This week in mountain towns

A tall learning curve for greenhouse in Jackson

JACKSON, Wyo. — A year ago a 13,500-square-foot greenhouse built on the south-facing side of the municipal parking garage began operations in Jackson. Called Vertical Harvest, it is designed to produce leafy greens through the winter while providing employment for locals with physical and mental disabilities.

The opening drew national attention, including a story in the New York Times. That caused others to begin calling to figure out how to do something similar. The calls continue. But operators of Vertical are still trying to figure it out themselves, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

“There’s not a week that goes by where another community doesn’t contact us and say they want to replicate this,” said Nona Yehia, co-founder of Vertical Harvest. “We had a vision of how this would all work out, but that’s definitely still an evolution. I don’t think you can underestimate the fact that there is no playbook for this.”

The greenhouse is state of the art. Each room acts as its own microecosystem, regulated to maintain the ideal heat, moisture, ultraviolet light, and carbon dioxide levels for 35 crops so that they grow in the fastest, most nutritious, and environmentally sustainable way possible, all year long, at 6,200 feet above sea level.

Figuring out how to integrate all the cutting-edge technology, however, has been a daunting task. But delivering meaningful work to the employees has been an unqualified success.

The goal of Vertical Harvest is to deliver 100,00 pounds of fresh produce a year. So far, the production is a little more than half that.

Maybe pollinator garden can help butterflies, bees

TELLURIDE, Colo. — A pollinator garden rich with flowers has been planted along the San Miguel River downstream from Telluride with the intent of nurturing both butterflies and bees.

The Telluride Daily Planet explains that the pollinator garden was proposed by a former local official, Art Goodtimes, because the population of both insects has been declining.

“If we’re going to really make space for pollinators in our industrialized lives, we need to turn lawns and roadside barrow ditches and private backyards into pollinator gardens,” said Goodtimes, a Xerces Society supporter. “Our demonstration garden at San Miguel County’s Downvalley Park is an attempt to demonstrate the kind of work that can be done to off-set the rapidly decreasing numbers of pollinators in this country.”

The cost of presidential families visiting Aspen

ASPEN, Colo. — When family members of U.S. presidents take skiing vacations, it costs taxpayers a chunk of change.

The Aspen Times cites research by a group called Judicial Watch that found the costs of a trip by Michelle and the two Obama daughters in 2016 was $122,000. The airplane trip from Washington D.C. cost more than $57,000. Hotel expenses by the Secret Service agents that accompany all presidential family members accounted for most of the rest of the cost. Barack Obama stayed at home in Washington D.C. that holiday weekend.

Donald Trump has also been a frequent visitor to Aspen through the years, but not since he was elected. However, his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner and their two-children visited this winter. Costs of that have not been released.

Two Trump weekend visits to his resort in Florida cost $1.2 million, Judicial Watch said.

“If Congress is looking to save tax dollars, they might consider trimming the platinum travel budgets of this and future presidents.”

Cigarette tray part of call for rethinking of recycling

WHISTLER, B.C. — See somebody pass around a tray of cigarettes at a social event lately?

In Whistler, it happened just weeks ago. But there was no real expectation anybody would smoke the cancer sticks. Instead, says Pique Newsmagazine, a point was being made about changing mores and expectations.

“How many of you remember being in restaurants where every table had an ashtray? But now it would be quite a surprise if somebody asked to smoke in your restaurant. It’s not something that’s commonly done,” said Sue Maxwell, one of the municipal council members.

What Whistler city officials hope to see more of is waste diversion, especially in those places frequented by tourists. The resort community has boosted the recycling rate from 17 percent in 1999 to 56 percent in 2011. Among other items, food scraps are diverted to a composting operation.

Since then, the recycling rate has stalled. Local homes do a pretty good job of recycling. The push now is on commercial and apartments, or strata. Together, they contribute 64 percent of the landfill waste in Whistler. That waste is hauled hundreds of miles to a landfill along the Columbia River near the Oregon-Washington border.

To help nudge along the recycling, municipal codes may be altered to allow a little more space in units, to be used for garbage rooms, where the recyclables can be sorted.

A call to expand ban on plastic water bottles

WHISTLER, B.C. — In 2012, Whistler municipal officials banned the sale of bottled water sold in plastic containers at all the facilities it manages. Now, there’s a local call to take this a step further: ban the sale of plastic bottled water altogether in Whistler.

“With millions of visitors every year, Whistler has a unique position to educate visitors on making a conscious shift toward reusable containers,” says an online petition launched by Steve Andrews, a local resident.

“Many other communities have already set the precedent, and hopefully Whistler can be part of the change toward a more sustainable future,” he says.

Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine agrees, and points out that 83 percent of Canada’s bottled water exports come from British Columbia. Maybe the province should cease selling its water to bottling companies, the newspaper suggests.

Volunteer patrollers near  end of  season – and careers

DILLON, Colo. — The years of volunteer ski patrollers are ending at Arapahoe Basin. The ski area that calls itself the Legend is expanding and laying off its staff of 22 unpaid patrollers after this season.

With fresh snow recently, A-Basin announced this week that the season will continue at least until June 11.

Volunteer patrollers got enhanced training but were not permitted to do many tasks, such as avalanche control or climbing for lift evacuations. Those jobs were reserved for full-time professions.

“To be honest, our daily jobs are getting more complex,” Tony Cammarata, ski patrol director, told the Summit Daily News.

Darla Whinston, who was in charge of the volunteers, said the job did provide a pass and some benefits. But mostly it was about the camaraderie.

In the earliest days of downhill skiing, nearly all ski patrollers were volunteers. That began to change in the 1950s and 1960s as professional patrollers were added to ensure staff during weekdays, says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association.

During the 1970s, Vail Mountain had gone entirely to professional patrollers. In California, Kirkwood soon followed. But some major ski areas still have volunteer ski patrollers. Among them are Colorado’s Winter Park and Copper Mountain.

The National Ski Patrol has 18,700 members who are volunteer patrols.

More complexity will be added as the ski area expands by 468 acres this year. It’s the latest in a number of investments for A-Basin. Snugged up against the Continental Divide, the ski area opened in 1946, among the first in Colorado. It modernized when purchased by Ralston Purina in 1978. But entering the 21st century, it remained virtually alone among Colorado ski areas in its absence of snowmaking. It now has snowmaking and a detachable quad lift.

Park City discussing  Main Street limits on chain retailers

PARK CITY, Utah — Formula retailers, also called chain stores, may see the door closed along Park City’s iconic Main Street.

The Park Record reports that town officials are starting to review alternatives to limit the homogenization of the street-front locations. There are currently 18 such retailers that fit the definition of a chain, defined as any store with 10 or more locations.

The town’s planning staff has resisted interest by the elected officials to limit access to the prime location by chain stores such as Patagonia, the North Face, and Lululemon. Instead, they argued that the free market should prevail.

The announcement that L.L. Bean planned a store on the street shifted the thinking of the city staff. “That really kind of turned up the Bunsen burner,” said Jonathan Weidenhamer, the city’s economic development manager.

The alternative preferred by the planning staff would prohibit any more street-level storefronts by chain retailers. Another possibility would be to establish a cap. But concern remains. Hannah Turpen, a city planner, said a ban could make the area more viable for smaller retailers but with the unintended consequence of leading to vacancies and lack of vibrancy.