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Some area golf courses opening this week, but employing social-distancing precautions

Several Garfield County golf courses are making the call to proceed with their planned season openings, but with precautions in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Golf courses were not specifically listed among “non-essential” businesses that were required to close under the most recent public health orders from the state of Colorado.

And, given the allowance for people to recreate outdoors as long as they practice social-distancing protocols, golf courses that have already opened for the season have proven popular destinations.

“It was kind of a gray area, is how I would describe it,” acknowledged Zac Sutherland, operations section chief for the Garfield County COVID-19 command staff.

Initially, when Gov. Jared Polis issued the state’s stay-at-home order on March 25, an AP report indicated golf courses, along with outdoor basketball courts and tennis courts, would fall under the mandatory closures.

But the order itself didn’t specifically mention those facilities, leaving it up to local jurisdictions to make that determination.

Some municipalities have since closed playgrounds, along with public basketball courts, tennis courts and other outdoor sports facilities. Others, including the city of Denver, have closed golf courses.

Since most golf courses are private entities, operators have been working with local public health officials to enact safety protocols if they decide to remain open.     

“What we were left to do is come up with a way to say golf courses can open, but they need to maintain those safe distance guidelines and take other precautions (to protect public health),” Sutherland said. “Golf courses, just the way they are laid out, lends itself to being able to operate safely.”

A guiding document for all golf courses to follow is expected out this week, he said.

In the meantime, Rifle Creek Golf Course has led the way among area courses in announcing that it would stay open. The decision came after taking a couple of days to evaluate the situation and put some of those measures in place, according to a statement posted on the golf course’s website.

“We have decided to stay open and will be taking the utmost precautions within our operations to provide the safest environment possible for people who still wish to play golf,” according to the statement. “We encourage our customers to do their part to keep everyone safe by following the mandated social distancing requirements.”

Among the precautions:

  • The pro shop and dining room will be closed
  • Congregating on the deck is not allowed
  • Walking access only, no golf carts or pull carts
  • Restrooms in the clubhouse are available, and are routinely cleaned and sanitized
  • On-course restrooms and water drinking stations are closed
  • Flagsticks must be left in the cup (cups are raised to avoid contact)
  • All bunker rakes have been removed
  • Driving range remains closed.

The Glenwood Springs Golf Club is tailoring its guidelines after Rifle, in hopes of opening on Wednesday, General Manager Jerry Butler said on Monday.

The course last week put out a call to its patrons to help provide bleach and other cleaning materials to make sure they can sterilize the clubhouse premises. Much of what Rifle is doing will also be the standard mode of operation at Glenwood, with a few modifications that were still being worked out on Monday.

“Hopefully, all will be good and we can resume normal operations soon,” Butler said in an email.

River Valley Ranch in Carbondale has closed after being open for limited play last week, and is asking people to stay off the course until further notice.

“While some golf courses have remained open, we are temporarily closing as we believe it is our civic duty to do so during this time,” RVR operators announced in a Facebook message over the weekend. “Please help us by not entering course property. This includes the driving range, cart paths and fairways.”

Ironbridge Golf Course south of Glenwood Springs plans to open for member play only on Wednesday, and is currently planning to open for public play by April 11, when the governor’s stay-at-home order is currently scheduled to end. 

“We also have been tracking the best practices for golf courses, and will be employing those,” Ironbridge Assistant General Manager Cal Kendrick said on Monday.

The pro shop are closed, and tee time check will be done over the phone or through a window, he said.  

“We are carrying out the social distancing requirements, including a single person to a cart, no touching flag sticks and no raking of bunkers,” Kendrick said.

As many courses are doing, the cups are pulled up so the ball just hits the edge instead of dropping into the hole.

Hand sanitizing and washing stations with soap and paper towel dispensers are also set up, he said. 

A beverage and snack cart will be operating on the course, but will also be following protocols, Kendrick said.

Elsewhere, Battlement Mesa Golf Club remains closed until April 11 and the private Aspen Glen Club allows members-only play. Lakota Canyon Golf Club in New Castle did not have information posted on its website, and could not be reached for comment.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Area prep winter sports athletes earn CHSAA All-State mentions

The state high school basketball tournaments may have been cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado, but All-State teams were announced this week and several local athletes’ names are on the list.

In the Class 4A boys selections, Glenwood Springs seniors John Iuele and Mitchell Burt both garnered honorable mention by the Colorado High School Activities Association.

