Alterra Mountain Co. closes on purchase of Vermont ski resort
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Alterra Mountain Co. announced this week that it has closed on its purchase of Sugarbush Resort in Vermont, bringing the company’s total to 15 year-round mountain destinations throughout North America, including the world’s largest heliskiing operation.
Founded in 1958, Sugarbush Resort is a year-round mountain destination located in the Mad River Valley of Vermont with two distinct mountains, Mt. Ellen and Lincoln Peak, which are joined by a 2-mile high-speed quad. Sugarbush also has a fully appointed health and recreation club, multiple lodging properties, and the Sugarbush Resort Golf Club with an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed golf course. It is also a popular destination for weddings and conferences.
“With the acquisition of Sugarbush Resort, we are excited to expand our presence within the Northeast skier market,” said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra. “We have been working with the team at Sugarbush since the inception of the Ikon Pass and found we had a like-minded vision of the industry, our community, and the mountains we all love. We look forward to growing that relationship as we move into our future together.”
Win Smith will stay on as president and COO of Sugarbush Resort and will oversee daily operations of the destination and future capital improvement plans.
Sugarbush Resort’s Ikon Pass access will remain the same for winter 2019/2020, with 7-day access on the Ikon Pass and 5-days access with blackouts on the Ikon Base Pass.
Gun-wielding brothers sentenced after neighbor shot one in self-defense
Not only did a pair of brothers threaten a neighbor with a gun, but that neighbor shot one of the brothers with a concealed handgun he was carrying.
T.J. Reynolds, 21, was sentenced in Lake County to six and a half years in state prison for a May 1, 2018, assault with a firearm. That misadventure ended only when the neighbor being threatened shot T.J.’s brother Cody Reynolds.
“These two hooligans acted foolishly and threatened someone who was just trying to keep the neighborhood peace. Now they are going to spend a lengthy period in prison where they can’t harm others,” District Attorney Bruce Brown said in a statement announcing the sentencing.
According to prosecutors, the Reynolds brothers had been driving recklessly around their rural Leadville neighborhood, spinning out and kicking up rocks and dirt at a nearby residence’s driveway, just off of Highway 91. A male neighbor followed the brothers to their residence, scolding them for driving so unsafely in the neighborhood.
Minutes later, T.J. Reynolds and Cody Reynolds went to the neighbor’s house — Cody Reynolds was allegedly armed — to confront the man. T.J. Reynolds directed obscenities toward the neighbor, who told T.J. Reynolds not to threaten him, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Cody Reynolds, 27, drew a handgun and said, “This is a threat.”
However, in self-defense, the neighbor drew his concealed weapon first and shot Cody Reynolds before he could do him any harm. Cody Reynolds suffered a single bullet wound to the torso, prosecutors said.
The neighbor managed to disarm Cody Reynolds, and then went inside his home to call law enforcement and an ambulance.
When the neighbor came back outside, the brothers were gone. They had hitched a ride back to their home. EMS and law enforcement didn’t have much trouble finding them, spotting the wounded Cody Reynolds laying on the front porch.
Both Reynolds brothers pleaded guilty.
Last week, Cody Reynolds was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon.
T.J. Reynolds was sentenced Thursday. Prosecutors said that T.J. Reynolds did not shoot at the neighbor, he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, a felony, because he acted as his brother’s accomplice in confronting and threatening the neighbor, knowing Cody Reynolds was armed.
Suspect in Vail Valley murder trial wants a divorce from imprisoned husband
EAGLE — Leigha Page Ackerson, set to stand trial in Eagle County in May on charges of first-degree murder, has filed for divorce from her husband, who already pleaded guilty to the same crime and is in prison.
Ackerson is asking local courts to grant her a divorce from Jacob Taylor White, who was her husband of five years when the couple allegedly broke into Catherine Kelley’s Pilgrim Downs home in January 2018 and robbed and murdered Kelley.
In her petition for dissolution of marriage, Ackerson lists their date of separation as Jan. 25, 2018, the date Ackerson and White were taken into custody in connection with Kelley’s murder. They were married Nov. 9, 2013, in Elkton, Maryland, the divorce petition says.
