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Sunlight Mountain Resort keeps hopes up for good season despite snowfall absence

In this Post Independent file photo, a light dusting of snow covers the slopes at Sunlight Mountain Resort after an early fall snowstorm.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Warmer than average temperatures and a lack of snowfall could push back Sunlight Mountain Resort’s opening day, but staff remain hopeful for a Dec. 10 opening, a Sunlight spokesperson said.

“We’ve been able to make snow on some of the colder mornings up here,” said Troy Hawks, Sunlight’s marketing and sales director. “We started our snowmaking preparations about two weeks ago with testing the systems. Since then, when we see a small window of opportunity, we turn the snow guns on.”

The National Weather Service has no historical snowfall data for the resort during the off season, but NWS Meteorologist Megan Stackhouse said during November the agency recorded zero snowfall in Glenwood Springs and less than an inch in Carbondale.

“We’re in a La Nina pattern, so many of the systems coming through are weak and preceded by warmer than usual temperatures,” Stackhouse explained.

On average, Glenwood Springs receives about 4 inches of snow and more than an inch of precipitation in November. This year, however, Stackhouse said the area received less than an inch of precipitation and no snow.

Like many ski resorts, Sunlight makes its own snow to supplement natural snowfall. But the process calls for cold temperatures, which have been scarce so far.

“In the last two weeks, we’ve probably only seen about six days where we could make snow,” Hawks said.

Snow making typically occurs from 3-9 a.m. when temperatures are lower than 28 degrees.

“We’d like to be able to turn it on and leave it for a couple weeks like we normally do,” Hawks said. “But it’s just not cold enough this year.”

Despite being among the smallest snow-making operations in the state, Sunlight’s mountain manager, Mike Baumli, was recognized in 2019 as Colorado Ski Country’s snow maker of the year.

In recent years, the resort invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrading its snowmaking operation for efficiency and output. The upgrades included two additional ponds, containing about 1 million gallons each for the snow makers to use, Hawks said.

So far this season, he said the resort has used about 500,000 gallons of water to create the first layers of snow.

“Turning the system on and off right now is much less efficient than we’d like,” Hawks said. “But, we’re remaining hopeful that we can at least open the Tercero Lift on Dec. 10.”

Hawks said the date of opening day could change if cold temperatures don’t settle in soon.

Sam Brager skis Sunlight with his 10-year-old son, Donavin, as often as he can, but he said this year could be a challenge.

“At this point of the year, I’ve usually snuck in at least one skin hike, but not this year,” Brager said, explaining a skin hike is when a skier wraps their skis in “skins,” allowing them to climb the slope without need for a chair lift.

Born in Wisconsin, Brager learned to ski at age 2.

“Even during a dry year like this, I won’t quit for some other hobby,” he said. “You just gotta enjoy the snow in front of you and not look at the forecast as much, because it will bum you out.”

Brager said his gut doesn’t believe the warmer temperatures will impact the entire ski season, but it’s at odds with his head, which thinks this season might continue to be dry. Either way, he plans to hit the slopes as often as possible.

“There’s nothing like strapping two boards to your feet and sliding down the mountain,” Brager said.

The good news for Brager, Hawks and snow enthusiasts throughout the valley is colder weather could be on the way, Stackhouse said.

“There is hope of a stronger system moving into the region early next week,” she said. “It’s early, and things can still change, but it’s the first hope of cool enough temps for snow this season.”

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.

Kathryn Kuhlenberg elected Roaring Fork School District Board of Education president

Roaring Fork School District Board of Education candidate Kathryn Kuhlenberg speaks at a forum in the Carbondale district office Oct. 16.
Rich Allen/Post Independent

No more than 20 minutes after Kathryn Kuhlenberg was sworn in as an official member of the Roaring Fork School District Board of Education she was unanimously named its president.

In a 5-0 vote and as the only nominee, Kuhlenberg took the leadership position of the board in a special meeting held via Zoom on Monday. She replaces District B representative Natalie Torres, who nominated Kuhlenberg for the role.

“I was happy to say, ‘You know that might be a really good fit,’” Torres said. “It wasn’t so much that I was not wanting to throw my hat into the ring but rather I thought she would do a really good job.”

Kuhlenberg assumed presidential responsibilities following the vote, organizing the elections for vice president and secretary/treasurer.

She became the board’s third president in as many years after Torres took the position in December 2020 following a three-year tenure by Jen Rupert.

