Environmental education featured at ski area event
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Arapahoe Basin’s Save Our Snow celebration will take on extra poignancy in a season when there just wasn’t all that much of the white stuff. While it’s still hard to draw a direct line between global warming and this year’s snow drought, there’s more buzz than ever in the ski industry about how a changing climate might impact winter snow sports, as parts of the country suffered through one of the warmest and driest winters on record.
California’s Sierra Nevada, for example, reported a snowpack that was only about a third of normal for much of the season, and resorts in New England also stayed high and dry much of the winter.
To add insult to injury, a March heat wave brought record-breaking high temperatures to a huge portion of the country, including Summit County, where daily records fell nearly every other day and temperatures often ran 20 degrees above average.
In what is usually the snowiest month of the winter, the snowpack dropped from a meager 70 percent of normal at the start of the month to a disastrous 36 percent of average by April 1.
With all this coming on the heels of a record-breaking winter, the dire predictions of increased weather extremes start to ring true — and there’s a scientific explanation for the pattern.
Extreme long-term warming over the Arctic is changing the rhythm and pattern of the jet stream, the powerful river of air in the upper atmosphere that helps drive storms across the northern hemisphere.
Research is starting to show a change in the flow of the jet stream, with higher amplitude ridges of high pressure and troughs of low pressure that tend to get stuck, at least for a while. Sometimes that leads to sustained precipitation events (last winter) and other times it can result in long periods of dry weather (like this year)
Speaking at a weather conference in Breckenridge earlier this year, Jennifer Francis, with the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, called it the revenge of the atmosphere.
Francis said her most recent research points to a direct link between changes over the Arctic and mid-latitude weather patterns driven by the jet stream.
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as other parts of the Earth and essentially, that heat is changing north-south temperature gradients and reducing the speed of circumpolar winds. That leads to a greater amplification of the high pressure ridges and low pressure troughs in mid-latitudes, she said.
A-Basin’s Save Our Snow event highlights environmental education, with a chance for skiers and riders to visit with environmentally conscious companies at the base area, including High Country Conservation Center, Clif Bar, Siemens Wind Energy and The Front Range Ski Bus.
Lift tickets will be $64 on the day of the event. $20 of every ticket sold will benefit the High Country Conservation Center.
As stewards of an exceptional mountain environment, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is committed to providing quality outdoor recreation experiences. Join A-Basin for a fun filled day of environmental education. All proceeds from this event will benefit High Country Conservation Center.
Visit with different like-minded companies in the base area and learn about their environmental initiatives. The High Country Conservation Center, Clif Bar, Siemens Wind Energy, The Front Range Ski Bus will have info booths, and there’s also a raffle, music in the afternoon and a composting demo between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Arapahoe Basin will also encourage car-pooling the next few weekends by reserving a significant part of the Early Riser lot at the base of the slopes for cars with four or more passengers. More details here.