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Husband and wife duo win Man of the Cliff, again

AVON — Sean and Kelly Hanagan were last named Man and Woman of the Cliff in 2014.

Kelly won again in 2015, and Sean has been looking for glory ever since. In that time, a tradition of the take-home trophy has been initiated for Man of the Cliff — and despite the fact that Sean’s name is on it three times, the trophy has never made its way into the Hanagan home.

On Sunday, however, Sean took the top honor in the 2019 competition to take the trophy home. And while there’s no women’s take-home trophy, Kelly joined Sean on the podium as the Woman of the Cliff for 2019.

To win both the men’s and women’s divisions, Sean and Kelly had to work their way through a large field of competitors from all over the state in competitions including ax throw, keg toss, spear throw, caber toss, pulp toss, hammer toss, archery and speed wood chop.

When asked where the trophy will go, Sean suggested the headboard of their bed. Kelly frowned at the suggestion.

“Where else are you gonna put it?” he asked.

While the couple has spent long hours practicing for the competition in years past, Kelly said this year they didn’t have as much time for preparation. Sean won in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

“We were able to draw from our experience,” Kelly said.

The Man of the Cliff competition is an annual event that started in Red Cliff in 2009, moved to Avon a few years later and is now celebrating 11 years of flannel-infused fun.

The event has generated more than $100,000 for local nonprofits. In 2019, Man of the Cliff partnered with Can Do Multiple Sclerosis, giving 100% percent of the event’s proceeds to the Avon-based nonprofit.

I-70 EB seeing delays in Dowd Junction as construction continues

Interstate 70 headed eastbound is facing delays on Sunday evening with slow traffic in the Dowd Junction area.

The highway is down to one lane in both directions as crews wrap up work on a more than $10 million construction project, which is expected to finish in the coming weeks.

The east bound direction is seeing the worst of it with traffic reduced to intermittent stops and speeds of 5 mph.

Interstate 70 is the only passage through Dowd Junction for cars and trucks. Over the summer in Dowd Junction, crews resurfaced the road, lengthened an on-ramp in the east bound direction at mile marker 171, and are currently in the process of installing a rockfall barrier on the side of the highway in Dowd Junction.

Vail’s Red Sandstone Elementary honors Foley brothers by naming its gym Foley Fieldhouse

VAIL — Kevin and Dennis Foley may be the Vail Valley’s most experienced gym rats, so it’s proper that their favorite gym bears the family name.

Red Sandstone Elementary School’s gym is now Foley Fieldhouse. Principal Marcie Laidman and staffer Quincy McAdam unveiled the new name Friday with an impromptu celebration to honor the Foley brothers for 28 years running Red Sandstone’s youth basketball program.

“It’s been a labor of love,” Kevin said.

 “It’s been a great ride. We love it,” Dennis said.

‘Give yourself a hug’

The Foleys might have shown up Friday if they knew they were going to be honored, or they might not. McAdam wasn’t taking chances. She called the brothers to Red Sandstone at 2:15 p.m. Friday for what she said was a “basketball meeting.” She knew they’d be there for anything hoop- or kid-related.

The brothers show up to help around the school. Sometimes it’s basketball. Sometimes it’s just to push kids on swings.

Kevin was positively resplendent Friday in his bright red Red Sandstone Elementary School T-shirt, emblazoned with RSES: Respect Success Excel Solve.

“Give yourself a big hug when you walk in here. You’re lucky to be part of the best school in the world,” Kevin told dozens of Red Sandstone students and staffers.

In the teacher’s lounge afterward, Kevin cut the basketball-court shaped cake from the three-point line.

Treat to McQueeney to Foley

Nearly three decades ago, Tom Treat, who ran the youth program at the school Vail elementary school, convinced Dennis Foley to help out. Dennis didn’t take much convincing. Neither did Kevin when Dennis went to work on him to help the following year. Henry McQueeney took over from Treat. Then Dennis took over from McQueeney when McQueeney was assigned to a school downvalley. The program has been in the hands of the Foleys ever since.

The season runs January through March. Kids learn the stuff they’re supposed to learn from youth sports: sportsmanship, teamwork, a little discipline, how to prepare for success, how to contend with failure, some physical fitness, that losing a game will not end your world, but winning is better. And basketball … lots and lots of basketball.