Kuhlenberg garnered around 80% of the vote in the Nov. 2 election over Steven Fotion to win the District A seat vacated by Jennifer Scherer. Kuhlenberg is the owner and director of Playgroup Aspen and holds degrees in education policy and child psychology, along with a law degree.

“I’m encouraged by the support of the board and I’m ready to go for it,” Kuhlenberg said. “A big part of it is just the general dedication that’s part of the position and the willingness to put in a lot of work in a volunteer role.”

Torres sought the board vice presidency along with District D representative Jasmin Ramirez, but lost after Ramirez garnered enough votes for a majority before votes for Torres were called.

Ramirez received votes from herself, Kuhlenberg and the other newly elected board member, District A representative Kenny Teitler.

“I wear so many hats in the community already and so I just wanted to find the best way to not only support the president as we move forward, but also to make sure I was still in a role that was able to help in any way possible,” Ramirez said.

Roaring Fork School District board member Jasmin Ramirez speaks at a meeting in the Carbondale district office Oct. 16.
Rich Allen/Post Independent

Torres fell into the secretary/treasurer role — Ramirez’s previous position — virtually by default. When no nominees were presented for the position, District C representative Maureen Stepp declined the role, citing other issues on her plate. After a brief conversation about the role’s duties, Teitler offered to take the position if Torres didn’t want it.

“I am still a part of the team and a board member,” Torres said. “The role may change but I told Kathryn that I’d be there to support or lend advice or whatever she may need to be successful.”

With the new board alignment completed, Kuhlenberg has sights set on improving policies and community communication.

“Some of the things I want to continue right away are increasing our parent presence in terms of establishing and developing a more robust District Accountability Committee and really working to build those up and secure some more commitment from parents in the community so we can open those lines of communication between the schools and the board,” Kuhlenberg said.

Being a rookie board member, Kuhlenberg said that there will be some more work up front but isn’t concerned that her inexperience will be an issue.

“It’s going to take a bit more than if I had been on the board for a couple years, but I have no doubt that I will be able to do that research and figure out exactly what our role is, what my role is, and jump in,” Kuhlenberg said.

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or rallen@postindependent.com.

Glenwood Springs City Council to consider raised walkway at Sopris Elementary

Project preparations for the new year, sustainable energy and tidying up municipal code are scheduled to be the Glenwood Springs City Council’s focus Thursday, during the last regular council meeting of 2021.

Beginning with a sustainable energy report from Black Hills Energy, the council is slated to review several agenda items regarding the city’s operations and future projects.

A proposed ordinance could clear up language in the city’s municipal code, such as removing items that refer to sections that no longer exist, moving language to the proper section following changes made in 2018 and creating definitions for code items that do not currently include them, city documents state.

The council could also review a proposal for building a raised crosswalk across Mount Sopris Drive, providing Sopris Elementary School students a path above traffic to cross the street and potentially addressing stormwater issues near the school.

City documents state the project could be funded through a combination of marijuana tax funds and grants from Safe Routes to Schools. If approved, the project would be added to the city’s 2022 budget and is estimated to cost about $235,000.

Projects that were completed in 2021 could be rolled into the 2022 budget via ordinance, which if approved, might inflate the 2022 budget while decreasing the 2021 budget.

Some of the projects proposed to be rolled into 2022 include upgrades to City Hall’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, improvements to the Parks Headquarters building and remote-control irrigation upgrades.

The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association is requesting an annual contribution of $50,000 from the city for the purpose of planning and matching grant funds for additional mountain bike trails, city documents state.

Council members are slated to review the request Thursday, but city staff advised the funds would need to be pulled from reserves or taken from the fund for renovating the Community Center’s tennis courts.

Go to www.cogs.us to view the City Council’s full agenda.

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.

As climate warms, Basalt nonprofit’s role gains urgency

The Roaring Fork Conservancy isn’t in danger of running out of things to do in its next quarter century.

The Basalt-based, homegrown nonprofit organization celebrated its 25th anniversary this month. And with drought, climate change and over-appropriated water plaguing the West, the staff has a laundry list of issues to tackle.

“Since I’ve been working for this organization, we’ve been collectively concerned about what’s going to happen if we have back-to-back drought years, and now we could be looking at three back-to-back-to-back drought years,” said Rick Lofaro, the conservancy’s executive director since 2005.

The region and certainly the Roaring Fork Valley used to reliably get substantial spring runoff after ample snowfall and the summer monsoon rolled in like clockwork in late June or early July. Neither the snowfall nor the monsoon is reliable any longer.

