Friday, May 30, 2008

County budget plan would save park land

The Gazette has a story today about how the cash-strapped county government, which needs to come up with about $10 million, is no longer talking about selling park land to scrounge up the cash. Instead, they have devised an across the board series of cuts to various social services. A citizen's group also plans to pen a ballot initiative that would increase the sales tax rate by 1 percentage point. That would bring in roughly $70 million in the first year, which the county would use to restore some of the cuts and chip away at a backlog of hundreds of millions of dollars in other needs.

New plans call for I-70 train

You can hear the skiers cheering. A group that has been meeting for eight months to come up with a plan to ease congestion on the mountain interstate approved a plan for an "advanced guideway" train by 2025.

This is not so much a Colorado Springs story as a Denver story, but won't it be cool for skiers to be cool for skiers to be able to get on the train, relax, have a breakfast burrito, and ski as long as they want without worrying about missing traffic on the way home.

Even better, if they can build a train on the narrow I-70 corrridor, can one on I-25 be far behind?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Skydiver's attempt to set a free-fall record fails when his balloon leaves without him

From the AP: Yesterday French skydiver Michel Fournier 's latest attempt to set a new free-fall record by riding a balloon to the stratosphere, then jumping out wearing a space suit ended when his baloon to the sky left without him.

The helium balloon was going to use Tuesday to soar to the stratosphere detached from the capsule he was going to use to jump from 130,000 feet.

It happened after the balloon was inflated on the ground at the airport in Saskatchewan. The balloon drifted away without the capsule.

"It was like having a hammer over my head," he said later.


The river runner's obsession? Good canned beer

Not even the news of record CFS spreads as fast among rafters and kayakers as the news that a favorite local microbrewery is coming out with a canned version on its beer. After all, bottles aren't allowed on many rivers (too much broken glass) and cans are lighter and easier to store on multi-day river trips. So it was with much glee that a thread went up on trumpeting the decision by New Belgium Brewery to start offering Fat Tire amber ale in a can.

"Woohoo!! My summer just officially got waaaaay better, no more Tecate with hot sauce on the river for me," one poster raved.

The beer joins these other fine cans: Dale's Pale Ale, Old Chub, and a small selection from local dudes Arctic Brewery.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Man survives tornado to be drowned in Royal Gorge

The first white water fatality of the year happened Sunday in Royal Gorge when a raft flipped in a class IV rapid and a 26-year-old computer software subcontractors from Kansas drowned. On the way out for the trip, friends said, he had narrowly dodged a tornado while driving on the plains. The water on Sunday was 1,600 cfs. Not particularly high.

World Alpine to Vail?

Just read on First Tracks!! that Vail is making its bid this week for the 2013 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships. A decision is expected Thursday by the International Ski Federation Congress, which is meeting in my old stomping grounds, Cape Town. (Love that - ski folks meeting by the beach!)

It Vail gets the nod it will be 14 years since the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships have been held outside Central Europe or Scandinavia. Bring it on!

Now, let's get back to the discussion about "locals only" mountain bike trails...

County still eyeing selling park land

According to a story in today's Gazette, the financially beleaguered county government must cut almost $9 million from the budget, and is talking about temporarily closing its two nature centers and selling off some park land, among other drastic measures. What will really happen? Who knows. The county has made dire prediction before. On the other hand, they are required by Tabor to balance the books, so something's got to give.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ski hall of fame inductees announced

And the inductees are:

Paul T. Bailey - founding member of the Copper Mountain Ski area and Chairman of the Board from Copper Mountain’s inception in 1972 through 1978; president of the Loveland Basin Ski Team; This past season he was the National Nastar Champion in the 85 and over category.

Chuck Ferries – a U.S. Alpine ski racer and U.S. Ski Team coach. Chuck was a member of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, a member of the U.S. World Championship Team, and president of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association from 2002-2006.

Merrill G. Hastings Jr. - served in the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army and after returning to the U.S. a decorated hero, joined the construction crew in building Arapahoe Basin. Merrill was a Berthoud Pass ski school director and a national ski patrolman starting the ski association that evolved into the Rocky Mountain Division of PSIA. He started Skiing Magazine in 1948 and successfully ran it for 16 years.

Bill Jensen – began his career working as a lift operator and quickly rose up through the ranks landing at the helm of Vail Resorts serving as the President and CEO.

Knox T. Williams - Knox developed an avalanche safety program recognized throughout the world. He built the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the oldest avalanche forecast center in the United States, into one of the most respected centers in the world. He developed a methodology for archiving weather and avalanche data which has allowed for more accurate mountain weather and avalanche forecasting in Colorado and managed to preserve the CAIC through 35 years of government cutbacks.

