Mountain Town News: Hot time in California, ski towns taking action |

Mountain Town News: Hot time in California, ski towns taking action

It was among the coolest years on record for the interior of the United States, but not so California or the globe.

Temperatures last year averaged 61.5 degrees Fahrenheit in California — 4.1 degrees hotter than the 20th century average, reports the San Jose Mercury News, citing a new report issued last week by federal scientists.

Three other Western states — Alaska, Arizona and Nevada — also experienced their hottest years since 1895, when modern instrumentation became widespread. And Anchorage, Alaska, didn’t have a single day in 2014 in which the temperature dropped below zero, the first time in 101 years of record keeping.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to release new reports this week showing that 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded for the globe as a whole. Last week, the Japan Meteorological Agency reached that conclusion.

“There are still flashes, but flashing now would likely get you arrested whereas 30 years ago it might have gotten you married.”
Mark Reaman
editor, Crested Butte News

There’s widespread agreement among scientists that the burning of fossil fuels, putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, explains most of this rise in the greenhouse heat. Jim Hansen, one of the most vocal of scientists in this regard, was at Lake Tahoe recently to speak.

“If you add C02 to the atmosphere, it’s like putting a blanket on the planet,” he explained.

The Lake Tahoe News reported that Hansen, former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, argues that the only way to solve the problem is to levy an across-the-board fee on carbon. He predicts that 70 percent of people would get a dividend back, in the form of reduced taxes, if a revenue-neutral carbon fee were levied.

In ski towns of Colorado, talk continues about how to advance local efforts. In Telluride, the town planning director, Michelle Haynes, produced a climate action plan. She triumphantly reported to the Telluride Town Council last week that the community is on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by the end of 2015, five years ahead of a goal set in 2009.

This, it should be noted, is for the town government only and it relies heavily on purchase of renewable energy certifications, a controversial financial instrument.

In Aspen, town officials are calculating their next steps. The city’s electricity utility is well on the way to being able to claim 100 percent renewables by year’s end. But city official are also talking about creating resilience for increased heating.

A report by the Aspen Global Change Institute, a nonprofit, finds that the temperature in Aspen has increased during all seasons since 1940, although precipitation and snowfall have increased.

More warming is inevitable, given the amount of heating locked into the atmosphere and oceans, and if emissions continue at current levels, Aspen’s temperatures could rise by as much as 2.9 degrees in the next 24 years and 9.7 degrees by the end of the century.

How can a city of 6,000 people move the needle on an international problem? Ashley Perl, the director of the city’s Canary Initiative, the city’s climate change program, said that Aspen is closely watched. “I think we have more of an effect than we think we do,” she said.



ASPEN, Colo. — Two elk that fell through the ice on a small pond made it, but the third did not. Aspen firefighters did all they could, using axes, a saw, a rope and ladder in what the Aspen Daily News describes as a frantic effort to rescue the exhausted animals.

When they arrived, firefighters found the two cows swimming in circles, while the bull was by himself motionless in another part of the pond. The pond was estimated to be 8 to 12 feet deep.

A local wildlife biologist, Kevin Wright, told the newspaper that elk fall through ice in reservoirs and ponds from time to time. “These private ponds are notorious,” he said.

He issued a $70 citation to the homeowner for unlawfully feeding wildlife. Two piles of hay were near the pond. The homeowner said the hay had been left from bow-and-arrow target practice last summer. He said the water never freezes because he uses it as a geo-thermal source.



JACKSON, Wyo. — How do mountain lions eat porcupines? Very carefully, of course, and one small mountain lion in Jackson Hole wasn’t careful enough.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports that an otherwise healthy but exceptionally small female mountain lion killed a porcupine just before Christmas. The 40-pound lion was later found dead, quills in the chest cavity and one lung completely failed.

Teton Cougar Project leader Mark Elbroch described the two species as being generally mismatched. Mountain lions survive by killing. Porcupines are “waddling prey that make their living by chewing bulbs, fungi, foliage and inner bark,” he wrote in a post on “Yet, somehow, porcupines sometimes win.”

This particular mountain lion had had a rough go of it. A year ago, when she was still a kitten, her mother was killed by another mountain lion. In her first winter, frostbite claimed the tips of her tail and ears. She also survived an attack by a bald eagle that picked her off the ground, and she had to share carcasses with grizzly bear exponentially larger than herself, Elbroch wrote.

But some lions studied in the Teton Range area have proven skilled at killing porcupines. One young lioness killed two dozen of the rodents in 2.5 months. One of her techniques was to climb trees and throw porcupines to the ground, injuring or stunning them long enough for her to attack their vulnerable bellies.



CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — In his ruminations on the the local news, Crested Butte News editor Mark Reaman points out that many in his town would argue that Crested Butte has lost some of its charming weirdness.

“There are still flashes, but flashing now would likely get you arrested whereas 30 years ago it might have gotten you married,” he says.

He reports that a filmmaker is in town to document Crested Butte’s transition from mining town to ski town. “That included some weirdness. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with. Hopefully, it will be a little weird,” adds Reaman.

Crested Butte was the place where people used to take off their clothes to go skiing on the final day of ski season. If it happens now, it doesn’t get any ink.



BOZEMAN, Mont. — Heard anybody calling for a Lucy, Bella or Sadie lately?

