die in slide near Rogers Pass
REVELSTOKE, B.C. – And still the sad news continues from
the Canadian Rockies.
Only a day after 200 people crowded into a church in Revelstoke
to mourn the seven Americans and Canadians who had died while
backcountry skiing on Durrand Glacier, north of Revelstoke,
seven students on a school outing near Rogers Pass were killed
in a massive avalanche.
The site of the second avalanche was only 20 to 25 miles from
The students, all of them 10th-graders from a private school
near Calgary, were members of a 17-person party, including three
adult chaperones, who had set out Feb. 1. All were equipped
with avalanche beacons, snow probes and shovels. The adult leader
of the party was a certified backcountry guide. The route they
used was a popular one and had been used by more than 200 people
in three to four days prior.
The snowpack was known to have been weak, and it had rained
the previous day in the area, but avalanche personnel with Parks
Canada in Revelstoke would not speculate whether that rain might
have been a contributing factor. Experts on the scene surmised
that contrary to almost all avalanche fatalities, the victims
in this case had not triggered the slide.
Response was rapid. A guide in the party had a satellite telephone,
and the first of seven helicopters, 30 rescue personnel, a unit
of the Canadian Armed Forces, and avalanche dogs had arrived
within 20 minutes. However, two backcountry guides who happened
to be in the area initiated the work, and succeeded in saving
several of the youngsters, who in turn helped dig out others.
Within 40 minutes of the calamity, four of the seven killed
had been dug out, buried under one to three meters of snow.
The avalanche was described as 3 to 3.5 on a scale of 5, large
enough to destroy a train or a house.
Dark skies effort fails in Park City
PARK CITY, UTAH – Amateur astronomer Anthony Arrigo has
been beating the drum loudly for dark skies in Park City. The
co-founder of Utah Skies, he had hoped Utah legislators would
adopt a resolution discouraging light pollution and excessive
lighting of state facilities. He failed.
Prominent among those testifying against the resolutions were
representatives of billboard companies, who argued that the
resolution would lead to an increase in crime, reports The Park
Record (Feb. 1). Arrigo was said to be regrouping, figuring
out the higher form of stealth politics.
Observatory erected in Gunnison
GUNNISON – A 30-inch telescope is expected to be placed
at a new observatory just south of the town of Gunnison, a college
town about 27 miles from Crested Butte. The county government
had placed a down payment on the telescope in hopes it would
attract professionals, students and amateur astronomers to the
area, reports the Crested Butte News (Jan. 24).
In conjunction with the telescope – which is to be powered
from solar cells and windmills – there will be a community
sundial, a greenhouse and a constructed wetland. Nearby is a
prominent archaeological site.
Aspen sees strong December sales
ASPEN – A strong December caused sales tax collections
in Aspen to be down only 1.8 percent compared to 2001.
The year started slowly. Collections were down 4.7 percent
from January through August, then up 5.2 percent from September
through December. Included was a December that was like the
good old days – up 10.4 percent.
The Aspen Times (Feb. 5) says this swing was most prominent
in lodging – down 9.2 percent for the first eight months,
and then up 16.5 percent in the final four. Other sectors were
more laggard, with all sectors of retail sales suffering declined
Telluride gear company sells out
TELLURIDE – Bookends for the story of Jagged Edge Mountain
Gear are 1991 and 2001, and both involve lack of money.
In 1991, Margaret Quenemoen had returned to Telluride after
a mountaineering trip, her wallet empty. She had beautiful fabrics,
however, and sewed strips of the fabric onto strips of fleece,
crafting warm and stylish headbands that became all the rage
in Telluride and beyond.
By 2001, Jagged Edge, as she and her sister, Paula Quenemoen,
called the company that they founded, had stores in Breckenridge,
Park City and Crested Butte, as well as Telluride. They also
had a booming mail-order business.
Then the terrorist attacks occurred, and soon after the anthrax
scares. The company had sent out 725,000 catalogues, double
the number of the year before, but the company believed that
a quarter of them hit the trash bin. The company was terrifically
overstocked, and the merchandise just didn’t move quickly
enough out of the new store in Park City, despite the Olympics.
In May 2002, the company filed for bankruptcy.