Bikers are angry

They're angry at me because I published an article about a "secret" downhill mountain bike trail in the Pike National Forest called I-35. Here is one of the responses I got (typos included.) It's fairly typical of others:
You must be the dumbest person I know!!! Thanks for your article, your direction's were a little off, but people that should not be riding our trail found it anyway. Our national DH champ is from Colorado and this is where the local Pro athlete's train, including myself. That is why it is so technical. What we managed to keep secret for more than 8 years, was let out in one article. I guess that's what newspaper's do, report news. I'd like to know how you got the name and the direction's, because I don't know you, and I don't see you doing any maintenance on the trail. This trail is a place that keep's the fastest people in the state from going down Jack's, Chute's, area's in Palmer Park, and Ute. Hopefully it does not get shut down now. We've talked to the Forest rangers and they don't seem to have a problem letting a few people ride up there as long as people are not building wooden stunts nailed into the tree top's. I personally don't mind hitting single s! peeders coming up the chutes, but seeing that I race Pro 4x, DH means I have to train on my XC bike as well as road, and don't like it when dudes are bombing Edna Mae in body armor when I'm triing to climb it. This trail is the only thing on the front range (left). Where you did'nt have to worrie about someone hiking/biking up or boobie trapping it because they don't like bikers on a muti use trails going fast. I.e., palmer park and all the mysterious boulders that just seem to roll down and stop on the trail in the middle of the night. In the futer I wish you would keep unmarked trails out of the paper and especially don't give direction on how to get to them, your article was one third about the trail and two third about how to get to it. The next time you can hit a 35 ft. gap over a mine tailing , make it down that trail in one piece or you and your buddie flatting several times(I know people you know and talk get's aroung real fast) maybe then you can tell you buddies.&nbs! p;You h ave no buisness talking about, especially writing about a trail you don't even ride, you're worse then a little kid on the internet talking crap. Maybe next time you could write an article on how people that train for the pikes peak accent use the incline, and how it's illegal, and get that shut down too, or maybe where all the local dirt jumps are.Your informant is going to regret they told your dumb @ss anything about this. P.S. be carefull the next shop you drop your bike off to, may forget to tighten all the bolts, beacause most of the mechanics in town ride DH.Stoops!!!!

For Denver teacher, 50 state summits in 50 days

Denver schoolteacher Mike Haugen plans to climb all 50 state high points in as many days. Sure, that's sounds easy enough when you're knocking around Missouri and Arkansas, or even Vermont's stately Mount Mansfield, but the trip includes a jaunt up Alaska's Mount McKinley too. Haugen, 31, hopes to combat increasing rates of childhood obesity due to poor eating and exercise habits by hosting an online virtual challenge, which begins June 9. The public can follow along in real time HERE during June and July.

Haugen will summit by any means during his 24,000-mile journey this summer, even if by car.
His goal is to finish on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, less than 50 days later, on approximately July 25, beating the current record by a few hours.

The upside of $4 gas

The Gazette has a front-page story today about how, socked with $4 gas, people are slowly shifting to bicycle commuting. Cities are experimenting with more bike lanes. Bike sales are climbing even though other consumer markets are in the tank. Colorado Springs, for its part, continues to add to its network of over 100 miles of bike paths and lanes. I can't help but think, long term, this may be the only elixir able to cure the exurban sprawl that now covers much of El Paso county. Plus, biking is good for you, fun, and less likely to foster road rage -- well, until some yahoo passing by throws his half-eaten Slurpy at you while you're riding to work. At least now you can take comfort in imagining him swearing when he has to pay $70 to fill his truck again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Barr Trail conditions

A recent report from the Incline Club on the trail up Pikes Peak:
It is clear to Barr Camp with only a few small, very old patches of snow. I didn't go beyond Barr, but it looked like the trail was clear for quite a ways past it and I would guess that I could have run quite a bit further without encountering any notable snowy obstacles.

Expect large, deep snowfields above tree line. Axe, gaiters recommended

One virtual step closer to creepy futuristic world

Nintendo announced this week that it is bringing Wii Fit to the United States, this tricked out version of the wildly popular game system allows players to stand on a bathroom scale-sized sensor and virtually walk a tightrope, ski jump or even strike yoga poses. All this standing around on the scale instead of actually doing these things may make standing around on a real scale that much more scary.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A rare bit of good luck on Rampart Range Road

I was flying down Rampart Range Road Sunday, and having successfully navigated the blowing piles of trash at the unfortunately managed public shooting range there, I suddenly heard a loud, staccato clang coming from my bike.  I stopped and got off to find this giant, rusty nail (picked up from the trash at the shooting range) had miraculously pierced my tire, but not popped my tube.  What are the odds?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mountain Mix-up

The Gazette ran THIS STORY Friday about how Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, in a commercial whose theme was "Colorado is my life" ran the wrong mountain in the background while explaining how he proposed to his wife on Pikes Peak.

