The Theft of Grand Staircase-Escalante ~ OUTSIDE

Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 6.43.15 PM.png

Stopped by the Montrose public library yesterday killing some time before a late afternoon appointment. Grabbed some magazines to fill an hours read, found a comfortable chair and an interesting article on Grand Staircase-Escalante land rip off …. About half way through it I saw it was written by friend Leath Tonino … Cool … give it a read … rŌbert

 

~~~

 

In 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was shrinking the iconic Utah national monument by nearly 50 percent. Leath Tonino devised a sketchy 200-mile solo desert trek, following the path of the legendary cartographer who literally put these contentious canyons on the map.

Deanna Glover’s voice hits a high note along with her eyebrows, tone and expression conveying the same grandmotherly concern.

She’s not my grandmother—we met for the first time an hour ago—but that hardly seems to matter to the sweet, white-haired 80-year-old. “Tell me you’ll have a friend hiking with you, because it’s a lot of country,” she says. “And, you know, I start to worry.”

The Kanab Heritage Museum, in Kane County, Utah, is cluttered with arrowheads, wedding gowns, antique farm implements, and sepia photographs of the families that founded the town of Kanab in 1870. I phoned Deanna, a descendent of these Mormon pioneers, earlier this April morning, and though the museum, her baby and brainchild, was closed, she insisted on opening it so that the displays could inform my upcoming 200-mile, two-week trek through Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument.

Hiking with a friend? I shake my head, and a latent anxiety rears up, the prickly fear-thrill of engaging a desert that demands resourcefulness (drinking water found in sculpted potholes), extreme caution (camouflaged rattlesnakes in the middle of the trail), and a tolerance for solitude (my girlfriend, as I hugged her goodbye before leaving for Utah, told me to enjoy peeking into the recesses of my own skull).

Recounting this quip to Deanna, I notice the grip on her walker tighten. “Oh, I’ll be praying for you then,” she says. “I’m not kidding—it’s a whole lot of country.”

Ocher buttes, umber scarps, maroon hoodoos: whole lot of country indeed. Extending north and east from Kanab, the monument encompasses one of the gnarliest stretches of the lower 48. To borrow writer Charles Bowden’s apt phrase, it’s “the heart of stone.”

Ever since President Clinton established the monument in 1996, it has been contentious: old-timers versus newcomers, Republicans versus Democrats, advocates of using the land versus advocates of protecting it (as if these were mutually exclusive agendas). Conservative politicians in pressed blue jeans and blazers tend to see it as an affront to economic growth. Dirtbag adventurers in Chaco sandals deem it one of the epicenters of North American slot canyoneering. In Kanab, mention Edward Abbey, the Southwest’s iconic nature writer, and you’ll receive either a high five or a tirade, depending on your interlocutor.

Grand
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument seen from Utah Highway 12 (Education Images/UIG via Getty)

 

The latest dispute began on December 4, 2017, when President Trump cut the nearly 1.9-­million-acre monument into three units, reducing the overall protected area by almost 50 percent. The White House’s stance, as outlined in the official proclamation, was that the Clinton administration had designated far more terrain than the law allowed. Deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas played no part whatsoever in the decision, obviously. Environmental organizations immediately filed lawsuits, arguing that Trump lacked the authority to shrink an existing monument. Nevertheless, the Bureau of Land Management went ahead and drafted several plans, one of which, if implemented, would open almost 700,000 acres to mining and drilling. With the final decision on those plans tied up in court, nobody can predict whether the original boundaries will be reinstated.

My interest in the place is personal. Working for the Forest Service in my twenties, I resided in a cabin an hour south of the original monument: bought my groceries in Kanab, thrashed myself silly every weekend in the intricate backcountry of arroyos and yuccas and coyotes. It was upsetting to picture the wilderness ransacked for profit, to sense my cherished memories of the region disappearing into the abstraction we call news.

Thankfully, I didn’t forget Almon Harris Thompson.

