Off Limits

State your business: The June issue of Spy rates the nation's fifty states in order of annoyance--and we make the dirtiest dozen. Texas takes first place, but Colorado clocks in at number twelve for, among other reasons:

"Laws: In Durango, it is illegal to go out in public dressed in clothing 'unbecoming' one's sex. In Logan County, it is illegal for a man to kiss a woman while she is asleep. In Pueblo, it is illegal to let a dandelion grow within city limits."

Other annoyances: Towns named The Pie, Hygiene and Spook City. A museum devoted to Jack Dempsey, the "Manassa Mauler." That "model of inefficiency," Denver International Airport. The Coors family. The Leadville Boom Days Celebration, with a 21-mile burro race in which jockeys "are not allowed to ride the burros, but they may push, pull or carry them."

But is it really fair for Spy to saddle Colorado with Cher, Sally Field and other Aspen "ski-season celebrities" when we have enough resident irritants of our own?

Snow lo contendere: At Winter Park's annual media ski day Sunday, it wouldn't have been out of line for the resort to bury the whole lousy ink-stained bunch of reporters, considering the blizzard of misinformation that had poured forth from Denver's press the week before. The snow job began with the Rocky Mountain News's Sunday, April 7, front-page headline announcing that "City Quietly Sells Ski Area." Inside, an article by Kevin Flynn reported Denver's "almost without notice" deal to sell ninety acres of land to the Winter Park Recreational Association, which has run Winter Park for the city since 1950. Trying to get through Flynn's story was enough to create snowblindness--and apparently the TV stations didn't even bother, because their erroneous reports appeared to be based entirely on the front-page headline. But for that matter, Flynn seems to have been a bit behind in his reading, too, because Westword's Andy Van De Voorde has been giving the deal plenty of notice for over two years.

What the city actually did was give the ninety acres of land to the high-society hobnobbers in the WPRA, who will use the property to develop Winter Park's base into an upscale "village" complete with shops and condominiums. At the moment, there's only a hotel on the acreage--a project that, as Van De Voorde reported, the WPRA had approved in the 1980s for a group of high-flying Oklahoma developers who eventually defaulted on their construction loan. After that default, the hotel--and thirty acres of city land--fell under the control of some of the most notorious players in the S&L scandals of the 1980s, including Denver's Silverado Banking.

The deal to transfer the ninety acres had actually been in the works for two years, after a public outcry forced the city to withdraw an earlier plan that did indeed call for selling the entire ski area to the WPRA for a song. Instead, in a May 1994 agreement largely negotiated by then-Denver parks manager Bruce Alexander--who, as Van De Voorde has reported, was the WPRA's former banker--the city got a contract that requires the WPRA to pay Denver $1 million per year plus 3 percent of its total revenues.

That means taxpayers will get a rate of return on their former mountain property roughly comparable to a basic savings account. But Denver does still own the ski area, including the U.S. Forest Service permits that allow use of public land, as well as the lifts and equipment--although as agent for the city, the WPRA runs the show.

It's all downhill from here.


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