Kiitella’s “10.5 Years In Suite 102” Party

kiitella windows.jpeg


Pisco Sours shaken and served by Rōber’ & Gregory
Small foodthings
& Mountain Girl Gallery next door is having an Open Gallery Evening

Wednesday June 28, 5-7

~ Please bring anything ~



Lisa Issenberg artist.owner
ridgway, colorado 970.626.3399



Hello Mountain Weather Masters,

It’s been a great spring. Ellen and I finished installing our garden with the peppers going in last weekend. So starting late July if you want some tomatoes, basil, green or yellow beans, or squash, just let us know.

May has generally been cooler than normal with mixed precip signals. Mid May had a big closed low track through the Four Corners. It brought widespread Colorado precip but epic upslope valley rain and mountain snow for the Front Range to the Continental Divide.

Snowpack is now in full runoff mode and will increase into this coming weekend as temperatures finally climb above normal. (We have yet hit 90 degrees here in Dysfunction Junction which is somewhat unusual.) Current snowpack is above normal above the state. May began with SW CO having the highest snowpack. The mid-May storm really raised the snowpack percentages for the Upper Colorado and South Platte basins, to over 200% of normal.

June will start with some moisture being pulled in from the SW for afternoon convective showers favoring the south and central mountains. The latest outlook from the CPC shows an area of odds shifted towards for wetter and cooler than normal centered over Wyoming and extending across all of Colorado except the SW. This pattern continues for the entire summer, Jun-Jul-Aug, season. Apologies, I cannot add any further detail to how the CPC produced these outlooks. I am out of the analysis loop, and I am enjoying being out of the loop.

Monsoon? Has anyone heard any predictions for the monsoon? Again, I tend to believe a true sustained monsoon cannot work into Colorado until the snowpack has melted to near zero, thus allowing the high country to get warmer. So keep watching the snowpack.

Other climate signals: The northern Pacific Basin remains slightly warmer than normal, down from the record warmth of last year. In the tropical Pacific, ENSO is currently neutral, but in the short term, as in this last week, is trending warmer than normal. There is still plenty of uncertainty about the state of ENSO for the upcoming cold season. The best forecast is for a weak El Nino to emerge this fall, though ENSO neutral conditions are still possible.

The year-long outlook shows a strong tendency towards warmer than normal. Long term precipitation outlooks are always less certain. But here you can see a potentially wet fall season, then EC or equal chances into 2018. In this precipitation outlook you can see the effect of El Nino with increased probability of wetter than normal across the south, and drier than normal in the northern Rockies. From my analysis of Colorado response to El Nino, that dry signal should extend down into Steamboat Springs to Winter Park.

Next month I will not post this climate outlook until early July. I plan to be doing the Great Divide mountain bike route from I-70 to I-40 into early July.


Joe recently retired (a year in Oct.) from The National Weather Service then joined and strengthened the bench of Mountain Weather Masters.

Brills & BLM thrash local San Juan backcountry users … again


The Brills

Denver Post

The Bureau of Land Management has approved an expansion of helicopter skiing terrain for Silverton Mountain.

Silverton Guides’ proposal to swap 5,556 acres of permitted heliskiing terrain for 16,252 acres of new terrain was approved by the BLM Wednesday after nearly two years of environmental review. The deal gives the operation more than 25,000 acres of helicopter accessible ski terrain in the San Juans in southwest Colorado.

Silverton Mountain and Silverton Guides co-owner Aaron Brill proposed the swap to meet growing demand for heliskiing with below-treeline terrain that reduced avalanche hazard by offering less-steep, more wind-protected runs.

“With few economic opportunities in Silverton, especially in the winter, this is approval is really important to the Silverton economy,” Brill said. “Lots of confusion existed regarding our proposal, and after listening to public input, the final product is one that is greatly reduced in scope and size. Skiing is rapidly being taken over by the mega ski corporations of Vail and KSL, which have become the Walmarts of skiing, which makes it harder for the independent ski areas to survive and we are thankful for the BLM approval.”

The proposal generated angst among backcountry users who feared the swap would push them out of easily accessible ski and snowmobile terrain. The BLM received more than 370 comments — most of them opposing the swap and arguing the helicopter skiing and explosive avalanche mitigation would disrupt recreation in the regions.

The BLM’s 59-page Environmental Assessment — studying what is the agency’s only helicopter skiing permit in the Lower 48 states — grants a five-year permit, but caps the number of annual user days at 600. It also establishes flight corridors and no-fly zones around the town of Silverton and confines landing zones to certain areas.

“Heliskiing is a very popular activity in the area that creates a significant boost to the winter economy of Silverton. This decision lets Silverton Guides fully utilize their allocated user days while having a minimal effect on other backcountry users,” BLM Gunnison field manager Elijah Waters said in a written statement. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Not really, said Jimbo Buickerood with the San Juan Citizens Alliance. The group opposed the expansion plan and filed a Freedom of Information Act request for details of each comment submitted and found that more than three-quarters opposed the plan, Buickerood said.

The backlash, Buickerood said, “definitely surprised” him.

“This is not about expanding skiing into backcountry areas. This is putting helicopter skiing operations in the frontcountry on top of users of the only two county roads in the area,” Buickerood said. “There is some extremely strong opposition to this. Backcountry skiers are just a little part of this. There’s the snowmobile community, ice climbers, people walking their dogs and people on skinny skis going for a tour. The BLM is completely negating very strong opposition to this expansion.”

Brill, along with his wife Jen, opened Silverton Mountain in 2002, offering a single lift to steep terrain that appealed to expert skiers. Six years later, the couple acquired an unused permit for helicopter skiing near their ski area from Helitrax near Telluride. Soon the Brills expanded their heliskiing operations into Alaska, where Silverton Guides now has permits for on more than 15 million acres across the state.

In 2015, Brill approached the BLM with a problem. During periods of high avalanche hazard, he could not offer heliskiing clients safer terrain below treeline. Winds blasting the higher terrain made avalanche mitigation challenging, increasing the risk for his guides and clients.

He proposed swapping five areas of skiable terrain for several areas with lower-hazard terrain. Brill noted that his ski area is the largest employer in San Juan County and his helicopter assists the Colorado Department of Transportation in rockslide projects on Colorado 550 and often assists local search teams on rescue missions.

The BLM, in its Final Environmental Assessment report issued Wednesday, noted that helicopter skiing “is an essential part of the business for Silverton Mountain … in terms of revenue it generates and the competitive advantage it creates when compared to other ski resorts in Colorado.”

The BLM said approving the proposal “would contribute a positive economic benefit to the economy and residents of the town of Silverton and San Juan County.”


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A controversial expansion of helicopter skiing terrain near Silverton was approved Wednesday by the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM announced in its Final Environmental Assessment that it approved Silverton Guides’ request to swap 5,556 acres for 16,250 acres of BLM land in other areas of the San Juan Mountains around Silverton.

Related Stories
Most who comment oppose Silverton Guides’ heli-ski land swap

Silverton Guides, an arm of Silverton Mountain, which is owned by Aaron and Jen Brill, now boasts more than 25,000 acres of helicopter ski terrain in the high country around Silverton.

The Brills purchased Silverton Mountain in 2002, and started to offer heli-skiing about six years later after the company acquired Telluride-based Helitrax’s permit for the activity in certain areas of the San Juan Mountains.

The company has since expanded service to Alaska.

In 2015, the Brills asked for the land swap, arguing that for safety reasons, they wanted to exchange high elevation, avalanche prone terrain for lower elevation areas with less risk of avalanche.

The Brills also noted that Silverton Mountain is one of San Juan County’s largest employers in the winter months, with a staff of about 45 people. The expansion, the Brills said previously, would increase that benefit to the community.

On Wednesday, Aaron Brill wrote in an emailed response that “with few economic opportunities in Silverton especially in the winter, this is approval is really important to the Silverton economy.”

“Lots of confusion existed regarding our proposal, and after listening to public input the final product is one that is greatly reduced in scope and size,” Brill wrote.

“Skiing is rapidly being taken over by the mega ski corporations of Vail and KSL which have become the Wal-Mart’s of skiing, which makes it harder for the independent ski areas to survive and we are thankful for the BLM approval.”

Wednesday’s announcement ends nearly three years of contentious debate surrounding the land swap, with critics arguing the exchange would compromise prime backcountry ski areas and pose an added risk of avalanche danger.

A public comment period revealed that nearly 85 percent of about 370 people who commented opposed the land exchange. The San Juan Citizens Alliance filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the public comments, forcing the BLM, which had refused to release them, to make them openly available.

Jimbo Buickerood, with the alliance, said the BLM’s approval “represents their continued disinterest in seriously considering the comments submitted by the public.”

“The vigorous opposition ranged from the Colorado Snowmobile Association to Silverton residents just wanting a quiet and safe place to walk their dog,” he said. “Most of us in Southwest Colorado feel that the priority use of our lands is for the public at large rather than for elite and private use. Obviously the BLM is clueless to that reality.”

The BLM, in its Final Environmental Assessment, attached regulations that include restricted flight corridors, no fly-zones near the town of Silverton and limits the annual user days at 600.

“Heli-skiing is a very popular activity in the area that creates a significant boost to the winter economy of Silverton,” Gunnison Field Manager Elijah Waters said in a prepared statement.

