By Allen Best
Love it or loathe it!
SALIDA, Colo. – The landscape artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude made quite a pair. Appearing on the stage of the high school in Telluride a few years ago to talk about their latest project in Colorado, they bantered back and forth a bit like Sonny and Cher.
Although he has the broader name recognition, together they had made quite a splash for about 35 years: the fabric fence that ran for 24 miles across the hills north of San Francisco, the wrapping of 11 islands near Miami in pink plastic; and, in 1972, a giant orange curtain that was temporarily draped across the mouth of a canyon near Rifle, Colo.
In 1997, they began planning a return to Colorado, for a project called “Over the River.” The plans, now approved by state and federal officials, call for suspension of reflective, translucent fabric panels high above the Arkansas River. This is to be done in segments covering almost 6 miles in a 42-mile segment of the river between Salida and Cañon City. The exhibit, if you will, is planned for two weeks during the summer of 2014.
The river canyon is rugged, with a backdrop of 14,000-foot peaks and a bookend of the magnificent Royal Gorge Canyon.
Few people are on the fence about the project. Anglers seem to hate the idea. “You can put clothes on a dog, but what’s the point,” said Denver Post hook-and-bullet columnist Scott Willoughby. The same newspaper tells of a recent hearing in Cañon City at which opponents raised their voices more shrilly. “God’s natural beauty cannot be enhanced,” said one local resident.
Lois Manno, writing in Salida’s Mountain Mail, currently lives in Santa Fe, N.M., but intends to move to Salida – in part because of the project by the 77-year-old Christo. Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 of a brain aneurysm.
“We are living proof that Christo’s project will draw new energy to the region – people from outside of Colorado will view Salida and Cañon City favorably because there are enough open-minded citizens to support this world-class art event.”
Revelstoke population drops
REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Just a few years ago, population growth was a major worry for many in Revelstoke. People were arriving, drawn by the beauty of the region, and that was even before a determined effort was launched to make Mount Mackenzie a major new ski resort, Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
But the census says that Revelstoke has actually lost 100 people in the last five years, leaving it at 7,139, reports the Revelstoke Times Review. This compares with a population gain of 7 percent across British Columbia.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Intrawest, so recently struggling to pay off the loan created when a hedge fund (Fortress) bought the company, is now doing well, reports Bill Jensen, the company’s chief executive.
Jensen was recently in Steamboat Springs, where the ski mountain is owned by Intrawest. It remains a core resort for the company, which also owns Blue Mountain, Ontario; Snowshoe, W.V.; Stratton, Vt.; Tremblant, Quebec; and Winter Park, Colo., which it manages on behalf of the city of Denver.
According to a report in the Steamboat Pilot, Jensen emphasized that Intrawest made a sound strategic move in 2009. The real estate market was plummeting, but the company decided to clear out its large inventory of new condominiums.
“In January 2009, we had 1,100 unsold new townhomes and condos valued at $600 million,” he said. “Today, we do not own one of those units. We sold them all in 2009 and in the first half of 2010. We reduced pricing by 20 to 30 percent. So many people told us we were nuts because the market was going to come back.”
Intrawest has its roots in Vancouver, B.C., but recently moved to Denver. The headquarters staff has shrunk from 750 to 100, but those that remain are working hard on building new digital marketing tools. Jensen, reports the newspaper, said that the intent is to build synergies for its diverse portfolio of companies.
“Marketing has changed in every business,” he said. “It’s much more technical and electronic and will only get more so. We’ve built technical Web-based reservations, data-base, point-of-sale and research systems allowing efficiencies over multiple businesses. No one business could afford all of these platforms.”
Agency weighs natural gas buses
ASPEN, Colo. – Leaders in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley are studying some domino effects of their actions.
A case in point is the transition to natural gas. The valley-wide bus agency, Roaring Fork Transit Authority, is converting 22 buses from diesel to run on compressed natural gas. The move would save the agency hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
To help retrofit them, the agency is accepting $365,000 from EnCana Oil and Gas, one of the largest natural gas producers in North America and a major operator in Colorado’s gas fields.
EnCana has raised eyebrows in the last few years on a couple of occasions. It admitted to a mistake and was fined $371,000 eight years ago for fouling a creek near where the RFTA buses operate. More recently, in December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that a shallower aquifer had been polluted because of drilling that involved fracking near the hamlet of Pavilion, Wyo. That led to local grousing about potential drilling in the Thompson Creek area, to the west of Carbondale and Aspen.
Most don’t think it’s a suitable place to drill, despite permission from federal agencies that administer the land.
The Aspen Times says the board is split on whether it has any business trying to tell companies where and how they can drill. “How do we define environmentally sensitive areas?” asked one board member. “It’s not our place to be making some of these judgments.”
Another, however, said adopting a policy would “make the industry think … a tiny bit. It’s a start.”