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Backcountry skiers clash with out-of-bounders

Allen Best

PARK CITY, Utah – Quoting the American Alpine Institute, The New York Times reports that backcountry skiing is now growing three to five times more rapidly than the traditional downhill sport.But, says the newspaper, “there is a deep culture clash at the heart of this new phenomenon. Many people who identify themselves as backcountry skiers – knowledgeable about the risk, strained in survival skills, and never without a electronic homing device to help people find them if they are buried by snow – look with barely concealed disdain at what they call the ‘out of bounds’ skier, who simply rides the chairlift up, disregards the warming signs and ducks under the rope.”The newspaper visited Park City in the wake of an avalanche that left one snowboarder dead on a slope adjacent to The Canyons ski area. The victim, a male, was statistically predictable. Of the 629 people killed by avalanches in the United States since 1950, 90 percent were males.But could the ski industry itself be partly responsible for some of the recent deaths? That was the vague suggestion of the story, which noted the image of a “solo skier or snowboarder cutting virgin racks through the deep powder on a steep mountain slope has become a signature and symbol of the Western tourism industry – heady with its mixture of freedom, beauty and rugged individualism.”In the case at Park City, The Times found a local skier who said he believes most of the people who leave the ski area going through the backcountry gate believed they were merely extending the resort experience.Governments pool sustainability fundsTELLURIDE – The towns of Telluride and Mountain Village, along with San Miguel County, are hiring a sustainability coordinator while also planning to hook up with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.What exactly does sustainability mean? Art Goodtimes, a county commissioner, points to two definitions. A United Nations report defined it as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Writing in The Telluride Watch, Goodtimes points out that this definition is similar to the Seven Generations principle – that the decisions of today should take into account the well-being of the next seven generations.Vail, Colorado


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