“The first substantial reality check was the summer of 2002,” Lofaro said, referring to a severe drought that made conditions ripe for wildfires across Colorado (burning more than 605,000 acres burned that year).

The Roaring Fork Valley has endured five droughts in the past 20 years.

“The water’s just not coming like it used to,” Lofaro said. “It certainly puts a stress on everything in the environment. Everything works pretty well in an average year. There’s enough water for trans-mountain diversions and in-basin diversions, and there’s enough water in the river for the rafting to be good. There’s enough cold water in the river to keep the fish cool and the fishing to be good. Every step we go down from an average year, we see the implications.”

There are obvious implications such as wildfires that have swept across Basalt Mountain (2018) and through Glenwood Canyon (2020) in recent years. Mudslides followed the wildfires after big rainstorms.

There are more subtle results from drier conditions, such as fewer flushing flows that keep the river and stream ecology healthy and replenish wetlands. Without flushing flows in spring, algae accumulate in waterways and sediment can fill the small spaces on streambeds where aquatic life thrives.

Throughout the river and stream corridors, there are dead and dying Douglas fir, lodgepole and spruce trees. In many cases, various species of beetles are overwhelming the conifer trees and leaving behind the telltale red needles.

“That’s happening around every corner. That’s happening on every mountainside, whether it is diminished precipitation or not getting the extreme cold temperatures to kill the beetles,” Lofaro said. “So the beetles are doing better, the weeds are doing better, the trout are not doing better.

“These are the concerning things, these are the cumulative effects, the death by a thousand cuts that maybe not everyone notices immediately but you might notice after five years, after 10 years,” Lofaro continued.

The changing conditions have spurred a tweak in the conservancy’s mission. RFC started in 1996 with the motto and mission of “Preserving and Protecting the Valley’s Rivers.” The area was just recovering from high runoff in summer 1995 that ate away a portion of Two Rivers Road just east of downtown and caused extensive riverbank erosion. The conservancy was focused on bank stability and river restoration.

During its second decade, the motto changed to “Bringing People Together to Protect Our Rivers.” The conservancy worked to attract more people into its fold and to inspire them to get involved in river and stream protection.

“Everybody has a vested interest in a healthy river,” Lofaro said. That ranges from ranchers with a cattle operation to rafters, anglers and even the person riding a bicycle alongside the river who enjoys a healthy riparian environment.

In the past five years, as the impacts of climate change started to come into focus better, it was clear Roaring Fork Conservancy had a role to play in educating people about the changes, what’s at stake and possible solutions.

“We could probably get along and be OK and still do the work that we do and maybe not fully bury our head in the sand, but maybe not lean into these issues as much as possible,” Lofaro said. “But we know what the reality is. We’re trying to adapt what we do as an organization. It’s not that different or far away from what we’ve done historically. It seems to be a natural fit — answering the call.”

As always, education will be a big part of its mission. The conservancy’s Watershed Institute regularly holds presentations that highlight and discuss the issues facing the Roaring Fork watershed and broader water issues facing the region.

A new headquarters and laboratory called the River Center was completed in 2018 and has proven invaluable during the coronavirus pandemic.

Public events were held in the outdoor courtyard while adhering to social distancing requirements. Teachers seeking alternatives to keeping kids bottled up inside while wearing masks spent more time outdoors at the River Center and the adjoining Old Pond, the Roaring Fork River and wetlands.

Being located within a stone’s throw of the pond and river is a tremendous boost to the credibility of the River Center.

“It’s a huge success story,” Lofaro said. “It’s been a complete game changer for us.”

At an anniversary celebration earlier this month, Jim Light, a founder of the conservancy, recalled the skepticism that initially met the idea of the conservancy.

He and his business partner, Jim Chaffin, were pursuing approval of the Roaring Fork Club, a private golfing and fishing endeavor with high-end real estate. Well before they had land-use approvals in hand, they proposed creation of the conservancy to pursue water quality and quantity issues in Basalt, and they provided seed money.

“This was kind of a strange creature,” Light said.

Once established, it soon became clear that the conservancy needed to focus on the entire Roaring Fork watershed, not just the waters in Basalt. The partnership between the Basalt town government and the conservancy blossomed. The town sold the land at a discounted price necessary for the River Center.

Light believes the relationship has been a model for public and private sector cooperation.

“I find the conservancy very unique as a ‘home grown’ nonprofit, which complements the many Aspen-based nonprofits,” Light said.