Even before, Margaret Quenemoen had been seeking a partner.
Now, the company has been sold to the Russell Corporation, an
Atlanta-based manufacturer of team athletic wear, reports The
Telluride Watch (Jan. 21). Terms were not disclosed, but company
officials described it as a classic story of a booming brand
without the infrastructure necessary to support sales.
Ski towns see impacts of possible war
WHISTLER, B.C. – Of course a war in Iraq will affect
tourism in Whistler, Aspen and every other mountain town. But
how and how much?
Duration of the war, and whether it sets off a round of global
terrorism, is part of the equation. Already, evidence is ample
that people are booking vacations much shorter in advance –
Vail Resorts, for example, figures the average lead time is
two weeks, where it used to be 60 days.
Peter Williams, director of the center for tourism and policy
research at Simon Fraser University, told Whistler’s Pique
newsmagazine (Feb. 5) he believes a war may cut visitor totals
to British Columbia by 20 to 30 percent.
Barret Fischer, vice president for marketing strategy and business
for Tourism Whistler, says the consensus of organizations and
businesses he talks with is that Whistler is already being affected
by war talk. Long-haul tourism from the United States and overseas
is down, while German and Japanese consumers are being cautious.
Travelers from the United Kingdom and Mexico, however, view
Canada as a “safe haven” and are going ahead with
Eighth person perishes at Keystone
KEYSTONE – A snowboarder died of a lacerated liver and
other internal injuries he suffered after crashing from a jump
at the resort’s terrain park. It was the eighth death
at Keystone this year, four of them trauma-related skier or
snowboarder deaths. In addition, an employee drowned, another
fell off a chairlift, and two customers died of heart attacks,
reports the Summit Daily News (Feb. 9).
Mountain lion starts slide at Breck
BRECKENRIDGE – A mountain lion started, got caught in,
and survived an avalanche in the Breckenridge Ski Area. The
cat struggled in the slide but escaped and ran off. Witnesses
said the slide was 450 feet across and then ran 600 vertical
The cat was seen above timberline, in the Peak 8 area near
Imperial Bowl. The bowl is located at an elevation of 12,000
to 13,000 feet, but was not open at the time. A mountain lion
also was seen on the slopes of Vail Mountain five years ago,
in the Lionshead area, but showed little interest in the snowshoer
who filed the report.
Knox Williams, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information
Center, told the Summit Daily News (Feb. 8) that elk are known
to start avalanches, perhaps once or twice a year in Colorado,
but this is the first avalanche he has heard of started by a
cat. Most unusual, he said, was the elevation – well above
Ice rink pushed to NHL standards
TELLURIDE – Telluride’s ice rink will be built
to National Hockey League regulation-sized, 200 feet, thanks
to a recent infusion of cash. After the project was beset by
cost overruns, the Town Council rode to the rescue with $69,000,
while a group of hockey dads pledged another $110,000. The money
also will be used to pay for finished bathrooms. Foundation
for the project is a $1.9 million bond issue approved by Telluride
voters in 2001, notes The Telluride Watch (Jan. 24).
New owner takes over SmartWool
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Philadelphia-based RAFT Industries
is now the complete owner of SmartWool but will not move operations
from Steamboat Springs. The company is in the first of a five-year
renewable lease for use of the former commercial airport terminal
at the city’s airport. Over the past three years, SmartWool
has grown from 12 to 32 employees in Steamboat Springs.
Peter and Patty Duke founded SmartWool, importing Merino wool
from New Zealand to make hiking, skiing and running socks. RAF,
a holding company, acquired majority interest in SmartWool in
1995, and in January acquired the remaining minority interest
from the Dukes. RAF’s portfolio includes a range of companies
but with an emphasis on gift items and industrial products.
No money is being added to the company as a result of the transaction,
nor is any needed, said John “Chip” Coe, executive
vice president of SmartWool. The company has recorded annual
growth during the past seven years, even in last year’s
down economy. "We’re one of the strongest players
in the outdoor industries, and we claim the dominant market
share among socks of the outdoor industry,” Coe told the
Steamboat Pilot (Feb. 5). “Each quarter we strengthen
our hold. We’re well positioned for future growth.”