Category: Colorado Skiing



DENVER, CO, August 2, 2019 – The Ikon Pass community continues to grow with the addition of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Colorado. Now Ikon Pass holders have access to snow at 40 global destinations, including six in Colorado.

A-Basin is located just 68 miles from Denver and boasts the longest season in Colorado, many seasons running through the 4th of July. Affectionately known as “The Legend,” A-Basin sits on the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains and offers a high-alpine, big-mountain
experience, paired with a laid-back atmosphere. Its 1,428 acres of iconic terrain includes the East Wall and Montezuma Bowl, plus The Beavers and The Steep Gullies, some of North America’s newest terrain. The Beach, a stretch of prime real estate near the lower-mountain chairlifts, transforms into a Colorado après tradition.

Ikon Pass holders will have seven-day access to A-Basin on the Ikon Pass with no blackout dates, and five-day access on the Ikon Base Pass, with selected blackout dates.

“Arapahoe Basin is a beloved brand among skiers and riders and we are proud that the destination has joined the Ikon Pass community,” said Erik Forsell, Chief Marketing Officer of Alterra Mountain Company. “We can feel winter around the corner as we offer skiers and riders another iconic reason to hit the slopes in Colorado.”

“Arapahoe Basin is thrilled to partner with the Ikon Pass and join its community of like-minded mountain destinations. A-Basin is a bold, aspirational mountain with legendary character that invites skiers and riders to find adventure at every turn, an ideal fit for the Ikon Pass,” said Alan Henceroth, Chief Operating Officer, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.

The Ikon Pass unlocks adventure with access to 40 iconic winter destinations across the Americas, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and is a collaboration of industry leaders – Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company, Boyne Resorts, POWDR, Jackson Hole Mountain
Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Alta Ski Area, Snowbird, SkiBig3, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Taos Ski Valley, Sugarbush Resort, Thredbo, Mt Buller, Niseko United, Valle Nevado, and NZ Ski. Each demonstrates integrity, character and independence that is reflected in their mountains and guests.

Leigh Hierholzer, Director of Marketing & Communications., 970-513-5767
Katherine Fuller, Communications Manager,, 970-513-5747

About Ikon Pass
The Ikon Pass is the new standard in season passes, connecting the most iconic mountains across North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Chile, delivering authentic, memorable snow adventures. Brought to you by Alterra Mountain Company, the Ikon Pass unlocks access to a community of diverse destinations to ski and ride, including Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, and Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming; Big Sky Mountain Resort in Montana; Stratton, Killington and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain in Michigan; Crystal Mountain and The Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington; Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario, Canada; SkiBig3 in Alberta, Canada; Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, Canada; Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine; Loon Mountain in New Hampshire; Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico; Deer Valley Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Brighton Resort, Alta Ski Area, and Snowbird in Utah; Thredbo and Mt Buller in Australia; Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Mt Hutt in New Zealand; Niseko United in Japan, and Valle Nevado in Chile. Special offers are available at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, the world’s largest heli-skiing and heli-accessed hiking operation. For more information on the Ikon Pass, visit

About Alterra Mountain Company
Alterra Mountain Company is a family of 14 iconic year-round destinations, including the world’s largest heli-ski operation, offering the Ikon Pass, the new standard in season passes. The company owns and operates a range of recreation, hospitality, real estate development, food and beverage, retail and service businesses. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, with destinations across the continent, Alterra Mountain Company is rooted in the spirit of the mountains and united by a passion for outdoor adventure. Alterra Mountain Company’s family of diverse playgrounds spans six U.S. states and three Canadian provinces: Steamboat and Winter Park Resort in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario; Crystal Mountain in Washington; Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah; and CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia. Also included in the portfolio is Alpine Aerotech, a worldwide helicopter support and maintenance service center in British Columbia, Canada. Alterra Mountain Company honors each destination’s unique character and authenticity and celebrates the legendary adventures and enduring memories they bring to everyone. For more information, please visit

About Arapahoe Basin
Founded in 1946, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area hosts the longest ski and ride season in Colorado, and one of the longest in the world. Located high on the Continental Divide, A-Basin is known for its legendary terrain and breathtaking views. It’s also an authentic Colorado ski experience with a laid-back culture and vibe.
Experience unique events, some of Colorado’s most adventurous terrain and gourmet culinary experiences throughout the season. Visit for more information about the mountain.

Ski your way to bargains: Finding affordable vacations across the country.

If you’re one of those skiers who pledged to give up the sport once lift tickets topped $40 a day, you probably haven’t skied in many years.

Yet there are some money-saving deals to be had that can make a ski vacation surprisingly affordable.

While Colorado offers some of the best skiing in the U.S., it’s also typically the most costly. Instead, consider Utah or Lake Tahoe, which offer incredible skiing and snowboarding at dozens of different resorts. Not only are the conditions equivalent to Colorado, but the prices are lower and the crowds are much smaller.

Outdoor recreation accounted for 3.1% of Colorado’s economy last year

(The Center Square) – Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy made up 3.1% of the state’s total economy last year, according to data released by the federal government.