So the Roaring Fork Conservancy heads into the next 25 years with a long list of accomplishments and plenty of tasks remaining on its plate.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Community profile: Glenwood Springs High standout stitches together National Merit Scholarship bid

Glenwood Springs High School senior Hannah Feeney is a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

By her own lofty standards, Glenwood Springs High School student Hannah Feeney admits that she didn’t study that much for the PSAT.

Between her slew of extracurricular activities, her fashion design passion, tutoring and other school work, the test didn’t take priority for the then-junior in October of last year. She already had her toes dipped in plenty of pools.

But after scoring among the top 16,000 students in the country on the practice test that was on the backburner, Feeney earned a semifinalist bid for the National Merit Scholarship Program with a chance to go further in the coming months. Now, the PSAT is a focal point of Feeney’s present and future as she applies for finalist status and the wheels begin to turn about what doors such an accomplishment may open for her.

“They told us this test actually matters but not really,” Feeney said. “It’s a lot of emphasis on this one standardized test that I took in a few hours. Like, that’s now a big part of my life? OK.”

A scholar with a long track record of excelling in whatever she pursues, Feeney has established herself in Glenwood Springs High School’s theater, mock trial and pride groups. She’s climbed the ranks in each and still manages to be a top-tier student.

Feeney isn’t entirely sure what the accolade will mean for her yet. She’s already a standout gradewise, so the award isn’t a prestigious outlier in her track record to hang her hat on. She already believes she can get into strong colleges. But for someone who sinks her teeth into so many things with such vigor, she’s not even sure that’s the direction she wants to go.

Glenwood Springs High School senior and National Merit Scholarship semifinalist Hannah Feeney works on a project in her sewing class at school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

PASSION FOR FASHION

Feeney’s dream higher education situation is studying fashion at a school in New York. She believes if she goes there, she can immerse herself in the fashion community, even if she ultimately goes for another major.

It would be just another step toward turning a longtime passion into something more, possibly even a career.

Feeney has been in theater since she was little. But when she reached high school, the spring play and the mock trial season schedules constantly butted heads.

Instead of axing one or the other completely, Feeney found a compromise — working in costuming instead of being an on-stage talent. It led to the discovery of a fascination with historical wardrobing and a realization of her own personal style. She now does what she calls “Whatever the Heck is That” Thursday, where she wears outrageous clothing, like belle ball gowns.

For the upcoming theater season, she’s heading the costuming department, which has been run by staff or parents in the past.

Feeney said she’ll lead a team of eight to 10 people and improve her fashion resume even more.

Glenwood Springs High School senior and National Merit Scholarship semifinalist Hannah Feeney works on a project in her sewing class at school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

BEING HERSELF

It’s what Feeney does — when she gets interested in something, she goes all in. She climbed the ladder in the costuming ranks to a place that didn’t exist before she got there. In the pride club, she acts as a vice president of sorts and has helped to grow the group five-fold. In mock trial, she won several awards, coach Isabel Carlson said.

“Hannah is someone who gives her all to everything she does,” Carlson said. “She has a unique way of looking at things that enriches the experience of everyone around her.”

Feeney attributes it to ADHD. She says she hyper focuses on a given thing, and then has to introduce variety, be it other extracurriculars or something else, to avoid burnout.

As a result, she’s learned in several different fields but is also painfully aware of the need for a work-life balance. She cited that as a main concern about going to a standard-path, traditional college.

“That’s not exactly where I was really planning on heading with my life,” Feeney said. “I’m prioritizing my own experience of college rather than, like, going to an Ivy League.”

She said taking a different path in life was an idea that her parents instilled in her when she was young. Nichole Feeney, a pediatrician at Grand River Health, has promoted a sense of individuality and carving one’s own path, as did Ryan Feeney, who would debate with Hannah and her siblings even from a young age about current events and spur critical thinking.

Nichole and Ryan met in a liberal arts college in Tennessee in their eventual pursuits in medicine and law. They developed their relationship on the school’s mock trial team, a major factor in Hannah’s fascination with the organization.

They’ve wanted to foster an ability for Hannah to pursue her own path, as they’ve done with all their children. The award just solidifies it for Hannah.

“I want her to be able to have the opportunity to pursue whatever to find her true happiness, whatever path that is,” Nichole Feeney said. “I think this gives her that opportunity.”

Hannah Feeney will learn in January or February if she will be among 15,000 finalists. Then, in between March and June, she’ll learn if she’s one of the 7,500 Merit Scholar designees. It’ll open the door to around 7,500 scholarship opportunities and a chance for her to take her life in whatever direction she chooses.

