Wet-slab avalanche study planned

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. – The U.S. Forest Service is planning a comprehensive study of wet-slab avalanches.

The study was prompted by the death of a skier at Arapahoe Basin. A wet slab released near the top of Palivacinni’s ski trail last May, sweeping a Denver-area man to his death in the dense timber below.

The Forest Service has concluded that A-Basin followed all required and established protocols for snow safety. The problem, reports theSummit Daily News, is that far less is known about the behavior of wet snow during spring than is known of mid-winter snow conditions.

“We know about crusts sitting on top of faceted snow, but the behavior is unpredictable in the spring,” said Doug Abromeit, director of the National Avalanche Center, which is based in Ketchum, Idaho. He added that rapidly rising temperatures do not necessarily cause wet slab avalanches.

Wet slabs are the most poorly understood avalanches, partly because ski areas close in spring before those conditions commonly exist, said Abromeit. A-Basin is nearly the only ski area in the Rocky Mountains to remain open through May, sometimes running the lifts until July 4th and even later.

Wet slab avalanches, explains theDaily News, will be studied at seven sites dispersed among the three major snowpack regimes: maritime (coastal ranges), continental (interior Rocky Mountain ranges with dry snow and cold temperatures) and inter-mountain (sharing characteristics of both).


Steamboat gets tough with ski code

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The Steamboat ski area this winter adopted a tougher stance on reckless skiing, emphasizing the responsibility of upslope snow riders.

Those upslope snow riders are responsible for avoiding collisions with those below. While this policy is not new, the stick to enforce it is. Ski area officials will suspend the lift privileges of offenders for 30 days. A second violation will result in loss of skiing privileges for the rest of the season.

However, the most common collision is when two skiers/ snowboarders come together hip to hip while both are making wide, arcing, giant-slalom-style turns, said John Kohnke, the Ski Patrol director.

The Steamboat Pilot noted many angry comments from locals who thought the new rules were intended to harass local skiers and snowboarders. Nonsense, said the newspaper. Destination skiers have thousands of dollars riding on their vacations. Furthermore, the real issue is not the potential for losing a pass, but rather losing a limb or perhaps even a life.


Resort rowdiness increases in Vail

VAIL – Police and prosecutors in Vail say resort rowdiness has been crossing the line too often. The town’s municipal prosecutor said he saw more injuries from bar fights last year than he had seen in the prior 10 years altogether.

Police promise more presence on Bridge Street, the town’s party central, and the prosecutor, John Clune, promises less lenience in charges he files.

Bar managers contacted by theVail Daily indicated they accept stepped-up police presence. “People come here and think it’s Las Vegas, and they think they can do whatever they want,” said Scott Douthitt, manager at The Red Lion. But former policeman Dick Cleveland suggested locals, not just tourists, are to blame. “There’s nothing fun about coming here to ski and getting beat up,” he said.


Magazine extols excesses of Aspen

ASPEN – Aspen’s reputation as a place of wretched excess was given a major boost on Dec. 18 with several pieces inThe New York Times Magazine.

“A well-stocked candy dish is making a comeback at one exclusive winter retreat,” reported the magazine. The story reported that “candy is serious business at the exclusive Aspen Mountain Club,” with a budget of more than $3,000 per winter to keep the antique wood bowl at the club’s entrance stocked with sweets.

And so the story went. One well-heeled resident noted, “It’s an adult playland here. You can indulge, and candy represents something that’s forbidden.”

Elsewhere in the magazine, nine pages were devoted to photos of well-heeled locals amid heated outdoor swimming pools, dens lined with exotic animal heads, private jets and all the

accoutrements of ample wealth. The locals were decked out in clothing with list prices of the items running $5,000, $10,000 and more.

Locals who were in the shoot that were contacted byThe Aspen Times said they were skeptical before the photo shoot and now don’t want to talk about it.



Bed bugs infest Vail and Beaver Creek

VAIL – Bed bugs have been back in the news lately. After a virtual absence for several decades, perhaps due to their near eradiation because use of the chemical DDT, they’re being reported everywhere from New York City to … Vail and Beaver Creek.

“We average probably a call a day” for bed-bug extermination, reported one pest-control-business worker, Dale Nesbit. Nesbit told theVail Daily that it’s been getting worse during the last two years.

The newspaper notes that bedbugs can be present in the cleanest of places. Nesbit agrees, saying he’s been called to some “pretty nice spots” in the Vail area.

The bugs seem to travel well in suitcases and, once arriving in the Vail area, aren’t bothered by the thinner air of the valley’s 7,000 to 9,000 foot elevation.


Guide vows to adapt to glacier loss

BANFF, Alberta – One of the major tourism attractions of Banff National Park is the Columbia Icefield. But, with the climate changing rapidly, there are doubts if there will be much ice left in 30 or 40 years.

So, what do you do if your business is taking people out to see the glaciers, asked theRocky Mountain Outlook. “You adapt to it, and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing,” said Andrew Whittick, the vice president of Brewster, which runs snow coach tours.

“We’re still investing heavily in our icefield operation, and we don’t anticipate that we’ll have any problems in accessing that glacier surface.”

Climate change and tourist expert Daniel Scott recently released a report that noted glaciers in the Banff area have receded 25 percent during the 20th century. He says the pace of heating being predicted by climatologist could cause smaller glaciers at lower elevations to disappear altogether.

Climate data suggest warmer and drier winters during the last 70 years. Winter temperatures are projected to increase between 0.3 and 1.7 degrees celsius by the 2020s.

Steamboat gives biodiesel a burn

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Two school buses in Steamboat Springs will be fueled by a 20 percent mixture of biodiesel beginning in January. If the trial works well, reportsThe Steamboat Pilot, the school district may expand use of the 20 percent mixture to all 14 of the district’s buses.

While biodiesel costs the district 10 cents more per gallon, the district was compelled to try the biodiesel component because it pollutes the environment less than the full-strength petroleum-based diesel. The product is made from canola that is grown elsewhere in Colorado. The suppler is Blue Sun, the Fort Collins-based manufacturer.

Gelling during cold weather has been an issue in some but not all other regions of Colorado where biodiesel has been used as a 5, 10 and 20 percent component.

Crested Butte hit with homelessness

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – As two of the coldest places in the lower 48 states, Crested Butte and Gunnison would seem unlikely places to have homeless people. But the early December cold snap that saw temperatures of 30 to 40 below showed otherwise.

“At least five or six people have come to us asking if there was an overnight shelter where they could stay,” said Denise Wise, director of the Gunnison County Housing Authority.

Those who have been sleeping in their cars or wherever else they can take shelter tend to be long-time residents who, due to an illness or injury or lost job, have fallen on hard times, she said.

In response, according to theCrested Butte News, a coalition of governments, churches, and private firms are planning to house the homeless at a round robin of churches. Those under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be accepted.

Distinguishing between the couch surfers and the hard-core homeless is hard to do, Wise acknowledged.

-compiled by Allen Best

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows