By Bill Weir, CNN Chief Climate Correspondent

Tue February 28, 2023

Ivins, Utah

In a bright-red county in a state allergic to regulations, there is a ban on growing grass outside new businesses. Only 8% of a home’s landscaping can have a grass lawn in this booming corner of Utah, about a hundred miles northeast of Las Vegas

And if any developers want to add another country club to this golfing mecca, “I don’t know where they would get the water from,” said Zach Renstrom, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District. “And I’m telling you, I know where every drop of water is.”

Like lots of spots in the West, the combination of more people and less water makes for an uncertain future around St. George, Utah. While this winter’s generous snowpack could buy precious time, the entire Colorado River system remains in danger of crashing if water gets too low at Lakes Powell and Mead.

But that reality hasn’t stopped St. George from booming into the fastest growing metro area in the US two years running, according to the US Census Bureau, and Renstrom says that unless Utah builds a long-promised pipeline to pump water 140 miles from Lake Powell, their growth will turn to pain.

In the meantime, Lake Powell – the country’s second-largest reservoir – has struggled to serve even the places it currently provides water to. Last week it sank to the lowest water level since the reservoir was filled in the 1960s, and since 2000 has lost more than 150 feet.

“If we stop construction water, that act alone would lay off about 20% of our county,” Renstrom said. “We’ve made a commitment that we’re going to make sure to be good stewards of every single drop of water that’s already here and make sure we’re utilizing that. But when we look at our long-term growth and you know how much water we need, (the Lake Powell Pipeline) is still in our long-term plan.”

Washington County said it consumed about 50,000 acre feet of water in 2022, all of it supplied by the Virgin River which flows into the Colorado system and out of taps from Vegas to LA. An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre to the depth of one foot – roughly 326,000 gallons.

MARBLE CANYON, ARIZONA - JANUARY 1: Seen from atop the Historic Navajo Bridge the Colorado River flows toward Lees Ferry the only place within Glen Canyon where people are able to easily access the Colorado River from both sides in over 700 miles of Glen Canyon country on January 1, 2023 in Marble Canyon, Arizona. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

A showdown over Colorado River water is setting the stage for a high-stakes legal battle

A plan to pump 80,000 acre feet of water a year from Lake Powell to Sand Hollow Reservoir passed the Utah legislature in 2006 and met immediate opposition from environmental groups worried about fragile desert ecosystems. Fourteen dry years later in 2020, the Trump administration tried to fast-track the project’s environmental review but water managers from the other six Colorado River Basin states banded together to block it.

“The system is crashing and to be honest, it’s kind of incomprehensible to think of a diversion of that size that would serve 200,000 people in one county in southern Utah at this moment in time. There’s just not the water,” Matt Rice, Southwest Region Director of the nonprofit American Rivers told CNN. “We’re worried about every molecule of water that that we can deliver to Lake Powell and Lake Mead to protect critical hydroelectric infrastructure.”

