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Save Our Snow: Of slow starts, La Nina and global warming 

click to enlarge The future of backcountry skiing.
  • The future of backcountry skiing.
The future of backcountry skiing.
By Nov. 30, I had not yet made one alpine turn. I scratched and scraped around on nordic skis in November, but I was holding out before subjecting my freshly stone ground skis to the light dusting of snow covering the Central Oregon lava rock. Finally, I could no longer hold back. Jonas phoned and reported thin, but good skiing from the summit of Bachelor. Chris and I set out from the parking lot and were treated to another stellar Central Oregon sunrise. A clear, cold cell separated low lying clouds in the valley from higher, wispy clouds capping the peaks. There's nothing like hiking up a mountain while catching the first rays of the day. The skiing was better than expected, with 8 inches of fresh over the top of a base ranging from 0 to 14 inches. The turns were sweet and well worth the minor rock hits taken by my perfectly tuned edges and bases.

We are in the middle of La Niña and, as expected, had a slower than average start to the ski season. La Niña, preceded by the 2006-07 El Niño season, results from a 0.50C lower than average sea surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean. La Niña pushes the polar jet stream further south, causing below average temperatures and above average precipitation in the northwestern and midwestern states from December through March. All very important things to consider and understand for Central Oregon powder lovers.

It is highly unlikely that La Niña and El Niño are caused by Global Warming. Their effects were first observed in the early 20th century and are likely a natural part of the earth's climate regulation. The intensity and frequency of La Niña/El Niño patterns, however, could be directly related to global warming. According to National Geographic, "In the past 98 years there have been 23 El Niños and 15 La Niñas. Of the century's 10 most powerful El Niños, four-the four strongest-have occurred since 1980." More time and data collection are needed for a conclusive scientific link.

As most are aware, no more time is needed to conclude global warming is a result of human activities. According to the 26 page report released in November by the Intergovernmental Climate Change, "Global total annual greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have risen by 70% since 1970." The report goes on to state that climate change is, "evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea levels." It is time to stop debating whether global warming is real and start putting all our minds and hearts together to create solutions to the problem.

For me, like many who have decided to call Central Oregon home, nothing compares to the joys of outdoor adventure. The snow-capped peaks, the different textures of wind sculpted snow, face shots, the flaura, fauna, wildlife and nature are all in danger. Nature's ecosystems have already begun to feel the effects of global warming. We need to work hard now to ensure future generations will be able to get face shots and experience all of nature's beauty and grandeur. A conservation mindset shift is urgent from the top down and from the bottom up.

At the latest UN climate conference in Bali last month, the head of the Papua New Guinea delegation, Kevin Conrad, summed up his frustration for the lack of action from the United States when he stated, "If you are not willing to lead, please get out of the way." We need to all take action now and prove to the world that we can and will take a leadership role to fight climate change.

We can all make a difference if we act now. My folks taught me long ago to live lightly and that hanging clothes out on the line to dry is a good thing (which is uncomfortable to some Bend-ites). This is just one of the many mindset shifts required to keep our outdoor adventures untarnished for future generations. My new year's resolution is to keep those face shots coming this year and in the future.

Happy New Year!

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