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Walk in the footsteps of legendary soldiers Saturday at Camp Hale

If you like skiing, riding and your overall freedom, the 10th Mountain Division deserves a big thanks. And, the opportunity to learn more about the historical unit is an easy drive away, at Camp Hale.

On Sept. 9, Wilderness Workshop, in conjunction with 10th Mountain Division Living History, gave a free, six-hour driving and walking tour of Camp Hale.

Educators will offer more tours, albeit just 2 ½ hours this time, twice on Saturday at 10 and 10:30 a.m. at the entrance of Camp Hale as part of a rally for the proposed Camp Hale-Continental Divide national monument (see related story).

Stepping into history as told by educators deeply connected to the 10th Mountain Division provides a whole new appreciation for what our nation’s first mountaineering soldiers accomplished, both in WWII and beyond.

While the Germans, Italians and Finnish all had ski troops, the United States lagged, so they activated the 87th Mountain Infantry Battalion in 1941 to train men in mountain warfare. The battalion required three letters of recommendation, as well as mountaineering skills.

Construction of Camp Hale began in April 1942, and on July 15, 1943, the 10th Mountain Light Division (renamed “Mountain” in 1944) was activated.

The effort to recruit the new division was unprecedented: It captured the imaginations of men with its glamourous models and elite status. Short films featured soldiers on skis, and, at first, it was the most difficult military unit to join. Students and coaches from the likes of Dartmouth’s ski team enrolled, along with two of the von Trapp brothers.

But soon, the army ran out of volunteers and needed to draft men, so rich and poor, educated and uneducated, Northerners and Southerners found themselves dropped in the middle of Camp Hale at 9,200 feet. The first thing they had to learn was how to survive, as opposed to fight, in the harsh winter climate.

Eventually, they worked up to carrying at least 94-pounds — not including their rifle and ammunition — on wooden skis measuring 7 feet, 6 inches long that didn’t have metal edges. The average soldier weighed 128 pounds and measured 5-foot-8.

“They had a ‘give us a mission; we don’t care if it’s impossible’ attitude,” said historian David Little.

And that’s how they succeeded in the Battle of Riva Ridge in the northern Apennine Mountains of Italy on Feb. 18, 1945: They just didn’t know it was impossible to free climb the 1,700- to 2,220-foot sheer rock cliff at night in the fog. After all, it was what they’d trained for at Camp Hale.

The Germans never suspected Americans would climb it, which allowed the 10th Mountain Division to mount a surprise attack and overtake enemy posts. From Feb. 19-25, the soldiers fought and took control of the Mount Belvedere ridgeline, causing at least 23 German troops to surrender.

Within the division’s 90-day mission in WWII, they lost 1,000 soldiers out of 20,000 who served in Italy, which the monument atop Tennessee Pass honors.

Saturday’s tour begins at 9 a.m. at the monument, which also showcases the 10th Mountain Division’s original flagpole. Participants can also join the tour at 10 or 10:30 a.m. at Camp Hale’s entrance.

Throughout the tour, you’ll hear about how the army straightened 5 miles of the Eagle River, in addition to hauling in over 6 million cubic yards of fill from as far as Nebraska to raise the swampy area. You might hear about how German POWs escaped, how a postal service worker — and plenty of other soldiers — broke rules, and how the army trucked in women for dances at the field house (of which significant ruins remain) from as far as Grand Junction.

You’ll also learn about how soldiers who returned made enormous contributions to the outdoor recreation industry, from starting over 60 different ski areas (without whom Vail, Aspen of Arapahoe Basin would not exist) to creating NOLS wilderness education, gear companies and biathlon events.

Overall, the tours heighten knowledge and appreciation for both the soldiers and the land upon which they trained.

If you go…

What: Camp Hale historical tour

When: Two separate tours, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday (option to meet at 9 a.m. atop Tennessee Pass at the 10th Mountain Division monument)

Where: Camp Hale Entrance for 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. tours

More info: wildernessworkshop.org (under events)

David Little points out areas of Camp Hall on a map for participants at the Sept. 9 tour.
Kimberly Nicoletti
Remains of the field house at Camp Hale.
Kimberly Nicoletti
A plaque at Camp Hale dedicated to the memory of Tibetan Freedom Fighters, who were trained by the CIA at Camp Hale from 1958 to 1964.
Kimberly Nicoletti

Vail, Eagle County set to get more snow this week

Beaver Creek has reported 17 inches of new snow in the past seven days. There’ more on the way this week.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

More snow is expected in Eagle County this week, and you can count on some mid-winter cold, too.

