Mountain Town News

Mountain Town News
Allen Best - 01/17/2019

Smartwool exits Steamboat for Denver

STEAMBOAST SPRINGS – Smartwool was founded in 1994 by two ski instructors in Steamboat Springs who figured out that merino wool could be used to produce warm, moisture-wicking clothing that is neither itchy nor stinky, as wool can be.

In time, Smartwool became a semi-big business, capturing 55 percent of market share for its products, mostly socks but also other sporting goods items. As smooth as silk, says one product review.

If the manufacturing never was done at Steamboat, the head- quarters remained there, even after the company was sold to a larger company in 2005. That company was in turn swallowed in 2011 by an even larger company, VF Corp.

VF Corp is now consolidating offices for its various brands in Denver’s trendy Lo-Do neighborhood. Its brands include the North Face, Altra, JanSport and Eagle Creek. With this move, Steamboat will lose 90 employees. The new corporate headquarters will have 800 employees.

The location in Denver is just a few blocks from the headquarters for the Alterra Mountain Co., which owns the Steamboat ski area. Alterra chose Denver for its headquarters because ski towns are too expensive. That seems to be part of the logic for the clothing man- ufacturer. A representative of Smartwool told the Steamboat Pilot that Denver’s transportation network was a factor. It’s a few blocks from Union Station, the rail and bus hub for the metropolitan area.

“There are a lot of positives in that particular area, and it’s a re- ally vibrant part of the city,” Molly Cuffe, the company’s director of global communications, said.

Also a factor in the new corporate headquarter’s move to Denver: $27 million in state incentives over eight years, according to The Denver Post.

Fraser brewpub leaves TVs out in cold

FRASER – A new brewpub called Camber Brewing has opened in Fraser.

Nick Crabb, the owner, tells the Sky Hi News that he began brew- ing five years ago after his wife gave him a homebrewer’s kit. He took to it immediately.

In creating his brewpub, Crabb has chosen to make it as family friendly as he can. But that does not include TVs. “I really want to focus on conversation versus entertainment, and helping people re- connect,” he said.

If the names of his brews reflect the town’s history, he’ll have ample possibilities. Take the main street, where the new brewpub is located. Fraser agreed to name Zerex Street in the 1950s in a deal with the manufacturer of the antifreeze. For a time, the town was com- monly called the Icebox of the Nation – although International Falls, Minn., has vigorously argued that no it’s the coldest town in the lower 48.

Everywhere has become warmer, but at least a couple decades ago Fraser only had an average annual 19 frost-free days.

Pedaling the U.S.’s highest auto tunnel

IDAHO SPRINGS – Nobody apparently has ever bicycled through the Eisenhower Tunnel, which pierces the Continental Divide 60 miles west of Denver, reaching an elevation of 11,158 feet.

Bicycle Passport hopes to make that happen. The group is seek- ing permission from the Colorado Department of Transportation to organize a group of 1,500 - 2,000 cyclists through the tunnel on a Sunday morning in September.

Eisenhower and a parallel bore, Johnson, are 1.7 miles long. They remain the highest vehicular tunnels in the United States, although there are now higher tunnels elsewhere in the world. The two tun- nels were completed in 1973 and 1979 respectively.

Passport’s Mark Nadeau proposes using Idaho Springs as the launching site for the Sunday morning ride to Silverthorne. The Clear Creek Courant reports that the idea got a polite reception from city officials but no more. Two officials, including the mayor and the police chief, said their city usually doesn’t generate revenues from hosting bicycle riders.

13 feet of snow part of a bigger theme

WHISTLER, B.C. – First Whistler had unseasonably warm weather and then record snowfall in December, 384 centimeters (151 inches). That’s nearly 13 feet of snow.

But neither of those extremes seems to fully explain why Whistler Blackcomb was sluggish, which is part of a pattern at Vail Resorts properties. Rob Katz, chief executive, reported “much lower” destination guest visits than expected before Christmas. It was, he said, probably driven by concerns from the two prior years of poor pre-holiday conditions. And the arrival of snow in December didn’t appreciably bump the numbers.

In Whistler, the heavy snow has continued into January. And it fits into a pattern says Pique Newsmagazine. This early-January storm was preceded by a windstorm that cut off power to 750,000 in British Columbia. Such weather extremes will become more likely in future years, the result of increased greenhouse gas emissions, now pushing 410 parts per million.

British Columbia, for all its reputation as a “green” province, has struggled along with everybody else to tame its emissions. It is likely the province will not meet its 2020 emission reduction target of 33 percent below 2007 models, according to a recent report by the B.C. auditor general.

Even in paradise, opioids take their toll

CANMORE, Alberta – Banff and the Bow Valley get their fair share of people dying young, mostly the result of climbing acci- dents and other outdoor activities. But since 2016, three people have died from opioid overdose and scores more have been admit- ted to local hospitals for treatment.

In Banff, at least 10 people have been hospitalized or visited the emergency room each year since 2015 because of opioid use. Down- valley 20 minutes at Canmore, at the entrance to the park, the count is a little higher.

Almost all opioid poisoning deaths are now related to fentanyl. In the first half of 2018, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, fentanyl accounted for 92 percent of all opioid-related deaths in Alberta.

In recent months, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized drugs that contained fentanyl as well as carfentanil, a synthetic de- rivative considered 100 times more deadly than fentanyl.

Local police say it could be worse. “We know that a lot of the drugs that are being sold here originate either from Vancouver or from Cal- gary, and we see what’s happening in both of those communities in terms of opioid overdoses and death. Why we’re not seeing it as large here, I don’t really know,” Staff Sgt. Mike Buxton-Carr said.

But it can take just one bad batch of drugs in a community to create devastation, he added.

Whistler drawn into U.S. & China fight

WHISTLER, B.C. – Tourism Whistler has paused its marketing ef- forts in China, the result of U.S.-China tensions. In doing so, it follows the lead of Destination British Columbia and Destination Canada.

The rift stems from the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer for Huawei Technologies. Detained in Vancouver, she remains there on bail pending possible extradition to the U.S. on suspicion of fraud involving American sanctions in Iran.

The diplomatic situation has put Canada in the uncomfortable position of being in the middle of a U.S.-China conflict, Amy Hanser, a sociologist at the University of British Columbia, said.

“There is a history of Chinese consumers (making) consumption choices based on national interests, and this is a moment in which Chinese consumers are recognizing that they are globally powerful as consumers,” she told Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine.

If the Chinese market has grown for Whistler, it remains “very small,” Shawna Lang, director of market development for Tourism Whistler, said. However, Whistler expects growth in Chinese visitors as China gears up for hosting the 2020 Winter Olympics.

Shutdown could hamper wildfire fight

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Federal employees will eventually return to work, but there will be lingering effects on wildfire fight- ing capacities next summer. So says Keegan Schafer, supervisor of a crew on the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District.

In January, the U.S. Forest Service typically begins preparation for the coming fire season, including hiring fire fighters and other personnel, he tells the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Normally, his phone would be ringing with reference checks and other hiring inquiries. This year, it’s been quiet.