In the petition, Ackerson lists her home address as 885 Chambers Avenue, Eagle, the address of the Eagle County jail. In the petition, no property and no children are listed.
Her defense attorneys, Amber St. Clair and Jennifer Melton, say Ackerson has suffered a lifetime of abuse and may have been under duress and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when Kelley was killed. Melton and St. Clair said Ackerson was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household and was homeschooled. That created a sense of isolation. The abuse continued after she married White, St. Clair said.
“I did not act in self-defense or to protect Leigha when we killed Ms. Kelley,” White said.
White and Ackerson were living in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and decided to migrate to Colorado because they wanted to live off the land in the woods, White said.
That did not last long. They had car trouble and exited Interstate 70 in Edwards. They camped at a trailhead for three nights in January 2018. Eventually, White broke into Kelley’s house and settled into an unused back bedroom.
Kelley left the home at 7 a.m. the next day, returning mid-afternoon.
“We decided Leigha would distract them and I would kill them,” White said.
They started down the stairs and Kelley, sitting on the couch, spotted them. Surprised, she asked what they were doing in her home.
“Would you believe we were sent here by God?” White said he answered.
They chatted briefly and Ackerson asked to make a phone call. Kelley offered to make them food.
“I don’t want anyone making food for my husband except me,” White said Ackerson answered.
White testified he and Ackerson nodded at each other, and White said he pulled the cord out of his pocket and strangled Kelley.
The pair were captured while hiding in some bushes outside Kelley’s home, shivering in the single-digit January weather.
Man with Vail Valley ties helps launch organization to help Uighurs and others imprisoned in China
Kyle Olbert has watched China closely his entire adult life — its rapid rise and the existential threat it poses to the U.S.
Olbert, a former Vail Valley and Roaring Fork Valley resident, is among many raising alarms about detention camps where the Chinese are holding Uighurs — pronounced “wee-gurs” — and other minorities, using them as forced labor in what the Chinese call re-education centers and vocational training centers.
“Re-education is a sick euphemism. It’s cruel and it’s a lie. It’s the largest hostage situation in the history of mankind,” Olbert said.
“I discovered about a year ago this story what China is doing to these oppressed people in the northwest part of that country,” Olbert said. “I’ve never been the type person to watch from the sidelines. I decided to try to help these people.”
Olbert helped launch the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, a Washington, D.C.-based organization committed to fighting against the concentration camps and prisons where the Chinese are accused of holding Uighurs and others.
“Slowly but surely people are waking up to the fact that China is the new evil empire,” Olbert said.
U.S. showing leadership
The U.S. is showing leadership on this issue, Olbert said.
Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said in a Pentagon briefing that of the 10 million Uighurs living in that region, as many as 3 million are being held in Chinese concentration camps.
Schriver made the assertion in a Department of Defense annual report on China’s military, saying “concentration camps” is an accurate description.
“What’s happening there,” coupled with the public statements of Chinese officials, “make what I think a very appropriate description,” Schriver is quoted as saying in a story on Military.com.
Uighurs are mostly Muslim. In the camps, you’ll also find Christians, Buddhists and Falun Gong. The list is expansive, Olbert said.
U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, speaking to CNN, accused the Chinese Communist Party of being “at war with faith.”
“China falsely claims they’re terrorists. They’re not. The truth is that they’re a remarkably moderate people,” Olbert said. “Even if some were terrorists, that would not justify throwing 3 million people into concentration camps.”
“We are thrilled to see that the president is fighting back in the trade war that China started,” Olbert said.
President Donald Trump was correct to blacklist some Chinese entities, Olbert said.
“China has been at war with us. That’s what people are missing. We’re finally fighting back,” Olbert said.
It’s mostly about money
The largely arid region is central to China’s commerce and industry plans. It’s rich in natural resources: gold, uranium and other drivers of China’s industrial machine.
“What’s at stake is much more than dollars and cents. It’s people’s lives and freedoms,” Olbert said.