According to the National Weather Service, there’s snow in the forecast for Vail between Tuesday and Thursday, with daytime highs in the 20s and with an overnight low of minus 7 the night of Thursday, March 10.

The snow will be welcome, of course. The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s chart of “snow water equivalent” at measurement sites on Vail Mountain, Copper Mountain and Fremont Pass show the snowpack hovering at about 90% of the 30-year median. Water supplies through the rest of the year depend on that snowpack.

Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist at the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service, said there’s been a recent change in weather patterns. Instead of storms tracking in from the Pacific Northwest, Phillips said the current round of storms is expected to come straight out of the north, which will also bring cold temperatures.

Breaking the old habit

Sam Collentine, the chief operating offcer and meteorologist at the OpenSnow website, noted that for most of this winter, the weather was locked into a pattern that either “pushed all the storm energy north into Canada and eventually into the eastern half of the U.S., or we have received cold and moisture-starved storms that slid down the spine of the Rockies from Canada and delivered a few inches of fluffy snow, at best.”

Collentine added that pattern has broken down over the past few weeks, due to a the higher sun angle.

Collentine added that March is starting to act like March, which explains the round of storms in the forecast over the next 10 days or so.

Be careful in the backcountry

Depending on how the wind behaves over the next few days, that new snow could create more hazardous conditions in the backcountry.

Ben Pritchett, a forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said Monday that avalanche danger in the Vail area was listed as “moderate.” With winds predicted along with snow this week, Pritchett said “we’ll just have to see” what effects those storms may have on snowpack stability in the backcountry.

Pritchett said the snowpack trends toward raising the Tuesday avalanche danger to “considerable.” But, he added, current forecasting doesn’t indicate the danger going into “high” with this week’s storms. Still, it’s a good idea to check with the avalanche information center’s website before planning a backcountry trip.

Forecasters don’t predict weather with any certainty past about 10 days. But the U.S. Climate Prediction Center takes a more general look, with predictions in terms of the chance of warmer- or colder-than-normal temperatures and greater or lesser chances of normal precipitation.

The center’s one-month forecast for Colorado calls for a chance of cooler-than-normal temperatures for the northwestern portion of Colorado and equal chances of greater- or less-than-normal precipitation.

Given our drought-prone tendencies over the past several years, that’s pretty good news. It’s especially good news considering that the precipitation has a chance to stick to the hillsides, at least for some of the spring.

The outlook isn’t great for May, June and July, when the center predicts below-average precipitation and warmer-than-average temperatures.

Bizwatch: Catering By Design


Business name: Catering by Design

Location: Denver, Vail and Aspen

Date opened: 1996

Owners: Ingrid and Cade Nagy

Contact information: Call Beret Kroeger, 970-209-5589 or email beret@cateringbydesignco.com

What goods or services do you provide? Catering and event design and décor for clients who are forward-thinking and care about the product and service as much as we do.

What’s new or exciting at your place? The elements we have added after COVID-19 include a creative director, creative chef, carpenter and graphic designer, who work together with our six event designers to produce innovative and noteworthy events.

What strategy do you use to differentiate your business from your competition? Our training and core processes. Our new employees are put through a lengthy class on culture and the core processes for their individual job functions. Following the initial training we have certified trainers on each event to continuously teach and ensure that each member of our team understands and adheres to all processes along with our Three Steps of Service:

  • Warm and authentic greeting
  • Anticipatory service
  • The practice of gratitude

We are primarily a scratch kitchen with our own pastry chef and our food is prepared and served fresh on site.

What philosophy do you follow in dealing with your customers? Every client, regardless of their event’s size and budget, receives our Three Steps of Service throughout the process of planning their event. Our purpose, cause and passion is to make people happy through creativity and collaboration.

What do your customers expect from you? A higher level of food quality than they have received at a catered event in the past. We bring a restaurant experience to guests, whether it’s formal, fun or casual. Staffing levels are also at a higher level than typical to ensure that guests and clients experience luxury service even at a casual event.

