Snowmobiles a factor in slide deaths |

Snowmobiles a factor in slide deaths

Allen Best

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Routt County, which is where Steamboat is located, had no avalanche fatalities for 30 years until 2001. Now it has had two, and both avalanches involved skiers who used snowmobiles to gain backcountry terrain.”They are going to more and more places into the backcountry, slopes we never touched 30 years ago,” said Jeff Hirschboeck, who is the avalanche team leader at the Steamboat Ski Area.In the most recent case, Michael Gebhart died of suffocation Jan. 3 after lying for eight minutes under three feet of snow. The avalanche was relatively small, only 30 feet wide and with 200 vertical feet, but the more pertinent figure is 38 degrees. That’s the slope on which the avalanche occurred. Anything over 25 degrees is considered suspect, and 30, decidedly so.While Gebhart, 26, was described as both knowledgeable about avalanches and well equipped, no press reports have indicated he or his skiing partners dug pits into the snowpack to study its stability.”If you don’t do these tests, to say, ‘I think the slope is stable,’ it is no different than taking a coin and flipping it,” Hirschboeck told The Steamboat Pilot.Grad school pitched in Jackson HoleJACKSON HOLE, Wyo. Two state lawmakers propose to establish a graduate business school in Jackson Hole. The idea of a college in Jackson Hole has been bandied about for decades, and two institutions – the University of Wyoming and Central Wyoming College – already have outreach programs.The new plan would use existing state land near the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort as well as Wyoming’s state budget surplus – the result of stepped up energy extraction – to create a ‘breeding ground for investment bankers and venture capitalists,” a brochure for the idea explains.”An awful lot of details have to be worked out, but it’s the right concept, I think,” Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. The proposal envisions a “core group of world-class thinkers” that would include “two or three renowned professors.”Vail, Colorado

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