Snow depth grows; good sign for flatlanders who need water

Live in snow country and you have an opinion about all that the white stuff that keeps falling. By now snow is not a nice four-letter word for many people.

As someone who no longer owns a snow shovel or blower, my opinion is that is so incredibly beautiful. I had the pleasure to spend a couple days in South Lake Tahoe the last full week of January for a book event. Snowshoeing along the edge of Lake Tahoe with friends was a perfect outing under blue skies.

What was a surprise was how high the snow was from the water’s edge. The water was a couple feet down from where we were standing. Even in most heavy snow years there isn’t this height difference.

The snow depth creates a tunnel effect on Highway 50. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

With few breaks between storms and the temperatures staying cold, there was essentially no time for the snow to compact.

I knew from all the pictures on the news and social media I was going to be surrounded by snow. This was evident when the snow was higher than the Jeep driving along Highway 50.

The depth was further confirmed Feb. 1 during the second annual manual snow survey of the season near the entrance to Sierra-at-Tahoe. The snowpack is 193 percent of average. Statewide, it is 205 percent of average. The depth was more than 7 feet. This is an increase of more than 2 feet from a month earlier.

Ice on Valhalla pier on the South Shore on Jan. 24. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The Sierra snowpack is critical because it accounts for about 30 percent of California’s water supply.

Now being a flatlander that matters even more to me. And being next door to the State Water Project’s largest reservoir, Lake Oroville, brings the snowpack into a different light.

Lake Oroville is the start of the state system that provides drinking water to 27 million people (39 million live in the state) and irrigates 750,000 acres of ag land.

Taylor Creek reflects Mount Tallac. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Lake Oroville on Jan. 31 was at 65 percent of capacity, according to the Department of Water Resources. The good news, though, is that is 112 percent of its historical average for that date.

Yes, there has been a substantial amount of rain and snow this season, but California is still in a drought. Fingers crossed the spigot stays on, but with less intensity than what the state has experienced so far this winter.

Parent company of Warren Miller movies pulls the plug

As a teenager growing up in the Bay Area, seeing the latest Warren Miller movie meant the start of ski season.

My adrenaline would be pumping watching those skiers—and they were just skiers then, no snowboarders. Their ability, their antics, there personalities—all so amazing and captivating. And then that scenery. Absolutely breathtaking.

Warren Miller in South Lake Tahoe in 2010. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Those films are what made me want to go helicopter skiing. They made me want to travel to ski. They made me want to be in the mountains.

I never made it heli-skiing because I never felt confident in my ability to even look into it. I have skied at many resorts in the United States. I lived in Tahoe twice and still feel most at home in the mountains.

Warren Miller, as they say, brought the stoke to the sport.

While many filmmakers followed in his footsteps in the ski industry and other sports filmmaking, he can be credited with being the founder of the action sports film industry. He was 93 when he died in January 2018.

I was fortunate to have met him when he was in South Lake Tahoe in 2010 to receive a lifetime achievement award at the X-Dance Action Sports Film Festival that was in Stateline. That voice is what captivated me. It was as distinct in person as it is on the screen. Not only did he direct the films through 1987, he was the narrator through 2004.

For a while, I saw each Warren Miller film when it came to Lake Tahoe. Then my attendance became more sporadic. When I was there in November 2021 I went with friends to see the latest film. Still outstanding, captivating and awe-inspiring.

The talent of the athletes has only gotten better. The footage even more surreal. The terrain more diverse. The stories even more interesting.

While, I’m no longer a die-hard Warren Miller movie-goer, it hit me hard learning there will be no new movie for the 2023-24 season.

“January 24th represents many things to me, sadly this is the anniversary of Warren Miller’s passing in 2018 and coincidentally it’s also the day that we traditionally set off each winter to film the annual ski/snowboard movie that bares (sic) his name. However for the first time in my 30 years with @warrenmillerent and for the first time in the companies (sic) 74 year history – No one will actually film the movie this winter,” Chris Patterson, director of photography for Warren Miller Entertainment, posted on Instagram.

2022, the last year a Warren Miller movie will have new footage.

Time Warner bought Warren Miller Entertainment in 2005. Pocket Outdoor Media bought Warren Miller in 2020. In 2021, Pocket bought Outside Integrated Media and Outside TV and rebranded itself as Outside.

