By Allen Best
NARSID casualties up
WINTER PARK, Colo. – It’s been a bad winter for tree-well and other deep-snow immersions. In addition a recent death at Winter Park in Colorado, there were two in rapid succession at the same ski area in Montana, one in California, and two in British Columbia.
One of the latter occurred during a snowcat trip at Retallack Lodge, B.C. The other was at Whistler at Christmas, when a snowboarder was trapped in an inverted position after falling in deep snow in a creek bed. Unlike the others, it was not next to a tree.
An average of 3.8 deaths occur annually in the United States from what Paul Baugher calls non-avalanche related snow immerse deaths, or NARSID. The cases from British Columbia would boost that figure substantially. British Columbia has had the most NARSID fatalities since 1990, followed by California and Colorado.
Baugher, who is the director of Washington’s Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol, has become the ski industry’s expert on deep-snow immersions. He has discovered that immersion deaths, in which the individual cannot right themselves, correlate with the deep snows of La Niña winters. There’s also a correlation with bigger canopy trees, such as are found in the Sierra Nevada, the Pacific Northwest, and Montana.
Colorado has fewer such trees, but it has more skiers. He found no immersion deaths east of the Rockies.
Doctor challenges uphilling ban
JACKSON, Wyo. – Both outrage and a few smiles have been evident in Jackson Hole since 78-year-old Roland Fleck was arrested after refusing to stop skiing up the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Ski patrollers said they tried for three and a half hours to persuade him to stop skiing uphill and instead go with the flow on Feb. 5. They even offered to give him a free lift ticket.
But Fleck, a physician, defiantly told them he was skiing to his granddaughter’s ski race on the mountain and then told them to “just give me a ticket.”
At length, they did more, detaining him with two sets of handcuffs and then hauling him down the mountain in a toboggan. He was in jail for more than seven hours.
“I thought Aspen was crazy, but it sounds like Jackson Hole has its claim to the same,” wrote Ward Hauenstein, of Aspen, in a letter published the following week in the Jackson Hole News&Guide.
Jackson Hole, wrote a local in the same paper, “markets itself as a big-mountain, extreme, helmet-cam ready destination resort. Now they have declared hiking up a cat track on skins a hazard that cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.”
At resorts across the West, the issue of “uphilling” has become an occasional thorn in recent decades, as people have increasingly taken to the slopes to improve cardiovascular conditioning. But while resorts mostly operate on public land, they have special-use permits that allow them to place restrictions on use.
Earlier this winter, Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort annoyed many locals when it announced that people heading uphill, using skins on skis or snowshoes, would have to hew to a restricted route.
But the case at Jackson Hole stands out from others partly because of Fleck. Austrian by birth, he began visiting Jackson Hole in the 1950s and moved permanently in 1978. He was said to be one of the first people to use climbing skins, the devices that can be attached to the bottom of skis to facilitate climbing.
Fleck invested in Teton Village, the real estate project at the base of the ski area, in 1965, and was known for his emergency room work in Jackson Hole. He has also been a fitness buff.
“People think that Fleck is somehow responsible to cause these people to have to do that to him,” said Armando Menocal, an attorney and mountain guide who has litigated for access by rock climbers.
“I did civil rights cases for 25 years, people who stand on principle aren’t always the nicest people in the world, but we should be thankful that they have more cojones than we do,” he said.
Ouray split on wilderness
OURAY, Colo. – Ouray County commissioners are presenting less than a united front in support of enlarging the designated wilderness in the San Juan Mountains.
The Telluride Watch reports that one of the three commissioners dissented at a recent forum, arguing that wilderness will handcuff potential mining for rare-earth minerals and development of small hydro projects.
The commissioner, Mike Fidel, who worked at one of the local mines for some years, said he was very uncomfortable relying on a single industry, tourism, for the local economy. “I’m afraid we’re going to lock everything up,” he said.
But Commissioner Lynn Padgett, a geologist, said rare-earth minerals are actually not all that rare. What is rare, she added, is the alpine tundra and water-filtering ecosystem found in the proposed wilderness addition, located on the north slope of the Sneffels Range, between Telluride and Ridgway.
“Mining has always been boom-and-bust,” she said. “Tourism has sustained us and will continue to sustain us.”
Homewood lays out vision
LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Homewood Resort, located on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, has six development alternatives, but the preferred one calls for a 17-acre development that will yield a substantial amount of housing, skier-services facilities and a parking garage. The plans also include a lodge with 75 traditional hotel rooms plus 40 condominium/hotel units, and 30 penthouse condominiums, reports the Sierra Sun.
Art Chapman, president of JMA Ventures, a San Francisco-based real-estate firm, said the intent is to create “an upscale boutique ski resort the community can be proud of.”
The proposed development would be built to LEED gold standard.
Whistler studies Chinese
WHISTLER, B.C. – Although the door to British Columbia was opened by the Chinese government in December, Whistler tourism officials expect no significant flood. Instead, it is expected that Chinese tourists will tend to visit destinations close to home first.
Still, it’s a vast market, likely to grow. As such, Whistler is starting to take note about cultural sensitivities for Chinese, and how they may differ from other overseas visitors.
Udall promotes giveaways
BOULDER, Colo. – U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, along with other Congressional representatives from Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, has introduced a bill that would expand the authority of ski area operators to use their permitted federal lands for non-skiing uses.
While mountain bike trails have never been questioned, and some ski areas even have had alpine slides, ski areas would like clear authority for other uses.
The proposed bill, explains The Aspen Times, specifically allows Frisbee golf, ropes courses, and zip lines and other, still unspecified, uses. But it excludes tennis courts, swimming pools, golf courses, water slides and water parks.
In a press conference, Udall said he isn’t promoting industrial tourism, but wants to allow better use of existing facilities and to attract tourists to resort towns.
Vail teams with Cadillac
BROOMFIELD, Colo. – Cadillac is now the official vehicle at Vaikl’s four Colorado ski resorts and two in California. “Vail Resorts provides our guests a world-class experience, and our brands are synonymous with luxury and sophistication,” said Heidi Kercher-Pratt, chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “Cadillac’s line of vehicles and economic reputation is an impressive addition in our resorts.”