By Allen Best
Chipping away at energy usage
JACKSON, Wyo. – In ways large but mostly small, Jackson and Teton County keep chipping away at use of fossil-based energy, as Jackson had vowed to do when signing the Mayors’ Agreement on Climate Change in 2006.
*Editor’s note: Mammoth signed the agreement, too. And then it was filed in a drawer and disappeared.
The single largest consumer of energy by the local governments is the wastewater treatment plant, and that’s where the largest investments have been made. Aided by federal stimulus funds, the community installed 224 kilowatts in solar generating capacity. Since September 2010, it has produced 225 megawatt hours of production.
Editor’s note: By comparison, the Mammoth Community Water District’s solar array produces 2,000 megawatts annually according to Board member Tom Cage.
Now comes a trio of projects aimed to more efficiently use energy at the treatment plant. One project, which improves the efficiency of aeration, will reduce electricity costs $64,000 per year, given current rates. The entire front-end costs were paid by a $457,000 grant from the local electrical cooperative, Lower Valley Energy, using money from wholesale provider Bonneville Power.
In 2008, the town and county rolled out a program called “10 X 10.” As the name implied, the goal was to reduce energy 10 percent by 2010. The program directed attention to reducing energy use and, in some cases, spurred innovation. For example, one large user of energy is the gasoline used by police, who commonly keep their cars idling constantly, arguing that they can’t shut down their computers. An innovation achieved in the town’s public works department (installation of a second battery) helped alleviate that complaint.
Still, the town fell short in its goal for in-house operations – not achieving the full 10 percent reduction until well into 2011. But it has done so with not just the big projects, but the smaller projects in the town’s building infrastructure. “Most of it was non-sexy and boring: windows, doors, weather stripping, caulking. But it all helps,” says Larry Pardee, the town’s Public Works Director.
“I feel like we are done talking, and we’re moving to action. But it’s been a long couple of years,” said Pardee.
“The key is you just have to get started. You have to get in the game. You can study it ‘til the cows come home. You need to remain flexible and adaptable and change as you go. There needs to be a living, breathing process that can be refined in coming months and years,” he added.
“I think we have transitioned ourselves to a really good disciplined approach to engaging the community, to get this work done.”
Bike trails down Baldy
KETCHUM, Idaho – Like many other ski areas, Sun Valley has modest ambitions, at least for now, for new summer activities on U.S. Forest Service lands it uses by permit.
Greater latitude in designing mountain bike trails is among the options authorized under the law, signed recently by President Barack Obama. That’s the immediate plan at Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain ski area, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.
The law also allows such things as zip lines and rock-climbing features, but specifically forbids tennis courts, water slides, swimming pools and amusement parks.
The Forest Service projects 600 new jobs will be created as a result of new activities offered during summer months at ski areas affected by the new law. Most are in the West.
Time-share project ok’d near lifts
ASPEN, Colo. – After years of saying no-thanks, the Aspen City Council has approved a new hotel adjacent to the ski slopes. The Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge is to have 22 time-share units, 5 affordable-housing units for 16 employees, and nearly 155 parking units.
All of this is near the site of the original ski lift erected after World War II. While just a few blocks from the center of Aspen, with all its tony shops, the neighborhood itself has been allowed to deteriorate. It’s not exactly inner-city Detroit, but neither is it the sort of slopeside real estate you’d expect in Aspen.
This project is one-third the size of the original proposal submitted by developers Jim Chaffin and Jim Light. It will get five years of vested rights, meaning that if the construction doesn’t start within that time frame, the developers have to reapply. They had wanted 10 years. Even so, reports the Aspen Daily News, half the city council members had a certain amount of heartburn before they joined in a unanimous approval.
The new “Not-it” place
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Some of the buzz at Crested Butte has to do with the backcountry snowcat ski touring operation at the old mining camp Irwin. The name now is simply CS Irwin (for snowcat). There’s a new lodge – and this winter, plenty of bookings, thanks to widespread press in magazines as well as the afterburners of last winter’s 500-plus inches of snowfall.
Mountain, a magazine, says that for 25 years Irwin has been the “only worthy U.S. equivalent of British Columbia’s famed destination cat-skiing lodges.”
Kyra Martin, the operation’s administrative director, recently told a local chamber group that half the registered guests for winter are from the East Coast, and just 15 percent from Texas and 13 percent from Colorado – not your typical demographic.
She also suggested a new cachét, according to a report in the Crested Butte News. “We’re seeing that Crested Butte is the new ‘it’ location to not be seen,” she said. “That is becoming the thing in the celebrity world.”
The skiing costs $350 per person per day, not counting the massages, drinks and so forth.
Breck leases solar-garden parcels
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Breckenridge continues to move forward with its investment into solar energy. This year, the town completed installation of a significant number of panels for municipal operations.
Now, the town has leased two parcels of land, which will be used for community solar gardens. Solar gardens allow consumers to buy into electrical production at a smaller but centralized facility. This is more practical for condominiums, but even single-family homes, as maintenance is easier at one location.
Four-fifths of the capacity at the 500-kilowatt-hour garden has been spoken for by the towns of Breckenridge, Dillon and Silverthorne. The other garden will be two to four times larger. Although both gardens are in the planning stages, they are already popular with businesses, individual and governments eager to buy in, reports the Summit Daily News.
Food-stamp recipients double
JACKSON, Wyo. – The number of families in Teton County getting food stamps has more than doubled since 2008.
Officials tell the Jackson Hole News&Guide that food-stamp recipients typically rise during winter, when construction slackens. Not this year. The valley has shed 2,000 jobs in the last several years, mostly in the construction trades. Counselors are steering the unemployed to Rock Springs, an energy hub, or to the giant oil boom in North Dakota.
Tahoe redevelopment gets kudos
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – Revitalization of the Tahoe Basin ski areas is well underway. Two Colorado-based companies, Vail Resorts and KSL, have been expanding and upgrading their ski areas. And then there’s Homewood Mountain Resort, by all accounts wonderfully funky – which is to say that not much has changed in several decades.
JMA Ventures, the San Francisco-based company that bought Homewood several years ago, has been assembling plans that will make Homewood more comparable to the other buffed-and-shined ski areas of the West.
According to the Sierra Sun, most people at a recent meeting expressed support for the changes. “We are experiencing insipid decay,” said one resident. “We need this development approved” for environmental, social and economic reasons. The upgrade will yield an estimated 180 new jobs, plus $6 million to $7 million annually in new tax revenues.
Not everybody, however, approves. A Sierra Club representative called the developer “well intentioned” but said the project doesn’t have to be so large.
Art Chapman, president of JMA Ventures, said that yes, it does need to be that large. “A smaller project won’t work because it will not generate sufficient skiers to sustain the ski operation,” he said. “If this plan doesn’t come together, Homewood will close. There is no alternative.
Daredevil dies in avalanche
ALTA, Utah – There are times when a photo is indeed worth a thousand words. Such was the case in the New York Times on Saturday, when it announced the death of skier Jamie Pierre, 38, who died last week in an avalanche at Alta.
A resident of Big Sky, Mont., Pierre was skiing in an out-of-bounds (and closed) area at Snowbird called South Chute. The slide carried him 800 feet over rocky terrain and a small cliff. He came to a stop partly buried, but died of trauma.
The photo accompanying the obituary showed Pierre in a 2006 jump from a cliff at Grand Targhee, near Driggs, Idaho. Not much more than a dot in the photo, he had already dropped off the top cliff, and was about to leap off a 255-foot jump.