Outdoor recreation contributed $12.2 billion in total to the state’s economy and employed 149,140 people in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which released the data this week.

Colorado’s largest conventional activity was snow sports, like skiing and snowboarding, which contributed $1.7 billion, while other outdoor recreation activities contributed almost $1.75 billion.

Colorado is one of 11 states where outdoor recreation made up 3.1% or more of a state’s economy. The states where outdoor recreation added the highest percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) include Hawaii (5.8%), Vermont (5.2%), Montana (4.7%), Florida (4.4%), Wyoming (4.2%), and Maine (4.2%).

Nationally, outdoor recreation made up 2.1% of the country’s GDP in 2019, contributing $459.8 billion, according to the BEA.

The Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) said the industry plays a key role in the country’s economic recovery as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“The industry is a vital component of national, state and local economies, as well as an important catalyst to America’s economic recovery,” OIA Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug said in a statement.

OIA said it anticipates the industry’s figures will increase in 2020, “given the rise in outdoor participation during COVID-19.”

Activities on federal lands in Colorado contributed $7.4 billion to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) and supported over 62,400 jobs last year, according to data released last month by the U.S. Department of Interior, which manages over 9 million acres of federal land in the state.

Those activities include energy and mineral development, which contributed $5.5 billion in added value, and recreation, which added $1.2 billion to GDP.

This article was originally published on Outdoor recreation accounted for 3.1% of Colorado’s economy last year

Ski Resorts Work to Stay Open as COVID Cases Snowball

TELLURIDE, Colo. — The day after Thanksgiving, Dr. Jana Eller and Dr. Shiraz Naqvi were seated beside an outdoor fire pit at the base of Telluride Ski Resort, taking a short break from skiing.

The two physicians from Houston had driven more than 18 hours to get here for the holiday weekend, and they were staying (and preparing meals) in a rented home. They traveled with another couple and their kids, colleagues they’ve been “bubbling” with in Houston.

“We got a COVID test prior to leaving and will get another when we return,” Naqvi said.

The skiing itself doesn’t feel much different during the pandemic, Eller said, but “the après ski scene is just gone.”

In March, at the beginning of the pandemic, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order requiring the state’s ski resorts to close in response to COVID-19, which had hit the state’s ski towns early and hard. Now, as the resorts enter their busy season, the state has taken pains to avoid blanket closures even though cases of COVID-19 are reaching their highest levels yet.

How to stay open amid the pandemic is an issue resorts across the U.S. are facing. Mandatory face coverings have become the norm, but other COVID mitigation efforts vary by site. Vermont resorts ask skiers to certify their compliance with rules governing interstate travel during the pandemic when buying a lift ticket, and in Colorado’s Pitkin County (home to Aspen), visitors will be required to confirm they’ve had a negative COVID test result within 72 hours of travel or pledge to quarantine for 14 days after arrival or until they obtain a negative test result.

Telluride is an internationally renowned destination trying to operate safely while protecting the 8,000 or so permanent residents in the area. Located in a remote southwestern part of Colorado, its economy depends on tourism, and the resort posts as many as 6,500 visitors on its busiest days.

On Nov. 25, with its COVID case numbers skyrocketing and its positivity rate hitting 4.6%, San Miguel County, which includes Telluride, closed its bars and restricted its restaurants to takeout and outdoor dining only. Signs posted throughout the resort remind visitors of the “five commitments of containment” — wear a mask, maintain 6 feet of physical distance, minimize group size, wash hands frequently and, when you feel sick, stay home and get tested.

How bad would things have to get to close the resort? That’s hard to gauge, said Grace Franklin, public health director for the county. People are going to do what they will regardless, she said.

“If we shut down the ski resort, how many people will take to the backcountry and get injured or trigger avalanches where the impact is greater? It’s a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation,” Franklin said.

Instead, Franklin said, the question becomes “How do we create safer, engineered events so people have an outlet, but we minimize as much risk as possible?”

Skiing itself poses relatively little risk, said Kate Langwig, an epidemiologist at Virginia Tech. “You’re outside with a lot of airflow, you’ve got something strapped to your feet so you’re not in super close contact with other people, and most of the time you’re riding the lift with people in your group.”

Gathering in the lodge or bar is by far the biggest COVID risk associated with skiing, said Langwig, who grew up skiing in northern New York. “In my family, one of the things you do after a day of skiing is connect with friends and have a beer in the lodge,” and it’s this social aspect of skiing that’s too risky right now, she said.

In an effort to discourage tourists and residents from congregating, local governments, medical facilities and the ski resort released a co-signed letter in November urging people to cancel any plans to gather with those outside their immediate household and celebrate the holidays solely with people from their own household. Keeping the resort open will require everybody to do their part, said Lindsey Mills, COVID public information consultant for San Miguel County.

“We are not telling anybody not to come, at least not yet,” said Todd Brown, Telluride’s mayor pro tem. But local officials are broadcasting a strong message to everyone in the area — “Chill out. Don’t have the big party with five families.”