Easy mistake, anyone could have made it.. It was Denali. But in an election year, the question is, would Mark Udall, long-time Outward Bound instructor, make the same mistake?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Warming up for bike season

Winter Park, perhaps the resort that has invested most seriously in summer biking, has unleashed a new bike website, where it says the future holds some freaky rad stuff:
Pending Forest Service approval, Trestle is on the verge of adding ... over 9.5 miles of additional trails to the bike park. New trails will include excavated trails, jump trails, elevated trails and single track trails. Our existing trails provide a great way to learn and progress your skills and techniques so you will be prepared for the new trails being added to the park. Keep an eye on for the latest trail construction updates.

Moth watch 2008

My mom spotted a moth last night between her door and screen door. Are the millers on their way in droves? Hard to know. Report your sightings below.

Crested Butte ski photo bonus

I skied Mount Axtel near Crested Butte May 11, with some very gracious locals, Jayson Simons-Jones and Karina Speere. Here are some photos that didn't fit in today's story on the near-record snowpack there in Out There.
With snow still at winter levels, everyone parks their snowmobiles at the edge of town and uses them to access closed roads.We had planned on a corn snow day, but after a storm overnight, we got powder instead

The spring snowpack lets you ski steep chutes with little avalanche danger.

Who figured we'd be getting face shots in May?

A look back up at some of the terrain we skied.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Polar Bear added to Endangered Species list

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today announced that he is accepting the recommendation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing is based on the best available science, which shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species.

Wolverines return to California, ask mountain lions "What you lookin' at?!"

This picture was captured in March by a motion-triggered camera in Tahoe National Forest. According to a Bloomberg story, it's the first Wolverine spotted in the Golden State since 1922.

As few as 200 to 300 wolverines are thought to remain in the United States, mostly in Montana and Idaho. They are notoriously bad-ass, as this recent essay shows.

For 13 years, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, based in Louisville, Colorado, has led a campaign to win federal protection for wolverines under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected petitions in 1995 and 2000, saying not enough was known about wolverines to put them on the protected list.

In fact, very little is known about these super-sized killer weasels. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has no idea if they live in the state or not.

Snow line at 10,000 feet

Tuesday's cold, wet weather left a white dusting all the way down to 10,000 feet. I was preparing for a frost in town, but it never came.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Still lots of snow... I mean lots

This is a photo I took Friday of the trinket igloo on Monarch Pass. The central Rockies still have a yeti-chocking load of snow... so much that water managers have drained Blue Mesa Reservoir by more than half in anticipation of a deluge. That thing usually takes years to fill.
The flood isn't coming yet though, today forecasts call for up to a foot of fresh powder in the mountains.

Moth watch 2008

And the tally as of May 13 is... one moth, spotted behind the visor of my car. Reports from Fountain, where the moths can be thick, suggest no moths. Maybe they're late, maybe they're not coming.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Moth watch 2008

Every year the miller moths come in May and early June. Sometimes its just a trickle. Sometimes it's a flood that provoke odd rituals in which locals sit in the dark by soapy bowls of water, jingling keys. (The best way to trap moths.) The last few years have been tame. This year could go either way. So far, I have spotted zero moths. But send your reports to

County wants to sell park land to fill coffers

Ready to spit out your morning coffee? El Paso county, which is hurting for money because of the foundering economy, is thinking about selling off park land, including some of its flagship regional parks to raise cash. According to a story in Friday's Gazette the county is examining which parcels in the more than 7,000 acres of park land they are permitted to sell to make up for a $3 million and growing shortfall in tax intake so far this year. Commissioner Dennis Hisey said not to worry, the sales are unlikey to reduce the county's park inventory by more than 50 percent. (Spit coffee now.)
Maybe this is all just scare tactics aimed at getting voters to approve a November sales tax increase, but maybe not. The story says the land could be sold for development, but could also sell to other government agencies (The city?). We'll see what happens, but from its founding, Colorado Springs' economy has relied on providing huge parks for a high quality of life, selling parks is the equivalent of eating your seed corn.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Altitude Research Center needs you

Want a splitting headache? The Altitude Research Center at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine is looking for some guinea pigs. You just have to be healthy, between 18 to 40 years old and have no current medical problems or summer plans. Oh, yeah, it also helps to have no fear of needles or stationary bikes. Test subjects will be compensated. But here's the bummer: they won't be sending you to a cot at the army research center on Pikes Peak or any place with a cool view. You'll be getting your altitude headache in the altitude chamber at the University of Colorado Denver Medical Campus.