While in legal limbo, the controversy brought fresh headlines in January when the mayor of the small Washington County town of Ivins called it “the Lake Powell pipe dream” during a public meeting.


~~~ WATCH ~~~

Alpinist and writer Lou Dawson searches for meaning and satisfaction in the mountains


Aspen Public Radio | By Kaya Williams

Published February 27, 2023

LISTEN • 4:32


Lou is a friend of mine from the old days.. we shared a few skiing and mountain adventures over the years. His new book “Avalanche Dreams” is soon to be published this spring. I was fortunate to read early versions of the memoir as a Beta reader … an interesting life revealed.


Mountaineer Lou Dawson faces the elements at Denali in 1973.
Mountaineer Lou Dawson faces the elements at Denali in 1973. Dawson will share stories and photos from a life of adventures in the mountains at a talk at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies on March 1. 

Local alpinist Lou Dawson was the first person to climb up and ski from the summit of every 14,000-foot peak in Colorado. He founded the ski touring website “Wild Snow,” and has written more than half a dozen guide books on backcountry skiing; his latest book, a memoir titled “Avalanche Dreams,” will be released later this year.

Dawson will present a “Potbelly Perspectives” talk at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) Hallam Lake Nature Preserve on March 1 at 6 p.m. Reporter Kaya Williams spoke to Dawson earlier this month about the memoir, his upcoming talk and some lessons learned from a life of mountaineering.

Kaya Williams: How would you describe this new memoir in terms of how it relates to your personal life? Is it a love story between you and the mountains? Is it something else entirely?

Lou Dawson: I think it’s some of that, and then it’s kind of a journey on through to where I met my wife. And then we had our child and raised him here in the valley, and had this kind of pretty idyllic life, really, skiing and mountaineering, backpacking in Wyoming and doing all that sort of thing, which finally culminated with me and my son climbing and skiing down Denali in 2010. You know, I made that into the last chapter [of the memoir]. It’s kind of a good, good and high point of the whole of the whole story.

The cover of Lou Dawson's "Wild Snow" guidebook showcases steep powder skiing as a point of entry to "54 classic ski and snowboard descents of North America."
The cover of Lou Dawson’s “Wild Snow” guidebook showcases steep powder skiing as a point of entry to “54 classic ski and snowboard descents of North America.” Dawson has published more than half a dozen guidebooks and is now preparing to release a memoir, “Avalanche Dreams,” in 2023. 

Williams: It’s my understanding that you’ll be talking quite a bit about this “idyllic life” you’ve lived, possibly leading all the way up to Denali, at ACES pretty soon here. What can people expect?

Dawson: It’s a little tough because I’ve had a life that’s multi-layered and has a bazillion great adventures. So it’s pretty tricky, all the way from my father, who was a really interesting creative guy, but had some troubles, and then on through spending my teenage years here in Aspen, and going to Aspen High, and deciding that I just wanted to be a climber, and then going around and spending a lot of time in Yosemite, being a climbing bum and kind of going through that phase of life, but never wholly satisfied with things and wanting more and wanting better relationships and ultimately feeling a strong call to having a family.

Williams: It’s interesting that you mentioned that point of satisfaction, which I’ve noticed a lot tends to occur in mountain environments where people are always looking for the next highest mountain, they’re looking for the next big objective. Have you found that true in your own life as well?

Dawson: Oh, yeah, you know, it’s definitely an addiction, and I struggled with that for a long time. And I always liken it to the rat that’s in the run wheel in the cage, you know, doing the experiments, and the rats just sitting there running on the wheel and running for the next experiment, the next hit of adrenaline. And, you know, that can be positive, and a lot of people have a phase in their life that’s like that. And indeed, the athleticism and the “Mind, Body Spirit” kind of aspect to it can be really wonderful. But on the other hand, if you’ve become highly addicted to that sort of thing, it can end up being self-destructive. And of course, I struggle with all that like crazy. I tried to explore those things in my book, using myself as an example, and some others that I hung out with too.

The athleticism and the ‘Mind, Body Spirit’ kind of aspect to it can be really wonderful, but on the other hand, if you’ve become highly addicted to that sort of thing, it can end up being self-destructive.

Alpinist and adventurer Lou Dawson, on the risks and rewards of mountaineering

Williams: And how have you navigated that over the course of your life, without spoiling too much of the book?

Dawson: Well, I think a lot of it was just time, you know, time to sort things out. And, you know, I was blessed that I stayed alive the whole time, because I went off and did some pretty stupid things that almost took my life. But I think it was a matter of finding a balance and things, you know, a little intellectuality, some spirituality, maybe just, in a word, it’s kind of trite to say it, but just growing up kind of leaving some of those childish ways behind — but on the other hand, having fun and always being wide eyed and loving the mountains and loving the mountain sports.




By Sameer Yasir

Photographs and Video by Saumya Khandelwal

For this article, Sameer Yasir spent two days in a nunnery in Nagarjun, Nepal, on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

  • Feb. 26, 2023

As the first rays of sun pierced through the clouds covering snowcapped Himalayan peaks, Jigme Rabsal Lhamo, a Buddhist nun, drew a sword from behind her back and thrust it toward her opponent, toppling her to the ground.

“Eyes on the target! Concentrate!” Ms. Lhamo yelled at the knocked-down nun, looking straight into her eyes outside a whitewashed temple in the Druk Amitabha nunnery on a hill overlooking Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.

Ms. Lhamo and the other members of her religious order are known as the Kung Fu nuns, part of an 800-year-old Buddhist sect called Drukpa, the Tibetan word for dragon. Across the Himalayan region, and the wider world, its followers now mix meditation with martial arts.

A large group of nuns wearing maroon-colored robes in an ornately decorated, columned pray hall.
Nuns participating in Nolsang, prayers offered for the sick or deceased.


Six nuns wearing maroon robes seated in a room in front of a large window.
Reading scriptures during morning prayers.

Every day, the nuns swap their maroon robes for an umber brown uniform to practice Kung Fu, the ancient Chinese martial art. It’s part of their spiritual mission to achieve gender equality and physical fitness; their Buddhist beliefs also call on them to lead an environmentally friendly life.

Mornings inside the nunnery are filled with the thuds of heavy footsteps and the clanking of swords as the nuns train under Ms. Lhamo’s tutelage. Amid a soft rustle of their loose uniforms, they cartwheel, punch and kick one another.

“Kung Fu helps us to break gender barriers and develop inner confidence,” said Ms. Lhamo, 34, who arrived at the nunnery a dozen years ago from Ladakh, in northern India. “It also helps to take care of others during crises.”


This nunnery has an empowering claim to fame—it’s the only one in Nepal where the nuns practice martial arts. The nuns of the Buddhist Drukpa Order train three hours a day, and they break bricks with their bare hands. Heroes in the Himalayas, these strong women delivered supplies to hard-to-reach villages after an earthquake struck Kathmandu in 2015. The kung fu nuns have also taught self-defense classes for women and biked 14,000 miles to protest the human trafficking of women and girls.