Burt and Iuele led the Demons in scoring, averaging 12.5 and 13.7 points per game, respectively. Burt was also named 4A Western Slope League Player of the Year earlier this month, after Glenwood went 12-0 to win league and finished 22-4 on the season, including a run to the Great 8 in the state tournament.

Joining the two Glenwood players on the state honorable mention list was Rifle High School senior Trey Lujan, who led the Bears with 17.9 points per game this past season.

For the Class 3A boys, Coal Ridge High School senior Austin Gerber was the lone area player to make the honorable mention list. Gerber average 18.9 points per game on 50% field-goal shooting, and was 46% from the 3-point arc.

Making honorable mention for the 4A girls was Glenwood Springs High senior Natalya Taylor, who was the Lady Demons’ scoring leader, shooting 49% and averaging 11.2 points per game. Taylor was the girls 4A WSL Player of the Year this season.

And, for the 3A girls, All-State honorable mention honors went to Roaring Fork junior Maya Lindgren, Grand Valley senior Jordyn Pittman and Coal Ridge junior Taylor Wiescamp. The trio averaged 12.8, 8.1 and 13.5 points per game, respectively, this past season.

The basketball honorees joined several other area winter sports athletes who were previously announced among the All-State selections. They include:

  • Girls Swimming/Diving — Glenwood Springs junior Abbie Scruton (first team), junior Libby Claassen (second team), and senior Juliet McGill (second team)
  • Boys Hockey — Glenwood senior Colter Strautman (second team)
  • Wrestling — Glenwood Springs senior Amos Wilson (182), and Basalt senior Ernesto Lopez (285), both honorable mention.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Vidakovich column: The Legends Club

I finished a book awhile back by notable sports writer John Feinstein titled “The Legends Club.” It chronicles the life, times and coaching rivalry of North Carolina’s Dean Smith, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina State’s Jim Valvano. The personalities of these three men and their love of the game of basketball created an intense rivalry and several classic games along North Carolina’s Tobacco Road during the decade of the 1980s.

Growing up here in Glenwood, my friends and I were lucky enough to have our own group of legends as teachers and coaches. Upon completion of Feinstein’s book, I realized that every one of the Glenwood High School coaches who looked after me so extremely well in the late 1970s have had a portion of the school’s athletic facilities named after them.

To the students and athletes who now roam the halls of GSHS, the Chavez-Spencer Gym, Stubler Memorial Field and Coach Miller Drive are probably just names without faces that are forever attached to the proud Demon sports lore. To me, they are great men who not only won championships on the gridiron and in the arena, they more importantly shaped the lives of generations of Glenwood athletes and cemented the foundation for the future success of those who wear the red and white uniforms.

If you knew Harlan Spencer, you were better off for it. Spence, as he was known to most of us, put us through the summer rigors as our little league baseball coach. Being new to organized sports, we all counted on his guidance, knowledge of the game, and calm demeanor to provide an early life tutorial for us boys of summer.

Spence was the PE teacher at the Glenwood Junior High School, and also served as the football and basketball coach. We had outstanding teams in both seventh and eighth grade, and it was largely due to the fundamentals of the game taught by Spencer and his assistant, Al Kimbrough. The championships won were secondary to the work ethic, integrity and respect for the game that were demanded of us by these two men.

Spence is most known for starting the Glenwood girls’ basketball program in 1976, serving as the first head coach for the Lady Demons. It’s no surprise to anyone that his teams were highly successful and filled with quality young ladies. The blueprint and the standard had been set for Glenwood coaches who came after him to follow.

Retired and now living in Fruita with his wife, Spence doesn’t make it to Glenwood very often, but when I am fortunate enough to bump into him, I make sure to thank him for all of his teachings and guidance. Always with a smile, he’s still as upbeat and personable as ever. Spence’s compassion for others never takes a holiday.

Nick Stubler was my PE teacher and freshman basketball coach at GSHS. He was a large man with a gruff voice who spoke very few words, but when he did talk, you gave him your undivided attention. Coach Stubler made us do endless calisthenics and run around the track in PE. He drilled us endlessly on the fundamentals of the game of basketball until we could execute the finer points in our sleep. We ran the weave to perfection and were groomed for future success as members of the Demon varsity.

A former college football lineman, Stubler was no-nonsense tough, but he had a heart as big as his physical frame. He loved us all, and we knew it. Every time I see the sign with his name on it at the south end of the Glenwood football stadium, I think of my times with Stubler and feel a deep gratitude. He made us all grow up and take responsibility for our actions at a time in life when we most needed a helping hand.

