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for people who care about the West

HCN gets coal in its stocking — sort of

The magazine throws its annual holiday party and pays a visit to the local coal mine.


What an eventful December we’ve had at High Country News! On Dec. 8, we hosted a fabulous holiday open house at our Paonia, Colorado, office. It was a standing-room-only event — subscribers, community members and readers from near and far showed up for this annual festive gathering. Quite a few locals stopped in, as they do each year, but we also had subscribers from all over Colorado. One woman even traveled all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We gave away some HCN swag for door prizes — our HCN socks are pretty amazing, actually — and were treated to delicious appetizers, desserts and libations. It’s pretty safe to say everyone had fun. Thanks to all our subscribers and donors who stopped in, as well as to those who couldn’t make it in person this year. We couldn’t do this important work without you.

Earlier this month, some of the HCN staff took a unique field trip. Intern Anna V. Smith, Assistant Editor Paige Blankenbuehler and Associate Designer Brooke Warren visited the West Elk Mine near Somerset, Colorado, one of three mines near Paonia, and the last one still in operation. While they were on the tour, which took them 1,500 feet underground and about seven and a half miles into the mine, West Elk’s environmental engineer explained the process of mining, including exploration and reclamation. They went from the opening of the mine to the “longwall panel” where the coal mining takes place, and saw the “continuous miner,” a huge machine that scrapes coal from the seams, in action. The workers were very generous with their time and answered all kinds of questions as they showed off the inner workings of the mine. It was an important educational trip for the staff, as HCN is dedicated to covering energy issues, including the ways they play out in our backyard, the Western Slope.

We had an extra-special visitor come by the office this month. Deputy Editor–Digital Kate Schimel’s mom, Beth Holland, visited Paonia for the first time. She has been a subscriber for over two decades; in fact, her longtime subscription was the main reason Kate applied for an HCN internship in the first place.

Don’t forget that we will take a break over the holidays, so the next issue will not hit your mailbox until next year. January will be exciting, with new staff and interns arriving in Paonia and a host of in-depth, important new stories in the works. Until then, keep up with our stories at hcn.org. Hope everyone has a great holiday season. We’ll see you in 2017!