Tourist succumbs to altitude sickness

MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. A 31-year-old man from Lake Dallas, Texas, died of the effects of thin air while visiting Crested Butte recently.

The man, Paul Parmeley, suffered pulmonary and cerebral edemas, or filling of the lungs and brain with fluid. In addition, a toxicology report found methadone in his body, although the methadone did not cause his death, Gunnison County Coroner Frank Vader said. The resort is located at an elevation of about 9,400 feet, although the ski area's top elevation surpasses 12,000 feet.

Thin air was a factor in about half the natural deaths in Gunnison County last year, says Vader. In those cases, people had pre-existing heart conditions, and when they got to high elevations while elk hunting, mountain climbing or during other outings, the exertion of thin air created too much stress on their hearts.

Many Colorado resorts are at high elevations, and the bulk of their customers come from near sea level. Arriving without acclimatization, the vacationers often consume too much alcohol and too little water, heading to the lifts to get high. At Telluride, where the resort-oriented town of Mountain Village is at an elevation of 9,545 feet, Dr. Peter Hackett told the Wall Street Journal that on a busy day he will treat three to five fractures and five to seven cases of acute mountain sickness. For every skier who goes to a clinic, he estimates 100 others simply tough it out on the slopes or vomit in their rooms.

Aspen signs X Games contract

ASPEN, Colo. The Aspen Skiing Co. aided by city officials has reached a deal with ESPN that will keep the Winter X games in Aspen through 2007. The move helps graying Aspen re-establish itself as a center for "winter action sports and youth culture," said David Perry, a skiing company executive.

Established in 1997, the games have been at Aspen since 2001. Also competing for rights to host the event was California's Mammoth. City leaders promised $100,000 a year for the next four years, plus police, transportation and other services. A venue at Buttermilk will be lit to accommodate ESPN's live prime-time coverage.

"Capturing three additional seasons would be a major coup for the Skico, solidifying the resort's growing reputation as an international center of extreme skiing and snowboarding," observed The Aspen Times.

Couple still trying to buy Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. Tim and Diane Mueller haven't ruled out trying to get their hands on the Steamboat ski area.

The Muellers, owners of two ski areas in New England, had an option to buy Steamboat for $91.4 million when the owner, the American Skiing Co., withdrew the offer. The Muellers then sued, claiming the company had reneged on the agreement. The American Skiing Co. argued that it was obligated to pay only $500,000 in liquidated damages.

Although a district court judge dismissed the suit, an appeals court in Colorado has ruled that the issue must go to trial. Tim Mueller told the Steamboat Pilot last year that there might be circumstances under which he might have to be satisfied with seeking greater damages. However, after the new ruling, he said forcing a sale remains a "viable option." However, American Skiing Co. can also appeal this most recent ruling.

The Muellers are now buying Crested Butte in a deal expected to close any day.

Expert says Tahoe Tessie unlikely

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. You've no doubt heard of Scotland's Loch Ness monster. Lake Tahoe has its own mythical monster, Tahoe Tessie, but the foremost expert on Lake Tahoe doesn't believe it exists.

Dr. Charles Goldman, a scientist specializing in water currents, explains that all sightings of Tessie have one thing in common no one ever sees the head or tail, only dark objects in the water. As such, he said at a recent lecture attended by the Tahoe World , waves can be mistaken for humps. But if Tessie does exist, it could be a sturgeon, which could have been introduced into the lake with fish stockings over the years. It reaches a weight of 1,500 pounds, and there's much to eat in Lake Tahoe.

More likely is a Loch Ness Monster, Goldman says, because the Irish Sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean through a series of lochs, also called lakes. As such, an oarfish, which has reached 20 to 30 feet and 400 pounds, could have swam into Loch Ness and been mistaken for a sea serpent.

Backpacking pioneer passes away

LOS ANGELES, Calif. Dick Kelty, who revolutionized backpacking by designing a pack that caused much of the pack's weight to shift from the shoulder to the hips, has died in suburban Los Angeles. He was 84.

A veteran of World War II, Kelty was working as a carpenter in 1951 when he and a friend, Clay Seaman, were hiking in the Sierra Nevada. As he explained to the Los Angeles Times in an interview many years later, both men were burdened by their heavy and awkward Army-surplus rucksacks. The rucksacks were mounted on U-shaped frames made of wood. But during the trip, Seaman discovered that by putting the bottom supports of the backpack in his rear pockets of his pants, he could stand up straight and, best all, the pack felt lighter. Later, they figured out why the weight was being shifted to the legs.

"After we got back, I started making some packs in my kitchen out of nylon and aluminum tubing," he told the Times . "They had waist straps, which put most of the weight on the hips."

He made packs for himself and a friend, but didn't realize his business opportunity until a stranger turned up at his door one night asking for such a pack. With $500 borrowed against his two-bedroom house, he began making backpacks 29 the first year, and then by the thousands.

Lions prowl the slopes of Vail

VAIL, Colo. Mountain lion tracks were found in the Red Sandstone neighborhood of Vail, which is within a few blocks of the Lionshead ski lifts. Police were encouraging residents to be extra vigilant, keeping a close eye on children and pets.

There have been several reports of mountain lions in or near Vail during the last several years. In 1997, a woman climbing Vail Mountain during the evening, after the lifts had closed, reported seeing a mountain lion streak across the slopes near her. The cat, she said, seemed not at all interested in her. As she was preparing to walk around the world, she took the sight of the lion in stride.

Climbers grasp the Tetons' Holy Grail

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. Two teams of climbers have grasped the Holy Grail of the Tetons, completing the first continuous winter ascents of the range's 10 core peaks. The feat, which was heavy with footnotes about routes and what kind of aid is permissible, took one team nearly three days, and the second four days in weather that ranged between wintertime balm and full-blizzard conditions.

"I can't describe it. I'm in a daze," one climber told the Jackson Hole News & Guide . "Today was one of the best days ever in the mountains," said his partner. "We were both giddy."

Beetle epidemic slows in Canada

CANMORE, Alberta For the first time in history, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook , a mountain pine beetle outbreak has been controlled without the help of 40-below cold weather.

A recent survey in the Bow River Valley shows that a beetle epidemic that began in 1996 seems to have slowed, and perhaps ended. Provincial forest health biologists attributed the reduction to a large controlled burn. Foresters insist efforts to control beetles must continue, however.

Prevention of fires for 80 to 120 years combined with mild winters of recent years has made forests particularly vulnerable to pine beetles.

Telluride may subsidize child care

TELLURIDE, Colo. A study commissioned by Telluride's municipal government suggests local governments subsidize child care, as they already do affordable housing and transportation. Child care in the Telluride area costs 30 percent more than in outlying areas. Most employers attribute absenteeism among workers to them staying home to care for children. The report, noted the Telluride Watch , found that it takes an income of $56,000 for a family of four to live without subsidies in the Telluride area.

compiled by Allen Best






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