Those are the top three names of female dogs in Bozeman, reports the Daily Chronicle, which studied the list of dog licenses.

Max, Buddy and Jake are the most common names for male dogs.

Labradors top the list of breeds popular in Bozeman. There are 300 registered purebreds and another 80 described as some variant of “Lab mix.” Border collies and Golden retrievers are second and third.

Two cougars explored

from Jasper townsite

BANFF, Alberta — Two young cougars have been exported from around the Jasper townsite, where they have been making a living in recent months. What earned them their deportation was an incident just before Christmas when a man was walking with his dog off-leash at sunset.

A cougar flattened the dog but did not kill it, probably an indication that the cougar was young and not as efficient a killer as it will become later. The man kicked the cougar and it fled.

A Jasper National Park official tells the Fitzhugh that it’s nearly impossible for a cougar to differentiate between a domestic and a wild animal, especially when a dog is off leash.

Wolf family takes up

residence in Oregon

BEND, Ore. — You and me and baby makes three. A wolf that wandered into Oregon and then California now has a family, what is now called the Rogue Pack.

The Bend Bulletin explained that the wolf found a mate and established a territory in the southern Cascades between Klamath Falls and Medford. In June, researchers announced they had photographed pups, making the wolves the first breeding pair of wolves in Oregon’s Cascade Range since the mid-1940s.

At the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife defines a pack as a group of wolves, usually a male, female and their offspring from one or more generations.

The male was the first wolf in California in 90 years.

Idling law seems to

have effect in Ketchum

KETCHUM, Idaho — In 2009, Ketchum adopted an ordinance banning the idling of cars and trucks for more than three minutes, winter or summer. How has it gone?

City officials tell the Idaho Mountain Express that during the first year only reminders were issued. But in the four successive years, police have issued an average 17 citations annually.

Dave Kassner, the police chief, said he wants to see a different fine assessed, $10 for the first infraction.

He said one impact of the law is that fewer of the delivery vehicles are idling while delivering goods to stores and restaurants.

Frisco has organics, but

Vail wants them too

FRISCO, Colo. – So what seems to make Frisco so organic – and Vail not?

Whole Foods opened a store in Frisco last year, and now Natural Foods is looking to open a store across the street. Both are proximate to a Safeway.

The Summit Daily News points out that a Natural Foods store already operates a store five miles away in Dillon, with no evidence it will close.

Meanwhile, 25 miles west at Vail, town officials say they would love to see their first organic food grocery. They have two big grocery stores, both with organic sections, but not a grocery store known of its organic line of goods.

Mayor Andy Daly, at a meeting in late December, said there had been some attention to a possible Whole Foods on town-owned property in Vail Village, near a majority of Vail’s hotels and lodges. “We may get a small grocery there, but that’s about as much as I can hope for,” he said.

But wherever will

they smoke the stuff?

ASPEN, Colo. – It’s legal in Colorado, and one study last year found that tourists constituted 90 percent of the market in resort towns for cannabis. But where will they consume it?

If it’s an edible, most anywhere. But if smoking, good luck with that.

Colorado law prohibits smoking in hotel rooms. And unlike alcohol, where you can go to a bar and guzzle, Colorado’s constitutional amendment was ambiguous when it comes to private smoking venues.

The Aspen Daily News explains that two venues in Colorado have skirted around the Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in public places.

Club Ned, located in Nederland, near the Eldora Ski area, is exempt from Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act because it employees three or fewer workers and is of off limits to the public. To maintain its private status, a significant amount of the club’s revenue must come from membership dues, and it must be selective when admitting members.

A Denver venue, iBake, operates as a dual cannabis-tobacco smoking club, and tobacco rooms are exempt from the act.

While treating cannabis sales much like liquor sales, Aspen so far has chosen to keep the door closed to such venues. City staff members fretted about the exposure such clubs could bring to the town’s international profile, but also argued that Aspen should refrain from serving as a guinea pig. That stance has not changed.

The Daily News talked with Ron Radtke, owner of one of the six recreational pot shops in Aspen, and he said the city has handled the issue correctly—though he would be interested if the city changes it stance after ski season.

Jesse Miller, a co-owner of Leaf Aspen, anther dispensary, said if a Cigar Bar can operate while serving alcohol, surely a private cannabis club is feasible. But Miller said cannabis should remain separate from alcohol.

There is at least some interest on the council in the idea of public cannabis consumption in a club setting, such as when combined with a coffee shop or bakery, as is done in Amsterdam, to accommodate the social aspect of marijuana consumption.

Fondly remembering

the storms of 2005

TRUCKEE, Calif. – The rains in December certainly helped, but will California gets the snow this winter that it to start emerging from its deep, deep hole of multi-year drought?

Newspapers in California report the outlook doesn’t look promising, but a local historian writing in the Sierra Sun points out that a weak El Niño was also simmering in the Pacific Ocean 10 years ago. In that case, two storms hit hard and fast, causing Truckee and Tahoe residents to very quickly worry about digging out rather than drought.

One of those storms, writes Mark McLaughlin, dumped up to nine feet of snow in three days in the Tahoe. The storm shut down the Reno-Tahoe airport for only the third time in 40 years. Another monster storm blocked an Amtrak train, causing about 200 passengers to spend the night near Donner Summit before being return to Sacramento.

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