Vail furrier acquitted of murder

EAGLE The strange and sordid story of Kathy Denson is about to be removed from court dockets not quite two years after she shot her former boyfriend in a weird triangle of personalities framed by sex and drugs, guns and money.

Denson, who owns fur shops in Aspen and Vail as well as a small horse ranch near Eagle, had been the central figure in the triangle of her boyfriend, Gerald "Cody" Boyd, and an employee at her fur shop in Vail, Monica "Monique" Seebacher.

According to testimony at Denson's trial, the three had been involved in an occasional triangular relationship of sex and cocaine use. As well, there were suggestions that Cody and Seebacher were trying to get Denson's money. In the end, jurors were not persuaded that Denson shot Boyd in a pique of jealousy, but instead found the evidence at least as plausible that she shot him in self-defense.

Meanwhile, Seebacher filed suit, claiming she was wrongfully fired by Denson and asking for $200,000. She lost that case. And then, Boyd's ex-wife sued Denson on behalf of the child that Boyd had fathered, asking for $366,000, the maximum amount allowed under Colorado law. That case has now been settled, but terms were confidential, reports the Vail Daily .

Winter ends in Summit County

DILLON RESERVOIR The fat lady of winter officially sings in Summit County when a clock placed on the melting ice of Dillon Reservoir falls into the water. This year ice time ended April 29, say local Rotarians and Dillon town officials, who run the contest.

That's not the earliest melt-off ever. Two years ago it occurred a day earlier. But for those convinced that spring is coming more rapidly to mountain towns, the numbers from this contest lend general support. The tick-tock sunk on average on May 13 for the first nine years of the contest, but in the last nine years the big hand went down by May 7.

Colorado skier deaths way down

SUMMIT COUNTY Only six skier deaths were recorded in Colorado this year due to collisions and falling into tree wells. That compares with 15 skier deaths the previous season, reports the Summit Daily News .

Why the sharp decline? Representatives from Vail Resorts say they were trying to see if there was a cause, including evidence that safety promotions had worked, but could not verify any connections.

Vail hopes to host all of the races

VAIL It's Vail against the world in a meeting of the International Ski Federation Congress being held in Miami during early June. Vail, as it did in 1989 and 1999, wants to host the World Alpine Ski Championships again in 2009. It will be vying against mountains in Austria, Germany and France.

This time Vail proposes to also host the Snowboard World Championships plus the Freestyle World Ski Championships. Korea is gunning for the former, and Japan the latter.

West awaits wave of baby boomers

WHISTLER, B.C. Whistler is intently looking at 2010, when it hosts the Winter Olympics. But Bob Barnett, editor of Pique newsmagazine, points out that the date is a turning point for another and equally important reason.

By that date, a majority of baby boomers are expected to begin retiring. For the first time ever, he notes, the number of people leaving the workforce will exceed the number of people in the 15-24 age group entering the workforce.

This demographic ripple that began with the atomic bombs being dropped on Japan is permeating resort valleys across the West. In Canada, this change will have tremendous repercussions for the health-care system that is, says Barnett, "already on life support." As well, it has consequences for education.

This also creates huge job opportunities and scarcities. British Columbia already lacks skilled tradesmen for the construction expected as the province gears up for the Olympics. One million job openings are projected for the next decade.

Building permits on a steep rise

PARK CITY, Utah The economic lull is over. Building activity is returning to more robust levels once again in many resort towns across the West.

For example, Park City reports building permits worth nearly $21 million through April this year, compared to about $12 million for the same months last year. In Mountain Village, the on-mountain town at Telluride, construction levels have nearly tripled this year as compared to last.

Camping mushroom trip turns ugly

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS It sounds like quite a night. Two restaurant workers from Steamboat Springs went to State Bridge, an itty-bitty place located between Vail and Steamboat, on a recent Sunday to attend a concert. They began drinking at 11 a.m., and at 5 p.m. took psilocybin mushrooms.

The next morning, according to 26-year-old Christopher Mack, he woke up in their tent and found his buddy, Max Knight, not breathing. He had, he confessed to police, strangled him while fighting.

But the autopsy showed Knight had instead died of a seizure. The Vail Daily and The Steamboat Pilot said Mack isn't off the hook yet, but authorities are waiting for toxicology results before making a decision.

Aspen teaches congestion lessons

KETCHUM, Idaho Can Idaho's Wood River Valley learn from Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley about traffic congestion? Ex-state highway engineer Ralph Trapani thinks so.

Trapani, after supervising construction of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon, was responsible for the ongoing four-laning of Highway 82 from Aspen to Basalt. In a lecture in Idaho, Trapani explained that gridlock into Aspen was threatening to paralyze the economy. In response, the various governments in the valley there are three county governments alone agreed to more asphalt and to stepped-up public transportation.

State highway officials almost 40 years ago wanted to four-lane the highway to Aspen, but reeling from frantic growth in the 1960s and early 1970s, local officials had doggedly resisted making Aspen too easy to get to. Only in the 1990s did they relent.

Trapani, now a consultant, said he particularly favors high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in busy corridors. He said HOV lanes if monitored by police can be combined with buses to reduce overall traffic.

All western eyes turn to wildfires

PARK CITY, Utah Count Summit County in Utah among those places concerned enough about the potential of wildfires to put a full-time employee on staff for planning and evaluation.

That fire warden, Bryce Boyer, warned that this year could be as bad as 2002. The major cause is the continuing drought, which has left forests not only dry but more vulnerable to bark beetles, which kill trees, making them more flammable, he told The Park Record .

Seasonal housing project suffering

ASPEN There is too much shoulder in the shoulder season for a new 101-unit seasonal housing project in Aspen. The Burlingame/MAA was created to house music students at the Aspen Music Festival for three months every summer and then ski resort workers for six months in winter. That left three months of shoulder season vacancies.

But since the project opened in 2000, Colorado winters have become softer economically, with workers not brought on until December and then released in March. The result is that the project has hemorrhaged about $40,000. City officials are reported by The Aspen Times to be tinkering with solutions.

Whistler places ban on idling cars

WHISTLER, B.C. If you come to a roadblock for highway construction while driving a car, what should you do?

Turn it off. That's the message being disseminated between Vancouver and Whistler, where expansion of the Sea to Sky Highway is under way. To leave your car running wastes fuel and money but also hurts the environment. Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it, according to Natural Resources Canada.

Whistler bans idling, but as Ken Melamed, a municipal councilor, points out, enforcement is unpalatable and relatively ineffective. But the more people hear about how much fuel is wasted leaving a car idling, the more the law will be followed, he says.

compiled by Allen Best





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