Serving Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey
April 25, 2019
Climate change is changing the seasons in the West. Their names should change to reflect reality.
Spring should become “flood.” Summer should become “fire.” Fall should become “smoke.” The jury is still out on a new name for winter, but “ice” or “avalanche” could become interchangeable.
Monday was Earth Day. U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., founded it in this country 49 years ago and kicked it off with an environmental teach-in to call attention to the challenges facing our little orb. Since the first celebration in 1970, Earth’s problems have only multiplied.
This is not news to anyone in the West or the Wood River Valley, which have faced major wildfires and their destructive fallout. The latest, the five or six avalanches in Warm Springs Canyon that destroyed two homes and threatened others this month, were likely the result of slopes whose mantle of trees was destroyed by fire combined with heavy rain on a deep snowpack.
The avalanches were a shocking surprise, even to longtime residents. Slopes at various places in the miles-long canyon were known to slide in exceptional snow years, but not to the extent that they scoured trenches and snapped large trees.
The wildfires, floods, oscillating droughts and rainy seasons, and avalanches haven’t penetrated the highest levels of government. President Trump’s comments on Earth Day could be summarized as “everything is fine.”
It’s impossible to live in the West and think everything is fine. It’s not, and it’s on track to get worse. Changing out light bulbs won’t fix it.
Resetting the climate requires a worldwide effort that the U.S. should lead. If American leaders don’t step up, the seasons’ name changes will stick, and generations to come will rightly blame us for the devastation.
It started small, half a century ago, but with a mission.
The first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was held in 1970 in Beauregard Square, previously and afterward known as Congo Square, where African drumming and dancing had persisted through the era of slavery. It was modeled on the traditional-music showcases at the Newport Folk Festival, but filled entirely with Louisiana’s own styles — jazz, blues, gospel, brass bands, zydeco, Mardi Gras Indians and much more. Duke Ellington, the only performer without Louisiana roots, was commissioned to write and perform a “New Orleans Suite.” Nearly two dozen food vendors offered jambalaya, étouffée and other specialties.
Tickets were $3. But only about 300 people showed up, and the overstocked vendors ended up feeding children from a nearby orphanage.
Yet the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival has proved ambitious and resilient: It has survived deficits, rainouts and the aftermath of hurricanes. As it enters its 50th official run on Thursday, Jazz Fest, as everyone calls it, has grown inseparable from the cultural ecosystem of its hometown, embracing the sounds of the city and welcoming outsiders to enjoy them.
“Jazz Fest is everything that you love about New Orleans to begin with,” said Ivan Neville, the keyboardist who made his first appearance there in 1977; he is performing this year with his band Dumpstaphunk and in the Foundation of Funk with the rhythm section of the Meters, the band co-founded in 1965 by his father, Art Neville. “It’s the most variety of music that you’ll ever see in one given place, so that’s first, and then the best food that you will ever eat in your entire life.”
In recent years, Jazz Fest has drawn between 400,000 and 500,000 attendees across its two extended weekends; its peak, in 2001, was 618,000. Festival organizers estimate that it brings $300 million into the New Orleans economy. This year’s event includes nationally known headliners and hitmakers, among them Katy Perry, J Balvin, Chris Stapleton, Diana Ross and Pitbull, as well as habitual Jazz Fest performers including Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Buffett, Al Green, Herbie Hancock and the Dave Matthews Band.
Yet while visiting attractions have boosted attendance, they have never defined the festival. Quint Davis, who has booked music for Jazz Fest since it began and is now the C.E.O. of Festival Productions-New Orleans, noted that this year’s lineup includes 688 groups, “and 600 of them are from New Orleans and South Louisiana.”
That dedicated focus on the local is the core of the festival, which has bolstered the sublime stubbornness of New Orleans culture — where continuity is cherished and singular local customs are continued across generations — and brought worldwide appreciation to what were once just neighborhood festivities. “There’s no question that Jazz Fest has been the event that put New Orleans music on the map,” said Jan Ramsey, the publisher and editor in chief of the New Orleans music magazine OffBeat.
Jazz Fest has maintained its mandate because it operates far differently from other American festivals its size. Its music encompasses vintage jazz to chart-topping reggaeton; its audience is genuinely all-ages. It takes place in daylight, ending at 7 p.m. — which not only encourages visitors to seek out night life, but also rules out stage spectacles dependent on lights and video, emphasizing old-school musicianship instead.
