Continental Divide Trail through hiker Morgan Dzak using her Garmin device to navigate Squaw Pass during a rainstorm in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. She and her hiking partner Dean Krakel also used the device to communicate with friends and allow family to track their progress as they attempted to hike from Mexico to Canada. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Compiled by Eric Lubbers,

CTO/Newsletter Wrangler, @brofax

Good morning, folks. Hopefully this email reaches you before the full extent of Christmas Madness kicks in. So take a breath, put down the tinsel and enjoy the stories we have for you this morning.

But first: If you’ve been holding out on getting a membership to The Sun for yourself (or as a gift), now might be the best time. Right now, anyone who gets a new membership is eligible to win two passes to Aspen Snowmass. Yes, Aspen. Yes, the resort with the expensive lift tickets and four mountains.

We’ve got more details on the drawing here, but long story short, adding The Sun to your Christmas shopping list could get you on the slopes. All you have to do is get a membership (starting at just $5/month) for yourself or buy a gift membership for a loved one.

And in case this is the last of our emails you read before you head off to your holiday adventures, I just want to say on behalf of the whole staff, thanks for making this such a great year. And please tell all your friends and family about The Sun over eggnog and hot chocolate and encourage them to sign up for this newsletter at You’re our best advocate!

OK, let’s hang this stocking by the chimney with care, shall we?

A Colorado photographer thought he was alone in the Wyoming mountains. Then he heard a rescue helicopter.


Island Lake with Titcomb Towers as a backdrop in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)


“Colorado leads the Rocky Mountain region with 103 search and rescues initiated by satellite messenger this year through Dec. 9. New Mexico had 34. I was one of 26 in Wyoming.”
— Dean Krakel

Let’s start with something every single one of us has experienced: The butt dial. While accidentally calling someone and leaving a four-minute voicemail of muffled conversation is bad, that’s nothing compared to what happened to photographer and long-distance hiker Dean Krakel in the mountains of Wyoming earlier this year. I’ll let him tell the story of how sleeping with his satellite messenger under his pillow unwittingly triggered a massive search and rescue operation, though I have to take the time to tell you that Dean’s photos (like the one above) would be worth the click on their own. But Dean’s story isn’t just an embarrassing personal tale; it’s a look at the tricky relationship between outdoor tech, safety and the resources Mountain West states have at the ready to keep adventurers safe.

>> Read the story (and see those gorgeous photos) here.


Nearly 1 in 4 lawmakers in the 2018 Colorado legislature landed seats via vacancy committee. And more appointments are coming.

“These committees have tremendous power. I mean, think about it: A fairly small group of people elected two state senators this week. A lot of times it creates a domino effect.”
— Dick Wadhams, former head of the Colorado Republican Party
“I think it works pretty well, but also I’m under no (false impression about) how I got here in the first place.”
— Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Longmont Democrat who was appointed to the legislature by a vacancy committee in 2012

Jesse Paul discovered an eye-popping statistic as he looked ahead to next year’s state legislature. Twenty-four percent of last year’s legislature landed their seats by being appointed by a small group of their party’s activists, whether it was to fill the seat of a resigning/retiring official or because a candidate dropped out between the primary and general election. And many of those people ride the incumbent wave to more terms. With a wave of departures coming in 2019 (including Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner), the next session will see the committees have even more power.

>> Read Jesse’s analysis (and see how other states handle vacancies) here.


How the cul-de-sac, the Great Recession and a lack of funding has turned Colorado Springs into a transit desert


A Mountain Metro Transit bus heads north on South Academy Boulevard in Colorado Springs Monday, December 3, 2018. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

10.1% vs. 1.5%

The percentage of the city population with unmet transportation needs in Colorado Springs vs. Denver

Colorado Springs, as we discussed Wednesday, is growing quickly. But even as the city adds people and subdivisions and jobs, fundamental problems with the city’s public transportation system have left many neighborhoods — with higher populations of non-white and lower-income residents — designated as “transit deserts.” And as Patricia Cameron writes, a lack of reliable and useful public transit isn’t just an annoyance, it is a public health crisis as large groups of people can’t access fresh food or medical appointments.

>> Read more about the unique challenges of boosting public transportation in one of the state’s fastest growing cities here.


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More from The Sun

The Fun Stuff


// Drew Litton channels his inner Griswold for this take on the Broncos season (see & share the high-res version here).