Tell us a little about your background, education and experience: Catering by Design has been producing noteworthy events for 25 years. Our COO was a member of the launch team for its off-premise catering division at Hyatt Hotels Corp., followed by six years with Ritz-Carlton and owner of her own luxury catering firm where she produced significant events including the opening of the Nordstrom and Tiffany stores in Denver before taking the helm of Catering by Design five years ago.

What is the most humorous thing that has happened at your business since you opened? We were challenged to produce the three-day event for Virgin Galactic’s future astronaut community — along with their VIP guests — gathered to celebrate the 2017 total solar eclipse. Because the path of totality passed through North America and was best seen in eastern Idaho, the client wanted to celebrate the local environment, which led them to Rancher Ralph’s back 40 acres sandwiched between two very small towns at the base of the Grand Tetons.

We brought the field to life with glamorous furnished tents, toilets and showers and an event space that we transformed each night with an around-the-clock bar and espresso bar. We sent a crew of 60 to ensure that the 250 guests received five-star service and restaurant-style service.

There was no ability to have food delivered to the site, so whatever we packed needed to last us through the setup days. At every meal approximately half the guests needed a modification. They forgot they were in the middle of nowhere — and that was our mission. While this wasn’t exactly “funny,” it was interesting to satisfy all the guests’ demands from this remote location.

Tell your story!

Tell the story of your Vail Valley business with a Bizwatch feature in the Vail Daily. To learn more, call Business Editor Scott Miller at 970-748-2930 or email smiller@vaildaily.com.

Sylvan Fire updates: Firefighters make progress as blaze grows to 1,500 acres

The Sylvan Fire burns southwest of Sylvan Lake State Park Monday near Eagle. The fire is last reported at more than 1,500 acres and counting.
Chris Dillmann /cdillmann@vaildaily.com

7 p.m. update: The Sylvan Fire burning 12 miles south of Eagle has grown to approximately 1,500 acres — 2.2 square miles — since it ignited Sunday afternoon.

But as of Monday evening, that growth has happened where fire crews have directed it to happen.

During a community briefing Monday evening, Justin Conrad, U.S. Forest Service Sylvan Fire management officer, said crews are working to contain the blaze on three sides and direct it toward Red Table Mountain where vegetation to fuel the blaze is sparse.

“Currently the fire is staying within the area we are intending it to stay in,” Conrad said.

According to David Boyd of the U.S. Forest Service, firefighters are making progress securing fire line on the east and west sides of the fire. The fire is burning in timber on the White River National Forest about half a mile from Sylvan Lake State Park. The cause is under investigation, but lightning is suspected.

A large plume erupts Monday near Eagle. The Sylvan Fire sparked Sunday afternoon from a suspected lightning strike.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

During the Monday briefing, Conrad noted that currently, the fire is not threatening any structures. That was an increased concern for downvalley residents who watched the fire plume grow substantially Monday afternoon. Conrad said crews are trying to use natural barriers to direct the fire away from populated areas and currently the fire is burning in a remote area.

“Firefighters are struggling with access and accessibility right now,” Conrad said.

Stay away

About 75 personnel are assigned to the fire along with a light and heavy helicopter.

The White River National Forest has issued a closure order for the area around the Sylvan Fire. Campers and others recreating in Sylvan Lake State Park and much of the surrounding lands have been evacuated. There are manned road blocks along Brush Creek Road at the east/west forks south of Eagle and along Hardscrabble Road south of Gypsum.

The Sylvan Fire burns southwest of Sylvan Lake State Park Monday near Eagle.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

As firefighters travel to the area to help battle the Sylvan Fire, Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek stressed it is vital to keep other traffic off roads including Crooked Creek Pass, Eagle-Thomasville Road and portions of Cottonwood Pass. Full closure information is available at ecemergency.org.

“We are asking everyone who has no reason to be up there to stay out of the area,” van Beek said at the Monday briefing.

He added that arrangements have been made for livestock owners to evacuate animals from the area to the Eagle County Fairgrounds.

Extreme conditions

Crews battling the Sylvan Fire worked through much of Sunday night to create fire lines along the power line road. Firefighters reported extreme fire behavior Sunday as strong winds pushed the fire to the south and southeast.