More significantly, Jazz Fest is nonprofit, channeling revenues back into Louisiana music. “The mission of the festival all along has been to make a full circle,” Davis said. “To go back and support the culture that you’re promoting.”
“Just started reading Yvon’s new book of stories and came across this sentence from an old report he wrote on a climb in Canada that Chounard and Becky did. Just one of those good reminders on perspective as we haggle over zipper placements….”
“At the first bivouac, Fred pulled out his sports coat, stuffed the lining with crumpled-up pages from our Louis L’Amour novel, and in the morning burned the whole thing to make tea, adding creamer and sugar for extended calories. The master had given a very impressionable twenty two year old a lesson in “light-and-fast”- or was it “quick-and-dirty” alpinism.”
“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” — Yvon Chouinard
For nearly 80 years, Yvon Chouinard has followed his own advice, pursuing, with equal fervor, sports adventures, business excellence, and environmental activism. Since 1950, he has captured the lessons and revelations he’s learned in articles and books, personal letters and poetry, introductions and eulogies. In this fascinating inside look, Chouinard himself has selected his favorites from years of reflection, all accompanied by illustrative photos, many never published before. The results is both more of Chouinard’s iconoclastic and provocative thinking, his skilled storytelling and sense of humor, and a picture of the evolution of his thoughts and philosophies. With articles on sports, from falconry to fishing and climbing to surfing, with musings on the purpose of business and the importance of environmental activism, this very personal book is like sitting on the couch with this amazing man, flipping through his photo album as he tells the stories of his life. Some Stories is an eclectic portrait of a unique life lived well.
Yet the final pages of the book indicate that Chouinard will continue to challenge people, business, and the world. He presents the company’s new simple but direct mission statement, revised for the first time in 27 years: “We are in business to save our home planet.” With it he emphasizes the urgency of the climate crisis then entreats every person’s obligation to reflect on, commit to, and act on this mission.
It was October 2012 when the European weather prediction model beat its American counterpart in forecasting Hurricane Sandy’s hard left turn into the U.S. coastline. What scientists had known for years — that the European forecast model was superior to the American — caught the attention of the U.S. public and Congress.
Since then, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with funding support from Congress, has worked intensely to improve the American model. It has boosted its computing power, improved the way it brings in data, and enhanced how it simulates weather systems at small scales. Yet, more than six years later, it still trails the European model in overall accuracy.
Neil Jacobs, the acting head of NOAA and a meteorologist, is committed to closing the gap between the models. Since being appointed to the Trump administration, he has made one of his top priorities installing a process that will allow U.S. forecast modeling to reach its potential and become world-class.
As part of its 2020 budget request, to the tune of $15 million, NOAA has proposed the establishment of the Earth Prediction Innovation Center (EPIC), which it says “will advance U.S. weather modeling and reclaim international leadership in the area of numerical weather prediction.”
In an interview, Jacobs blamed recent U.S. modeling shortfalls on a lack of research investment. He said the United States now spends about the same amount on operating its flagship model, the Global Forecast System (GFS), as it does on research initiatives to improve it. By contrast, the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts spends roughly five times as much on research. Jacobs said he’d like to see NOAA “grow research five times” to keep pace.
The first time Wiley Maple encountered the Streif, the world’s most fearsome downhill, he was twenty-one years old. Typically, downhill racers take a couple of training runs in the days leading up to the event. Before each one, they inspect the course, which entails side-slipping down while visualizing the line that will deliver them to the finish in the least amount of time. As a member of the U.S. Ski Team, Maple had side-slipped, and then skied, most of the World Cup’s other majestic, gnarly downhills, but this track—which descends an unremarkable and not particularly tall forested alp called the Hahnenkamm, in Kitzbühel, Austria—seemed to represent a whole new level of inhospitable. The thought of hurling himself down the narrow, steep, snaking flume of ice and shadow made him queasy. He wasn’t the first previously undaunted young buck to doubt himself when confronted by the Streif’s proportions and demands—no other course has inspired such fear and respect among the craft’s practitioners, or likely sent as many of them into (or over) the protective fencing and then to the hospital—but none of those predecessors had been him, here, now.