I did not play football in high school, I was too skinny and scared, but I did get to know Coach Don Miller well, from the time I was a little boy, to my days coaching at GSHS with Miller serving as the athletics director. He was always just “coach” to all of us. That’s how I always addressed him, and with the utmost respect.

Coach was on my dad’s bowling team at the old Glenwood Bowl that was run by the Roy family. It was quite a cast of characters that got together every Thursday night to knock down some pins and do the same with a few beers. My dad, Miller, Marv Meyers, Corky Lyons and Bob Jones didn’t set the bowling world on fire, but they sure had a good time. My dad would always bring me along for the evening. I looked forward each week to seeing those guys and messing around at the bowling alley.

Coach’s Demon football teams won state titles in 1978 and 1981. He was a stickler for details in the Vince Lombardi mode, and his players were always in shape and well-prepared. Some of my fondest memories are from those Friday nights watching the Demons march up and down the field to another in a long line of victories.

Having Coach around the school during my coaching tenure at GSHS proved to be invaluable. His advice and encouragement went a long way to helping me navigate the always fickle world of coaching. I leaned on him during good times and bad. Though he passed away a few years ago, I think of him often. I always will.

Our indoctrination into the world of Coach Bob Chavez started as physical education students at Glenwood Elementary. Nothing that “Chav” ever did could even remotely be considered sedentary. He let us play games after we did calisthenics. He made us climb the rope in the gym and timed us as we ran around the softball field, trying to beat our result from the day before. During the winter months, he would put us all in a circle and make us square dance. That wasn’t my favorite activity, but I found it could be tolerated if I got one of the many cute sixth grade girls as my partner.

Chav would pace the length of the elementary gym endlessly on game day. His mind was on that night’s opponent on the basketball court, and a world away from elementary PE. We all grew up with his passion for the game of basketball and the Demons. It was infectious, and we all wanted to be a part of it someday with him as our leader.

You may know that Chavez won state championships in 1975, ’79 and ’84 as the head basketball coach in Glenwood Springs. He was, at one time, the all-time leader in high school coaching victories in the state of Colorado. What you probably aren’t aware of is that he didn’t have 30 years of basketball players at Glenwood, he had 30 years of coaching boys he considered to be his family away from his own.

Chav’s love and enthusiasm for almost everything, not just basketball, rubbed off on all who were lucky enough to play for him. Positive and encouraging almost to a fault, we are all as important to him now as we were when we raced up and down the basketball court.

It’s always a treat for me to see him and his wife, Shirley, when they venture back here each summer from their home in Scottsdale, Arizona. A hug is always the order of the day when we meet, and a lengthy sit down to rehash all the old games and milestones of yesteryear is a must. Still sharp and with his usual unfailing enthusiasm, Chav built the empire that is Glenwood basketball. I feel fortunate to have helped put a few of the building blocks in place with him.

Chavez, Spencer, Stubler and Miller. Glenwood’s own version of the Legends Club. A forever thanks to you gents. We’re all glad we got to be a small part of it.

Mike Vidakovich writes freelance for the Post Independent.

Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021 over coronavirus concerns

TOKYO (AP) — The IOC announced a first-of-its-kind postponement of the Summer Olympics on Tuesday, bowing to the realities of a coronavirus pandemic that is shutting down daily life around the globe and making planning for a massive worldwide gathering in July a virtual impossibility.

The International Olympic Committee said the Tokyo Games “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”

It was an announcement seen as all but a certainty as pressure mounted from nervous athletes, sports organizations and national Olympic committees — all forced to deal with training and qualifying schedules, to say nothing of international anti-doping protocols, that have been ruptured beyond repair.

Four-time Olympic hockey champion Hayley Wickenheiser, the first IOC member to criticize the body’s reluctance to postpone, called it the “message athletes deserved to hear.”

“To all the athletes: take a breath, regroup, take care of yourself and your families. Your time will come,” she wrote on Twitter.

IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo met via phone Tuesday morning, and they, along with a handful of executives from the IOC and Japan’s organizing committee, agreed to make the call to delay games that have been reported to cost upward of $28 billion to stage.

Other Olympics — 1916, 1940 and 1944 — have been canceled because of war, but none have ever been postponed for any reason, let alone a renegade virus that has accounted for more than 375,000 cases worldwide, with numbers growing exponentially. The Tokyo Games would still be called the 2020 Olympics, even though they will be held in 2021 — the first time the games will be held in an odd-numbered year since the modern era began in 1896.

“The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope,” the IOC said in a statement.

The decision offers a sense of relief for the 11,000-or-so potential Olympians from more than 200 countries, who no longer have to press forward with training under near-impossible conditions, unsure of when, exactly, they need to be ready — and for what.