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or rallen@postindependent.com.

COVID-19 UPDATE: The latest Garfield County statistics and risk level assessment

Latest Garfield County COVID-19 statistics and risk level

AS OF SUNDAY, NOV. 28

Cumulative cases: 8,753

Deaths since outbreak began: 67 confirmed

Current Risk Level: Orange-High Risk

Recent 7-day case totals: Nov. 22-28 – 140; Nov. 15-21 – 147; Nov. 8-14 – 162

Cases by vaccination status for 7-day period ending 11/21: 109 among unvaccinated; 48 breakthrough cases among vaccinated.

Two-week daily case average: 20

Single-day high: 101 on 12/10/20

7-day incidence rate: 226.8 per 100,000 people

7-day test positivity rate: 8.9% (14-day: 7.9%)

Current number of county residents hospitalized: 7 (all unvaccinated)

Vaccination rate by percent of county population: Fully vaccinated – 67%; One dose – 75%. For vaccination information, visit Garfield-County.com/public-health/covid-19-vaccine/

Source: Garfield County Public Health

HOSPITAL STATS (updated weekly)

Valley View Hospital, as of 11/23/2021

Specimens collected through Valley View Hospital: 43,480

Positive results: 2,919 (+37 since 11/18)

Hospitalizations since outbreak began: 366 (1 new since 11/18)

Grand River Hospital, as of 11/23/2021

Specimens collected through Grand River Health: 12,413

Positive results: 2,209 (+38 since 11/16)

Hospitalizations since outbreak began: 93 (6 new since 11/16)

Source: Valley View and Grand River hospitals

ACTIVE OUTBREAKS

GARFIELD COUNTY

(Updated 11/24)

Heritage Park Care Center, Carbondale: Date determined — 11/17; 2 resident cases

Grand River Health Care Center, Rifle: Date determined — 10/26; 3 staff cases.

Ross Montessori School, Carbondale: Date determined – 10/11; 50 student cases, 11 staff cases.

EAGLE COUNTY

Cornerstone Christian School, Basalt: Date determined – 11/8; 10 student cases, 8 staff cases, 1 death.

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment COVID-19 outbreak data page; updated weekly on Wednesday

Vaccinations available for children ages 5-11

7-year-old Ruby Dewolfe receives her first COVID-19 vaccination at the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge clinic on Wednesday afternoon. The Hot Springs Lodge was offering free one-day passes to the Hot Springs Pool to any kids 5-11 who received the vaccine at the clinic.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Pediatric Partners of Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs and Garfield County Public Health are now offering COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5-11.

Appointments are required for the Pediatric Partners child vaccinations, at 970-947-9999. All children must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 18.

In addition, Garfield County Public Health is opening its walk-in clinics in Glenwood Springs and Rifle to children ages 5-11 to receive the pediatric-dose Pfizer vaccine.

Adult boosters and first and second doses will also be administered during clinic times. For the latest vaccination clinic schedule and other resources, visit the Garfield Public Health website.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in late October both approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old.

Free COVID testing in Garfield County

There are two free community testing providers in Garfield County, and neither a doctor’s order nor identification are required. Sites accept both walk-ups and appointments, but do not have rapid tests available. If you have symptoms, or feel you have been exposed, get tested within one to two days. Test turnaround times are between 36-48 hours.

Roaring Fork Valley free COVID testing, Monday through Friday

Carbondale — 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the parking lot behind Town Hall, 511 Colorado Ave (Enter via 4th St.)

Glenwood Springs — 7-11 a.m. at the Roaring Fork School District Administration Building parking lot, 1405 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs

Rifle — 8 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Mountain Family Health Center parking lot, 195 W. 14th St., Bldg. C, Rifle (back side of parking lot, closest to the fairgrounds)

State of Colorado free COVID testing: 12-4 p.m. Sundays in Rifle, Public Health parking lot, 195 W. 14th St.

See Garfield County COVID testing for a complete list of testing providers including pharmacies and medical offices in Garfield County.

Flu vaccinations available

In addition to COVID-19 vaccines, seasonal flu vaccines are being offered by Garfield County Public Health by appointment.

For more information, see the public health flu page.

The influenza virus changes every year, so getting vaccinated annually is important to make sure you have immunity, public health advises.

