Ghosts of Slopes Past

By Christopher Kolomitz

Skiers seem to always go big.

Big air, big adventures and big falls.

And they dream big, too. This year, many are dreaming of massive amounts of snow following a lackluster season last year. More than 30 years ago, developers of two ski areas in Central Colorado were dreaming as well.

Separated by about 80 miles, the Conquistador and Cuchara ski areas share a remarkably similar and sad fate. They were both within a day’s drive of Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma, and no major mountain passes had to be navigated, which was good for marketing. Both were affordable, low key and offered beginners the chance to learn. They were nestled in idyllic valleys, home to historic ranches and scenic vistas.

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Pioneer Ski Area – Colorado’s First Chairlift

By Duane Vandenbusche

The Pioneer Ski Area began during the winter of 1939-40 and was located three miles up Cement Creek and eight miles south of Crested Butte on the side of spectacular Cement Mountain. Pioneer would become famous as the first ski area in Colorado to employ a chairlift.

The ski area was hatched in the minds of Gunnison skiers Rial Lake, Art Fordham, Chuck Sweitzer and Wes McDermott. All of these men had skied off Monarch and Marshall Passes in the 1930s, but they yearned for a ski area that could eliminate the long treks to the tops of mountains. The four men knew the region around Crested Butte to the north had everything needed for a great ski area – tremendous snow, high mountains, and a great ski tradition dating back to the early 1880s.

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Regional News

Voters Kind to Kids

Several area school districts hit the jackpot this November when voters passed ballot measures supporting school replacements and improvements.

In Salida, the 3A bond passed, allowing the school district to qualify for a B.E.S.T. (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant to replace the Longfellow Elementary School.

Voters in Buena Vista passed ballot measure 3C which will replace a wing of the Avery Parsons Elementary School by the summer of 2014. They also passed a mill levy to help with book purchases and technology upgrades.

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Between Autism and Alzheimer’s

By Hal Walter
Of all the holidays, Halloween is the one festivity that seems to turn out the entire Westcliffe community.

If it’s a school day the kids strike out as soon as the bell rings at 4 p.m., swarming in costume, many with parents in tow, to the downtown business district. Some of the adults wear costumes as well.

It amounts to a street party as the kids trick-or-treat the various shops and restaurants in the golden sunlight. For the grown-ups it’s a chance to socialize, and take time to actually talk with people you often only share waves with on the highway.

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Water Update

By John Orr

First Congreso de Acequias

The oldest water right appropriation date in Colorado (April 10, 1852) belongs to the San Luis People’s Ditch on Culebra Creek on the western slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the San Luis Valley. The ditch is a historical artifact from the colonial days of the Spanish Empire.

Gravity-fed irrigation systems were introduced to Spain by the Moors during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Spain’s colonialists brought the technology and concepts of Acequia culture with them as they set up shop in the western hemisphere. Acequias were established in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado as the Spanish, and then Mexicans, settled the Rio Grande Valley.

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Down on the Ground with The Bracelet

By George Sibley

Three score and ten. I’m there, so a couple months ago I put on the bracelet. For all the followers of the great billygod of the burning bush, his shepherd king and poet put it right there in the Bible – Psalm 90:

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

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SLED DOG RACING Minus the Snow … and Sleds

By Tyler Grimes
The weekend forecast called for cold temperatures and a chance of snow – ideal conditions for sled dog racing, one would think. But for the participants of Colorado Mountain Musher’s Dryland Mush, snow could mean race cancellation.

But the snow held off and the 7th annual Dryland Mush was held at Adventure Unlimited (AU) outside Buena Vista on Nov. 10-11. All four events were held despite the cold.

The races are: Canicross; – contestants run with their leashed dogs; 1-2 dog Scooter-jor; – dog(s) pulls contestants on scooters; Bike-jor; – bikes are outfitted to connect to the pulling dogs; and the Small Team Cart; – a max of four dogs pulling contestants by cart. Each race took place on both days and the combined times determined the winners.

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The Crowded Acre

by Jennifer Welch

Late fall is easily my favorite time of year. The fading colors, the crisp air, the slow descent toward winter’s edge that consumes each sleepy day. It fills me with such gratitude that I often find myself sitting in the lowering sun, soaking up the last of the warmth, thinking back upon the previous growing season and the bounty it has provided us with. It’s quite appropriate given that it’s smack in the middle of the holiday season, which always wraps up our harvest season for the year and makes me feel, well, thankful. I am always thankful for my family and friends, my home and the wonderful town we live in, among other things. But as far as farming goes, it brings me to a whole new level of respect and appreciation for new life, old life, life given, and life spared.

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Some Year-End Restitutions

By John Mattingly
1. No more back talk on taxes. Taxes have been low for so long, there’s really only one direction they can go from here, like it or not.

The proposed increases are not that large, yet they make a big difference over time to the growing national debt. But to hear the anti-tax-increase folks bellow, you’d think they were being asked to sacrifice their oldest child on a stone altar. Increasing the top marginal rate from 35% to 39% and capital gains from 15% to 20%, together with elevating Social Security and Medicare ceilings to a cool million and the matched rate by .5%, will not sink the ship of state.