Nicknamed Prof, Thompson was a school-superintendent-cum-cartographer from New England who wore a bushy mustache, abstained from smoking tobacco, and, according to a colleague, was “always ‘level-headed’ and never went off on a tangent doing wild and unwarranted things.” John Wesley Powell, the Civil War veteran famed for boating the Grand Canyon’s whitewater in 1869, was Prof’s brother-in-law and boss. Together they were employed by the federal government; a congressional appropriation funded their brave, meticulous research into the geography of the Colorado Plateau’s remote canyonlands.

Remote is an understatement. An 1868 map indicated a massive blank space in this area of Utah. In 1872, at the age of 32, Prof led a small party into the unknown country. The final river to be named by the U.S. ­government (the Escalante) quenched his thirst that spring, and the final range to be named (the Henry Mountains) registered his horse’s hoofprint.

Emotions rarely inflect the spare prose in Prof’s diary, a document devoted to ­mileages, elevations, the shapes of watersheds, the dips of strata, and, tangentially, cold rain and “a sort of dysentery attack.” What does come through, however, is a seriously badass route that, by chance, flirts with our modern monument’s boundaries, weaving in and out of both the Clinton and the Trump versions.

history
“Prof” Almon Harris Thompson (FOR ALAN/Alamy)

For the next two weeks, I’ll attempt to retrace Prof’s route (he took roughly 25 days), mostly by walking, occasionally by hitching. The itinerary that earns Deanna’s worry has me heading northeast from Kanab: up Johnson Canyon, past the Paria amphitheater to the Blues badlands, along the headwaters of the Escalante River, through the Waterpocket Fold, and, finally, over the 11,000-plus-foot Henry Mountains. In my pack I’ll carry a sleeping bag and headlamp, two single-liter water bottles and a four-liter reserve dromedary, and not much food besides instant coffee, pita bread, and salami. Hopefully, beer and potato chips will greet me at the few and far between gas stations—in Cannonville (pop. 175), Escalante (pop. 802), and Boulder (pop. 240). I’ll lug no tent, no toilet paper, no GPS, no smartphone.

The goal is to drop below politics—to find, and hear out, the lovers of this unique landscape. Even better, to drop below conversation, below language, and viscerally, with my ache and my thirst, contact the land itself.


April 10 is my departure date, until it’s not.

The visit with Deanna runs long, so I decide to spend the afternoon riding shotgun beside 43-year-old Charley Bulletts, the soft-­spoken, quick-to-laugh cultural-­resource director of the Kaibab Band of Paiutes.

A local boy, Charley left for a spell—tried his luck in Cedar City, Utah, and Mesquite, Nevada—but now he’s home for good, raising his kids in the same desert where he was raised. His late grandfather was one of the last medicine men of the tribe. If the Kanab Heritage Museum situates the monument within a frontier context, Charley’s perspective, which he shares as we drive the outskirts of town, links it to an even deeper oral history.

“This is so bad it’s comical,” he says early in our tour, parking with the windshield framing a cartoony mural on a supermarket’s cinder-block wall. The painting depicts a procession: covered wagons, livestock, dogs, young men carrying rifles. “I get a kick out of it, I really do—the happy Mormons entering an ‘unpopulated territory,’ following their destiny.”

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Steve Earle Pays Tribute To Guy Clark, His Songwriting Hero ~ NPR

Set List

  • “Texas 1947”
  • “Rita Ballou”
  • “Desperados Waiting For A Train”
  • “L. A. Freeway”

The guy who always calls it like he sees it pays tribute to his late friend, mentor, and outlaw music icon, Guy Clark. In this session, we welcome back Steve Earle for a live performance.

When Earle moved to Nashville in the 1970s to pursue music, Clark taught him a lot about the craft of songwriting. Clark always told him, “Songs are not finished until you play them for people.” Now, Earle has released a collection of Guy Clark covers, GUY, similar to the album he released dedicated to Townes Van Zandt in 2009. And, ever the storyteller, Earle will tell us the first thing Guy ever said to him — “Nice hat” — and the last thing — “Pork.”

