Mountain Town News: Mammoth Mountain sets February snowfall record |

Mountain Town News: Mammoth Mountain sets February snowfall record

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — Snowfall records have started toppling at Mammoth Mountain, which is often the snowiest ski area in the United States.

Mammoth Mountain by mid-February was already nearing its annual average of 400 inches of snowfall. Ski and riding season has been extended to July 4.

Mammoth had several rough years of drought. Now, it’s like the good old days — except more. February had produced several 10-foot dumps. “You can ski onto our third-story sundeck here at Main Lodge,” reports Lauren Burke, the communications officer for the ski area.

February alone has been the snowiest on record. At the summit, 548 inches of snow have fallen.

This winter has challenged patience and equipment. The highway to Los Angeles six hours away has been closed often. Winds up to 170 mph accompanied a storm last week. Even a device used to measure snow got buried.

In Mammoth Lakes, the town at the foot of the ski area, streets are lined with banks of snow 15 feet high. The town is buried, without sufficient space to dump more snow until the spring shrink begins.

Three hours to the north and 1,600 feet lower, Lake Tahoe got drenched with rain before yet another storm. The Tahoe Daily Tribune reports that several ski areas in the Tahoe-Truckee area have received seven feet or more of snow in recent storms.

If not at the same scale, Sun Valley has also had a storm that produced 35 inches in 36 hours, this coming off a winter that the Idaho Mountain Express describes as hitherto distinctly unmemorable.

Emissions from air traffic at Aspen rose nearly 31 percent

ASPEN — Emissions associated with the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport rose nearly 31 percent over a three-year period during which air traffic grew 19.8 percent.

The Aspen Daily News explains that emissions resulting from commercial airline and private-jet operators accounted for almost 95 percent of the total. Airport operations were responsible for more than 2 percent. The final 3 percent was attributed to limousines, taxis and other ground transportation.

The greenhouse gas emissions for 2014 through 2017 were identified by a consulting firm, Mead & Hunt, and reported to Pitkin County.

John Kinney, the airport director, told Pitkin County Commissioners that not only have the number of flights increased both during peak season and in the shoulder seasons, but corporate jets have become bigger. Too, more long-haul flights have been added.

Will biofuels help dampen this carbon footprint? Possibly, but it’s far off into the future, he said. The Wall Street Journal had the same assessment, calling biofuel use “a drop in a very big bucket.”

Transportation surpassed electrical production two years ago as the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency reported CO2 emissions from U.S. commercial aviation increased 6.2 percent from 2010 to 2016. Passenger-car emissions increased 1.2 percent during the same time.

Globally, air travel is believed to account for 2 percent of carbon emissions.

No mandate to teach about climate change, but most do

WHISTLER, B.C. — Teachers in British Columbia need not specifically teach about climate change. Most do, and those in Whistler and elsewhere along the corridor from Vancouver think it’s just fine to leave it to the discretion of teachers about how to approach the subject.

“I don’t feel we’re giving short shrift to this very important topic,” Chris Nicholson, a school district assistant superintendent, told Pique Newsmagazine.

Cynthia Higgins, a trustee representing Whistler on the same school board, defended the need for teacher autonomy. “We have to trust that our teachers in the Sea to Sky (corridor) will cover climate change, along with all the other topics related to the environment, and do that in an appropriate fashion,” she said.

The lack of mandatory coverage of climate change was criticized last year by several teachers in the greater Vancouver area in a story published by the Tyree, a local magazine.

Back to snowfall average in San Juans, but not rivers

DURANGO — After a dismal winter in 2017-18 and continued drought last summer, the snowpack in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains has been tracking with historical averages. But come spring and summer, flows in streams and rivers may still be sub-par.

How can that be? The soil remains thirsty from last year, explains the Durango Herald.

“Soil moisture is really the big kicker this year,” said Susan Behery, a hydraulic engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s office in Durango.

If not as parched as southwest Colorado, the Colorado River Basin altogether continues to be impacted by the drought last year. The Colorado Climate Center predicts lower-than-average runoff.

Last fall, the Colorado Climate Center reported that Colorado for the water year ending in September 2018 was the hottest and the second driest year on record. The driest was 2002.

The manager of the Vallecito Reservoir told the Herald that snowpack of 130 to 150 percent of averages will be required to fill it this summer. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Ken Beck, of the Pine River Irrigation District.

At McPhee Reservoir, the largest in southwestern Colorado, that translates into a water level 62 feet below capacity, reports The Denver Post. It took three years for the reservoir to bounce back after 2002, the worst year of drought on record. The reservoir holds water from the Dolores river, which originates in the San Juan Mountains near Telluride and Rico.

