Tower pad sledding turns serious |

Tower pad sledding turns serious

Bob Berwyn

An unauthorized but popular ski resort pastime resulted in at least one serious injury at Breckenridge Jan. 11, when a group of friends sliding down the hill on a tower pad collided with a propane tank and metal stake near the bottom of Peak 8, according to a report from the sheriff’s office and a press release from Vail Resorts.Three sliders were injured. One of the victims was flown to Denver by Flight for Life in critical condition. According to a press release from Vail Resorts, the accident involved employees of the Breckenridge Ski and Ride School. The resort says the accident is under investigation.Tracked outBackcountry users around Teton Pass apparently can’t agree to disagree. A hand-lettered sign asking hikers and skiers to use separate tracks has been removed, the Jackson Hole News and Guide reports.The sign was erected by Mike Clelland, a NOLS instructor from Driggs, Idaho, who said he was trying to get backcountry users to understand the needs of others in an increasingly crowded world, according to the News and Guide. Ski tracks work better if they haven’t had holes punched in them.But Clelland’s polite missive was removed and in its place, someone else left an angry rant: &quotNobody here owns the snow! It’s a temporary medium! Walk or ski where you like! If you have a problem move to a new location or town!! Your elitist attitude is not needed!!&quotArctic chill grips New England resortsIcy air spilling down from the Arctic has hampered operations at many New England ski areas, with temperatures dropping to anywhere for minus 50 degrees in northern Maine to minus 10 in the southern parts of the region, according to the Snow Journal, a Web-based ski-zine ( to Ski Journal, not a single location in the region reported temperatures above zero. As of Wednesday, Jan. 14, some resorts had closed altogether until temperatures climb back to a more normal range. At Wildcat Ski Area, near Pinkham Notch, N.H., the Jan. 14 ski report posted temperatures of minus 20, with wind chill values expected to dip down to minus 40. The area planned to remain closed through Jan. 15, reopening Jan. 16.Whose peak is it, anyway?Tim Blixseth, owner of the exclusive Yellowstone Mountain Club ski resort in Montana, is suing the U.S. Forest Service over ownership of Lone Peak, according to the Snow Journal. Three areas operate on the flanks of the peak; the Yellowstone Club, Big Sky, and a public resort on private land, the new Moonlight Basin.According to the Snow Journal, the complicated legal battle involves a rocky 20-acre parcel at the top of the mountain that Blixseth claims was promised to him by the Forest Service as part of a congressionally authorized 1998 land swap. But the federal agency recently deeded the land to the owners of the new Moonlight Basin resort.Snow feud in Crested ButteCrested Butte Town Council members can’t agree on what to do with the prodigious snow banks that have built up along the main drag as a result of copious early season snowfall, the Crested Butte News reports.Town policy calls for the banks to be removed as soon as possible, but some council members suggested that the piles of white contribute to an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere, and pointed out that the snow banks have been featured in national advertising.Crested Butte Mayor Jim Schmidt pointed out that some business owners and residents do not like the snow banks because they cut off access to Elk Avenue businesses and limit parking, while other town officials said it’s expensive to remove the snow, requiring extra labor.Removal has been delayed until town staff decides it’s necessary, according to the News.Resort rebellion?Snow Journal, an online ski-zine, reports that Killington officials are considering a measure to secede from the state of Vermont and join New Hampshire. Killington Town Manager David Lewis said the move is related to an &quotunfair tax environment&quot in Vermont, according to Snow Journal.Echoing early American revolutionaries, Killington leaders say the state is imposing taxation without representation. The town has already challenged some of the state’s tax measures in court, winning a favorable ruling in a superior court but losing upon appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court.Big Christmas at Winter ParkThe Winter Park Manifest reports that Winter Park Resort’s busiest Christmas ever was marred by two head-on car crashes, resulting in one death. Businesses in town also reported record and near-record sales, according to the Manifest. The big boost came after a less-then-stellar early season, when the Grand County resort appeared to be languishing despite good early snow.Cold temperatures during the holidays boosted sales for some retailers and restaurants, as visitors sought shelter from the icy weather. Property managers and rental companies also reported business ahead of last year, according to the Manifest.But traffic was an issue, with a needed widening of Highway 40 between the town and resort still incomplete. The Manifest reports that Mary Jane parking lots were filled by 10 a.m. on some of the busiest days, also contributing to congestion.Slides shut down French resortEuropean newspapers report that the French ski resort of Val d’Isere was shut down recently due to a high avalanche danger. Snowslides have killed seven people in the area during the last few weeks, and continued heavy snowfall and high winds have caused officials to raise avalanche warnings to the highest level.All ski lifts were closed and vacationers were advised to stay inside with windows shuttered to avoid inundation. Roads and schools were also closed.Feds reject Wyoming wolf planA