After the fire broke out around 3:15 p.m. Sunday, it quickly grew to more than 180 acres by nightfall.

Firefighters have taken steps to protect structures at Sylvan Lake State Park. Other infrastructure at risk includes an Xcel Energy transmission cable.

Along with campers and others recreating at Sylvan Lake State Park, evacuations have included the Yeoman Park, Crooked Creek Pass dispersed camping, LEDE Reservoir and Hardscrabble areas.

As of 6:30 a.m. Monday, the upper Frying Pan from the Dam to Hagerman Pass is under pre-evacuation notice due to the fire. An evacuation center is set up at the Basalt High School (600 Southside Drive). If you choose to evacuate and need resources, go to the Basalt High School.

The town of Eagle has posted information about fire-related trail closures at TownOfEagle.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=519.

The latest information, including a map of the closure when it is available, will be posted at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7562.

The Forest Service is considering the fire a Type-III incident. Crews from Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, Eagle River Fire Protection District and the U.S. Forest Service-White River National Forest initially responded Sunday.

Firefighters on the Western Slope also responded to a wildland fire in South Routt County on Sunday, and lightning sparked small fire in North Routt County on Sunday.

John LaConte and Nate Peterson contributed reporting.

I-70 EB reopens following 5 hour closure

Traffic backs up in Vail on Friday at I-70 eastbound was closed due to a crash on the interstate east of Vail.
John LaConte photo

VAIL — I-70 EB reopened at approximately 9:45 p.m. Friday after a crash closed the interstate for nearly 5 hours.

Commercial vehicles were asked to exit the interstate at mile marker 133 in Dotsero and stage in the Dotsero parking area. Commercial vehicles headed west on Vail Pass were required to use chains or alternative traction devices between mile markers 195 and 190.

Both the Vail and Lionshead Welcome Centers were closed as of 5 p.m. and motorists were directed to stay in their vehicles as first responders tended to the crash.

Heavy snowfall was hitting the area as of 5 p.m. on Friday, making the evening commute difficult for motorists.

A hazardous weather outlook issued by the National Weather Service on Friday morning said to expect snow in the Gore and Sawatch ranges.

Meteorologist Kris Sanders with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction said he’s expecting the snow to subside on Friday night at some point.

“We’ve seen scattered showers pop up in the across the area, and it looks like in the higher elevations where it’s a little bit cooler, we’re seeing heavier rates,” Sanders said. “Obviously with Vail Pass being one of the highest elevation roadways in the area, they’re seeing the impacts.”

“Shortly after midnight, or around that time frame, we should be looking at no more showers,” he added.

Avon recall dispute now unfolding in district court

A judge has been asked to resolve a dispute over how many signatures are required to trigger a Town Council recall.
File photo

A contentious recall effort sparked feuds and colored campaigns for Avon Town Council last summer and fall. But the last word on a so-far failed attempt to recall two councilmembers will come from an Eagle County District Court judge.

The town of Avon and the Avon Recall Committee — locked in a fight over how many voter signatures the committee needed to submit to force a recall election for Sarah Smith Hymes and Tamra Underwood — have each filed a first round of briefs in a pending case before Judge Russell H. Granger.

Last November, the town determined the committee did not submit enough voter signatures for a recall election to proceed. On Dec. 1, the town filed a complaint against the Avon Recall Committee, asking the district court to weigh in with an opinion.

“This is not a matter of the town disagreeing with the Avon Recall Committee as to their right to pursue a recall or their rationale for undertaking a recall effort. Rather, it is a fundamental disagreement with respect to the proper interpretation of law related to the recall process,” Avon Town Attorney Paul Wisor said in an emailed statement about the case. “The town is asking the court to tell the town and the Avon Recall Committee the proper way under Colorado law to calculate the number of signatures necessary to trigger a recall election.”

While some have bristled over the complaint, characterizing it as town officials suing residents for exercising rights to pursue a recall election, Wisor said the complaint is the mechanism available to the town to ask an independent judge to settle the dispute.

