April 3, 2009

Previewing the Apocalypse

v class="film">Telluride Dust Storm

Telluride Dust Storm

Telluride Dust Storm

Red Snow

Well, instead of snow, so far we're just getting more dust. As the afternoon progressed, the sky grew more and more pink, and the snow started to look as if God had sprinkled cayenne pepper everywhere.

What a mess!

Adding to the atmosphere, today is Telluride's end-of-season celebration downtown, so a live band is playing while costumed revelers party down.

All that's missing to complete this surreal image are some radiation-stunted mutants trolling about in the shadows, and Mel Gibson leading a fuel convoy at breakneck speeds down the highway.

It's hard not to look at this as some sort of bleak preview of future scenes to come. "It looks like a movie," my Mom said as we rode up the Gondola. "And not a movie I want to see."

Aside from how ugly it looks, the dust really does wreak havoc on the snowpack. First, as I discovered today, the dust adds a surprising amount of friction, turning smooth riding into slow grinding. The dust also absorbs a lot more energy from the sun, so whenever the sun appears, the snow almost instantly turns to slush. I imagine all this dust acts like a wildcard for avalanche forecasting as well.

Maybe it's time for the season to end, after all.

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About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.