“Thankful to finally have some clarity regarding The Olympic Games. A huge decision but I think the right one for sure,” British sprinter Adam Gemili said on Twitter. “Time to regain, look after each other during this difficult period and go again when the time is right!”

One reason the IOC took longer to make the decision was because it wanted to figure out logistics. It will be a daunting challenge. Many of the arenas, stadiums and hotels are under contract for a games held from July 24-August 7. Remaking those arrangements is doable, but will come at a cost. There are also considerations beyond the price tag of the Games. Among them: The $1 billion-plus the IOC was to receive from NBC, the millions in smaller athlete endorsement contracts that are now in limbo, the budgets of the individual national Olympic committees, to name a few.

There’s also the matter of the international sports schedule. Virtually all 33 sports on the Olympic program have key events, including world championships, on the docket for 2021. Perhaps the best example of what a disruption this can cause would come from track. Famous Hayward Field at University of Oregon was rebuild and expanded at the cost of $200 million to hold next year’s world championships. Now that event will likely be postponed.

“There are a lot of pieces of a huge and very difficult jigsaw puzzle,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

But for weeks, it was becoming increasingly clear that pressing on with a July 24 starting date was no longer a choice.

Virtually every sport across the globe has suspended play in the wake of the pandemic. The worldwide economy is faltering and people are increasingly being told it’s not safe to congregate in large groups or, in some cases, even to leave their houses. Gyms are closed across America. Holding Olympic trials in a matter of months was becoming a virtual impossibility.

Olympic committees in Canada and Australia were saying they either would not, or could not, send a team to Tokyo in July. World Athletics and the three biggest sports in the United States — swimming, track and gymnastics — were calling for a postponement.

As recently as Sunday, the IOC was saying it would take up to four weeks to reach a decision. Four weeks ended up being two days.

The decision came only a few hours after local organizers said the torch relay would start as planned on Thursday. It was expected to start in northeastern Fukushima prefecture, but with no torch, no torchbearers and no public.

Those plans also changed.

The flame will be stored and displayed in Fukushima. Like everything else in the Olympic world, it’s next move will be determined at a later date.

“I’m thrilled for the athletes,’ Bob Bowman, who used to coach Michael Phelps and now works with other Olympic hopefuls, told The Associated Press. “That’s what this is all about at the end of the day, and really the world that gets to share in their journey and be a part of it. Now we can have a real Olympics that is healthy and fair.”

Sunlight shuts down uphill traffic as trails get muddy and amid new health department advisories

Sunlight Mountain Resort has now closed the ski mountain to all activities, including uphill travel, due to deteriorating snow conditions and in accordance with public health concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The small ski area outside Glenwood Springs announced the closure in a Facebook post and press alert Monday morning.

Sunlight closed last week after Gov. Jared Polis ordered a temporary closure until mid-April of all ski resorts in the state amid growing concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus, especially in Colorado’s ski resort communities.

Sunlight decided to go ahead and close for the season, which was to end April 5 anyway but was still allowing uphill enthusiasts to continue to trek up the mountain under their own power, even if the lifts were closed.

“Conditions are thawing and lower sections are starting to become muddy,” Sunlight officials said in their Facebook post announcing the new restriction. The decision is also “in accordance to public health recommendations issued by the state and Garfield County.”

“We saw a few hundred uphillers over the weekend,” Sunlight Sales and Marketing Director Troy Hawks said in a followup email. “I didn’t witness any groups of more than 10 — people were maintaining the minimum ski-length distance apart while on the mountain, but of course the upper warming hut has limited capacity. The hut is also now closed.” 

Sunlight maintenance crews have also now plowed out Grizzly Road, which they normally do soon after the lifts close so that staff can access the mountain to do their post-season work.

Trails in the adjacent in Babbish Gulch area do remain open to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. However, users are advised to maintain state and county recommendations to travel in smaller groups and maintain “social distancing” precautions.

After the state’s ski resorts shut down March 15, many enthusiasts continued to access the terrain by using traction skins to get up the mountains, and then skiing down.

Some ski areas, including all of the Vail Resorts-owned mountains, eventually closed to uphill traffic also for fear of skiers accessing steeper terrain that was no longer being maintained for avalanche control.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Backcountry skiers urged to use extra caution

Coronavirus-induced cabin fever plus fresh snow plus growing interest in backcountry skiing could be a recipe for trouble if people aren’t educating themselves and preparing for risks, experts warned Friday.

