The skiing season at Killington and other Vermont resorts wound down slowly this year, concluding a satisfying if unremarkable season for people and industries in winter sports.
Robert Layman / Staff Photo

Snow sports providers thank heavens for ‘average’ winter

After a dismal 2015-16 season, Vermont’s ski areas are breathing a collective sigh of relief. Skier visits for this season look to be on par with a more normal season, said Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association. While the final numbers won’t be released until June, Riehle said he’s expecting the final tally for the season to be in line with an average year. “I’m reasonably optimistic we should hit our 10-year average, which is 4.1 million skier visits; hopefully higher than that, but it’s still too early to tell.” Riehle said. Last year, faced with the worst snow season in memory, the state’s ski areas reported just 3.2 million skier visits.

Photo by Carl Villanueva
A recently completed solar array project on Northwest Hill Road in Pownal.

Pownal chosen as first climate economy model community

POWNAL — Shannon Barsotti, Pownal Planning Commission member, loves to sit on her porch and watch the Hoosic River flow by her home in the Pownal Valley. Beyond the peace of the water, Barsotti saw potential not just for the river, but also the many natural resources of Pownal. “The Vermont Council on Rural Development were seeking communities to participate in their partnership with Green Mountain Power and Efficiency Vermont called the Climate Economy Model Communities Program,” Barsotti said. “I applied, and Pownal was chosen as the first community to participate in the state.”
The three-year project will include two communities a year, and provide them with both financial and state agency support. Pownal will have its community kickoff in mid-June.

Lisa Kaiman of Jersy Girls Dairy coordinates a morning hay drop for her heffers. Kaiman is frustrated by what she feels are efforts by the state to discourage farmers from selling raw milk. Robert Layman / Staff File Photos

Raw milk advocates push; Vermont farmers frustrated

The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — Raw milk advocates’ efforts to expand availability across the United States have not slowed despite health officials’ assertions that it’s dangerous to drink milk that hasn’t been heated to kill bacteria.

Efforts to legalize raw milk sales in some form have succeeded in 42 states, including Vermont, and expansion pushes are ongoing this year in states including Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, North Dakota and Texas.

In Vermont, raw milk is legal but cannot be sold in retail establishments. Instead, there is a two-tiered system. Tier 1 producers can sell raw milk straight from the farm. Tier 2 producers can deliver raw milk to farmers markets, but only if the sale and financing have been set up beforehand. There are also regulations for the testing of milk and animals.

“It’s a pretty restrictive system,” said Andrea Stander, director of Rural Vermont, a Montpelier based farming advocacy group. She said Vermont’s system seems strict when compared with those of other states that allow raw milk, particularly New Hampshire.

Rural Vermont, she said, has historically led the push to create opportunities for Vermont dairy farmers to sell raw milk. Two years ago, laws were amended, increasing the volume of milk farmers were allowed to sell weekly in both tiers, and making testing requirements less restrictive, she said.

VW moves beyond criminal case, but not without a scolding

The New York Times
DETROIT — The criminal case against Volkswagen for its decadelong scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests ended last week with a scolding, an apology and $4.3 billion in penalties. The sentence, affirmed at a court hearing, had been recommended by federal prosecutors in January as part of a deal in which the German automaker agreed to plead guilty to three felony charges for illegally importing nearly 600,000 vehicles equipped with devices to circumvent emissions standards. The conclusion of the criminal case, 19 months after the vast cheating operation was first revealed, was a milestone in Volkswagen’s recovery from a scandal that badly damaged its reputation and sales. Recently the company delivered an encouraging quarterly report, and has even been given permission to sell — with modifications — the diesel cars at the center of the case. But the hearing in U.S. District Court in Michigan was a reminder of the cloud under which Volkswagen remained.

What does conservative mean for older investors?

If you’re a certain age, or getting close to it, you might hear something like this: “Now that you’re older, you need to invest more conservatively.” But what exactly does this mean? For starters, it’s useful to understand that your investment preferences and needs will indeed change over time. When you’re first starting out in your career, and even for a long time afterward, you can afford to invest somewhat aggressively, in stocks and stock-based investments; because you have time to overcome the inevitable short-term market drops. At this stage of your life, your primary concern is growth — you want your portfolio to grow enough to provide you with the resources you’ll need to meet your long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement. But when you finally do retire, and perhaps for a few years before that, your investment focus likely will have shifted from accumulation to preservation.


Book review: How can ‘Superfandom’ work for you?

“Superfandom: How Our Obsessions Are Changing What We Buy and Who We Are,” by Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron M. Glazer, 2017, W.W. Norton, $27.95, 336 pages. Collect them all. These three words put a smile on every marketer’s face and fear in every parent’s heart. “Collect them all,” as you may remember, was kid-code for “bug your parents until they buy stuff,” making you the envy of everyone in third grade. Your goal now: to capture that buyer’s obsession at the level you’ll see in “Superfandom” by Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron M. Glazer.

Mental health compensation bill removes objective standards

The Vermont Legislature appears poised to pass legislation this session that will broaden workers’ compensation coverage of mental injury claims.
The bill, H.197, contains language that would create a presumption that a professionally diagnosed mental health condition arose out of the course of employment for a class of employees including police officers, rescue or ambulance workers, and firefighters. The bill also proposes to expand the ability of the rest of the Vermont workforce to file stress-related claims.
Providing stronger protections in the Workers’ Compensation Act for fire, police and rescue workers is based in sound logic. These people perform some of the most difficult, vital jobs in our society, and on occasion witness horrific scenes that affect them deeply. From an employer/insurer perspective, it is the other provision, generally broadening compensable mental injuries for all Vermont workers, that is troubling. It raises questions about where the line will be drawn.

Manager Will Notte organizes books in the local interest section at Phoenix Book in Rutland on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Jon Olender

Community sustained indie bookstores through tough times

Things may be looking up for Vermont independent bookstore owners. A popular perception in recent years was that indie bookstores were being forgotten due to digital advances and big-box competition. In recent years however, the allure of the cheaper, more convenient option from Amazon, the ease of e-readers, and chain stores such as Barnes & Noble may be losing customers to community culture. Indie bookstores are gaining customers from the human connection they provide. “That sense of community, that spirit — there’s a shared culture and enjoyment within independent bookshops.

Stefan Hard / Staff Photo

Fingerprint sensor on your phone? Not as safe as you think

SAN FRANCISCO — Fingerprint sensors have turned modern smartphones into miracles of convenience. A touch of a finger unlocks the phone — no password required. With services like Apple Pay or Android Pay, a fingerprint can buy a bag of groceries, a new laptop or even a $1 million vintage Aston Martin. And pressing a finger inside a banking app allows the user to pay bills or transfer thousands of dollars. While such wizardry is convenient, it has also left a gaping security hole.

Gerald Herbert / AP Photo
Zach Tyson, left, owner of Tyson Construction, talks to electricians in a home he is constructing in Destrahan, La.

If you build it, they’ll stay: Boomers remodel their homes

NEW YORK — If you build it, they will stay. The small businesses that dominate the home remodeling industry are expecting robust growth in the next few years, thanks partly to baby boomers who want to remain in their homes. Home remodelers say they’ve had a pickup in projects from boomers who are in or approaching retirement and are seeking to modify their houses. It’s a trend known as “aging in place,” an alternative to moving to smaller quarters or a warmer climate. Many of these homeowners are hoping to make their surroundings easier to manage and safer in case they have health problems.
They’re replacing bathtubs with walk-in showers, installing safety rails, widening doorways and building ramps — features known as “universal design,” since they can be used by anyone, regardless of physical ability.