~~~ WATCH ~~~

Interior invests $403M for water infrastructure, drought resilience ~ WaterWorld


The Department of the Interior is investing $278 for rural water projects and $125 million to relaunch the System Conservation Pilot Program in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

Dreamstime Xxl 68393728

The Department of the Interior has announced that it is investing $403 million for water supply reliability and water conservation projects in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

The Bureau of Reclamation is also making available up to $125 million to support the relaunch of a System Conservation Pilot Program in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The renewed program – funded with an initial allocation through the Inflation Reduction Act – will help support water management and conservation efforts to improve water efficiency and ultimately protect the short-term sustainability of the Colorado River System.

“The Bureau of Reclamation is committed to ensuring the continued availability of water across the West, while at the same time enhancing the resiliency of our communities to a changing climate. As we move forward with these urgent priorities, we are doing so in close collaboration with Basin states, Tribes, water managers, farmers, irrigators, and other stakeholders,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “This historic funding underscores how proactive efforts from the Biden-Harris administration are helping increase water efficiency and conservation across the West.”

Overall, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides Reclamation with $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects to advance drought resilience and expand access to clean water for families, farmers, and wildlife. The Inflation Reduction Act is investing an additional $4.6 billion to address the worsening drought crisis.

Rural Water Projects

Funding in fiscal year 2023 from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will enable advances of rural water systems and associated features:

  • $77.56 million for the Rocky Boys / North Central Montana Rural Water System in Montana for core pipeline construction on segments 7 and 8, continued construction progress of a water treatment plant, as well as construction for segments associated with Havre, Chester and Shelby Hub service areas.
  • $62.11 million for the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System in New Mexico for the construction of approximately 26 miles of raw water transmission pipeline.
  • $60 million for the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota to support a water treatment plant, construction associated with the Sibley service area, and to reimburse states for related costs.
  • $26.33 million for the Garrison-Diversion Unit of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program in North Dakota for efforts associated with construction of water treatment plants, as well as efforts to support service on the Spirit Lake, Standing Rock and Fort Berthold Reservations.
  • $25 million for the recently authorized Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System in Montana for substantial completion of phases 3 and 4 of rural water construction activities.
  • $15 million for the Fort Peck Reservation – Dry Prairie Rural Water System in Montana to support substantial completion of the project.
  • $12 million for the Jicarilla Apache Rural Water System in New Mexico to support progress toward water treatment plant upgrades.

Detailed information on the fiscal year 2023 spend plan is available on Reclamation’s website.

Upper Basin System Conservation Pilot Program

Up to $125 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act will enable Reclamation, in partnership with the Upper Colorado River Commission, to immediately move forward to implement the System Conservation Pilot Program.

From 2015 to 2018, the Upper Basin System Conservation Pilot Program successfully tested new approaches to conserve water on the Colorado River and proved that these measures are an effective approach to temporarily increase water efficiency and mitigate the impacts of drought.

The program is cooperatively managed by Reclamation and the Upper Division States of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming acting through the Upper Colorado River Commission.