Hear it all in the player.

Episode Playlist

Charles Van Doren, a Quiz Show Whiz Who Wasn’t, Dies at 93 ~ NYT

Charles Van Doren, right, in a contestant’s booth during his series of appearances in 1956 and 1957 on the quiz show “Twenty-One.” The host, center, was Jack Barry. The other contestant was not identified. Mr. Van Doren later confessed to Congress that he had been fed the answers to questions.Credit NBC Television, via Getty Images

Charles Van Doren, a Columbia University English instructor and a member of a distinguished literary family who confessed to Congress and a disillusioned nation in 1959 that his performances on a television quiz show had been rigged, died on Tuesday in Canaan, Conn. He was 93.

He died at Geer Village, a retirement community, near his home in Cornwall, Conn., where he had lived for several years, his son, John, said.

In the heyday of quiz shows in the 1950s, when scholarly housewives and walking encyclopedia nerds battled on “The $64,000 Question” and “Tic-Tac-Dough,” Mr. Van Doren was a rare specimen: a handsome, personable young intellectual with solid academic credentials, a faculty post at a prestigious university and an impressive family pedigree.

His father was Mark Van Doren, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, literary critic and professor of English at Columbia. His mother, Dorothy Van Doren, was a novelist and editor. And his uncle, Carl Van Doren, had been a professor of literature, a historian and a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer. Charles himself had bachelor’s and master’s degrees, a $4,400-a-year position at Columbia and an honest look about him.

 

Mr. Van Doren married Geraldine Ann Bernstein in 1957. They were photographed at Idlewild Airport in New York when they returned from their honeymoon.Credit Associated Press

 

Hesitating, wincing, biting his lip, adjusting his earphones in a soundproof glass booth, mopping sweat from his brow, Mr. Van Doren, after an apparently excruciating mental struggle, responded: “The Straits of Bosporus and Dardanelles. The Sea of Marmara. Russia, Turkey, Romania and … Bulgaria.”

Right again!

He identified Henry VIII’s wives and their fates. He listed America’s four vice presidents in the 1920s. He named the four Balearic Islands. And he knew the common names for caries, myopia and missing patellar reflex. When he finally faltered, missing the name of Belgium’s king , hearts were broken.

But Mr. Van Doren, 31, by then the nationally known star of a show whose ratings had soared, walked away with $129,000 in winnings (the equivalent of more than $1 million today). He had also appeared on the cover of Time magazine, received some 20,000 fan letters, brushed off dozens of marriage proposals and signed a $150,000 contract to appear on NBC shows for three years.

But on Nov. 2, 1959, he told congressional investigators that the shows had all been hoaxes, that he had been given questions and answers in advance, and that he had been coached to make the performances more dramatic.

Twenty-One: Full Stemple and Van Doren Episode CreditVideo by BlackwoodCompany

“I would give almost anything I have to reverse the course of my life in the last three years,” he said. He said he had agonized in a moral and mental struggle to come to terms with his own betrayals.

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Beyond The Summer Of Love, ‘Get Together’ Is An Anthem For Every Season ~ NPR

The song sometimes called the “hippie national anthem” can be found in all kinds of places. It’s been used on The Simpsons and in Forrest Gump, recorded dozens of times by the likes of The Kingston Trio, The Dave Clark Five, Jefferson Airplane, The Staples Singers and the Carpenters (twice). You may have even heard it in a Walmart commercial a few years ago.

The song has gone by a few different names: “Let’s Get Together,” Everybody Get Together.” But the best-known version is called, simply, “Get Together.” It was recorded by The Youngbloods in 1967 — the same year as the Summer of Love, where it would become a constant presence.

In 1967, the Vietnam War was raging. The Youngbloods’ lead singer, Jesse Colin Young, remembers, “Back then we were all subject to the draft. That made everything more life and death. And hope is what comes out of that song.”