Over the decades, Vail has produced several notable athletes. Many passed through this program.

“People in their 30s come up to us, smile and say, ‘You were my basketball coach,’” Kevin said.

Victory march

When the season is done in March, the top two teams proudly walk Vail’s I-70 overpass pedestrian bridge and head into Lionshead to celebrate at Bart & Yeti’s. Dennis has been the owner there for 37 years.

Last year was an anxious time in local basketball land for the Red Sandstone program players. Their school was being rebuilt and the students were at Camp Minturn on the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy site. All kinds of kids stopped Dennis and Kevin to grill them about basketball.

“Are we playing basketball?” the kids asked anxiously.

“We’ll always play basketball,” came the Foleys reply.

Homelessness in the Vail Valley looks different compared to Front Range cities

EAGLE COUNTY — Justin Fillmore and his dog Parker had no shelter from the storm when the snow arrived Thursday.

The homeless man and canine were hanging out outside a local gas station. Fillmore wasn’t waving a sign asking for money, and when asked, he said he hopes to find work locally. He came to Colorado from Washington to try something new and he recently arrived in Eagle County after spending some time in Colorado Springs.

Fillmore said his current situation doesn’t tell his whole story. He noted that just because you see a rich person, it doesn’t mean that person will always be rich. Homelessness is like that, he said.

He also talked about how much he loves his dog.

Down on their luck

We don’t see a lot of people like Fillmore in Eagle County. When we talk about homelessness here, and combatting it, it’s a different discussion than what is taking place in Denver and other major cities along the Front Range.

But a lack of vagrants doesn’t mean that there aren’t homeless people in this valley. For the most part, they are employed residents who can’t find a place to rent and end up patching together temporary solutions to get by as they negotiate the difficult local housing scene. That’s a very different situation from the chronic homelessness issue in major metropolitan areas where people make a life on the streets.

Each year, the Colorado Balance of State Continuum of Care conducts a point in time study of the homeless population in Colorado’s non-metro and rural counties. During even-numbered years, the CoC conducts a sheltered PIT count. During odd-numbered years, the CoC conducts both a sheltered and unsheltered PIT count.

According to the 2017 survey, the most recent year for an unsheltered count, Eagle County had just two instances of chronic homelessness among respondents of the survey. Those two instances represented 28.6% of the respondents of the survey in the county. The date for the point-in-time count was the night of Tuesday, January 24, 2017.

In the 2018 survey, which only conducted a sheltered PIT count, Eagle County had zero instances of chronic homelessness among respondents — although it should be noted that Eagle County has no dedicated, full-time homeless shelters.

Statewide, the data from the 2017 survey showed a 12% increase from the last sheltered and unsheltered count in 2015. In each year’s survey, it’s always noted that the point-in-time count provides only a snapshot of homelessness on a single night in January, and that due to the transient nature of the homeless population and the large geographic area of the survey, it is extremely difficult to capture all homeless individuals.

While the survey shows that chronic homelessness is low in Eagle County, there are vagrants in this valley. Sometimes they are people whose resources simply ran out when they hit Eagle County. Sometimes they are people who have fallen victim to circumstances that have left them without lodging, transportation or even food. Sometimes they are battling behavioral health issues. And, sometimes, they are people who are engaging in a money-making proposition.

Whether they are residents or transients, there is help here for people who are down on their luck.

“Our original motto is we help who comes to our door,” said Dan Smith of Vail Valley Salvation Army. “We repair a lot of vehicles, we provide a lot of temporary housing. We provide a lot of food and we buy a lot of gas for people.”

“It’s always amazing to me how many people travel across the country with just the amount of resources they need, with no excess at all,” said Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger. These people end up stuck in Vail if a car breaks down or they miss their bus.

“When we have someone who needs to get somewhere who doesn’t have any money, we work with the Salvation Army to get them a voucher and them on the Greyhound bus to where they going,” Henninger said.

That’s the philosophy in Eagle as well.

