Breckenridge Ski Area had a banner year in 2010-2011

Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) announced during its 48th Annual Meeting last week that its 22 member resorts hosted an estimated 6.9 million skier visits during the 2010-11 ski season. This represents an increase of 2.6 percent, or approximately 179,371 skier visits, compared to last season’s final numbers. “It’s gratifying to see skier visits where they are this year,” commented Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA. “We’re reporting a very solid season in Colorado and visits are up for the second year in a row, which tells us that the ski industry here is healthy and moving in the right direction.”

CSCUSA’s membership saw an increase in visitation from in-state and international visitors. Domestic destination skiers saw good snowfall in all parts of the U.S. this season, so those visit numbers were down slightly.

CSCUSA’s numbers don’t include the four in-state ski areas — Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge — operated by Vail Resorts, which withdrew from membership in CSCUSA in 2007. These four resorts are among the state’s most popular. It is believed that Colorado statewide skier visits eclipsed the 12 million threshold, which would be only the fourth time skier visits have reached this mark. CSCUSA estimated that statewide skier visits broke the 12 million mark by assuming that visits to these four non-CSCUSA member resorts in Colorado were up by at least the percentage increase at CSCUSA resorts, which would bring statewide total skier visits for the 2010-11 season to 12.18 million or more. However, on Thursday Vail Resorts released financial results that showed skier visits at its Colorado resort held relatively flat for the three months ending April 30.

Most resorts saw above average amounts of snowfall during this La Nina season, in some cases resulting in earlier than planned terrain openings, and in some resorts extending their seasons. “At Thanksgiving, Colorado resorts had a great deal more terrain open for skiing and riding than they typically do at that point in the season,” commented Mills. “As the season went on, some parts of the state reported more robust snowfall amounts than others, with some resorts reporting higher base amounts at the end of the season than they had in January.”

A strong start to the season, including abundant early season snow, pushed early season skier visits up by 10 percent compared to the same period the prior year. Conditions during the holidays were colder and snowier than average.

“Unusually cold temperatures on key ski weekends, and certain travel challenges that included road closures, caused visitation to slip a bit in the middle of the season, but by the end of February we were able to maintain our strongest season-to-date of the last three years,” explained Mills. Wintery conditions prevailed through spring resulting in a season that is still going strong in June. “All numbers reported are preliminary estimates as the season is still happening. Two resorts have remained open on weekends as conditions permit, Arapahoe Basin and Aspen Mountain, and continue to add to this season’s positive numbers.”

Aspen Mountain, in fact, opted to end their season on June 6.

On a national level, skier visits overall are up less than one percent with the Rocky Mountain region seeing an increase of 1.7 percent. Skier visits are the metric used to track participation in skiing and snowboarding. A skier visit represents a person participating in the sport of skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day at a mountain resort.

By First Tracks!! Online Media

Not sure what’s meant by sustainable architecture? Here’s an overview of this growing trend.

LEED-ING BY EXAMPLE: The Center of Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho. The Center received a LEED Gold status in 2009, and is one of the few such buildings in Idaho. (Photo: Idaho National Laboratory/Flickr)

Most environmentally aware homeowners work to reduce their impact on the Earth at home by, for example, using compact florescent light bulbs, fixing faucet leaks and plugging cracks in the foundation. Some might even install low-flow toilets or skylights, or purchase more eco-friendly installation for their homes.

But an entire field has emerged, typically referred to as sustainable architecture, to encompass the many environmentally-conscious practices available to design and create buildings. What is sustainable architecture, and how is it impacting the environment?
Hess Tower in Houston, TXTo understand sustainable architecture, one must know the term LEED, as in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED, created by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) more than a decade ago, is an internationally recognized certification system for green building. LEED-certification is a complex process that rates certain types of structures (mostly retail, businesses and apartment buildings) on criteria such as elements of design, construction and maintenance procedures. According to the USGBC website, a LEED-certified building is an independent verification that a structure has achieved a high level of performance in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
A major goal of sustainable architecture is to create energy efficient buildings, often by using alternative methods of heating, air conditioning and ventilation. Architects rely on elements including solar panels, top-quality insulation, window placement, ceiling fans, strategically planted trees to provide shade, and other things that will ensure the building has as little impact on its environment as possible throughout its life.
The materials with which the building is made also are a factor in the sustainable architecture movement. Often, structures are built incorporating recycled or salvaged materials, such as old rubber tires for a floor, or lumber from fallen trees. Bamboo is another popular substance used in green buildings, as is fabric for carpets made of lower volatile organic compounds (VOC).
As important as how a building is built is how environmentally-conscious those using it are once it is functional. How will waste be managed? What will be reused, reduced, recycled?
The key to sustainable architecture lies in environmental protection. When architects strive for LEED certification – considered the gold standard of the practice – they create buildings that make the best use of the earth’s resources. Ultimately, sustainable architecture might one day be called, simply, architecture.
Photo: Marshall Strabala/Flickr

Habitat loss doesn’t just affect rainforest dwellers, says Paul Miles. New builds and carbon reducing measures have been tough on the species that share our homes. Here’s how to bring them back

Nothing says summer like sitting outside, watching swifts soaring overhead. Yet these birds, like other building-dependent species such as house martins, swallows, barn owls and bats, are in decline. A major factor in their decline is loss of habitat. As tumbledown barns are converted into desirable homes for humans, barn owls and other birds lose theirs. Newly built homes are airtight with no nooks and crannies, which is good news for reducing carbon emissions but bad news for animals such as bats that rely on such spaces.