Officials aren’t worried only about coronavirus transmission; they’re also concerned about overtaxing their medical facilities. San Miguel County has an urgent care center but no hospital, and its medical center experienced a 22% staffing shortage at the end of November, mostly because so many employees are in quarantine. Hospitals in nearby Mesa County reached their ICU capacity last month, and other hospitals in the region are also pinched.

“We can’t have a situation where people break their legs on the slopes and we can’t get them care,” said Franklin.

The resort has taken steps to facilitate physical distancing among visitors. Reservations aren’t required at Telluride, but lift tickets must be purchased in advance, and the resort can restrict ticket sales if necessary, said Jeff Proteau, vice president of operations and planning at the Telluride Ski Resort. Gondolas are operating with the windows open and each load is restricted to members of the same household.

To reduce contact in and around the lifts, workers have created “ghost lines” of empty space to ensure a 6-foot distance between groups while they wait in lift lines. People from the same household can stand in line together and ride the two- to four-person lifts next to one another, Proteau said, but when riding a lift with someone from another household, guests are asked to leave a vacant seat between them.

Langwig was a children’s ski instructor for many years and worries about ski school. “You interact pretty closely with the kids,” she said, noting that runny noses are common. “You spend a lot of time getting kids bundled up and to and from the bathroom.” This could be especially challenging if indoor spaces are closed, she said. “Hot chocolate breaks are one of the ways you get kids through the day, and that’s not safe anymore.”

In anticipation of visitors needing to take breaks to warm up, the resort has installed six temporary structures around the mountain with insulated ceilings and heated panels. When the sides are rolled up, they’re considered outdoor spaces, Proteau said, but they can be closed into confined spaces with limited occupancy as needed, especially on a blustery day.

The risk for most employees on the mountain should be relatively minimal, Langwig said, at least at work. “Lift attendants are outside wearing thick gloves and a mask most of the time. Compared to someone who works in a restaurant, their risk is pretty low.”

Employees are generally assigned to work in small groups that can be quarantined, if necessary, without wiping out a whole department, Proteau said. There’s also contact tracing in place for resort employees.

Arizona native Joey Rague moved to Telluride last year and works as a ski valet on the mountain. He said there’s a huge incentive among employees to keep the resort open. With affordable housing sparse in Telluride, “all of us are struggling seasonally to be able to pay rent.”

So far, he said, most visitors have been respectful and conscientious of the rules.

“It seems as though people understand that if we want to stay open, we have to come together,” he said.

This article was originally published on Ski Resorts Work to Stay Open as COVID Cases Snowball

Skiing for science; National Geographic adventurer maps glaciers

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is almost 20 million acres of tundra, glaciers and pristine habitats unaltered by roads or even trails. It is a completely intact, unaltered ecosystem home to Dall sheep, wolves, wolverines, arctic fox, snowy owls and polar bears.

“There’s nothing but pure nature,” said Kit DesLauriers, a Teton Village-based ski mountaineer known for being the first person to ski the highest peaks on all seven continents.

In the spring of 2014, DesLauriers, 45, lent her skills to science, carrying a GPS device to the top of some of the Arctic’s highest mountains to test the accuracy of glaciologist Matthew Nolan’s new mapping device that will help measure glacial change.

DesLauriers gathered data in areas only skilled mountaineers could access, and then skied mountains in one of the wildest places in the world. Her work with Nolan also earned her the title of one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year. The list includes people pushing the boundaries in athletic pursuits, exploration and conservation.

DesLauriers grew up in New England where she learned Nordic skiing. She didn’t try Alpine skiing until she was 14 years old, but was instantly drawn to it and set her sights on Colorado where she moved as soon as she graduated from college. There she set bigger and bigger ski goals. But her first big expedition was climbing in India when she was 28. As she trekked below the giant peaks she had one thought; “I wished I had my skis with me. For me, that was the turning point.”

Ski mountaineering, where people climb mountains so steep they wear their skis on their back and use ropes, crampons and ice axes to get to the top, combined everything she loved about the outdoors. She’d look at mountains and see the lines on rock and snow.

“And they just kind of invite you in,” she said.

It was on an expedition in Siberia in 1999 that she met Rob DesLauriers. She fell in love and moved to Teton Valley, Idaho, and then eventually to Wilson. Kit DesLauriers continued her pursuit of skiing peaks, eventually becoming the first person to ski the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each continent, when she successfully descended Mt. Everest in 2006.

Skiing took her all over the world, but there was one place she’d dreamt about for years — the Brooks Range in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

“It captivated me,” she said. “It’s the wildest place I can imagine that we have in the United States of America.”

In 2010 she set out with a North Face team to ski the highest peak in the area, but found conflicting information about whether that title went to Mount Chamberlin or Mount Isto.

Too far apart to tackle both in one trip, the team decided to focus on a single area in a glaciated valley where they climbed and skied several peaks.

DesLauriers met Nolan, the glaciologist from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, while waiting for a plane during that trip. Nolan was on his way to a research station on the McCall Glacier. He told DesLauriers about the disappearing glaciers he studied and the two kept in touch.