// In the latest edition of our weekly comic strip “What’d I Miss?” Ossie gets some good advice from a Tinder date (speaking of good advice, you really need to catch up on WIM you haven’t read it yet. Start here.)



Book: “Dead Stop” (read an excerpt here)

Author: Colorado author Barbara Nickless has one of the more impressive author resumes I’ve read in awhile, including stints as a raptor rehabilitator, sword fighter and astronomy instructor. But in the character of Special Agent Sydney Parnell, a railroad cop with a K9 partner named Clyde, she’s created a unique take on the classic murder mystery genre that I’m excited to read. We’ve got a great interview with Nickless here and don’t miss our exclusive excerpt of “Dead Stop.”


Beer Pick

Each Friday, The Colorado Sun’s beer writer John Frank offers a recommendation for the weekend.

Alpine Dog Brewing is the Beer Santa in Denver. The brewery is one of the few open on Christmas Day (10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) offering liquid gifts to those who can’t make it home or need to escape home. This year, the special beers include two festive offerings: a French Toast Imperial Stout made with cinnamon, vanilla, and maple, and a Belgian Holiday Amber brewed with currants. Just what you need at the holidays.

The Shortlist

Stuff about Colorado worth checking out


// Rocky Mountain PBS has a deep dive into a side effect of Colorado’s marijuana legalization: Even though legalizing it inside the state curbed Colorado’s black market, it also turned the state into a major exporter to other states.  // Rocky Mountain PBS

// There have been 1,001 takes on the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (which I’m not touching with a ten-foot pole) this holiday season. But did you know that the man who founded al-Qaeda was appalled by the song playing in a Greeley church in 1949 and sent letters back home to Egypt decrying it as American decadence? Yes, really. // Greeley Tribune

// Everyone is holding out hope that granny flats are going to solve Denver’s housing crisis. But there have only been 24 new units per year since 2010, writes Donna Bryson. // Denverite

// This is a hell of a lede: “The operator of two downtown Aspen skin-care boutiques faces civil allegations that its employees used strong-armed sales tactics, overcharged customers and possibly drugged them with spiked Champagne.” // The Aspen Times

// Nancy Lofholm profiled Colorado’s new “Poet Lariat” Terry Nash. // Colorado Public Radio

// If you’re trying to protect a river, you can’t just pretend that the surrounding wetlands, creeks and other parts of the river network aren’t part of it, like the Trump administration is attempting to do. // High Country News

// We’ve written a bunch about the Southwest Chief, the legendary Chicago to L.A. via Lamar and La Junta Amtrak line. But as John Wenzel writes, the train has helped create a comedy festival in Trinidad, which doesn’t get much touring comedy. // The Colorado Sun, The Know

// Things are getting even tricker in the world of the Broncos’ ownership, as Pat Bowlen’s wife Annabel, who is also suffering from Alzheimer’s like Pat, has filed a motion to intervene in the existing litigation over the fate of the team. Let Nicki Jhabvala explain.  // The Athletic (soft paywall)


Your Thing for Today



The Thing: “Bubble” (Click here to subscribe)

Why You Might Like It: If you’re heading out on a long plane/road/train(?) trip for the holidays, starting a new podcast can be intimidating. When there are 300 back episodes, where do you begin? But Bubble, created by TV comedy writer Jordan Morris, is an easy snack of a podcast. It’s a scripted, narrative podcast that plays like a combination of an old radio play and a modern sci-fi comedy and it stars some of the best comedic actors around. Bubble is set in a fictional world that has a whole lot in common with our own, with people struggling with the gig economy and trying to find cheap apartments — except for the fact that the entire city is under a giant bubble to keep monsters from “The Brush” out. It’s very funny, genuinely intriguing and at just 8 episodes, it’s a perfect (free) alternative to yet another book on tape for the road.

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.

Thanks for reading, folks, and try not to stress yourselves out too much this weekend. We’ll be back on Monday with a short Sunriser, but don’t forget our Aspen drawing as you’re doing your last-minute shopping.

Have a great weekend!

— Eric

Eric Lubbers

Eric Lubbers is the Chief Technology Officer and one of the co-founders of The Colorado Sun. A native of Yuma, Colorado, he writes The Sunriser newsletter in addition to handling most of the behind-the-scenes tech stuff. Email: