Roger Marolt: A mid-summer dream up in smoke
When I think what global warming might do to Aspen, I think of skiing — the end of it, mostly. It could happen. We have not seen normal winters lately.
The winter of 2018 was one of the driest in my lifetime. In 2019 it snowed so hard the largest avalanches any living Aspenite can remember roared down our mountainsides, huffing and puffing and blowing down sections of forest, leaving them like an angry game of giant Pixy Stix on valley floors. Nobody remembers what the winter of 2020 was like. The one just past was dry as dust until March and then pretty snowy after that. In the record books it will appear close to “normal.”
What the sum of recent seasons adds up to is severe drought, so the trend has not been favorable for consistently great skiing or lush lawns at an affordable price or with clear conscience.
What I rarely think about anymore is sitting around a campfire in the woods. Only oblivious and/or crazy people do that nowadays. Roasting marshmallows at a campsite is playing with fire.
I haven’t thought about global warming’s impact on our summers enough. I’ve considered briefly that a permanent warming trend might be good for Aspen. We have great summers and I think more visitors like an average June afternoon better than a powdery February morning. Extending summer on both ends might be good for business. More mountain biking, fishing, golf, hiking, paddleboarding, and just lazing around downtown on a warm evening looking for a place to have a beer outside.
This was making sense, then I got the shivers the other evening at the Thursday evening concert on Fanny Hill. All was brilliantly good until a friend directed my lazy eyes toward the western ridge line over our shoulders to the west. Sure enough, there it was; the grayish brown wispy cloud cover that was smoke. I thought of the long stretch last summer when from here to California there were so many fires that from Earth’s orbit it must have looked like Moses’ birthday cake. In Aspen it looked like a whiteout. The air was too thick to see through, much less breath safely. It was more confining than COVID-19.
Forest fires have locals worried. It feels like the new summer thing to do, replacing marveling at the neon brilliance of budding and blossoming flora in June. We loved the clear blue skies in May, but now they’re making us nervous.
There was a magnificent thunderhead towering east of Hunter Creek on Monday evening. I’ve not seen much like it. The storm’s location was east of Leadville, yet it dominated a quadrant of our sky from more than 50 miles away, glowing lustrously orange with the sunset reflecting off it. Clear skies all around provided a clean backdrop to view the natural wonder. Yet, more than awe, it brought fear and worry to many witnessing it. They believed it was a forest fire, if for no other reason than because that seems more likely than rain.
There have been official suggestions that residents and visitors note escape routes nearest them in case of a wildfire. There are only two ways out of the valley, so the real planning only involves finding the quickest way to Highway 82 and then turning right or left. Even that may be decided for us. A big fire would likely block one exit or the other.
I used to think my Snowmass Village neighborhood was wildfire-proof. I believed that until I recalled the Coal Seam fire in Glenwood Springs 19 years ago jumping both I-70 and the Colorado River in a single bound. Experts are saying a major fire here involving property loss and even human life is a matter time. Maybe it has been a reality since the founding of our town, but this is the first I have heard of it. We want to believe this kind of disaster couldn’t happen here, but it has happened all around us, from Malibu to Napa to Boulder and even Basalt.
And, what if it isn’t even fire that harms us? What if it’s smoke? What if monsoon season is permanently replace with smoke season every July and August. If you can’t see the mountains, Aspen isn’t all that much better a vacation spot than San Bernardino. We can build a thousand miles of hiking and biking trails, but what good is that if we can’t breathe? SOS! — Save Our Summers.
Roger Marolt was going to make a joke about smoked turkey to describe our economy, but that wouldn’t even be funny. email@example.com
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