Patterson on social media went on to say, “Due to financial challenges at Outside, the executives have chosen to assemble the future movies entirely with ‘existing footage’ – no need for a camera crew, plane tickets, lift tickets and for that matter, no need for athletes or snow.”

I’m sure there is a ton of footage that ended up on the editing room floor. I’m sure the money crunchers don’t see the need for new, thinking recycled will do.

But it won’t be the same.

I’m just happy Warren Miller isn’t here to see what others have done with company, his brand, his name. While they can’t tarnish his legacy, I am saddened by this turn of events.

Walters a trailblazer in journalism whose legacy lives on

It’s hard to find the news on cable news networks. That wasn’t case when there were just the three big networks—ABC, NBC and CBS.

Those were the channels I was brought up on, with the PBS News Hour a later addition—and now the only TV news I care to watch with regularity, with 60 Minutes thrown in when there are segments of interest to me.

Barbara Walters’ legacy is all the female journalists who followed her through the doors she opened. (Image: Lynn Gilbert/1979)

I don’t know how much those news casts helped form me as a journalist. In fact, I never thought about it until this month when I watched Our Barbara: A Special Edition of 20/20. It was all about Barbara Walters, who died Dec. 30, 2022, at age 93.

Being in print/online my whole career I never thought about if what I absorbed on the broadcast side impacted me professionally.

Watching the special where Walters was interviewing people and others spoke about her prowess as an interviewer made me wonder if somewhere along the line during all of those specials of hers that I watched when I was much younger if I was subliminally absorbing some of her skills.

Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m no Barbara Walters.

But what I have known for a long time is the importance of being a good reporter. In any job interview I have always said my reporting skills are stronger than my writing skills. It’s still an honest assessment of my abilities. All editors I have worked with stressed the importance of reporting over writing.

This is because a good editor can make your words sing even if you can’t. But if you don’t have thorough reporting, even the best writers and editors will have little to work with.

The special I mentioned above is worth looking up. It’s a wonderful two-hour capsule of Walters’ interviews as well as insights about this pioneering woman.

She unlocked the doors for every woman journalist—print or broadcast—who came after her. Every female journalist owes Walters a debt of gratitude.

If you only think she interviewed celebrities, then you don’t know much about Walters. If you think she only worked from a script, then you have not watched her.

Walters was meticulous with her research, deciding which questions to ask in what order. She was so well prepared that she could ask the critical follow up questions. She asked the tough questions. She didn’t hold back.

I know it’s not easy to ask the tough questions, to talk to people in their darkest moments, to ask questions when people don’t want to respond, to be the seeker of truth when people don’t want it to come to light.

Walters was a journalist like none we are likely to see again. Thank you, Barbara, for everything you did for journalism.

Questioning Pacifico’s sponsorship of U.S. Ski & Snowboard teams

Beer and skiing are two things that go well together. Stopping for a beer with friends on a sunny day was an ideal break. Or maybe it was consumed post-skiing in the hot tub.

However, it wasn’t until this ski season that I paid attention to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard teams having an official beer sponsor. It’s Pacifico. While the beer is still made in Mazatlán, Mexico, it is owned by behemoth Constellation Brands.

Pacifico is an official sponsor of U.S. Ski & Snowboard. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Prior to Pacifico’s sponsorship, Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma was the beer of choice.

The Pacifico deal is good just for the 2022-23 season. The original deal with Pacifico started in 2019 and was to last through the Winter Olympics earlier this year.

This makes me wonder what is really going on. A one-year sponsorship deal isn’t much. So, who wanted what and who said no? Is a longer deal in the work or will another beer take over?

I understand the need for sponsorships—it’s about making money. I understand the desire to be a sponsor—it’s about getting your product in front of more people.

Pacifico’s website says snowboarding sensation Jamie Anderson is one of its athletes. That means she is most likely making money directly from the company. This 2021 video has the Lake Tahoe resident talking about what is important to her—all about eating correctly, yoga and those sorts of things. Everything she said and what I know about Anderson makes me believe a Pacifico has probably never touched her lips. Not once in the video does she mention drinking alcohol nor is she seen consuming any. But Pacifico is in her fridge; though she grabs something green. The beer is out on the back deck as she does yoga.

I often wonder about truth in advertising, in sponsorships, and in endorsements of products. Maybe that’s why I don’t buy products because a celebrity is pushing it. Does that person even use the product they are getting paid to endorse?