“The town is not suing the Avon Recall Committee members in the traditional sense,” Wisor said. “In its pleadings, the town has reserved the right to seek attorney’s fees in the event that the Avon Recall Committee or its legal representatives assert a frivolous claim or defense against the town. The town, however, is not otherwise seeking damages or fees in this case.”

Leave it to the judge

Town officials did not have to file the complaint. They could have done nothing and left it up to the Avon Recall Committee to challenge the town’s decisions denying the recall effort in court if it chose to do so.

“Having a district court judge exercise his authority … to determine the proper methodology under Colorado law is the most fair and public way for the town, the Avon Recall Committee and the community as a whole to reach an answer with respect to this disagreement,” Wisor said of the town’s decision to move forward with the complaint.

The recall effort continued throughout much of last summer and fall. It marks the first recall attempt in Avon’s history, town officials said, and prompted numerous conflicts and disagreements between the people supporting it and people opposing it.

According to the town’s complaint, the Avon Recall Committee submitted 452 valid voter signatures to recall Underwood and 462 valid voter signatures to recall Hymes on Nov. 3. Those totals were less than the 496 voter signatures the town determined were needed to trigger a recall election. That prompted the town clerk to issue “certificates of insufficiency” for both recall petitions on Nov. 9.

In its complaint, the town also alleges that the Avon Recall Committee submitted a protest against those certificates of insufficiency on Nov. 24, after deadlines to protest the decision had passed — something the committee disputes in its initial answer to the town’s complaint.

Both petitions contained more than the 330 signatures the Avon Recall Committee believes were actually needed to trigger a recall election for Hymes and Underwood.

Differing math

Each side points to provisions governing recall processes in the Colorado Constitution and Colorado Revised Statutes. Those require signatures equaling 25% of the “entire vote cast” for all the candidates for the particular office in the last preceding election, with that 25% of the entire vote cast then divided by the number of candidates who were elected to the office in that preceding election.

The town and the Avon Recall Committee seem to agree that 1,984 voters cast 5,276 votes in the 2018 election for the Avon Town Council, when Hymes and Underwood were elected to their seats. Disagreement seems to center around the “undervotes” in the election, and how they should factor into the tally of votes cast.

With eight candidates running for four open seats on the Avon Town Council in 2018, people could vote for up to four candidates. Not every voter cast all four votes, however, resulting in 2,660 undervotes.

The town of Avon argues that the undervotes, along with the 5,276 votes cast, make up the “entire vote cast” total used to determine how many voter signatures the Avon Recall Committee needed to submit. That results in the town’s calculation of 496 voter signatures.

The Avon Recall Committee, in its answer to the town’s complaint, argues that the undervotes should not be part of the total, resulting in its calculation of 330 signatures needed to trigger a recall election.

“Had each elector cast their maximum allowable votes for town councilor positions, i.e. four votes for four open candidate seats, there would have been 7,936 total votes cast for the town councilor candidates. Under that scenario, there would have been no undervotes,” the Avon Recall Committee writes in its answer to the town’s complaint, filed Jan. 11 by attorney Alan Sweetbaum, of Denver.

“However, the town contends there were undervotes, which necessarily eliminates the possibility that there were 7,936 total votes cast in the 2018 election for the town councilor positions. Yet, the town contends that 7,936 total votes were cast for purposes of determining the number of signatures required to trigger a recall election … The town clerk’s miscalculation improperly increased the number of signatures the town claimed were required to trigger a recall election.”

Wisor and Sweetbaum declined to comment on why the undervotes should be included or excluded from the total vote used to calculate the signatures needed, with more filings in the case expected in coming weeks.

In its complaint, the town of Avon argues that interpreting Colorado law for recalls and the “entire vote cast” as the Avon Recall Committee proposes would “violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution because they require a town elector to cast the maximum votes allowed in order to have their participation in the town council election equally and fully counted for purposes of a recall.”

Having now gone through the first recall effort in Avon’s history, town officials are considering adopting recall procedures to help eliminate future confusion around processes and requirements. The idea was one of nearly 90 goals the town identified as a possibility for 2021 at the most recent Avon Town Council meeting.

“We’ve seen other communities that have adopted recall procedures that are basically citizen handbooks that explain the process and how a group can pursue a recall, and make the process more understandable to the citizenry,” Avon Town Manager Eric Heil said.