Numerous tools are available for U.S. consumers to help reign in “China’s malignant influence around the world,” Olbert said. Consumers can boycott Chinese goods and demand that institutional investors divest from Chinese companies.
China’s human rights violations reach across all spectrums, and the biggest victims of China’s repression are the Chinese people, Olbert said, citing China’s “Orwellian measures.”
“If you say something they don’t like, you cannot travel and often cannot rent an apartment. If you get a low score they install a ringtone that’s a warning about dealing with you, that you have a low social credit score,” Olbert said.
Prisoners reportedly get a little bread each day as they’re forced to memorize Chinese propaganda. Reports of torture and rape, forced medication and sterilization are filtering out of the camps as people are released or escape, Olbert said.
Mihrigul Tursun escaped. She’s a Uighur with Egyptian dual-citizenship. In her testimony before the Congressional Executive Committee on China, she described torture, involuntary medication and other horrors. She lost a child there, she said.
“I would like to thank the United States government and the American people for saving my life and bringing me to the United States of America, the land of the free,” Tursun said during her testimony before the committee. “Over the last three years, I was taken to Chinese government detention centers three times. I spent 10 months in the camps in total, and experienced physical and psychological torture at the hands of government officials.”
China’s ‘Strike Hard’ policy
China invaded the Xinjiang region in its northwestern region in 1949. The people who live there still call it East Turkistan.
They say the Turkic Muslim population is subjected to forced political indoctrination, collective punishment, restrictions on movement and communications, heightened religious restrictions and mass surveillance.
“The Chinese government is committing human rights abuses in Xinjiang on a scale unseen in the country in decades,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch said.
It is evident that China does not foresee a significant political cost to its abusive Xinjiang campaign, partly due to its influence within the U.N. system, Human Rights Watch said.
“A failure to urgently press for an end to these abuses will only embolden Beijing,” Richardson said.
China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun tied the criticism to a trade deal with the U.S.
“It’s hard to imagine that on the one hand, you are trying to seek to have a trade deal, on the other hand, you are making use of any issues, especially human rights issues, to blame the others,” he said. “I do not think it’s helpful for having a good solution to the issue of trade talks.”
In October Zhang told The Guardian that the accusations against Beijing are a “gross interference in China’s internal affairs and deliberate provocation.”
Olbert said the only way to protect these people’s human rights is to protect their political rights.
“Without those, you cannot guarantee your other rights. They need to be able to govern themselves and that means an independent country,” Olbert said. “If we can get these human rights sanctions in place, maybe we’ll have a fighting chance to save these 3 million people.”
International Ski Federation bans fluorinated ski waxes for 2020-21 season
In November, officials at the International Ski Federation’s autumn meeting in Germany voted to ban fluorinated ski waxes for the 2020-21 season, citing negative environmental and health impacts.
“The use of fluorinated ski waxes, which have been shown to have negative environmental and health impact were banned for all FIS disciplines from the 2020/2021 season,” reads a news release from Nov. 23. “A specialist FIS Working Group led by FIS Experts Atle Skarrdal (Alpine Skiing) and Pierre Mignerey (Cross-Country) including the ski and wax industry will be formed to establish regulations and control procedures.”
In 2016, the Norwegian Federation implemented a similar ban for all U16 racers to act as a test case for the FIS, the governing body for professional ski racing.
Wax is an integral part of the sport, helping racers glide with extra speed on race days. Recently, more environmentally friendly ski waxes have come onto the market, including in Colorado.
“Sensitivity to the environment is fortunately at the front of people’s minds,” founder and CEO of eco-friendly MountainFlow Wax Peter Arlein said in a September interview. “When you think about the different types of waxes and some of the chemicals found in waxes and how they go onto the snow and then percolate down to the ground and into our groundwater systems — it’s a real concern both for wild habitat and human water supplies.
Racers — and their equipment teams — have a year to test before the new rules go into effect.
For more information about the FIS, visit www.fis-ski.com.
