Sage grouse conservation in Wyoming, Olympic luge death final report and a Tom Chapman in this week’s mountain town headlines
Construction down in Aspen
The Aspen Daily News reports that all aspects of the building industry have declined during the recession, including the average value of building permits, from $800,000 in 2007 at the peak of the bubble to only $166,698 this year to-date. Building officials said they’re no longer seeing pie-in-the-sky speculation, but more remodeling jobs. The total amount of building, electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits is averaging 62 per month, down from a high of 176 per month in 2007 and 116 last year. The story goes on to describe impacts to the Aspen economy, along with interviews with local builders. Get the details here.
Property rights in Telluride?
The Telluride Daily Planet caught up with notorious land speculator Tom Chapman, known for buying private land like mining claims surrounded by national forest land and then selling them or trading them for a profit. In his latex move, Chapman bought a series of mining claims bordering Telluride ski area terrain, and said he won’t permit skiing on those parcels. In a rare interview, Chapman describes himself as a staunch advocate for private property rights, “evening things out” with the federal government. He claims that Telluride in particular, and Colorado in general, don’t respect private property rights. Kudos to the Telluride paper for nabbing the interview. It’s a great read.
Meanwhile, the Telluride Watch ran another story on Chapman’s plans to build a 25,000 square-foot home on the highest point within the boundaries of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. To be clear, the home is to be built on a private inholding in the park. The Telluride Watch story describes some of Chapman’s previous inholding developments, including construction of a log cabin on an inholding in the West Elk Wilderness near Paonia. He stopped construction of the cabin after negotiating a land trade with the Forest Service for 105 acres near Telluride. He later sold that property for more than $4 million. Park officials said there’s little they can do, while public land advocates accused Chapman of manipulation. Read the full story in the Watch here.
More mountain headlines and links after the break …
Final report on Olympic luge death
The Whistler Pique news magazine reports on a recently issued final report on the events leading up to the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili on the first day of the Olympics. The report concluded there was no single reason for the fatal accident, “but a series of interrelated events which led to the tragedy. Questions remain about how to make the sport safer in the future. The crash occurred before the opening ceremonies, when Kumaritashvili slid out of the icy track and into a metal pillar. The report concluded that the luger hit the wall at an unusual angle that sent him flying into the obstacle rather than bouncing back down on to the track. Officials with the international luge federation have said they won’t approve competitions on new tracks with what they consider excessive speeds. Read the in-depth story here.
Swiss avalanche death investigated
Planet Ski posted a story about the death of a British man in the Alps on the border of Switzerland and Italy, near Monte Rosa. Two people were caught in the avalanche. The buried victim was carrying a transceiver and was quickly found but died of his injuries. According to Planet Ski, there has been an unusual number of accidents involving guides and other snow sport professionals this winter. The total number of avalanche deaths in Switzerland stands at 28 so far this season, the sam number as last year. In Austria, avalanches have killed 33 people. That’s also the total number of avalanche deaths in the U.S. this winter. Read the rest of the story here.
World Cup prep in the Alps
Planet Ski is also reporting that numerous football teams bound for the World Cup in South Africa are training in the Alps to acclimate, including the Japanese, Swiss and French. Some of the World Cup matches will be played at elevations as high as 1,500 meters above sea level. The Swiss national team has announced it will be training at Crans-Montana at the end of May, and the Japanse team at Saas-Fee. More details here.
Steamboat construction fiasco
A redevelopment project planned for the base area of Steamboat Ski Area is on hold, as city officials are recommending the project for a complete rebid, according to the Steamboat Today website. The decision to put the work on hold came after two local contractors called the original bidding process an “absolute failure.” The delays could cost the city an extra $30,000 and delay start of the work by as long as two months, Steamboat Today reports. The city council awarded the contract to Duckels Construction on April 6, but there were charges of impropriety from the city council president. The city manager said that a project manager for the redevelopment violated the city’s procurement regulations for public projects. The full story is here.
Wyoming avalanche roundup
The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported on the end of the reporting season for the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center, including some seasonal statistics. The avalanche center recorded 379 inches of snow from Oct. 1 to Sunday at a study plot at 9,300 feet. The average for the last 10 years is 441 inches, according to the avalanche center. There were five avalanche deaths in the area this season: two skiers and three snowmobilers, including the inbounds death of well-known Jackson Hole ski patroller Mark Wolling. Read the full story here.
Sage grouse success?
The Jackson Hole News & Guide also reported on preliminary findings from sage grouse studies in the Pinedale area, where the use of pipes rather than trucks to transport gas appears to better for the birds, which were identified as eligible for the endangered species list recently. Conservation groups say they’re encouraged by findings, but still say that drilling fewer wells is the best way to protect the species. The study is funded by energy companies Shell, Questar and Ultra. About 140 sage grouse were radio-collared in an effort to determine how the gas drilling activities affected their movements. Using pipes means less roads, and that could be a benefit for the birds, which suffer when their habitat is fragmented. More here.