Letters From An American


February 22, 2023


Last week’s court filing in the Dominion Voting Systems case proved that Fox News Channel personalities knew full well that Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election. They pushed Trump’s Big Lie of voter fraud anyway, afraid they would lose viewers to right-wing networks that were willing to parrot that lie.

Since the 1980s, Republicans have relied on a false narrative to win voters. To get rid of the active government put in place after 1933 to put guardrails around the unfettered capitalism that had led to the Depression, they argued that government regulation, the social safety net, civil rights, and investment in infrastructure were socialism and were undermining traditional America. 

Their argument was that business regulation gave the government control over the way a man ran his business, and that taxes to support government bureaucracy, social services, and public investments redistributed wealth from white men to minorities and women. Real Americans, they suggested, must be willing to defend themselves and the country against the “socialist” national government.

Lately, this determination to get rid of the New Deal government has taken the shape of cutting Social Security and Medicare, which led to the brouhaha over President Biden’s charge during the State of the Union address that Republicans would cut those programs. After Republicans booed him and called him a liar, he backed them into agreeing they would take cuts off the table. 

But former vice president Mike Pence brought it up once more this morning on CNBC, saying, “While I respect the speaker’s commitment to take Social Security and Medicare off the table for the debt ceiling negotiations, we’ve got to put them on the table in the long term,” because they were facing “insolvency.” 

Reversing 40 years of Republican tax cuts would also address financial shortfalls, but that approach does not fit the Republican narrative that cutting taxes promotes growth and raises revenue.

As their policies became increasingly unpopular, Republicans ramped up that narrative until we have the extraordinary scenario we saw last night: former president Trump telling a campaign audience that the United States has blown right past socialism and is now a communist, Marxist country. That, of course, would mean that the people’s government owns the means of production: the factories, services, and so on.

Instead, as President Biden pointed out today in response to right-wing attempts to blame his administration for the Ohio derailment, deregulation has moved money upward and compromised Americans’ safety. He noted that he has committed the federal government to make sure Ohio has all it needs to address the crisis. Then he added: “Rail companies have spent millions of dollars to oppose common-sense safety regulations. And it’s worked. This is more than a train derailment or a toxic waste spill—it’s years of opposition to safety measures coming home to roost.” 

That narrative has also enshrined the idea that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, originally intended to limit the federal government’s power over state militias but now interpreted to mean that individuals have a right to own whatever weaponry they want, defines the nation. After a number of right-wing congressional lawmakers have taken to wearing assault rifle lapel pins, Representative Barry Moore (R-AL) this week introduced a bill to make the AR-15 the “National Gun of America.” Moore claims that “The anti–Second Amendment group won’t stop until they take away all your firearms.”

From February 17 through February 19, there were ten mass shootings in the United States. According to Grace Hauck of USA Today, there were “two mass shootings in Georgia and Missouri and one each in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Carolina and Mississippi.” Thirteen people were killed and 46 injured. At least 15 of the victims were under 20. Mass shootings are up in 2023 compared to 2022: 82 this year, compared with 59 at the same time last year.  

The idea of strangling government programs and saving tax dollars has gotten to the point that we had the extraordinary scene in Alaska earlier this week of Republican state representative David Eastman, who attended the January 6, 2021, rally in Washington, D.C., suggesting that children dying of child abuse would save the state money in the social services those children would otherwise need. 

The Republican narrative to attract voters, as warped as it has become, has now begun to drive the government itself. Today, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker of the Washington Post reported that after the 2020 election, Arizona’s then–attorney general, Mark Brnovich, concealed a report produced after 10,000 hours of investigation by his own staff, that said virtually all the claims of fraud leveled against the 2020 Arizona election were unfounded. 

Brnovich was running to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the U.S. Senate. He kept the report hidden and instead released an “Interim Report” saying that his office had found “serious vulnerabilities.” He continued to circulate hints that the vote was off, somehow, despite fact checks disproving those allegations. His office put together a document refuting the idea the election was stolen and saying that none of the people making that accusation produced any evidence. Brnovich did not release that summary. 

In a later memo summarizing their work, investigators noted that none of those making outlandish claims about the election were willing to repeat those claims to agents, when they would be subject to a state law prohibiting them from lying to law enforcement officers.

Brnovich was involved in the Brnovich v. Democratic National Committeecase, decided in July 2021 by the Supreme Court, that made it much harder to challenge voting restrictions that make it harder for minorities to vote. Voters replaced Brnovich this year with Kris Mayes, a Democrat, who shifted Brnovich’s “Election Integrity Unit,” which focused on fraud, to address voter suppression. 

