Mountain Town News: Enough snow to last to July 4th? Or into autumn? (column)
April 29, 2017
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Continuing snowfall in the Sierra Nevada has Andy Wirth, the chief executive of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, musing about an improbable ski season.
"I'm actually considering staying open through the summer and fall so it becomes the 16-17-18 season," Wirth said on Truckee Tahoe Radio over Easter weekend. "We're taking a hard look at that. There's so much snow up there."
On Monday, a Squaw spokesman, Sam Kieckhefer was less robust in his description of snow conditions, unable to confirm steady skiing to a July 4th closing much less a ski season that spans two winters.
"It's weather dependent," he told Mountain Town News. "You never know what will happen over the next few months, whether there's rain, snow or a hot spell."
If hot weather arrives, he suggested, Squaw might curtail mid-week skiing to hoard snow for weekend crowds in order to make a July 4th closing. It has reached July 4 four times since records began in the 1961-62 season. The longest season, in 1992-93, lasted 230 days. Last year, Squaw only made it to Memorial Day.
A few miles away, water from Lake Tahoe began spilling over its artificial rim into the Truckee River. It was the first time since 2006 that water was deliberately spilled from the lake, reported the Sierra Sun.
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With so much snow in the surrounding mountains, streams feeding into the lake will continue to be full for months to come. Typically, inflow peaks in June or July, but this year the peak isn't expected to occur until August, the newspaper said.
In mid-April, water officials in California reported that the northern Sierra Nevada has had the wettest winter in recorded history. It has several times been snowier, but this year was the wettest, both rain and snow falling from what were called atmospheric rivers from the Pacific Ocean.
In Denver, climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research last week said he believes that the atmospheric rivers were enhanced by 15 percent or so by global warming.
He had said the same thing soon after Hurricane Sandy battered New York City and New Jersey in 2013. In that case, some other climate scientists were more hesitant to link global warming with the extreme weather.
Such weather events are normal, said Trenberth at his talk in Denver, but are given greater strength because of the greater warming in the ocean and atmosphere.
Weather, he said, has shown the influence of greenhouse gas emissions since about the 1970s. "That's when global warming really rears its head," he said.
How Trump helped to
galvanize Tahoe town
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — While President Donald Trump has vowed to bring back coal, South Lake Tahoe is pushing in the opposite direction.
The city council of South Lake Tahoe, a city that straddles the California-Nevada border at the base of the Heavenly ski area, last week adopted a goal of having 100 percent renewable electricity by 2032. The resolution also sets a goal of reducing community carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030. This would include not just electricity, but transportation and home heating.
South Lake Tahoe joins other mountain towns in Utah and Colorado in embracing the goal of dramatic carbon reduction in its electrical supply.
Representatives of a wide variety of organizations, including local chambers of commerce, testified in support of the resolution. A petition signed by 1,000 people was given to the council.
Jenny Hatch, who directs a local environmental organization, the Sierra Nevada Alliance, says she believes broad support for such bold, local ambitions has solidified in the last two years.
What has changed?
"The administration," she answers, alluding to the election of Trump as president. "We're seeing that we have to act locally, and I think people are more empowered do to that than before. That's a silver lining in the change of administrations."
Even before Trump became president, other municipalities had been vowing to trigger reform in how electricity is generated. Utah's Park City adopted a similar goal and was followed by Salt Lake City and Moab.
In Colorado, three Front Range cities —Boulder, Fort Collins, and Pueblo—have adopted dramatic carbon reduction goals. Aspen several years ago achieved 100 percent renewables in its city utility, which provides electricity for roughly two-thirds of the city's demand.
Top-of-line kitchen can
be rented for very little
DRIGGS, Idaho — The new Teton Valley Kitchen isn't exactly a community kitchen. It costs to use the facility, $10 an hour for start-up companies for the first month and, beyond that, $15 to $17 per hour.
In providing the facility, the city of Driggs is trying to ease the financial burden new culinary businesses face. It has a range of appliances: mixers, convection and standard ovens, and a pressure cooker for canning, as well as dry and cold storage. Along with insurance, that can be worth $100,000 for a business.
Doug Self, the community development director for Driggs, said the cost and lack of kitchen space are barriers to small businesses making confections, sauces, or other small products.
"An important part of the incubator is to provide support systems for new businesses to do product testing, get licensed, develop business plans, and get marketing and distribution support, " he told the Jackson Hole News&Guide.
Zipline adventure park
to open in Fraser Valley
FRASER, Colo. — An aerial adventure park is scheduled to open in June at Fraser, which is about four miles from the Winter Park ski area. The Fraser Valley Sports Complex to is to have a self-guiding belay system of zip lines, but with multiple obstacles built between platforms for adventurous sorts. The course will have 24 challenge elements located 12 to 24 feet above the ground. The course will take 90 minutes to cover, the Sky Hi News says.