Vail Resorts is staffed for winter despite ongoing availability issues with H-2B visas
International work visas for seasonal workers have been a consistent problem since a federal cap was put on H-2B visas, which are temporary visas for nonagricultural workers. But Vail Resorts — which owns and operates five Colorado resorts, including Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort in Summit County — has found a way to deal with the cap and hire the right amount of seasonal workers.
In 2008, Vail Resorts aimed to bring 1,900 seasonal workers to its resorts through the H-2B visa program, but most of the visa requests were not granted. In 2009, the company announced it would be hiring fewer international seasonal workers due to the cap.
The H-2B cap was set in 2008 at 33,000 visas for the country for the winter season from Oct. 1 to March 31.
“Vail Resorts has a long history of hiring people from around the world as we value the diversity and culture this brings to our resorts,” Roberson wrote in an email.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported in a news release that “Nov. 15 was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before April 1, 2020.” The department rejects H-2B petitions received after this date for employment start dates before April 1, aside from certain exceptions.
Roberson added that the resorts are staffed appropriately for the winter, though they will continue to recruit for seasonal positions throughout the year.
Roberson said Vail Resorts was able to get the visas and workers it needed by starting early and moving toward less limited visas types.
“The process started in July, and we successfully completed the multiple steps required to obtain the authorizations,” Roberson wrote in an email. “In the last several years, we have shifted our hiring strategy because of the changes to the visa program that have made it more challenging for companies to get H-2B visas. We’ve slowly been moving away from using them, utilizing others visas like J-1 visas.”
The J-1 visa is described by the State Department as an “exchange visitor program.” There is no current federal cap on the program, which has more than 300,000 participants per year. There are 1,500 entities that can conduct private sector programs for exchange visitors, who can “study, teach, do research, share their specialized skills, or receive on-the-job training.”
Safe food handling, storage can prevent illness from those Thanksgiving leftovers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For some, the leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. Who doesn’t love pecan pie for breakfast or a turkey-stuffing-mashed potato-cranberry sauce sandwich for lunch?
Or, for those with a little more culinary ambition, leftovers can be reimagined into soups, casseroles and savory pies. How about deep-fried stuffing bites, turkey frittata or potato pancakes?
But it’s wise to take a few precautions when it comes to reusing food and safe storage.
If it’s been two weeks and the green bean casserole smells funny or the turkey has blue spots, it’s probably time to dump it. But sometimes, it’s not always that obvious.
A good rule of thumb is to only keep your refrigerated leftovers for three to five days, according to Lauren Bryan, epidemiologist and infection preventionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.
And, smell and taste tests “are not good indicators how much bacteria is on there,” Bryan said. Mold (fungus) and bacteria are two different things, she emphasized.
In terms of storing food, Bryan gives a few tips.
First, it’s best not to leave anything out of the fridge or freezer for more than two hours.
Leftovers are best stored in multiple smaller containers, she said. If you put a heap of mashed potatoes in a giant Tupperware, the potatoes in the middle could take hours to get out of the temperature danger zone — which is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
The ideal temperature for a refrigerator is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Turkey has the most potential for illness, Bryan said, because of two common causes of food poisoning, which are salmonella and campylobacter. All poultry is essentially somewhat contaminated, she said. “Poultry is already coming to you with bacteria on it.”
First, make sure it is cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. And, when handling the raw turkey and its juices, be vigilant about avoiding cross-contamination. Don’t let your veggies make contact with juices in the sink or the same cutting board on which the turkey sat. Bryan said she likes to use color-coded cutting boards — one for meat, one for veggies, one for bread, etc. And when you get too many deep cut marks in your cutting board, whether wooden or plastic, it’s time to get a new one, she advised.
Even when you cook a turkey to 165 degrees, you may be “knocking down the vast majority of contaminates,” Bryan said, but you aren’t sterilizing it. In ideal conditions, bacteria can still proliferate. That’s why it is important to get those leftovers into the fridge or freezer and eat them within three to five days.
Leafy greens are also notorious for contamination, as evidenced in the Nov. 22 warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for consumers not to eat any romaine lettuce from Salinas, California.
The lettuce is linked to at least 40 cases of E. coli infection nationwide, including in Colorado.