But for now, the town is asking Eagle County District Court to affirm that it correctly handled its first recall dispute and to uphold its decisions to deny the two recall petitions. Meanwhile, the Avon Recall Committee is asking the court to do the opposite, and find that it submitted enough voter signatures for a recall election for Hymes and Underwood to proceed.

Two injured after furniture truck drives off I-70 and lands on Edwards road

A furniture truck drove off Westbound Interstate 70 on Thursday at Winslow Road in Edwards. Two men were injured, and clearing the scene took most of Thursday morning. (Eagle River Fire Protection District)

Two men were injured in a Thursday morning crash that sent a furniture truck off Interstate 70 and onto Winslow Road in Edwards.

The truck’s driver, a 22-year-old male, and a passenger, a 23-year-old male, sustained “serious bodily injuries” according to Colorado State Patrol Master Trooper Gary Cutler. The driver had to be extracted from behind the steering wheel by first responders.

Cutler said one man was transported to Vail Health hospital. The other was taken to Denver Health hospital.

According to Cutler, the westbound truck left the interstate at the overpass over Winslow Road. The crash and its cleanup closed the road from just after 9 a.m. to just after noon.

Winslow Road in Edwards was closed Thursday morning for several hours due to a truck crash. The impact from the crash knocked the truck off its axles, and the vehicle had to be loaded onto a flatbed truck.
Mark Bricklin

According to Eagle River Fire Protection District Community Risk Manager and Public Information Officer Tracy LeClair, the road was closed for the morning because the truck’s cargo had to be emptied. The force of the crash — into one of the retaining walls on the overpass — knocked the truck off its axles, so the vehicle had to be put on a flatbed truck and removed from the scene.

Colorado Pacific Railroad plans to persist in Tennessee Pass deal

The Colorado Pacific Railroad intents to object to a deal between Union Pacific Railroad and the Colorado, Midland & Pacific Railway company for Colorado, Midland to operate the Tennessee Pass line between Canon City and Eagle. (Special to the Daily)

Stefan Soloviev is skeptical about a deal announced last week to return rail service to the Tennessee Pass line between Canon City and Eagle.

Soloviev, an owner of the Colorado Pacific Railroad, said this week the firm will file an objection Friday to the deal with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. That board governs use of rail lines in the country.

Colorado Pacific hauls grain and other agricultural products on the line that stretches from, roughly, Pueblo through Garden City, Kansas. Much of that grain comes from Soloviev’s extensive land holdings in eastern Colorado and western Kansas under the company Crossroads Agriculture. But, Soloviev said, the railroad also hauls grain from neighboring farms.

A complicated story

Colorado Pacific in 2020 offered Union Pacific Railroad, the line’s current owner, $10 million for the line. That offer was rejected, by both Union Pacific and the Surface Transportation Board.

In a pair of rulings issued in March of 2020, the board rejected Colorado Pacific’s request to force a sale. The same day, the board granted Union Pacific a protective order to shield from public view what the company claimed was sensitive proprietary information.

The Colorado Pacific decision was issued “without prejudice,” meaning the firm could re-submit its application.

Soloviev said he intends to do just that, but first his firm has to successfully fight the current agreement between Union Pacific and the Colorado, Midland & Pacific Railway Company.

What kind of use might be on the line remains an open question.

In a Dec. 30 interview about the current deal, Colorado, Midland community liaison spokesperson Sara Thompson Cassidy said that firm would be open to talking with community leaders across the length of the line about those uses, ranging from freight to passenger service.

The prospect of passenger service has piqued the interest of Eagle County officials, who believe commuter rail service could be a boon to Eagle and Lake counties.

Soloviev said he believes the line, if it’s ever activated, will mostly haul oil shale from Utah to the Front Range.

Soloviev added Colorado Pacific will focus on freight and hauling grain to western markets via Tennessee Pass. He left open the prospect of launching daily passenger service, on what would be mostly a tourist train.

Hauling grain over the Continental Divide will be safer than oil shale — not oil, but rock containing oil — he added. There won’t be that many trains running, since one “unit” — 110 jumbo freight cars — will haul roughly 500,000 bushels of grain. It takes some time to put that much grain on a train, Soloviev said.