“The avalanche danger jumped to considerable in the Aspen-area zone Friday after 8 inches of snow fell on the ski areas and up to 2 feet fell in the Upper Crystal River Valley.” More snow is in the forecast.

“It’s still prime avalanche season,” said Brian Lazar, deputy director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Lazar said backcountry travelers might be paying closer attention to keeping themselves safe from coronavirus and not paying enough attention to avalanche risk. People are eager to feed their need to get outdoors.

“Mother Nature doesn’t alter the avalanche danger based on those needs,” he said.

Avalanche forecasters around the state have encountered more activity at backcountry trailheads. One factor might be more people are driving separately to maintain social distancing, he said. But there also appears to be more people engaging in backcountry skiing and snowboarding, particularly with so many workers laid off, he said.

There has been a surge in the number of skiers and split boarders putting on climbing skins for the uphill journey at the closed ski areas in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Cripple Creek Backcountry, which operates shops in the Roaring Fork Valley and one in the Eagle Valley, reported in its newsletter Thursday it has been “absolutely buried by gear drop-offs” for tunes and mounting bindings.

Mountain Rescue Aspen member Greg Shaffran said the uptick in backcountry skiing in the Aspen area has been obvious since the ski areas were ordered closed by executive order by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

“People are getting a little cabin fever, a little antsy,” he said.

Shaffran said Mountain Rescue is stressing to people to be careful even in the ski areas. Terrain they are familiar with under typical circumstances during winter might take on different snow characteristics with no ski patrol and no snow safety measures. Therefore, he recommended extreme caution on tougher terrain in the ski areas.

“It’s not unheard of for avalanches in ski resorts,” he said.

Lazar also advised caution in the ski areas. “It’s all backcountry right now,” he said.

Caution is needed not only for the safety of skiers but also because the health care system cannot handle extra stress of caring for someone with a broken leg when the expectation is for all attention needed for coronavirus victims, Shaffran said.

The message from MRA is to enjoy the backcountry and uphilling at the resorts — but be smart and safe.

MRA also has been affected by the need to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It gave up its headquarters by the Aspen Business Center to the Pitkin County incident management team for the coronavirus crisis. MRA has suspended its trainings and meetings to avoid large gatherings.

When called out on a mission, members drive directly to trailheads or staging areas rather than mobilizing at the headquarters or another location.

“Generally, the Mountain Rescue Aspen response has been to throw big numbers on it,” he said of an incident. Now a more calculated approach is required.

Recommendations suggested by Shaffran and Lazar included check conditions with CAIC at https://avalanche.state.co.us, make a plan in advance, implement that plan effectively, let someone know about your plan, carry a beacon, probe and shovel and know how to use them.

Shaffran’s final piece of advice was, “Chill out a little bit.” It’s not a time for taking chances. “Uncertainty is high right now. Dial it back,” Shaffran said.

The forecast for the Aspen zone Friday said the new snow created dangerous conditions, particularly where the highest snow levels fell.

“Only two days ago most slopes were safe from avalanches,” CAIC said on its website. “That’s not the case today. It would be easy to assume that following a spring storm with dense new snow, the new load would settle quickly and the avalanche danger would trend down quickly, too. That may or may not be the case with this event.”

scondon@aspentimes.com

Aspen Mountain, Snowmass tapping out for season, RFTA cutting routes because of coronavirus

Despite a blanket of new snow, the coronavirus-interrupted 2019-20 ski season officially ended Friday. 

That was the word from the Aspen Skiing Co., whose spokesman said Friday afternoon that Wednesday’s extension of statewide closures until April 6 by Gov. Jared Polis effectively shut down skiing this winter because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“… (We) are officially calling it a season at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass,” Jeff Hanle said in an email. “Crews are completing breakdown work now and will start to prep the mountains for summer construction projects next week.”

Hanle, however, left the ski season door slight ajar when it comes to Aspen Highlands, which he said is “closed for the foreseeable future.”

“If we are given advice that we can reopen sometime late in April by state and local health agencies, we would evaluate conditions for a limited opening,” Hanle said in a subsequent email. “This would likely be a bare-bones, limited services opening.”

Skico previously announced that Buttermilk is closed for the season. 

The state’s ski mountains closed starting March 15 under orders from the governor. Polis announced Thursday that bars and restaurants in the state will remain shuttered until April 30, in addition to other “non-essential services” like hair salons and barbers, tattoo and massage parlors and racetracks. 

Skico wasn’t the only one ramping down Friday amid the unfolding coronavirus epidemic. 

