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Climate: Colorado snowpack tracking near average

Above-average precipitation in October and November give state a headstart to the runoff season

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Colorado snowpack is tracking very near average for the winter so far.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The snowpack in nearly every river basin in Colorado is at or above normal, federal watchers said this week.

This year’s January 1 snowpack readings are at 103 percent of median statewide, according to Phyllis Ann Philipps, State Conservationist with the NRCS.

“This is a great start to the 2014 water year. As we saw in 2012 and 2013, early seasons deficits are difficult to make up later in the season … so being right where we should be this time of year gives us a head start compared to the past couple of years,” Philipps said. Continue reading

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Arapahoe Basin moving ahead with Beavers expansion

Open house set for Dec. 3

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Arapahoe Basin is moving ahead with an expansion plan that would add more than 400 acres of terrain in the Beavers area.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Arapahoe Basin and the U.S. Forest Service are moving ahead with the first formal step in the review process for a significant expansion at Summit County’s oldest ski area.

Adding a lift the Beavers area, west of existing lift-served terrain at the area, would mitigate public safety issues and enhance A-Basin’s reputation as a destination for advanced skiers, the Forest Service said in its scoping notice for the plan. Altogether, the Beavers expansion would add about 430 acres, including 125 acres of tree skiing.

The ski area also wants to expand its reservoir for snowmaking water, add a short surface lift to ease access to Montezuma Bowl and replace the Molly Hogan lift in the beginner area, as well as remove the seldom-used Norway chair and plan for potential zip line installations to enhance summer recreation. Continue reading

Summit County eyes winter road closures

New rules would mesh with management of national forest lands

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Summit County officials are considering a request to close parts of several local roads, including Baldy Mountain Road, to winter motorized recreational traffic. Maps of the other roads are online at the Summit County planning department website.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Summit County officials will take input on a request to ban winter motorized recreation on three county roads:

  • Gold Run Gulch Road/CR 300 (from the Gold Run Trailhead on the north to the intersection with CR 456 on the south)
  • Baldy Road/CR 520 (from the Baldy Trailhead at Emmet Lode/CR 536 to the road’s terminus on Baldy Mountain)
  • Boreas Pass Road/CR 10 (from the Boreas Pass Trailhead to Boreas Pass)

An open house on the request is set for Nov. 19, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the BOCC Hearing Room at the County Courthouse in Breckenridge. More detailed project information and maps will be available at the open house and can also be found on the Special Projects section of the Summit County Community Development website at: http://www.co.summit.co.us/index.aspx?NID=837. Continue reading

Morning photo: Morning glory

Mountain high …

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Gore Range at sunrise.

FRISCO —For a change, I dipped back into the archives to grab a few of my favorite mountain shots from last winter, as much to inspire myself as anything else. Usually when I finish a photo session, there are a couple of things nagging in the back of my mind. I’m not the most methodical person, so often I find myself thinking, “Oh, I should have adjusted by ISO — that way I could have stopped down the lens for better depth of field. If I have time, I’m getting better at shooting a full range of exposures to edit. It’s amazing how much different a few hundredths of a second or one F-stop can make. Pulling last year’s pictures is a good way to remind myself of the things I wanted to try in the quest for better images! Continue reading

Summit County: Forest Service releases revised plan for 21-mile motorized trail system on Tenderfoot Mountain

Community task force finds common ground on contentious proposal

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The Forest Service says there’s room for 13 miles of new motorized trails on Tenderfoot Mountain, despite the fact that the agency can’t adequately maintain existing trails.

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A family outing near the Dillon Cemetery.

By Bob Berwyn

*Previous Summit Voice stories on the Tenderfoot motorized trail proposal are online here.

FRISCO — Critics are likely to say it’s like putting lipstick on a pig, but the U.S. Forest Service claims its latest version of a plan for a motorized trail on Tenderfoot Mountain, near Dillon, will result in a managed, finite system of sustainable trails to replacing the existing spaghetti network of illegal trails in the area.

The agency this week released a revised environmental study for the controversial trail system, which has been hotly debated for the past several years. According to the Forest Service, the new proposed action represents numerous compromises that were made to mitigate environmental and social concerns. Continue reading

Health: Self-employed Summit County residents facing higher insurance costs under state-administered insurance system

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A state map shows the different areas for rating insurance costs in Colorado.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis seeks readjustment of rating area boundaries

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Access to health insurance may become a reality for many under the Affordable Care Act, but other residents of the Colorado high country are frustrated by the changes, which could result in higher premiums and less choice for people who are self-employed.

