Letters to the editor | VailDaily.com

Letters to the editor

John Fitzgerald

Don, you may remember me. I kept my horses on your place when you lived up Brush Creek.I don’t think you have all the facts concerning the Red Barn. Did you know that the new Red Barn has been in the county master plan for a number of years? Did you know that the commissioners promised the 4-H kids that they would replace the old barn when it was destroyed?Did you know that without a 4-H barn, the kids that don’t live on a farm or ranch will not be able to be involved in the 4-H livestock program? Do you realize that without this barn that another important part of our Western heritage will slip away?Do you realize how important it is to preserve the 4-H program, especially here, where urbanization is rapidly pushing our heritage out?Please consider getting behind this effort to replace the 4-H barn.John FitzgeraldEagleWouldn’t it be nice?I think we need something very dramatic to happen if we are to end the divisiveness in our political processes. And so, for that reason, I think it would be wonderful if Sen. John Mc Cain chose to run for president in 2008 as the nominee of both the Democratic and the Republican parties. Obviously he would have to defeat all of the other candidates who were seeking the nomination. But my guess is that he might just do that. The thought of having a president with neither party’s sole ax to grind might be very appealing to citizens who are fed up with the divisiveness of our national political processes. During the entire period leading up to his formal nomination, he would certainly have to answer questions and discuss his agenda with all of our citizens. But if his words appealed to the electorate of both parties, he would then get both nominations. Everyone would then have the option of voting for him or not voting at all. Obviously he would win, and we would have a president who was not beholden to special interests or to either political party.Just think about the wonders. No monstrous war chest would have to be raised for the election and no ugly campaign advertising would be evident. After being elected he would have complete freedom to choose the very best people to work in his administration regardless of their affiliation. And finally, he would be able to work with all of the members of congress, to seek intelligent compromises, and to achieve legislation that would be in the very best interests of our nation.Far fetched? Maybe, but remember that he competed for the presidential nomination as a Republican in 2000 and was considered as a possible running mate for John Kerry during this last campaign. Yes, it is unlikely, but why not shoot for the moon?David Le VineA slippery slopeI am taking this opportunity to exercise my freedom of speech and write a piece that should have been written a long time ago on behalf of all snowmakers at Vail and elsewhere on the topic of safety at the work place. As many may know, a snowmaker’s workplace is not at all in a controlled and always necessarily safe environment. Many of these risks we accept upon taking the job and are often minimized through taking the proper precautions and wearing the proper safety equipment while working. There are, however, inherent risks to the job that are entirely out of the snowmakers’ control.Just recently, Dec. 18 to be exact, a snowmaker was caught in a slab slide on the Swiss Face of International while on a snowmaking gun run. The crown line of the slide was nearly 8 feet tall at its highest point and 50 feet across, engulfing the entire face. The size of the debris at the bottom was breathtaking, particularly for anyone who has had prior avalanche training and experience. This snowmaker was fortunate enough to stay on top of one of the dump-truck-size pieces of debris and come out unscathed. It was very obvious, however, that had anyone been at the bottom of the face at the time of the slide or caught amid the debris, they would have been crushed beyond recognition. To add to this event, although it is the first slide I’ve seen of these massive proportions, we know this isn’t the first time such a slide has occurred. While checking snow guns on Pepi’s Face last year, I watched while a fracture line broke underneath my feet all the way across the face. I was lucky enough that it didn’t actually slide until the next night, while no one was around. I have also heard stories from other snowmakers who have either seen or been caught in their own snowmaking slides in other places, such as the steep face of Afterthought on the Gold Peak race course. So what do these events all have in common and what do we do about them? Before the Swiss Face of International slid, the tell-tale signs of an avalanche were already there but were being ignored. First of all, the most basic and constant part of whether or not a slope has slide potential is its slope angle. The critical slope angle in which major slab slides occur in accordance to David McClung and Peter Schaerer’s “The Avalanche Handbook” is between 35 and 45 degrees. Incidentally, the Swiss Face of International, Pepi’s Face, and Afterthought all fall into this slope angle category and they are all slopes on which we make vast amounts of snow year in and year out. Secondly, when traveling in the backcountry, backcountry skiers are trained to be wary of wind-loaded slopes. Wind-loaded slopes being, again per McClung and Schaerer, any lee-ward side of a hill or ridge in which an above average amount of snow has been deposited due to wind transport often forming cornices and above average avalanche danger. When making snow, we are often setting up guns at the tops of these steep faces, aiming them so that they blow snow over the break-over and onto the face of the run. With cold temperatures, it is possible to make “whales” of snow much taller than the snowmakers themselves in only a night’s time. Wind-loading and snowmaking in this instance would seem to have a direct relation to one another. Lastly, before an avalanche actually occurs, there are often more direct and obvious signs that the snow and the slope is unstable, such as fracture lines moving laterally across and deep into the snowpack. Ask any experienced backcountry skier or snowboarder how they feel about dropping slopes that are already displaying fracture lines and most would relate that you would have to have a death wish. A fracture line is simply a display that the slab has already broke free and is prime to slide either on its own or with a trigger device such as a skier, or in this case a snowmaker. In the case of the slide on International there were already several visible fracture lines at the top of the Swiss Face which had been there all night prior to the slide but had been ignored by everyone, including myself, because unlike the recreationalist, we have a job to do. In order to avoid yet another tragic and costly incident on Vail Mountain this winter and all future winters to come, I feel that it is critical that Vail Resorts, along with any other ski resort that utilizes the use of snowmaking, formulate