VAIL, Colo. – You need go back to only 1998 to find a winter that began more slowly than this in Colorado. Thanksgiving that year offered prime conditions for climbing 14,000-foot peaks. Snow remained scarce until well into December.
Still, this is a year to remember. The Aspen Skiing Co. provided porkchop dinners for new-hires who hadn’t yet got a paycheck under their belts — and won’t have at least for another week, due to the dearth of snow. Such dinners, the company’s Jeff Hanle said, were not available for the part-time ski instructors who sold real estate.
For people who sell real estate, the lack of snow was a silver lining. In Vail, for example, one real estate agent said he was “the busiest I’ve ever been.” People, explained the agent, who wanted to remain anonymous because he feared it would sound like bragging, who can’t go skiing then have time to shop for real estate.
Vail had ribbons of snow, thanks to snowmaking. After every previous drought year, the resort invested heavily in additional snowmaking.
There have been plenty of snowless Novembers in the past. Vail had soup lines for unemployed workers until almost Christmas during the great drought of 1976-77.
The winter of 1980-81 was not only snowless, but also warm. The Denver Post had photos of lift operators at Steamboat in lawn chairs and Hawaiian shirts. The Breckenridge Journal jokingly ran a photo of somebody skiing on talus with no hint of snow. It wasn’t far from the truth.
But unlike in the past, there may be a new element of jitteriness this year. In drought winters past in the Rockies, global warming was not necessarily embraced. Now, there’s a tendency to ascribe every anomaly to global warming, despite the warning of scientists against ascribing one weather event to the effects of increased greenhouse gases.
If ski towns this year mostly shrugged off the snowless Thanksgiving, there will be increasing jitteriness if the skies stay blue, as is forecast by the National Weather Service, as Christmas approaches.
First it’s elk, then wolves
BANFF, Alberta – The elk population around Banff is growing once again, with 220 counted this year compared with 93 only three years ago. The worry is that the elk will, in turn, draw wolves and lions.
This is not new. In the 1990s, so many elk were in Banff itself that they leisurely congregated in streets and occasionally attacked people — an average eight times a year, notes the Rocky Mountain Outlook.