Ridgway artist Lisa Issenberg again tasked with hand-making the unique awards that will go to the top athletes this week at Buttermilk

Austin Colbert

For the third straight year, Ridgway artist Lisa Issenberg, of Kiitella studios, created the X Games Aspen medals. The 2022 design includes a piece of sustainably sourced aspen wood along with the metal.
Photo courtesy of ESPN

When the X Games athletes come to Aspen each year to compete, they often leave a bit of themselves behind, both physically and emotionally. This winter, the ESPN staff wanted to make sure the stars who make the podium also go home with a piece of Aspen, both physically and emotionally.

“We wanted to capture something iconic from this majestic location,” said Brian Kerr, ESPN’s associate director of competitions, who is in charge of the X Games medal design. “We wanted something these professional ski and snowboard phenoms could take back to their homes and not only feel proud that they podiumed at the ultimate action sports event that is X Games, but they would also remember where they were when they won, to take a piece of Aspen, Colorado, home with them.”

The X Games Aspen 2022 medals — including the knuckle huck rings and Rocket League awards — were again created by Colorado artist Lisa Issenberg. The founder and owner of Kiitella studio — a Finnish word meaning “to thank, applaud or praise” — in Ridgway, Issenberg first made the X Games medals in 2020 before also returning last winter.

She’s known for making many other awards, as well, from the Birds of Prey World Cup ski races at Beaver Creek to Aspen Skiing Co.’s own Power of Four events. Issenberg’s Ridgway studio has long been located in the same building as that of famed artist John Billings, who among other projects makes the Grammy awards.

For the third straight year, Ridgway artist Lisa Issenberg of Kiitella studios created the X Games Aspen medals. The 2022 design includes a piece of sustainably sourced aspen wood along with the metal.
Photo courtesy of Kiitella

“Brian Kerr’s vision was the spark for this year’s design,” Issenberg said. “He wanted to somehow capture that feeling one has of standing in a thick aspen grove … those perfectly round, white trees, with thick, smooth bark … a feeling of natural perfection and serenity.”

Unique to this year’s medals is the use of wood. Inlaid in the design is an actual piece of an aspen tree, which was sustainably harvested locally from either standing dead trees or trees that had already been knocked over by wind or avalanche.

This meshes with how Issenberg works with metal, which is all highly recycled with minimal waste created during the crafting process. That waste is even then recycled.

This year’s medals are round with “Aspen ’22” etched into the outside edges, with a gold, silver or bronze colored X Games logo making up the center. The inside of that “X” is cutout from the metal, with the aspen wood showing through. The famed X Games globe is burned into the wood in the center.

“The (wood) discs were turned on the lathe to fit perfectly within a slice of thick-walled steel pipe, which in terms of design represents the thick bark,” Issenberg explained. “All together, the medal synthesizes as an outside-the-box, custom-made hefty mixed-media work of art, melding industrial processes with handmade … with the intention to significantly honor the athletes’ incredible talent and accomplishment, and creatively represent the X Games brand.”

Medals are awarded to the top three placers in each event, outside of knuckle huck, with only the winner getting a ring. Kerr said along with each medal the athletes will receive a written description about the award that explains the aspen wood.

“Each medal is created by hand and just like the beautiful Aspen snowflakes that fall from the sky around here, no two are exactly the same,” Kerr said. “The medals look like they were forged on the banks and taken directly out of the Roaring Fork River moments ago, and we couldn’t be happier with the end result.”

X Games Aspen returns to Buttermilk Ski Area, beginning Friday and running through Sunday. Unlike the 2021 contest, which was closed to spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event will again be open to fans, although proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be needed for in-person viewing at Buttermilk.



LISTEN· 17:50

Monday marks the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. Below is a transcript of his celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. NPR’s Talk of the Nation aired the speech in 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders gather before a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington.National Archives/Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. 


A climber turned conservationist, Rick Reese leaves a monumental outdoor legacy Pioneering educator-activist and Salt Lake City native dies at 79 after a lifetime of saving lives and landscapes.


Rick Reese, who influenced a generation or two of environmental activists, outdoor educators and alpinists in his native Utah and beyond, died Jan. 9 at his home in Montana. Over his 79 years, he built a conservation legacy that celebrated a larger view of what environmental protection means and led to the establishment of Utah’s beloved Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

While Reese was best known for his activism in Montana, as a co-founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, he was one of Salt Lake City’s native sons who pushed the limits of Wasatch rock climbing when the sport was in its infancy, according to his longtime friend and climbing partner Ted Wilson.

Wilson recalled meeting the younger Reese for the first time when Reese was still a student at East High School and had just returned from a climb up Washington’s Mount Rainier. The year was 1959 and they have been close friends ever since, sharing numerous adventures and occasional disagreements.

Over the years of putting up routes in the Wasatch, Wilson observed how Reese combined courage and physical strength with caution.

“He could do both at the same time. He approached life that way,” said Wilson, who went on to become a Salt Lake City mayor. ”He was strong, but he understood there are forces bigger than him, in life and in climbing, that he had to honor. He did that with pure principles.”

Reese was born in Salt Lake City in 1942. Fresh out of high school, he joined the National Guard and was deployed to Germany during the Berlin airlift, according to Reese’s obituary. He returned home to study political science at the University of Utah, where he met his wife Mary Lee, and later in graduate school at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

Reece would later serve the U. as director of community relations. While pursuing his undergraduate degree, he worked summers as a climbing ranger at Grand Teton National Park and later pioneered routes in the Wasatch that remain unmatched to this day.

“The finest line in the Wasatch for trad climbers and most natural line is Triple Overhangs that he established in the 1960s in the Lone Peak Cirque” with Fred Beckey and Bob Irvine, said Peter Metcalf, co-founder of the Black Diamond Equipment. “But when it came down to conservation, his legacy is incredible. He was one of Utah’s, if not Utah’s greatest-ever conservationist, not to mention pioneer climber.”

As park rangers in 1960s, Reese and his colleagues invented the techniques, practically on the fly, for rescuing people in vertical terrain. With Wilson, Pete Sinclair and four other rangers, he pulled off what is considered “the most advanced, technical, gutsy, courageous rescue” on the Grand Teton’s north face in 1967, according to Metcalf. That feat was memorialized in a 2013 film, The Grand Rescue, by Wilson’s daughter Jenny Wilson and Meredith Lavitt.

“Reese was known as the team’s strongest climber,” said Reece’s bio for the film. “It was not only his ability to move quickly over mountain terrain that distinguished him, but also his unflappability when things got serious.”

It was this experience that helped Reese hone his famous idea for a “Greater Yellowstone.”

“While we were Jenny Lake rangers, he’d say, ‘Yellowstone and Teton [national parks] are great places, but they’ve got to be bigger. These animals don’t stop at the border; they graze, the grizzly is threatened. We need to protect their food sources,’” Wilson said. “And he went on and on and on about that, and he just kept talking to people. He met with the Park Service people and expanded the idea.”

That led to the founding of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in 1983, promoting the concept that protecting Yellowstone also means protecting the ecosystem surrounding the two national parks.

“He made that a force for extended new wilderness,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of new wilderness up there because of Rick.”It was that kind of thinking that inspired the designation of expansive Western national monuments—Missouri River Breaks, Basin and Range, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears—that sought to blanket entire landscapes with protection.

Reese later confounded Mountain Journal with journalist Todd Wilkinson, which continues to report on the relationship between people and the land of the Greater Yellowstone Region.

Reese also served as a mentor and adviser to Save Our Canyons, according to executive director Carl Fisher, who relied on Reese’s guidance fending off development in the central Wasatch Range.

“His love of Western landscapes is rooted in the Wasatch,” Fisher said. “He went on to achieve great things.”

Among those was the establishment of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee in the 1990s with Jim Byrne to develop the now-famous trail following the contours of the ancient Lake Bonneville. Today the trail is used by thousands of Wasatch Front residents every day, seeking a respite in nature at the edge of Utah’s busy urban landscape.

Celebrations of Reese’s life will be held this spring in Bozeman, Mont., and Salt Lake City.
Read the Mountain Journal Article

new roommate at Rancho Desperado

Friday night the new roommate arrived at el Rancho

checked out neuva casa
moved in his expensive personal belongings
found his new favorite pillow
met the other roommates
brought his own CDOT male purse (customized from an old
explosive bag)
for transport when tired
then siesta

Why You May Be Experiencing a Mental Midwinter ~ The School of Life


Every year, nature quietly takes us through a moral lesson that has much to teach us about how we might relate to certain of the more dispiriting and despair-inducing moments in our own development. Beginning in mid-October in the northern hemisphere, the temperature drops, the nights draw in, the earth turns cold and hard, fog lies low over the land and rain drives hard across the austere, comatose grey-brown landscape. There is nothing immediate we can hope for; now we have nothing to do but wait, with resigned patience, until something better shows up.

Far more than we can generally accept, our minds too have cycles. We cannot be permanently fruitful or creative, excited or open. There are necessary times of retrenchment when, whatever we might desire, there seems no alternative but to stop. We can no longer be productive; we lose direction and inspiration. We are immovably numb and sterile.

It can be easy to panic: why should such a paralysed and detached mood have descended on our formerly lively minds? Where have all our ideas and hopes gone? What has happened to our previous animation and gladness?

We should at such times take reassurance from the late November landscape. Certainly things are lifeless, cold and in suspension. But this is not the end of the story; the earth is like this not as a destination but as a phase. The deadness is a prelude to new life; the fallow period is a guarantor of fecund days to come. All living organisms need to recharge themselves, old leaves have to give way, tired limbs must rest. The dance and ferment could not go on. It may look as if nothing at all is happening, as though this is a trance without purpose. Yet, deep underground, at this very moment, nutrients are being gathered, the groundwork for future ebullience and dynamism is being laid down, another summer is very slowly collecting its strength.

As nature seeks to tell us, we cannot permanently be in flower. We need moments of repose and confusion. There is nothing to fear. Things will re-emerge. We should make our peace with our own midwinters — and lean on nature’s wise accommodation to strengthen us in our pursuit of serenity and patience.







two people stand near the roaring blaze of a wildfire

Two locals try to control a fire on the outskirts of the town of El Bolsón. The fire was unleashed on January 24, 2021 by a campfire. It lasted more than 45 days and burned thousands of hectares of forest.

the charred remains of a house seen at dusk with the blue sky and stars moving from a long exposure
The remains of a house burned during the voracious fire of March 9, 2021, at the north entrance to the town of El Hoyo, in Chubut, Argentina.
a man stands in front of a fire place, all that remains of his home, illuminated in the night by a red lantern
 Gustavo Zaninelli stands in the remains of a burned house that he completed just two weeks before it was burned down. He is illuminated with a red lantern next to the brick fireplace, the only element that survived the fire.
a man and woman sit near a small contained campfire
Francisco with his Aunt Olga in front of a small campfire in El Hoyo. They are taking care of their family’s land, which was burned on March 9, 2021.

Already, climate-caused conditions—drought and heat—are bringing about what scientists in Argentina term “catastrophic change,” resulting in more fragile ecosystems and more severe and damaging fires, fueled by non-native pine trees that thrive in their ruins.

The new fire season off to a fast start 

The new fire season, which is just a few weeks old, has only reinforced the predictions—and heightened dread and worry over the summer season for the people who live there. So far, 15 fires of different sizes have erupted in three of the five Patagonia provinces in Argentina.

About this map

Several fires are burning out of control, and officials have warned that if weather conditions do not change, the fire could reach Villegas and Manso, forcing the evacuation of 2,000 residents. The fires have already claimed lives: one of eight helicopters fighting the fires crashed, killing two crew members. Last week, the Argentine government declared a state of emergency, which is expected to last for a year.

“The fact that this is happening so early in the summer season is very striking,” says Thomas Kitzbergerm, who studies forest fires and climate change at Argentina’s National University of Comahue. “…But it does not surprise me at all.”

young pine trees growing in clear rows with a winding path through a thicket
The Puerto Patriada area, burned in the summer of 2015, is invaded with Pino Radiata pine trees, which are adapted to fire and burns easily. 

Last winter, Patagonia had the lowest snow cover in 20 years; several ski centers, including La Hoya in Chubut, had to close and Cerro Catedral, the most important complex in the country, received so little snow it could operate only by creating it artificially.

“Many indicators suggest that northern Patagonia is both drying up and getting warmer,” says Kitzberger. “That combination is explosive. Plant tissues are deficient in water, and that’s a big factor in flammability.”

Records of ash on Patagonian lakebeds date back 15,000 years to when glaciers receded and were replaced by magnificent forests. Fires once occurred naturally, caused by lightning strikes or volcanic eruptions; they are now predominantly started by humans. According to the Argentine Ministry of the Environment, “in the Patagonian Andean region, 7 percent of fires are due to nature and 93 percent to humankind.”

a man sits on the rubble of his burnt home holding a shovel
Mariano Olmos next to the remains of his burned house in the Parcela 26 neighborhood, in Lago Puelo, Argentina. He escaped the fire by running; he saved his little dog inside his jacket. 

Notably, last summer’s fire in the Comarca Andina forest burned in the wildland-urban interface, the zone of transition between wilderness and land developed for human activity. The region has long attracted newcomers, ranging from hippies in the 1960s to billionaires, including Italian fashion designer and entrepreneur Luciano Benetton and British magnate Joseph Lewis, who acquired millions of acres of Patagonian land in the 1990s.

The population of El Bolsón, the nerve center of La Comarca Andina, is 30,000—triple what it was in 1991. Recently, school officials have received so many requests to enroll new students in the area’s 44 rural schools, they have had to turn some away, according to local accounts.

“The main issue is that in pursuing the dream of living close to nature, people are moving to rural areas,” says Guillermo Defossé teaches forest ecology at the University of Patagonia and has spent more than 30 years studying the why and how of forest fires.