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority announced cuts to service across the board that will affect both local Aspen riders and downvalley riders, according to a news release. The following changes are in addition to previously announced reductions and will begin Monday: 

• In Aspen, all local routes will see reduced evening hours, with the last Hunter Creek, Cemetery Lane and Castle Maroon buses leaving Rubey Park at 11 p.m. The last Mountain Valley departure from Rubey Park will be at 11:15 p.m., while the last Burlingame bus will leave at 11:20 p.m.

• The Cross Town Shuttle will cease operation. 

• Direct bus service from Aspen to Snowmass Village will cease operation.

• The Woody Creek Shuttle will cease operation.

• Downvalley service will continue to run every half-hour throughout the day, then cut to every hour starting at 4:08 p.m. going upvalley and 8:15 p.m. heading downvalley. 

• The last local upvalley bus will depart the West Glenwood Park and Ride Lot at 9 p.m. 

• The last local downvalley bus will depart Rubey Park in Aspen at 11:15 p.m.

• BRT service will be reduced to every 20 minutes during peak hours and less frequently during non-peak hours, with service ending with the 10:47 p.m. bus from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. 

• The Carbondale Circulator will continue to operate.

• Ride Glenwood will cease operation.

The RFTA service cuts were necessary because of decreased ridership, staffing constraints and the need to continually disinfect buses throughout the day, according to the release. 

Those with disabilities can call RFTA at 970-945-9117 “to discuss your travel options due to the absence to service,” the release states. 

The governor’s closure orders, which are likely contributing significantly to RFTA’s reduced ridership, are hammering the state economy. At a media briefing Friday morning, Polis mainly focused on easing the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent containment efforts. 

He said that while Colorado will need help from the federal government, the state is ready to help immediately with various efforts to help residents and business weather the crisis. Those initiatives include loans for small business, ensuring that people who can’t pay rent and mortgages aren’t evicted or face foreclosure and efforts to keep utilities on if people can’t pay the bills. 

Polis asked financial institutions and landlords to be merciful to people who don’t have money because they’ve lost jobs due to the virus. He also said state income tax payments will be extended 90 days until July for all filers with no conditions. 

“This will get worse before it gets better,” Polis said. 

Black Hills Energy announced Friday that is temporarily suspending disconnections because of nonpayment and directed customers to the company’s website to “explore options to assist those hardships,” according to a press release. 

The company also asked customers diagnosed with the virus or experiencing symptoms of it to consider postponing non-emergency calls. Crews that do respond to emergency calls “will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and following health practices as recommended by the CDC …” the release says. 

Better health practices prompted officials at Aspen Valley Hospital to erect a heated tent in front of the facility near the emergency room to screen patients referred to the hospital with respiratory symptoms, said Elaine Gerson, chief transformation officer at AVH. 

Previously, a nurse wearing protective equipment would have to walk outside and evaluate a patient before allowing access the emergency room, which is currently restricted, said Dave Ressler, AVH’s CEO. 

Gerson emphasized that the tent is not a COVID-testing tent, but rather a place to evaluate patients with respiratory issues. 

Ressler also clarified statements reported Thursday that AVH had zero patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Four patients have been admitted with COVID-19-like symptoms, though tests for two of them came back negative. The hospital was waiting for the results of the other two tests Friday, he said. 

jauslander@aspentimes.com

CHSAA extends suspension of spring prep sports seasons through April 18

Roaring Fork High School soccer players Izzy Knaus and Ari Chacos were getting a little self-guided practice in outside the school Tuesday afternoon when they got word that the spring sports seasons will be suspended at least an extra two weeks.

“I’ve been coming out here every day to train, even though I know most of our season is going to be over before we even start,” Knaus, a junior, said, contemplating even more time away from the field with her teammates.

The Colorado High School Activities Association on Tuesday extended its current suspension of spring sports through April 18, in the ongoing response to slow the advance of the COVID-19 virus in Colorado.

The decision comes after Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday the state would be narrowing the minimum standards for public gatherings and extending the time frame to 30 days, unless otherwise revised.

Spring sports had already been suspended through April 6. The moratorium is now extended through April 18.

“I just want to be ready if we do get a chance to play,” Knaus said. “Soccer is the best part of my year, and now we don’t even have that or school anymore.”

Chacos said she, too, was anxious to play her first season of high school soccer.

“We’re just trying to get out here as much as possible, because it’s supposed to start snowing tomorrow,” Knaus added.

Students and parents are also anxiously awaiting word if school will even resume after spring break ends on March 29, but in the meantime student gatherings are highly restricted.

