Nothing says Easter like a visit to the country to check out trees bursting into bloom and other signs of nature’s spring resurgence. It’s a good reminder that when you strip away the bizarre Christian mythology surrounding this holiday, what you have left is a good old-fashioned pagan celebration of life. And nothing could be more glorious than that because it’s the life-force of nature that’s at the basis of our reality, not some musty legends handed down over generations by a secretive theocractic organization.
Skiers have as much to lose as anyone. Glaciers are shrinking everywhere, overall there is less snow and winters are getting shorter at both ends, but especially in the spring. In a groundbreaking 2013 study, the U.S. Geological study found a 20 percent decline in Rocky Mountain snow cover since 1980.
Another research paper published just this year in meticulous Swiss fashion documented that the snow season has shortened by 37 days since 1970, with a 25 percent decline in the average maximum snow depth across the entire Swiss Alps, at all elevations. The researchers were surprised to find the decline even at the higher mountain weather stations close to famous resorts like Zermatt and Davos.
“For a short time, we’re free to glide, carve, dip and soar. It’s pure play, harmony of man and nature …”
By Bob Berwyn
*Originally published in New West in 2007
I want to tell you about an old song by Austrian singer and songwriter Wofgang Ambros called Schifoan. Translated, the song title simply means skiing. But the lyrics to this three-minute ditty capture so much of the feeling of a good ski day that it became a sing-along anthem in this ski-crazy mountain country, not to mention a karaoke favorite.
In the first verse, Ambros describes the joy of strapping his boards to the car roof on a Friday afternoon, the giddy anticipation of seeing snow-covered mountains on the horizon, and his determination to catch first chair in the morning to ensure first tracks — but not before stopping at the mountain hut for a Jagatee (hot tea with rum). Continue reading “An old rock-n-roll anthem for a new ski season”→
*Author’s note -this essay was originally published Feb. 26, 2007 on New West.
It’s a mid-winter meltdown here in the Colorado High Country. After a string of seemingly endless powder days that lasted through most of January and the early part of February, the sun is out, the roadside berms are melting. And – shhhhh, don’t tell anyone – despite ski reports touting packed powder, the snow is transitioning at our local ski areas, even turning to (Gasp!) hardpack in places.
None of that stops my friend Dave from making the annual 1,000-mile trek from his home near Lodi, California, where he grows grapes and makes wine when he’s not busy as a volunteer patroller at Heavenly Valley. After all, it’s not just about the snow, it’s about a 20-year ski friendship born on the slopes, a bond that’s in part sustained by our mutual passion for sliding down snow-covered mountains. Continue reading “Skiing heals!”→
Morning alpenglow illuminates the Hallstatt Glacier in Austria’s Salzkammergut region.
Karst landscape on the Krippenstein at sunset.
The Hallstätter See from above.
Langbathsee, Upper Austria.
A late summer sojourn in the always sparkling mountain and lake country of the Salzkammergut yielded some good research material for our journalism project on climate change in the Alps and we had the opportunity to spend a night atop the Krippenstein, at an elevation of about 2,000 meters. One of the old alpine huts near the summit has been converted into a snazzy alpine lodge, The Lodge at Krippenstein, and there’s even a Colorado connection — seems Chris Davenport enjoyed a good ski session here a few years ago, and it turns out that Warren Miller has also filmed short segment in the area. The lodge is also operated as a climate friendly green business, and has won awards for its sustainable practices, and it is, of course, a great base camp for exploring this wonderful slice of the Alps.
All the pictures except one show lakes of the region, intricately tied to the Hallstattt Glacier in the upper right, which feeds the system, in turn a major headwaters tributary to the mighty Danube. The country’s glaciers are shriveling at an accelerated rate, as are it’s lakes, heating up at twice the global average. Earlier spring melt and longer, hotter summers have warmed streams, and larger rivers, even more, leading to increased fish disease and blooms of algae. Similar issues have been documented around the Alps and worldwide as clear global warming impacts. Learn more here.
Disease may be exacerbated by warm water, low stream flows
The Yellowstone River, part of Montana’s iconic western landscape, is once again beset by environmental woes, as a rapidly spreading fish kill has spurred state resource managers to close the river to all recreational uses, including fishing, boating and tubing. Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said they’ve counted more than 2,000 dead mountain whitefish, and the estimate the total mortality in the tens of thousands. The river was also hammered by an oilspill in 2011 after pipeline burst. Continue reading “Environment: Massive fish kill reported in Yellowstone River”→
Settlement addresses pesky Adventure Pass fees on 4 Southern California national forests
A long-running and stubborn battle by activists against the spread of public lands access fees has paid off once again in Southern California, where the U.S. Forest Service agreed to designate and mark free parking areas for hikers who aren’t using developed facilities.
The court-sanctioned deal stems from yet another legal battle over federal recreation fees. Public land agencies started charging for access to plug alleged budget holes; public lands advocates have been trying to limit the spread of the fees and make sure they’ve only levied in the places specifically authorized by Congress — namely at developed recreation sites, and not just for general hiking access. Continue reading “Court deal a win for fee-free public lands access in SoCal”→