Aspen gets Winter X three-peat |

Aspen gets Winter X three-peat

Bob Berwyn

The Denver Post reports that ESPN’s Winter X Games will return to Aspen for the third season on a row this coming winter after nine months of negotiations.According to the Post, last season’s edition was the biggest wintertime event in Aspen’s history, drawing 48,000 spectators and filling every hotel room in the town. For this year, the town’s business community will step up and contribute more to the event by providing rooms and services for ESPN at reduced rates.Development wave sweeps Australian resortsThe Melbourne Age reports that there are plans for $60 million (Australian) worth of real estate development at resorts in the state of Victoria, including a large tourist complex at Mount Hotham.Accor, a large French hotel management company, is getting in on the action, taking over operation of the Mount Buller Chalet and renaming it the Mecure Grand Mount Buller. According to the Age, Accor operates alpine hotels in destinations such as Chamonix, Courchevel, Val Thorens, Val d’Isere, and Les Arcs.Aspen announces early-bird pass pricesAn early-bird four-mountain pass for the Aspen-area ski hills will sell for $1,029 this summer, the Aspen Daily News reports. That pass price has climbed $30 from the previous two seasons. The pass will go on sale Aug. 4 and must be purchased by Aug. 30.Mountain bikes get uphill access at Jackson HoleThe U.S. Forest Service and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort are teaming up to manage mountain bike use on the ski hill, the Jackson Hole News and Guide reports. Mountain bikers will be permitted to ride uphill to the top of the resort, but summit-bound riders will be required to ride the tram back down, due to potential conflicts with pedestrians and impacts to fragile soil, according to the News & Guide.Preliminary plans call for requirements to have cyclists read and sign a user form that outlines rules, including a stipulation to remain on trails. The new plans were announced during a two-hour mountain bike forum, during which local cyclists and bike shop employees urged the Forest Service and ski area to address the needs of riders by constructing more technically challenging mountain bike trails.Cyclists will continue to build illegal trails if the agency doesn’t meet the demand by creating downhill-only trails, some cyclists said at the meeting.Southwest Colorado still parchedSpring rain and snow have moistened parts of Colorado, but the southwestern corner of the state is still parched, according to the Durango Herald.The moisture deficit is the result of several years of below-average precipitation, officials said, explaining that federal drought maps still show the region being gripped by an &quotextreme drought.&quotFarmers and ranchers are hoping the July monsoon season will bring relief for parched pasture land and replenish dwindling irrigation-water supplies, including a dropping groundwater table. A seasonal outlook from forecasters predicts that drier-than normal conditions could persist across the region.14 lynx kittens found in San JuansWildlife researchers in the San Juans say they’ve found a total of 14 lynx kittens during recent weeks, according to the Durango Herald. Two dens, each containing a mother lynx and three kittens, were discovered last week.The Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) released 96 transplanted lynx in the region in 1999 and 2000, and added another 32 this spring. The kittens found this year mark the first time the researchers have been able to find clear evidence of reproduction.Both the recently discovered dens were located above 10,000 feet in Engelmann spruce stands, including one on a steep north slope with plenty of downed timber. According to the Herald, CDOW researchers say the reproduction shows there could be sufficient food and good habitat to support a self-sustaining population of the cats an assumption that formed the basis for launching the introduction effort.Big media buy in AspenThe Aspen Daily News reports that a recent media buy in the Roaring Fork Valley has raised concerns about market domination by a single company. Denver-based NRC Broadcasting recently bought nine Colorado mountain-area radio stations in a $7.5 million deal. According to the Daily News, Philip Anschutz is the majority owner of NRC.In an interview with the Aspen Daily News, NRC chief Tim Brown said the purchase could mark the beginning of an expansion into the media business. Brown said the company wants to emphasize a local focus. Included in the sale are KTUN-Eagle and KSKE-Vail.Telluride sale in the works?The Aspen Skiing Company and former Vail Resorts president Andy Daly are among the potential buyers for Telluride Ski Area, the Denver Post reports. According to the Post, Aspen chief Pat O’Donnell confirmed his company’s interest.The Post also reports that O’Donnell and Daly recently bid for the resort without knowing an asking price. Any offers coming close to the asking price could be considered in a second round of bidding, according to the Post.Tahoe twin pass offeredAccording to First Tracks Online, an Internet ski-zine, Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Sugar Bowl are teaming