proposal by Wyoming to classify wolves as predators won’t fly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, charged with managing federally listed threatened and endangered species, the Jackson Hole News and Guide reports. Until the state changes its management plan, wolves will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act.According to the News and Guide, &quotwolf advocates greeted the news with howls of approval. Wolf opponents and Wyoming’s political leaders, however, called the decision “disappointing” and “politically motivated.” Federal officials have approved wolf plans in the adjacent states of Idaho and Montana, where wild wolf packs also roam. USFWS scientists said they are confident those plans are adequate to maintain their share of the tri-state population.The proposed Wyoming predator status could allow airborne hunting of wolves.In-town avalanche raises concernsAn active avalanche path within the town limits of Mt. Crested Butte has triggered discussion among officials and property owners to find a way to mitigate the potential hazard. The slide ran Jan. 4, resulting on no injuries and only slight property damage, according to the Crested Butte News.But the same slide caused more significant damage in 1995, and killed a tourist in 1989. In mid-January, the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council held talks with a property owner to explore mitigation options.The News reports that Mt. Crested Butte Town Manager Chuck Stearns has elevated the avalanche awareness level in the town to an &quotavalanche emergency&quot status as a result of the recent activity. Officials are exploring a land swap that would give the town the ability to conduct avalanche control work. A public hearing is set for Jan. 20.Tahoe resorts get big holiday dumpsTahoe-area resorts are reporting big snows and big holiday crowds in some cases near-record numbers, according to the Tahoe Tribune. As much as 12 feet of snow fell during the Christmas-New Year’s period and snow levels at Alpine Meadows are 60 percent above normal. The ski area reported its eighth-biggest December in 33 years, according to the Tribune.Base depths at Sugar Bowl ranged between 144 and 210 inches, and December snowfall was the best since 1974.Whistler focuses on avy safetyWith Whistler-Blackcomb’s Big Mountain Experience event set for mid-January, Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) officials will visit the B.C. resort to spread an avalanche safety message, the Whistler Question reports.CAA officials said that last winter’s high death toll (29) spurred them to take more pro-active steps to educate backcountry users. Activities will include hands-on demonstrations of safety gear such as avalanche probes and shovels and experts will also explain how to interpret the Public Avalanche Bulletins and CAA avalanche forecasts.Early season sales down slightlySnowsports Industries America (SIA) reports that overall early season sales for the winter sports market were down slightly this year for the August through November period. Sales declined by 1.65 percent from $663 million in 2002 to $652 million in 2003.Sales for the month of November were down by about 9 percent in specialty stores as holiday shoppers looked for early season bargains, according to Julie Lynch, SIA’s director of market research.But snowboard and telemark gear continued on a hot streak, with sales of snowboard related gear up 10.4 percent. Sales of Nordic equipment climbed about 39 percent from last year, while telemark sales totaled $2.1 million, an increase of 72.8 percent from last year, according to SIA.Attention don’t feed the wildlife!The Durango Herald reports that the Colorado Wildlife Commission has voted unanimously to add coyotes and foxes to a &quotdo not feed&quot list along with bears. The commission oversees the Colorado Division of Wildlife, which is charged with enforcing such bans.Animals that are fed by humans eventually become habituated to hanging around people and their food, a story that generally ends with the demise of the animals, after they attack pets or appear to be threatening toward people. Feeding wild animals inevitable attracts more of them.Another ‘creature feature’The Durango Herald also reports that a resident of Hesperus (about 10 miles west of Durango) has been reunited with a pet cat after being separated for six months and 95 miles.According to the Herald, the cat, named Jello, walked into Greg White’s Hesperus abode after it was abandoned in Monticello, Utah last June. White said he abandoned the cat in Monticello when he moved to Washington state to build a house. When he settled in Hesperus this winter, some neighbors who were familiar with the cat said they saw it in the neighborhood. White subsequently put out some food and called its name, and sure enough, the cat returned.Calendar raises funds for Canadian avy centerThe Canadian Avalanche Association hopes to raise up to $10,000 with sales of a new calendar featuring the &quotGirls of the Canadian Rockies.&quot The calendar is co-sponsored by the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies association (RCR) and Kokanee Beer, according to First Tracks Online, a Web-based ski-zine.&quotThe Girls of the Canadian Rockies’ staff of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and Kokanee feel very connected to the mountain places in which we live and we want everyone to enjoy the mountains with their friends and family safely,&quot said RCR’s Matt Mosteller. &quotThis is a way for us to give back to our communities by raising $10,000 in support of the Canadian Avalanche Association.&quotThe calendar will be available towards the end of February online at

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