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Mountain News: U.S. skier days expected to dip below 50 million

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Little change in Sierra snow

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — An exhaustive study of snowfall records kept by railroads, utilities and others who have operated in the Sierra Nevada of California has revealed no long-term change since 1878.

The study was done by John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a native of Fresno, Calif.

"California has huge year-to-year variations, and that's expected to continue," Christy told Science Daily in a story published in early March. "California is having a drought so far this winter, while last year the state had much heavier than normal snowfall. But over the long term, there just isn't a trend up or down."

Christy is among the most prominent of climatologists skeptical of the theory of global warming.

In a February story in the San Francisco Chronicle, climatologist Mike Dettinger suggests that Christy's study proves very little.

"There is a popular conception that the snowpack has declined everywhere, but that is not what the science says," Dettinger said. "What we're saying broadly is that across western North America there have been declines in spring snowpack."

Snowpack has declined over three-quarters of the western United States, an area that includes Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico, he said. Scientists from the Scripps Institution and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have concluded that 60 per cent of that downward trend is due to greenhouse gases.

Fewer heart attacks in Aspen

ASPEN, Colo. — Even as Aspen and its suburbs have been getting distinctly older, the number of heart attacks treated at Aspen Valley Hospital has dropped by about a third. How come?

The Aspen Times talked with Dr. Gordon Gerson, a cardiologist at the hospital. He attributed the decline to bans on smoking and the broader use of cholesterol-reducing statin drugs. The ban on smoking in public places has reduced exposure to second-hand smoke, he said, and second-hand smoke is a contributor to poor health.

But while there are continuing concerns about the side effects of the statin drugs in some cases, their use is more accepted. Gerson uses the drugs to get all his patients' LDL cholesterol levels below100 and high-risk patients' LDL levels below 70.

As for levels of fitness, that probably remains unchanged in the last decade. Aspen always has taken sweat seriously. But there's more gray, or at least dyed, hair: the number of seniors has increased from about 1,000 to nearly 2,000 within the last decade.

Short-term problems

TELLURIDE, Colo. — At least in some eyes, the practice of short-term rentals in single-family homes is getting to be a problem in unincorporated areas around Telluride.

The planning department of San Miguel County has recommended an amendment to the land-use code to prohibit short-term rentals. Mike Rozycki, the county planning director, said that if the commissioners adopt the amendment, county officials won't be tracking websites to see who's trying to rent out their house. "We'll enforce only when we get a complaint on a rental that changes the character of the neighbourhood," he told the Daily Planet.

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