By Allen Best
Colorado goes for pot
ASPEN, Colo. – In the wake of the vote legalizing possession of marijuana in Colorado last Tuesday, newspapers in the state’s ski towns wondered about the effect on tourism. After all, people go to Costa Rico to get root canals and chip in a round or two of golf on the side. Why not a ski vacation and a few bong hits, too?
But tourism promoters said they doubt easy availability will mean much to most people. “I really don’t see it as a plus or a minus,” said Tom Kern, chief executive of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. “I just see it as fact,” he told Steamboat Today.
Colorado has been edging toward legalization of marijuana for some years. In 2000, state voters authorized use of marijuana for medical purposes, in defiance of federal law prohibiting marijuana. Then, in 2009, the Obama administration signaled it would not prosecute medical marijuana patients and caregivers who were in “clear and unambiguous” compliance with state law. By 2010, Colorado lawmakers had adopted legislation governing the burgeoning medical dispensaries.
“I’ve never before seen so many 21 year olds with neck pain,” wise-cracked John Minor, sheriff of Summit County, shortly after the new laws went into effect.
In fact, some clinics advertised having doctors on call 24 hours a day.
Wendy Wolfe, a member of the Breckenridge Town Council, said that the legalization drew some visitors and caused others to stay away. “It’s probably a wash,” she told Steamboat Today.
The impact of the vote in ski towns is a moot point in other ways as well. Sheriffs in Aspen, Telluride and Breckenridge have all said at various times that prosecution of marijuana laws was not a high priority.
“It was never a priority for us, really, unless you brought attention to yourself,” Minor told the Summit Daily News.
In fact, marijuana use in Colorado is still restricted to people with doctor’s authorization. State officials expect implementation of the law to take a year.
“Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper, alluding to the well-known effect of smoking marijuana to make people hungry.
In San Miguel County, where Telluride is located, 79 percent of voters favored legalization of marijuana, the largest margin in the state. It was followed by 75 percent in Pitkin County (Aspen), then Summit (Breckenridge) 70 percent), Gunnison (Crested Butte) at 67 percent, and Eagle (Vail) at 66 percent. Routt County (Steamboat) wasn’t far behind at 63 percent. The constitutional amendment won 55 percent of statewide votes.
Politically, ski towns waver a bit
DENVER, Colo. – In mountain valleys of Colorado dominated by ski towns, there was slippage in the vote for President Barack Obama, but they remain more liberal and Democratic than the state or general averages.
Telluride and San Miguel remains the most reliably Democratic enclave in the state, but even so, the support for Obama slipped in this election. The 77 percent majority there from four years ago slipped to 70 percent his year. The margin also slipped in Routt County (Steamboat), from 62 four years ago to 57 percent this year.
In Colorado’s Grand County (Winter Park), Mitt Romney actually won. He also won in Utah’s Summit County, where he owned a home in Park City until just a few years ago.
Locally, In Mono County, Obama bested Romney 52% to 45%, but in Mammoth Lakes, the margin was larger, 62.5% to 37.5%.
Whistler takes advantage
WHISTLER, B.C. – With the hockey season at least postponed as NHL owners and players negotiate terms, businesses wanting to advertise to broad audiences in Canada are at least temporarily without recourse.
With tongue largely in cheek, the Whistler Blackcomb ski area is offering to help them with their marketing deficiencies through sponsorships. That package normally includes a wrap of one of the gondolas from Whistler Village with a logo of the sponsor, plus a variety of lift tickets.
Pique also reports that the ski company hopes to develop additional real estate. Whistler has long had a cap on development, of 61,000 bed units. Given that Whistler Blackcomb has spent $340 million, it feels that if any additional development is allowed, the company should get in on the action.
“Theoretically, we have earned a lot more bed units than we have been granted here in Whistler,” said Doug Forseth, vice president of planning, government relations and special projects.
Wolves more aggressive
JASPER, B.C. – Wolves have killed two dogs and become aggressive toward other dogs, even when those dogs are attached by leashes to their owners. Can humans be next?
The argument for many years was that no, wolves didn’t attack people. A study by Mark McNay, a now retired biologist from Alaska, found only one case among 80 cases of human-wolf encounters between 1990 and 1960 that involved an unprovoked, aggressive behavior of a wolf.
Then, between 1969 and 2000, there were 18 cases documented, including “three cases of serious injury to children since 1996,” according to a story in Jasper’s Fitzhugh by Niki Wilson.
That’s not a big number, but in his 2002 report, McNay said that “increases in wolf protection, human activities in wolf habitat, and [an increase in] wolf numbers occurred concurrently with increases with unprovoked aggressive encounters.
Jets may replace props
KETCHUM, Idaho – The resort community of Ketchum and Sun Valley continues its efforts to make it easier for people to fly there.
One strategy has been to raise more money, to post as revenue guarantees for airlines. Vail, Steamboat, Telluride and Crested Butte all post such revenue guarantees, and some have done so for 30 years.
Air boosters in the Sun Valley area had hoped to raise $2.2 million annually through a 1 percent sales tax increase in the valley’s largest towns, Ketchum, Hailey and Sun Valley. The pot of money would have secured a flight from San Francisco. Idaho law requires a 60 percent majority for such tax increases, but only Sun Valley exceeded that number. Totals favoring the tax increase in both Ketchum and Hailey were just below the threshold.
Air supporters tell the Idaho Mountain Express that they intend to return to voters next year for the tax increase.
Sun Valley is currently served by flights from Salt Lake City, Seattle and Los Angeles, but on propeller planes, the Dash 400. No commercial jet has flown into the local airport at Hailey in 10 years.
But one might in the future. The Federal Aviation Administration has decided that the CRJ-700, a smaller jet for regional flights, can use the airport.
Rick Baird, manager of the local airport, Friedman Memorial, observed, “It opens up possibilities of services to markets that we currently do not have service from,” he said.