Your Morning News - February 17th, 2015

Feb 17, 2015

Pitkin County Creates New Air Travel Website

In order to avoid travel troubles at the Aspen airport, Pitkin County has launched a new website. It’s in response to the delays, cancelations and diversions experienced over the holidays.

The Saturday after Christmas, more than 300 planes either landed or took off from the Aspen Airport, according to the Aspen Daily News. The large amount of traffic coupled with snowy weather caused headaches for travelers.

The website aspentraveltips.com is the result of brainstorming by airport officials, airlines and several local organizations, including the Aspen Skiing Co. and the Aspen Institute.

It offers real time information about ground transportation, rental cars and road conditions to Denver. Travelers will also find last-minute lodging availability in Aspen and Snowmass, should they decide to wait out the weather. Airport officials say it’s the first of several initiatives they’re considering to make peak season travel smoother.

Klaus Obermeyer Honored By Colorado Biz Hall of Fame

Klaus Obermeyer is in his fourth hall of fame. The iconic Aspenite and ski wear entrepreneur was recently inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame, for his decades long contributions to the ski industry. He is the founder of Sport Obermeyer. It informally started when Obermeyer moved to Aspen in 1947, and as he started finding ways to make skiing more comfortable. He came up with the first quilted down parka and made headway with high altitude sunscreen and a variety of other innovations. But Obermeyer’s tinkering with ski-related gear had begun long before.

“I made my own skis when I was three years old. My father used to buy oranges from Italy in crates, and those crates were made from very thin chestnut boards. And I nailed my best pair of buckle haus shows onto two of those boards.”

And a pair of skis were born. Obermeyer, an enthusiastic 95 years old, spoke with Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher. They talked about ski wear for people hiking uphill and what people wore skiing back in the late 1940s.

Mardi Gras comes to Snowmass Tomorrow

Mardi Gras festivities start early in Snowmass Village today. The Mother of All Ascensions uphill race starts at 7 a.m. at Base Village. This is the event’s 23rd year.

The race climbs more than 2,000 vertical feet in two miles — to Gwyn’s High Alpine restaurant. Typically 300 people, on skis, stabilizers or snowshoes participate. Unlike other uphill competitions, this event gives prizes to those who dress up.

It’s a kick off to a day of Mardi Gras events in Snowmass Village. Andrew Bielecki is an organizer.

"There are the people who are hard core racers who are heading up the mountain to set the best times. But, overall, I think it’s just people getting out there to celebrate Fat Tuesday in Snowmass Village.”

The race is followed by several events in the afternoon, including a bead toss and parade on the Snowmass Mall and fireworks on Fanny Hill.

Mountains Hamper Police Communications

When an Aspen teenager was arrested for possession of marijuana earlier this month, several police officers responded to the scene. While the call didn’t warrant that kind of response, it was necessary because of a communication breakdown.

Weak radio signals and incomplete transmissions are something local public safety responders have been dealing with for years. It’s a result of the valley’s mountainous terrain...and it can be especially sketchy in and around the Aspen schools campus. Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor says it was a factor in the Feb. 6 arrest of a student at a bus stop near the school.

“One of the problems we have is with radio communications in the area of the schools, so both within the schools themselves and in that area around the ARC we often get incomplete transmissions. So, we have an officer radioing with a somewhat garbled transmission that isn’t as clear as it could be.”

Because they don’t always have a clear path to communicate with each other, Aspen police officers err on the side of caution. That often leads to having more of a law enforcement presence than necessary.

“In our jobs, we have something going on around the schools...we’re thinking we need to get there pretty quick and we need to make sure everything is OK. Therefore, I think we are going to take any call in that area seriously in response. We can always clear people from the scene and tone things down afterwards but is it worth risking that might not have been more serious going on.”  

Pitkin County is planning to replace a key public safety radio transmitter on Red Mountain next year. The upgrade may improve transmission. But as John Loyd, the county’s chief technical officer, points out, the mountains will still be in the way.

“The use of two-way radio in mountainous regions is not a science but it is an art. Again, given the law of physics we are not going to be moving any mountainsides out of the way of the signal...that is just something that all the police and fire agencies in the valley deal with. The closer you drive to the bottom of the mountain that the radio towers are on the less reception you are going to get and the more noise and static you are going to get.”

The replacement of the radio transmitter is expected to cost around $1 million. It’s part of a larger plan that will evaluate the condition all high mountain transmitter sites in the county.