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Avy danger in Vermont?

Bob Berwyn

Vermont may not be the first place that comes to mind when grizzled ski patrollers and weather forecasters start talking avalanche, but the Boston Globe reports that several feet of new snow, combined with rain and wild temperature swings, have set the stage for a hazard more commonly associated with the mountainous West.Among the spots eyed for potential danger is the backcountry around Smugglers’ Notch. According to the Globe, a sergeant with the Army National Guard’s Mountain Warfare School, which trains in that area, said about a dozen people have been caught in slides in the past 10 years, though no deaths have been reported.Vermont has no system to warn of potential avalanche hazards, so experts said it’s up to backcountry travelers to educate themselves, according to the Globe.Snowmass plans still under fireThe Aspen Times reports that a citizen group in Snowmass is seeking to force a public vote on approval for an Intrawest development plan at the ski areas base village if the proposal includes elements exceeding height, size and density limits outlined out in the towns comprehensive plan.Backers of the measure say it would give voters a chance to have a say, while opponents claim it’s an unwarranted intrusion on the town’s decision-making process.”It gives the voters a chance to have a say on the final product,” said Jack Hatfield, a member of the CRG steering committee.Intrawest and Aspen Skiing Company have partnered for the project, which tentatively includes more than 600 condos, 180 employee housing units and up to 70,000 square feet of commercial development. Intrawest and the SkiCo tout the plan as an economic shot in the arm, but critics like former Mayor Jeff Tippitt said it’s more like a shot in the head that will hurt existing businesses.Pitkin County unemployment rate climbsThe Aspen Daily News reports that Pitkin County’s unemployment rate soared to 8.8 percent in November, fourth highest in Colorado’s 64 counties. Traditionally, November is one of slowest employment months in ski resort towns, but even so, finding a job in Aspen and environs looks like a challenge these days.Ski resort off-roading brings jail time, fineAn off-road joyride at Heavenly Valley, straddling the California-Nevada border, has resulted in a 90-day jail sentence and a $6,300 fine, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.John Beckwith, the 21-year-old who got stuck in a stream at the ski area last July, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor trespassing with a motor vehicle and was ordered to pay restitution. After getting his truck stuck in the mud, Beckwith fetched another vehicle to try and tow the first one out.Now you see ’em now you don’tThe New York Times reports that a federal judge has reversed a decision by the Bush administration that would have permitted more than 950 snowmobiles per day to travel in Yellowstone National Park. The on-again, off-again snowmobile battle has been raging for several years, since studies found significant environmental impacts associated with use of the machines.According to the Times, the ruling injects a new level of uncertainty into the opening day ritual, when snowmobilers gather at the park’s four entrances for the first day of touring. Under the court ruling, an earlier regulation will apply limiting the maximum number of snowmobiles allowed in the park at one time to 493 in Yellowstone and 50in Grand Teton National Park, according to The Times. If the ruling stands, a full ban on ‘bilers will be in effect next winter.Steamboat housing project stymiedThe Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that a pair of South Dakota developers is about to give up on a long-planned affordable housing project that would have provided single-family homes, duplexes and townhomes priced between $135,000 and $220,000.Proposed for a 160-acre ranch parcel west of Steamboat, the plan faltered when Routt County officials said the property must be annexed to the city before such high density development could occur. A property owner between the city boundary and the proposed project refused to have his land annexed, according to the Pilot & Today.Park Service grapples with religious displaysIn other news from national parks around the country, the National Park Service has approved the display of religious symbols and Bible verses, as well as the sale of creationist books giving a non-evolutionary explanation for the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders within national parks, according to documents released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).”The Park Service leadership now caters exclusively to conservative Christian fundamentalist groups,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The Bush administration appears to be sponsoring a program of Faith-Based Parks.”This fall, the Park Service approved a creationist text, “Grand Canyon: A Different View” for sale in park bookstores and museums. The book claims the Grand Canyon is really only a few thousand years old, developing on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale.Steamboat housing project stymiedThe Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that a pair of South Dakota developers is about to give up on a long-planned affordable housing project that would have provided single-family homes, duplexes and townhomes priced between $135,000 and $220,000.Proposed for a 160-acre ranch parcel west of Steamboat, the plan faltered when Routt County officials said the property must be annexed to the city before such high density development could occur. A property owner between the city boundary and the proposed project refused to have his land annexed, according to the Pilot & Today.


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