I wonder if the money is worth selling something you don’t use, you don’t believe in. I don’t know if Anderson did this, but we know others have and will continue to. It seems selfish to lie to your fans—whether you are a sports star, a movie star, a politician or someone else with influence.

Be authentic. Promote what you believe.

Rethinking the whole business of New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are not something I often think about.

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of room for change or that I don’t want anything or that I don’t have dreams for myself, others and the world at large.

Perhaps, it’s that I think the positive changes I would like to see can’t be summed up in a resolution. Maybe this ritual of making New Year’s resolutions seems trite when so many are broken before January is even over.

Change takes work. It takes time, diligence, will power and the acknowledgement it may not come on the first try.

That’s why I believe anyone who wants change needs to make it a lifetime endeavor. Even if you succeed with one desire, there will be more.

We humans are a work in progress just as is the world we inhabit. So, maybe everyone’s lifetime resolution should be to leave the world a better a place.

Yes, we will all have our own definition of better. But we only get one shot at this thing called life (at least as far as I know), so why not resolve to make it a better world while we are in it and for those who are left behind?

This isn’t a Jan. 1 kind of resolution, but an everyday commitment to do better, be better, think better, live better for myself, those I love, those I don’t know, for my community, the places I visit, and the places I’ll never set foot.

Happy New Year!

Appreciating the power of massage 25 years after graduation

When I was in massage school no one talked about the power of helping others.

Maybe we were supposed to know that comes with being a massage therapist. More likely it’s something you learn long after graduation; at least that is how it worked for me.

Twenty-five years ago this month I graduated from massage school.

Power too often these days is meant in a negative way. For these purposes it’s only a positive word.

Massage is powerful in so many ways. If you have had one, you understand.

Lake Tahoe promotional massage photo circa 2007. (Image: Taylor Flynn)

But giving massage is also powerful. That’s the part I don’t remember being taught, or if it was, I didn’t understand it at the time.

It’s powerful because people are turning over their bodies to you. Being naked on a table can be a vulnerable scenario for people. Clients put tremendous trust in me. I take that responsibility seriously.

People are on my table because they believe in self-care, they have pain they want to relieve, they want help recovering from physical and emotional stress, they want a tune-up, they want an hour (or more) of time just to themselves.

There are countless other reasons to get a massage. The benefits of massage go on and on.

Each body is like a puzzle. In some ways I’m trying to get all the pieces to work better together. It’s a rewarding challenge to help people. It’s powerful—in a good way.

I have to admit this is the first year I have gotten regular massage. I finally decided money should not be the deterrent. I suppose as I get older I feel like I can’t afford not to get them regularly. Self-care is too important.

Each month I get a 90 minute massage. Sometimes I have her work on a specific body part, sometimes she finds spots to work on I didn’t know were in need of special attention, and other times it’s what I call a tune-up—where nothing in particular is focused on, deep work is usually minimal, and all parts seem to get the same amount of attention.

While massage has never been my sole income, it has at times been a large part of it and other times the table was in storage or got little use. In Tahoe I rented space where I had two rooms, one big enough to fit two tables—so three massages could be going on at the same time. I had about six therapists who worked for me as independent contractors.

Today I strictly do outcall massage. This means I go to people’s houses. As long as it continues to be rewarding work, I want to keep doing it. The combination of massage and writing bring wonderful balance to my life.

Relishing the fact the days are going to be longer

The days are going to start getting longer this week.

The end of darkness—that’s my definition of the winter solstice.

I used to think the early darkness seemed to last forever. Not so anymore. I shifted my mentality a few years back to no longer think all of winter is filled with darkness.

To me, the shorter days are a brief stretch between when the clocks change in early November to Dec. 21, winter solstice.

After the solstice, which is the shortest day of the year (or the one with the most darkness) every day gets a little bit longer. The solstice marks the day the Earth and sun are the farthest away from each other.

The additional light can be hard to notice at first. But it’s there. It’s real. Even just the knowledge of that fact makes things seem brighter.

Like so many things in life, it’s all about perspective.

I like longer days and from here on out I’m going to keep counting those additional minutes.

Happily Keeping Up-To-Date With COVID Vaccinations

I’m continuing to follow science when it comes to protecting myself from getting COVID-19.

I got the latest booster last month. Arm was a little sore the next day so tennis was a no-go, but I could still sit at my desk and work. So, not much of a negative reaction; and I’m someone who has a phobia of needles.

