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Mountain News: Telluride visitor not just 'some crazy psychonaut'

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TELLURIDE, Colo. – Gary Lincoff, who died recently of a stroke at the age of 75, was an annual Telluride visitor who stood out. Photos on his Facebook page show him always smiling. More important, one of those smiling photos shows him wearing a red stove-pipe hat with white dots in the pattern of an amanita muscaria, perhaps the most visually distinctive type of mushroom.

In its obituary, the New York Times last week called him "a self-taught mycologist whose contagious enthusiasm turned him into a pied piper of mushrooms."

Lincoff was a resident of Manhattan, where he lived two blocks from Central Park. But in 1981, he helped create the Telluride Mushroom Festival. The festival had been conceived by Dr. Emanuel Salzman, a radiologist in Denver and mushroom lover, as an alternative to stuffy mycological conferences.

"We had an 'Edibility Unknown' party every year that would horrify serious professional mycologists," Dr. Andrew Weil, the alternative medicine guru and another festival co-founder, told the Times. No one ever got sick, Weil said, although the pioneers discovered that one species tasted like old tires.

How they knew what old tires tasted like, he did not explain.

Telluride local Art Goodtimes organized the festival for many years. He painted his small Japanese import pickup red with white dots. Each year, on the Saturday afternoon in late August when the festival was held, he would drive his pickup down the main street of Telluride as the merry masters of mycology marched along in flowery fungi finery.

Goodtimes praised the Times obituary. "Made him out to be the mycomissionary he was, not some looney psychonaut," he said. Lincoff, he noted, had written the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, which has sold a half-million copies, as well as many other books. "He epitomized what it meant to be a naturalist ... He did it for the right reasons; pure love and joy and wonder," Goodtimes wrote in The Telluride Watch.

Lincoff had studied philosophy, then tried his hand at law school but dropped out because, he told his wife, he did not admire his professors. He tried his hand at writing a novel about a draft resister in New York City who is forced to subsist on what he could find to eat in Central Park.

"I began to see that every tree, every weed, wasn't alike. I got into minutiae," he later told the New York Times. Over the course of decades, he found 400 species of mushrooms in Central Park.

He became an educator about mushrooms, in New York City and elsewhere.

"No ego, no agenda, no pretense ... just an unwavering passion for learning and sharing," wrote one person on Lincoff's Facebook page. He had over 3,700 friends.

Said a Facebook poster: "No matter how dumb your question was, he never humiliated you, he never put you down, he never believed there was such a thing as a stupid question."

Banff takes note of fire risk as temps continue to warm

BANFF, Alta. – Inexorably warming temperatures coupled with giant wildfires of recent years have Banff officials talking about how to encourage homeowners to replace highly combustible wooden-shake shingles.

The Banff townsite will likely be declared a high-risk zone for wildfire, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook. New zoning to encourage future development and landscaping takes into account the threat of wildfires.

Banff was reminded of its own risk last summer by the giant Verdant Creek fire just across the Continental Divide in British Columbia. Before, there was the massive fire at Fort McMurray in 2016, which forced an evacuation of the city of 80,000 people. Fort McMurray is the headquarters for tar/oil sands extraction.

Silvio Adamo, Banff's fire chief, said the Fort McMurray fire taught lessons about the distances that embers from forest fires can travel. Banff wants to dampen the risk.

"The backdrop for this are the 'longer, hotter summers' that have led to extreme fire hazard more often," said Adamo. Also a factor in Banff, as well as elsewhere, is a century of fire prevention, which has made nearby forests more combustible.

How cocaine story in Aspen caused websites to crash

ASPEN, Colo. – Two winters ago, the website for The Aspen Times crashed along with all the other newspapers in ski towns owned by the parent company, Swift Publishing. Cocaine, indirectly, was to blame.

How so? Jason Auslander, the newspaper's crime reporter, explains that he posted a story about a student from Saudi Arabia who repeatedly offered a local taxi driver cocaine, then spilled the drug on the driver, cursed him and America in general and, finally, exposed himself to the cabbie.

The New York Post picked up the story, rewriting it but providing a link to the original story on The Aspen Times website. So many people clicked on the link that websites of other newspapers owned by Swift Publishing crashed, too. The chain includes newspapers in Vail, Summit County, Winter Park, and Steamboat Springs, all in Colorado, and Park City, Utah, and two in the Truckee-Tahoe area of California.

Aspen being Aspen, Auslander says, news from there often shows up elsewhere (including Mountain Town News).

Roger Marolt, an Aspen native, says Aspen may be Aspen but it's not "magical."

"It seems to me that lots of the folks who describe Aspen with words of effusive adoration travel a lot, as in away from here," he writes in The Aspen Times. "At the first signs of a bout of cabin fever or a dog day of summer, they're out of here for a couple of weeks. Mud season? They don't know what that is. You can't blame someone for heading to Moab when there's nothing to do in Paradise except wipe the dog's paws before he comes back in the house."

He also observes that "people are genuinely happy in every town in this country, just as there are genuinely happy people here. ... Life is what should be incredible and awesome, not the place you live it."

Lots of snow in the Sierra, but was March a miracle?

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Squaw Valley got 5.4 metres altogether in March, but was it a miracle there or in other locations along the Sierra Nevada?

The snowpack in the Lake Tahoe area grew from 25 per cent of median at the start of March to 73 per cent a little more than three weeks later. That's a huge comeback, as the Reno Gazette-Journal points out.

A similar, even more robust "March Miracle" occurred in 1991. That winter's drought had left the snowpack in early March at 15 per cent of median but it ended up at 74 per cent.

"It is amazing how closely these two years have tracked," said Jeff Anderson, a hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which operates automated measuring stations. "It is almost like there was a replay button: we'll just do 1991 again this year."

"I think it's safe to officially call it a Miracle March," said Chad Blanchard, the federal water master in Reno. He added that it now appears that every reservoir will fill.

In Oregon, Bend saw less than a fifth of what the city normally sees during a winter. Snow is not the same as precipitation, however, as weather forecaster John Peck suggested in his comment to the Bend Bulletin: "It just never got cold enough to generate much snowfall," he said.

Less than 2.5 cm of precipitation, almost all of it rain, fell in Bend during December and January.

Whitefish on the way to one, maybe two records

WHITEFISH, Mont. – It's been a record-busting year at Whitefish Mountain Resort. The resort has already set an all-time record for number of skier days and expects to surpass 350,000 before the ski area closes on April 6. Not surprisingly, the resort also has had good snow. The record of 1,082 cm set a decade ago might yet be broken, reports the Whitefish Pilot.

What about the travel impacts of ski travelers?

ALTA, Utah – Ski areas have been pretty good about talking about the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, sometimes, pushing forward projects that they have control over.

Davey Pitcher of Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado can now make a strong claim that his ski area is entirely supplied by solar energy that it lobbied for. In California, Squaw Valley's Andy Wirth is getting ready to create a microgrid, using batteries manufactured at the Tesla gigafactory 112 kilometres east of Reno to store solar energy.

But it's important to note that transportation has now overtaken electrical production as the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. And for that, destination ski areas have not yet cleaned up their own locker rooms.

This point was brought up by Scott Beck, chief executive of Visit Salt Lake, in an interview with Wired magazine.

"The ski industry has not found a good narrative for our own responsibility for driving demand," he said.

But he said that the ski and resort sectors are looking at steps. Snowbird, for example, is offering employee carpoolers free reusable water pouches every five rides, a transferrable half-day lift ticket for every 10 rides, and a chance to ski on a closed run with friends.

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