Young was a folk singer and guitarist with two albums under his belt when he met guitarist Jerry Corbitt on the folk scene in Cambridge, Mass. They put The Youngbloods together in New York City with drummer Joe Bauer and multi-instrumentalist Lowell Levinger, known as Banana. The band rehearsed in Greenwich Village’s Café au Go Go when there wasn’t a show happening, and that’s where Young first heard “Get Together.”

Young says it was the lyrics that really grabbed him. ” ‘Love is but a song we sing / Fear’s the way we die.’ Wow — the human condition in two lines.”

The lyrics grabbed Lizz Wright, too: The jazz and gospel singer recorded “Get Together” in 2004 for her album Dreaming Wide Awake. She’s a fan of one verse in particular

“It’s so clear, and the imagery is fantastic,” Wright says. “In our uncertainty, in our not fully knowing, we are still holding so much power and choosing to learn by love or to learn by fear as we go. And I just love how this verse puts it back in our in our court as individuals.”

The song was written in the early 1960s by Chester Powers, who performed under the name Dino Valenti. The son of carnival performers, he made a name for himself in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village. Though he had already left for the West Coast when The Youngbloods formed, Young did meet him years later.

“I met him at a motorcycle shop in Marin County — we were both living in the Bay Area,” Young says. “I was surprised Dino was kind of a tough guy. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, the angels just took a hold of you one day and put this song in your head, and you brought it to us.’ ”

David Freiberg of Jefferson Starship puts the song’s origin around 1964. He was in Los Angeles visiting a friend, “and in pops Dino Valenti driving in like a crazy [man] and says, ‘Hey man, listen to this song I just wrote!’ ” Freiberg recalls. “And we listened to it and went, ‘Oh my goodness! How great that song is.’ And we’re quickly writing down the lyrics to it.”

He also remembers hearing Valenti perform for the first time. “He stomped his foot so hard on the stage it was like there were drums playing with him,” he says. “A lot of energy, very fiery kind of guy, but he was so talented.” Freiberg eventually got to know Valenti well when they played together in Quicksilver Messenger Service.

When the Youngbloods’ version of Valenti’s song came out, it became part of the soundtrack for the Summer of Love in San Francisco, making Valenti something of a local celebrity. But when he got busted for drug possession, he had to sell the rights to “Get Together” to pay for a lawyer and avoid a possible 10-year prison sentence, according to music journalist Ben Fong-Torres.

“As he famously said,” Fong-Torres recalls, ” ‘For 10 years of my life? Man, I can write another song.’ ” Valenti did eventually recover the rights later in life, before his death in 1994.

Valenti’s most famous song went on to have a life of its own. Though it didn’t get much national attention in 1967, two years later The Youngbloods’ version was used in a public service announcement for the National Conference of Christians and Jews. People started calling their radio stations requesting the song. Young remembers what happened next.

“Augie Blum, the head of promotion at RCA, went to his boss and said, ‘I want this song again. Now’s the time for it.’ And they told him, ‘Now Augie, we don’t do that. You know we released it once. That’s it.’ And he said, ‘You release a song again or I’m out of here.’ He was too valuable for them to lose,” Young explains. “So they put it out again, and he was right, of course. The country was ready.”

One meaning of the word “anthem” is a psalm or hymn. “Get Together” definitely carries that message for Young, who was a born-again Christian in his teens.

“I think Dino must have had some church upbringing, because he’s talking about, ‘Some may come and some may go. We will surely pass.’ This is very Eastern philosophy, and new to some of us at that point,” Young says. ” ‘When the one that left us here returns for us at last / We are just a moment’s sunlight fading in the grass.’ Wow.”

Freiberg, however, points out a word change: “The Youngbloods’ version says, ‘When the one that left us here returns for us at last.’ Dino said the lyric was supposed to be, ‘When the wind that left us here.’ I like that best ’cause it symbolizes the cosmic wind and the interconnection of everything.” He adds, “But then, I’m a Buddhist.”

An early review of the song even asked why it’s not sung in church. Wright thinks it should be. “There was just all this imagery, some of it even edging on biblical imagery,” Wright says. “I just felt like this is one of those songs that helped me speak better, speak everything else better. And when I first heard it, I knew that it would make me better as a messenger.”

