SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. - Bones of ice-age behemoths continue to emerge from layers of peat and silt at a small reservoir being constructed near Snowmass Village.
As of last weekend, bones and tusks from at least four different mammoths had been identified after a bulldozer operator first noticed something unusual on Oct. 15. The tooth of a mastodon has also been recovered.
Both are rare. Just 103 bones of mammoths had been recovered in Colorado prior to the Snowmass discovery, and just three of those belonged to mastodons. Also rare is the elevation: 8,960 feet, the highest ever for the extinct ice-age species in Colorado. The Aspen Times described the find as a "treasure trove."
The mammoths weighed up to 11 tons and stood 13 feet tall, or about 2 feet taller than elephants in Africa, and had pairs of spiraled tusks. All have been Columbian mammoths, which were somewhat taller than wooly mammoths, according to the Wikipedia entry. They were herbivores, eating grasses.
Mastodons looked somewhat similar, but were identified by teeth made for chewing leaves, twigs, and roots.
Both species largely disappeared from North America when the last ice age ended 10,000 years ago, although a few mammoths persisted in colder, isolated places as recently as 2,000 years ago. Scientists think the warmer climate plus hunting by humans, who are thought to have arrived in North America 14,000 years ago, caused the extinctions. Camels, horses, giant ground sloths and beavers the size of today's bears also became extinct about the same time.
So far, no evidence of human activity has turned up at the ice-age cemetery.
Curators from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science took ownership of the bones, but agreed with the local water and sewer district to create a cast replica of each of the bones. If there is a full skeleton, it is to be displayed in Snowmass Village.
Because of the unusual soil composition - a deep layer of peat, sandwiched between silt and clay - the bones have not fossilized.
Vail creating critical mass
TRUCKEE, Calif. - Vail Resorts has added another ski area, Northstar-at-Tahoe, to its portfolio, paying $63 million. With this ski area, Vail now has four in Colorado, two in California, plus a lodging operation in Wyoming.
The purchase gives Vail Resorts an operating synergy in the Truckee-Lake Tahoe area in appealing to the 18 million residents of the Bay Area, located only three hours away.
As it has done in Colorado, Vail Resorts offers its Epic Pass for the two California resorts it owns plus another one, Sierra-at-Tahoe. The primary competition for these new linked arms is Squaw Valley.