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Epic ski pass war takes a toll, tech finds its way into construction, a lost Colorado town reappears and much more

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Compiled by Kevin Simpson, kevin@coloradosun.com

Writer, @KevinJourno

Hey there, Colorado!

With your usual Sunriser maestro, the inimitable Eric Lubbers, still bronzing on a beach somewhere, my pale imitation will have to suffice. On the other hand, I have this nagging suspicion that my entire career has been leading up to this moment. So let’s give it a go, eh?

If you plotted our staff on a timeline, I’d be that point on the far, far left, reflecting a career begun when “All the President’s Men” inspired young hopefuls to flood journalism schools, powered by idealism and the certain knowledge that there will always be work in newspapers. That first motivation took some hits but never totally diminished. The second, unfortunately, proved less resilient.

So the fact that you’re reading this, and perhaps also have put some skin in the game by subscribing to The Colorado Sun, resonates with me in a very profound and personal way. If you haven’t become a member, it takes just a couple of minutes to subscribe. Or…

  • Pull out that holiday naughty-and-nice list and, for as little as $5 a month, polish off your shopping with gift subscriptions that echo throughout the year.
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Now, on to the reason I asked you all here this morning — the news. Forgive me if the narrative detours into the occasional ’70s or ’80s reference or stray Jethro Tull lyric. We all work with what we’ve got.

So, on this Monday morning as we prepare to go skating away on the thin ice of a new day, let’s sharpen these blades, shall we?


Wall Street punished Vail Resorts for slowing Epic Pass growth, higher expenses. But what does that mean for the industry?

 

A skier makes their way through fresh snow in Vail Resort in December 2018. (Nina Riggio, Special to The Colorado Sun)

 

After epic growth for two straight years, Vail Resorts caught some big air and its stock took a precipitous drop after its quarterly earnings report indicated sales growth of its multi-resort Epic Pass fell below expectations. Part of that has to do with the introduction of the Ikon Pass from competitor Alterra Mountain Co. But as Sun outdoors expert Jason Blevins reports, the development also reaffirms the industry’s bet on a business model that discourages purchase of daily lift tickets.

>> Let Blevins guide you through the bumps here.

 

Local construction giant PCL shares some of its technology with competitors — for free. But it’s not all about altruism.

“We could have kept it ourselves, but we want the industry to progress. If you think about how technology has changed every industry, it’s really only been in the last few years that it’s changed construction. We still have to lay concrete.” 

Deron Brown, PCL’s president of U.S. operations

As crucial and ubiquitous as the construction industry is, it seems counterintuitive that it would lag behind the curve when it comes to technology. Yet it still experienced many costly miscalculations traced to outdated methods. So a few years ago, Denver-based PCL Construction commissioned technologists to find solutions to those errors that occur when one contractor hands a project off to another. Sun tech expert Tamara Chuang digs into why PCL decided to share its tech. Hint: The industry needs to attract lots of new, younger workers.

>> Read how tech is changing the construction industry here.

 

In the 1960s, a huge new reservoir made a tiny western Colorado town disappear. Drought brought its remains, and memories, to the surface.

 

Gunnison County rancher Bob Robbins brushes snow away from the flagpole base on the site of what used to be the Iola school Dec. 4, 2018. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

 

Remnants of the lost town of Iola, sacrificed to build the Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison, reappeared recently as drought and complex water management rules lowered the water level to less than a third of capacity. That elicited some wistful memories for Bob Robbins as he walked the ground he once called home, before the family homestead was burned to the ground to make way for progress. Sun correspondent Nancy Lofholm reports that as drought worsens to what’s now called “aridification,” Robbins could find his old stomping grounds accessible more often.

>> Read Lofholm’s elegant narrative of Colorado’s lost town here.

 

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The Opinion Page

// Democrats have for years railed against the TABOR amendment and vowed to loosen its stranglehold on tax revenues, but Sun columnist Mario Nicolais notes that those lawmakers had best tread carefully when the next session begins.

// Child welfare in Colorado will — thankfully — look much different in Colorado as nationwide systems reboot in the wake of congressional action that will direct more money and effort toward early intervention, write Ned Breslin and Brandon Young of the Tennyson Center for Children.

// The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has used a slice of offshore drilling revenues to improve almost every community in Colorado, expired in September. Congress should make renewing it a priority, writes Jim Ramey of the Wilderness Society.


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The Shortlist

Stuff about Colorado worth checking out

 

// Rubbing elbows at the Grammys with Brandi Carlile, Drake and Childish Gambino will be Don McKinney, a University of Colorado Boulder professor, while two other CU alums also made the list. McKinney was nominated in the category of Best Classical Compendium. // University of Colorado

// Historic buildings are cool all on their own. But when someone finds tunnels beneath them, which happened with Union Station in Grand Junction (the city fast becoming one of the coolest places in Colorado), that takes the aura to a whole new level. // Grand Junction Sentinel, The Colorado Sun

// Good fences make good neighbors, but until someone figures out a soundproof alternative, barking dogs will always be a point of contention somewhere. In La Plata County, a new barking dog ordinance will get its first court test — and the prosecutor doesn’t like his chances. // Durango Herald

// Wait times at a VA clinic in Colorado Springs rank among the worst in the country, as benefits to U.S. veterans continue to take hits — including the GI Bill computer glitch that has shorted many vets funding as they seek educational opportunities. // The Gazette

// Millennials are the most likely generation to work “side hustles” in addition to the grind of a regular job. Technology makes those gigs more accessible, while flat wages, student debt and high costs for housing make them seemingly inevitable. // The Denver Post

// The latest dispatch from this-is-the-world-we-live-in tells how a Grand Junction boy escaped an alleged child molester by using a new Red Panic Button app. The software also has been adopted by school districts around the country to alert authorities to a mass shooting. // Grand Junction Sentinel/AP, The Denver Post

// CPR’s Ryan Warner has an interview with Democrat Jason Crow, winner of the 6th Congressional District race, that touches on the importance of having veterans in the mix to inform policy decisions and even promote civility. // CPR

// Want to get smarter this morning? Coloradan Paul Romer, Nobel Prize winner in economics this year, delivered a lecture in Stockholm on Saturday to an audience that included family members, with his dad, former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, among them. // YouTube


Your Thing for Today

The Thing: The Jethro Tull Christmas Album.”

Why You Might Like It: This 2003 offering from the iconic prog-rock band isn’t “Locomotive Breath” meets “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The album’s traditional and original pieces evoke the season from all angles with the group’s outstanding musicianship and originality. From an arrangement of J.S. Bach’s “Bouree,” which Tull frontman and flutist Ian Anderson has for years incorporated into the band’s set list, to the original “Birthday Card at Christmas,” inspired by Anderson’s daughter, whose birthday bumps up to the holiday, the album satisfies the urge for the traditional while also pleasing with the unexpected. Hey, I grew up with Bing Crosby on the turntable, so was initially skeptical. But while it’s not everyone’s cup of eggnog, it plays in the regular rotation at my house this time of year.

Editor’s note: Every Sunriser will include one … thing … to cap off our time together. The Thing will be just about anything, like a TV show or a book or a particularly cool dog toy.


One last “thing:” Our SunLit feature has been one of my favorite things about our venture for the way it makes excerpts, and brief interviews, from some of Colorado’s best writers accessible to our audience. Take a few minutes over lunch or after work to sample a few, including this gorgeous essay about … teeth. There’s something for almost everyone. You won’t be sorry.

Thanks for your time, and your support.

— Kevin

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