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Short takes in Central Colorado

Brief by Central Staff

Various – January 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine

Yesterday Looks Better Than Tomorrow

As part of a special edition, the Wet Mountain Tribune in Westcliffe presented an article entitled, “Opinions vary: What is the future of ranching in the Valley?”

And yes, the opinions of the Custer county ranchers the Trib interviewed did vary — but on the whole they were decidedly pessimistic.

According to one rancher’s son, “Everything will be cut up into 40 acre tracts. The Valley will still produce hay, but all the pasture ground will be gone. The north end is already all cut up.”

And others agreed:

“People from big cities are paying a lot for 40 acres. Wolf Springs, Trail’s End, the Colemans and some hay farms will survive. Everything else is going.”

“There will be more small ranches, run by first timers possibly resulting in lower qualities of cattle.”

“There is so much pressure for land and water, agriculture will become a thing of the past.”

Even ranchers who felt the industry had a future, believed that ranchers would have to change by cutting costs and diversifying. Yet, though the future of ranching looked grim, the past was remembered fondly in spite of occasional bad times and setbacks.

Most of the Trib’s special edition is devoted to memoirs, family lore, and regional history. If you’d like a copy, The Ranching Legacy, 1870 – 1995, 125 Years in Colorado’s Wet Mountain Valley is available at the Tribune office for $2. Or send $3 and your address to the Wet Mountain Tribune, P.O. Box 300, Westcliffe CO 81252.

Are Some Vehicles Too Slick?

Although 4WD vehicles are revered by many mountain drivers, some experts contend that instead of heightening safety, 4WDs merely create a false sense of security.

According to a report in the Denver Post, 4WDs were involved in “more than 40 percent of winter accidents along Interstate 70 this year,” even though 4WDs account for no more than 25% of vehicles. Thus, Bruce Finlay, a Post staff writer, concluded, “When winter driving gets tough, drivers of tough vehicles crash.”

During March, 4WDs were involved in 43% of the accidents between Denver and Grand Junction. And Finlay attributed part of this mayhem to the folly of four-wheel-drivers. “Any skier with a sedan has seen it,” he contended. “Behind you, as you crawl up the snowy interstate, the headlights of a four-wheel-drive behemoth loom bigger and closer. The driver blows by, churning out contrails of ice and gravel.

“A few miles later, the machine rests belly-up in a ditch.

“You wave politely.”

But lovers of 4WD can take heart. Even though statistics don’t lie, those who want to make provocative conclusions do use statistics. And from the given stats, one could legitimately speculate that more utility vehicles collide on ice-slicked I70 during inclement weather — because four-wheelers are better at getting up icy on-ramps and out into traffic while two-wheelers are stuck in their driveways.

But either way, the stats urge caution. Some road conditions aren’t fit for man nor beast (whether they be two-wheeled, four-wheeled, or four-legged).

Flat Ski Industry Gets Uplift

Both Empire Magazine and Newsweek recently featured articles about how popular, new equipment may boost “the flat ski industry.” (No pun intended, or perhaps it was intended.)

According to Empire, snowboarding may liven up the dormant industry. Marketing expert Shawn Hunter said, “I recently read that skiing has grown less than 1 percent the last ten years. And I don’t think most industry people have taken stock in just how powerful snowboarding is and will be. There will be much more emphasis on that in the future.”

“Snowboarding has just erupted,” said Wayne Maca, who owns a snowboard shop in Idaho Springs. “Ten years ago, the Generation Xers went boarding for the individuality of it all. Back then, just about no ski areas allowed them. Now, it’s mainstream and the cool thing to do.”

Newsweek, on the other hand, postulated that the new “super-sidecut” skis might invigorate the industry’s future. Wider in front, fatter in back, narrow in the middle, and shorter, the new skis reportedly allow for sharper, easier turns. And resorts hope that will translate into more skiing.

“Manufacturers are given to boasting. But ski schools and consumer magazines are also raving, and resorts are buying hundreds of pairs at a time, hoping that easier learning and happier carving will help skiing put more financial altitude into what since 1978 has been an expanse of flat years,” Newsweek avows.

Whether snowboards or super-sidecuts prevail, many in the industry are predicting that skis as we’ve known them may soon be a thing of the past.

With innovations on the slopes, some ski connoisseurs also foresee peak years ahead. But 1995-96 will be exceptionally flat in Custer County — since Hermit Basin has announced it will not be opening this season. Manager Jay Zeller told the Wet Mountain Tribune that cross-country skiing may be a possibility, however, pending adequate snow and arrangements with the Forest Service, and in the meantime, plans for next year’s opening are already underway.