“We do have a very giving community,” said Eagle Police Chief Joey Staufer. “Normally when we are dispatched to a call, it’s someone who is broken down and our officers make their best efforts, after a discussion with the people. We have been able to help those people out, probably at a success rate of nine out of ever 10 individuals.”

Law enforcement personnel said it is unusual that someone who is truly broken down and stuck in the valley will end up spending hours at the Interstate 70 interchange, waving a sign and asking for help from strangers.

Smith noted that sometimes helping people in need is more nuanced than simply handing over groceries or fuel, or especially, cash.

The help they need

“In my experience, if you don’t ask for help, the help offered is useless,” Smith said. “If people don’t say that, everyone involved is wasting their time. Some people aren’t looking for help, but for a handout.”

Local social media often outs vagrants who situate themselves at a location, carrying a sign asking for money. Facebook postings will warn residents that the person was doing the same thing previously in a different local community.

“It’s common knowledge when you get into a metro area you will continually see the same individuals, on the same corners, throughout the year,” said Staufer. “We don’t see that frequently in Eagle, but we do see that happen.”

“There are definitely people who abuse the system. We don’t have a good solution for that,” Henninger said.

Henninger said helping vagrants move along is the most practical assistance that the Vail Police can offer. He noted there are no homeless shelters in the valley, and during the winter, it’s dangerous for people who don’t have protection from the weather. That said, Henninger is also aware that giving someone a bus ticket to Denver or Grand Junction is just pushing the issue to another jurisdiction.

“I have gotten phone calls from other police departments asking why are we sending them our problems. Actually, we try not to do that,” he said.

Henninger said his officers check to make sure there are no outstanding arrest warrants or other issues before they send a homeless person away on the bus. But if someone is determined to stay in the area and they aren’t breaking the law, the cops cannot force the individual to leave.

“As long as they aren’t on private property and as long as they aren’t impacting any roads or services, there is nothing more than we can do,” Staufer said. “Most frequently, when we do find transients on private property, it’s because we get a call from the owner asking us to move them along. Some of those contacts do end up with an arrest, most often on an outstanding warrant.”

Henninger and Staufer said that each vagrant case is different. Sometimes officers can help and sometimes people don’t want the help that is offered. But in general terms, both agreed with the advice of Facebook posters — be careful about the help you offer.

“I discourage people from giving money to panhandlers. If you feel guilty about that, you should give money to the Salvation Army,” Henninger said.

Vail Daily photographer Chris Dillman contributed to this story.

Bears still around Aspen and hungry

While temperatures are dropping and snow is on the ground, city of Aspen as well as state officials warned residents this week that bears haven’t gone into hibernation yet and not to become complacent.

Hyperphagia — or “fat bear season” — is this time of year when bears get “the instinctive ‘feeding frenzy’ to pack on the pounds before winter hibernation,” according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Rebecca Ferrell.

“Bear activity in Aspen is still at a record high and expected to climb as bears are in hyperphagia,” according to a Friday news release from the city of Aspen.

So far this year, the Aspen Police Department has received reports of 48 home intrusions by bears and 680 total bear calls, according to the city. In September, city police received nine bear home intrusion reports and 175 total bear-related calls, according to Kendall Jahnke, APD’s records manager.

Ten Aspen businesses and buildings — mainly in the downtown core — were cited by the city in September for unsecured trash or other bear-related citations, according to Jahnke. Two restaurants have been cited so far in October.

Last year, there was a better food source in the mountains and APD responded to just 170 calls. But in 2017 when there was a late freeze, Aspen police responded to 913 bear calls from spring to fall. In 2016, police responded to 204 bear calls.

Bears need more than 20,000 calories a day, which translates to 20 chicken sandwiches, 10 large orders of fries, 10 soft drinks and 10 milkshakes every day for months, CPW officials said this past week.

“It’s no wonder, then, that bears often look for an easy meal in human trash, bird feeders and other unnatural attractants,” said a CPW news release.

Officials continue to urge residents to secure their trash and recyclables for the coming weeks before winter.

I-70 in Vail re-opened

UPDATE (08:42 p.m.): The highway has re-opened. Please drive safely.

I-70 is closed eastbound at MM 175 in Vail. Expect delays and use caution in the area.