“As populations grow, the risk of fire increases,” he adds. “If people wish to live where nature is relatively untouched, they must first know the risks involved. They should also know all the ways to prevent, minimize, and mitigate the effects of fire in the various circumstances in which it may occur.”

Pine forests are more flammable

Despite the population growth and climate change, scientists were still left to wonder why, in the half million square miles of Patagonia, did the fire burn so fiercely in La Comarca Andina?

This seemingly ancient forest—unlike others in Patagonia—is mainly northern pine, planted in the 1970s on what were largely abandoned grasslands once used for grazing. The grass had replaced the old-growth forest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the wool industry was at its peak and sheep farming was big business in Argentina. By the 1950s, however, wool was being replaced by synthetic fibers derived from petroleum, and sheep farming was in steep decline.

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Magic Ebbs From Colombian Town That Informed an Author’s Work ~ ARACATACA JOURNAL ~ NYT


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A shrine for Gabriel García Márquez, a Nobel Prize winner, in the writer’s hometown of Aracataca, which served as the model for the fictitious town of Macondo in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”Credit...Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

ARACATACA, Colombia — Beyond the cellphone stores and the motorcycles buzzing like flies in the 100-degree heat, the hometown of Gabriel García Márquez still has some magic in it.

It is still a place where dilapidated wooden houses hide shady gardens that hint at furtive mysteries, where a 96-year-old woman gets her toenails painted pink and keeps songbirds in cages, and where squealing children swim in irrigation canals flowing beside sun-blasted streets.

Mr. García Márquez, the Nobel Prize-winning writer who died at age 87 on Thursday, will be remembered at a memorial service in Mexico City on Monday, attended by the presidents of Colombia and Mexico and cultural luminaries (though perhaps none who shines as brightly as Mr. García Márquez, who has been called the most famous writer on the planet).

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Mr. García Márquez left this dusty town when he was still a boy, but he later reached back to his time here as the source for his greatest work, defined by a style known as magical realism. Aracataca became the model for Macondo, the town that serves as the stage for his masterwork, “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
Most of his time here was spent in the home of his maternal grandparents, where he soaked up the stories told by his grandmother and other relatives. He said that it was his grandmother’s matter-of-fact way of telling the most fantastic stories that inspired the narrator’s voice in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Now the site of his grandparents’ home, where he was born and which fed the vibrant world of his fiction, has been turned into a tidy museum. Parts of the original wood home remained until a few years ago, but that was all knocked down and rebuilt, according to the museum director, Daniel López.

In its place is a neat, whitewashed structure that in some ways resembles a Swiss chalet more than the local wood architectural style it is meant to mimic.

Much of Mr. García Márquez’s adult life was spent in Mexico, where he died last Thursday. He was cremated and the Colombian ambassador to Mexico said that a portion of his ashes would be brought home to Colombia, although it was not clear where they would reside.


A Custom Mercury Heads to Auction ~ NYT

The “Hirohata Merc,” commissioned in 1952 and one of the most famous custom cars of its era, is up for sale for the first time in over 60 years.

The Hirohata Merc, a Mercury custom built nearly 70 years ago, is expected to fetch at least $1 million at an auction this month. Credit…Mecum Auctions

Nearly 70 years ago, a 21-year-old Navy veteran commissioned a custom Mercury, with a chopped-down roof, smoothed-out body panels, a lowered stance, novel chrome trim, two-tone paint and a meticulously handcrafted interior. It was built by the same shop that would later create the Batmobile for the “Batman” TV series, and James Dean’s Merc in “Rebel Without a Cause” cut a similar style.

This 1951 Mercury stood out when the young vet, Masato Hirohata, who went by Bob, had it customized in 1952. And it remains an exemplar of a type of custom coach-building that developed around Los Angeles in the mid-20th century. Now, for the first time in over 60 years, the car — known as the Hirohata Merc — is for sale. It will cross the block on Jan. 15 at Mecum Auctions’ sale in Kissimmee, Fla.

“Among custom cars, the Hirohata Merc is as significant as they get,” said Casey Maxon, senior manager of heritage for the Hagerty Drivers Foundation. In collaboration with the Interior Department, the foundation administers the National Historic Vehicle Register — an inventory of individual automobiles with key significance in American culture. One of just 30 entries in the register, the Hirohata Merc epitomizes what Mr. Maxon calls “this masterful vernacular art form that came out of postwar California.”

Jim McNiel and his son, Scott, restored the Merc to its original glory. The McNiel family decided to put it up for auction.Credit…Mecum Auctions
“I have the ultimate hot rod, but I can’t do anything with it,” Scott McNiel said.Credit…Mecum Auctions

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