We might have more hike-to or hike-out terrain. lower than 83% of other locations on record. The actual number of days above freezing varies widely from year to year, but there is a clear upward trajectory, as seen in the Forest Health Index, which is produced by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies with help from AGCI. “It quickly became evident that this was a sensational place,” Miller says. Or did they cope all along?”. Like elephants, mastodons preserve records of their growth rates in their tusks, which grow a little longer and thicker each year. Pitkin County is warming, the number of frost-free days is increasing and snowpack is declining — all of which have myriad impacts on recreation, the ecosystem, wildlife, streamflow, water availability, droughts and wildfires. One of the most notable impacts is on the underpinning of modern Aspen’s economy: snow and skiing. OK. larger. He managed to restore power to Aspen, and by the time residents woke up to a cold, sunny Labor Day morning, 27 inches of snow had fallen in town, a record that still stands, according to Markalunas, author of “An Aspen Weather Guide” and “Aspen Memories.”. At some point in the lake’s history, this combination was found at the site. Early on, the flora were adapted to “open tundra, with squat spruce trees [indicating] cold climates and heavy snows [140,000 years ago]. Ski areas across the country are recognizing the challenges that climate change poses to their viability, and that’s provoking a shift in industry thinking. Nobody’s going to disturb those fossils until we’re ready to go back for more.”, Why did so many animals end up buried at the Snowmastodon site? All rights reserved. The Snowmastodon site was discovered in October 2010 by a bulldozer driver working with the Snowmass Water & Sanitation District who was excavating the soft mud at the bottom of the Ziegler Reservoir just west of Snowmass Village. The start of this ski season has been a feast, with above average snowpack across the state. Aspen Mountain will still be skiable in 2030 under all emissions scenarios, the report concluded, but “by 2100 the base area of Aspen Mountain has essentially lost a skiable snowpack, with the exception of the lowest greenhouse-gas concentrations.”. topographic maps of the U.S. called US Topo that are separated into Then it warms up and you see giant trees” during the interglacial period about 120,000 years ago. That ski season didn’t start until January and recorded just 86 inches of snow all winter. And because temperatures are expected to continue to rise — the amount depends on how much emissions are curbed — snowpack around Aspen and elsewhere will continue to decline. known as US Topo Maps. The oldest layers the researchers dated were about 140,000 years old. What happened to them? The race venue on the lower half of the mountain lost several inches of snow surface per day, Burkley said. lower than 92% of other locations on record. “The science volume now moves beyond the pure excitement of the discovery to the presentation of its hard science and its implications for understanding the biological and climate history of the Rocky Mountain region,” Johnson said in a statement released with the paper series. They can be terrestrial or aquatic, predators or plant eaters, and often specialize to fill very specific niches, like eating a certain type of animal’s dung,” Elias says. They put a tremendous amount of time and money into unearthing these bones, they even gave us their heavy equipment to use,” Pigati says. A machine blows artificial snow at the top of Little Nell on Aspen Mountain in Dec. 2017. Markalunas’ observations are supported by other data, analyses and studies that paint a picture of a changing local climate. Resorts said it was politicized science,” said big-mountain skier Davenport, who is now a climate activist and board member of the advocacy group Protect Our Winters, or POW. Most of the two dozen volunteers on the dig were long-time volunteers at the museum, with multiple digs under their belts. This location's average winter low temps are In the summer of 1994, big-mountain skier Chris Davenport first skied 14,092-foot Snowmass Mountain, named for the massive snowfield that historically stretched across a wide bowl below its summit. Changes are, of course, also being felt beyond ski-area boundaries. Mountain snowpack not only determines availability of snow for recreation but also how much water will be available for all manner of natural and human uses. Let’s work … “If you have one animal dying here every 10 years, over 85,000 years, that’s 8,500 animals,” he says. When Wagner heard about the dig at Snowmass Village, he signed up to lead a team of six volunteers for a two-week stint at the site, despite freezing temperatures and several feet of snow in the forecast. Or was there a deadly catastrophe like an earthquake or a landslide?”, Once the team started deciphering the ages of the sediments using thermoluminescence dating, they found the layers spanned more than 85,000 years, and the more catastrophic explanations for the boneyard fell out of favor, Miller says. The low-snow season resulted in such tinder-dry conditions that the Lake Christine fire, the most threatening fire in recent valley history, burned for months in the summer of 2018. One critical trend related to rising temperatures — in particular, rising low temperatures — is an increase in the number of frost-free days, which AGCI counts as consecutive days of above-freezing temperatures from the last freeze of spring to the first time it dips below 32 degrees after that. The mayor called Markalunas and asked him to reboot the defunct hydroelectric plant he had previously run while the regional electric utility struggled to restore the downed lines. SkiCo is also increasing its focus on summer operations, including Snowmass Bike Park. “It used to be inconvenient for outdoor companies to talk about climate change, but now the opposite is true: If you’re not having that conversation, consumers aren’t buying from you,” Davenport said. Winter snow might still linger into the summer months on Snowmass, Davenport said, but most years, the formerly year-round snowfield is gone by mid-July. Snowmass Lake - If you backpack once this summer, make it to a location worth the hike. The Snowmastodon site was discovered in October 2010 by a bulldozer driver working with the Snowmass Water & Sanitation District who was excavating the soft mud at the bottom of the Ziegler Reservoir just west of Snowmass Village. “We really struggled to figure out why there were so many bones found in this location,” says Ian Miller, chair of earth sciences and the paleobotanist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science who co-led the Snowmastodon Project. “Every five minutes, an amazing bone came out of the ground. These maps are seperated into rectangular quadrants that are … The only reason there was enough snow to race on was extra early-season snowmaking that at the time was considered excessive. The reservoir’s setting is unusual, situated as it is in a natural basin perched on top of a hill, like the dimple in the top of an apple. These hay fields may know something we don’t: how to save... White River dam and reservoir project headed for water court trial.