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Dolphins’ rookie class providing building blocks for franchise after career days for Waddle, Phillips

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Dolphins’ rookie class providing building blocks for franchise after career days for Waddle, Phillips

For all the grief the Miami Dolphins (5-7) have received for their 2020 first round of draft picks, they appear to really have hit on their early 2021 selections.

There was no greater example than Sunday’s 33-10 win over the Carolina Panthers where receiver Jaylen Waddle and outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips had career-best performances and safety Jevon Holland came up with an interception.

For as much criticism — rightfully so, in many cases — as has been dished to general manager Chris Grier, coach Brian Flores and the Dolphins’ brass for draft picks and roster decisions, their two first-round picks and early second-round choice in this year’s draft are all paying dividends.

“They work hard,” said Flores in a Monday web conference. “Football’s important to them. They’re team-first. Those guys are tough. They’re competitive. They enjoy playing with one another, support each other.

“I’m confident that they’ll continue to get better because they’ll continue to put the work in, and they’re all sponges. They want to get better. They want to learn. They want to improve. They want to help our team.”

After Waddle’s nine receptions for a career-high 137 yards and a touchdown, he ranks fifth in the NFL in receptions (77). With some bigger plays in the passing game in recent weeks, he has increased his yards per catch to a respectable 9.8.

Waddle, the No. 6 pick in April, and his former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa connected on a deep slant that, with the yards after the catch, resulted in a career-long 57-yard reception for him. Surpassing 100 yards in the first half on Sunday, he became Miami’s first rookie in team history with triple-digit receiving yards in the first half of a game.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve been waiting,” Waddle said of getting more downfield looks in recent weeks. “Honestly, I just go out there and try to do my job. Whatever it is that they want me to do, I try to go out there and execute.”

Phillips, drafted No. 18, had the first three-sack outing by an NFL rookie since the Raiders’ Maxx Crosby had four in a game in 2019. He was the first Dolphins rookie with multiple sacks in a game since linebacker Jerome Baker did it in 2018.

“We’ve just been playing more aggressively and looser,” said Phillips, who credited other pass rushers flushing Panthers quarterbacks Cam Newton and PJ Walker toward him. “We’ve been working better as a team in terms of our coordination on rush stunts and games that we’re running, and just playing freer and having genuine joy out there and having a great time playing together and just flying around and making plays.”

The three sacks catapulted Phillips to the team lead in that category, with 6 1/2 on the season.

Holland came up with his second interception in a first professional season where he has shown versatility with seven pass deflections, two sacks, activity on fumble recoveries and 46 tackles.

“It’s been everything I’ve ever imaged. It’s super fun. It’s the most fun I’ve had,” Holland said. “At first, it was fast, like it was guys flying around, bigger bodies, but just understanding myself and how I play and trying to take the next step in preparation so that I can just play free and kind of let things just flow to me. When preparation meets hard work and execution, then the splash plays happen.”

The “Waddle Waddle” dance move Waddle did after scoring his first-half touchdown against the Panthers was something Phillips said he and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins have been trying to get Waddle to do in a game for some time this year.

The group has fun together on and off the field but also knows when it’s time to focus.

“Winning football games is our common interest,” Phillips said. “I think the chemistry that we have in the locker room is incredible. Whether it’s the rookies or the older guys, what I’ve found is that this team isn’t very cliquey. We kind of all hang out with each other and all really enjoy each other’s time.”

The Dolphins’ other second-round pick after Holland, offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg, has seen his struggles this season but is starting at left tackle as a rookie and has cut down on his mistakes in recent weeks.

Flores makes sure to keep the rookies humble and cautions that this latter portion of the NFL season is where it gets tough on rookies.

“They still got a long way to go, a lot to learn,” Flores said. “This is really the point where it gets really different for them. College seasons are really over right now.

“The season’s longer. It’s a more physical game. It’s more taxing in a lot of ways, mentally, physically, emotionally. … This is kind of where the length of the NFL season differs from anything they’ve dealt with.”

Regarding the highly criticized 2020 first round, Tagovailoa has strung together a series of impressive performances after Sunday’s 27-of-31 outing. But Austin Jackson was pushed inside to left guard from left tackle after allowing constant pressure at the position he was drafted to play, and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene has been a healthy inactive for half the team’s 12 games this season.

The Dolphins could get center Michael Deiter back this week after missing the past eight games with a foot injury. Deiter went through the past week of practice, but Miami did not activate him off on injured reserve.

“He did some good things last week in practice,” Flores said. “He wasn’t ready for us to call him up, but we’ll take this one day at a time and see how he practices this week.”

Receivers Will Fuller (finger) and DeVante Parker (hamstring) have been nearing returns but did not practice last week.

“It’s no different than where we were at this time last week. We’ll see on Wednesday,” Flores said. “Both are obviously getting better and getting closer. They’ll work out [Monday] and [Tuesday], which will tell us a little bit more and kind of if we’re there yet.”

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Biden to give away 400 million N95 masks starting next week

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Biden to give away 400 million N95 masks starting next week

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans starting next week, now that federal officials are emphasizing their better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings.

