By Allen Best
Mountain post offices targeted
RICO, Colo. – The post office in Rico, a town located 35 miles south of Telluride, is being considered for closing. Rico Mayor Barbara Betts said it’s a serious situation and plans to call a community meeting to feel out a response.
“The post office is really more than a place to get your mail,” explained Betts. “It’s the community gathering place for us. It’s the way we communicate with one another. We go to the post office, we run into people and say, ‘Did you hear this about so and so?’”
The same is said at Ophir, another town located south of Telluride, which may also lose its post office.
The U.S. Postal Service has had its sales trimmed for years, losing business first to UPS and Fed Ex and, particularly in the last decade, to the Internet. Advertisers have been sending less information through the mail – and, for that matter, so have people.
As it gets no federal taxpayer support, the Postal Service has cut corners, assigning carriers to longer routes, for example. It has also talked about cutting service on Saturdays.
Two weeks ago, the Postal Service announced plans to study the nearly 3,700 post offices that it says are underused.
Various other mountain towns of the West are also being considered for closing. Those in Colorado include Red Cliff, located a dozen winding miles south of Vail, and Silver Plume, which is located along I-70, between Summit County and Denver, plus Pitkin and Parlin, located east of Gunnison, and Ward, located west of Boulder along the Peak to Peak Highway.
Snow continues to block roads
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Going into August, some of the more formidable snowbanks on mountain roads of the West still block passage.
“If you’ve witnessed more August snow than what we have in 2011, you’ve been around for a very long time,” writes Tom Ross in Steamboat Today. He’s been around Steamboat since about 1978.
Ross reported water levels are now just falling and that some creeks in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area can be forded safely, while snow continues to crowd some high-country lakes.
The road across Buffalo Pass remained blocked by two snowbanks going into August. Located north of Steamboat, the snow-measuring site there perennially has Colorado’s deepest snowpack.
From Crested Butte, the road to the old mining town of Schofield is usually blocked well into July. This year, entering the second week of August, it’s still blocked.
Betty Ford’s spunk recalled
AVON, Colo. – Betty Ford, who brightened many a Christmas in Vail with her husband Jerry, lighting the holiday tree in December, was remembered with joy at a celebration of her life. The couple first visited Vail in 1969, when he was still a congressman from Michigan, later buying a condominium in Vail and then, after his presidency, a home at Beaver Creek.
Stories told at the service, which was covered by the Vail Daily, included this one: She was cooking when Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in 1973 and Jerry became the nation’s chief executive. When he called to tell her, she said, “If you’re president of the United States, why am I cooking dinner?”
She was, noted the Vail Daily, a professional dancer and a Sunday school teacher and a woman without pretense. She was also remembered for her convictions. They were not necessarily those of the Republican Party then, or now.
Quick-acting dad saves daughter
CANMORE, Alberta – Quick action by the father scared a cougar that had attacked his 6-year-old daughter.
The father was walking in front of the girl along a lake southeast of Banff and Canmore when the cougar pounced. The father screamed and threw his water bottle at the 80-pound cat. The startled cougar took off, leaving the girl with few scratches.
Had the cougar been a better hunter, the outcome might have been different, wildlife authorities told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Just the same, they were puzzled why the cougar had attacked. It was well fed. They know the mother of the 2-year-old lion had died, and they think the cat had failed to learn to be wary of people.
The cat was later tracked down and killed, as history has shown that if a young cat attacks a human once, it will do so again. That said, this is the first cougar attack in the Banff-Canmore area since 2001.
About 250 miles south in Montana, a grizzly bear attacked a 50-year-old hiker in Glacier National Park. The hiker said he had been making noise, but nonetheless rounded a bend in the trail and encountered the sow, which had one sub-adult with her. The hiker sustained bites to his leg and arm before the bear retreated. He was able to hike out on his own, reports the Whitefish Pilot.
Burgess fossil thieves nabbed
GOLDEN, B.C. – A pair of thieves tried to make off with fossils from the world-famous Burgess shale deposits in a quarry in Yoho National Park.
Law enforcement officials with Parks Canada say the two men fled into the Kicking Horse River. The one with a heavier backpack swam back to shore, where he was arrested, but the other one disappeared. Cops feared he had drowned, but they found him that night in the rail yards nearby.
The two men, who are from the Czech Republic, were charged with removal of a natural object.
Diffident real estate market
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Real estate sales in Crested Butte have picked up in volume this summer, but it appears to be due to bottom-feeding as buyers snapped up foreclosed properties. The Crested Butte News reports a median price of $280,000, compared to $340,000 last year.
In Eagle County, one-fifth of all sales have been bank sales, the Vail Daily reported. Measured simply by total dollar volume, the market has slipped from last year.
Buoyed by sale of a $16 million house and a $38 million hotel in Snowmass Village, Pitkin County had a strong June. The average sale price of $4.8 million is 10 percent ahead of last year. The number of foreclosures was just 8 percent of all sales, reports The Aspen Times.
Aspen towns eye plastic-bag fee
BASALT, Colo. – Town councils in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale will soon formally take up a proposal to enact a 10 cent to 20 cent “impact” fee on plastic bags.
The idea has been kicked around since last winter, when an Aspen City Councilman returned from a vacation in the Bahamas deeply concerned by the proliferation of plastic in the ocean. Telluride had previously adopted a fee on plastic bags, as have San Francisco, Ireland and others.
By one estimate, the average American gets 400 plastic bags per year.
Pay-to-throw trash a hit
GRAND LAKE, Colo. – An innovative program designed to reduce illegal dumping and spilled trash cans seems to be working even better than was hoped for in Grand Lake, at the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Trash bags are sold and can then be pitched into a community dumpster. The program is of great convenience to the weekenders, notes the Sky-Hi News.
Tax to prop up direct flights
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Voters in Steamboat Springs will be asked to approve a quarter-cent sales tax in order to boost the revenue guarantees for airline flights during ski season.
Steamboat has had a direct flight program since the 1970s. A decade ago, the ski company asked the community to share a greater proportion of the expenses, and so a 2 percent lodging tax was adopted in 2004.
However, with the recession, the proportion of seats occupied has declined, and partly because of increased fuel prices, airlines have higher costs.
The ski area operator intends to continue paying just as much money. Rob Perlman, senior vice president of marketing for the Steamboat Ski Corp., a division of Intrawest, said the ski company bears half the cost but captures only 25 percent of money spent by winter visitors.
“The ski area is committed at a minimum to the average of what we’ve paid for the last three years, $1.1 million,” he said.
Trails draw bikers to Snowmass
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. – The slopes of Snowmass are alive with mountain bikers this year, the result of a stepped-up development of mountain bike trails. At the end of the last ski season, the Aspen Skiing Co., the operator of Snowmass, got approval from the Forest Service to build several new mountain biking trails. Gravity Logic, the company that designed Whistler’s mountain bike terrain park, was hired to design the trails. The same firm is designing expanded offerings on the slopes of Steamboat.