Proposal to require gun in every house
NUCLA, Colo. — In Southwestern Colorado, where white-capped mountains descend into red-rock canyons, the town trustees in Nucla this week are scheduled to take up a proposal to require every household to own a gun.
"I think we ought to do like that town in Georgia and do an ordinance that requires everybody in the town have a gun," said Richard Craig, a town trustee, according to a Facebook posting in March.
"I think so too," said the mayor, Dawna Morris.
Nucla is an hour west and 900 metres lower than Telluride. Philosophically and economically, they inhabit different planets.
Where Telluride can afford a private school and supports two newspapers, Nucla and nearby communities have been strapped since the uranium boom ended about a half-century ago. Even the prospect of a few jobs is front-page news in the current issue of the local San Miguel Basin Forum.
The towns also differ in their thoughts about guns. Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser testified before a Colorado legislative committee this winter about the need for stiffer limits. The Nucla mayor wants to require them.
Nucla has been in the news before. Along with Naturita, the adjacent town, Nucla once attracted national attention for a prairie dog shooting festival, which drew the ire of animal rights activists. Townspeople were belligerently defiant, some even speculating about a "shoot a yuppie" festival, according to a New York Times story in 1990.
A more nuanced view of Nucla was presented in a New Yorker story by Peter Hessler. His story "Dr. Don," profiled the local pharmacist, but it really was much more broadly about what it takes to make a small town work. David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, cited it as among the best magazine stories of 2011.
One memorable quote in that story, from a Nucla resident, is this: "I like to play chess. I moved to a small town, and nobody played chess there, but one guy challenged me to checkers. I always thought it was kind of a simple game, but I accepted. And he beat me nine or ten games in a row. That's sort of like living in a small town. It's a simpler game, but it's played to a higher level."
But as regards gun control, ironies can be found in both Nucla and Telluride. Telluride recently hashed out the need for stronger gun controls. But there's no place in town that sells guns and, for that matter, little evidence of guns altogether.
As why require guns of residents in Nucla when households already seems to have one?
"The criminals know that we have guns," explained Craig, the town trustee, in the Forum, an eight-page newspaper. "We have them anyway, but that's beside the point. This makes it official that we have guns."
Duo ski North Face of the Grand Teton
JACKSON, Wyo. — Just looking at the photos of the North Face of the Grand Teton that were published in the Jackson Hole News&Guide is enough to make the acrophobic feel queasy. It's nearly vertical, a feat for only the most gifted climbers even in summer, included in the book "Fifty Classic Climbs of North America."
Now, it has been skied. The News&Guide reports that two mountaineering guides, Greg Collins and Brendan O'Neill, skied a route called the Direct North Face. Although unable to ski directly from the summit, they descended via crampons to ski a series of ledges. One of the ledges was only slightly wider than their skis and 610 metres above the highest point on the glacier below.
O'Neill, who has skied mountains around the world, said that the Direct North Face, while hard to compare with 7,000-metre mountains, is as "technical a ski descent as there probably is."
Miller N. Resort, the story's author, dryly noted that the two men had "found powder stashes nobody had skied before" in their March 31 feat.
Mountaineer killed by fall into Banff crevice
LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — Experience helps, but some things are just flat-out more dangerous than others. That seems to be the story from Banff National Park, where a 32-year-old mountaineer died after falling 35 metres while descending a glacier about 17km north of Lake Louise.
The skier, who was from Calgary, and his two companions had roped up, as is common for travel across glaciers, but for the descent had chosen to go untethered. Visibility was very good, and there were relatively few crevasses.
"It wasn't unreasonable to travel in the conditions they were experiencing, in my opinion," Banff public safety specialist Brian Webster told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.
"In this case, the crevasse was covered by a snow bridge, and there was no visible indication that there was a crevasse there," he added. "It was just very unfortunate."
Once again, avalanche victims were experts
I-70 CORRIDOR, Colo. — Early last week, the Aspen Skiing Co. reminded people who might climb the slopes of Aspen Mountain and Snowmass that the company wasn't doing avalanche control on the slopes, and that with the wet, heavy snow that had been falling that there were risks.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CACI) also issued a warning even as skiers and snowboarders prepared to gather on the east side of Loveland Pass for a fundraiser for the organization. A weak snow layer near the ground remained, making snowpacks above or near timberline weak.
Yet despite the warnings, and reports of caution by the victims, five snow riders, on both split boards and skis, died on a slope of Mt. Sniktau, just east of the Loveland Pass, about 88km west of Denver. They were at or above treeline.
It was the most avalanche fatalities in any one incident in Colorado since 1962. However, higher death tolls were recorded several times during the mining era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Earlier in the week, another snowboarder had died on Ptarmigan Mountain east of Red Cliff and a few kilometres from Vail Pass. That slab avalanche was reported by the CACI to be three-metres deep, and it broke trees seven to 10 centimetres in diameter.
After the two cases, avalanche forecaster Spencer Logan told The Denver Post that Colorado is seeing the worst avalanche danger in 30 years.
Dale Atkins, president of the American Avalanche Association, helped in the rescue near Loveland Pass. "This would be a slope that looks like a lot of fun for good riders," he told The Post. "But the conditions this spring are unusual, and unusual conditions result in unusual avalanches. You really need to dial it back this spring."
Caribou plans would crimp access
JASPER, Alberta — Parks Canada proposes to close about 18 per cent of Jasper National Park during winter months to backcountry users with the goal of helping improve the odds for the 71 caribou remaining. But at least one company in Jasper that offers guided access to those backcountry areas feels put off.
"Backcountry users are being vilified," said Gilbert Wall, of Tonquin Valley Adventures. "There is a realization from me, particularly, that caribou are worth saving, but the conversation is dismal right now," he told Jasper's Fitzhugh newspaper. "It's 'people bad, caribou good.'" He said the proposed closings could be the last nail in the coffin for his business adding that the federal agency is continuously shortening his season and implementing new operation conditions that add costs.
The hypothesis behind the closures seems to be that backcountry users compact the snow, allowing predatory wolves to more easily gain proximity to caribou.
Layla Neufeld, a wildlife biologist with Parks Canada, says the trail-aided predation is not the only threat to woodland caribou, but it must be addressed.
"There are a lot of things that are important to caribou ecology, and we need to do everything at this point, because the situation is quite desperate." she said.