“CHSAA encourages schools to set stricter standards on student gatherings outside of the high school,” according to a Tuesday afternoon press release from CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green.

In addition, all CHSAA music events and the April 14 CHSAA Hall of Fame are canceled. The CHSAA Legislative Council meeting, the state speech tournament and the Student Leadership Advisor U have been postponed indefinitely.

The CHSAA office in Denver will also remain closed until March 30, with staff working remotely from home.

In Garfield County, that means baseball, girls soccer, boys and girls lacrosse, track and field and girls golf seasons will remain suspended. 

Teams are also not allowed to have formal practices during this time, and the question still remains whether schools will be allowed back in session after the current extended spring break for the Roaring Fork and Garfield Re-2 school districts, which ends March 29.

In this April 2019 file photo, Glenwood Springs defender Celia Scruton passes the ball to a teammate while being knocked to the ground in 4A Western Slope League action at Stubler Memorial Field in Glenwood.
Josh Carney / Post Independent

And, as it stands, the latest moratorium extension also impacts the Glenwood Demon Invitational Track and Field meet that had been scheduled for April 18, after which, at this point, it would be lifted.

“My initial question was in regard to the 18th of April, specifically, could we resume competition on that date,” Glenwood Springs track coach Blake Risner queried, without knowing the answer just yet.

Even so, he’s not sure his or any other team would be prepared for competition after not having had any formal practices since March 12.

This was to be the 40th edition of the Demon Invitational. 

“I have special t-shirts for this event already in hand and really was looking forward to showcasing Glenwood’s home invitational,” Risner said. “Assuming we have a season at all, I would make a legitimate attempt to reschedule the Demon Invitational.”

Risner said his track and field athletes were hit pretty hard by the news last week that they may not be able to compete at all this spring.

“Some of the veteran tracksters, like Kuba Bartnik and Sophia Vigil, were brought to tears at the prospect of losing their season,” he said. “But they immediately turned their frustration into motivation to continue their training in hopes of salvaging their season.  

Risner has been posting personal workouts on the team website, “if, for no other reason, to maintain my sanity and calm my extreme sense of loss,” he said.

Kuba, a senior sprinter for the Demons, has also been organizing off-campus workouts via social media.

Meanwhile, CHSAA officials said they will recognize individual participants from the CHSAA State Basketball Championships last weekend, with a memento in the coming weeks “to recognize their leadership and resolve during that week.” The state basketball tournaments for all classifications were halted after last Thursday’s games had concluded.

“National and state decisions related to the COVID-19 virus are changing daily, even hourly, so new updates will be posted on CHSAANow.com and communicated via email to schools and media,” CHSAA said in the Tuesday news release.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Vidakovich column: A good time to find our own Willoughby

Demon Hoops Fun to Watch

I enjoyed watching all of the area basketball teams this winter, but it was especially fun to get to see so many of the Glenwood boys’ and girls’ games.

Both teams posted impressive overall records, and each managed to go undefeated in 4A Western Slope League play. In impressive fashion, the girls made it to the round of 16 in the state playoffs, and the boys came within a whisker of making it to the Final Four in Denver, bowing out to Pueblo West at home in the Great Eight.

It stood out to me with each group, that the team truly came first. No selfish players could be found on the court at any time. It was obvious that the end result was more important than any individual accolades.

Each time I interviewed a player from the boys’ team following a game, the first thing that was mentioned was a teammate. It was actually hard to get the individual Demon to talk about himself and his contributions to the win. Without fail, the first comment was in regard to another member of the squad who had set him up for a score, played great defense, or who got the key rebounds and steals to help the team come out on top.

With the type of kids on both Demon teams, it’s no wonder they both enjoyed such successful seasons.

GS Basketball Future is Bright

The boys and girls teams lost a great deal of talent to graduation, but several eager and capable young players from the Demon junior varsity and “C” teams are waiting in the wings to carry on the Glenwood basketball tradition. Also worth noting is the fact that the seventh- and eighth-grade boys at Glenwood Middle School recently placed second in the state championships held in Colorado Springs. Both teams also won the middle school PEG League championship in their respective division last fall.

March Sadness

When I heard the NCAA basketball tournament had been canceled, I thought back to a late March day in 1985 when, on the way back to school in Greeley, I was able to get a ticket to watch the men’s west regional final at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver. It was a big game featuring North Carolina State University, coached by Jimmy Valvano, and St. John’s U. from New York City, coached by Lou Carnesecca. The winner would go to the Final Four.

