Mountain Town News

Mountain Town News
Allen Best - 11/15/2018

Difficulty in linking warming to skiing

BOULDER – In October, the International Panel on Climate Change said greenhouse gas emissions must fall 50 percent in the next 12 years if temperature increases are to be kept to only 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040.

The New York Times reported that sea ice in the Arctic will remain during most summers if the temperature rises only 1.5 ? C. However, if we miss that target and hit 2 ? C. (2.7 ? F vs. 3.6 ? F), ice-free summers will be 10 times more likely.

At the lesser temperature increase, 4 percent of vertebrates lose more than half their range. The number doubles to 8 percent at the higher temperature increase.

What will the increase mean for mountain towns? This level of prediction is impossible for ski town and valleys, several experts told Mountain Town News.

Cameron Wobus, a senior scientist at Lynker Technologies, says climate projections are not granular enough to say what will happen in Durango, Park City or other specific locations.

But Wobus does see advantages to precise estimates in communicating the risks of warming temperatures. In a 2018 paper published in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Wobus and others set out to reframe the future risk of extreme heat in the United States. One of their examples is startling: If the world continues on its current track, a teen-ager in eastern Montana in 2075 might experience maximum summer temperatures that his or her grandparents would have had to travel to the Mojave Desert to experience.

Similar reports for extreme precipitation and flood damages are being done for the Environmental Protection Agency, he says.

Andrew Jones, co-director of Climate Interactive, says that distinguishing between 1.5 and 2 ? C matters less than focusing on how to reduce causes of warming. “If you are driving from New York to California, there’s no point debating where to park in Los Angeles while you are only beginning to cross Pennsylvania,” he says.

Jeff Lukas, researcher at Western Water Assessment, a project at the University of Colorado-Boulder, similarly said impacts associated with a particular level of warming, either locally or globally, are difficult to quantify.

“We know that reducing emissions will reduce warming, but we don’t know how much,” he said.

Lukas was the lead author of a 2014 climate report in Colorado that synthesized a great deal of research. The vast majority of the projections in the report were qualitative, not quantitative, depicting the direction of change, not precisely the amount.

“Many of the numbers the New York Times piece provides have a completely unrealistic level of precision,” he wrote in a followup e-mail.

“Let’s say we assume the +1.5 C globally is equivalent to a +5 F above the 1971-2000 baseline for Colorado. Can I give numbers for the changes in snowpack, streamflow, heavy precipitation events and wildfires, associated with that 5 F warming? Sort of, but they’re going to be a very broad ranges. For impacts to Colorado ecosystems and species, no way.”

Off-site modulars win favor in ski towns

TRUCKEE, Calif. – A converted submarine manufacturing site in the San Francisco Bay Area has been turned into a factory for producing housing units for Truckee, 21⁄2 hours away along the crest of the Sierra Nevada.

Truckee’s Moonshine Ink reports that local construction costs have climbed 10 percent a year, primarily because of a tight labor market. But the 90-plus workers at the OS Factory can produce a housing unit a day. The first workers were hired in April. They are not employed along traditional craft lines. Workers, who are all represented by a single union, the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, can do various types of work, improving labor efficiencies.

As soon as December, the factory will begin delivering the first of 137 units of workforce rental housing at a project called Coburn Housing. Mike Foster, architect for the developer, Vail-based Triumph, told Moonshine Ink that the constricted labor pool and cramping of construction in Truckee made off-site construction advantageous.

The developer, however, must make hefty deposits in advance of production. Too, the Bay Area factory has limited production capacity. As such, Triumph is also getting units from factories in Boise and Pocatello, both in Idaho, and Waterton, S.D. A fourth factory will be used for a hotel in a bigger project, called Railyard.

Electric cars park for free in Aspen

ASPEN – Parking in Aspen is scarce enough that permits are even required for parking in residential zones. Since 2004, the city has had a policy of allowing electric and hybrid cars to park for free.

With such cars becoming common, the City Council reviewed whether to end the park-for-free policy. A compromise was adopted. Hybrids will have to pay $4 a day, half the full fare, and electric cars will continue to park free until 2020, reports The Aspen Times.

Painful memories 100 years after war

BANFF, Alberta – Sunday was the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. But the wounds of the war can be painful to read about a century later and across an ocean from the killing fields of France.

In Canada, a new film recalls the 24 internment camps in Banff and elsewhere in which 8,579 men from eastern Europe and the Ukraine were imprisoned. They had been determined to be enemy-aliens by a government that had only years earlier enticed them to settle in Canada with the promise of land and freedom.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook explains that filmmaker Ryan Boko’s new film, “That Never Happened,” focuses on the camp in Banff National Park. There, prisoners were used as virtual slave labor to build a highway, bridges, and a nine-hole golf course.

“We are as hungry as dogs. They are sending us to work, as they don’t believe us, and we are very weak,” wrote one of the inmates to his wife.

To avoid being accused of slave labor, the Canadian government paid the inmates 25 cents a day during a time when the prevailing wage for laborers was $2 to $3 a day.

In Colorado, 1,000 men from Routt County went off to war in various capacities. They came from Steamboat Springs and surrounding towns and ranches. Guy Utter, who came from a place called Cow Creek, was among those drafted. He wrote letters, worried about the work he had left behind and commented on how few women he saw.

He was shot at Verdun, at the age of 24, and died of his injuries in a nearby hospital during the waning days of the war.

A surviving niece, Nadine Arroyo, told the Steamboat Today she had inherited her uncle’s letters when her father died. “He did not want to be there,” she told the newspaper. “He was really worried because there was a lot of work on the ranch that needed to be done.”

Heavy voter turnout in many ski towns

JACKSON, Wyo. – An unusually high number of people voted last week compared to other mid-term elections. Ski towns, however, reported even higher numbers.

Nationally, 40 percent of qualified voters normally cast ballots in mid-term elections. Last week nearly 50 percent did. In Aspen, 61 percent turned out.

In Wyoming, nearly 81 percent of registered voters turned out in Teton County, reported the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Town Council and county commission elections may have boosted the numbers, but there was also a decision to make about tourism funding.

Shery Daigle, the Teton County clerk, says Jackson Hole has innate characteristics that typically produce large turnouts.

“We’re small enough that people care, compact enough that people are talking to their neighbors and their friends, and it’s big enough we have big-city problems in a small area,” she theorizes. “We’re definitely unique in many, many, many ways.”

Snow early, but it’s likely to be warm

BRECKENRIDGE – Hit by severe drought last winter, ski areas in southern Colorado and in New Mexico have had plentiful snowfall. Telluride has reported 42 inches of snow so far this season. Last

winter, it didn’t get that much snow until mid-January. Breckenridge and other resorts in Summit County also have white faces, but long-term weather forecasts suggest a winter that is milder and warmer than average.