We might see trails

In addition to rail service, Soloviev said “I’d max out trails for people in that area.”

But, Soloviev added, he’s working mostly for his own company and his neighbors on the plains. Part of that work involves fighting what he called Union Pacific’s “monopoly” on freight service, and the higher costs that imposes on grain producers.

There are only two lines that run over Colorado’s mountains, Soloviev said, the Moffat Tunnel line out of Denver and the Tennessee Pass line through Pueblo. Union Pacific controls both lines and only runs one.

“There’s no more egregious monopoly right now” than the one railroads impose on farmers, he added.

Whoever controls the rails over Tennessee Pass, it’s going to be expensive to get that stretch ready for train traffic.

Soloviev said he believes rehabilitating the Tennessee Pass could cost “at least” $50 million.

Soloviev said he believes there’s enough revenue potential for any operator to make that kind of commitment. Asked if Colorado Pacific had the financial ability to do the work, Soloviev said it does.

Whatever happens on the line, it’s going to be some time before any trains from any firm run over Tennessee Pass.

The first step is an operator gaining approval from the Surface Transportation Board.

Soloviev said he’s going to continue his efforts to secure the line for Colorado Pacific.

“I’m not afraid of Union Pacific,” he said.

The players

• Union Pacific Railroad

• Colorado Pacific Railroad

• Colorado, Midland & Pacific Railway Company

• U.S. Surface Transportation Board

Vail Valley wildlife trail ambassador volunteers needed

Local seasonal trail closures are essential to protect local elk and deer herds.
Rick Spitzer, special to the Daily

Local wildlife enthusiasts who want to help wintering wildlife in the Eagle Valley are encouraged participate in a virtual information and training session about becoming a Wildlife Trail Ambassador. The session will be held Dec. 9 from 6 to 7 p.m.

The Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District since 2017 has partnered with the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Association on the Wildlife Trail Ambassador program, which uses volunteers to help educate the public about the importance of avoiding disturbance to critical winter wildlife habitat.

Winter is a critical time for deer and elk survival in the Eagle Valley, and the U.S. Forest Service closes specific trails in the winter to avoid disturbance from humans and dogs. If wintering big game are disturbed too often, they’ll more rapidly burn through their winter fat reserves and potentially abandon the best winter habitat available. This means they face a greater risk of predation or starvation, and may have reduced fawn and calf survival in the spring.

The need for public education is as strong as ever as the Forest has seen not only record public use of trails this year, but also a sharp increase in winter closure violations.

“Unfortunately, many of our seasonal wildlife trail closures were violated during 2020 winter/spring season. We saw a more than 700% increase in violations on the Everkrisp Trail alone. This is severely detrimental to our big game herds and we must do better. Ambassadors are key to making this change,” Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis said.

This year’s ambassador program will focus on the formation of Ambassador Teams. Existing Adopt-A -Trail teams and new teams are welcome to join. Visit the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance link to sign up for the training.

For information about other seasonal trail closures, open trails, and current trail conditions in the Eagle Valley, please visit: https://www.vvmta.org/trail-closures/.


Eagle County Paramedic Services names operations manager

Steve Vardaman has been promoted to Operations Manager at the Eagle County Paramedic Services. Vardaman previously served as a Paramedic Supervisor. 

“The operations manager is a critical role here,” Eagle County Paramedic Services CEO Jim Bradford said. “Not only does the ops manager work closely with all our field providers and supervisors, but he is also integral in helping us maintain our stellar customer service. (Vardaman) has been an invaluable asset to our organization for almost two decades; we’re thrilled to be able to promote him to this position.”

Vardaman started his career with the paramedic service in 2002 as an EMT, completed paramedic school in 2003 and has been a paramedic supervisor since 2013. In addition, he works as a paramedic ski patroller for Vail Resorts, is a certified Critical Care Paramedic, a BCCTPC Certified Flight Paramedic and a State of Colorado POST-Certified Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy. He’s also one of only 19 IBSC Certified Tactical Paramedics in the state. 

“I am so fortunate to work with such a talented, motivated and dedicated staff,” Vardaman said. “I look forward to serving with our many healthcare and public safety partners to continue providing high quality Emergency Medical Services to our community.”

For more information, go to eaglecountyparamedics.com or call 970-926-5270.