Habitat loss is the main threat to global biodiversity and despite much of the debate focusing on rainforests, building sites are equally important. 2011 marks the beginning of the UN’s Decade on Biodiversity, with world leaders being exhorted to slow the mass extinction of species being wrought by 21st century civilisation. In Britain, some bat species have declined by as much as 95 per cent and birds have fared similarly badly. Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation ( says that recent ‘progress’ in Europe has harmed the birds. ‘Grants for the renovation of the EU countries’ historic towns have led to the wholesale removal of swift (and bat) breeding sites as an unforeseen consequence,’ he says.
Britain’s most common bat, the Pipistrelle, only requires a 15mm by 20mm space through which to enter and roost in a cavity. Once roosting, they, like all British bat species, are protected by law. Professor Brian Edwards, of the Royal Institute of British Architects’(RIBA) Sustainable Futures Group says that, in Britain, the laws, that were amended and renamed last year, have ‘considerable teeth.’

‘Known as the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, they place nature conservation squarely within the planning system,’ says Edwards, holder of a PhD in architecture from Glasgow University. ‘The regulations introduce new offences which could inadvertently be committed by architects engaged in restoration projects. A key area here is the protection of bats and bat roosts even if they are not occupied. The new legislation is wide ranging and, besides roof work, architects should be aware that old trees often harbour bats.’ Edwards advises that anyone thinking of restoring or altering old buildings should seek advice from groups such as the Bat Conservation Trust, consult with their local planning authority and consider commissioning their own bat survey.

Understandably perhaps, some homeowners become frustrated that even minor evidence of bats or nesting birds can upset plans, costing time and money. However, if like many nature lovers, you like the thought of sharing your home with other species and by doing so, encouraging biodiversity, there are several ways to do this. German company,Schwegler Natur, manufactures a range of hollow bricks designed as bat roosts and bird nests. In a variety of forms suitable for various species, with interiors designed for the animals’ comfort – think textured walls and open-plan living areas with hanging space to suit all sizes – the prefab roosts and nests can be built into walls or roofs to encourage bats (there are 1,000 species worldwide of which 17 are in the UK) and birds to make their homes with you.

‘The idea is that from inside the house, you wouldn’t know that you share your home with other animals,’ says Dr Carol Williams, author of a book launched last year, Biodiversity for Low and Zero Carbon Buildings. The book, published by RIBA, contains detailed architectural plans showing how feathered friends such as peregrine falcons, barn owls, swifts and swallows plus bats can be accommodated comfortably in modern homes without impinging on human residents. ‘These species have evolved to live with humans,’ says Williams. ‘Now, because of the real need to lower the carbon footprint of buildings, we risk endangering biodiversity by concentrating on reducing emissions. If we do everything for nature except make a home for wildlife, we’re not helping.’ As well as the visual pleasure, wildlife can have a positive impact on our homes. Owls control rodents while peregrine falcons feed on feral pigeons. Bats, house martins and swifts meanwhile, all eat many thousands of insects a day, many of them pests such as aphids and midges. And Williams isn’t just talk either. She asked her builders to make holes in the new fascia and soffits she had fitted to her Cornwall home, in the hope that bats would roost there. They did.

Another way to enhance biodiversity is in the garden. Planting native species provides habitats for native wildlife. In Cumbria, Caroline Langham, owner of Cote How B&B is planting rare touch-me-not balsam as it’s the habitat of the even rarer netted carpet moth. Non-native trees have been replaced with oak and beech, to encourage red squirrels. If you don’t have a garden, you can always plant on your walls or roof. Living walls and roofs have become increasingly common in mainstream architecture and Britain now has the largest living wall in Europe at, of all places, a shopping centre – Westfield in London. As well as providing habitats for insects and birds, living walls and roofs insulate buildings and reduce noise. In an era of climate change and fast urban lifestyles, we need more of them in our cities, says horticulturalist and broadcaster, Professor Chris Baines. ‘Every extra living green surface will help to moderate the urban heat island effect, slow down the rate of rainwater runoff and help to lift the spirits,’ he says. ‘Softer, cooler, greener should be the environmental aim for every built community.’