Apparently, my fear of a deadly virus is more pronounced, thus the reason to get inoculated. More than 1 million people in the United States have died from this virus. That’s not a statistic I want to join.

I’m sure people can come up with plenty of good reasons not to get boosted, though I’m guessing I probably wouldn’t agree with most. What still amazes me is people call the vaccines gene therapy. That is a lie; with this being a good story laying out the facts.

While I’m not a big fan of going to doctors, I have done a pretty good job with keeping up with vaccines and the big checkups—colonoscopy, mammograms, etc.

Yes, I know it’s still possible to get COVID even if one is vaccinated. But did you know no vaccine is 100% effective? Even so, I still believe in vaccines.

I’m increasing my odds of not getting this virus or any other disease from which I’m inoculated against. With COVID, I’m also reducing the likelihood I would need hospitalization or die if I were to contract the virus.

I’m super happy to know I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19. I just wish more people were.

Unable to meet the requirements for a Real ID at the DMV

Logic and government seldom go together. And when the agency is the DMV, well, things always seem to go haywire.

My driver’s license expired on my birthday this fall so I thought now would be a good time to get a Real ID. I tried and I failed.

I still have a regular license.

The Real ID is something the federal government is mandating everyone (not just Californians) have as of May 3, 2023, in order to fly domestically or enter certain federal buildings, like a courthouse. A passport will suffice at all locations if one does not have a Real ID.

Chico DMV has friendly workers, with clients patiently waiting. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“Passed by Congress in 2005, the Real ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government ‘set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.’ The act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits certain federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards,” says the Department of Homeland security on its website.

In other words, it’s another layer of government from an agency that has only existed since November 2002. DHS came into being after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. The agency is supposed to guard us against terrorism. Considering we seem to have more domestic terrorists than international ones, I question the purpose of this bureaucracy which this fiscal year has a budget of nearly $186 billion.

But I digress.

One more thing, first. The DHS answers a series of questions on its site. One is: Is DHS trying to build a national database with all of our information. The answer: “No. Real ID is a national set of standards, not a national identification card. Real ID does not create a federal database of driver license information. Each jurisdiction continues to issue its own unique license, maintains its own records, and controls who gets access to those records and under what circumstances. The purpose of Real ID is to make our identity documents more consistent and secure.”

Interesting wording on the question—is it trying to build a national database. It may not be trying to, but we know it is building a database.

I don’t really care because I don’t have much to hide—today. But little good comes from the government collecting more data on every single person.

OK, done with that digression.

So, back to why I don’t have a Real ID. I wanted to put my post office box on my license and not my street address. To get a Real ID you have to have a variety of paperwork to prove you are you and your address is your address. I didn’t have a document that had my street address and post office box, so I couldn’t get my post office on the Real ID. And I was one document shy of being able to get the Real ID with my street address because I thought I had what I needed for the PO box.

I was told the PG&E bill should have both addresses. I explained the primary person on that bill is my housemate, aka my mom, and she doesn’t use my post office box. The woman said I could come in with that utility bill, my mom, and my birth certificate—and all of my other documentation. I said I would fly with my passport and skip the Real ID hoopla.

(An aside, the Chico DMV is great—clean, nice and friendly workers.)

The odd part about all of this is that in renewing my license I needed to change my address from Tahoe to Chico. I was able to get a regular license with my post office box on it no questions asked.

So, why can’t my license and passport be enough to get a Real ID? Ask the government, they make the rules.

Thanksgiving a time to be grateful

I’ve never made a turkey. This could matter only because mom and I are hosting Thanksgiving.

Even a day later I’ll still be able to say I have never made a turkey.

Nothing is written in stone that Thanksgiving dinner must include a dead bird. OK, that was a little dramatic, but I am a vegetarian after all. And the last time I remember hosting Thanksgiving was years ago in Tahoe. I’m pretty sure mom made the turkey that year. It certainly wasn’t me.

There will be meat served this year, just not turkey. After all, everyone else who will be at the table is of the meat-eating persuasion, including the other hostess. She’ll be taking care of that part of the meal.

Others in the family are contributing in different ways. In other words, it’s a communal meal of sorts with mom and I the conductors.

Shared experiences (ideally good ones) are the foundation of memories. Building memories is in large part what life is about. Even the not so great memories are pieces that enhance the larger picture. In fact, sometimes it is the dark moments of life that can make the good ones seem even better.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving.

As Willie Nelson said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

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