2012 hottest year on record in Wyoming

By Jim Stanford on December 20, 2012

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View of town and the Tetons on Sept. 21, at the height of smoke from Idaho fires.

The mercury may have been hovering around -10 the last few mornings, but this year is likely to be the warmest ever recorded in Wyoming, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Temperatures for January through November were 4.3 degrees above normal. Given the mild start to December, 2012 is projected to surpass 1934 as the warmest year since record keeping began in 1895.

Three of the warmest years in the state’s history have occurred since 2006, according to NOAA data. 2007 was the fourth-warmest, and 2006 ranks sixth.

The trend is in keeping with the rest of the nation, as 2012 likely will be the hottest on record in the lower 48. Northern and Western states showed the greatest increases in temperatures, with only Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada and North Dakota exceeding Wyoming’s deviation from the norm.

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entire state hungover, following whiskey debut

By Jim Stanford on December 3, 2012

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People wait in line to purchase Wyoming Whiskey outside the opening party Saturday in Kirby. The spectacular launch of the bourbon has put the tiny town in central Wyoming’s Hot Springs County on the map for liquor connoisseurs.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead might as well have declared today a state holiday, after nearly every resident rushed out to purchase and consume ample quantities of his brother’s Wyoming Whiskey over the weekend.

The long-awaited first release of the homegrown bourbon became a marketing sensation unlike anything the state has ever seen. Not only were hundreds of Wyoming retailers shut out, but stores, too, were raided shortly after opening.

Jackson Whole Grocer opened at 7 a.m. Saturday and sold all 150 bottles in stock within 25 minutes. Yes, people lined up to buy whiskey at 7 a.m. The store had to cancel a planned tasting because there was none left to taste.

At the distillery in Kirby, a line of roughly three times the town’s population of 92 stretched from the party tent as people waited to buy a bottle, in a scene one onlooker described as reminiscent of Prohibition.

The question lingering like cottonmouth and a dull headache, though, is whether the whiskey lived up to the hype. The Casper Star-Tribune consulted a liquor expert, who described it as “one of the best bourbons I’ve ever tasted.”

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ski stoke of yesteryear

By Jim Stanford on October 24, 2012

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Bunny hill rope tow on Snow King, circa 1950s.

The season’s first significant snowfall triggered the usual flurry of status updates and text messages. Undoubtedly, most in this ski-crazy community are excited for the coming winter. Another day or two of snow, and the race will be on to make first tracks.

Long before Teton Gravity Research premieres, the early ski pioneers in Jackson Hole were just as enthusiastic. They recorded the joy of winter’s arrival in journals slightly more poetic than today’s spraying.

While researching a story on historic winters for the upcoming Jackson Hole magazine, I came across a few of these accounts. Here’s an excerpt from Doris Platts’ book Wilson, Wyoming: Hoorah!, written by the late Virginia Huidekoper in her column “The Corral” for the Jackson’s Hole Courier on Nov. 15, 1945:

The skiing season was officially opened … by a mixed group of eager Idahoans and Wyomingites who gathered on Teton Pass and gave vent to pent-up desires which had accumulated during the dry months. Three feet of powdered satin on Telemark Hill gave semblance to a winter battlefield by evening. Criss-crossed and pock-marked, the slope was initiated in true fashion by weak-kneed christies and first-of-the-season egg beaters.

In spite of near-blizzard conditions, the initial ski outing was hailed as a good beginning to what looks like a long and promising winter.

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Wyoming Whiskey available for pre-order

By Jim Stanford on October 12, 2012

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Update 10/13: The discounted bottles have sold out (see comment).

The whiskey is made with Wyoming grains and distilled in Kirby.

For more than three years, since Wyoming Whiskey first went into an aging barrel, thirsty drinkers have asked Dave DeFazio when they can taste the bourbon. “When it’s good and ready,” has been his stock reply.

Well, it’s just about good and ready.

The state’s first distillery is installing bottling equipment and expects to have its initial shipment of 2,500 cases in stores by Dec. 1. The Liquor Store of Jackson Hole is taking advance orders and offering a 20 percent discount, with 750 ml bottles priced at $40 instead of $50. Other retailers also have waiting lists.

On Dec. 1, DeFazio and business partner Brad Mead are hosting a party at the distillery in Kirby, Wyo., about a four-hour drive from Jackson, replete with tastings, tours and a band. Mead’s brother, Gov. Matt Mead, will help christen the brand. The all-day affair begins at noon.

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Wyo. Range, Hoback saved from drilling threat

By Jim Stanford on October 5, 2012

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Members of the Jackson Hole Kayak Club display their opposition to the drilling proposal for the Hoback headwaters last year. American Rivers included the Hoback on its list of America’s most endangered waterways.

Hunters, hikers, kayakers and anglers are about to celebrate, as a conservation group has reached a deal to buy the last remaining oil and gas leases in the Wyoming Range south of Jackson.

A source last night said the drilling company finally agreed to sell the leases, ensuring that the pristine mountain range and headwaters of the Hoback River will be spared fracking and other development. The Associated Press confirmed the deal this morning. A full press release appears after the jump.

The Trust for Public Land will purchase the leases from Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Co. for $8.75 million, AP reported. The group still must raise half the money by the end of the year.

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