The attempt to maintain the Republican narrative is now deeply embedded in the government itself. House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has apparently given to Tucker Carlson of the Fox News Channel exclusive access to more than 44,000 hours of video taken within the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. This amounts to “one of the worst security risks since 9/11,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said in protest today, “a treasure trove of closely held information about how the Capitol complex is protected.”

Carlson has repeatedly challenged the official accounts of the riot, blaming the federal government for launching the attack and claiming that FBI agents were behind it. Carlson is also one of the key conspirators in the Fox News Channel promotion of the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election, even though they dismissed that notion privately. The expectation is that Carlson will hack whatever videos he can into a version of the Republican narrative. 

But there is more: McCarthy is fundraising off his release of the videos to Carlson, claiming he is delivering “truth and transparency over partisan games” and asking “patriots” to “chip…in” to help House Republicans.


New research provides a startling and unprecedented look at how warmer oceans, driven by climate change, are gouging Thwaites Glacier. West Antarctica, and 10 feet of sea level rise, could ultimately be at stake.

By Chris Mooney

February 15, 2023

The Icefin operates under the sea ice near McMurdo Station. (Photo by Schmidt -Lawrence/NASA PSTAR RISE UP)

Rapidly warming oceans are cutting into the underside of the Earth’s widest glacier and posing a major sea-level-rise threat, startling new data and images show.

Using an underwater robot at Thwaites Glacier, researchers have determined that warm water is getting channeled into crevasses in what the researchers called “terraces” — essentially, upside-down trenches — and carving out gaps under the ice. As the ice then flows toward the sea, these channels enlarge and become future potential break points, where the floating ice shelf comes apart and produces huge icebergs.

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The team deploys the Icefin at Thwaites Glacier in January 2020. (Photo by Andrew Mullen/International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration)

Warm water carves underwater crevasses into glacier.

Underwater video taken of the Thwaites Glacier in Antartica in January 2020 shows carvings of potential break points beneath the glacier. (Video: International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration)

The results from overlapping teams of more than two dozen scientists, published Wednesday in two papers in the journal Nature, reveal the extent to which human-caused warming could destabilize glaciers in West Antarctica that could ultimately raise global sea level by 10 feet if they disintegrate over the coming centuries.

Scientists with the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, a historic scientific collaboration organized by the United States and the United Kingdom, arrived at one of the safest spots to land on the West Antarctic behemoth in 2019 and 2020, and used hot water to drill through nearly 2,000 feet of ice to the ocean below.






By Jonathan Thompson

Jonathan is an old friend who’s marked time as High Country News editor, an author and a full time journalist who travels the planet with his lovely wife Wendy.



What a great article, written in the language of a snow and avalanche worker.

Rod Newcomb


Excellent piece!  Jonathan Thompson has a knack for a good story.

Drew Hardesty


Oh my…. this is fabulous. Can we use it for TAR some time?

Lynne Wolfe

The Battleship Fury




crédito total de la foto, Mark Rawstoned



MARCH 8, 2005 


IT IS A LOVELY SUNDAY for a ski tour. A bright midwinter sun counters a chilly north wind as the five of us — old friends, new friends, one pretty girl — round the southwest shoulder of Red Mountain No. 3 and prepare to ski the face below.

Jerry Roberts drops in first, but I can see him for only a couple of turns before he disappears — skis, then hips, then head — behind the convex shape. Then suddenly, from below, the screaming starts. It is a woman’s voice, and the shrieks are repetitive and insistent, like the cry of a displaced bird. Something is wrong, and then I see the powder cloud billowing into the basin, far below us.

This is not a test, I think; this is it. This is the nightmare we never wanted to experience. A large avalanche has swallowed my friend and carried him down the mountain — I don’t know where — somewhere in that mass of fallen snow, with its television-sized blocks of soft-slab tossed together like cottage cheese into a funnel narrowing between trees.

We are not thrill-seekers. We deride the moniker “extreme.” On the other hand, as mountaineers, we regularly climb up and ski down, carefully down big, steep mountains. The rewards approach the ecstatic and the risks are, for the most part, manageable.

The first thing we do is check our rescue beacons. We do this every time we head out into the winter backcountry. One of us will switch his transceiver to “receive” and listen, as the rest of the group files by one-by-one, each beacon transmitting its steady, electric pings.