This holistic approach that bears in mind not just the construction of our habitats but also that of other species, is only just emerging from the ‘alternative’ world and entering the mainstream. ‘It’s unusual for architects, ecologists and engineers to work together to create a built environment that takes biodiversity and ecosystem services into account,’ says Blanche Cameron, joint organiser of a new annual competition for projects that do so. The first Integrated Habitats Design Competition, last year, supported by the government body, Natural England, attracted 40 entries from architectural practices, ecologists and engineers in six countries. The winner, with a plan for converting a disused railway depot into student accommodation, including bat roosts, bird nesting, living roofs, solar panels and more, was a first year architecture student from Liverpool University. ‘The enthusiasm shown by new architects and students is overwhelming,’ says Cameron. In the US, theInternational Living Building Institute, a new NGO formed in 2009, is expanding and complementing existing requirements for certified green buildings, such as those established by the US Green Building Council, to include measurements of species and habitat conservation in order to promote ‘greater ecological benefit.’

One established architect who is already building green properties with such added benefits is Justin Bere ( His new self-designed London home has a living roof of hawthorn and hazel, planted in soil up to 45cm deep, and a wildflower meadow. There is a beehive and bat roosting and bird nesting boxes built into walls as well as all the ‘low carbon’ features that owners of a ‘green home’ would more usually expect, such as solar panels for hot water and electricity.
‘If we put a building over nature we have an obligation to put nature back on top,’ says Bere, talking of his amazingly colourful rooftop flowers and hazel coppice that are all far more diverse than a roof planted with more usual sedums. ‘It doesn’t cost a lot but we can’t live without nature and we don’t have any right to try and do so.’ He has created a space where house sparrows flock to eat aphids on common vetch flowers on his rooftop meadow. ‘I love watching everything – the change of seasons and the wildlife.’ It must all be a welcome sensory feast for his human neighbours too. Previously the site, encircled by tall terraced houses, was home to a sausage factory. London’s feral foxes probably miss that.


Breckenridge has one of the largest Historic Districts in Colorado. Many buildings are ripe for green renovation.

The greenest building is the one that is already built.

That’s the message being spread by some historic preservationists as recent studies lend further support to adaptive reuse and recycling of existing building stock, versus construction of new buildings.

Studies have shown the merits of “green building,” which includes advanced energy efficiency technology, use of sustainable methods and materials, and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system; but until recently, there’s been relatively little data available highlighting the benefits of building reuse. Now, more are beginning to see how adaptive preservation of older buildings combines ideas that are forward-thinking, sustainable and community-friendly.

“Preservation saves energy by taking advantage of the nonrecoverable energy embodied in an existing building and extending the use of it,” according to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Surprisingly, older buildings, especially commercial structures built before 1920, have been shown to be extremely energy efficient. New construction, on the other hand, requires enormous expenditures of energy and materials.

A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 30 to 40 percent of our natural-resource extraction comes from the building industry. What’s more, if new construction involves tearing down an existing structure, add to that the energy expended in demolition and the waste that ends up in our landfills.

Think of the slogan: reduce, reuse, recycle – why shouldn’t it apply to our built environment? Yet there is still a strong aversion to recycling existing buildings through retrofitting and reuse. There are the architects and developers involved who find it much simpler to start from scratch, and the fact that new construction is a pillar of the U.S. economy.

A local case in point is the Aboff building (formerly Hotel Huntington) at 410 New York Avenue, which, sadly, failed to obtain historical landmark status from Town and State officials in March and is currently slated for demolition and replacement by a drive-through bank, despite efforts from local preservationists and community members.

For more information on historic preservation issues:
To calculate “embodied energy” on any building:

Is going green worth it to you?

Here in the Colorado High Country, it’s been a long, cold winter. It’s mid May and it snowed the last two days. Which is why today, with the sun out and temperatures rising, I’m reminded of just how important the sun is. And it’s not just about passive heating, I’m talking about how sun warms the soul and illuminates the mind. I can’t tell you just how important the relationship between house and sun can be. Whenever we first consult with a client on the design of their home, the first two things I think about are access and solar orientation. And when orientating the house, I always favor the sun over the view when a compromise is necessary.

There are some general rules when it comes to solar orientation. There are times when the sun beating down on us brings welcome relief from the cold. And when that beating leaves us gasping and heat exhausted. In temperate (two or more season climates) ideally the axis of a home is parallel to the sun’s arc. Windows and roof overhangs combine to provide both sun and shade. For instance, in the summer when the sun is high and the days are warmest, roof overhangs should shade the house and particularly the windows when the sun is at it’s zenith. In the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, those same overhangs allow the sun to reach the walls and windows of the house. The term for this is passive solar design, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s just common sense.

Obviously, the best lots allow for the ideal orientation. Choose a lot with views that include solar exposure. Otherwise, the view and exposure will compete, and you’ll need to make a choice between sun and scenery. It’s always best to choose a lot that won’t require such a difficult compromise. Choose the view over the sun, and you’re likely to be staring at window coverings all winter as you struggle to keep your house warm.

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