And Young says it still carries a message — for our times.

“Every night I sing it, it’s my favorite part of the show because the people sing,” he says. “I played it in Central Park this past summer, and that was on the first anniversary of Charlottesville. Those people sang it stronger than I’ve ever heard it sung. Some people were pumping their fists, and I realized they were saying, ‘We choose love.’ ”

What’s behind the confidence of the incompetent? This suddenly popular psychological phenomenon ~ The Washington Post

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains why unskilled people think they know it all and tend to be overconfident.
Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 8.08.54 AM.png
Here’s why some people who think they know it all don’t

The cognitive quirk explains why unskilled people think they know it all and are overconfident about it.

January 7

You may have witnessed this scene at work, while socializing with friends or over a holiday dinner with extended family: Someone who has very little knowledge in a subject claims to know a lot. That person might even boast about being an expert.

This phenomenon has a name: the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s not a disease, syndrome or mental illness; it is present in everybody to some extent, and it’s been around as long as human cognition, though only recently has it been studied and documented in social psychology.

In their 1999 paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, David Dunning and Justin Kruger put data to what has been known by philosophers since Socrates, who supposedly said something along the lines of “the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” Charles Darwin followed that up in 1871 with “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

Put simply, incompetent people think they know more than they really do, and they tend to be more boastful about it.

To test Darwin’s theory, the researchers quizzed people on several topics, such as grammar, logical reasoning and humor. After each test, they asked the participants how they thought they did. Specifically, participants were asked how many of the other quiz-takers they beat.

Dunning was shocked by the results, even though it confirmed his hypothesis. Time after time, no matter the subject, the people who did poorly on the tests ranked their competence much higher. On average, test takers who scored as low as the 10th percentile ranked themselves near the 70th percentile. Those least likely to know what they were talking about believed they knew as much as the experts.

Dunning and Kruger’s results have been replicated in at least a dozen different domains: math skills, wine tasting, chess, medical knowledge among surgeons and firearm safety among hunters.

During the election and in the months after the presidential inauguration, interest in the Dunning-Kruger effect surged. Google searches for “dunning kruger” peaked in May 2017, according to Google Trends, and has remained high since then. Attention spent on the Dunning-Kruger Effect Wikipedia entry has skyrocketed since late 2015.

There’s also “much more research activity” about the effect right now than immediately after it was published, Dunning said. Typically, interest in a research topic spikes in the five years following a groundbreaking study, then fades.

“Obviously it has to do with Trump and the various treatments that people have given him,” Dunning said, “So yeah, a lot of it is political. People trying to understand the other side. We have a massive rise in partisanship and it’s become more vicious and extreme, so people are reaching for explanations.”

Even though President Trump’s statements are rife with errors, falsehoods or inaccuracies, he expresses great confidence in his aptitude. He says he does not read extensively because he solves problems “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had.” He has said in interviews he doesn’t read lengthy reports because “I already know exactly what it is.”

He has “the best words” and cites his “high levels of intelligence” in rejecting the scientific consensus on climate change. Decades ago, he said he could end the Cold War: “It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles,” Trump told The Washington Post’s Lois Romano over dinner in 1984. “I think I know most of it anyway.”

“Donald Trump has been overestimating his knowledge for decades,” said Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at the University of Michigan. “It’s not surprising that he would continue that pattern into the White House.”

Dunning-Kruger “offers an explanation for a kind of hubris,” said Steven Sloman, a cognitive psychologist at Brown University. “The fact is, that’s Trump in a nutshell. He’s a man with zero political skill who has no idea he has zero political skill. And it’s given him extreme confidence.”

Sloman thinks the Dunning-Kruger effect has become popular outside of the research world because it is a simple phenomenon that could apply to all of us. And, he said, people are desperate to understand what’s going on in the world.

