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30 inches in 36 hours, ringing the NYSE opening bell at the Beav, green skiing and wolf watching
Want a little of this to break up your week? Head to Vail Wednesday, when 5-7 inches of fresh should top off the 30 inches that fell over Thanksgiving.
By Dan Davis

30 inches in 36 hours, ringing the NYSE opening bell at the Beav, green skiing and wolf watching

Plus the fledgling Vail Mountaineer already needs a new editor
By David O. Williams

December 2, 2008 —  Seems my math skills remain limited after all these years. That’s why I’m a writer. Leave it to Reid Griebling, our illustrious Powder Predictor, to accurately tally the snowfall totals from the in-like-a-lamb-out-like-a-lion Thanksgiving storm that produced a whopping 30 inches of snow in 36 hours at Vail.

Now Reid tells us we may see another 5-7 inches overnight tonight into tomorrow (Wednesday). If you were looking for a midweek hooky excuse, now you have it. Reid also reports chairs 7 (Game Creek) and 11 (Northwoods) are likely to open Wednesday after chairs 2, 3 and 4 cranked up on Saturday.

I got out for a couple of meager runs on Chair 12 with kids on Monday and the snowpack, even down low on Golden Peak, was decent. Up high, things must be looking good. I’ll likely get out for my first full day sans kids on Wednesday, so I’ll provide a full report.

If history shows us anything, training days for the Birds of Prey World Cup ski races are typically pretty snowy, so look for possible cancellations tomorrow. The real races get going on Thursday with a super combined, and that should go off without a hitch (we hope). Speaking of the World Cup, here’s a little off-course news:

Ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange on location at Beaver Creek ski area Friday before the men’s downhill might seem like a good idea for the Colorado-based corporate executives who will do the ringing, but that depends on how the market fares.

Jokes like “it’s all downhill from here,” and cracks about bear markets and frozen credit will no doubt resonate as loudly as the antique cowbell a bevy of top Colorado executives will ring at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain during a live broadcast back to New York and on financial cable television channels.

And it’s doubtful hard-partying millionaire ski racer Bode Miller will be up at that hour (7:30 a.m., Mountain time) to ring in the festivities, but there is a chance he might still be headed back to his personal RV after a night on the town. No telling what the loud ringing to launch the financial markets will do for his race-day psyche or his considerable bank account.

The death-defying downhill race, which Miller has won in the past, gets going later that morning (11 a.m.) as part of the Birds of Prey Audi World Cup Dec. 4-7, and Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz — one of the ringers — is hoping the exposure reminds stressed-out Wall Streeters of the need to come recreate in Colorado this season. A former Wall Street private equity firm executive himself, Katz chucked it all and moved to Boulder before taking over the helm of Vail Resorts.

Other Colorado captains of industry will also be on hand with smaller cowbells, according to the Vail Daily, including “Steve Ells of Chipotle Mexican Grill, H. Craig Clark of Forest Oil, Jerre Stead of IHS, Robert Jornayvaz III of Intrepid Potash, Peter Swinburn of Molson Coors, Richard O’Brien of Newmont Mining, Ed Mueller of Qwest, Thomas Toomey of UDR, and James Volker of Whiting Petroleum.”

Interesting some oil and gas execs are in the mix, given the dichotomy between a recreation industry based on cold and snow and an energy industry based on perpetuating global warming. The ski industry is actively lobbying the new presidential administration to limit the impacts of the energy industry.

But somewhere way down Barack Obama’s list — likely trailing ending the war in Iraq, resuscitating the DOA economy, reforming health care and achieving energy independence — is the agenda of the nation’s ski industry.

So vital to Colorado’s coffers (and identity as a state), the sport hardly registers on the national radar, especially in these times of war and financial free fall. But that didn’t keep the state’s major ski-industry players from weighing in last week with their own wish list for Obama once he’s inaugurated Jan. 20.

Veteran Denver Post ski-business writer Jason Blevins made the list in a Nov. 22 story and checked it twice with the industry policymakers. Most agreed that stimulating the economy so that skiers nationwide can continue to come to Colorado and feed the $4-billion-a-year state ski machine was a top priority.

“Obviously this administration has a lot on its plate,” said Melanie Mills, president of the industry lobbying group Colorado Ski Country USA. “We don’t want recreation to be left behind.”

Combating global climate change is another key concern for Colorado ski execs, who rely heavily on frosty temps and lots of snow. According to the Post, 70 ski areas nationwide are lobbying Congress for mandatory carbon-dioxide caps to limit greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global climate change.

The green rhetoric has ratcheted up in recent years, with ski areas like Vail and Steamboat playing catch-up with the environmentally aggressive Aspen Skiing Co.

That’s an agenda most skiers can relate to and sign on for, but a less-popular push for immigration reform and more H-2B foreign worker visas — used extensively throughout the industry to staff low-paying jobs with seasonal workers from overseas — is drawing fire in some circles.

Comments on Blevins’ story in the post ran the gamut from calling ski industry execs greedy, elitist real estate developers to some xenophobic rants about hiring more local labor in a down economy. No mention of where reintroducing wolves ranks with skiers.

But to say that Colorado ranchers are howling mad over the science being used to justify wolf reintroduction in the southern Rockies would be to overstate their case slightly … and use an unpardonably bad pun in the process.

But, according to The Summit Daily News and veteran environmental reporter Bob Berwyn, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association is attacking the science behind a petition recently filed by the conservation group WildEarth Guardians that seeks to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FOW) Service to develop a wolf reintroduction plan for the southern Rockies, including Colorado.

Wolves were hunted to extinction in the state but environmentalists for several years have been pushing to reintroduce the predators with a program similar to the somewhat successful reintroduction of the bobcat-like Canada lynx in the 1990s. The groups argue wolves are needed to thin dangerously overpopulated deer and elk herds.

Ranchers counter that other predators such as bears, mountain lions and lynx can do the job, but environmentalists say nothing can replace the wolf when it comes to taking out deer and elk and stopping them from overrunning critical wetlands, which provide habit for smaller mammals, birds and fish.

The ranchers, in a press release opposing the plan, say compensation programs for lost livestock that are used in other states with wolf populations don’t adequately consider an animal’s breeding potential. Conservation groups could ultimately sue the federal government to move the plan forward.

One final media note. I got a mass e-mail from former colleague Stephen Lloyd Wood, who Monday resigned as editor of the fledgling Vail Mountaineer. Here’s what Woody had to say:

“I hereby announce I have resigned as editor of the Vail Mountaineer newspaper, effective immediately. The owner of the Mountaineer [Jim Pavelich] and I reached a long-brewing impasse over the journalistic standards, ethics and principles of publishing a newspaper of integrity. I wish the Mountaineer's continuing staff and contributors the best of luck,” Wood wrote.

Hmmmm, gotta be more to that story. Stay tuned for a follow in the Mountaineer (oh wait, now Web site yet) or the competing Vail Daily.



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