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Mountain News: Canmore planning climate change centre

CANMORE, Alberta – A climate change centre is being planned in Canmore, and the group is expected to key in on the idea that no matter what is done to curb greenhouse gases in the immediate future, great changes are on the way because of existing lev

CANMORE, Alberta – A climate change centre is being planned in Canmore, and the group is expected to key in on the idea that no matter what is done to curb greenhouse gases in the immediate future, great changes are on the way because of existing levels in the atmosphere, reports the Banff Crag & Canyon.

Climate models prepared by the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative predict average temperature increases of around 5 degrees for Alberta. “The extra precipitation will come in the winter as rain, when we don’t need it, and we’ll see less rain in the summer,” said the group’s Dr. Dave Sauchyn.

“The point we’re making with this study is that it’s important to see what the future is like, and not get surprised by it,” said Bob Sanford, who heads the Western Watershed Climate Research Collaborative.

Sandford further said that the ability to adapt to change is paramount. “Ecosystems are disassembling and reassembling in different ways,” he said.


Winter returns to Colorado

SILVERTON, Colo. – It’s probably incorrect to call the type of snow that pelted Colorado last weekend a product of global warming. Prominent climate scientists have warned that it’s difficult to ascribe any one single weather event to the greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere. Only in retrospect, they say, will the patterns be clearly discerned.

Yet the early snow — Sierra cement, not Rocky Mountain champagne powder — was unusual, perhaps even rare. In Silverton, elevation 9,300 feet, it began as a hard rain. Several thousand feet higher at the Silverton Mountain Ski Area it was snow — and plenty of it.

The warmth surprised many people. “All of the wet sloppy stuff usually comes a month earlier, and this stuff is really sloppy,” said Jim Lamont, who works in the small town of Red Cliff, near Vail.

However, by Sunday skiers at Aspen, Vail, and elsewhere were reporting surprisingly good conditions, even delightful powder.

Just a week ago, The Telluride Watch had a story, called “The Endless Summer,” with a graphic of people carrying skis set against a warm background. That was also the title of a surfing poster of the same name from about 40 years ago.

But now, the miracle of winter has returned. And winter will not go away. Speaking in Breckenridge in October, meteorologist Paul Goodloe of The Weather Channel said that even in globally warmed mountains there will be snowstorms, and probably storms that are even more epic than current ones. But there will also be longer periods of no snow.

The potential will also remain for extremely cold weather, even spells of 30 below, he said. But all in all, he said, winters will be much warmer and shorter.


Dorworth re-telling stories

KETCHUM, Idaho – Dick Dorworth has a book out, called “Night Driving: Invention of the Wheel and Other Blues.” The book is a collection of stories about his car trips since he was a ski racer growing up in Reno, Nev.

That was a long time ago. In 1963, he established a record as the worlds’ fastest man on skis, setting a record in Portillo, Chile, with a speed of 106.8 mph. He long ago quit skiing competitively, but still skis on the slopes of Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain. He has lived in Ketchum since 1993, but first moved there in 1963.

Dorworth says he has no plans to leave. “I’m an old alpine skier, and it’s a great mountain for skiing. Just the nature of Sun Valley has kept it from being overcrowded. The community is coming undone, though. People who work here can’t afford to live here. But the geography and the culture of my friends suit me. I have enough friends here to keep me going.”

So far, Dorworth has given readings in Banff and Ketchum, as well as Missoula, Mont., and Shasta, Calif.

“I’m gratified and have been surprised at how well it’s been received, and how people relate to what’s in it,” he told the Idaho Mountain Express. “At some point, most people have been wild asses, even the most conservative among us. I did it my way, and that strikes a chord. Reading it aloud has reaffirmed for me that language is to be heard as much as read. We forget that.”


Snyder reflects on words & walking

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. – If one contemporary poet were to be singled out for association with mountains, in North America it would likely be Gary Snyder.

Commonly classified among the beat poets, and a model for a character in Jack Kerouac’s 1958 book, “The Dharma Bums,” Snyder spent a decade in Japan studying at a Zen monastery. He has issued 18 collections of prose and poems, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Turtle Island.”

Now 77, he still lives in the South Yuba River area of the northern Sierra Nevada that he has called home for the last 40 years.

Asked by California’s Grass Valley Union which he finds most gratifying, prose or poetry, Snyder said he is gratified by both, but in different ways.

“Poetry is not something you can order up — the beginnings of poems come unbidden and then one goes to work on them, always keeping a huge space of mind open around it. The trick is to listen with the inner ear. This is maybe the most rewarding sort of artistic work, but it would be greedy to expect to be able to do it all the time,” he said.