In 2012 she volunteered to go back and help him with an ice radar survey, lugging gear to areas Nolan couldn’t reach. She returned again in 2014 thanks to a National Geographic Grant after Nolan created a system to map the glaciers from the air. He recruited DesLauriers to test the accuracy of his method by collecting data from the ground to see if it matched. He said it didn’t matter where she measured as long as he could fly over it from the air. She decided to find out which mountain, Mount Chamberlin or Mount Isto, was higher.

It took a few days of skiing just to reach the base of Mount Isto and then eight hours to climb it. Getting to Mount Chamberlin was easier, but that climb took 12 hours. The skiing featured glacial ice and hard, frozen and sometimes rotten snow, with occasional corn, the snow found in the spring during the freeze-thaw cycles. But for DesLauriers it’s not about the quality of skiing. It’s about being immersed in a massive and wild landscape.

“Man, you are so far out there,” DesLauriers said. “You are completely self-reliant at that point. That’s an amazing experience in this day and age when everyone is so connected.”

DesLauriers’ work confirmed the accuracy of Nolan’s mapping system. And it turned out Mount Isto is about 70 feet higher than Mount Chamberlin.

DesLauriers isn’t sure what adventure she’ll pursue next or if future projects will have a science component. But she knows eventually she’ll go back to the refuge.

“I know I’m not done with that area,” she said.

In the meantime, the public can vote for DesLauriers and any of the other adventurers on National Geographic’s list for the “People’s Choice” award. Voting is open until Jan. 31.

“Then,” she said, “get out and do something inspiring yourself.”

This article was originally published on Skiing for science; National Geographic adventurer maps glaciers

There’s a lifetime of skiing south of Teton Pass

Driving from Jackson to Alpine, if you look up, you can see ragged cliff-looking faces with broken trees. But Thomas Turiano knows what lies just above and out of view: Classic ski terrain. The lines and terrain in the Snake River Range and other mountains south of Jackson are not well-known.

“There’s an actual lifetime of skiing south of Teton Pass,” Turiano said.

The Jackson author is familiar the skiing assets of the region, and he shares much of that knowledge in his new book Jackson Hole Backcountry Skier’s Guide: South. It features backcountry skiing opportunities for all abilities in the Snake River, Salt, Wyoming and other mountain ranges south of Teton Pass.

Turiano, also the author of Select Peaks of the Greater Yellowstone,  arrived in Jackson in the early 1980s on spring break during his freshman year at the Colorado School of Mines. After that first spring break in Jackson, he decided he wouldn’t return to school the next fall. Instead he moved to Jackson.

A New York state native, he grew up learning to ski and hone his mountaineering skills on a big hill in his backyard. Backcountry skiing in Wyoming offered much more adventure than resort skiing. Always curious about the terrain that lay outside the gates, he started exploring the Tetons with experienced friends and mentors, seeking out untracked snow.

“It’s the religious experience of having that smooth feeling underfoot, along with the exploration and finding new places,” he said of the instant appeal.

But Turiano, like so many others in Jackson, focused on exploring the obvious peaks in the Tetons, even writing his first book, Teton Skiing: A History and Guide, on the area. Right after it came out in 1995 he started thinking of writing another skiing guidebook to the southern area mountains. At the time, fewer people were skiing in those mountains — including Turiano, who didn’t realize the expansiveness of the terrain.

“I would soon find out though, because I started on Select Peaks,” he said.

Select Peaks was broader, not focused solely on skiing, but also on the history of the mountains, mountaineering and climbing. In the process of researching the book Turiano got to know the southern mountains well.

He started on the southern ski book in 2003, pecking away at it until two years ago when he decided if he ever wanted to finish it he needed to devote more time. The book, which is the only ski guidebook to the southern mountains of the area, is divided into 14 chapters and organized by access points. Everything in the book is accessible from Jackson within a day, leaving time for skiing once you arrive.

“It’s for the Jackson Hole skier,” he said. “This is your terrain. This is your world.”

Turiano doesn’t keep anything back. He includes even his favorite lines and secret powder stashes.

“That’s really hard for me to do — to horde something awesome for myself,” he said. “I’d rather tell about it than hoard it.”

It also doesn’t fit a writing ethic that Turiano committed to in his first book.

“I’m not going to write something that doesn’t do justice to the place or the people that were there first,” he said. “I want the reader to become a steward of the place rather than just a user.”

There is some history woven into the information on the more than 1,000 lines the book describes. The book spans a range of difficulties, including buttes and foothills for beginners.

“Anything with good skiing that I saw I included,” he said.

He omitted only areas with convoluted access that involved skirting private land. There are also more than 500 photos, some with routes drawn on them to show less obvious terrain.

Since Turiano started exploring the ranges, he’s found he prefers the terrain south of Jackson more than skiing in the Tetons. The ascents are shorter, so he can get in multiple laps on one peak. The mountains allow for linking peaks and creating unique adventures. The snow is also better. The Tetons are higher, but there’s less direct sunlight in areas like the Snake River Canyon, so even south-facing slopes are colder.

Plus, there’s still more left to explore. He’s already thinking about the next edition. But that will have to come after he writes the guide to the northern range and revises Select Peaks, which is out of print, but still in demand. He also plans in the next few years to write a revision of Teton Skiing in the same format as his new book, including areas like Togwotee Pass and the Big Holes.

