By Allen Best

Aspen Skiing Co. director accused of swiping over $2M in equipment

ASPEN, Colo. — A member of the Aspen City Council from 2009 to 2013 has been accused of stealing millions of dollars’ worth of skis, snowboards and other goods while working for the Aspen Skiing Co.

The Aspen Times reported that Derek Johnson, 51, had been fired by the ski company in December. He had co-founded a snowboard shop, which was sold to Aspen Skiing in 2001. He was kept on as managing director of the company’s retail-rental division.

Court documents indicate that the security manager for the ski company relayed a tip to Aspen police. The tipster said Johnson was stealing demo skis and selling them through an eBay account called “sportandski.”

Spreadsheets found on Johnson’s computer at his home showed that between 2010 and 2018, he and his wife, Kerri Johnson, 48, listed $2.1 million in total sales from the eBay account, reported The Times, citing the court documents. With other mechanisms, the Johnsons stole $2.4 million, according to the arrest warrant.

Utilities consider changes as renewables show their worth

DURANGO, Colo. — Worries about greenhouse gas emissions and plunging opportunities for low-priced renewables have utilities examining their options.

Directors of the Durango, Colorado-based La Plata Electric Association last week were told by consultants that the utility could maintain reliable power while saving money by buying alternative power supplies with much higher levels of renewables.

Salt Lake City-based energy consultant Caitlin Liotiris told board members that the electrical cooperative La Plata could purchase 100% renewable power on the open market in 2020 at a cost of 6.84 cents per kilowatt hour. It currently pays 7.48 cents to Tri-State Generation & Transmission, according to a report in the Durango Herald.

More than 60% of Tri-State’s power comes from coal or natural gas.

But Xcel Energy and other large utilities are showing what’s possible with large volumes of renewables. Xcel serves Colorado’s Summit County and sells power to cooperatives serving Steamboat Springs, Vail and Aspen. By 2026 it expects to be at 55% renewable generation. In December, it announced that it was confident it could hit 80% renewables by 2030 using existing technology.

Why doesn’t La Plata just make the switch? One reason is that Tri-State requires contracts of its members. La Plata’s current contract runs to 2050 and requires La Plata to buy 95% of its power from Tri-State.

But Tri-State has faced some revolt. Kit Carson Electric in Taos, N.M., for example, bought its way out of its contract with Tri-State for $37 million in 2016. Kit Carson is now developing solar farms around Taos and expects to have enough production to meet daytime demand by 2022.

As berries ripen earlier, Banff grizzlies might pay the price

BANFF, Alberta — By 2080, warming temperatures may cause buffaloberries to ripen three weeks earlier than they do now in Alberta’s Bow Valley. At higher elevations of Banff National Park, the earlier ripening could come 40 days earlier, according to a study by a University of Calgary researcher.

That could make life more difficult for grizzly bears, researcher David Laskin told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

“The buffaloberry crop ... is a critical buffet for the bears late in the season, and it’s an opportunity for them to gain a lot of weight before hibernation,” he said. “There’s going to be a bigger gap between when bears eat berries and when they hibernate, and that may compromise their ability to gain weight.”

A male grizzly can eat up to 220,000 berries in a single day.

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