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Top 5 most-read stories on SkyHiNews.com, week of May 2

The sale of Granby Ranch to Missouri developers was finalized on May 5.
Robert Mendoza / Sky-Hi News file photo

The following stories were the most well-read on www.SkyHiNews.com from May 2-8.

1. Developer buys Granby Ranch

Granby Ranch officially has a new owner.

Concluding over a year of uncertainty at Granby Ranch, GR Terra and its affiliate, GRCO, purchased the ski and golf resort on Wednesday. The acquisition includes all assets associated with Granby Ranch’s operations as well as adjacent land parcels.

According to Grand County records, the entire property sold for $20 million.

— Amy Golden

2. A dam in Grand County is showing an increasing risk of failure, prompting a new engineering study

The Colorado River Water Conservation District’s board of directors has approved a contract with an engineering firm to address problems with a dam that are turning out to be worse than previously thought.

At its second quarterly meeting, held in April, the River District board agreed to pay $323,840 to HDR Engineering to further study the movement and potential cracking at the district-owned Ritschard Dam. The dam forms 66,000-acre-foot Wolford Mountain Reservoir across Muddy Creek, about 5 miles north of Kremmling in Grand County. Muddy Creek is a tributary of the Colorado River.

River District staff, aware since 2008 that the dam is settling and moving more than expected, has been monitoring the situation. However, a 2020 Comprehensive Dam Safety Evaluation prepared in December by HDR Engineering for the state’s Dam Safety section of the Division of Water Resources found that the risk of internal erosion of the dam due to cracking had increased from a 2016 evaluation. That year’s evaluation estimated the chances of a dam failure at 1 in a billion in any given year; the 2020 report found a 1.5-in-10,000 chance of a dam failure.

— Heather Sackett, Aspen Journalism

3. State puts Grand Park, Blue Valley Ranch on notice

Water pollution concerns have prompted the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to issue separate notices to two developers in Grand County.

In Kremmling, Blue Valley Ranch received notice dated April 13 for allegedly failing to submit monitor data for its wastewater treatment plant since December 2019. For that violation, Blue Valley Ranch faces a $3,000 fine.

At the Grand Park development in Fraser, a state representative inspected the Elk Creek Condos, the Meadows and a storage facility in early April and found the facilities were discharging “sediment-laden stormwater” into Elk Creek and the Fraser River.

— McKenna Harford

4. Colorado is examining water speculation, and finding it’s ’all the problems’ in one

ECKERT — Melting snow and flowing irrigation ditches mean spring has finally arrived at the base of Grand Mesa in western Colorado.

Harts Basin Ranch, a 3,400-acre expanse of hayfields and pasture just south of Cedaredge, in Delta County, is coming back to life with the return of water.

Twelve hundred of the ranch’s acres are irrigated with water from Alfalfa Ditch, diverted from Surface Creek, which flows down the south slopes of the Grand Mesa. The ranch has the No. 1 priority water right — meaning the oldest, which comes with the ability to use the creek’s water first — dating to 1881.

— Heather Sackett and Luke Runyon, Aspen Journalism/KUNC

5. Judge rejects plea for employer charged in trench death

Negotiations that could allow an employer charged in a 2019 workplace death to avoid trial continue in Grand County District Court, but it seems unlikely the defendant will be able to avoid significant jail time given the judge’s feelings about the case.

Bryan D. Johnson, 52, was charged in August 2019 after one of his workers, Rosario “Chayo” Martinez-Lopez, died in a trench collapse on a worksite in Granby. Johnson was charged with manslaughter, but a proposed plea agreement would have had him admit to criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.

The plea outlined four years of supervised probation, up to 90 days in jail, 400 hours of community service and a $5,000 donation split between Habitat for Humanity Grand County and Grand County Search and Rescue, as well as requirements to attend Workers’ Memorial Day and worker safety seminars.

— McKenna Harford

Winter Park gets over a foot of snow in latest storm

Winter Park Resort's snow stake recorded 13 inches in the past 24 hours.
Courtesy Winter Park Resort

Winter Park Resort is reporting over a foot of fresh snow from Monday’s spring storm.

On Tuesday, the resort posted its snow stake with 13 inches of newly fallen powder, bringing the base up to 78 inches.

So far this season, Winter Park has seen 331 inches, with 24 of those falling in the last seven days.

Per the resort’s forecast, another 14 inches could drop on Winter Park before the end of the week.

The resort closes on Sunday, though the Mary Jane territory remains open through May 9.

Winter Park Resort extends season at Mary Jane

Winter Park Resort is extending the 2020-21 ski season into May following a snow-heavy start to spring.

The resort’s new closing day will be May 9, allowing skiers and riders two more weeks to hit the mountain. The season extension will be at the resort’s Mary Jane territory, with the Winter Park territory still closing April 25.

“It’s great to get it to do it for our guests and staff,” said resort spokesperson Jen Miller about the extension. “It’s kind of like a do-over for last year.”

So far in March, Winter Park has received 79 inches of snow, bringing the season total up to 306 inches.

The latest Winter Park has ended a ski season was May 25 in 1998.

Winter Park Comp Center athletes earn chance to compete internationally

Jaxson Holme skiing at Winter Park Resort. Holme is one of four athletes headed to international competitions and he will compete at the World Rookie Tour Finals in April.
Courtesy Jay Stewart

Four athletes with the Winter Park Competition Center are headed overseas after impressive freeski and freeride performances throughout the season here.

From the freeski team, Jaxson Holme and Bennett Kobe of Winter Park, will be headed to Kitzsteinhorn, Austria for the World Rookie Tour Finals from April 11-14.

Meanwhile, two members of the Winter Park snowboard team — Jack and Samantha Lansky of Boulder — will compete at the Freeride Junior World Championships in Verbier, Switzerland from March 30 to April 3.

“We’re really proud of these athletes for bringing their A-game and staying focused despite the unusual challenges this season brought,” said Ashley Speigelhoff, communications coordinator for the competition center.

Holme and Kobe qualified for the World Rookie Tour Finals with top finishes at the USASA World Rookie Tour Qualifier slopestyle event at Winter Park Resort on Feb. 11-12. Holme took gold in the Freeski Rookie Men’s division (ages 15 and up), as well as the Freeski Youth Men’s division (ages 15-16).

Kobe won gold in two divisions, placing first in his age group in the Freeski Breaker Boys (ages 13-14) and winning top overall skier in the Freeski Grommet Boys (ages 14 and up).

The Lanksys landed their chance to compete in Switzerland after Samantha ranked third and Jack fourth in the overall standings for the 19-20 season in the 15-18 age division.

These four athletes aren’t the only ones from the competition center who have been successful in the past season either.

Winter Park’s Birk Irving placed third in the men’s Ski Superpipe at the X Games and World Championships in Aspen this year, marking his first trip to the podium at X Games Aspen. Another Winter Park native, Hunter Carey won silver in the 2020 Youth Olympic Winter Games.

Winter Park Resort opens afternoon skiing to passholders

Winter Park Resort announced an adjustment to the reservation system for pass holders that will allow guests to ski after 2 p.m.

In December, the resort launched a reservation system for passholders that required guests to book mountain time in advance to help avoid crowding. Daily lift tickets don’t require a reservation because they must be booked 48 hours in advance.

On Tuesday, the resort told passholders that they would be able to hit the slopes any day after 2 p.m. without a reservation.

Shortly after implementing the reservation system, weekends booked up quickly at Winter Park Resort, though resort spokesperson Jen Miller said reservations typically open up closer to the day they were made as people change plans.

She encouraged passholders to keep an eye on the schedule for reservations opening up for weekends and holidays.

Currently, the resort has more than 1,200 acres open across the Winter Park, Mary Jane, Vasquez Ridge and Parsenn Bowl territories. The Cirque and Eagle Wind remain closed.

Over the past week, Winter Park has received eight inches of snow and the base is stacked at 44 inches.

Climbing coronavirus cases in Colorado’s high country aren’t tracking back to ski resorts

Colorado’s resort communities are teetering on the edge of increased restrictions as a potential surge in COVID-19 cases from the busy holidays looms. But public health officials in eight tourism-dependent communities have not linked any outbreaks to ski areas.

“It’s not the activity of skiing that is the risk but all the things that go along with it,” said Lindsey Mills, a spokeswoman for San Miguel County.

San Miguel County has seen an increase in visitors testing positive for COVID-19, but the county’s epidemiological team has not tracked transmission back to the slopes, lines or chairlifts at Telluride ski area. But post-ski socializing, that’s a problem.

“When your guard is let down with alcohol that is where we are seeing spread,” Mills said.

That’s the refrain across the high country as public health directors brace for a possible surge in cases after the busy December holiday. Cases may be climbing — a New Year’s Eve party in Aspen boosted Pitkin County’s case count by nine, for example — but contact tracing tends to find transmission indoors. And controlling vacationers in private homes is virtually impossible, leaving health officials screaming themselves hoarse over safety protocols and imposing ever-restricting rules on businesses.

Read more at ColoradoSun.com.

Winter Park Resort opens Pano Express

Winter Park Resort has opened the Panoramic Express with access to the trails in the Parsenn Bowl.

The resort opened the Pano lift on Saturday, expanding the terrain open to over 1,200 acres and 141 trails.