up to offer a combined season pass for the 2003-04 season, marking the first time a single ticket spans the lake’s north and south shores.Both areas are known for copious snow and challenging terrain. The so-called Sugar-Wood Pass will cost $399 for a Sunday through Friday six-day version.Notable descent on the Grand TetonJackson Hole local Carina Ostberg recently became only the second woman and the first from the Jackson Hole area to ski down the 13,770-foot Grand Teton, according to the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Ostberg made the trek with her husband and a Driggs, Idaho-based photographer.In foggy conditions and on firm snow, the trio descended the south and east facing Ford and Chevy couloirs to the Stettner Couloir. Variable snow conditions forced the party to rappel several sections and ski several pitches on belay. According to the News and Guide.The Grand Teton was first skied in 1971 by Jackson resident and mountaineering legend Bill Briggs. The only other woman to ski the Grand was Kristen Ulmer in 1997 during a controversial expedition when guides questioned the stability of the snowpack.Keystone fined in snowmaking deathThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) handed down a $128,250 fine, citing Keystone Resort for two alleged willful and one alleged serious violation, Ski Area Management (SAM) magazine reported late last month.The fine relates to the death of 28-year-old snowmaker Benjamin Bornstein last November. Bornstein drowned while working in a snowmaking well. According to SAM, OSHA cited the resort for its failure to post required warning signs on confined spaces and to develop and utilize a written &quotpermit space program,&quot as well as for a lack of employee training. The lack of egress ladder was also cited.Weather hampers Teton rescueThe Jackson Hole News and Guide also reports that weather hampered a recent rescue mission on the 12,804-foot Middle Teton. Two men were stranded near the summit of the peak for several hours as climbing rangers sought a safe rescue route. Cold nighttime temperatures formed an icy crust, preventing the climbers from gaining purchase with their ice axes. The rescue climbers had to use rock anchors during their effort.Park officials criticized the climbers for lack of planning, fitness and equipment and said the men were engaged in a race up the mountain, behavior they characterized as &quotinappropriate&quot for the wildness of the Teton Range.Season gets rolling Down UnderThe Melbourne Age reports that perfectly timed snowfall helped spark a busy start to the Australian ski season. Some ski areas in Victoria have seen up to two feet of snow in recent days.According to the Age, some resorts are reporting that reservations are up 40 percent from the previous year. Some of the same areas now seeing snow were ravaged by wildfires just six months ago.Summit eyes GOCO grantGreat Outdoors Colorado is considering a Summit County request to help fund a major open space buy in the Lower Blue, the Summit Independent reports. County open space officials put together the $1.8 million deal late last year, helping to preserve a big chunk of rural ranch land in the valley north of Silverthorne, and now they may get some help from revenues generated by the state lottery.GOCO may pitch in with about $463,000, according to the Independent. The parcel comprises an important view corridor off Highway 9 and includes important wildlife habitat and rare plant communities, backers say.Patriot Act questioned in DurangoThe Durango Herald reports that the city council is considering a resolution objecting to parts of the USA Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. City councilors have agreed to vote on the resolution at their July 1 meeting. The resolution says that parts of the Patriot Act aimed at fighting terrorism may threaten fundamental civil liberties of Durango residents. It also says the city council supports the repeal of some of the act’s &quotunconstitutional provisions.&quotAccording to the Herald, some town council members have said they support the resolution on a personal level but question whether the town should be involved in commenting on national legislation.Slated to expire under a 2005 sunset clause, the Patriot Act enables the FBI to search library records, business records and Internet activity of groups and individuals in the course of a terrorism investigation. At least 100 other jurisdictions have adopted similar resolutions opposing the act, according to the Herald.Record season in NYOfficials in New York have said the 2002-03 ski season will go down in the record books as the busiest ever, according to First Tracks Online. The state tallied 4.25 million skier visits in the recently ended season, with good snow across most of the mountain areas. The previous record of 4.1 million skier visits was set during the 2000-01 season.With plenty of snow, New York even stepped up to the plate to host the U.S. National Alpine Championships in March, after the events were called off in Alaska due to a lack of snow.According to FTO, some of the small and medium-size areas recorded especially strong numbers.– compiled by Bob Berwyn

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