The White House announced Wednesday that the masks will come from the government’s Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the highly protective masks on hand. The masks will be available for pickup at pharmacies and community health centers across the country. They will begin shipping this week for distribution starting late next week, the White House said.

This will be the largest distribution of free masks by the federal government to the public since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In early 2020, then-President Donald Trump’s administration considered and then shelved plans to send masks to all American at their homes. President Joe Biden embraced the initiative after facing mounting criticism this month over the inaccessibility — both in supply and cost — of N95 masks as the highly transmissible omicron variant swept across the country.

After facing similar criticism over a winter shortage of COVID-19 at-home test kits, Biden this week launched a website for Americans to order four rapid tests to be shipped to their homes for free, with the first tests to ship later this month.

The White House said the masks will be made available at pharmacies and community health centers that have partnered with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated its guidance on face coverings to more clearly state that properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks offer the most protection against COVID-19. Still, it didn’t formally recommend N95s over cloth masks.

The best mask “is the one that you will wear and the one you can keep on all day long, that you can tolerate in public indoor settings,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week.

Details were not immediately available on the specifics of the program, including the sort of masks to be provided, whether kid-size ones will be available and whether the masks could be reworn.

The White House said that “to ensure broad access for all Americans, there will be three masks available per person.”

N95 or KN95 masks are more widely available now than at any other time during the pandemic, though they are often more costly than less-protective surgical masks or cloth masks.

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Vail Resorts is threatening immigration status of foreign investors in Mount Snow project, Vermont regulators allege

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Vail Resorts is threatening immigration status of foreign investors in Mount Snow project, Vermont regulators allege

Vermont regulators this month issued a cease-and-desist order to Vail Resorts, alleging that the Colorado-based ski giant is reneging on an agreement with roughly 30 immigrant investors that could lead to their deportation.

These foreign investors came to the United States under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program — created by Congress in 1990 to facilitate economic development in exchange for the chance to receive a green card, or permanent U.S. residency status.

In 2014, more than 100 people invested $500,000 with Peak Resorts — which Vail Resorts bought in 2019 — for the purposes of building an improved ski lodge and upgraded snowmaking facility at Mount Snow in southern Vermont. In return for their capital and job creation, the investors received temporary residency, with the ability to become permanent U.S. residents in the future.

But Vermont regulators, in their Jan. 7 order, said Vail Resorts is trying to return money to dozens of investors involved in the Mount Snow project before their immigration petitions have been processed by the federal government — which, the state argued, would violate Vermont security laws and could result in investors losing their legal status to remain in the country.

“If your application hasn’t been decided yet and you get refunded, you’re out of possibilities to get your permanent green card,” said Michael S. Pieciak, a commissioner with Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation, which filed the cease-and-desist order. “That’s a very serious outcome for these investors.”

Quinn Kelsey, a Vail Resorts spokesperson, said in a statement that the company is “evaluating our legal recourse” but that it is “confident our practices are fully compliant.”

“Since the Mount Snow EB-5 Project’s formation in 2014, our communications with investors have been transparent, clear and compliant with securities laws,” Kelsey said.

Vail Resorts did not respond when asked why it was refunding the Mount Snow investors.

These investments are primarily an avenue for people to get a coveted green card, rather than make a significant return on investment, Pieciak said.

The state became aware of the refunds in late November and early December when investors told them they had been contacted by Vail Resorts, asking them to complete a form with bank wire transfer instructions.

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These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if you don’t ski

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These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if you don’t ski

Not being a skier in Colorado is the equivalent of blurting “Voldemort” at Hogwarts. People look at you in shock. How dare you not ski?! The thing is, skiing and snowboarding can be pricey — season pass or lift tickets, skis or snowboard, boots, helmet, and layers of cold-weather gear. Plus, trying to get anywhere in the mountains along  I-70 is so … trying.

So what else is there to do, then?

Turns out, there’s a lot more to Colorado in the winter than shredding pow. You can snowshoe to a glorious, four-course dinner, spectate at an elite ice climbing competition, soak your muscles in a hot springs, or ride through a snowy wonderland by train. Read on for tips for finding winter fun off the slopes.

Daniel Brenner, Special to the Denver Post

A competitor loses an edge during the 72nd Running of Leadville Skijoring on March 8, 2020, in Leadville.

Leadville

Billed as the highest city in the country, Leadville is surrounded by fourteeners and is home to snow almost year-round. You could try summiting a peak, but this is recommended only if you have experience climbing in winter. Fortunately, you don’t have to climb one to enjoy great mountain views. There are world-renowned trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Or take the 1-mile trail to the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse for a four-course dinner with a backdrop like no other.

Plan your visit around Crystal Carnival Weekend (March 5-6) and enjoy the skijoring — kind of like waterskiing, but instead of water there’s snow and instead of a boat there’s a horse. That’s right! A horse and rider gallop down the street towing a rope — and on the other end of that rope there’s a person on skis. They race through downtown in a series of jumps. It’s a hootin’-hollerin’ good time! And if someone in your group does want to ski, Ski Cooper is a short drive away.

