Weather splits North America

TELLURIDE — It’s been a wet, wet August in the mountains of Colorado, but firecracker hot and dry in British Columbia. Does global warming have anything to do with either one?

Near Vail and Aspen, microbursts have caused waves of water and mud to flow across highways. And in Telluride, it has left the forests full of mushrooms.

This dampness bodes well for this weekend’s Telluride Mushroom Festival, now in its 30th year. “Boletes, chanterelles, hawkwings, oysters – everything’s out, and as it keeps raining, we can expect more edibles than ever before for this year’s Shroomfest,” said Art Goodtimes, the event organizer and poet-in-residence.

The festival has four days of all things fungal, including forays into the forests, lectures and tastings – of mushrooms, of course. And mushroom promoter Paul Stamets will travel from Washington State to explain how mycological spores can be used for everything from forest remediation and cleanup of oil spills to nontoxic insecticides and cardboard packing boxes.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, it has been hot and dry. Fires have popped up across the province, and fire danger at Whistler was classified as “extreme” beginning Aug. 12. Campfires are banned, and even use of power tools within 20 meters (about 33 feet) of forests has been banned.

Squamish, located downvalley from Whistler, had a record-breaking temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit. More stunning than the temperature was that it broke the old record by nine degrees.

While climate scientists repeatedly warn against ascribing any one thing to global warming, this increased warmth does fit in with a trend. Despite the cold weather of North America’s East Coast last winter and snow in places like Houston and Dallas, 2010 has been the hottest year on the planet since reliable record-keeping began in 1880, scientists from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration reported recently.

But how about the big rainstorms? While certainly not talking about the rain in Colorado this summer, theNew York Times asked climate scientists whether the more global extremes – the floods in Pakistan, for example – can be attributed to the accumulating greenhouse gases. “Probably,” they said.

Changes in store for The Canyons

PARK CITY, Utah — There are big changes in store for The Canyons, one of the three ski areas at Park City. There will be more employees, a new high-speed quad, and more snowmaking – plus a new name. Sort of.

The new name will simply be Canyons, as in, “We were going to Deer Valley, but instead went to Canyons.”

The new lift will increase uphill capacity by 47 percent.

In addition, the bottom terminus of the existing gondola will be moved closer to the parking lot, so people don’t have to walk as far. The company also plans to expand snowmaking and add 100 employees.

The company, Talisker, gained control of the ski area several years after a bidding war with Vail Resorts. The ski area had been the last property in the one-time ski empire called American Skiing, one of three chains that were busy acquiring ski areas in 1997. The other two were Intrawest and Vail Resorts. American Skiing is now gone, Intrawest greatly diminished and only Vail seems interested in – and capable of – growing.

Jackson voters open checkbook

JACKSON, Wyo. — These may be hard times, but voters in Teton County bellied up to approve a raft of spending measures. The $34 million will be generated in three to four years.

The largest single project will be $11.75 million for new surgery rooms, more treatment areas for chemotherapy treatment, and other improvements at the local hospital, Saint John’s. Also getting the nod were a $850,000 pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the Gros Ventre River between Jackson and Grand Teton National Park, and $3.8 million in upgrades to various public buildings to reduce energy use.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide notes that an estimated 60 percent of the sales tax collections come from residents of the valley. The average annual cost for each resident is about $50. This is not a tax increase, as voters had chosen to continue the tax.

Foreclosures rising in Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE — Foreclosures continue to rise in Gunnison County. TheCrested Butte News reports 130 already this year, outpacing last year when altogether 183 foreclosures were started.

That eclipsed the old record of 132, set in 1987. And it also compared with just 10 in 2006 at the height of the real estate boom.

How many properties in this current wave of foreclosures can be traced to Crested Butte itself? County Treasurer Melody Marks said all price ranges and parts of the large, ranching-dominated county have been affected.

Revelstoke nears ban on herbicides

REVELSTOKE, B.C. — Revelstoke looks ready to go ahead with a citywide ban on herbicides and pesticides. Crucial in removing lingering doubts were presentations by the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

From the Cancer Society, the council heard of links between pesticides and certain cancers, reports theRevelstoke Times Review. The newspaper says that the rail

road, highway and other rights of way would be exempted from the ban, as would fungicides for use at the local golf course.

In British Columbia, 31 municipalities have banned pesticides and herbicides. A strong public education component has been the norm, one city official told the elected officials.

Ketchum cold to highway wall

KETCHUM, Idaho — County commissioners in Blaine County have taken a cool position on a proposed noise-mitigation wall along the highway that bisects the Ketchum/Sun Valley area.

The wall would be 8 feet tall but not much more than a few football fields long. The primary beneficiaries would be the residents of a trailer park. From a report in theIdaho Mountain Express, it sounds like the wall would diminish the sound only slightly. Better might be a reduced speed limit. But, at any rate, commissioners would prefer something less stark than a wall – say an earthen berm or a wooden fence.

Vail also has been tortured by highway noise. The town several years ago flirted with erecting walls, but concluded that because sound rises, and homes rise rapidly on hillsides above the town, walls would do little good. Instead, the town vowed to clamp down on speeding motorists, as the faster the truck or car, the greater the volume of sound. The speed limit through the town is 65 mph.

Bob Dylan wows in Jackson Hole

JACKSON, Wyo. — Wearing a broad-brimmed hat and alternating between the keyboard, guitar and harmonica, Bob Dylan played before 3,000 people at Snow King, a ski resort in Jackson. Reviewing the show, theJackson Hole News&Guide says that Dylan had the crowd with him from the third song moving forward.

Still, the newspaper’s reviewer thought the show sterile at times and over-polished. The reviewer also noted that Dylan never spoke to the crowd. “He could have been playing anywhere at any time.”

But does Dylan ever speak to his audiences?

Camper injured by lodgepole pine

FRISCO — For the last several years, U.S. Forest Service officials have been warning that dead trees eventually fall. And there are plenty of dead trees now in northern Colorado, around places like Breckenridge, Vail and Winter Park. One of them fell recently near Frisco, along Interstate 70, when two backpackers decided to tie up swing hammocks. One of the trees they tied to fell over, injuring the camper sufficiently enough that he was flown to Denver for treatment.

– Allen Best

Fraser voters to weigh-in on dispensaries

FRASER — Voters in Fraser, a town located adjacent to Winter Park, will decide in November whether dispensaries of marijuana will be allowed within the town. Normally, town boards and councils have made that decision. Breckenridge said yes, Vail no. But the Fraser Town Board has always tried to achieve consensus. In this case, explained Jeff Durbin, the town manager, it was clear that no such consensus was possible. One trustee strongly opposed the marijuana dispensaries, while others were inclined to support it. The unwritten policy is, “If there’s enough disagreement among us, let’s just take it to the voters and see what they think.”

– Allen Best

 

In this week's issue...

May 2, 2019
In the flow

Rafting season is already under way on the Animas River, which has been flowing at near record levels and almost double the average rate for this time of year.

April 25, 2019
Laying down the law

Over the past couple decades, Jeff Robbins’ work as an  oil and gas lawyer – with a specific focus on serving local communities – allowed him to build relationships and gain the experience needed to carry out one of Colorado’s most sweeping reforms to oil and gas regulations, Senate Bill 181. 

April 18, 2019
A new kind of cold war

It’s a good thing Heidi Steltzer can’t tolerate the heat or the open ocean. “I thought I wanted to be a marine biologist, and I got seasick,” said Steltzer, a professor in the Biology Department and Environmental Science program at Fort Lewis College.