Vail’s ‘finder’ dies |

Vail’s ‘finder’ dies

Sarah L. Stewart
Theo StroomerSpectators and members of the 10th Mountain Division Living History Display Group watch as a plane flies overhead during the 50th annual 10th Mountain Division Memorial Day Ceremony at Tennessee Pass.

Vail – The man credited with finding Vail Mountain has died.

Earl Eaton, a Squaw Creek native, is credited with introducing Vail Developer Peter Seibert to the Back Bowls in the late 1950s.

Eaton died May 25 at age 85.

As a boy, Eaton hunted and hiked all over Eagle County. He came across some open bowls in the Two Elk Creek drainage and thought they might be good for skiing.

In 1957, Eaton hiked up the mountain with Seibert and later helped Seibert build trails and lifts for Vail Mountain.

“He was an adventurer,” said his son Carl Eaton. “That’s pretty much what he did with his life.”

Ski season may have ended not long ago, but locals are already talking about the possible changes on Vail Mountain in upcoming seasons.

Vail Resorts has proposed new, faster lifts at Chair 5 and in Sun Down Bowl ” but comments the Forest Service has received from the public regarding the lifts show local opinions are split.

A new, high-speed, four-person lift that would cut the Chair 5 ride time in half earned approval from 20 of 33 people who commented. A new chairlift for Sun Down Bowl that would rise from the base of Chair 5 to the top of Game Creek Bowl, however, earned approval from just 13 of 28 comments.

“I would like to vehemently argue against allowing an additional lift to be built in the Back Bowls,” wrote Bobby Bank. “The Back Bowls are a very special and unique feature of Vail Mountain. Increasing lift capacity will change/ruin the skiing experience that has remained pretty much unchanged since the ski area started.”

Roger Poirier of the Forest Service said the agency will evaluate the comments, and a study will be issued. More comments will be collected, with a final decision possible next year.

About 35 workers have benefited from stricter employee housing rules that were passed in Vail more than a year ago.

The rules, which require developers to build worker housing as part of new residential and commercial projects to compensate for the amount of jobs they create, have also contributed more than $100,000 in money for housing.

“It’s unfortunate that those rules weren’t passed five years ago or 10 years ago. But they weren’t,” said Mark Gordon, a Vail councilman who voted to approve the laws.

Vail Resorts has set its sights on becoming a shade greener in the coming years.

Facing rising energy costs and a slowing economy, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz ordered employees to cut the company’s energy consumption by 10 percent within two years.

An e-mail to employees didn’t mention any specific ways the company would cut energy, but reducing energy used by snowmaking and grooming will be one of the company’s bigger challenges.

“This is an area that will require significant thought and discussion to make sure we consider every possible alternative to improve efficiency, but without detracting from one of our core strengths in any way,” Katz said.

Randy Udall, an energy expert who is former director of Aspen’s Community Office for Resource Efficiency, complimented Vail Resorts for the initiative.

“I salute this effort,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Vail Resorts deserves a round of applause. To meet the goal, they will have to take a close look at snowmaking and grooming operations, two very large users of energy ” and of greenhouse gases.”

Minturn – Residents got their say last week in a private ski-and-golf resort near Minturn, and their answer was a resounding yes.

Voters overwhelmingly approved including developer Bobby Ginn’s land into Minturn last week, a result that solidifies plans to build 1,700 homes and condominiums, a private ski area the size of Beaver Creek without Bachelor Gulch and an 18-hole golf course on and around Battle Mountain.

Out of 11 ballot questions, an average of 87 percent of voters chose to annex Ginn’s 4,300 acres of property into the town of Minturn. Only an average of 13 percent of voters voted no. Town councilors will vote again, possibly later this year, on whether to finally approve Ginn’s plans.

“It’s a no-brainer ” something’s going to happen there no matter what, and we’ll get some good things out of this,” said Lynn Meyer, who voted in favor of the resort. “People are already complaining about traffic. Of course there will be more traffic, but what wouldn’t bring in more traffic? We’ll have to live with it.”

Eagle County – Fish could score a victory if local river advocacy groups successfully get more stringent caps on how much metal can flow into rivers approved.

Toxic metals spilling from the old Eagle Mine just south of Minturn have eliminated sensitive fish such as rainbow trout and sculpin from sections of the Eagle River since the mid-1980s. At one point, the river turned orange due to the pollution, and despite an $80 million cleanup effort that has removed 90 percent of the metals, some still flow into the river.

Local river advocacy groups like the Eagle River Watershed Council and the Eagle Mine Limited will be pushing for a lot more cleanup of the water.

“The question now is whether we can continue to improve the water, and we believe more improvements are out there and possible,” said Arlene Quenon, president of the Watershed Council. “We want the very best river we can have.”

A wild winter is shaping up to cause a similarly wild spring and summer on local waterways.

Fast currents and cold water on the rapidly rising Eagle River make for treacherous conditions, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said.

“It is recommended that only professional boaters be on the river for at least the next several weeks,” said Sara Cross, spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. “In addition, fishermen, children and pets should stay away from river banks during high water.”

Flood advisories for some parts of the Eagle and Colorado rivers have been issued this week, according to the National Weather Service. West of Grand Junction, Interstate 70 was reduced to a single lane in each direction through Memorial Day due to flooding threats from the Colorado River.

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