I got one of the last seats in the end balcony, or the nose bleed section as it is known, but it was well worth it to watch two legendary programs, and coaches, battle it out. St. John’s was a talented bunch with Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin, Walter Berry and Willie Glass. They were known at the time as the Beasts from the East. NC State had a diminutive guard named Spud Webb who would go on to NBA fame as a player and slam dunk contest champion.

St. John’s won the game, sending Carnesecca to his first-ever final four. Valvano’s Wolfpack of NC State had won the national title in 1983 with a victory over the Houston Cougars. Valvano passed away in late April 1993 after a lengthy battle with cancer. At the time, I didn’t fully realize the magnitude of the players and personalities I had watched that day in my youth. A memorable game and an unforgettable day all around.

Sequoia Glen 5k Postponed

For the last 20 years, I have hosted the Sequoia Glen 5K Run at my house in west Glenwood. The long trek up Mitchell Creek and above the Glenwood Fish Hatchery won’t happen this spring due to the current health crisis in the country and the world.

The race was supposed to go off on Saturday, April 18, but the risks are too great to get my old running buddies together, as we have done each spring for two decades. Maybe a rescheduled date in the fall can happen. It will all depend on what is going on at the time. I’m positive everything will be OK, and we’ll be able to gather again soon and run up that big hill together.

‘A Stop at Willoughby’

On the recommendation of my friend Patti Welch, I recently watched and old episode of the Twilight Zone television show called “A Stop at Willoughby.”

The 30-minute fictional segment is about New York City advertising executive Gart Williams who is tired of his overbearing boss, nagging wife and stressful lifestyle. Williams, who longs for a peaceful and restful place where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure, drifts off and naps on his daily train commute home from work. On several trips, he believes he wakes up to find the train car deserted except for himself and the conductor, who is telling him he has arrived in a town called Willoughby.

Though it is the middle of winter, Williams peers out the window to discover it is July in Willoughby, and the sun is in full bloom. Everyone is moving at a leisurely pace, including two boys who ask him to join them for an afternoon of fishing.

Williams is jolted awake each time to find himself back in the modern train car with snow coming down sideways outside his window.

Finally, following a breakdown at work, and a fight with his selfish, uncaring wife who tells him she “Didn’t know I married a man whose goal in life is to be Huckleberry Finn,” Williams boards the train once again, falls asleep and arrives in Willoughby. Though Willoughby doesn’t really exist, Williams decides this time he will get off the train and become a part of the ideal place that sometimes only exists in the hidden part of a man’s mind. He decided to climb off a world that was moving much too fast for his liking.

I won’t tell you how the episode concludes. Maybe you will have to watch to see for yourself.

In these strange times, maybe each of us needs to search for our own Willoughby, where there is sunlight and serenity in abundance. Things will be fine. Just stay positive and be thankful for all that we have.

And furthermore, what’s wrong with wanting to be Huckleberry Finn?

Mike Vidakovich writes freelance for the Post Independent.

Coal Ridge, Roaring Fork, Grand Valley land 3A girls all-conference selections

Western Slope League 3A girls all-league selections have now been released, and Coal Ridge, Grand Valley and Roaring Fork high schools were all well-represented.

Leading the way in the league coaches’ selections were, for Coal Ridge: junior Taylor Wiescamp (averaging 13.5 points, 56% shooting for 284 points on the season, and 8 rebounds per game) and freshman sensation Jackie Camunez (10.4 points per game and 40% shooting for 219 points);

For Grand Valley: seniors Jordyn Pittman (8.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game), and Taygann Schoeppner (9.7 points, and 3.9 rebounds per game, and 54% shooting for 222 points on the season);

And, for Roaring Fork: senior Emily Broadhurst (4.1 assists, 6.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game), and junior Maya Lindgren (12.8 points and 38% shooting for 295 points on the season).

Honorable mention went to, for Coal Ridge: senior Lyanna Nevarez; for Grand Valley: seniors Loghan Teter and Kristin Medina; and for Roaring Fork: seniors Isabella Hernandez and Caroline Wisroth.

League Player of the Year and Top Senior was Delta’s Sarah Geddes, and co-Coaches of the Year were Delta’s Kyle Crowder and Cedaredge’s Russell Coleman.

Release of the all-league picks came following CHSAA’s decision to cancel the state basketball tournaments this weekend for all classifications due to ongoing state health concerns around the coronavirus.

League champion (at 9-0) Delta had been in the Great 8 playing at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium. The Panthers lost to Pagosa Springs 45-27 in the quarterfinals last Thursday before the decision was made to halt the tournament.

jstroud@postindependent.com