the Daily

Especially with phone cameras, you need a ton of light to ensure it will be that high resolution that phone manufacturers promise when selling you the thing. Personally, I like to shoot in the same direction that light is illuminating, so the sun is behind my back. It ensures your subject won’t be too washed out or dark, and you won’t get light glares, unless that’s something you want to capture.

Plus, try tapping your phone screen to focus on one exposure (amount of light the camera is letting in to create the image) and adjusting it until your screen shows you the most pleasing image.

Vail Veterans Program dines at Vail Firehouse

It was the dinner invitation I’ve been waiting to get for a long time. I’ve always heard about the final night of the Vail Veterans Program and the farewell dinner hosted at the Vail Firehouse. The stories of camaraderie, the changes from day one until the last night of the program and the hope that was restored were the stories that warmed my heart when I heard them secondhand. Now, I could hear them in person.

Cheryl Jensen, the founder of the Vail Veterans Program, asked me if I would like to attend their farewell dinner on March 5. No matter what I had on my schedule, I was clearing it to be a part of this. This wasn’t a fancy gala or a high–dollar fundraiser, it was simply a place to witness change, change that has happened all week and is celebrated here.

Jensen started the Vail Veterans Program in 2004. Their mission is to offer military injured and their families free world-class therapeutic programs designed to build confidence, create life-long relationships and tap into the freedom the mountains bring out in all of us.

The winter sports session in Vail gets vets on the snow with instructors from Vail’s Adaptive Ski and Snowboard School for four days of instruction. The evenings are filled with events like going tubing at Adventure Ridge, bowling and dinners around town. It’s become a tradition for Vail Fire, businesses and volunteers to come together to create a special night at the firehouse on the last night of the program.

“Vail Fire has told me that this is their favorite thing they do throughout the entire year,” Jensen said. “They work for days making the lasagna and putting the salads together and moving the fire trucks out and bringing the tables in. They roll out the red carpet for our group. We are so grateful to them and all the volunteers.” 

During the four days of the program, stories are formed. Stories about how an army captain with PTDS and chronic pain was able to move from the bunny slopes to Blue Sky Basin. There’s the story of the ambassador, who credits the Vail Veterans Program with helping him realize all that was still possible for him to live his best life. There’s the story of a donor who became a board member and now volunteers his time out on the hill. There’s the story of the vet who said this program saved his life.

Army Captain Suzanne Brown was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland when she heard about the Vail Veterans Program. “I really didn’t think I was capable or that it was something that I could do. I have a lot of chronic pain issues and PTSD and PTSD was really the biggest thing that was holding me back,” Brown said. “By the end of the four days, we were in Blue Sky Basin and we were on blue runs all over the mountain. She’s doing tremendously well,” said Shane Connary, a ski instructor with the Vail Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Program.

“It’s just been incredible. I am definitely a different person now. I feel like I can do things that I never thought I could do,” Brown said. “When I leave here, I’ve got to figure out what’s next now!”

Col. Gregory Gadson saw the change and used it to take his life story in a different direction after being catastrophically wounded by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad in 2007. Those injuries caused Gadson to lose both his legs above the knee and a lot of function in his right arm.

“Just three months after being wounded, I came to Vail with my family. My world was turned upside down and the Vail Veterans Program just opened my mind and my heart to the possible,” Gadson said. Gadson is now a part of the program officially as an ambassador. He also skied over 20,000 vertical feet earlier that day in his sit-ski and has the footage on three GoPro cameras attached all over his body to prove it.

Gadson remembers his first farewell dinner at the Vail Firehouse and how far the program has come. “In talking with individuals that are here for the first time, it really reinforces the purpose of this, and that there is so much more we can do, so many more people we can touch.”

Michael Galvin is involved in the Vail Veterans Program as a donor and a board member. “But, most importantly, I am a volunteer,” Galvin said. Galvin shared a story of how a veteran who was in one of the winter sports programs came up to him and Jensen and handed over a $100 bill. The veteran told them about how a really nice tourist came up to him in Vail Village and thanked him for his service and gave him a $100 bill.

“He told us that this program had transformed his life and that he wanted to give this $100 back to the Vail Veterans Program. That’s why I keep volunteering, that’s why I keep serving and why I keep donating,” Galvin said.

Galvin’s son was also inspired to become an adaptive ski instructor so he could work with the veterans in this program. This year, Galvin was assigned to work with one of the vets and his son was the adaptive instructor. “Talk about a family, the Vail Veterans Program is a family, and for us, it has a special meaning for my son and I and our family.”

At the end of the night, I thanked Jensen for the invitation and as we were saying goodbye, a veteran came up to her, gave her a hug and said a few words. He was asking her if there was a comment card he could fill out about his adaptive instructor. He told Jensen that he wanted to let the instructor know that he “saved his life.”

She told me this comment when he left and we both teared up, knowing that these four days are paramount in changing the life stories of these vets. 

To learn more about the Vail Veterans Program, visit www.vailvateransprogram.org.