new policy to minimize and diminish the risks of snowmakers getting caught in their own man-made snowmaking avalanches. With the cooperation of the Vail Ski Patrol and the Vail Cat crew, along with more avalanche education and policy formulation for snowmaker’s safety, surely this goal can be accomplished. Too often in today’s world it takes a regrettable and tragic event to bring about new standards for safety and policy change. Well, in reference to the avalanche on International, the bullet was just dodged. I’m writing this to ask all those involved with Vail Mountain’s policy formulation to set a trend for the snowmaking industry and not wait for another such bullet to come. Kevin HammondsAlso Bush’s faultIt’s time to talk about Social Security. My wife is quite a bit younger than me. She tells me she laughs when someone mentions Social Security. No one from her generation, she says, expects to benefit from Social Security when they retire. They consider it a running joke. When I ask her why she has this perception, she answers me, because her parents’ generation didn’t expect to get it, so why should hers? When my father passed away, my mother received his survivor’s benefits, and when she retired, she got her own. I expect to get mine. So is this deal Bush is trying to push down our throats, to call a spade a spade, a reality or an illusion? Is it dogmatic perception, or is it real economics? During the Clinton years, Social Security was solvent. It’s solvent today. It’s paying benefits, and it’s subsidizing the federal government’s short-term obligations because it’s liquid. There’s cash in the system. During the Clinton years, there was talk about how future budget deficits could be subsidized by Social Security surpluses. The idea behind this perception was that since people would be earning higher wages in a democratically engineered economy, they would be paying into the system at a higher rate and that would take care of fewer workers per retiree relative to today. But today people worry about their jobs being outsourced, forcing them to take work where they can find it, at lower wages. They’re worried they won’t be able to earn enough today, let alone for their retirement needs. These things are cyclical. But if someone in high authority who wants to dismantle the social legacy of someone and something he doesn’t understand and pander to capitalist interests that stand to benefit hugely by changing the system, can we assume from seeing how modern advertising and marketing works, he’ll create a “need,” or at least, a perception that the current system is doomed? I think the answer is yes. Mr. Bush was elected, overwhelmingly, by people who are buying off on his ideology, or at least the ideology he represents. Do all of you who wanted this man to lead you into the 21st century trust him and his ideologues to take apart a system that has supported most of your parents in their twilight years for more than the last 70 years? I’m just asking. Because, as the recent election has shown, there are certainly more of you out there than there are of me. And if that’s what you want, then that’s what you’ll probably get. And, once again, by the time the answer comes, you’ll be dead or addicted to ethical pharmaceuticals that your nursing home caregivers will be administering to you while Medicaid pays your bill and your children are saddled with the expense one way or the other. Maybe you’re comfortable with this guy taking you to war. But, how comfortable are you with him when he takes you, your children and their children to hell? Gus NicholsonUndeservingDear citizens: I urge you to actively oppose the appointment of U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula from Ohio, a state with no public lands, to chair the House Appropriations Committee in the 109th Congress.Rep. Regula has abused the legislative process by attaching a permanent public lands fee program to the FY 2005 omnibus appropriations bill. This is substantive legislation, including criminal penalties, up to six months in jail and $5,000 fines for not having a pass, and new taxes that should have received hearings, debate and a floor vote. Instead, it was sneaked in as a rider without ever passing the floor of the House and without being introduced, having hearings, or being voted upon in the Senate.Rep. Regula has repeatedly abused his power by using threats and intimidation to bypass the legislative process and push through his pet projects as spending riders on omnibus appropriations bills.Rep. Regula is hostile to true representative government, unresponsive to local- and state-elected bodies and insensitive to rural taxpayers, particularly in the West where the brunt of this new tax will be felt.It would be dangerous for the future of our public lands, as well as other areas like transportation or education, if someone who repeatedly stoops to such underhanded tactics were to control such a powerful committee.Please support either Rep. Jerry Lewis or Rep. Hal Rogers to chair the Appropriations Committee by calling the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert – phone: 202-225-2976, fax: 202-225-0697 – or your congressman at 202-224-3121. If you need additional information to understand how important it is to be involved, contact: Robert Funkhouser,WESTERN SLOPE NO-FEE COALITION, P.O. Box 403, Norwood, CO 81423, 970-259-4616, wsnfc@hotmail.comIt’s time to say it’s our land.A.J. JohnsonEdwardsParking issuesI have used “Value Card” parking for the last few years, and have been quite satisfied – until now. The current system is extremely cumbersome and ill-planned, with far too much walking back and forth from one’s car to the payment kiosks.If we have to put up with this system, some of the kiosks need to be moved to more convenient locations – NOW, not next season!In addition, and I am not sure what the “fix” is to this, is construction worker parking in value card spaces. I would guess that at least a third of the spaces usually used by skiers are now taken up early by workers. They clearly need to be able to park near their work, but this is coming at the expense of skiers. What can be done about this?Steven CoyerAvonPlacing blameMy sons have raced for years both here in the Midwest as well as in Colorado. In fact, when my oldest son was in eighth grade, we moved to Vail so he could train with Ski Club Vail. This is a sport I am very familiar with.Many of our friends were at at the race in Vail on Sunday morning when Ashley was killed. I won’t go into what they have said. Hopefully, the investigation will take care of that. What I do want to say is that both my husband and I were extremely disappointed in the article that appeared in the Vail Daily on Monday. The article made it sound like the racer was at fault. Clearly, you have never been to a ski race or understand anything about this sport, the athletes, or how they prepare for a race. To put blame on a young girl preparing for a race is both shocking and shameful.Hedy HolmbergEdina, Minn.Vail, Colorado

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