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Notes & Commentary for May 1994

Brief by Various

Mountain Life – May 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

Rising to the Occasion

LEADVILLE — Hypsometry (the lore of altitudes) was simpler a few years ago. Climax Molybdenum was running, and so was its post office at zip code 80429 — the highest in the United States at about 11,200 feet.

Leadville, at 10,152 feet above sea level, was the Highest City in the United States — it was even an answer on a Trivial Pursuit card, although true trivia buffs would have gone for something line “What’s the lowest town in the highest state?” (Holly) or “What’s the highest state capital?” (Santa Fé; Denver doesn’t even take second place.)

Alma, also incorporated, was a bit higher, at 10,355 feet on the other side of 13,188-foot Mosquito Pass, the highest vehicular pass in North America.

But under state law at the time, Alma was officially a town because its population was under 2,000, while Leadville was a city on account of its 4,000 or so residents.

So there were enough distinctions to allow both municipalities an honor: Leadville as the highest city, Alma as the highest town, etc.

State law has changed — any town, no matter what its population, can officially declare itself a city now — and so has Leadville’s elevation. In early April, the city council set the official elevation as the highest point in the city limits, 10,430 feet on the east side of town, and made plans to put the new elevation on the signs at the city limits.

Alma has responded by noting that its cemetery is in the town limits, and it’s at 10,660 feet. And further, if Leadville starts annexing its way up Fryer Hill and the Mosquito Range, Alma might even stretch its limits to embrace nearby Mt. Bross, 14,172 feet.

That, at least, would prevent Colorado Springs from sneaking into the fray by annexing 14,110-foot Pike’s Peak, but note that Denver has a park on the summit of 14,264-foot Mt. Evans.

Will Leadville be forced to annex all 14,433 feet of Mt. Elbert, just to be sure? Why can’t they go back to city and town distinctions? We haven’t seen the end of this rivalry.

— Ellen Miller

Springtime in the Rockies

SOMEWHERE IN A SPRING WHITE-OUT — At the end of March, the Soil Conservation Service was concerned because snowpack readings were below average, which meant less water this summer.

Mother Nature must have heeded those concerns; April came in worse than a lion, and continued to roar with storm after storm. The new snowpack figures will doubtless allay all fears of a summer drought.

Thus Monarch Ski Resort closed on April 10 with a foot of fresh powder. Ski areas run out of skiers — who start thinking about golf and tennis sometime in March — long before they run out of snow.

Educational priorities

SALIDA — The hot issue: Dale Miller was removed as boys’ basketball coach and girls’ volleyball coach by the school-district administration, with the backing of the school board.

This despite Miller’s winning records and several “Coach of the Year” honors.

The result has been a flurry of correspondence to the local newspaper, and an overflowing crowd at a school board meeting where a petition was presented, asking for Miller’s reinstatement as a coach.

That didn’t happen, even though the district didn’t follow its own grievance procedures in Miller’s case; apparently the rules only apply part of the time.

But there’s a bigger issue. Why is it that, whenever anything to do with sports is on the agenda — coaches, adding or removing a sport — there’s a crowd at the meeting? And the room is almost empty when they’re talking about academic matters?

There’s nothing wrong with caring about sports, but that shouldn’t be all that the public cares about.