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Provided by Ouray Ice Park

The town of Ouray offers a few glimpses of natural waterfall wonders, but this man-made (and free!) ice park is truly spectacular. It’s a mecca for climbers and non-climbers to behold, too.

Ouray

This southwestern mountain town isn’t always easy to get to (keep your eye on storms), but once you’re there, you’ll quickly understand why it’s called the “Little Switzerland of Colorado.”

Ouray is a winter dreamscape nestled in a valley between high mountain cliffs. Every year, staff at Ouray Ice Park turn Uncompahgre Gorge into frigid walls of ice fit for the most talented climbers. You can try the sport yourself or simply watch others. Visit in January to watch the best ice climbers in the world compete.

There are plenty of other activities, if ice climbing isn’t your thing. You can soak in the hot springs, walk around Box Canyon Falls Park, drive along the Million Dollar Highway, or hike the Ouray Perimeter Trail. If someone in your group does want to ski, it’s not far to Telluride.

Cortez

If you’re looking for a perfect après ski atmosphere without ever skiing, head to Cortez, between Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park. It’s a great area in winter since crowds are minimal and the views are endless.

Finding sustenance (in both liquid and solid form) is easy on Cortez’s main drag and in surrounding towns. Grab a pint at WildEdge Brewing Collective, Main Street Brewery, or J Fargo’s Micro Brewery and pair it with pub favorites (the beer nachos are incredible at WildEdge). Dolores River Brewery and Mancos Brewing Co. are good options if you venture further from town. The Farm Bistro just off Main Street has a new lounge that serves only Colorado beer, wine and spirits. Plus, it offers a true farm-to-table experience described as delivering “comfort food with style.” Yum.

1642600101 159 These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if

Liz Copan, Summit Daily News via AP

Dog-sledding guide Tim Thiessen of Leadville brings his huskies down a trail off Tiger Road on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, at Good Times Adventures in Breckenridge.

Buena Vista

Opt to warm yourself instead of freeze on the slopes with a trip to Buena Vista. There’s a large concentration of hot springs in the area to soak the weariest muscles.

Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort offers pools of varying temperatures and even a 400-foot water slide. Or rent a private cabin at Antero Hot Springs or the Merrifield Homestead Cabins for more of a secluded retreat. Head south to find Joyful Journey Hot Springs or Salida Hot Springs and Aquatic Center to swim in one of the largest indoor hot springs pools in the country.

If something more exciting beckons, try Monarch Dog Sled rides. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be in the Iditarod? It’s not as easy as you might think to stay standing on a dog sled. Not to worry, though, if you don’t want to drive the dogs; you can stay seated up front. Make sure to bundle up and wear goggles since snow is bound to get kicked up into your face.

Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek is known for the casinos lining its main street, but there’s more to this town than you might realize. Visit in February, and you’ll find the downtown corridor transform into a sea of ice as the town hosts the state’s largest ice carving competition. Artists from all over try their hand at creating masterpieces from hundreds of pounds of ice. There’s an ice maze for kids to outwit, an ice slide for those who are a kid at heart, and even an ice martini bar! It’s a lot of fun for the whole family.

Draft horses with Horses Are Us, ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Draft horses pull sleigh rides during the Georgetown Christmas Market on Dec. 8, 2019.

Georgetown

You may have to fight ski traffic for a bit to get to Georgetown, but it’s worth it. It’s the perfect family-friendly day trip from Denver. Every December, Georgetown’s Sixth Street transforms into a quintessential Christmas postcard. Stringed lights illuminated downtown and the smell of roasting chestnuts fills the air; you may think you’ve stepping onto the set of a holiday movie. Take a sleigh ride around town, listen to carolers, and stroll through vendors to pick out gifts for the whole family. After you’ve filled up on eggnog, head to the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Every year it features holiday excursions that traverse Santa’s Lighted Forest and might even include a visit from the jolly man himself! Every kid goes home from the train ride with a special treat and smiles for days.

1642600101 868 These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

The skies are full of stars above the unique formations of the Wheeler Geologic Area in the Rio Grande National Forest on Aug. 7, 2020, near Creede.

Creede

You might not think of Creede as a winter destination, but there are few prettier scenes than this little town, nearly surrounded by mountain cliffs blanketed in snow.

Plan your visit to take in the annual Chocolate Festival, where local business owners showcase delectable chocolate specialties. January brings the annual TommyKnocker Pond Hockey Tournament. Whether you’re on the ice yourself or just spectating, there’s plenty of live entertainment and good food. If you’re “officially over winter” by February, head to Creede for its aptly-named Cabin Fever Daze. There’s live music, night skating, curling, bonfires, improv theater, and all-around good fun.

1642600101 468 These Colorado towns are great in winter – even if
The Springs Resort and Spa in downtown Pagosa Springs is like a water park for hot springs lovers — and its just a 30-minute drive from Wolf Creek Ski Area. There are 25 pools in a lovingly manicured resort along the San Juan River. The mineral-rich water will soothe body and mind. (T. Carter, The Springs Resort and Spa)
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