Mountain News: New study revises threat of eruptions in Cascades 

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK - No access Mount Hood ranks as Oregon's most threatening volcano according to a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey
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  • No access Mount Hood ranks as Oregon's most threatening volcano according to a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey

BEND, Ore.—The United States has 161 active volcanoes, but a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey finds that 18 pose a "very high threat" of a dangerous eruption.

Topping the list is Hawaii's Kilauea, which sent lava flows across the state's Big Island earlier this year. Of the others on that list, several are in the Cascade Range: Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington. In Oregon, Mount Hood ranks as Oregon's most threatening volcano, followed by the Three Sisters, Newberry, and Crater Lake.

This same report found the caldera at Yellowstone to rank No. 21 in terms of its threat. The Jackson Hole News& Guide noted that it hasn't erupted in 630,000 years or produced surface magma flows in 70,000 years.

The Bend Bulletin explained that with the exception of the Hawaiian volcano, most of the changes in the list that was last assessed in 2004 were the result of evolving understanding of how certain volcanoes behave. It did not define what constitutes a "very high threat."

But whatever the threat today, eruptions in the past have been relatively uncommon in the Cascade Range. Garibaldi, near Whistler, was last active between 10,700 to 9,300 years ago. Hood was last active about 200 years ago, although there was a sequence of steam explosions in the mid-19th century.

Shasta, in northern California, last erupted 300 years ago but continues to steam, to the benefit of John Muir, who spent a night atop the volcano. About halfway south to Lake Tahoe, Mt. Lassen erupted between 1914 and 1917.

Several of these volcanoes—including Rainier, Hood and Shasta—have ski areas on their flanks, while Mt. Bachelor is relatively proximate to the Three Sisters east of Bend.

Plastic bag ban may start by next April

JACKSON, Wyo.—Grocers in Jackson may hit ground come April when they run out of their existing stocks of freebie plastic bags.

The Jackson Town Council adopted a policy intended to give merchants a soft landing in the municipal bag ban. The ban would begin only when merchants run out of existing bags. For grocers, that's likely to happen in April. Other merchants may have enough bags for another year, reported The Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Merchants in Jackson give out 5 million plastic bags each year to customers, said Heather Overholser, superintendent of Teton County Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling. She said her department captures 20 per cent of them, compared to the one per cent of most communities.

"But that's still a very large percentage going into the landfill and our environment," she said.

The News&Guide reported that the council discussed exempting smaller retailers, as they account for just 10 to 20 per cent of plastic bags. But it would be unfair, members decided, to ask some businesses to change but not others.

Customers will be allowed to buy paper bags once merchants cease to give out free plastic bags. The fee has not been set. It could be 10 cents, but there's also support for 20 cents. The money will be shared between the merchants and the town.

Europe, meanwhile, has been moving much more briskly to curb the proliferation of plastic that has now become ubiquitous in the Earth's soils and water. The New York Times reported that the European Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a ban on 10 single-use plastics such as straws, plates, cutlery, and cotton-swab sticks by 2021. The World Economic Forum estimates that 90 per cent of the world's plastic waste ends up in the ocean, the Times noted. This year the forum warned that there would be more plastic than fish in weight in oceans by 2050.

Banff hopes to minimize impacts of holiday lights

BANFF, Alta.—Festive winter lights being strung willy-nilly on trees and poles will no longer be allowed at Banff and Lake Louise. The communities have adopted new codes that seek to lessen the effect of night lighting on wildlife, trees, and the night sky.

Banff is incorporating many of the best practices recommended by the International Dark-Sky Association, a non-profit organization that advocates policies to dampen light pollution.

The group promotes illumination that gets used only when needed, is only as bright as necessary, and minimizes blue-light emissions. The Dark-Sky Association also wants to see lights fully shielded and directed downward.

John Barentine, director of conservation for the Dark-Sky Association, said holiday lighting poses less threat to dark skies because it's temporary and tends to be low intensity. "In the big scheme of things, they only contribute marginally to skyglow. Of course, in a smaller city that's situated in very dark surroundings, it might be a big deal," he told MTN by e-mail.

"If anything, as I advise people writing municipal lighting codes, I suggest that the biggest problem is the potential for 'holiday' lighting to become year-round, permanent installations unless the codes strictly constrain allowed installations to only particular date ranges. I recommend Nov. 15 to Jan. 15."

Should mountain-town buildings look like cities?

KETCHUM, Idaho—Downtown Ketchum has been getting a new architectural look, one strongly influenced by the modernist style seen in new buildings in prosperous cities.

Ketchum came of age in the late 1800s as a smelting town for the silver mines of the region. Commercial buildings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were flat-roofed and made of red brick with tall, skinny windows and ornamental mouldings at the top of the buildings. You see those sorts of two- and three-storey buildings in Aspen and Telluride, which were also hard-rock mining towns. Crested Butte was a mining town, too, but it was mainly a coal town and hence not quite as affluent. Instead of brick, it had wooden Victorian buildings.

