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Your Morning News - January 12th, 2015

Jan 12, 2015

Basalt Police Seek Suspect in Robbery

Basalt Police are looking for a man who robbed a liquor store in Old Town. Jimbo’s Wine and Liquor on Basalt Center Circle was robbed just before 10 o’clock Friday night. The suspect was wearing a stocking cap and a black ski mask. He took out a knife and told a store employee to open the cash register then left with the cash.

Police describe the suspect as a white male, about five-foot-eight with a medium build and brown eyes. The department is reviewing video surveillance and encouraging anyone with information to contact them.

Easier Complaint System for Oil & Gas Operations

It’s now easier to file a complaint about oil and gas operations. Colorado regulators today announced a streamlined complaint system they say is more transparent.

Regulators say the previous process wasn’t transparent enough and that translated into wasting staff time. Workers were focused on filling out forms and sometimes multiple staff members were working on the same complaint without even knowing it. Dave Kulmann is Deputy Director of Field Operations for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. He says with the tremendous boom in oil and gas activity on the Front Range, there’s been a change in the kind of complaints, too.

“The complaints are more complex. They’re multiple issues within one complaint, so it’s taking longer for us to actually process and resolve a complaint and communicate the results back.”

Kulmann describes the new complaint process as part of the agency’s evolution to do a better job keeping an eye on the industry.

Leaders of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance say the new complaint process appears simpler than the previous version. But the Silt-area group believes it's more important for the COGCC to improve its response to complaints which has been inadequate according to the alliance.

New Year’s Drunk Driving Crackdown Numbers

Colorado State Troopers and other law enforcement beefed up patrols for drunk driving over New Year’s Eve. The crackdown caught more than three hundred lawbreakers statewide, but just a handful of cases were in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Six were nabbed in the Valley for December 30th through January 5th. That’s made up of four by the Colorado State Patrol Glenwood Springs office and one by the Glenwood Springs police. The last was by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s office. The Basalt and Snowmass Village Police reported no DUI’s for the end of December through early January. It’s not clear how many drunk drivers the Carbondale Police or Garfield County Sheriff’s office may have picked up.

Overall criminal activity was quiet in the Upper Valley during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season. Blair Weyer is with the Aspen Police Department.

“Aspen lively and full of people, but thankfully it’s been mostly positive interactions here at the police department.”

There were fourteen incidents handled by Aspen Police from mid-December through January 8th. The Pitkin County Sheriff’s office says they’ve also had a quiet last few weeks.

Aspen Gay Ski Week

Aspen Gay Ski Week gets underway this week. This year the event is celebrating its 38th year. It features skiing, parties, comedy, film and other activities.

Last year more than 5,000 people took part and a civil union group ceremony was held. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Colorado.

According to its website, Aspen Gay Ski Week is a fundraiser for the Roaring Fork Gay and Lesbian Community Fund.

Snow Sculpting in Aspen

During this year’s Winterskol celebration in Aspen, two large snow sculptures towered above passersby on the Mill Street Mall. Artist Thomas Barlow created the works. The Basalt-based artist has created more than two dozen snow sculptures at festivals and events across the globe. I caught up with him mid-sculpt on Friday afternoon.

Artist Thomas Barlow thoughtfully slices his chainsaw through a large block of snow. The snow sprays on Barlow’s black jacket and sunglasses.

“A couple things you have to be okay with - being out in the cold, wet snow and you do get sprayed quite often. You want to know which way the wind’s blowing.”

The two sculptures he’s working on today feature a skier dropping through a forest and a ballet dancer surrounded by other elements.

“This one is more about Aspen, I guess. It features wine, grapes, trees and dance.”

His sculptures start with a sketch on paper. Then Barlow spray paints where he wants to make his first cuts. He uses a chainsaw and a special Japanese ice saw. The sculpture starts as an 8-foot-by-8-foot snowy square and eventually becomes a three-dimensional, detailed work.

(reporter): “How long will it take you to get them done?”

(Barlow): “I only have until tomorrow. Today is the big day. I came out early, probably 7:30, and restarted on that piece. I just wanted to get it to a point where it’s recognizable, where I can see it.”

“I think it’s going to be a piece of modern art, something abstract.”

On the busy sidewalks surrounding the sculptures, people pause to predict the final product.

(first dude): “I’m seeing some yellow stuff on there. I assume that’s where he’s marking his territory. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here.”

(second dude): “The one over there looks a lot like the old Winternational logo with the skier going down and all the vertical lines.”

Victor and Katrina Vo stop to snap a photo. The couple is from Sidney, Australia.

“We have seen sculpture there, but we haven’t seen a snow sculpture. It will be interesting to see what the final sculpture will be.”

Barlow’s sculptures are part of an 18-year-old tradition. The “snowsculpt” portion of Aspen’s Winterskol celebration began in the 1990s. Katherine Bell is with Anderson Ranch Arts Center, an organizer of “snowsculpt.”

“It really evolved into quite a centerpiece of Winterskol. At the height of its popularity, I think there was something like 15 to 20 sculptures lining the pedestrian mall.”

In the past, teams competed for cash prizes. This year a lack of interest and funding for the prizes cancelled the competition. Bell says participation began to dwindle last winter.

“Last year we gave it our all with our marketing. I was pounding the pavement all around town. Eighteen years is a long time for one event and it’s time to reevaluate and, maybe we can come up with something even better for next season.”

For now, artist Thomas Barlow will carry on the custom. His works this year are commissioned by the Aspen Chamber. He says he knows snow sculpture isn’t a typical work of art.

“It can be one of the number one questions - how can you put so much time and effort into something that’s not permanent. And the answer is, it’s meant to be appreciated now and it is a temporary medium.”

Barlow picks up his chainsaw and goes to work. He’s got until tomorrow to complete the finishing touches.