Heard around the West

  • BEAUTIFUL BUT BORING: Red Delicious apples

    Phil Schofield photo

There will be no chapped skin from nude skiing when the season ends April 18 at the Crested Butte resort in western Colorado. As the Denver Post put it: "Crested Butte is cracking down on bare butts. And it has nothing to do with smoking."

Last spring, the 25-year tradition of clothing-optional skiing erupted into a melee, with drunk nude skiers throwing beer bottles at police, and hundreds of ogling outsiders with video cameras recording bare flesh flying down the slopes. It's not a question of being prudish, said resort spokeswoman Gina Kroft. "It just got real indecent last year." Added Kroft: "It will be more prim and proper than it has been."

"It will be a stunning ruby red. But chances are it's a bit mushy," reports the Los Angeles Times. "It" is a big, fat, shiny Red Delicious apple, the variety American orchardists have produced for decades. They were spurred by marketers who said it was better for fruit to look good than to actually taste good. One expert notes that the apple grown mainly for looks resembles other "inoffensive" products of the 1950s like Wonder bread, Cool Whip and Campbell's condensed soups. But times change, and distinctive taste is in. Now, produce sections sport tart and crunchy apples, some jade green, some mottled pink, and they far outsell the gorgeous but boring Red Delicious. It's a bitter lesson for growers who lost their Asian market last year and who face trade barriers in Mexico and Japan. Still, there's hope that Americans, whose apple consumption is flat at about 20 pounds per person per year, can be motivated to eat more apples - provided they taste good. The shift will be costly since Red Delicious apples make up 40 percent of the U.S. crop. Yet some growers are already responding by ripping out trees that bear the bland fruit. They're replanting groves with tasty varieties such as Fuji, Gala and Granny Smith.

Every motorist hates potholes. But rotted roads, it turns out, can save elk, grizzly bears, black bears, coyotes, ravens and bald eagles from becoming roadkill. A new study finds that rebuilt roads in Yellowstone National Park increase animal deaths because drivers speed up, and faster vehicles bump off more wildlife. But no matter what the speed limit, researchers found, drivers in the park tend to drive as fast as the condition of a road allows. Yellowstone bear biologist Kerry Gunther, who led the study, told AP that another aid to drivers - cutting vegetation back to create "clear zones' on both sides of a road - is dangerous to wildlife; elk graze in the manmade meadows, then face "a greater likelihood of getting killed." The safest speed for driving near wildlife, researchers said, is 45 mph or less, a factor the park will keep in mind as it catches up on road maintenance and repairs.

President Clinton bought some books recently while he was wandering around Park City, Utah, but not with his credit card. A clerk at Dolly's Bookstore had to tell the president that his card had expired, forcing him and his aides to turn their pockets inside out to come up with $62.66 in cash. For free, Dolly's gave the president a copy of Park City Witness, a book of essays about saving open space, reports the Park Record.

Some police officers lurk on highways to nab speedsters; others go undercover to bust white-collar criminals. But in Ventura, Calif., the "avocado cops" crouch in an orchard through the night hoping to catch rustlers who steal the fruit from trees and haul it off in shopping carts. "We take it seriously. We're dedicated to it," Detective Mike Horne told AP. The losses are serious to growers: Before Horne and a partner became the Agricultural Crimes Unit, growers in 1997 posted $609,000 in losses of fruit and equipment to thieves. In 1998, when the avocado cops went to work, theft was cut to $195,000. Horne says collaring culprits, who are mostly narcotics users, is a tough job. Farms are remote and he's never yet been able to lift a fingerprint off an avocado's green skin. Horne said, "I've even called the FBI to find out how I can put a tracking device in an avocado."

First, there was road rage, then accounts of something dubbed ski rage, as snowboarders and downhill skiers pummeled each other after colliding on the slopes. Now comes word that cross-country skiers are mixing it up with practitioners of the hot new sport, snowshoeing. "I've had (skiers) yell at me when I've crossed their trails," said snowshoer Mike Prager in the Oregonian. It's not "snow rage" yet, but skiers complain that they don't like sharing the woods with klutzy snowshoers who tramp down their smooth trails. Jim Thornton, a Forest Service ranger who patrols the backcountry of Mount Hood, says he spends most of his time refereeing debates between the two groups. "I tell some of the Nordic skiers to quit whining," Thornton said. "After you bust out four or five miles, you're not going to see any snowshoers." Possible reasons for snowshoes' new popularity: The new ones are lighter and easier to use than the older, wooden models, they don't take any skill, and they're cheap.

Heard around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumper sticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or [email protected]

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