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It’s Heart-Pounding, Winner-Take-All Action In Our National Arena

By Martha Quillen

On election night, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. Obama isn’t as liberal as I’d like, but Romney and Ryan scare me. Likewise, Obama apparently scares lots of Republicans.

After Obama won, white students at Ole Miss rioted, and Twitter came alive with laments. “I’m mad as hell,” one Twit proclaimed. Oh, sorry, I guess that’s Tweet.

Another said “I feel like my best friend has died. Another proclaimed, “You people are voting against the whole country.”

Donald Trump called Obama’s victory a “total sham and a travesty.” Ann Coulter said the country is no longer interested in conservative ideas: “It is interested in handouts.”

Of course, the other side was jubilant. “Wow! Wow! Wow!” one Obama fan opined. Several said “Thank you, America.” Another simply Tweeted: “Whew!!!”

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Former Colorado Ski Areas

Besides the ski areas mentioned in the previous articles, there are quite a few ghost ski areas around Colorado, including the area at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs which operated from 1959-91. Here is a list of others in our region whose glory days are long past.

COMO – Indian Mountain Ski Area. The area served residents of Fairplay and Colorado Springs and operated sporadically from 1972-88. The area was built by a property development company out of Denver which had hoped to develop housing in conjunction with the area. It had a vertical drop of 573 feet and included a ski school, one lift, two surface tows, a cafeteria, a lodge and a rental shop. Located south and east of the town of Como, it ultimately closed due to lack of snow.

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News from the San Luis Valley

Hard Core Prosecution

A 72-hour hold for a suicide attempt delayed an ongoing criminal case in 12th Judicial District Judge Martin Gonzales’ court. Convicted thieves Carrie Dean, 50, and her husband, Richard Basinger, 67, were scheduled to appear for an already rescheduled sentencing date for knowingly possessing thousands of dollars of stolen property, but again skipped sentencing because of Dean’s suicide attempt. Her absence was accepted by the Court, as she was in the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center (SLVRMC) in Alamosa, but Gonzalez issued Basinger a $50,000 cash bond failure to appear warrant despite pleas from his attorney, David Michael Lipka.

According to the Valley Courier, 12th Judicial District deputy attorney Crista Maestas said, “I object to the defendant not appearing. Mr. Basinger is not hospitalized at the moment.”

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Book Review

The Marble Room: How I lost God and Found Myself in Africa

By Bill Hatcher

Lantern Books
ISBN: 978-1-59056-406-6
$18.00; 288 pp.

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land.
They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

That’s an old African joke attributed to Bishop Desmond Tutu. Many a young Peace Corps volunteer went to Africa to try and ameliorate that ugly situation. Bill Hatcher, a current resident of the San Luis Valley, was no exception.

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Skiing Nordic Style

By Nate Porter

As the seasons change and the winter solstice approaches, it’s time to turn our attention from warmer weather activities to other things. Of course, in Central Colorado we are lucky enough to enjoy a climate that allows many different activities year-round. Hiking and biking here can be great in the winter, but how about mixing it up a little with some cross-country skiing? Why cross country, also known as Nordic, skiing? Well, there are many reasons to get out and experience the environment on skinny skis.

Foremost are the physical and mental health benefits. Nordic skiing is great for the whole body. The legs and lungs get a great workout as does the upper body. Humans were designed to move over the earth in an upright, bipedal manner. Walking allows us to feel grounded and connected to the earth in the most basic way. Nordic skiing is simply the winter version of this. It’s good for working different muscles, easy on the back, and encourages breathing in a deep, rhythmic manner.

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The Western State Ski Team: “The Little Engine That Could”

By Duane Vandenbusche

The Western State College ski team began innocently enough. Shortly after the end of World War II, veterans returned to the college. Some had been members of the famed 10th Mountain Ski Division, which trained at Pando near Tennessee Pass and had fought in the mountains of Italy. The idea for a ski team came from two veterans of the 10th Mountain: Crosby Perry-Smith from New York and Dick Wellington from Maine.

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Colorado’s Historic Amendment 64

By Mike Rosso

Election day in Salida was unusually bright and sunny. Since I’d already voted by mail, I decided to spend some time sipping coffee in the sun outside Café Dawn, chatting up some of the customers and passersby.

I started asking random folks how they voted, not on the general election – around which there was much anxiety – but how they voted on Amendment 64. “Which one was that?” was a common response, and when I mentioned it was about the statewide legalization of marijuana, most relaxed and their answers came as a surprise.

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From the Editor

Okay, raise your hand if you’re relieved this year is coming to an end.

For my family’s and my health and well-being, 2012 hasn’t been too bad. Dad got through some major surgery back in January at the age of 90; Mom is hanging in there, helped by the company and love of her sole grandchild Olivia; and my siblings seem to be doing fine.

Mostly I am glad the elections are behind us with the accompanying bluster, anger, anxiety and misinformation. Now we can get back to the usual cooperation and civil discourse …

Of course, if the Mayans are indeed correct, none of us will be around to fall off the supposed “fiscal cliff” anyway, but that’s another matter.

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