The modernist style instead emphasizes straight lines and glass—lots of it. Think perhaps of the shiny sheaths of tall buildings in Vancouver or Toronto or, even the newer buildings of Denver and Salt Lake City. Don't look hard for ornamentation, because it's just not there. Think of a Macintosh computer.

Whether this shift toward modernist style is good, said the Idaho Mountain Express, is open to debate.

"In Park City, we see the same thing happening," a visitor from Salt Lake City told the Express. "I don't like it. It's changing the character of the town." A local resident in Ketchum was OK with the new, modernistic architecture. "I think the Limelight is lovely," the resident said, referring to the new hotel built by the Aspen Skiing Co. "It feels like it's more open and welcoming because of all the glass."

Local architect Jeff Williams pointed out that the red-brick buildings reflected what was happening across the country at the time. In that sense, the new styles are no different.

Local architects also had varying opinions. Retired architect Dale Bates frowns on the new "globalization of taste," but agrees that dictating a historical local style leads to a dead end.

"The trouble with vernacular architecture is that it turns out to be fake," he said. "That is the pitfall you fall into—that architecture is what you perceive on the surface. It's not. It's an environment that you actually walk into. It's a sensory spatial environment."

Bates said true vernacular architecture consists of local materials and an authentic construction process—for example, real wood, actual thick walls and big wooden beams. An example of an unauthentic process, he said, is sticking a fake rock siding onto a building's exterior.

Can the Ketchum area develop its own style? "The challenge is finding a form that expresses a vernacular, a regional climate and a culture," he told the Express.

The goal, he said, should be to "get beyond the global application of high modernism—not by going back, but by moving forward into something yet unseen."

One idea in this discussion is to require buildings in the heart of Ketchum's downtown to nod deliberately to the century-old architectural style, emphasizing stability and longevity. New projects a few blocks away could be more risky, more cutting edge, embracing openness and change.

Gateway town getting bucks to help creatives

GRAND LAKE, Colo.—Community leaders in Grand Lake are heralding the town's designation as Colorado's newest creative district as a strategy for injecting more life during the winter and the shoulder seasons.

"The goal is to diversify and expand the year-round economy and to provide some workforce housing," said Jim White, who manages the town at the west gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Sky-Hi News explained that a program called Space to Create will funnel US $5 million into Grand Lake during the next few years. This money comes from foundations and state grants. The end result will likely involve some form of brick-and-mortar structure for artistic endeavours that would include a mix of housing units and workspace.

"We feel this can really be a way of building a sort of critical mass in Grand County around these creatives," explained Ken Fucik, a local resident who is a member of the Colorado Creatives Group. "We have so many creative people and industries here. This basically provides an anchor that will really allow us to bring them together to be an impetus for Grand County."

Ski museum may yet be possible

ASPEN, Colo.—Aspen may yet get a ski museum. The Aspen Daily News explained that the proposal calls for a museum as part of a base-area redevelopment. The location is proximate to where a Boat Tow was installed just prior to the Second World War.

Cost of delivering this museum has been estimated at US$2 million, although Kelly Murphy, president of the Aspen Historical Society, believes the museum is still several years out, if not longer.

If the museum happens, it will have plenty of exhibits, including 300 pairs of skis in the historical society's collection and various clothing donated by Olympians from Aspen.

Winter Park unlikely to thread this needle with a 4WD road

WINTER PARK, Colo.­—Fraser, Winter Park, and Grand County officials want to get an old road used by four-wheelers across the Continental Divide reopened. But it looks unlikely, because Boulder County, the jurisdiction on the other side of the range, is completely uninterested.

The road hews to a railroad route first used in 1904. The railroad was the ambition of David Moffat, who had made a pile of money in the silver boom at Leadville in the 1870s and 1880s. Then, as a resident of Denver, he wanted to advance the city's future by creating a rail link directly to Salt Lake City. A 10-kilometre tunnel was eventually blasted under the mountain, but in the interim the railroad was sent across the 3,558-metre Rollins Pass.

Four-wheelers for many years drove the old railroad route, but then a small tunnel, called Needle's Eye, partially collapsed in 1990. It remains closed.

Grand County Commissioner Rich Cimino tells the Sky-Hi News the county is interested in reopening the tunnel because it would boost recreation and economy. "I'm sure a lot of people from Denver and Boulder would come into Grand County through that route," he said.

Winter Park and Fraser also want the short tunnel reopened, but Boulder County has no interest. The tunnel is located in Boulder County, and after the 1990 collapse, the county ended up paying a "not unsubstantial" amount due to injuries, according to Michelle Krezek, deputy of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners. Also, she said, the county is still paying recovery costs incurred during the floods of September 2013.

"Frankly, the commissioners feel like it's not a good use of public money to open up a road that's only going to be in use for several months of the year," explained Krezek.

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