Jerry is historically the most cautious among us. He refers to himself, smiling, as a Republican skier because at 56, a lifetime studying Colorado’s fragile snowpack has made him conservative. Every time a foot or more of new snow lands in these mountains, hundreds of natural avalanches pour down the slopes. And every winter an average of five Colorado skiers and snowmobilers die in slides they trigger.

There was reason for caution this day. Six inches of new snow lay unruffled in the trees, but above timberline where we were headed, overnight winds had moved it around, like cake frosting layered on top of older, weaker snow. We talked about it, poked it with our poles, dug hasty pits to gauge its stability. We chose our route accordingly. It was a beautiful day, clear and cold with long, blue shadows defining the pure-white shapes. There would be soft-snow turns for sure.

Then, the nightmare.

Now we’ve got to organize our group — and the other group below, the one with the woman who watched the hillside explode — and turn our beacons to receive mode and ski down and find him, without endangering anyone else. You’ve never done this before, incredibly, although you’ve danced around the possibility for 30 years in the wild snow with these same people, brothers and sisters of the graceful arc, the turn in the deep snow. You’ve taken all the snow-science courses; planned for this, in theory anyway; dreamed about it; written unpublished short stories about it, about being the victim, entombed, reminiscing about a life slipping away “Snows of Kilimanjaro”-style; but now it’s not you who is buried — it’s your ski buddy Jerry Roberts, and yes this is really happening, and yes it’s up to you — up to all of us — to find him, find him quickly or find him dead.

The middle part of the ordeal is mostly a blank — the part where you are out on the debris, beacon in one hand, poles in the other, moving at the edge of control, zigzagging, listening, fighting for balance on the lumpy surface. What I remember is Matt’s voice — Matt Wylie, our friend visiting from British Columbia — shouting, “I’ve got a weak signal!” And then there’s a stronger signal, and everybody’s careening down as fast as they can, homing in, hearing it too, the pings of Jerry’s electronic heartbeat, and Matt is already into a fine search and yelling for probes and shovels, and we’re flinging down packs and staggering forward, ramming together shovel handles and blades, and someone is shouting, with his probe in the ground like a golden aluminum thread, “I’ve got something!” Dig! Dig! Come on! And sure enough, a couple of feet down there is Jerry’s backpack. Now which end is up? This end, Jesus, yes, come on. Dig!

(L-R) Greg Harms, rŌbert, Matt Wylie, Lisa Issenberg, D. Wheeler

His face is blue. And a cut on his forehead drips red blood onto his brow. In a flash, the screaming woman has arrived and jumped into the hole. She is a doctor. The cyanotic face looks grave to her, and she thinks aloud that we may need a helicopter. But she can feel Jerry’s blood moving, feel his heart pumping, and she thrusts her hand down underneath his chest to push some snow aside and open up space for his lungs to expand.

Meanwhile, everyone is pleading with the blue face. Jerry’s girlfriend is crying and talking: “Come on, Jerry. Breathe! Jerry. Jerry!” Breathe, dammit. And, in a matter of a few excruciating seconds, he does, and the eyes blink, and the fingers on his right hand twitch, and the pink flush of oxygenated blood works across his cheeks and mouth.

Thirty minutes later, I’m lugging Jerry’s backpack out the logging road toward the pass and the cars. There are no straps left on the pack; we cut it off him to ease his breathing while digging the rest of him out. It’s awkward dragging the heavy thing along, and I’ve fallen behind the rest of the party, which includes Jerry — wearing someone else’s hat and extra down parka, skiing out on his own, insisting that he is fine. I don’t mind the effort. In fact, the work seems to be flushing some of the spent adrenaline from my system, pushing the nightmare back into its corner.

It refuses to stay put, of course. It pops in and out of focus, fracturing, tumbling out of sequence, receding into the past but still capable of scaring holes in what has become a cherished, full-body sense of relief. Everybody’s OK. The uncaring, beautiful mountain came close to taking a life but did not.

