January 2020 – Dead Winter

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January 2020 – Dead Winter

Date: 02/05/2020     Category: Captain's Blog    

Captain’s Log Starship 1XE, Day 24 in the month January, Earth Calendar year 2020.

It’s dead winter in the high country where we live and there is not much going on except snow, snow and more snow. That is wonderful for the mountains and rivers, and for those of us who ski, snowboard or are mountaineers. Along with the snow come low hanging clouds and icy mists that make flying all but impossible. Also, at this time of year in this town it makes driving near impossible due to the massive influx of people coming through this ski town. I know it is all relative but relative is all I know.
We have managed to get out in the wild gray yonder a couple of times, and on one flight with a local group, Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association, we took our videographer Mike along not only to document the issue but to document the snowpack in our Elk Mountains.

There is a mining operation in the heart of the West Elk Mountains in the quaint town of Marble in Gunnison County, just 15 minutes across 14,000 ft peaks, as the crow flies from Aspen, Colorado. It is noteworthy and historic as the marble from this mine was used in the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in DC. It has traditionally been a small mining operation, and is poised now for exponential growth in a fragile ecosystem; Yule Creek is a tributary of the Crystal, which in turn flows into the Roaring Fork, which is a significant tributary of the Colorado.
John Armstrong, leader of CVEPA, got together a good passenger crew, including journalists and the mayor of Marble for the short flight. We will see where the expansion of the Yule marble quarry will go, and we have documented the expansion and brought attention to a little-known problem that could turn into a very big problem, such as the diesel spill there in October that shut down operations there for nearly two months. There were delays in reporting the spill to authorities, and setbacks in clean-up efforts that have residents in this little mountain town concerned. Additionally, Yule Creek has been rerouted to accommodate the current expansion of the quarry which is also raising questions about environmental impacts and oversight. In 2016, the quarry, now named Pride of America Mine, was granted a permit to expand from 10 acres to 124 acres.

Flying over the heart of our mountains during a period of deep snowpack portends how our summer and fire season will turn out, and ultimately how full the Colorado River will be to fulfill the requirements of all the downstream water users.

This snowpack of course is closely monitored by the Aspen Skiing Company, one of the major corporations today taking an active stance on climate change. As part of their marketing campaign for their “product” (skiing and snow) their in-your-face slogan is “Give a Flake” and “Protect our Winters”, attention grabbers to address climate change. Bill McKibben, famous (or infamous) climate activist, was recently a guest of SkiCo to present to a standing room only audience about climate problems and possible solutions. It was a spirited talk which turned into a spirited discussion with step by step ways to start making a difference.

My own personal philosophy is that we take insurance out on almost every aspect of our lives whether it is cars, health, homes or dogs and it is inconceivable to me how there is a faction that refuses to address the possibility of climate change, and does not even hedge their bets in case the fake news is indeed not fake!

Bruce Gordon