This article was originally published on There’s a lifetime of skiing south of Teton Pass

On the Colorado River, will New Mexico be left in the dust?

The Colorado River supplies water for more than 36 million people in two countries and seven states, including New Mexico. As river flows and reservoir levels decline due to drought, warming and over-demand, states are wrangling over how to voluntarily conserve water use—before reservoir levels reach critically low levels and trigger mandatory cutbacks. New Mexico is one of the states most vulnerable to the impacts climate change is wreaking on the river. Yet, it’s unclear what the state is doing when it comes to drought management in the state and basin-wide negotiations on the Colorado.

The seven states subject to the Colorado River Compact are divided into Upper Basin states—Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah—and Lower Basin states—Arizona, Nevada and California. The Lower Basin’s planning has been sprawling and public, as the three states have tried to agree on a drought contingency plan that will keep Lake Mead’s levels high enough to keep farmers in southern California and central Arizona and cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Diego from having their water supplies curtailed.

Meanwhile, Upper Basin states are working out a drought contingency plan, too.

NM officials silent on Colorado River

Under the Colorado River Compact, New Mexico is allocated 11 ¼ percent of the Upper Basin’s annual allocation of 7.5 million acre feet. Though the Colorado River itself does not flow through the state, some of its tributaries do, including the San Juan River, which supplies the San Juan-Chama Project. That federal project delivers water to cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. Aztec, Farmington and Bloomfield also rely on water from the San Juan River, and both the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project and the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, which is still being built, rely on water from the Colorado River Basin.

Unlike other Upper Basin states, New Mexico has fully allocated its share of the system’s water, although not all that water has been fully developed yet. That means there’s no wriggle room in the system when it comes to water shortages.

In Colorado, discussions on how to cut its share of water use have generated conflict among water users and between Front Range water users and the more rural Western Slope. Utah’s governor just declared a state of emergency over drought. And earlier this month, Wyoming’s State Engineer warned water users along the Green River, a tributary of the Colorado, that drought could force regulators to curtail diversions if voluntary limits don’t pan out first. According to a new story, State Engineer Patrick Tyrell told stakeholders that the Colorado River Basin system is at “risk of severe disruption.”

To understand New Mexico’s current role in Colorado River discussions and drought planning, NM Political Report contacted New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission Director John Longworth, the agency’s public information officer (PIO), Melissa Dosher and a state employee believed to work on Colorado River issues. The employee emailed that interview requests need to be handled by the PIO. But neither Dosher nor Longworth responded to messages.

Protecting Powell

The Upper Basin’s drought contingency plan has three main elements, said Amy Haas, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, including drought operations, demand management and weather modification.

The plan’s cornerstone, drought operations, involves managing key reservoirs, such as Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming, the Aspinall Unit on the Gunnison River in western Colorado and New Mexico’s Navajo Reservoir to make sure Lake Powell doesn’t drop too low.

Backed up behind Glen Canyon Dam, water is stored in Utah’s Lake Powell to allow Upper Basin states to meet their obligations under the Colorado River Compact and send more than 8 million acre feet downstream each year.

To do that, Haas said, models show Lake Powell must stay above an elevation of 3,525 feet.

“Below 3,525,” she said, “all bets are off.”

As of October 22, Lake Powell’s elevation was at 3,591 feet, storing 10,946,807 acre feet of water.

The Upper Basin’s drought contingency plan also looks at how to reduce water demands, including through voluntary water conservation programs.

At the end of the year, the commission wraps up a pilot program that paid farmers in
Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to conserve water. Through the program, the commission paid farmers about $200 per acre foot of water for water they saved by fallowing fields. It was an experiment, she said, to see if water conservation would help boost storage in Lake Powell.

The commission learned that farmers are interested in compensated conservation programs—but also that those water savings won’t make up for the losses from drought and climate change.

During the four-year pilot project, Haas estimated the Upper Basin will have conserved about 50,000 acre feet. But addressing the deficit at Lake Powell requires about 200,000 to 500,000 acre feet.

Haas said the commission is also exploring weather modification, such as how cloud seeding could increase precipitation in certain areas and at certain times. “We’re not going to see the storage savings we would out of drought management or even drought operations,” she said. “It has not been our focus, but it is still the third leg of our drought contingency plan stool.”

‘Front and center’

As executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, Haas represents the interests of the entire basin—with input from attorneys from the four states and federal technical experts—not any one state. But prior to becoming executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, she served as general counsel and deputy director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and also as New Mexico’s commissioner to the Upper Basin.

Though it’s no longer her job to represent the interests of only New Mexico, Haas spoke about the importance of the river system to New Mexicans.

Because New Mexico has fully allocated its share of Colorado River water, the state is in a “different boat” from the other Upper Basin states that haven’t come close to fully developing their Colorado River water rights, Haas said: “It’s critical that New Mexicans understand that any sort of shortage as a result of this now-19 year-long drought that we’re in—this aridification and the ‘new normal’ [of climate change]—could disproportionately affect New Mexico.”