This page will be updated as new information arrives.

Summit County Coroner’s Office to throw Halloween Zombie Ball fundraiser for survivor support

FRISCO — Combining fun with the mildly morbid, the Summit County Coroner’s Zombie Ball and cemetery tour fundraiser is as Halloween as it can get.

The fourth annual fundraiser, which benefits the Summit County Coroner’s Office Survivor Support Program, starts with an interactive cemetery tour at the Frisco Historic Park followed by a party with live music and a silent auction Friday, Oct. 25, at 10 Mile Music Hall.

In previous years, the fundraiser was held as a Zombie Walk down Frisco’s Main Street. Coroner Regan Wood said the owners of 10 Mile Music Hall offered their venue this year, with local groups Horizon Line and Beau Thomas Band donating their musicianship to the cause.

The Survivor Support Program was established by the coroner’s office after the Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault board decided in 2015 to focus its resources on supporting victims of violence, sexual assault and stalking, meaning it no longer would provide services to families and friends after a death, Wood said.

Wood, who was involved with Summit Advocates for 12 years, was asked by the Summit Board of County Commissioners whether the coroner’s office could take on those support services for survivors at death scenes.

Spouses, relatives, friends and neighbors can become traumatized after a death, with no frame of reference or guide to help deal with the emotional and practical realities of losing a loved one.

Wood said her program offers on-call support whenever county emergency dispatch requests aid at the scene of a death. Aside from helping survivors cope, the support team also helps free up law enforcement and other emergency service personnel to do their work without the possibility of interference or distraction from survivors on scene.

The support program also assists survivors with handling the logistical issues that arise after a loved one’s death, such as finding lodging for survivors if they do not want to stay at the home where their loved one died or assisting with travel arrangements.  

If the deceased person has a pet without caretakers available, the program arranges for the pet to be taken to a relative or to the animal shelter. In one case, a member of the program personally adopted a cat that was left homeless after its owner passed.

Wood recalled a case just weeks ago when an older couple had visited from out of state. The husband died, and his wife was overwhelmed as she had no support system in Summit County. The Survivor Support Program helped the widow change her flight plans so she could be on the same flight as her husband as his body was transported back home.

In 2018, the program served 412 people who were directly or indirectly affected by the unexpected death of a Summit County resident or visitor.

Even with the very serious and somber nature of the program, the coroner’s office recognizes that Halloween is meant to be a fun day, mostly for kids — and adults who are kids at heart — who dress up and act out roles they don’t get to play the rest of the year.

In accordance with that festive spirit, the Zombie Ball starts off with Nightmare at the Museum and a cemetery tour from 6:30-8:30 p.m. starting at the Frisco Historic Park & Museum. Wood said her staff performs for the tour, acting out the roles of Frisco residents interred at the cemetery. 

The performers will dress in period costumes and guide groups every half hour to the Frisco cemetery, at Summit Boulevard and Marina Road, where they tell the stories of the deceased figures they represent and the lives they lived at the time. The tour is strictly PG affair, so parents shouldn’t worry about their kids being seriously scared.

After the tours end at 8:30, the party starts. The Zombie Ball will take place at 10 Mile Music Hall, 710 Main St., where guests are encouraged to dress in their most creative “superhero zombie” attire. The ball will feature live local music and a silent auction with a boatload of donated items, including a season pass to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.

Tickets for the cemetery tour and Zombie Ball are $30, or $20 for just the Zombie Ball. Cemetery tour tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and children. To purchase tickets, visit SummitCountyCO.gov/zombie.

“This is real hope”: Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg leads rally in Denver’s Civic Center Park

As Greta Thunberg walked on stage to cap Friday’s climate strike in downtown Denver, the kids and adults in the crowd buzzed with excitement, craning their necks to see the 16-year-old Swede who battles the American president on Twitter and is inspiring a generation of young climate activists.

Thunberg took the microphone, prompting screams of “We love you, Greta!” from the far reaches of Civic Center’s Greek Amphitheatre. She looked out at the eager activists and inspired teens, many holding signs emblazoned with her face.

“This is real hope, what we’re seeing right now,” Thunberg told the crowd of children and parents, teachers and indigenous leaders. “This is the hope — the people.”