Even if you buy pre-packaged, triple-washed greens, wash them again, Bryan said.
Another important precaution against getting sick and transmitting comes down to frequent hand washing.
Wash hands frequently, including between handling different types of food. The norovirus outbreak in Mesa County is a timely reminder of the importance of hand washing, Bryan noted.
A norovirus outbreak is a result of contaminated hands — not food, Bryan said. Norovirus involves human fecal matter being orally ingested. And it takes a remarkably small viral load for norovirus to transmit, Bryan said.
Freezing leftovers (within a few days of cooking) is a great way to save them without risk of contamination. Just remember when you are ready to eat those leftovers, Bryan said, to thaw them in the refrigerator and not on the counter.
Different parts of the food can thaw at different rates, and the outer layer may reach the danger zone temperature while the middle is still frozen.
So what about food with mold? Does it all have to be thrown away?
Bryan advises that if you see mold, toss it. While some mold is not very harmful, it’s impossible to make a blanket statement that anything is safe, Bryan said.
There are different kinds of mold, and people react differently. Most healthy adults can handle most mold without a detrimental effect, she said. But some mold can contain dangerous toxins, and mold is more dangerous to people who are very old, very young or have a compromised immune system.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are only a few instances in which it is OK to cut off mold and still consume the food.
First, it is normal for hard salami and dry-cured country hams to have surface mold — go ahead scrub it off and enjoy.
If you see mold on hard cheese, cut off at least 1 inch around and below the mold spot (and keep the knife out of the mold). Discard soft cheese with mold. If fruits and veggies are soft, the USDA recommends discarding. If they are firm — such as cabbage, bell peppers or carrots — cut off at least 1 inch around the mold.
Anything else, the USDA advises to discard.
While family can be a source of stress during the holidays, food doesn’t have to be. So, just remember to wash your hands, wash your greens, cook your meat, get everything in the fridge or freezer when the meal ends and eat your leftovers before Dec. 3.
“I’m really happy to see that they do want to turn this around and make a good thing out of what was really bad news,” said Emily Hargraves, the owner of Backcountry Babes who was sued by Backcountry.com in federal court earlier this year because she had registered and secured a trademark for the word “backcountry” for her business that provides avalanche education to women
Nielsen recently visited with Hargraves and offered to fund a multi-year scholarship program for Backcountry Babes guides pursuing instructor qualification through the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education and guide certification through the American Mountain Guides Association. And she gets to keep using her company name.
“I do feel that I’ve been made whole,” said Hargraves, who settled her federal lawsuit in a confidential deal earlier this year but emerged this month as a symbol of the company’s bullying trademark tactics when news of the lawsuits ignited a social-media backlash.
As first reported last month by The Colorado Sun, Backcountry.com in 2017 unleashed a trademark law firm to send cease-and-desist letters, pose legal challenges in the U.S. Patent and Trade Office and even file federal lawsuits against small business owners who had registered the word “backcountry.” The aggressive legal campaign came as the 23-year-old Utah-based e-tailer began creating its own branded gear and filed for new trademarks on categories beyond its 2008 mark for “online retail store services.”
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Unveiling of Tesla’s electric pickup goes off script with failed stunt
The much-hyped unveiling of Tesla’s electric pickup truck went off script Thursday night when supposedly unbreakable window glass splintered twice when hit with a large metal ball.
The failed stunt, which ranks high on the list of embarrassing auto industry rollouts, came just after CEO Elon Musk bragged about the strength of “Tesla Armor Glass” on the wedge-shaped “Cybertruck.”
On a Los Angeles-area stage with Musk, Tesla design chief Franz von Holzhausen hurled a softball-sized metal ball at the driver’s side window to demonstrate the strength of the glass, which Musk called “Transparent Metal Glass.” It shattered.
“Oh my … God,” Musk said, uttering an expletive. “Maybe that was a little too hard.”
They tried it a second time on the left passenger window, which spider-cracked again.
Musk recovered with a one-liner: “At least it didn’t go through. That’s a plus side.”