Flu symptoms appear one to four days after exposure to the virus and typically last between five to seven days. Even after symptoms resolve many individuals continue to feel fatigued. People who have had the flu shot generally have less severe symptoms over a shorter period.

Valley worker: Determination big key in navigating road to affordable housing

Alex Rager sits in the trunk of her car in which she called home for six months in the driveway of her now home that she shares with 4 roommates in Basalt on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Alex Rager believes the search for affordable housing in the Roaring Fork Valley can sometimes boil down to luck and timing.

She would know: The 25-year-old moved into a Basalt duplex on Nov. 1 after spending all summer and most of the fall living in her car while working in Snowmass Village, first for an adventure company and now for the Patagonia store on the Snowmass Mall.

“When you least expect it and when you most need it is when things happen,” she said.

She started working in Snowmass in June but had been living in her car in Portland since mid-May as a way to ride out some hard times and embrace a nomadic lifestyle.

“Moving into my car was a total choice and I don’t regret a day of it, but it’s a whole different kind of functioning,” said Rager, who is also a writer.

Rager appreciated the independence and mobility she had, but she also experienced “bouts of loneliness” and a longing for community connection. There was a practical matter, too, as temperatures started to drop.

So Rager spent nearly two months in the fall on the hunt through word-of-mouth tips, Facebook posts and a flyer pinned to the Bonfire Coffee bulletin board in Carbondale.

“I was very prepared to sleep on couches,” she said. “I was prepared to make my friends breakfast and dinner and in exchange for their couch or do their laundry … just to stay because I felt something here.”

Rager was getting “really desperate” when her future roommates reached out about the opening in the midvalley Holland Hills neighborhood for $1,000 a month.

“It is a miracle, it’s a weird, miracle kind of situation,” she said. “I think the more you put it out there, the more people know — the more opportunity there is for something really, really great to come your way.”

That it takes a miracle to find affordable housing around here isn’t a shocker in this neck of the woods.

In Snowmass Village, for instance, it can take half a decade or more of work in the village before applicants rise to the top of the rental waitlist for town-managed inventory; after the town’s deed-restricted Coffey Place housing lottery in January, one winner prayed with his family at the site of the unit he hoped to win and another said winning “felt like lightning struck.”

The lack of attainable workforce housing options regularly infiltrates council chamber conversations and barstool chats alike on everything from short-term rental inventory and regulations to the labor shortage to community character amid growing concerns about the longevity of the region’s local spirit into the next generation. (Then, too, there is that matter of a limited availability of municipally managed affordable housing and what to do about it.)

Rager has seen the impacts firsthand as she witnessed so many other young valley newcomers struggle to find long-term housing. Opportunity is just a fraction of the equation as prospective tenants on the hunt face steep upfront costs, pricey rents and a smattering of short sublet lease offerings, among other factors.

“People make a choice, and lots of people leave in my age group,” Rager said. “I have a lot of people that I met through my first job when I first got here who have gone back home, or have since tried to get a house and just keep coming up short monetarily or what other factors push them out.”

It may sound bleak, but it doesn’t have to be, according to Rager.

“I’d love to see more local landlords or real estate owners or whatever come back around to the essence of what keeps us going, which is the labor. … I think this valley would be much richer if we allowed individuals such as myself and (other workers) to feel like they can be a part of it,” she said.

She sees herself becoming one of the people who sticks around for a few years or a dozen or more. Rager doesn’t think she’s alone in that mindset, and she’s optimistic, too, that determination will carry that so-called community character into the next generation.

“I was determined to stay — I think that’s a huge part, that I think if you really want to be here, you’re going to find a way, and if you can find a way then you can thrive here and I’m ready to start on that thrive process. … You also have a culture here where it’s like, once you’re here, and you’re a ski bum, and you did the seasonal thing and you like it enough, you don’t leave,” she said. “You just — you realize that what you have is so precious, no matter what you’re paying for it.”

kwilliams@aspentimes.com

Residents unhappy with Glenwood Springs’ annexation decisions file 480 Donegan referendum

For some West Glenwood residents, the 480 Donegan project looms over the area as both an affront to the process of public engagement and a potential threat to their lives.

Following approval of the project’s annexation and rezoning, despite West Glenwood residents’ tireless attempts at convincing the Glenwood Springs City Council to vote otherwise, some residents are mobilizing to repeal the council’s decision through a referendum.

“When this development was proposed the outrage was immediate and palpable,” said Laurie Raymond, a Glenwood Springs resident and West Glenwood business owner. “Many said, ‘What are we going to do? We can’t let this happen.’ And, I think that sense of urgency came from our experiences with the 111 Fire in 2020.”

