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How big would Colorado be if you steamrolled all of the mountains?

posted: 03/29/2005

It took many wonkish conversations with no fewer than five geologists for Flake to get a straight answer. Sample crooked responses: "If I assigned this question, it might get done in three years" (Tom Dinardo, USGS). "Why would you want to turn us into a big tortilla?" (Randall Updike, USGS). Finally, Flake settled on Steve Reiter at the USGS national mapping division, in Denver, who: a) referred to the official area (104,155 square miles) of the Centennial state; b) through a harrowing feat of algebraic gymnastics that few understand and fewer dare try, ascertained that Colorado's surface area, mountains and all, is 106,651 square miles; and c) subtracted the smaller number from the bigger number to determine that, when steamrolled, the Rockies, San Juans, Sangre de Cristos, and all the other Colorado ranges would increase the state's footprint by about 2,500 square miles-a chunk of land that's larger than Delaware, and just a teensybit bigger than Brunei. But so what. Why would you steamroll Colorado? Flatten the place, and it won't ski worth a damn.

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