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02
Nov

Mt. Shasta @ End of the road: view from above the 7800' Old Ski Bowl parking lot 9/27/12

I was hoping to venture south along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway and hike/summit the 14,162ft Mt. Shasta in California this past Sept. But in checking the Shasta-Trinity National Forest (NF) site for alerts (always a good thing to do), I came upon one, listed last, about “Serpentine and Naturally Occurring Asbestos (NOA)”. It clicked through to a page with a long list of info and maps but no top line info. How many would proceed to click through and read all the info embedded in that list I wondered? Well, knowing that asbestos is a carcinogen, I did – and glad I did. Mt. Shasta turned out to be a big pile of dirt. Plus, there were no NOA warning signs at the trailheads. So knowing what I’m about to share, I took a few pictures and left. As I drove away, my mind raced with questions: Why weren’t there any NOA warning signs? Are there cancer cases attributed to NOA? How harmful is NOA to visitors of national forests? What about us folks & park employees who practically live outdoors all summer? etc, etc…. I started looking online for answers. Seeing as Nov. is Lung Cancer Awareness month and most of the studies appear to have been undertaken in or around the last decade, I decided to share what I’ve learned so far. It’s just basic info (there’s plenty online for those wanting more technical, scientific info) but hopefully, this is enough for folks to get the gist of the issue, start a conversation and maybe do something about it.


Starting with the Shasta-Trinity site, there’s a 2008 “NOA Fact Sheet” that describes the landscape: “Naturally occurring asbestos…has been found to be present in the majority of counties in California. It is commonly found in ultramafic rock formations, including serpentine, and in the soils where these rock types are located. Serpentine, the California State Rock, is found widely throughout the state.” The U.S. Geological Survey and the California Geological Survey have confirmed that NOA can be found in at least 45 of CA’s 58 counties (8 other counties contain ultramafic rocks, serpentinite or fibrous amphibole suggesting the possible presence of NOA). The Fact Sheet indicates that when present, naturally occurring asbestos may pose health risks if released into the air or soil (by being crushed or broken through natural weathering or through human activities) and then inhaled or ingested.


Among the health risks referred to are lung cancer and mesothelioma (a cancer that affects the lungs, heart and abdominal cavity). Proof that NOA can cause mesothelioma was published by UC Davis researchers in 2005. In March 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer reconfirmed that all forms of asbestos can cause mesothelioma. However, the risk of developing it is dose dependent and, as the UC Davis team found, “directly related to residential proximity to a source of ultramafic rock”. In another study, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) went on to estimate the increased risk of cancer based on OHV/hiking scenarios and frequency of visits -e.g. up to 12 visits per year for recreational scenarios, and up to 120 visits per year for workers (which would include outdoor enthusiasts like us). That study took place at the Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) in CA which has been closed to the public since May 2008. According to the EPA, the 75,000 acre CCMA in San Benito and Fresno counties includes a serpentinite rock body containing a 31,000 acre outcrop of NOA. It is the largest asbestos deposit in the U.S. The EPA found that at the CCMA, ”There was no combination of scenario, toxicity value, or visits per year that was below the lower end of EPA’s acceptable risk range, i.e. risks less than 1 in 1,000,000. Only…Day Use Hiking…had risk calculations within the acceptable range.” The International Environmental Research Foundation (IERF) has challenged many of those findings and concluded that riding in moist conditions was below EPA’s “virtually safe level”. However, they agreed that “motorcycle riding in dry condition at CCMA raises dust in excess of the asbestos permissible exposure limit”. The IERF review was commissioned by the CA State Parks’ Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division (OHVD). We should note that both sides have come under additional scrutiny and criticism. Those who challenge the EPA and believe the area can be enjoyed safely have undertaken efforts to re-open the CCMA. We aren’t aware of any others studying risks associated with these types of recreational scenarios in national forests containing NOA. Would we be alone in wanting to see some?


With these risks in mind, here’s what the Fact Sheet advises: “National forest visitors wishing to reduce their potential exposure to naturally occurring asbestos should consult the maps produced by the Forest Service or the State of California which identify the currently known areas of ultramafic and serpentine rock and naturally occurring asbestos”. I did and found this could be quite time consuming so included some of them below (links are at the end). They indicate the presence of NOA and/or former asbestos mines in all of the following National Forests in CA: Angeles (only mines), Eldorado, Klamath, Lassen, Los Padres, Mendocino, Plumas, San Bernardino, Sequoia (only mines), Shasta-Trinity, Sierra (only mines), Six Rivers, Tahoe. We went back and forth between the maps and the NF websites and were troubled to see NOA alerts missing from websites for the individual NFs we just listed (except Mendocino’s whose link for the NOA Alert points to the wrong info as of today -we let them know so they can fix it). Only the Shasta-Trinity NF and USFS’ Pacific Southwest Region websites provide info on NOA insofar as national forest lands are concerned. Also, as noted before, if I had not checked these sites, there would have been no signs at Mt. Shasta warning me of the presence of NOA. Anyone know if other NFs with NOA have warning signs?

 

As the first map above shows, CA isn’t alone in this. NOA has been found in more than 2 dozen U.S. states including the Pacific NW. Focusing on WA, we did a search and didn’t come across any NOA Alerts for our national forests. However, on Asbestos.com where you can search by state, they show NOA in WA’s northeast above Spokane in the Okanogan highlands and central Cascades around Wenatchee and Ellensburg (where chrysotile asbestos is present in serpentine rock deposits in mountainous areas). Asbestos was also once mined in WA at two sites in Lyman, Skagit County and near Alta Lake, Okanogan County. Lastly, we found WA state and Whatcom County Dept. of Health advisories for NOA resulting from the Sumas Mountain landslide (near the headwaters of Swift Creek) releasing NOA-containing sediment into that creek and into

white asbestos deposits in Swift Creek

the Sumas River near the town of Nooksack, past the town of Sumas and into Canada. The zone is west-northwest of one of our favorites, Mt. Baker. So note to self: close car windows and vents and don’t stop to play in the pretty white stuff that’s asbestos on the shores of Swift Creek and Sumas River if we ever drive through that zone on the way to Mt. Baker. Hopefully, there are warning signs there to remind us.


As we read about the Pacific NW, we began to wonder if hiking our beloved volcanoes and breathing volcanic ash and dust could pose risks. Well, we found a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blog about Erionite, “a naturally occurring mineral that belongs to a group of silicate minerals called zeolites…[and is] found in volcanic ash that has been altered by weathering and ground water….Disturbance of this material can generate airborne fibers with physical properties and health effects similar to asbestos. For example, it has long been known that residents of some Turkish villages where erionite-containing rock was used to construct homes have a remarkably high risk for development of malignant mesothelioma. Until recently, erionite was not generally considered to be a potential hazard in North America, in part because relatively little risk for exposure was seen. However, evidence has slowly accumulated linking exposure to erionite with serious adverse health effects in North America.” Erionite is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, labeling it as a cancer-causing agent too. Like NOA, deposits are present in many Western states (see map image above). However, the most talked about areas are N. Dakota where gravel dug from pits containing erionite were used to pave roads since the ’80s and caused lung damage, and UT, Mexico and Turkey where there have been instances of erionite-related illnesses. After that map was released, erionite was also found in WA. However, I haven’t been able to find any sources confirming it’s in Cascades volcanic ash. If you know of any, we’d like to hear from you. We hope future research doesn’t link it to our volcanoes because the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reported that “erionite is much more potent than asbestos in causing malignant mesothelioma”. As for other effects of breathing volcanic ash, there is a published study: The respiratory health hazards of volcanic ash: a review for volcanic risk mitigation.


So here are tips from the Fact Sheet for reducing your exposure to NOA (and erionite):

-Be aware of windy conditions and avoid dusty conditions to reduce exposure

-Limit dust generating activities, such as riding offroad vehicles, riding bicycles, running or hiking, riding horses or moving livestock, etc.