In Steamboat Springs, the snowfall stands at 115 percent of the long-term average. Still, there are concerns whether the snows will continue to fall as needed to fill rivers, irrigation ditches and reservoirs, reports the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

The trend of earlier springs could cut into the gains of mid-winter. If snow at lower elevations melts too early in the season, irrigators have to divert water running off from higher elevations earlier to boost soil moisture that would typically come from snow melt on fields, explains Kevin McBride, the manager of the Upper Yampa Valley Water Conservancy District.

Construction to commence on a major housing addition

WINTER PARK — Reflecting the boom of the last few years common to ski towns, developers in Winter Park plan to begin construction this summer on a project that will ultimately yield more than 1,000 residential housing units and 70,000 square feet of commercial space, reports the Sky Hi News.

This is to occur on 165 acres near and on the site of the aging Beaver Village Lodges, once an icon for Winter Park in the post-World War II boom of skiing, but now housing for service and other personnel. The 40 residents have been told they will have to vacate at the end of ski season this year.

Would trash-by-the-bag pricing change your ways?

JACKSON, Wyo. — If two steaks and two servings of lobster cost the same as one, would you order twofers?

That might not be quite the right analogy, but it comes to mind in reviewing the Jackson Hole News&Guide’s story about an effort there to reduce trash and increase recycling. Teton County has a waste diversion rate of 34 percent now but hopes to increase that to 60 percent in roughly the next decade. How to get there?

One idea is a pay-as-you-throw program. In other words, you pay for how much trash gets hauled away instead of a flat fee. Employed elsewhere, the concept has slashed volumes of trash. In New Hampshire, for example, the Concord community reduced the waste hauled to the local landfill by 44 percent.

In Jackson and Teton County, residents pay the same amount for trash pickup regardless of the volume of their garbage. There’s no financial incentive to recycle, points out Heather Overholser, the supervisor of Teton County’s integrated solid waste and recycling program.

Pay-as-you-throw pricing “creates waste collection as a utility, the same way you would treat electricity or gas service,” she said. “Basically you pay for the amount of service that you use.”

A survey of 180 communities cited by the News&Guide found that the 34 that used pay-as-you-throw reported waste reductions of 42 to 54 percent.

One complication for Teton County is the need to dovetail pay-as-you-throw programs with bear-proof trash containers.

Even where pay-as-you-throw has been used, residents and trash haulers have pushed back initially.

Filipinos in Banff to get language, culture program

BANFF, Alberta — A K-12 language and cultural program will be developed in Alberta, which is home to 170,00 Filipinos. That includes 900 living in Banff and Canmore.

The announcement was welcomed by Ericson Dizon, founder of the Filipino-Canadian Association of the Bow Valley. He told the Rocky Mountain Outlook that development of the program would help bridge the cultures. “We try to break the barriers, break the language barrier, and we see it as a way to connect people and also a way to celebrate friendship and connection,” he said.

“We don’t want to create cultural pockets,” he added. “I want us to one day simply be called the Canadian Association of the Bow Valley, because in heart and mind, eventually we will all see each other as one.”

Native Filipinos speak both Tagalog and English. In 2012, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that the number of people speaking Tagalog in Canada rose 64 percent over the prior five years, making it the fastest-growing language in Canada. At the time, Filipinos had surpassed Chinese and Indians as being the nation’s largest immigrant group.

The Calgary Sun reports this is to be the ninth international language covered by provincial curriculum in Alberta, joining Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, German, Italian, Japanese, Punjabi, Spanish and Ukrainian.

Provincial curriculum is also available in Blackfoot and Cree.

New approaches to cutting Pitkin County’s suicide rate

ASPEN — Suicides continue to perplex Aspen and Pitkin County, where the rate over a recent three-year period stood at 22.6 per 10,000 residents. That compares with 19.1 for Colorado altogether.

Mountain towns tend toward higher suicide rates for reasons still unclear, and Western states tend toward higher rates than those in the East, again for reasons unclear.

The Aspen Daily News reports that local officials have decided to push in two realms. One effort involves getting the citizenry — everybody from lift ops and bartenders to bank officers and, perhaps, county commissioners — trained in mental health first-aid. The idea, explains Greg Poschman, a county commissioner who has taken a keen interest, is to train lay people into being able to identify people in need.

Resilience training, the second approach, targets youths more than adults, teaching them to adapt and recover quickly from situations involving stress, adversity or tragedy.

Colorado’s highest suicide region lies in southwestern Colorado, according to Colorado Health Institute’s statistics for 2017. Men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide, and the most vulnerable are those aged 45 to 64. However, suicide is the leading cause of death among those 10 to 24.

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