“Prose, and the challenge of writing ‘a good sentence,’ is enormously demanding in its own way, and it forces one to be clear. Poetry (and art), as Keats said, will be somewhat in darkness — never mathematically perfect — and yet full of suggestion and significance. Prose can be made clear.”

Reflecting on his many hikes up Mt. Tamalpais, the mountain that presides over San Francisco Bay, Snyder told the newspaper he is “more and more struck by the deep value (of walking) to both mind and body, and how much one learns and sees on foot. As the ancient Chinese said (in a time when there was no way to travel but by walking), ‘For a person of vitality and spirit, all of China is your back yard.’”


Good water worth fortune

TELLURIDE, Colo. – A good many of the ski towns were based on minerals, especially gold and silver, being unearthed. But with a massive deposit of molybdenum in the nearby town of Rico, there is fear — but also some excitement — about mining returning there.

Forget any such temptation, says Jack Pera, a columnist in The Telluride Watch. “Potable water has now surpassed the ores of metal mining as the most valuable commodity in America,” he claims. He insists that the proposed mining will sully the quality of water.


Blacks prominent in public office

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Most people think of mountain towns as “white” places, as in filled with white people. And, aside from the Hispanics and now some service workers imported from Bermuda and West Africa, they are.

In other words, there are few black people in ski towns. The demographics are as white as the driven snow. Consider Colorado’s I-70 corridor, where fewer than 1 per cent of people in Summit and Eagle counties are African-American.

Yet within these two counties, far more than 1 per cent of elected officials in recent decades have been black. In Eagle County, James Johnson was a commissioner, and in Avon Al Connell was a town councilman.

In Summit County, Robert Farris, was sheriff in the 1970s and 1980s. Then Sam Williams, a retired lieutenant colonel from the Army, represented the region for eight years as a state legislator. He lived in Breckenridge, where he sold real estate.

Williams died recently of prostate cancer at the age of 73, and an obituary in a Denver newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, noted the anomaly via a quote from Regis Groff, who is also black and had been a legislative leader from Denver. Groff told the newspaper that he was stunned when he first learned that the candidate from Breckenridge in 1986 was black like him.

“I walked past Sam, looking for some guy from this white mountain town,” he said with a laugh. “When I found who he was, I was like, ‘Whoa, a brother is running’.”

Said Gary Lindstrom, also a former legislator from Breckenridge, “He was really a wonderful man.”

Why so many elected blacks given so few in the general population? Lindstrom, who has known most of these individuals, agrees that it takes a certain moxie to be black and enter a mainly white world. On the flip side, ski towns see themselves as progressive places and are inclined to vote for blacks.


Real estate market finally softens

ASPEN, Colo. – The real-estate market has finally cooled in Aspen. Sales recorded in October — reflecting showings in June and July — were down 37 per cent. What this means, says Michael Russo, managing partner at Aspen Sotheby’s International Reality, is that this probably won’t be another record-breaking year, but it’s likely to be second best, based on the torrid performance during the first half.

Agents tell The Aspen Times that the national credit crunch is not causing any direct role, as Aspen’s customers pay cash, no matter what the cost, although some potential buyers may be waiting to see how the national story may affect their portfolios.


$2.1 million purchase ‘visionary’

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – Most people know Eagle County from what they can see from Interstate 70 as it swoops down from Vail Pass on its way to Glenwood Canyon. Most of the county’s 50,000-plus residents live close to the highway, particularly near the Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas.

But in the corners of the county are found very different landscapes, lightly populated and with plenty of calendar-worthy scenery. In one of those corners lies a century-old 740-acre ranch, located at the base of the Flat Tops. Eagle County government recently spent $2.1 million to secure the land’s development rights.

Skeptics charged “cowboy welfare” and questioned whether there was any real danger of development. If no such threat is imminent, it nonetheless exists, says the Eagle Valley Enterprise.

“Look at what happened to the county in the past 40 years,” says the paper, pointing to any number of gated golf-course communities developed in the last 20 years in once hardscrabble ranching country.

If the charge of “cowboy welfare” stung, it was also off the mark. “The acquisition was about the land, not the owner,” said the Enterprise, and the decision 50 to 100 years from now will be seen as clearly a wise one.


East West elevates prices

PARK CITY, Utah – East West Partners, the Colorado-based developer of mountain real estate from Truckee to Canmore to Breckenridge, has another project to sell in Park City, where it has been engaged in development since 2004.

At Empire Pass, part of the Deer Valley complex, the company will begin offering 37 condominiums in a project called Flagstaff that are going on the market in January. Sales prices of the condos range from $2 million to $6 million.

“We’re at the highest end of this game,” said John Calhoun, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing in the Park City operations. “This is expensive real estate. They are marketed to very successful people who are rewarding themselves for their successes.”