A nine-acre wildfire near West Glenwood, 111 caused severe traffic issues, penning in many residents and igniting the realization that without a citywide evacuation plan a significant portion of the area’s residents might not be able to escape the next wildfire.

With the 400 units initially proposed by 480 Donegan developers R2 Partners, Raymond said West Glenwood residents feared increased traffic would only exacerbate the evacuation concerns.

Following meetings between key members of the community and the developers, it became clear to the residents their individual voices were not being heard, so they began to organize via Facebook, creating the West Glenwood Pasture Group page.

Despite the group’s name and the sentiments expressed by some in public meetings, Raymond said the group was not formed to save the nearly 16 acres of pasture slated for the 480 Donegan project as open space.

Former City Council member and current Glenwood Springs resident Greg Jeung said the group’s goal is to encourage local elected officials to consider development as an issue that impacts everyone living in the area, whether they are residents of the city or the county.

“It doesn’t feel like this council is looking at the broader issues at hand,” Jeung said.

After City Council approved the annexation and rezoning of the 480 Donegan project Nov. 4, the group rebranded its Facebook page as the Glenwood Springs Citizens for Sensible Development, which currently has membership of about 630 Facebook accounts.

“The reason this group is moving forward with the referendum is to inform the broader community about what is happening with development throughout the valley,” said Tracy Trulove, a Glenwood Springs resident and Sensible Development group member. “There has been so much focus on the West Glenwood situation, I just think that if I were to sit down with other residents at a local basketball game that they wouldn’t be aware of all the other developments on the table and being built out.”

Engaging the public

Throughout the development process, which began in the summer of 2020 with meetings between the developers and some community members, Raymond said the residents felt overlooked.

“When meeting with the developer, R2’s Barry Rosenberg took up most of the scheduled time trying to sell us on the project,” Raymond said. “We didn’t feel like we had much time to ask questions or suggest changes.”

As the project moved forward to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, Jeung said residents started presenting their concerns to the city’s representatives.

“It’s not easy for people to take time off or find the time to attend these weekday meetings, some of which are on Zoom, and not everybody has the ability to attend those,” he said.

Raymond added, “But, such as it was, people still came. There were hours of testimony at those P&Z meetings — all of it opposed for reasons of safety, overdevelopment, traffic concerns and no representation for those affected.”

Many of the public comments throughout the process were submitted by Garfield County residents who live outside city limits, but within the urban perimeter of Glenwood Springs.

Without residency in the city, they have no representative in the council chambers, despite being impacted by the same council decisions that affect their neighbors.

But even members of the group with representation, like Raymond, felt the public engagement process was skewed to favor the developers.

“The deference and respect that goes to the developer is unequal to that given to the people,” Raymond said. “We who are going to feel the impacts of a development are not given the same respect.”

Specifically, members of the group expressed discontent with the fact they are each limited to three minutes of public comment during council meetings, while the developer was not given a time limit to respond.

“The city could have taken the initiative — well ahead of this decision — to host meetings engaging the public,” said Trulove. “Those meetings could have been planned for people to provide feedback about what they would like to see built here.”

Collecting signatures

On Nov. 18, members of the Sensible Development group submitted the initial paperwork for a referendum to repeal the council’s 480 Donegan decision.

To move forward with the referendum, the group needs to gather enough signatures from registered voters in Glenwood Springs equal to 5% of the total number of ballots cast in the city last election, about 300 in this case, who voted in the most recent previous regular election; however, the signatures do not need to be from residents who cast ballots in the previous election.

The group has until Dec. 9 to collect those signatures and return them to the city clerk for verification. If enough votes are verified, the City Council will have to choose whether to repeal the annexation and rezoning decisions or put the decisions on a ballot for the Glenwood Springs residents to decide during the next scheduled election.

Trulove said the Sensible Development group did not have a current tally of the signatures they had collected, but 22 people volunteered to circulate the petitions as of Friday.

“We’re also building relationships with other groups who are discontent with our local governance,” Trulove said. “The people want more voice, more engagement and more opportunities for feedback in the decisions that will guide the future of our community.”

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.