The failure overshadowed the truck’s slick unveiling, with some analysts panning its looks. The truck, a stainless-steel covered triangle, resembles the much derided Pontiac Aztek SUV sold by General Motors in the early 2000s.
Investors apparently didn’t like the stunts or the truck’s futuristic design, which is aimed at getting a foothold in the most profitable part of the U.S. auto market. Tesla shares fell more than 6% Friday.
“Tesla’s Cybertruck reveal will likely disappoint current pickup truck owners, and we see the vehicle remaining a niche and not a mainstream product,” Cowen Investment Research analyst Jeffrey Osborne wrote in a note to investors. “While we are pleased to see Tesla enter the most profitable segment of the North American passenger car market, we do not see this vehicle in its current form being a success.”
Over the years, such stunts have been common at highly rehearsed auto industry unveils. In a tweet Friday, Musk indicated Tesla had rehearsed its stunt as well, saying the same ball was thrown at the same window of the truck before the event and it “didn’t even scratch the glass.”
But like Tesla, others have seen some embarrassing mishaps. At Detroit’s auto show earlier this year, an Infiniti concept electric SUV missed its introduction when it wouldn’t start and the company couldn’t move it onto the stage.
Perhaps the most famous miscue came in Detroit in 2008 when Chrysler showed off the new Ram pickup truck with a cattle drive outside the convention center. But some of the cattle started mating, drawing attention away from the vehicle.
“You can rehearse it 100 times, and the 101st is the time you do it before the public and it fails,” said Bud Liebler, who was head of marketing and communications at Chrysler from 1980 through 2001.
He was in charge when Chrysler became famous for auto-show stunts, including driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee up the entry steps and through the front windows of Detroit’s convention center in the 1990s.
Liebler said he considers the Tesla event a “fiasco,” but said Musk did the only thing he could when the glass broke. He joked about it and continued on with the show. “It’s got to be an embarrassment,” Liebler said.
With the Cybertruck, Tesla was aiming for Detroit’s profit machine, the full-sized pickup.
The truck came onstage with lasers and flames, and a demonstration of its stainless steel skin developed by Musk’s SpaceX rocket company went well. Von Holzhausen swung a sledge hammer at the driver’s side door, and it bounced away harmlessly without any damage.
Musk said the Cybertruck will start at $39,900 but a tri-motor, long-range version will have a base price of $69,900. It will have a battery range of between 250 miles (400 kilometers) and more than 500 miles and will be able to tow up to 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms). Tesla says the truck can go from zero to 60 mph (97 kph) in 2.9 seconds.
The electric pickup truck will be in production in 2021, Musk said.
With the truck, Tesla is gunning for buyers with fierce brand loyalty.
Many pickup truck buyers stick with the same brand for life, choosing a truck based on what their mom or dad drove or what they decided was the toughest model, said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.
“They’re very much creatures of habit,” Gordon said. Getting a loyal Ford F-150 buyer to consider switching to another brand such as a Chevy Silverado, “it’s like asking him to leave his family,” he said.
Tesla’s pickup is more likely to appeal to weekend warriors who want an electric vehicle that can handle some outdoor adventure. And it could end up cutting into Tesla’s electric vehicle sedan sales instead of winning over traditional pickup truck drivers.
“The needs-based truck buyer, the haulers, the towers at the worksites of the world, that’s going to be a much tougher sell,” said Akshay Anand, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
The truck will help Musk enter a new market, but it’s not likely to make a bunch of money for the company. Instead, Tesla will rely on its mainstream Model 3 sedan and the upcoming Model Y small SUV due to go on sale in early 2021.
Musk stands to face competition when his truck hits the market. Ford, which has long dominated the pickup truck landscape, plans to launch an all-electric F-150 pickup. General Motors CEO Mary Barra said its battery-electric pickup will come out by the fall of 2021.
Rivian, a startup based near Detroit, plans to begin production in the second half of 2020 on an electric pickup that starts at $69,000 and has a battery range of 400-plus miles (640 kilometers).
Tesla has struggled to meet delivery targets for its sedans, and some fear the new vehicle will shift the company’s attention away from the goal of more consistently meeting its targets.