So far, territories open include Winter Park, Mary Jane, Vasquez Ridge, Parsenn Bowl and the Terrain Park. Eagle Wind and the Cirque have yet to open for the season.

According to the resort, Winter Park has received seven inches of snow over the past week to make a base of 37 inches.

OpenSnow.com predicts the next snowfall will hit on Thursday with a few more inches.


Bode Miller carves it up at Granby Ranch

Bode Miller, the most decorated male alpine skier in US history, skis at Granby Ranch on Dec. 29. Miller demoed skis by Crosson, where he is the chief innovation officer.
Courtesy Granby Ranch

One of the best skiers of all time brought the snow with him on his visit to Granby Ranch.

Bode Miller, the most decorated male alpine skier in US history, came to Granby Ranch to demo the new Crosson Skis this week. The chief innovation officer for Crosson, Miller skied Granby Ranch for the first time Tuesday and found the small ski resort to be a perfect place for the demo.

The skis are designed for any level, but with beginners in mind.

“There’s a lot of good skis out there, but skiing especially in the beginning is all about confidence,” Miller said. “You’re trying to build your confidence. There’s a lot of crashing and a lot of moments of uncertainty as you’re about to fall over and you panic.”

He described the skis as soft, forgiving and stable. It’s a ski that does “exactly what it’s supposed to do” and instills confidence into the rider, according to Miller.

“It’s a ski that is just always there for you and always supports you in the right ways,” he said. “That’s particularly appealing for the beginner and the irony is it also works really well all the way up to the experts.”

Hearing the positive reviews for the skis in real time as he enjoyed the mountain and light snow, Miller said it was satisfying to see something he helped design work so well.

“I’m like an artist in a way. You create something and you hope people like it,” Miller said. “That’s the best part, when you see you’ve had some kind of impact.”

Miller was also impressed by the leadership at Granby Ranch. The Olympic gold medalist has done his far share of skiing across the world, but asserted that even the most beautiful mountain won’t make for an enjoyable experience without the proper management.

“In the ski industry, part of it is the raw material, the hill you have,” Miller said. “The much bigger part of the experience of skiing — which is what we all experience — you don’t just look at the mountain. We sit in the lodge, we go through lift lines, we do all that stuff. That is the management team.”

Miller highlighted the experiences of Granby Ranch’s new management team, Ridgeline Executive Group. Andy Wirth has spent his life managing resorts across the industry and his son, Jace Wirth, has grown up learning that process.

“There are things that when you’ve experience it you tend to understand it better and change it or make it better,” Miller said. “That’s what I think is really special about here.”

Miller looked forward to getting back on the mountain, which was filled with families for the holiday week.

“People are going to come here because of the experience,” Miller said. “Not because there’s huge nasty peaks of intimidation, but there’s enough terrain that it’s fun and exciting and great for families.”

Miller returns to Granby Ranch for another demo Feb. 13. Granby Ranch is also demoing the Crosson skis without Miller on Jan. 16, March 6, March 13 and March 20. Those interested can enter a raffle to win a spot at a demo, including the remaining Saturday featuring Miller, at www.granbyranch.com.

Bluebird Backcountry to open for season Dec. 31

Bluebird Backcountry, a human-powered ski resort near Kremmling, is opening for its first full season this year.
Courtesy Bluebird Backcountry

After pushing back opening day due to an unusually dry winter, Bluebird Backcountry is planning to open for the season Dec. 31.

The self-propelled backcountry ski resort — one of the first of its kind in Colorado — has guaranteed that it will open at its new location on Dec. 31. This year, the backcountry resort is based on Bear Mountain, about 40 minutes outside Kremmling.

The nearest SNOTEL Site to Bluebird is registering just 59% of the average snow water equivalent. Even if there is no additional snow through the end of the year, the resort said it will have other programming available focused on backcountry education.

Reservations are now open at bluebirdbackcountry.com.

Bluebird is also offering additional avalanche courses, which have been in high demand across the state this season. AIARE 1, the gold stand for avalanche education, will be available Jan. 11-12, Jan. 28-29 and Feb. 11-12. Go to Bluebird’s website to book a class.

Granby Ranch opens Quick Draw, more terrain

With enhancements to the Quick Draw Chairlift complete, more terrain has opened at Granby Ranch.

The requisite safety testing and licenses have been secured for the updated chairlift. With that open, skiers now have access to top-to-bottom terrain including the popular run Easy Money.

Granby Ranch has received 2 inches of snow in the past 72 hours, combined with the hard work of the snowmaking crew, has made for a 12 inch base at the resort.

“We are seeing mid-winter conditions right now in mid-December at Granby Ranch,” General Manager Jace Wirth said in a release.

Granby Ranch opened for the season Dec. 11.