PHOTOS: 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony

Fire dancers with the Dance of the Sacred Fire performs for the crowd at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
People watch and listen while Symphony in the Valley performs in the Colorado room at the Hotel Colorado 31st annual Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
The Denver Dolls perform for the audience at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A fire dancer with the Dance of the Sacred Fire performs for the crowd at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A young audience member watches as the Legacy Dance Company takes the stage at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Legacy Dance Company dancers perform for the audience at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A fire dancer with the Dance of the Sacred Fire performs for the crowd at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Young Legacy Dance Company dancers perform for the audience at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A fire dancer with the Dance of the Sacred Fire performs for the crowd at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Symphony in the Valley performs Christmas classics in the Colorado room at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Liberty Classical Academy students sing Christmas classics at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
An infant gets their photo taken with Santa in the Devereux room at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
People check out the gingerbread houses in the Roosevelt room at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A young child looks in awe at the lights at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A child looks around and takes in the lights at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on Friday night.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Visual Journalist Chelsea Self can be reached at 970-384-9108 or cself@postindependent.com

As Black Friday comes and goes, Glenwood Springs businesses learn to adapt to supply chain issues

Glenwood Springs Outdoors Assistant Manager Jacob Lawlis restocks flies at the downtown Glenwood shop after a busy Black Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Black Friday in Glenwood Springs isn’t the window-smashing, offer-grabbing, deal-searching affair that it is in other places.

In the city’s smaller businesses, prices aren’t slashed in a mad dash to meet the bottom line. It is, however, aligned with a seasonal transition period that, a year-and-a-half into a global pandemic, has shops making changes to their operations. Sporadic supply chain issues throughout the COVID-19 era have forced retailers to consider their inventory for a longer period, even if their wares aren’t flying off the shelves in a 24-hour capitalistic jamboree.

“It kind of mitigates some of the worry, because you can only worry about one thing for so long,” Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop Retail and Rental Manager Russell Cabe said of supply chain issues. “I don’t know that it’s a challenge, because we already went through it once and maybe a little tougher. So it didn’t really hurt us too much, but it’ll change a little bit how we do business.”

It’s become a theme of ordering early and often. In Cabe’s and Sunlight’s case, supply chain shortages had the biggest impact on the biking season.

Some bikes became difficult to acquire over the summer, but Cabe said they, “were able to do, for the most part, what we wanted.” As biking moves to the offseason, it gives them time to tweak how they control their stock before demand returns.

The answer is ordering the bikes “when they’re ready, rather than trying to get them when we want them.”

Sunlight had its own single-day extravaganza sale on Oct. 30 in the form of a ski and board swap. Cabe said it was the largest single-day sale in store history as pandemic fatigue only increases and people want to return to outdoor activities.

For the winter season, Cabe said Sunlight has seen some delays, particularly in snowboard gear, but hasn’t hit the panic button.

It’s a similar story down the street at Glenwood Springs Outdoors, a business that opened around a month before the pandemic began.

Without a pre-pandemic context to refer to, it enters its second offseason also focused on making sure its shelves remain stocked next summer.

“During offseason, we have more time to think for ourselves,” Glenwood Springs Outdoors Assistant Manager Jacob Lawlis said. “It gives us time to clear our heads and think more about the business.”

Lawlis said they’ve also learned to adapt with the supply chain shortages. Glenwood Springs Outdoors’ strategy is also simply to order more ahead of time.

The store avoided some of the major supply chain issues over the summer, he added. The store had to pay the higher prices for the popular kinds of ammunition such as 9mm that were in short supply, but those rates are starting to come down.

Currently, the shop is focusing on its guided ice fishing services for the winter. From a retail standpoint, the largest concern for shortages is ice fishing rods, which Lawlis expects to last through the majority of the season and hopefully the entirety of it.

He said they’ll pay attention to what their short supply of rods does this season and adjust their offseason ordering next season, even if it means back-stocking and storing for a period of time.

Elizabeth Dean Boutique dealt with a small inventory shortage around September, manager Lindsay Olivas said, but has since emerged out of it and has its racks stocked.

“The owner had to buy, like, an entire runway of clothes that were the ones the models were wearing at one point we were having a little bit of a tiny issue,” Olivas said. “Now, our entire back stockroom is floor-to-ceiling full. We don’t even know what to do with it all.”

The boutique’s staff painted windows and put up decorations on a quiet Black Friday, but the store is in a comfortable spot between summer and winter tourism seasons. They’re ordering in advance of next summer season like other local businesses are.

After a struggle locating inventory in 2020, they changed their methods.

“We learned a lesson last year where we had no inventory to match the season,” Olivas said. “Things are definitely delayed, but it’s not an issue if you adjust to it.”

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or rallen@postindependent.com.