Many people “cannot wrap their minds around the rise of Trump,” Sloman said. “He’s exactly the opposite of everything we value in a politician, and he’s the exact opposite of what we thought Americans valued.” Some of these people are eager to find something scientific to explain him.

Whether people want to understand “the other side” or they’re just looking for an epithet, the Dunning-Kruger effect works as both, Dunning said, which he believes explains the rise of interest.

The ramifications of the Dunning-Kruger effect are usually harmless. If you’ve ever felt confident answering questions on an exam, only to have the teacher mark them incorrect, you have firsthand experience with Dunning-Kruger.

On the other end of the spectrum, the effect can be deadly. In 2017, former neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch was sentenced to life in prison for maiming several patients.

“His performance was pathetic,” one co-surgeon wrote about Duntsch after a botched spinal surgery, according to the Texas Observer. “He was functioning at a first- or second-year neurosurgical resident level but had no apparent insight into how bad his technique was.”

Dunning says the effect is particularly dangerous when someone with influence or the means to do harm doesn’t have anyone who can speak honestly about their mistakes. He noted several plane crashes that could have been avoided if crew had spoken up to an overconfident pilot.

“You get into a situation where people can be too deferential to the people in charge,” Dunning explained. “You have to have people around you that are willing to tell you you’re making an error.”

What happens when the incompetent are unwilling to admit they have shortcomings? Are they so confident in their own perceived knowledge that they will reject the very idea of improvement? Not surprisingly (though no less concerning), Dunning’s follow-up research shows the poorest performers are also the least likely to accept criticism or show interest in self improvement.

Avalanche Forecasters Say Rocky Mountain Region Now At Higher Risk ~ NPR

FROMAspen Public Radio

Storms sweeping across the Rocky Mountains this winter have caused the highest avalanche danger since the ratings started in 1973. More than 3,000 avalanches already have taken place in Colorado alone, and they’re unusually large.

White River National Forest lies just outside of Aspen. Part of the forest is known as Highlands Ridge.

The valley below that ridge is now buried because of an avalanche. The snow is deep enough that treetops barely poke out. The trees that aren’t buried haven’t fared much better.

“Old 50-foot, 60-foot, 70-foot trees have been snapped like toothpicks,” says Zachary Paris, property manager for the house at the bottom of two new avalanche paths below the ridge.

A one-mile-long section of Highlands Ridge collapsed under its own weight earlier this month, sending a cascade of snow and debris onto the valley floor below.

“We’re probably standing on a 20-, 30-foot pile right now,” Paris says.

More avalanches, larger avalanches

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center estimates that the Highlands Ridge slide could be the largest in almost 300 years and that it reached speeds of more than 110 miles per hour.

“We’re seeing much more of these large and destructive avalanches,” says Brian Lazar, a deputy director of the center.

Avalanches are rated on a scale out of 1 to 5. The Highlands Ridge snow slide was a 4.5. It’s just one of the hundreds of record-breaking slides triggered in Colorado’s high country so far this year.

“We saw more in the first 10 days of March than we’d typically see in a five-year period,” Lazar says.

His research suggests that, as the climate warms, wet snow avalanches like those he’s seeing now could start two to four weeks earlier than normal. That means a longer avalanche season.

“We’re certainly starting to see weather patterns which are intimately tied to avalanche activity that is different than what we’ve seen in past years,” Lazar says.

Longer avalanche season

A longer season with warmer weather means an uptick in slides is likely, which makes controlling avalanches in ski areas like Aspen difficult.

Aspen Ski Patrol uses charges — little bombs — to trigger slides in controlled conditions to prevent catastrophic and deadly avalanches. These explosions can be heard from downtown Aspen after a big snow storm.

Aspen Ski Patrol doesn’t release specifics about how many blasts it sets off for avalanche control, but it does say it’s increased the number of charges this season and spent more time mitigating avalanches.

Avalanche season isn’t over. According to Lazar, as temperatures go up, so can avalanche danger

He says when “things start to melt, we can see a spike in wet avalanche activity.”