“It’s a huge problem for Summit County … it’s a major barrier to implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Summit County,” said Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat who represents Summit County.

“Summit County has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the State,” said Sarah Vaine, CEO of Summit Community Care Clinic. “Many people have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to purchase health insurance for themselves and their families. It is worrisome and disappointing that rates in our area may be priced beyond our residents’ ability to pay. We are hopeful that something can be done to make products on the exchange more accessible,” Vaine said. Continue reading

Skiing: A-Basin moving ahead with master plan

Ski area, Forest Service to host Oct. 3 field session to provide overview of planned improvements at Summit County’s oldest ski area

A map of A-Basin's proposed upgrades presented last year.

A map of A-Basin’s proposed upgrades presented last year.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — U.S. Forest Service officials say they’ve accepted Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s proposal to begin implementing pieces of a master plan that was updated last winter, including a new lift in the Beavers area, a short surface lift to improve access to Montezuma Bowl, and increased water storage for snowmaking.

The new lift in the Beavers area, to the west of the ski area’s current operational boundary, would serve about 400 acres of terrain.

“Two or so trails would be cleared while the majority would be gladed. The proposal calls for a four-person lift that would gain 1,500’ in elevation,” said Forest Service snow ranger Shelly Grail. “The proposed reservoir expansion is still being fine-tuned.  It’s final proposal location will  be determined after more wetland delineation work and feedback from the Army Corps of Engineers,” Grail said. Continue reading

Morning photo: Wet!

September showers

Rainy days ...

Rainy days …

FRISCO —Had enough yet? I actually haven’t heard too many complaints about the rain, except maybe from a few pesky tourists (just kidding, we love you) who would rather be high and dry. But the the persistently warm and moist conditions do seem a bit unusual and seem to have slowed the progress of the annual leaf-changing spectacle. Scientists say it’s mostly the length of the day that affects fall colors, but temps and moisture must also be a factor. Last year by Sept. 12 there was lots of color …

Sept. 13, 2012.

Sept. 12, 2012.

Continue reading

Summit Voice: Weekly recap

Colorado mule deer.

Colorado mule deer.

Environmental news from Colorado and the world

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A busy week of writing news, including a cool story for MSN News about how the USGS and partner scientists at the Oregon Zoo are using smartphone technology to track polar bears.

And after several years of writing about the pollinator crisis, and expecially the decline in honey bees, it was great to see the story go mainstream with Time cover story. I also wrote a short related for MSN News about how systemic pesticides have been found in common garden store ornamental plants used by backyard gardeners.

For Summit Voice, my week started by pondering why on Earth an aquarium would even consider keeping marine mammals in captivity: Feds deny aquarium request for beluga whales.

One of the more interesting climate stories was about how the amplitude of the carbon cycle has intensified as plants cope with more CO2 in the atmosphere: Global warming: Earth is breathing more deeply these days.

We also posted our summary of the monthly NOAA U.S. climate analysis, with links back to the full report: Climate: Average U.S. temp above average for July.

This story on bees in Scotland was the big social media hit of the week, with scores of retweets on Twitter and Facebook likes, as the buzz about bees makes waves throughout the web: UK beekeepers report widespread loss of colonies.

Plenty more cautionary climate tales (that’s why they call us alarmists):

And some other stuff:

Summit Voice environmental photography:

Summit Voice photography:

July precip above average in Summit County

Monsoon delivers plentiful rainfall

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Monsoon rains brought above-average moisture to Summit County in July.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — July brought above-average moisture to both official National Weather Service sites in Summit County, especially in Dillon, where the monsoon delivered 3.35 inches of water, about 1.47 inches more than average for the month.

At least a trace of precipitation was reported on all but seven days at the Dillon weather observation station, with the wettest days on July 25 and July 26, both delivering about a half inch of moisture.

The average daily maximum temperature at Dillon during July was 74.4 degrees, just .10 above average, but the daily average low temperature was 39.8 degrees, nearly 4 degrees above average, probably due in part to plentiful nighttime cloud cover. Continue reading

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