“This decision lets Silverton Mountain Guides fully utilize their allocated user days while having a minimal effect on other backcountry users. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

The BLM’s permit is for five years. The agency requires Silverton Guides to exercise standard operating procedures, including a thorough visual reconnaissance to assure the absence of hikers, backcountry skiers or snowmobilers, prior to any explosive use for avalanche mitigation.

Grouse Gulch, Cinnamon, Houghton, Poughkeepsie and Ross basins were removed from Silverton Guides’ recreation permit, and Illinois/Hancock, Southeast, Round and Minnie/Maggie gulches were added in the trade.

Scott Mercier, The Cyclist Who Refused To Dope, Now Champions Clean Racing ~ “A nice interview with friend and former U.S. Olympic team and pro rider.”


Scott Mercier before he quit professional racing.



~~~  LISTEN  ~~~

Scott Mercier made a choice 20 years ago: He refused to take performance-enhancing drugs. That decision ended his professional biking career and his slot on the U.S. Postal team.

That same team went on, with Lance Armstrong in the lead, to dominate seven Tours de France. Mercier went on to a long spell of anonymity. He become a financial advisor in Grand Junction.

While Mercier was working, raising a family and, at times, second-guessing his decision to turn down the drugs that were taking other professional racers to the heights of that sport, the world of professional road racing was flipped.

The U.S. Postal cycling team became enmeshed in a widespread doping scandal. Armstrong was revealed as the most egregious cheater in the history of professional cycling and stripped of his seven Tour de France wins. And, suddenly, Mercier’s name began popping up as the professional racer who took a principled stand and refused to dope.

Mercie has used that new spotlight to champion dope-free cycling. He has become a strong supporter of collegiate cycling and will deliver a keynote address — about essons learned in his unusual path through professional racing and his unlikely friendship with Armstrong — to cyclists gathering in Grand Junction for the USA Cycling Collegiate and Para Road Nationals.

Interview Highlights With Scott Mercier

On Making The Tough Decision To Drop Out Of Professional Cycling Rather Than Dope:

“For me, it felt like I would start getting this kind of addictive power, where you get addicted to the strength, and that it is one step on a merry-go-round that I could never get off of, or a toilet bowl where you are sort of circling and circling and circling. And I just thought, ‘I don’t know how this ends.’ And I knew that to take that step, there was no way I could get around having to live my life as a lie.”

On Whether He Feels Vindicated In His Decision Not To Dope:

“I don’t know if that is the right word for it. I certainly feel satisfied. You kind of reap what you sow. And we’ve seen that with what happened with Armstrong and Postal certainly. I guess I do sort of feel vindicated. I can’t lie. There were times when I wanted it to be exposed so you could really see what was going on. The other side of that, though, is that I know how much the riders today are suffering. I know how much the sport is suffering.”

On Whether Lance Armstrong Is Sorry For His Role In Doping:

“You know what he is sorry for, he is sorry for the way he treated people. And I believe him when he says that. He is not sorry that he doped, nor do I think that he should be because he was a 22-year-old kid facing a hundred years of institutionalized doping. Could he have changed it? Perhaps. You know sometimes it just takes one person to call ‘foul’ on something to change the culture, but I can’t put the entire sins of decades of problems in a sport (and I think there are doping problems in more than one sport: I don’t believe the deflated football is the NFL’s biggest problem). In some ways, I think he’s gotten exactly what he deserves. But in some ways he’s the fall guy for really an entire sport.”

On What He Tells Young Cyclists Just Coming Up In The Sport:

“I found that some of the lessons I learned in the peloton, particularly the ability to suffer — to just have some grit and to suck it up — can carry you well through life, whether it’s in your career or personal life, and certainly in endurance sports. Suffering is a key component to success…And I try to tell these kids to carry yourself with integrity.”

Chief Ouray Highway tour with Peter Lev

A splendid day touring the Hwy. 550 corridor from Ouray to Silverton with Peter Lev and talking about all those beautiful avalanche paths I enjoyed years ago.  Stopped in Chattanooga of course to visit the Tim Lane/Jerry Roberts cabins (employee housing) from the San Juan Project days.  They held the elected positions of dogcatcher and mayordomo of the settlement, population four and one dog.


Peter Lev & Django on the step of Señor Lane’s hut with a quote:  ” I’ve finally made it to where I’m supposed to be.”  rōbert photo


And into Silverton to wander the streets and visit the bars that the Chattanooga delegation frequented for many years.  Peter is practicing his decision making skills in the Pickle Barrel at the very table where don Tim last sat just prior to being thrown out for unacceptable personal behavior during his last ‘Roving Chile ambassador’ visit in 2004.

photo credit rōbert


J & his cabin.jpg

Former mayordomo de Chattanooga, rōbert & Django at his old hut.

Peter Lev photo