That means Colorado can expect to see more slides in what has already been a record-breaking season.

Surrounded By Military Barracks, Skiers Shred The Himalayan Slopes Of Indian Kashmir ~ NPR

In a Himalayan valley surrounded by military barracks, blasts of artillery fire often reverberate across the icy mountain peaks. This is one of the world’s longest-running conflict zones. It’s near where India and Pakistan recently traded airstrikes. So it’s not unusual to see helicopters buzzing overhead.

But on a morning in early February, one particular chopper was not part of the conflict.

“I run Kashmir Heliski. We have clients from different parts of the world. We take people to 4,500 meters. They enjoy it!” says Billa Majeed Bakshi, a local skier turned businessman.

Since 2011, Bakshi has ferried more than 1,000 skiers and snowboarders nearly 15,000 feet up into the Himalayas, via helicopter, in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Kashmir is split between Indian and Pakistani control. The mountain valley is the site of a decades-long insurgency, as separatists on the Indian side fight for independence. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers are stationed on either side of the Line of Control, Kashmir’s de facto border. India blames Pakistani-based militant groups for attacks on Indian security forces, including a Feb. 14 suicide car bombing on the valley’s main highway.

But in the cold months, when the valley fills with snow, it also becomes a winter sports haven for a small but devoted gang of extreme sports enthusiasts. They often ski — “shred lines,” as boarders and ski bums put it — just a few hundred yards from the Line of Control, within view of Pakistani troops on the other side.

“I think it’s fantastic! I just wish we could get over their mountain ranges and shred with them too,” says Jimmy Hands, 41, who’s visiting from Toronto. “Look, nothing brings peace like a little bit of snow, and everybody’s been magical here! Like, it is magic.”

The powder this high up may be magical — but it also leads to avalanches. In early February, at least nine people died in avalanches triggered by a single snowstorm.

Someone who’s had an accident, whether it’s a fall on ice or they’re involved in an avalanche, to move that person to a hospital — that is a big challenge here, without the infrastructure of other countries,” says Brian Newman, a Coloradan who serves as the snow safety officer for the Gulmarg Ski Resort, a Kashmiri state government-run resort with two giant gondola lifts. During the recent Indian and Pakistani airstrikesand shelling over the Line of Control, the ski station at Gulmarg remained open for business.

The main Jammu-Srinagar highway, the only route connecting Kashmir to the rest of India, is often impassable for several days at a time because of snow. At the area’s main airport, flights regularly get canceled due to foul weather. Snowplows are in short supply.

Until the 1990s, Gulmarg, with fewer than 2,000 residents, was a sleepy hill station. The area, the Pir Panjal Range of the western Himalayas, was a summertime playground for India’s British colonial rulers, who came to escape the sweltering heat farther south. There’s still a British-built golf course.

Synonymous with romance and revolution, Kashmir has always captured the Indian imagination. Bollywood song sequences have long been filmed there. But after the state government built two gondolas in 1998 and 2005, Gulmarg began attracting more tourists from abroad, and increasingly from India too.

In 2007, the government hired Newman. He obtained explosives from the Indian military to blast off excess snow that might otherwise avalanche and imposed rules requiring skiers to carry avalanche beacons, shovels and probes. He even learned the Kashmiri language.

As India’s middle class grows, domestic tourists have been coming to Gulmarg in greater numbers. The state government says 800,000 Indian tourists visited Kashmir in 2018, along with 50,000 foreigners. There are traffic jams every Sunday afternoon, as day trippers, having paid about $5.25 for a scenic ride up the first gondola, exit the resort and drive back to Srinagar, the biggest city in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, about 30 miles away.

“It’s almost like a different world! You’re cocooned in this space between the sky and the snow,” says Nikita Kapoor, 29, visiting for a long weekend from Kolkata — where it never snows. “I’m learning how to snowboard for the first time, so it’s really exciting!”

~~~  CONTINUE / LISTEN ~~~

A Lost ‘Little Boy’ Nears 100: Poet And Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti ~ NPR