As the precipitation season wound to a close in April 2013, the Dillon Reservoir in the heart of Summit County was still only at 65 percent capacity. It did not recover until the heavy rains and flooding of September 2013. (Photo/Christi Turner)
By Kendall Brunette
Some people call them podunk. Some call them money pits in a one-horse town. Whatever you call them, small, rural ski resorts across the country are struggling.
Stuart Thompson has worked in the ski business since the 1960s. He’s held every job from ski patrol to avalanche control. Most recently, Thompson ran White Pine Ski Area in the rural town of Pinedale, Wyo. – a mere dot on the map.
The U.S. Forest Service gave Thompson a permit to build what is now White Pine in 1988. It took 10 years to develop the resort to the point of selling tickets. In his slow Wyoming accent, Thompson described the tumultuous years he ran the resort. Facing drought, reduced snowfall, a small customer population and limited reputation, Thompson struggled to keep the resort in business.
(Image/Rocky Mountain Geographic Area Coordination Center)
One year ago today, a wildfire ignited near the Fern Lake trail head in Rocky Mountain National Park when careless hikers failed to extinguish their illegal campfire. Although October generally falls outside of the “fire season” in Colorado, 2012 had already been a record year for drought and wildfire, and the landscape was exceedingly dry and vulnerable to a spark. This autumn fire set off alarm bells for fire managers and climatologists, burning into the winter, growing by three miles in 35 minutes in December and smoldering under the snow long into the springtime. Finally, on June 25, 2013 officials declared the fire out, but warned that if conditions did not change, Coloradans could expect more anomalous, overwintering, long-burning, smoldering wildfires.
Ray Rasker is executive director of Headwaters Economics, an independent research group focusing on land management and wildfire issues. (Photo / Courtesy of Ray Rasker)
With the frequency and intensity of wildfires on the rise, communities and policymakers in the West are faced with the cost of loss and the strain of rebuilding. But one conversation that is not happening in the public sphere is whether we should be rebuilding – or building at all – in the dangerous fire-prone zone known as the Wildland-Urban Interface, or the WUI. The Stand’s Christi Turner spoke with Ray Rasker, director of Headwaters Economics, a leading independent research institute specializing in major land management issues in the West, including wildfire. Rasker emphasized the need to broaden the discourse to a national level and to address both the part of the WUI that is already developed, and more importantly, the large portion of the WUI still vulnerable to future development.