-Avoid handling or disturbing loose asbestos containing rock types

-Drive slowly over unpaved roads, with windows and vents closed, to minimize dust generation (California Air Resources Board recommends that vehicle speeds not exceed 15 miles per hour on unpaved roads where asbestos is present)

-Avoid or minimize the tracking of dust into vehicles [and homes]

-Do not use compressed air for cleaning your vehicles after your visit. Use a wet rag to clean the interior” and, as other sources suggest, a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter vacuum.


We all know that kicking up dust is unavoidable when hiking dry trails. So, when conditions are like that, we’re going to take the NF Alert about a “potential for exposure to asbestos fibers on your visit to national forests in California” very seriously. We will simply designate NOA zones on dry days as no hike zones given the large number of days we hike (or add a HEPA filter mask to our safety gear list?). We wonder how many people who visit these areas know about NOA. Prior to this, we did not. We thought about the countless, long backcountry trips on dusty trails that we and other outdoor enthusiasts take and grew concerned. Could it be that our frequent exposures to NOA are sufficiently low level to be considered safe? -problem is: we just don’t know. We hope by writing this, others can become aware of the issue. We’d like to hear from you if this concerns you too. Also, since we’re new to this, we’d welcome experts and others who have useful info to chime in and educate us further: please comment here or email us to add/correct info. In the meantime, let’s all pray for snow – seems to be the safest way to enjoy these areas: when these natural risks are buried deep under snow. Live to ski another day!

 

To continuing reading about NOA, here are our sources and some additional links:

the Shasta-Trinity National Forest’s NOA Alert

2005 study published by UC Davis researchers

Bureau of Land Management Site for CCMA and OHVD sites which include the CCMA studies we cited and more

the U.S. Geological Survey for maps (they’re working to identify and map reported natural asbestos occurrences in the U.S.)

- more maps and “Data files” with gps location info here

2012 publication about Washington’s Swift Creek which contains a lot of history, other info and resources and raises some interesting legal issues

blog about Erionite and the report co-authored by Aubrey Miller, M.D.

- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency site on NOA

- CA Dept. of Conservation site for Geological Survey about Asbestos

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01
Nov

Keystone Resort is opening tomorrow 11/2. That’s the 3rd resort to open in CO behind A-Basin and Loveland. Copper Mountain and Wolf Creek were scheduled to open too but Copper has rescheduled for 11/4. Wolf Creek is still TBD. Other resort opening dates can be found in our original post.

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01
Nov

Hey Mitt, you ski? Seriously, goggles priced at $599.95? Yesterday, the Oakley Airwave™ goggle went on sale on Oakley’s site. It’s nice to see GPS, Bluetooth® and display technology integrated into goggles – don’t get us wrong: we love the idea and are glad to see old school goggles take the leap and go high tech. If folks can get past the sticker shock and can afford them, these are actually really cool and handy to have. We welcome the ability to track and display real-time performance information including speed, distance, altitude, vertical descent, jump analytics (distance, height, airtime), as well as on-hill navigation, buddy tracking and points of interest. Oakley’s Airwave does all that using Recon Instruments’ award-winning Heads-up Display (HUD) technology. Earlier versions of Recon’s technology and goggles offered this data too. But the Airwave has the additional ability to use bluetooth to pair up iPhones and Android smartphones to view incoming caller id and text messages. If the Bluetooth-enabled smartphone has music, playlists can also be accessed and controlled. As Oakley puts it, these goggles provide an “avalanche of information”. Interesting choice of words. Sounds like there should be a warning on the product that says, “use at your own risk of missing the avalanche about to hit you”. But that really wouldn’t be necessary because the display sits off to the bottom right and not in the way of your field of view. So while skiing or riding, there’s no unwanted obstruction or distraction. When you want to review your performance or get vital information, you simply move your eye toward the miniature prism lens. Oakley describes the experience as “looking at a 14-inch monitor from a distance of five feet”. The Airwave comes complete with Switchlock™ Technology that enables you to swap lenses to match your environment. Oakley offers a wide array of OPTIONAL lens tints. For maximized performance, F3 anti-fog technology is paired with a dual-vented lens, a premium design engineered with semi-flush geometry for wide peripheral vision. Oakley Plutonite® lens material filters out 100% of all UV light. The chassis is made of lightweight O Matter® widely used in their other goggles and O-Flow Arch technology that reduces nasal pressure to improve airflow for free breathing. The fixed O Matter outriggers accommodate interchangeable straps. We’ve included the video demo – we’re very interested in hearing what you think. For such a hi tech goggle, we were surprised to see Oakley’s website offering only low tech info – i.e. there were no technical specifications whatsoever on the site. We had to go to Recon’s website to find essential info like battery life: 6hrs (battery life with bluetooth turned on isn’t provided).

