Winter Park Mountain Pine Beetle

Did you hear the one about the tourist who wanted to know where he could get one of those pretty red pine trees to take back home? If you haven’t heard it, you don’t live in Colorado.

Mountain Pine Beetle here in Winter Park, Colorado is no laughing matter.  The trees and the health of the forests that surround our homes and businesses here have great effect on everything from the economy to quality of life.  At our home in Tabernash we have removed over 300 trees at not an insignificant cost, and the 400 left need to be sprayed each year.  It is even a matter of life and death for, if God forbid, our surrounding forests would sustain a major fire more likely than not we will be talking about fatalities. So I do not take the pine beetle lightly.

With all the doom and gloom though I found an article in Ski Magazine about the pine beetle infestation that says this may be a bit of good news for ski resorts.  It is hard to believe that all the dead trees could be good for the ski resorts in Colorado but I think there is some truth in this article.  We have suppressed fires for so long that the mature trees are susceptible to the beetle and here in Winter Park we have a mostly lodge-pole pine forest with not a lot of diversity.  As the Ski Magazine article says the loss of most of the lodge-poles will bring new species such as aspen and fir to creat a more diversified forest.

How will this affect skiing? The predictions, perhaps surprisingly, are mixed. There are places where it will enhance the skiing by opening up areas, while other areas may have to be closed.  Researchers are investigating possible impacts on the snowpack. Loss of the forest canopy means there will be more snow on the ground . But the resulting loss of shade will trigger an earlier spring melt. North-facing slopes will remain the best places to find powder long after a storm because these areas contain spruce and fir trees, which beetles tend to ignore. South-facing slopes, where lodge-pole thrive, could be snowier than ever just after a storm due to fewer treetops intercepting snow.

I would really like to see the beetles just up and die but that doesn’t seem realistic, so I will cling to the hope that in the long run the pine beetle will produce a more viable forest.

And we will keep spraying our trees.

January 3rd, 2010

Posted In: Environment, Skiing & Snowboarding

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