A couple of hours later, he was in the starting hut for his first training run, peering down past the first two turns toward the precipice called the Mausefalle, or mousetrap, a two-hundred-foot jump over which the previous racer had just vanished. Word reached the start, via radio, that the guy had crashed. Course hold: time to wait. Twenty minutes passed. You don’t get far in this line of work unless you have some control over your nerves, and so Maple calmed himself. Eventually, he got the alles ist klar and, in a self-imposed daze, nudged into the start. Ski poles over wand, beep-beep-beep-beep-beeeeep, two pushes, two strides, and schuss. A half-dozen seconds later, airborne over the Mausefalle at sixty-five miles an hour, he thought, Holy shit, I’m in Kitzbühel. He snapped to, and tried to bear down. Initiating the infamous hard-right turn at the bottom of a wall of ice called the Steilhang, he crossed the tips of his skis, lost the line, and careered into the fence. This was where, years before, the Canadian Brian Stemmle, off his line, had caught a ski in the netting. That crash, which came to be known as the Wishbone, split Stemmle’s pelvis open and put him in a coma. But Maple got away clean. After a moment, he crawled under the netting, put his skis back on, and reëntered the course a little farther down to have a look at the rest of it. On race day, he came in fifty-third. This was in 2012.
My own “Holy shit, I’m in Kitzbühel” moment came on a Tuesday in January, earlier this year, after I stepped off the train at the base of the Hahnenkamm gondola. It was dusk. The town was still relatively quiet, in the absence of the eighty or so thousand fans who were expected to invade that weekend for the annual series of Alpine races and debauches. I glanced up and saw for the first time, shadow-blue and telephoto close, the final section of the Streif, where the racers, after soaring off a jump, come hauling across a steep, bumpy, fallaway traverse—legs burning, skis thrashing—and into the final plunge, the Zielschuss, reaching speeds of almost ninety miles an hour. I had been watching the race on television for decades, whenever and wherever I could find it, with a heart-in-throat intensity of devotion that embarrasses me, and this last hellbent stretch was always the emotional climax, the site of either life-threatening crackups or ecstatic finishes, amid the drunken, swaying throngs. And here it was, the empty stage, the star of the show. The course was marked off with blue food dye, which, in flat light, helps the skiers see the contours in the snow. Viewed in person, from below, the traverse looked narrower and steeper than it did on TV. From the angle of the course workers’ stance, as they tended to the slope in crampons, you’d have guessed that they were ice climbing. I walked up on the snow to the finish area. If the Streif was an idol, I was close enough to ask for an autograph.
If you come across what looks like an explosive device in the San Juan Mountains this summer, don’t touch it.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is getting the word out that some explosives used in avalanche mitigation this past winter were duds. As a result, the potentially explosive bombs still sit somewhere in the mountains.
In CDOT’s southwest and south-central regions, more than 630 explosives were shot or dropped from helicopters to trigger avalanches this winter.
More specifically, about 430 explosives were shot on Red Mountain, Coal Bank and Molas passes, with the majority of that amount on Red Mountain Pass, CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes said.
More than 65 explosives were shot on Lizard Head Pass, more than 130 on Wolf Creek Pass, and about 50 on Monarch, Cumbres and La Manga passes.
Of the 630 explosives, 13 were duds. Schwantes said CDOT does not give out the specific locations of where the explosives were shot for public safety reasons.
Statewide, more than 1,500 explosives, including 22 duds, were shot at avalanche paths.
Schwantes said the numbers are in line with the national average of about 1 percent chance of a bomb not exploding.
She said CDOT knows exactly where every explosive was shot, and crews will attempt to revisit the region and recover duds.
Most of the shots are aimed at rugged and remote terrain, Schwantes said, in areas not accessed by the average hiker.
“It’s not unknown for someone to come across a device that has not detonated, but they are in very rugged terrain,” she said. “We don’t want to scare anyone, but at the same time, we want to advise the public of the best safety instructions.”
Shots from a howitzer look like a huge bullet, Schwantes said, and rounds from CDOT’s “ava-launcher” are shaped more like a torpedo and usually are bright orange or yellow.
People who come across the explosive device are advised not to touch it and immediately report its whereabouts to law enforcement or CDOT.