Trees grew 120 feet below current lake
LAKE TAHOE, Calif.—Tree rings in the Colorado River basin tell of a time from about 850 to 1150 A.D. that were much, much drier than the present. While not one year was necessarily a drought, some dry periods lasted for 30 years, far drier than since Euro-American settlement began 150 years ago.
Archaeologists say that dryness may well have caused the Ancestral Pueblo, also called the Anasazi, to abandon their cliff dwellings in the Four Corners for marginally more temperate locations.
That dry period can also be found in the Lake Tahoe basin. There, a professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Reno, discovered 200-year-old trees rooted 120 feet below what is now the surface of Fallen Leaf Lake. In a 2005 paper, he noted that all the submerged trees had died simultaneously.
“For these trees to be rooted below the surface of the lake, the lake must have been down at least 36.5 meters (120 feet) for over 200 years,” John Kleppe said in the report. “This would indicate that a ‘megadrought’ had occurred, since several of these trees have been carbon-dated to have ‘drowned’ in 1215 A.D.”
Tree-ring records and other proxies of the past climate suggest the lower level of Fallen Leaf Lake lasted more than 220 years. More than 80 trees were found lying on the lake floor at various elevations above the old shoreline, according to a University of Nevada, Reno, press release. Scientists estimate that precipitation was 60 percent of normal from the late 10th century to the early 13th century.
Kleppe told the Sierra Sun that the megadrought appears to have been part of a cycle that he hypothesizes is caused by both orbital and solar factors. He has documented a correlation between snowpacks at a site in the Lake Tahoe basin and one near Mammoth Peak, northwest of Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
Big real estate deal planned in Whitefish
WHITEFISH, Mont.—Though the real estate market isn’t as robust as before the Great Recession, some developers are thinking big. Such is the case in Whitefish, where the Whitefish Pilot reports a still-unnamed developer plans a $70 million resort.
At the center of this plan is a 150-room upscale resort, built in the style of the lodges found in nearby Glacier National Park, accompanied by a convention center that could accommodate groups of 1,500 people and banquets for 2,000, reports the Whitefish Pilot.
Also part of the plan is a 45,000-square-foot indoor water park with a wave pool and splash park.
Mountaineer killed by fall into Banff crevasse
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 110 feet while descending a glacier about 10 miles 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 their 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. It was just very unfortunate.”
Snowmass asked to join partnership
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo.—The Snowmass Village Town Council last week was being asked to join the U.N. Mountain Partnership. The 200 members already include Park City, Aspen and Telluride.
Representatives tell the Aspen Daily News that there would be no requirement that the town should officially join the collective, but would collaborate with other members. Just what sort of collaboration would be involved is unclear, except that the group is focused on voicing their concern about the effects of climate change in higher-elevation areas.
Jackson robber tries Robin Hood defense
JACKSON, Wyo.—Credit Corey Allan Donaldson with creativity. When he robbed a bank in Jackson on New Year’s Eve of $140,000, he told the manager that members of a Mexican cartel were outside the building, prepared to blow it up if he didn’t get the money.
On the lam, he used the improbable name of Dooby Zonks while staying in $270-per-night rooms at the Grand American Hotel in Salt Lake City. He also gave $16,000 to a friend who was in a pinch and, when arrested by police in Clinton, Utah, had envelopes of cash for his mother and sister.
The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that Donaldson tried using a Robin Hood defense. A 40-year-old self-help author and online entrepreneur, he told jurors of his childhood in Melbourne, Australia, and the experience of watching his father lose the family’s home to foreclosure.
“I came up with the idea of that since the banks had been bailed out and the people had not, I was going to confiscate money from the US Bank in Jackson and redistribute it to the poor and homeless in America,” he said.
But the judge wouldn’t allow this line of argument. However, he did allow the testimony of the bank manager, who said he never doubted Donald’s claims about explosives until after police arrived and searched the area.
“You feel like you’ve got to make peace with your maker,” said the bank manager. The newspaper says the bank manager looked shaken as he left the witness stand.
Crested Butte slashes season passes
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Crested Butte has finally joined the club. Like most of the ski resorts in the West, it has now slashed the price of its season ski pass, hoping to make up the difference in quantity.
Last winter’s pass that cost $1,049 next winter will cost $599.
With this new vehicle, Crested Butte hopes to better draw skiers from Colorado’s Front Range. There, the skiing throngs have many options, most prominently the Epic Pass, which costs $689 and is good at the five ski areas in Colorado, three in California, and, if you really want to go there, one each in Michigan and Minnesota.
In slashing the price, Crested Butte joins Jackson Hole and other ski resorts that finally succumbed to the wave that was launched in 1998 at Idaho’s Bogus Basin. With plenty of terrain but not many skiers, the general manager at Bogus decided that less would be more: more skiers paying less for ski passes would create an overall gain. Colorado’s Winter Park the next winter followed suit, and then Vail Resorts, with its quartet of ski areas along the I-70 corridor, upped the ante.
The news of the price cut was met favorably in Crested Butte, which is four hours and three mountain passes from Denver.
“Having one of the highest season pass prices in Colorado benefitted no one,” wrote Mark Reaman, editor of the Crested Butte News. He advised locals to hop on the wagon by buying the new pass, and openly hoped that second-home owners and other visitors might be induced to visit more frequently.
Hot springs country usually has quakers
RIDGWAY, Colo.—Two earthquakes, one measured at 2.9 and the other at 2.6 on the Richter scale, were detected in the Ridgway area, at the north end of the San Juan Mountains.
“They are the smallest anyone can actually feel,” said Paul Caruso, geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
The earthquakes are not uncommon in that area, he told The Telluride Watch. “You have two hot springs in the area. Any time you have hot springs, that can be an indication of active faults.”
Pistol talkers to be at Aspen Ideas Festival
ASPEN, Colo. – You can bet that some news will come out of Aspen just before the Fourth of July. That’s when the Aspen Ideas Festival will be held, and since its inception several years ago, it has become one of the most highly regarded talk-festivals in North America.
This year, firebrand Wayne LaPierre, the leader of the National Rifle Association, will be interviewed, as will Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
As well, Ariana Huffington, founder of the website bearing her name, will talk with Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Balkfein and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu about how cities will shape our economic future.