Mountain Town News: When smoke gets in your eyes — and in your lungs |

Mountain Town News: When smoke gets in your eyes — and in your lungs

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – From Taos to Banff to Tahoe, the talk of the last week was all the smoke in the air.

“Smoke coming in. Damn,” wrote one Telluride resident on Facebook Sunday afternoon. “We can’t even see the mountains,” reported a Jackson Hole resident Tuesday morning.

Lake Tahoe has been smothered with smoke from fires in three directions, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We couldn’t breathe,” a woman told a park ranger while in a huff to check out of a campsite along the Lake Tahoe shoreline. “We were going to go on a bike ride, but last night sucked. We’re going straight home.”

With a fire raging on its southern flanks, the Yosemite Valley was closed on July 23 and it remained closed early this week. Air quality in Yosemite, said the Chronicle, rivaled that of Beijing. There, concentrations of fine particulates called PM 2.5—which measure 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller—are regularly six times higher than World Health Organization recommendations.

In Idaho, PM 2.5 was bad enough at Sun Valley and Ketchum that on at least one recent day everybody was advised to stay indoors and keep the windows shut. Children, people with lung disease and the elderly were advised to stay indoors on several days.

California had giant fires last fall, continuing into December. During one smoke advisory, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health advised schools to suspend physical activities like gym, cancel after-school sports and keep windows and doors closed. If air conditioning in homes drew air from outside, people were advised to go to libraries and other designated air shelters with better-than-average air filtration systems, reports Sierra Magazine. British Columbia also has designated clean air shelters.

PM 2.5 poses a danger to older people, too. Inhaling that PM 2.5 can turn the body’s clotting system on and increase the risk of heart attacks or strokes, he said. PM 2.5 can be safely filtered with N95 or N100-type particulate masks. Such masks can be purchased at Walmart, Lowes, and other big-box retailers.

Fires have been growing larger and increasing in frequency during the last 30 years in the West. British Columbia was in a state of emergency for 70 days due to wildfire, the longest in the history of the province.

Harper’s Magazine points out that fires rarely exceeded 10,000 acres in size through much of the 20th century. Then, in 1988, a fire called Canyon Creek burned for months, covering 250,000 acres. It was an anomaly then. Not so much now. Blazes of more than 100,000 acres are called megafires. By Monday evening, the Yosemite fire was getting close.

Price points keep rising for mountain real estate

JACKSON, Wyo. – Average price of single-family homes in Jackson Hole during the first half of the year rose 31 percent, hitting $ 2.33 million.

David Viehman, a real estate agent who curates real estate data, tells the Jackson Hole News&Guide that 37 homes sold for more than $3 million and two of them for more than $10 million. The cheapest home in the single-family category was a two-bedroom cabin that went for $565,000.

Fueling the rising prices is the continued rise of the stock market. Real estate agents say Wyoming, with its low taxes, is a favorite place to stow wealth. And, of course, Jackson Hole is a lovely place in every season.

Aspen and Jackson Hole at top of another national list

ASPEN, Colo. – The average age of first-time mothers in the United States is now at 26, up from 21 in 1972, reports the New York Times. For fathers it’s 31, up from 27.

But in some places the age for a parenthood is higher yet. Pitkin County, where Aspen is located, is No. 3 in the nation with an average age for first-time mothers of 31.1 years, and Teton County, more familiarly known as Jackson Hole, is No. 7 at 30.6 years of age.

Adjoining areas to the ski towns, such as Teton County, Idaho, for Jackson Hole and Garfield County, for Aspen, had more traditional statistics. But all the ski counties, such as Idaho’s Blaine County (Ketchum and Sun Valley) and Utah’s Summit County (Park City) stood out on the New York Times map.

San Francisco leads the nation at 31.9 years, followed by Manhattan. In general, first-time mothers in large cities were older, and those in more rural places, such as the Great Plains, much younger.

The numbers were derived from a study of birth certificates conducted by Caitlin Myers, a Middlebury economist who studies reproductive policy.

The Times reports that researchers believe the differences in when women start families is a symptom of the nation’s inequality. The age of motherhood is correlated with education. Women with college degrees have children an average of seven years later than those without—and often use those years in between to finish school and build their careers and incomes.

The Times also points to research by law professors June Carbone and Naomi Cahn. In a 2010 book they studied how red and blue, or Republican and Democratic, families were living different lives. Young mothers are more likely to be conservative and religious, to value traditional gender roles and to reject abortion. Older mothers tend to be liberal, and to split breadwinning and caregiving responsibilities more equally with men, they found.

Another solar farm as co-op pushes for 100% renewables

EAGLES NEST, N.M. – Another 4,000 solar panels have been erected in the service territory of Taos-based Kit Carson Electric, part of a determined push by the electrical co-op to harness solar power in sunny northern New Mexico.

With this latest installation near the Angel Fire ski area, Kit Carson now has nine megawatts of solar capacity, enough to supply 24 percent of the daytime load of the cooperative members. More than twice that amount of solar energy is scheduled to be completed yet this year.

In 2016, Kit Carson broke from its long-time electrical supplier, Tri-State Generation & Transmission. Tri-State provides power to a broad swath of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming, including Durango, Telluride, and Crested Butte. It has been expanding its ownership of renewable generation but still remains heavily invested in coal-fired generation.

In breaking with Tri-State, Kit Carson aligned with Guzman Energy, which purchases power on the wholesale market to supply the needs of Taos and outlying areas. It also committed Kit Carson to investing heavily in solar energy. Kit Carson and Guzman say that hitching their wagon to solar, instead of coal, will save the co-op’s 30,000 members $50 million to $70 million during the next decade.

With Guzman as financier, Kit Carson plans to develop up to 35 megawatts of small solar arrays by 2020. That will meet 34 percent of all electrical demand and 100 percent during daylight hours on sunny days.

In coming months, Kit Carson also plans to implement a battery technology demonstration project.

Kit Carson was chosen by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for a study of how solar energy can be used to improve the affordability, reliability, and resilience of the electrical grid serving rural areas. The study will embrace tools of the Solar Energy Innovation Network.

Luis Reyes, chief executive of Kit Carson, says the goal of the project is to “demonstrate that renewable energy can be technically integrated into a rural grid in a way that allows all members access to renewable energy, rather than only a few members. This project will provide a pathway for other rural cooperatives, municipalities and communities to enter into the deployment of distributed energy resources given the fast pace of the changing market and member desires.”

Telluride always close by, thanks to three webcams

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Fred Graflun owns a home in Telluride but lives in Memphis. But three or four times a week when in Memphis he will get on the internet to see what it’s looking like in Telluride.

Three webcams perched above Telluride’s main street, Colorado Avenue, can tell him whether it’s smoky or snowy in Telluride. He can even watch the Fourth of July parade, reports the Telluride Daily Planet.

Two of the web cameras belong to the Telluride Tourism Board. The third belongs to a real estate firm.

But the webcams are also used by locals, including Richard Estes, the street supervisor. “Before we do a street closure, I can see how impactful it’s going to be,” he says.

Big Sky Resort joins the Mountain Collective pass

ASPEN, Colo. – The buddy ski pass program called the Mountain Collective continues to grow. The Aspen Skiing Co. announced this week that Montana’s Big Sky Resort and the Niseko United Resort in northern Japan have been added. The latter was an affiliate but this coming ski season will become a full partner. The alliance now has 17 destinations. the passes include two days of skiing or riding at each and 50 percent discount on all additional days. Prices run $499.

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