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Your Morning News - January 7th, 2015

Jan 7, 2015

New Healthcare Enrollment Numbers

More than 3,000 people in Pitkin, Garfield, and Eagle counties have signed up for private health insurance since November 15th.

3,330 residents of the three counties signed up between November 15th and December 15th. That’s for health care coverage starting in 2015 according to the online health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health. Megan Burch is overseeing the effort to help residents in the Roaring Fork Valley and Eagle County sign up for health insurance.

“We’re really thrilled with the enrollment numbers to date, and they’re tracking very closely to our goals for this second enrollment period.”

The difference is Garfield County is about seven hundred people short of that overall goal. So Burch’s office is planning more outreach and events there to help residents sign up for health insurance.

Climate Report: Temperatures Rising in Aspen

A new report on climate change in the Aspen area shows an increase in temperature and a rise in the number of frost-free days. The report was compiled as part of an effort to prepare the resort town for a changed climate.

The Climate Resiliency Plan looks at Aspen’s climate history. It shows Aspen saw a one-degree Fahrenheit increase from 1940 to 1979, and since 1980 a 1.5 degree increase. The report also shows a steady increase in the number of frost-free days. James Arnott with the Aspen Global Change Institute authored the report.

“This is one of the pointers that gets us to thinking about recreational seasons, such as a shortening of the winter and a lengthening of the summertime season.”

The plan pinpoints where Aspen may be vulnerable to climate change in the ski industry, for example. The report is a first step in an effort to engage community members in building a plan that finds ways to adapt to warming in the future.

Climate Change Discussion Planned for Wednesday

Noted climate scientist Doctor James White is giving a talk in Aspen, Wednesday, as part of the Aspen Skiing Company’s “Aspen U” Speaker Series.

Professor White teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder and he directs the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. He studies abrupt climate change and carbon cycles.

He says the biggest problem humankind faces over the next 100 years is working to sustain the kind of societies we have today. Nationally, there’s discussion around climate change. But, he says research needs more funding and political support.

“I think there’s some very strong forces at play who do not want to have that conversation and would rather us not address the issue of climate change and its impacts. I don’t think that serves the country very well and I don’t think it serves Colorado very well.”

White says Coloradans need to play closer attention to climate change than others because the state is so reliant on the environment for things like water and tourism. His talk is at 5:30pm today at the Limelight.

Avalanche Season is Here

Avalanche season is full swing and has received even more attention with several recent accidents. An employee of Aspen Mountain Powder tours was caught and injured in a slide on New Year’s Day and two prospective members of the U.S. Ski Team died in an avalanche in Austria on Monday.

This weekend, Mountain Rescue Aspen is holding its annual avalanche awareness workshop. It’s being led by David Swersky – a decades long member of Mountain Rescue. As of Tuesday nearly eighty people have signed up for the event. Swersky says a big part of the training is for people new to the backcountry and the equipment that goes with it.

“The time to figure things out is no when your best friend or your spouse is buried. The time to figure it out is in your living room when somebody put another transceiver or transmitter in the drawer somewhere and you have to find it.”

This weekend’s event has been around in various forms for thirty years. Swersky says it’s also designed as a brush-up for long time backcountry enthusiasts. He describes the avalanche safety field as evolving especially around several factors.

“One is the human factor, wise decision making, safe decision making, terrain recognition. And heuristics, meaning not subjecting yourself to peer group pressure, or not being forced into an uncomfortable situation.”

The Mountain Rescue Aspen avalanche workshop has been an annual event for the last thirty years.