Mountain News: Mountains feel like it's March or April 

click to enlarge PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - UNSEASONABLE Mountain towns across much of Western North America, like Durango, Colo. seen above, have been experiencing spring weather in the middle of winter this season.
  • Photo:
  • UNSEASONABLE Mountain towns across much of Western North America, like Durango, Colo. seen above, have been experiencing spring weather in the middle of winter this season.

CHAMA, N.M. — Across much of the West last week it was a wonderful week, as good as they get for April. Except, of course, that it was early February.

In Southwest Colorado, lawns in Telluride were bare. How often does that happen in Telluride in early February? "About once or twice a decade," said Art Goodtimes, a resident since 1981.

West of Durango, the unpaved parking lot at the tiny Hesperus ski looked like it was made to order for a Tough Mudder race: very, very muddy.

At Beaver Creek, temperatures that hit 40 degrees seemed to favour ski racers in the World Alpine Ski Races who went first, before the snow turned slushy and skis got grabby.

Weather records compiled by the Colorado Climate Center show that the recent thaw has been among the warmest on record for that period in a variety of Colorado locations. For Steamboat Springs, it's No. 1 after 105 years of record keeping, while Crested Butte is No. 5 after 100 years.

In Crested Butte, the lean snow is causing organizations of the annual Ally Loop ski race to alter starts and finishes. But, added the Crested Butte News, what won't change will be the "clangers, pot beaters and screamers" expected to spur on the racers as well as the outrageous costumes of "colored plumage, crinoline, spandex, wigs, hats and contraptions that dangle and rattle."

Telluride patrollers voting about a union

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Telluride Ski Patrol members, plus dispatchers and snowmobilers, will be voting on whether to unionize under the auspices of the Communications Workers of America. The union already represents ski patrollers at Steamboat and Crested Butte, both in Colorado, as well as The Canyons in Utah.

A union representative tells the Telluride Daily Planet that about 55 people employed by the Telluride Ski and Golf Co. are eligible to vote. The ballots will be collected by the National Labor Relations Board and counted on Feb. 27.

Pepper Raper, the ski company's communications manager, spoke to the newspaper and said that "we are just trying to work with them to understand their concerns and the drive behind this. We don't necessarily think we need a third party to tell us or tell them what's best."

Must wolves die for caribou to survive?

BANFF, Alberta — A new study recommends killing off wolves to help save endangered populations of woodland caribou in Alberta. The study also recommends habitat protection.

About 100 wolves have been killed per year in Alberta since 2005 by shooting them from helicopters or poisoning them with bait laced with strychnine. The goal was to protect the dwindling herd of caribou called Little Smoky. Only 100 of the caribou in that herd remain.

Mark Hebblewhite, an associate professor in the University of Montana's Wildlife Biology department, a co-author of the study, said that 11 of the woodland caribou herds in Alberta are declining very rapidly. Even with the killing of wolves, the herds did not grow, although they did stabilize.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook also talked with Paul Paquet, whom it identifies as one of the world's leading wolf experts. He strongly dissented with the study's conclusions.

"This is a true case of scapegoating wolves for something that we're all responsible for," he said. "There's no effort to address the ultimate causes of caribou endangerment: industrial development over numerous years."

The study, which was published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology, identifies loss of habitat due to roads and pipelines as the greatest long-term threat to caribou herds. But even if oil and gas development ceased, says the study, habitat restoration favouring caribou over moose and wolves would take 30 years.

Hotel in Whitefish looks to be a go

WHITEFISH, Mont. — Will downtown Whitefish finally get a new hotel? Several proposals have been made since the depths of the recession, and all have failed for one reason or other.

The latest proposal, for an 86-room independent lodge, has been approved by the city council. The estimated cost of the three-story building is $10 million.

The independently branded lodge is tentatively to be called the Empire Hotel, a nod to the nearby Great Northern Railroad tracks. The giant railroad network of the Great Northern had been assembled by a Bill Gates of his day, James J. Hill.

Developers are Sean and Brian Averill and their unnamed partner from Florida, reports the Whitefish Pilot.


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