SNOW water equivalent in the Upper Rio Grande Basin is running about 80 percent normal as of Dec. 2, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. December overall looks pretty normal – meaning there should be more snow coming, just not in the week ahead which will be mostly sunny and clear.

A friendly reminder from Cooper the Weather Dog: There are 20 days of shopping till Christmas; freeze-dried liver chunks and squeaky toys make excellent gifts. Now here are some stocking-stuffer news items to get your week started:


Solar array on the Valley floor with bright sun reflecting off the panels.

1. Land of cool sunshine and solar generation

It’s no secret the San Luis Valley gets more sunshine than any other place in Colorado and pretty much any place, anywhere. And those sun rays, because of the altitude in the high mountain desert, deliver more energy than when the sun shines elsewhere. That’s one reason why local leaders like state Sen. Cleave Simpson, Alamosa County Commissioner Lori Laske and the local field office of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet are heeding the call of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to get involved and make the case for greater renewable solar development in the Valley. Here’s the full story published Sunday on a renewed push for the development of solar generation and transmission in the Valley and why the time to act is now. Find time to read. It’ll be a topic you’ll hear more about in 2023.

2. Alamosa’s 4-day school week committee to make recommendation 

The idea of a four-day school week has been the talk of Alamosa ever since the Alamosa School District surveyed its community and launched a committee to study moving Alamosa Schools to four days a week. There’s all sorts of implications for families, employers, the schools themselves and the community at-large. Now the committee is scheduled to present its findings and recommendation to the Alamosa Board of Education at its meeting Thursday. It begins at 6 p.m. at  the Alamosa High School auditorium.

In a weekend correspondence to families, Superintendent Diana Jones and Assistant Superintendent Luis Murillo said the committee has looked at calendar options, school times, student activities on the fifth day of the week, researched articles and made academic projections, all of which will be discussed and presented to the school board.

“We encourage your attendance and comments during the public comment section,” the school administrators said. The school board will not make a decision until its regular board meeting on Jan. 5.

head shots

3. Shakeup at Friday Health 

Friday Health Plans’ board of directors shook up its management team last week, with Sal Gentile stepping away as CEO, replaced by Beth Bierbower who is also the chair of the board. The company has also put on hold a new building that it had been planning to build along San Juan at Sixth Street in Alamosa but is moving forward with a new parking lot on property it purchased from the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad. The parking lot is a project with the city of Alamosa.

“Friday Health is committed to keeping our operations in Alamosa,” Tracy Faigin, chief marketing and experience officer for Friday Health told Alamosa Citizen in an email exchange on Saturday. “We employ about 400 employees at the Main Street building and a few other locations. We are still moving forward with construction on the new parking garage but the new building is on hold for a year.”

Bierbower notified employees of the leadership changes in an email Friday: “Over the last few months, Friday Health has undergone a number of changes as a result of exiting the Texas market,” Bierbower wrote. “In the near-term, we will focus our efforts on five states: Colorado, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada.” Full story HERE.

group of workers having a discussion out in the snow.

4. The Valley’s latest billionaire investor and railroading

We enjoyed seeing this photograph of Stefan Soloviev (second from the right, in a gray vest), the billionaire purchasing the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy court. It’s one Soloviev has been sharing and was taken last Tuesday, the day after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas B. McNamara approved the terms of the sale to KCVN LLC which is owned by the Soloviev Group. There’s still the closing and required approval from the federal Surface Transportation Board, but Soloviev is looking ahead and said he’s planning significant upgrades so the SLRG can operate as efficiently as possible.

The railroad will operate as the Colorado Pacific Rio Grande Railroad under Soloviev due to the fact he also owns Colorado Pacific Railroad on the southeastern plains. Not familiar with the full background of this story? Check our railroad archivesfor more.

5. The Damon Martin files

It was the fall of 1985 that Damon Martin arrived on the campus of Adams State to work under and learn from legendary coach Joe I. Vigil. It was a move to help Adams State build up its women’s cross country program, where Martin initially focused his coaching talents until he took over the men’s and women’s program in 1988 as Vigil began to take on a larger role with U.S. Track & Field, including coaching in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. As we said to him on this recent episode of the Valley Pod, Damon Martin had the unenviable task of replacing a legend in Joe Vigil, and along the way became a legend himself in the world of cross country coaching thanks to his amazing success at Adams State these past 37 years.

photo of damin martinIt takes a special person to replace a giant and become a giant himself in the sporting world, or any world. When Adams State captured the 2022 Women’s National Cross Country team title at Chambers Creek Regional Park in Washington three days ago, Martin had made Adams State the winningest cross country program in NCAA history with the women’s 20th NCAA team title. Martin became only the third coach in NCAA history, regardless of division, to lead a team to 20 national titles in a single sport. Jim Steen, swimming coach at tiny Kenyon College, and Anson Dorrance, women’s soccer coach at the University of North Carolina, are the other two.

6. Tu Casa brings holiday smiles

The “Drive-Thru” Gingerbread Festival hosted by SLV Tu Casa had cars lined up for miles to get inside Rio Grande Farm Park, where Santa and all his elves were waiting. Tu Casa expected to give out 400 gingerbread kits for families to decorate, and judging by the line of cars along CO-17 on Saturday that number was easily surpassed. It was the third year for Tu Casa’s “Drive-Thru” Gingerbread Festival. Stymied by COVID but realizing the importance of his holiday event, the staff came up with the genius plan to have cars drive-thru Rio Grande Farm Park to receive all sorts of holiday cheer. Bruce Luko played Santa, and the smiles he brought to the faces of all the children driving through with their families got everyone in the holiday spirit.

decorative banner that reads Holiday Events

7. All the holiday events in one place

The Valley Calendar wins the internet for finding all the Valley’s holiday events and more in one place. Whether it’s a production of “Little Women” by Adams State Theatre (read our review HERE), holiday cheer or just plain fun that you’re looking for, make sure to check out the Valley Calendar to see what’s going on. Better yet, you can subscribe to the feed or bookmark it on your computer and never miss a thing.


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