 

We think this is cool -If you’re ok with limiting gps and other functionality for when you’re on the snow- and you can afford it. At $599.95, this is one expensive snow goggle. The Zeal Z3 GPS goggles which come with polarized and photochromatic lens are srp $549. Zeal’s Transcend GPS starts at srp $399. You can also buy the Recon insert kit by itself but you’d still have to buy Recon compatible goggles. Several options are available per Recon’s website at http://www.reconinstruments.com/partners.


Until Smith Optics starts selling their I/O Recon goggles this month at srp $650, the Airwave holds the title for being the most expensive goggles. Again, pricing aside, we like the trend we’re seeing. However, we ski year round so need a dedicated gps device separate from our goggles. We also like using our free smartphone apps when there’s network access. Read: we simply can’t afford these – yet.

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31
Oct

The Snoqualmie Yeti just put this edit together of some video I took this past Saturday night while my friends were performing w/ their fire spinning troop, Pyrotechniques. The event was the Evans Brothers annual Halloween party, held in Sandpoint. In recent days there has been a lot of buzz about SNOW in all zones of the country, so I had to add some powder clips to stoke the “fire” snow dance. Even though all of the snow clips are from Snoqualmie Pass, WA from this past season, watching them they could be anywhere you live LARGE in the powder!




I also wanted to note, that in the super deep “ski lander” shots (like the thumbnail above), I’m rocking my 192cm long x 136mm underfoot Moment Comi skis. With my weight at 220 lbs., I would have never had the fun I did that day on anything under 120mm at the foot… The snow was too deep! Enjoy and Think BIG SNOW!


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30
Oct

It’s raining in WA. Actually, pouring. A big, wet system will continue to deliver plenty of rain to western WA through Wednesday. The snow level’s risen so this is not doing anything for our local ski resorts. However, it’s still going to translate into big time snow up higher. So if you’re willing to put in some work for your turns this week, it looks like you’ll be well rewarded. We pulled up snow forecasts for above 7500′ for Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier. Mt. Baker could see up to 3ft by Thursday morning at 7806′. And both Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier could get up to 5-1/2ft (yes, 66″) at 10,070ft! It’s possible that snow could be falling on skiers and boarders for pretty much the entire length of the Coleman Glacier on Mt. Baker and the Muir snow field on Mt. Rainier. (We tried to pin down forecasts for the exact elevations but NOAA’s tool goes in increments so that’s the closest we can get.)

 

Forecast for Mt. Baker @ 7806′ (Coleman Glacier begins at roughly 7000′. The Hogsback is @ 6000′ just below the glacier.)