The Colorado River system supplies water to cities, farmers, utilities and Native American tribes, she said, adding that a 2014 economic survey of the importance of Colorado River water showed it contributes $60 billion in annual economic activity to New Mexico, and about $30 billion more in labor. There’s also money from recreation and jobs related to building the Navajo-Gallup pipeline. As one of the poorest states, New Mexico shouldn’t take that economic contribution lightly, she added.

“I can’t overestimate the importance of this water to New Mexico,” she said. “Colorado
River issues should be front and center for New Mexicans.”

That same 2014 study shows that 60 percent of the water used in New Mexico for industrial and municipal uses comes from the Colorado River, as well as 15 percent of the water used for farming.

Losing Colorado River water isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

In 2017, a study showed that between 2000 and 2014, annual Colorado River flows averaged 19 percent below the 1906-1999 average. The models also showed that warming will continue to drive declines in river flows—by between 20 to 30 percent by mid-century and 35 to 55 percent by 2100. More recently, authors from the University of California-Los Angeles and Colorado State University found that 53 percent of the decrease in runoff is attributable to warming; the rest to reduced snowfall within regions that feed into the system.

And the effects of climate change on the basin are occurring at a more accelerated
rate than people had previously thought, Haas said. “These are things that should be of immediate concern to us,” she said. “It’s absolutely a wake up call.”

‘Not enough water for all the lawyers to be right’

John Fleck, director of the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico, and an expert on Colorado River issues, pointed out that one-third of the water flowing through a crucial section of the Rio Grande in New Mexico this year was imported from the Colorado River system. That San Juan-Chama water, for example, is what has kept the Middle Rio Grande flowing through Albuquerque this fall.The Rio Grande in Albuquerque on Monday

“The seven states are engaged in this incredibly important set of negotiations that will go on for a long time, about how we go about scaling back our use of Colorado River water across the basin in a way that reflects the hydrological reality that there’s just less water in this river than we all came to expect,” Fleck said. “It’s really important that folks in state government in New Mexico take that seriously, and it’s really important and incumbent on them to engage in a public discussion about what our risks are and what our choices are.”

That’s so important, he explained, because it’s entirely likely that the river’s rules will be tweaked in coming years to account for the fact that as there is less water in the system, there is less water available for the states.

That discussion needs to be a public one, he said, and can’t be left to attorneys advocating that their clients hang on to their full entitlements. “There’s not enough water for all the lawyers to be right,” he said. “We need to be up front about the fact that [cuts] are needed, and we’re going to have to play along with the rest of the basin.”

These discussions are playing out in states like Colorado and Arizona, he said. “I’m a little concerned we don’t have a very robust discussion within New Mexico, about the implications for our Colorado River water users,” he said. “Part of this comes back to this broader question, of the need here in the Middle [Rio Grande] Valley for us to be having broader discussions about what we want our water future to be.”

New Mexicans face incredibly difficult choices, he said, about how much water is available for agriculture, how much water is available for municipalities and how much water is available for rivers and the environment.

“We’ve just been patching that together by draining reservoirs and trying to comply with the Endangered Species Act, and haven’t had a very broad community conversation about our values and what we want out of our water,” he said. “And the Colorado River is a part of that.”

The article was published at On the Colorado River, will New Mexico be left in the dust?

How one Colorado boy with autism schooled the Supreme Court on public education for the disabled

Many parents heralded this year’s Supreme Court decision on Endrew F. v. Douglas County Schools as a victory over school districts in the perpetual struggle concerning the rights of students with disabilities.

Central to the case was the question of whether an Individualized Education Program is adequate. Known as the IEP, this program had been a source of constant dispute between parents and school officials since the inception of special education law.

Justices ruled unanimously for the parents of Endrew F., an autistic boy from Colorado. But characterizing Endrew as a clear win for parents would be a mistake.

Related: High schools fail to provide legally required education to students with disabilities

The court specifically rejected the parents’ arguments that attempted to train special education toward a more post-secondary focus.

The court specifically rejected the parents’ arguments that attempted to train special education toward a more post-secondary focus.

To be sure, it also rejected the school district’s arguments that attempted to set the bar for special education quite low. Regardless, parent-advocates should hesitate to “overreach” and leverage the case as a tool to make unreasonable demands, which may not accord with the Endrew holding and may only perpetuate a counterproductive “parent versus school” narrative.

Instead, Endrew is an invitation for both parents and school officials to return to the core of special education: designing an ambitious and feasible special education around a child’s particular needs and capacities.

To some observers, it may seem odd that it would take a court decision to reassert this common sense principle. Yet years of litigation concerning the adequacy of special education has obscured this focus because, in many cases, parents and schools view each other as opponents, rather than partners. Endrew can change that dynamic.

(By way of background, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees a child with a disability the right to a free,  appropriate public education (FAPE). A FAPE is operationalized through an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP sets forth the special education needs, related services and intended goals and objectives for the student. It is a critical document.)

Related: The separate, unequal education of students with special needs

Endrew experienced considerable success. While Endrew was still at the private school, public school officials proposed another IEP. Again, Endrew’s parents rejected it because they felt it did not incorporate the private school programming that had proved successful and, instead, essentially mirrored the last proposed IEP.