Thunberg’s fiery remarks last month during a United Nations climate change conference made her an international hero and a lightning rod for critics. On Friday, she headlined the Denver climate strike that brought together youth activists — including many from Colorado’s indigenous and marginalized communities — to add urgency to the fight against climate change and to put pressure on political leaders to take the issue more seriously.

The strike stems from Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future” protests, which began in August 2018 after she sat outside the Swedish parliament to protest the lack of action on climate change. Thunberg’s strikes prompted youths from more than 100 countries to take up the pledge to protest outside the halls of power in their respective cities and towns.

Read more via The Denver Post.

VIDEO: Opening Day run at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

WATCH: Vail Daily reporter John LaConte enjoys a snowskate run at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which claimed first resort to open for the 2019-20 ski season in North America on Friday. A-Basin was able to open briefly on Friday evening to earn the claim after nearby competitor Keystone Resort announced earlier in the day that they would open on Saturday. LaConte is riding a Ram from Hovland Snowskates.

On the Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute

Vail Valley real estate sees a rebound in August

EAGLE COUNTY — August was a good month for real estate in Eagle County.

Through the end of July, both the number of transactions and sales volume — the price of those transactions — lagged behind 2018’s numbers by about 10%. According to the most recent data from Land Title Guarantee Company, that situation changed in August.

For the month, there were 200 transactions, with $243 million in dollar volume. Through the end of August — the last month for which Land Title has data —  both dollar volume and transactions are now slightly ahead of 2018’s numbers for the same period.

As usual, Eagle and Gypsum accounted for the biggest piece of the transaction pie, with 40 total sales. But the Edwards area — Arrowhead to Cordillera — accounted for 39 sales in the month.

Edwards usually doesn’t match the western valley community in transaction numbers.

For the year to date, there have been 349 sales in Eagle and Gypsum, with 248 in the Edwards area.

Inventory part of the equation

Mike Budd, an Edwards-based broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Mountain Properties, said August’s strength in Edwards could be a function of inventory. Homes in the Edwards area tend to be higher-priced, but there are more available.

Brokers have said for some time that the valley’s for-sale inventory is low. That leaves few options in the area.

In a report Budd prepared for the Colorado Association of Realtors, he noted that there’s a roughly 5.2-month supply of townhomes and condos. The single-family/duplex market has roughly 7.7 months of inventory.

“Both categories are at historically low levels,” Budd wrote in his report.

But overall numbers tell only part of the story. The Vail Valley has a broad range of neighborhoods and price points. The segment below $500,000 for years accounted for the biggest share of the county’s transactions. That’s changed in the past couple of years. Homes priced between $500,000 and $1 million now make up the biggest slice of the transaction pie chart.

While the market remains stable year over year, homes sales of $5 million or more are lagging behind the pace set in 2015.

There were 51 such sales in 2018. Through the end of August, 24 of those properties had been sold. 

Few sales, much impact

Those very large sales have an outsized impact on sales volume numbers.

Still, Budd said, he expects 2019’s transaction and volume numbers to finish about even with 2018, which was a good year for the market.

John Pfeiffer, managing broker at Slifer Smith & Frampton, said that’s indicative of a “healthy” local market. 

Both buyers and sellers, in general, are being “very collaborative,” Pfeiffer said.

“Sellers recognize they have a real buyer, and they’re working with those buyers,” Pfeiffer said. That results in negotiations that end in satisfactory results for both parties.

Pfeiffer said August’s sales in Edwards are in part a sign of that area being a “home run” as a community.

And, while it can be a bit of a drive from Cordillera to Edwards’ commercial core, Pfeiffer noted that it takes 15 or 20 minutes to get just about anywhere in that part of the valley.

“Our walkability scores (aren’t great),” he said.

Pfeiffer said August’s numbers are about what he’d expected to see in July. Still, he said, he’s pleased.

“It really sent a message to our team,” Pfeiffer said. “Buyers are still here, sellers are willing… it’s a stable market.”

That’s good news for everyone in a community, Pfeiffer added.

“If I see millionaires and billionaires putting cash into this market, that makes me feel pretty good,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.