Counties asked to step up

SUSANVILLE, Colo. – In the last 10 years there have been three different initiatives launched in the United States to get cities to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, while also lobbying for changes by the federal government.

The best known is the Mayors Agreement on Climate Change, which has been endorsed by a large number of ski towns.

Last summer, a parallel initiative was launched for county governments. Called the U.S. Cool Counties Stabilization Declaration, it so far has limited members confined to the West Coast and to the East. There are none in the Sierra Nevada or Rocky Mountains, according to a map on the website of Kings County, in Washington state.

But the commissioners of California’s Lassen County, located northwest of Reno, are at least considering it, as requested by their fellow commissioners in Alameda County, where Oakland is located.

The Cool Counties declaration, similar to the Mayors Agreement, calls on local leaders to reduce gas emissions 80 per cent by 2050.

The Lassen County Times reports some indignation at the local courthouse at droughts, flooding, and increased forest fires ascribed to global warming. “Those are new?” questioned one county supervisor, Bob Pyle. “We’ve never seen a drought before? We’ve never seen flooding before? How do they know it’s climate change? It’s just the normal.”


Lots of ways for bears to die

DURANGO, Colo. – With most bears in Colorado now removed to their dens for winter, this year’s death toll can now be reckoned. Across the state, 59 bears were “put down,” to use the common euphemism for the killing of bears by state wildlife officials.

The death sentence is meted out to bears who have twice been found to be comfortable being around people.

But bears in the Durango area died in a great many other ways. Wildlife officials tell the Durango Telegraph that an additional 11 bears were killed by cars and trucks, three were killed because of threats to livestock, and two were electrocuted after climbing utility polls.

The issue of trash enticing bears is a problem in Durango, as it is most everywhere else where bears can be found. Last summer, Bear Smart volunteers tagged more than 1,500 “problem” trash cans with reminders to keep trash secure. A new law in Durango requires homes and businesses where trash has attracted bears to adopt bear-proofing measures. Some 100 bear-proof cans have been leased after cans costing $200 each found few takers.


Hiker survives night on mtn

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Obviously, the 26-year-old Denver man who spent a night on 14,271-foot Quandary Peak did some things wrong. But he also did some things right, rescuers tell the Summit Daily News.

The hiker had told his roommate exactly where he was going, where he would park his car, and when to expect him back. That allowed friends to alert rescuers immediately.

He also took along at least some of the things necessary for survival, including a sleeping bag liner and a bivouac bag, which allowed him to spend the night inside a snow cave with some comfort, waking up every 15 minutes to keep moving. Outside the temperature was 13 degrees.

It was still dicey, both for him and rescuers. They triggered four small slides while attempting to reach him, and a much larger avalanche slid just behind both the lead rescue climber and hiker.


Crested Butte leery about paving

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Crested Butte remains uncertain whether it wants to be more closely connected to the world.

That issue showed up several years ago when paving of Cottonwood Pass on the west side was proposed. It is already paved on the east side. That paving would have had the practical repercussion of shortening, by about a half-hour, the time it takes to drive between metropolitan Denver and Crested Butte.

The newest issue concerns vehicular access across Kebler Pass, which connects Crested Butte during summer months with Glenwood Springs and Paonia. The 29-mile gravel road is coated at the beginning of each summer with a coat of magnesium chloride, which temporarily eliminates the dust. By late July, however, the dust has returned, as has the washboard, making control difficult on tight corners. And it is, says lawman Brad Phelps, a racetrack for drivers.

Gunnison County officials say that instead of applying mag chloride, which last summer cost $131,000, they want to pave it with a chip-seal mixture.

Elected officials in Crested Butte aren’t yet opposing the paving, but are concerned that paving the road may increase traffic on the road. That, in turn, could cause more traffic in the residential neighbourhood where the road enters Crested Butte. Local officials think the town already has plenty of traffic — in summer.

In winter, it is closed, and will remain as such. Located at the end of a road then, Crested Butte is one of Colorado’s most remote places with swimming pools and a Thai restaurant.


If a tree falls…

ESTES PARK, Colo. – Sometimes the end comes like that — crack. You barely saw it coming.

Such was the end for Bill Hudson, who was killed recently when a 15-year-old dead tree fell on him as he was hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. At Thanksgiving, he told a friend about a recent hike in the park in which he had noticed several dead trees. On that occasion, one fell about 20 feet away from where he stood.

His companion on this trip, Carl Cox, told the Rocky Mountain News they heard the crack. “We were trying to look up and watch for it, and I just hollered something and tried to run out of the way. Almost instantly, I got hit in the back hard, and I don’t know if it was the trunk or branches on the tree.”

When Cox got up, he went to his friend, Hudson, who was entangled in branches, with his head on a large bounder. He tapped Hudson’s face, tried to talk to him, and checked for a pulse. It had happened just like that.