In court, the district argued that their proposed IEPs were “reasonably calculated” to provide some benefit, as opposed to none. In the school’s view, this was an appropriate education under existing law.

Endrew’s parents argued for a higher standard that appeared to focus on post-secondary concepts. In their view, an appropriate education would provide “opportunities to achieve academic success, attain self-sufficiency, and contribute to society that are substantially equal to the opportunities afforded children without disabilities” (emphasis added).

The Court rejected both the parents’ and the school district’s arguments. Instead, it stated that an IEP should be “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s unique circumstances.” Notably, while the school district technically “lost,” the Court also did not adopt a characterization of special education that incorporated themes more oriented toward post-school life, as the parents had hoped.

However, Endrew should not be viewed in zero-sum terms. Rather, it represents significant opportunity for all involved going forward. For parents, Endrew rightfully requires that information brought by parents regarding what goals are achievable vis-vis a child must be accounted for in the IEP development process. In Endrew’s case that clearly did not occur; the school district ignored evidence of Endrew’s success at his private school.

Professional educators should (and must) embrace Endrew, as well. They have experience and particularized training that can help set ambitious — but achievable — programming.

The Supreme Court noted that it wants to defer to school officials’ specialized knowledge. Yet it also warned school officials that that expertise must be applied on a case-by-case basis. Put another way: the days of “cut and paste” IEP development are over. For the overwhelming majority of educators who entered teaching to help each and every child they encountered, Endrew only supports their professional roles. In that light, professional educators won.

Endrew sends a clear judicial message that both parent input and school officials’ professional judgment must be joined together in the interest of an individual child. Years of costly litigation may have blurred that concept, but Endrew offers the proverbial “reset.” If interpreted as a victory for all parties, it can provide a valuable point of common ground in the struggle to fulfill the promise of special education law.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up here for our newsletter.

Mark Paige, J.D., Ph.D., is an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and author of Building a better teacher: Understanding value added models in the law of teacher evaluation.

The article was published at How one Colorado boy with autism schooled the Supreme Court on public education for the disabled

A Colorado Ski Community Planned To Test Everyone For COVID-19. Here’s What Happened.

In late March, residents of the Colorado town of Telluride and surrounding San Miguel County stood in line, along marked spots spaced 6 feet apart, to have their blood drawn by medical technicians wearing Tyvek suits, face shields and gloves for a new COVID-19 test.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tests for the virus that causes the respiratory illness have been in short supply since the outbreak began, this was a new type of test. It wasn’t to see who was sick right now. It was an antibody test that would assess who had been exposed and how widespread the virus was in the community to inform decisions about managing the outbreak.

When part-time Telluride residents and United Biomedical Inc. co-CEOs Mei Mei Hu and Lou Reese had offered to provide their company’s newly developed COVID-19 antibody tests for free to not just Telluride, but all of San Miguel County too, more than 6,000 of the county’s estimated 8,000 residents jumped at the chance.

“People really want to be part of it,” said Donna Fernald, a home health nurse who was tested the first day.

“This was a gift and an opportunity,” said San Miguel County spokesperson Susan Lilly.

That was the original plan, anyway. But on Tuesday, the grand experiment with bold aspirations appeared to fall apart. Lilly put out a statement announcing that testing was being “delayed indefinitely due to United Biomedical Inc.’s reduced ability to process the tests due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Lilly declined to comment on the decision.

The test that Hu and Reese’s company had promoted as “fast — results in two hours” had slowed to a virtual halt. The company had initially told the county to expect results within 48 to 72 hours after the samples arrived at the company’s New York lab. Results from tests conducted March 26 and 27 were announced April 1, but results from subsequent tests have still not come in.

A San Miguel County Department of Public Health and Environment press release quoted a company statement that blamed the delay on operations and the majority of staff being located in New York, where the pandemic has hit especially hard. The press release issued Tuesday said the company is aiming to resume processing the estimated 4,000 outstanding tests from the first round of testing.

But with only a fraction of the results in so far, and additional testing in question, the COVAXX testing appears to be yet another example of the chaotic response to the coronavirus crisis gone wrong.

A Different Kind Of Test

The test that Hu and Reese donated to the Telluride community is an antibody test developed by COVAXX, a newly formed subsidiary of their New York-based United Biomedical. It’s one of more than 30 commercially available tests without Food and Drug Administration approval under flexible rules adopted to address the COVID-19 pandemic. So far only one antibody test has received official FDA approval — a test made by Cellex, which uses just a pinprick of blood and produces results in about 15 minutes.

Antibody tests are fundamentally different than the CDC swab tests currently used to make official diagnoses. Where the swab test looks for the virus’s genetic material to determine active infections, an antibody test looks for antibodies in a person’s blood that show an immune response to the virus that causes COVID-19. Robert Garry, a virologist at Tulane University School of Medicine, said the test can’t tell whether the person is currently sick or infectious.

The plan in Telluride was for participants to be tested twice, two weeks apart, with the COVAXX test because it can take a while for someone infected to show up as positive when measuring antibodies.