Torch reaches top of Everest

A Chinese party carrying the Olympic flame reached to top of Mount Everest Thursday. Politics aside, the torch is a pretty need idea. In the the frigid, windy, oxygen-thin Himalayan air, the team used a propane and solid fuel torch based on technology that keeps rockets burning in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Similar torches will be available through R.E.I. by Christmas... maybe.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The next round of pass wars?

When Vail created the Buddy Pass in the 1990s, it started a pass war among ski areas catering to Colorado-based day skiers. This year, Vail announced the Epic Pass, a dirt cheap season pass for all Vail mountains available to anyone, whether they live in Colorado or not. The move is expected to significantly increase skier numbers at Vail. The Epic has the potential to start a pass war with traditional destination mountains such as Aspen Ski Company, according to this Aspen Times story. The article suggests there's some hand-wringing over Vail's move to grab out-of-staters. Will we see prices at Aspen drop? Will Vail's move ripple through the industry like the Buddy Pass did?
Maybe, maybe not. Cheap season passes have their own pitfalls. They make it tough to get on-mountain employees, because the incentive for a free season pass isn't as sweet when a pass costs $500 instead of $1,400.

Telluride growing again

Telluride will for the first time next winter provide lift access to Revelation Bowl, increasing the ski area's vertical drop to nearly 4,000 vertical feet, one of the tallest in the U.S. This above-treeline terrain, located directly off the back side of Telluride's Gold Hill and Chair 14, will be served by a new Leitner-Poma quad chairlift. Details here.
Wow, another big expansion from Telluride, and another "side country" backcountry powder stash gone.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Loveland plans ski cat operation

According to the Backcountry Alliance's latest newsletter, Loveland Ski Area plans to expand by starting a snowcat operation on Mt. Trelease northeast of the ski area. It's a popular destination for Front Range backcountry folks. Yet another place where backcountry and lift-served are competing for snow.

Runner dies of heart attack in Buena Vista Ultra

BUENA VISTA - A distance runner collapsed and died Saturday morning during the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run.
59-year-old John Marini of Littleton was running the 25-mile race when he collapsed Saturday about 13 miles in. He died while being taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

Officials say the race had EMS squads and six aid stations.

Roads closed as part of Arkansas

The BLM formally approved the Arkansas River Travel Management Plan Decision Record last week, limiting off-road access to off-highway vehicles in the area west of Royal Gorge. Here are the changes

· OHV open designations in Texas Creek, Grand Canyon Hills, and Sand Gulch are changed to OHV limited to roads and trails.

· OHV open designation at Turkey Rock, a 52 acre portion of the Sand Gulch area, is changed to limited by vehicle type;

· OHV limited designation on High Mesa Grassland Research Natural Area/Instant Study Area is changed to OHV closed.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Capitol Peak Skied Again

Only Lou Dawson had skied mighty Capitol Peak until Chris Davenport and friends repeated the feat in 2006. Now it's been done again. On April 28 Frank Konsella, Pam Rice, Pete Sowar and Chris Webster repeated the feat by a new route. Check out the awesome photos on Frank's blog
Asked if he would do the harrowing route again, he said "NO, under any circumstances."

Climber banished from Everest for Free Tibet banner

On Monday, Virginia climber Brant Holland was the first person kicked off Mt. Everest and out of Nepal for carrying a “Free Tibet” banner up the mountain. The National Geographic Adventure blog reports Chinese authorities, worried that the Olympic torch will be held up on its way to the top of Everest by protests over China’s role in Tibet, have closed access to the summit until May 10. Although Holland was climbing the south side, Nepal has been cooperating with China and has deployed army troops at Everest Base Camp.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Update on the hippy-pop up. This time with solar

A company called Verdier has come up with a new, sustainable version of the VW westfalia, minus any clearance you might need to get to an interesting camping spot.

Corral Bluffs Motorcycle Park idea killed

Yep, it's true. Due in part largely to an organized group of non-motorized opponents, the El Paso County Commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to nix the idea of a county-funded, privately managed dirt bike park. Here's the story.

Spring flowers: pretty much on hold

I'm amazed that I was walking in the lower part of Cheyenne Canon this week and saw pasque flowers everywhere. These flowers are supposed to emerge in early April, or even March, yet here they were in May. April was, on average, more than a degree cooler than usual and extremely dry, so maybe the wildflowers have decided to wait it out. What ever the reason, there's not much going on right now. Here's what I saw:

Pasque flowers, lots of them.Chiming bells, just one in a warm, dry placeChoke cherries: their long columns of flowers were about to open.