How to make housing
density more accepted
BEND, Ore. — After all these years, a single-family house with a white-picket fence remains the dream of middle America.
But in the context of mountain towns, it's an expensive thing to have. Might the answer be found in denser housing that is more creatively designed?
That was the argument of Daniel Parolek, an urban planner and architect from Berkeley, Calif., who recently spoke before hundreds of Bend residents frustrated with their housing pinch.
Parolek, reports the Bend Bulletin, has coined a phrase: missing middle housing. He said he aims to address the issue without using terms such as "density" and "multifamily housing." Those phrases often cause pushback from existing residents, because they so often conjure images of poorly designed, block-style apartment buildings that don't blend with the current neighborhoods.
According to the Bulletin, Parolek said the key to building more units is designing duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and cottages to look similar to existing single-family homes. A fourplex, for instance, may look like a large house, but offer homes for several families.
He said many people — especially millennials and baby boomers — would live in smaller units if that enabled them to live in desirable neighborhoods that are within walking distance to shops and businesses.
Dealing with bigots up
and down the Rockies
WHITEFISH, Mont. — Despite their geographical isolation amid natural splendor, mountain towns up and down the Rocky Mountains continue to reflect world tensions.
Near Jasper recently, the word "mosque" was spray painted in yellow on a publish washroom, more commonly called a restroom in the United States. Happening upon this, an Edmonton man made a quick effort to cover the graffiti and then contacted Parks Canada, reports the Jasper Fitzhugh.
In Montana, the Whitefish Pilot tells of a former white supremacist who was scheduled to tell his story to locals interested in his evolution. Christian Picciolini had been working to build the white supremacist movement when he shifted courses and, in 2010, created Life After Hate, which seeks to help communities implement long-term solutions that counter racism and violent extremism.
A sponsor of his speaking tour says that the white supremacist movement offered Picciolini and others senses of purpose and a rationale for blaming others for their problems.
Also in Whitefish, the Jewish victim of a digital-campaign of harassment has sued the neo-Nazi website that orchestrated the online harassment campaign.
The lawsuit, according to the Whitefish Pilot, says Andrew Anglin, used his online forum to publish 30 articles urging his followers to launch a "troll storm" against Tanya Gersh, a local real estate agent. She and her husband and sons have received more than 700 harassing messages since December.
The Pilot says that she wept at a press conference last week as she described how she came home one day to find her husband in the dark with suitcases packed. "We thought we had to run for safety in the middle of the night," said Gersh.
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said his group has filed many lawsuits against hate-fomenting groups, but this case is a "bit unique and unprecedented" in that it deals with digital context.
He said that in many rulings the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that an assault can come from words alone. "I don't think there are any serious First Amendment questions here," he said.
Gold mining town sends
Dollar General packing
GEORGETOWN, Calif. — The ubiquitous dollar stores can be seen as the 21st century equivalent of the nickel-and-dime Duckwalls and Ben Franklins that used to be found on the main streets of America. The difference is that they cater to car culture and ignore architectural niceties. The architectural motif is large and boxy.
In California's town of Georgetown, located in the gold mining country east of Sacramento, the local historic preservationists have won an important lawsuit in the effort to block construction of a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General on the town's historic Main Street.
Lake Tahoe News reports that El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Warren Curt Stracener ruled that the county officials erred in approving the project and must, under California law, undergo more rigorous environmental review.
An attorney for the historic preservation group said the ruling sends the message that retailers must take into consideration the aesthetic values of historic communities.
El Dorado County's own historic design guidelines say that new buildings constructed in such areas as Georgetown's Main Street must "generally conform" to the types of architecture prevalent in California mining towns of the 1850s through 1910.
Some town residents had indicated they were not necessarily opposed to Dollar General itself, but instead to the location. They suggested it needed to be moved outside the town's historic central district.
How global warming will
make mammals slimmer
BANFF Alberta — Global temperatures have been rapidly rising, with more almost certainly ahead, because of the greenhouse gases already emitted into the atmosphere. But this isn't the first time the Earth's climates have warmed rapidly.
Jessica Theodor, a mammalian paleontologist from the University of Calgary, was in Banff recently to talk about what happens to mammals when temperatures rise. In general, she said, the body sizes of land mammals become smaller when the planet warms.
"By looking at the ways in which mammals have changed size in the past, we can understand which species are most vulnerable to extinction in the future," she said at a recent meeting covered by the Rocky Mountain Outlook.
"If we look at the last 65 million years as the record, we are still in recovery from a mass extinction, and we've started a new one. And that's a really dangerous position to be in."
Mammals lived when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, but never got much bigger than a small dog. Then came the K-T Extinction, caused by a giant asteroid that crashed into earth off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
With the dinosaurs mostly gone (birds survived), the room was available for evolution of massive mammals. They have, according to the fossil record, grown up to 18 tons. But when the planet warmed 56 million years ago, mammals slimmed down.
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