The COVAXX website claims its test has 100% sensitivity (that’s the test’s ability to find antibodies to the virus) and 100% specificity (a measure of how good the test is at differentiating this novel coronavirus’ antibodies from other antibodies).

But, Garry said, no test is perfect. And creating an antibody test for the virus being called SARS-CoV-2 is “tricky,” he said, because it needs to distinguish among several seasonal coronaviruses. Furthermore, he added, the COVAXX test is a peptide assay, which he said typically is not very sensitive.

“We know 100% is an almost impossible bar to reach,” Garry said. “It kind of raises some red flags.”

In an interview with KHN before the Telluride program stopped, Hu said that “I always hesitate when I say 100%,” but she said that the company validated the test against 900 samples collected before the COVID-19 outbreak, with no false positives. She added the test also correctly produced positive results from blood samples that have been verified as positive through other tests.

Theoretically, having antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 could make a person immune to the virus, but how robust this immunity is and how long it might last remain open questions. The big promise behind testing a whole community is that if one can identify people who have been infected and recovered (or never gotten sick in the first place), one can safely send them back to work or out in the community, Reese said.

“It’s absolutely my goal to make this standard for how we get the country back to a new normal,” Reese had said before the test was suspended. “If we tested everyone in the whole country and were prepared to do it twice, you would know exactly when you would be back at functioning — everybody back at work.”

Reese isn’t alone in his excitement. Hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman invested an undisclosed amount of capital into COVAXX through his Pershing Square Foundation, and bestselling author and XPrize founder Dr. Peter Diamandis is listed as part of the COVAXX leadership team on the company’s website. Diamandis presents a fawning interview with Hu and Reese in a widely shared YouTube video, which does not disclose his relationship with the company. Neither responded to requests for comment.

Testing Results

In all, about 6,000 of San Miguel residents were tested at three locations across the county, which covers about 1,300 square miles. As of Monday, only 1,631 of the tests had been processed, with eight (0.5%) of them deemed positive, 25 (1.5%) “borderline” and 1,598 (98%) negative. Borderline results indicate the person may be in the early stages of producing antibodies, Lilly said.

Yet the single tests alone can’t provide a clear picture of how many people have been exposed.

As of Thursday, a total of 11 cases in San Miguel County had been identified with standard swab tests. Officials continue to recommend that all residents practice social distancing and that those experiencing symptoms practice further isolation to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

One way to look at this attempt at large-scale testing is that “everybody’s getting together and trying to do something cooperative and innovative,” said George Annas, director of the center for health law, ethics and human rights at Boston University School of Public Health.

“If you wanted to be cruel, you could say this is a publicity stunt,” Annas said.

The program certainly won COVAXX a lot of good publicity, along with gratitude from local residents — at least initially.

And a resort town in Wyoming is following suit. John Goettler, president of St. John’s Health Foundation in Jackson, said his organization is spending “less than $20,000” on COVAXX tests for about 500 health professionals and first responders. Goettler said Jackson resident Dakin Sloss, a hedge fund owner listed as another member of COVAXX’s leadership team, helped secure the tests. Testing is set to begin next week, and the test will be processed at a local lab, rather than in New York.

But in Ouray County, adjacent to San Miguel County, officials decided against such testing even before the Telluride suspension.

The cost “would shoot a hole in my budget for at least the next two years,” said Ouray County public health director Tanner Kingery.

But that wasn’t the only concern, Kingery said. It would have required a large supply of precious masks and other personal protective equipment, he said, while potentially exposing health care workers and community members to the virus.

Dr. Andrew Yeowell, an emergency room physician and Ouray County EMS medical director, also was concerned that negative tests might give people a false sense of security. If people with negative tests felt emboldened to go out in the community and interact with others, he said, it could undermine the county’s advisory to stay home.

“If you’re having symptoms or feel sick, stay home,” Kingery added. “That guidance doesn’t really change if you have a positive test.”

The article was published at A Colorado Ski Community Planned To Test Everyone For COVID-19. Here’s What Happened.

Colorado ranks among the best states for job hunters

Colorado ranks among the top states in the country for job hunters, according to a recent study.

WalletHub ranked the Centennial State third overall, behind only Massachusetts (No. 1) and Washington (No. 2), in its “2019 Best & Worst States for Jobs” list.

The personal finance website ranked all 50 states into two categories, job market and economic environment, using 33 different metrics.

“WalletHub compared the 50 states across 33 key indicators of job-market strength, opportunity and a healthy economy,” the website said. “Our data set ranges from employment growth to median annual income to average commute time.”

Colorado ranked second overall in job market and 12th in economic environment.

Rounding out the top 10 in the rankings were Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Delaware, New Jersey, California, and Rhode Island.

Colorado’s economy has also been ranked top in the country, and the state ranks favorably for taxpayers.

Denver, Aurora, and Colorado Springs ranked among the best large cities in the country to start a business, according to a WalletHub list released last month.

Colorado employers added 9,500 jobs from March to April and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in the state. The prior month, employers in the state added over 6,000 jobs.

Almost every city in the state saw population growth in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Article was published at Colorado ranks among the best states for job hunters