Forecast for Mt. Baker @ 10070′ (the ridge between Colfax Peak and Mt. Baker’s summit is about 9200′)


Forecast for Mt. Rainier @ 7738′ (the Muir snow field begins right above Pebble Creek @ 7200′)


Forecast for Mt. Rainier at 9432′ (Camp Muir is @ 10100′)

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29
Oct

Those watching the news this evening know that Hurricane Sandy has unfortunately turned out to be the frankenstorm experts predicted. We wish all friends and family on the East coast well and hope they continue to stay safe. The only good news to come of Hurricane Sandy is the heavy snow falling on ski resorts there. North Carolina’s (yes, NC!) Sugar Mountain located in Avery County and Cataloochie Ski Area in Maggie Valley announced that they will open on Halloween, this Wed. Oct. 31st.  It’s surprisingly cold there now. Sugar Mtn. is reporting current temps @ Summit:  23.3°F,   Base:  26.9°F.  In its 43 year history, Sugar Mountain Resort’s earliest opening was on Nov. 5th in 1976. The resort has received several inches of natural snow and 8+ inches more is expected. Snowmaking at Sugar began yesterday and will continue. On Wednesday, skiers and snowboarders at Sugar can expect a natural and manmade powder surface covering the Upper and Lower Flying Mile slopes and Summit #1 Lift running to the ¾’s station. Way to go Sugar & Cataloochee.

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28
Oct

Hurricane SANDY Public Advisory Number 27 just issued: SANDY ABOUT TO START ITS NORTHWARD TURN. EXPECTED TO BRING LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE, COASTAL HURRICANE WINDS AND HEAVY APPALACHIAN SNOWS…We hope everyone on the East coast stays safe.

Location: 34.5°N 70.5°W

Max sustained: 75 mph

Moving: NE at 14 mph

Min pressure: 950 mb

NOAA’s snow forecast: SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 3 FEET ARE EXPECTED IN THE MOUNTAINS OF WEST VIRGINIA…WITH LOCALLY HIGHER TOTALS TONIGHT THROUGH TUESDAY NIGHT. SNOWFALL OF 1 TO 2 FEET IS EXPECTED IN THE MOUNTAINS OF SOUTHWESTERN VIRGINIA TO THE KENTUCKY BORDER… WITH 12 TO 18 INCHES OF SNOW POSSIBLE IN THE MOUNTAINS NEAR THE NORTH CAROLINA/TENNESSEE BORDER AND IN THE MOUNTAINS OF WESTERN MARYLAND.

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26
Oct

Our friend Dorian Densmore, out of Grand Targhee, WY, spent his Summer way down South in Argentina chasing the endless Winter and sweet lines.

 

 

On August 7th, He, Alejo Sanchez, and Jordi Tenas all got their rocks off getting into this no named chute in the Las Lenas zone. Once they had reached the snow (in the chute), the end of the adrenaline rush was still a long, narrow, steep way below. Check out the video below for a quick mid day office cubical break/rush.

 


 

Alejo Sanchez down climbing into the chute.

 



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25
Oct

It’s time for the 13th Annual Mt. Baker Film Festival at the Mt. Baker Theatre, 104 N Commercial St, Bellingham, WA. Doors open @ 6pm, films start @ 7pm. Show your 2012-13 Mt. Baker Season Pass and get in FREE from 6-7pm while seats are available. This is a fun event featuring winter sports clips from international and local filmers – some of whom you might know. All ages after party at Mt. Baker Theatre with live music from Chico’s Paradise. Beer & wine available for 21 +.  Show up early so you have time to check out the newest goods from local ski/board shop vendors and play for a chance to win a 2012-13 Mt. Baker season pass.  Tickets $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Tickets available at the Mt. Baker Ski Area Business Office or Mt. Baker Theatre.

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24
Oct

We were just up on Paradise Glacier a couple of weeks ago on 10/11/12, a lucky day for eye candy, but it included a nasty ski in on the last of this Fall’s dirty snow wishing it were a day like the video attached below. Here’s another great edit from Carl Simpson (backed to his own music, Perseus Arm) of a trip to Camp Muir, w/ Jeff Rich and company. This video is the first 2012/2013 NW cold smoke shots on our site, not to mention the first National Park Jibbing shots too… Check it!



Camp Muir on 10/17/12

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