New website offers unfiltered local news

Colorado journalist Bob Berwyn was a reporter for the Summit Daily News until the end of last year. It seems he wrote a column about the weather – of all things – that upset Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz. About a week later he was fired.

Simply put, he wrote about the unpredictability of Colorado’s weather and how the ski industry exaggerates snowfalls to drum up business:  Has weather science been hijacked for marketing?

Berwyn’s version of the story can be found in his article:  Snow job leads to a reporter’s exit

It’s a mystery to me why Berwyn’s column unleashed the wrath of Vail. Everyone knows the ski industry inflates and exaggerates – and not just about the weather. Skiers don’t believe the hype. We’re all just looking for a good deal on lift tickets. Then again, much of what the ski industry does is inexplicable – like raising prices during a recession.

Anyway, after Berwyn was fired, Vail CEO Rob Katz issued this statement: “At no time did I, or anyone else at Vail Resorts, threaten the Summit Daily to withhold advertising dollars or in any way ask or imply that Bob Berwyn be fired. Jim expressed that he would look into it and get back to me with the background on the story.”

Except that Berwyn said in his article: “I was called into the [Summit Daily News] publisher’s office. I was told that the ski company had pulled its advertising and that as a result it would be difficult for the newspaper to make up a quarterly budget shortfall. I was also told that I had a lot of groveling to do if I wanted to repair the situation.”

And he was offered $3,000 to keep his mouth shut. But he refused. So who should we believe? The reporter who told the truth and turned down hush money? Or the CEO who gets paid to lie?

Luckily the SDN’s loss is our gain. Berwyn started up his own unfiltered news website: Summit County Citizens Voice. Recent stories include avalanche reports, lynx survival, Keystone rental housing and, because he’s a self-described “weather geek”, plenty of stories about the weather.

Next to the economy, the weather is a big story in Colorado. But you won’t hear about it on the news. Our dirty little secret is lack of snow. The western Rockies haven’t seen any significant snowfall since Christmas weekend. It is dry, dry, dry. And cold. I won’t go into the details of the El Niño weather pattern we’re in because Berwyn has already done a much better job of that at SCCV.

I haven’t even been downhill skiing yet this season which hasn’t happened to me in 30 years. While it’s true that managing the West Elk ski trails has kept me busy. I’ve been cross country skiing at least twice a week for the past month. There’s lots of snow on the Flattops though it has been dry since New Year’s weekend. We haven’t minded so much because we have had plenty of trail work to get done. But now that’s done we’re waiting for snow just like everybody else.

Primo cross country skiing or no, if Aspen was getting dumped on, wild horses couldn’t keep me away. As of today Snowmass, where I usually ski, is reporting a 43-inch base on top and 27 inches mid-mountain. And I know those numbers are exaggerated. All of which means two things to us locals – rocks and ice. I paid a lot for my pass this year and I’ve lived here long enough to know the snow is coming – eventually. It just makes more sense to take full advantage of the excellent snow and trail conditions on the West Elk trail for free and save my pass days for better snow. But I also know I’m not the only holdout.

It’s possible the bad economy, lack of snow, and fewer skiers on the slopes is making the ski industry peeps a little testy these days. Maybe their Karma is finally catching up with them.

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