I picture the gash on Jerry’s head. I had thought he’d clocked one of the tough little trees he’d passed through in the avalanche’s run-out zone. Or maybe the ski he lost cut him as he hurtled along. Matt has a different story, and I like his best. He thinks he bashed Jerry in the forehead with his shovel in those frantic first seconds of digging. If it scars, I think, shuttling the extra pack through what has become a completely still afternoon, what a fine, permanent reminder that this was not a dream.

crédito total Lisa Issenberg



Dr. James Edward ChurchJr., with goggles and snowshoesstanding on a snowy hillside (ca. 1920)

Dick Dorworth sent me his piece below for a story of James ‘Ward’ Church.  Enjoy and thanks so much Dick for sending your fine story of Ward Church and his love of snow.  rŌbert


Express Staff Writer

“Anyone who can solve the problems of water will be worthy of two Nobel prizes—one for peace and one for science.”

John F. Kennedy

For many different reasons, all people who live in snow country and many who do not pay close attention to details of each winter’s snowpack. The most important reason in the short term, of course, is to know how skiing will be in the morning. The most significant, however, from a broader perspective is to know how much water will be available in the rivers and reservoirs of spring and summer. Whether spring runoff is a trickle, a benign wetness or a destructive flood depends on several factors, among them location, how fast the snowpack melts, when it melts, how full (or not) are key reservoirs at crucial times, the strength of levees and what progress and hubris has developed within historic floodplains. Big snow years, droughts, floods, and other natural occurrences like forest fires, tsunamis and earthquakes are as natural, recurring and predictable as……well……big snow years, periods of drought, etc.

It was only a hundred years ago that the beginning of a reliable method of measuring the water content of a snowpack in order to estimate the size of the springtime runoff was developed. This was almost entirely through the efforts, ingenuity and imagination of one man, Dr. James Edward Church, Jr., known as “Ward” to his friends. John Kennedy probably didn’t know of Church, but Church certainly deserved prizes and praise in the realms of peace and science. He solved some of the problems of water. Church was born in Michigan in 1869 and was a professor at the University of Nevada in Reno from 1899 until his retirement in 1939, teaching courses in Latin, German and the appreciation of literature and beauty in art and nature. The Church Fine Arts Building on the University of Nevada campus in Reno is named after him, and his and his wife’s ashes are interred in its cornerstone.

One description of Church reads, “Quiet and unassuming, he was the essence of the Renaissance man, with his interests in science, the classics and art. Dr. Church died in Reno on August 5, 1959 at the age of 90.”

This accomplished Renaissance man became fascinated with the Sierra Nevada, particularly Mt. Rose which rises above Reno like a sentinel. In 1895, on a dare, he made the first known mid-winter ascent of the 10,776 foot peak. Church and his wife, Florence, made many winter ascents of Sierra peaks, including Whitney and Shasta, and they wrote about their adventures in the Sierra Club Bulletin. Though their backcountry gear was rustic and heavy by modern standards, it is reported that Florence lined their sleeping bag with rabbit furs.

His attraction to mountains was intellectual as well as adventurous, as befits a Renaissance man. In 1906 Church and Sam Doten of the University’s Agricultural Experiment Station built by hand a weather observatory on the summit of Mt. Rose, ferrying all material either by backpack or horseback. The observatory recorded data on snow deposits, wind velocities and runoff, and its remnants are still in place. Church developed the Mt. Rose snow sampler, a hollow metal tube with a serrated collar which removed a core of the snow pack which could then be weighed to calculate water content.

Church developed the first system for accurately comparing snow and water content against the subsequent flow of streams in the Lake Tahoe area which allowed people to forecast water availability and to plan accordingly, in the case of Tahoe by knowing how much water to let into the Truckee River at what time of year. This system became known as the percentage or Nevada system and became the standard one used in the west. It is in use today throughout the world.

Though Church was a fine professor and popular with students, he was world famous because of his expertise with snow surveying which had nothing to do with his chosen profession. He became a world traveler as a snow survey consultant, visiting and working in Russia, Europe, Greenland, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Argentina, all of which used the Nevada system to provide runoff forecasts and regulate reservoirs.

After an eleven month study in Argentina, Church, described as a peace-loving man, noted that in both the Andes and the Himalayas water sources were in one country and their outlets in another. He wrote, “Thus, barrier ranges and trunk streams merge national interests like children in a family. My wanderings have become adventures in international peace. At the end of the rainbow I sought snow and found friendship.”

Many people who live in the mountains and mountain towns of western America can identify with that statement, “At the end of the rainbow I sought snow and found friendship.” It is good to remember Ward Church, the Renaissance man who sought snow and found friends and adventures in peace by immersing himself in solving one of the problems of water. Clearly, the world today could use some more men like Ward Church.