Marolt: Opulent living and reaping big rewards
Wouldn’t you know, just as soon as we get all the walks and driveways shoveled and the back streets plowed, the midwinter thaw shows up to do what little is left in the snow-removal effort. After having dug my own house out after the big beginning-of-February dump, I can’t say that I blame it for showing up late.
Now that we are over the face shots and sore backs, though, I think it’s appropriate to look back while it’s still relatively fresh in our minds and give the storm an objective evaluation. Officially, according to always-suspicious Aspen Skiing Co. on-mountain measurements taken by completely biased who-knows-whos in the predawn hours out in the woods on the tops of stormy mountains before the coffee is brewed, we received 37 inches of snow in three days. Supposedly, that ekes it into the 10th position on the list of our region’s largest storms in the past 37 years. In other words, we get a storm like this about once every presidential-election cycle. That seems about right and allows us to follow the political lead for playing loose with the facts and telling tall tales.
OK, so, does that local weather-ranking record make it an “epic” storm? Well, it depends. The recent storm gave us three days in a row of fresh, foot-deep powder. Man, was that great! But, every once in a while, it seems like even less than once every four years, we get a 20-inch-plus dump overnight. Those don’t qualify as top-10 storms, but it is a whole bunch of snow in a short period of time. They are incredible days where you have to be careful where you go on the mountain because, if you end up in a place without enough pitch, you are just going slowly straight down the hill or, worse, pulling and pushing your way out of there.
There are also those winters where it seems to snow every single night, nothing huge ever, but by April the snow is piled up to the rafters. The winter of 1984 was like that. How can I be so sure? Well, I’m certainly not going to credit my memory, if that’s what you are ready to impugn.
That was the year I graduated from college. I have photographic proof of us that May skiing off a 30-foot-high cornice on Mountain Boy at the top of Independence Pass. Near the bottom of the slope, we made sweeping GS turns around chunks of it that had already calved off the monstrous snow wall that were the size of, then, West End Victorians. I remember skiing every day over Christmas break that year, and I recall toward the end of the four weeks making comments about how long it had been since we had seen the sun.
Every night it seemed we got 4 or 6 inches of fresh snow. The tourists hated it. In those days of infrequent trail grooming by pulling a corrugated culvert behind a four-track snowcat, they couldn’t see or ski through the deep, soft, uneven snow. It was almost impossible to fly into town and as difficult to get out. After New Year’s, a lot of people quit trying, and it turned out to be a less-than-stellar year for business, even rivaling some of our notorious pre-snowmaking drought years. This I remember because my dad was in the ski business and it was the only time I ever remember people in that circle talking about the paradox of getting too much snow in a ski town.
My point is that great snow comes in odd doses, and, so far at least, global-warming-induced climate change may be altering the way our winters work, but we are still having good winters. I suspect the records might even show that we may have had some of our best snowfall years ever since the planetary winds began to blow warmer.
It’s not to dismiss the impacts of greenhouse gases that are created through modern living. It is to demonstrate that some parts of the world do and will continue to benefit from the byproduct of human excess. Is it irony that our opulent corner of the world that stamps a comparatively large carbon footprint might actually be benefiting from bigger winter storms and even warmer summers elsewhere? More directly, does global warming make our lives more enjoyable? If the answer is “yes,” which it might honestly be, how do we prevent ourselves from being even more disconnected from the rest of the planet?
Roger Marolt believes campaigns like Protect Our Winters and Save Our Snow might be too selfish in their focus to be effective. Email email@example.com.
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Riders must transfer buses to get from Aspen to Snowmass this week; uphill travel closes at Aspen Mountain and reopens at Aspen Highlands.