By Allen Best
Riders roll dice in backcountry
JACKSON, Wyo. – Three skiers and snowboarders were in the news last week after being in avalanches near ski towns.
Two of them lived to tell about it.
The most famous was Jimmy Chin, the climber and photographer who was on the cover of the March issue of Outside Magazine. Chin had just purchased his first helmet the previous day, and he and his companions — a renowned bunch of skiers and riders — had done all the things you’re supposed to do.“We didn’t think we were pushing it,” Chin told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
Still, by around 2 p.m., they were heading down a south-facing slope on Shadow Peak, in Grand Teton National Park, provoking wet-snow avalanches ahead of them, in what they believed was a successful effort to abate the threat.
Then it happened. About 50 feet behind Chin, a 2-foot wet slab broke.
Chin kicked off his skis and threw his poles, the advice given people caught in slides, to help keep them at the top. It worked for about 500 feet of the 2,000-foot slide.
Buried to his waist as the concrete-like snow set up, a second slide hit. “I was pretty sure I was going to get cut in half,” Chin, 37, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. But he wasn’t, although his helmet was dented.
Chin told the newspaper he wasn’t proud of being caught in the avalanche, but he wasn’t going to hide it. “There’s always a lot to be learned from incidents like this.”
In Colorado, near Loveland Pass, adjacent to the Arapahoe Basin ski area, Danny Ferrari, 42, checked the avalanche forecasts, carried a shovel, beacon and probe, and knew the area well.
A companion was filming him snowboarding down an area called Devil’s Tool when he felt a change in the snowpack. “I pushed down and the whole slope just released,” he told the Summit Daily News.
The cement-like snow moved slowly, then picking up speed, slammed him into a tree and knocked him upside down. “Then I was in the washing machine,” he said.
When the snow stopped, his head was pointed downhill, his torso twisted, and he was completely submerged. He was, however, able to create a small air pocket by eating some of the snow near his face. And he was able to move his arm enough to see the sky. Removing his gloves, he clawed at the snow that had congealed around him.
Finally, help arrived to dig him out. The companion who had been filming him had suffered a broken leg, but was able to call for help on a cell phone.
His survival made Ferrari a happy statistic. Only 34 percent of those buried for more than a half-hour survive.
“I was mad as hell, because I was like, ‘I can’t believe this just happened,’” Ferrari, the father of two, told the News’s Caddie Nash.
The final avalanche story comes from Aspen, and it has an unhappy ending. Adam Brady Dennis, 38, had been skiing with four friends in an area called Desolation Row, near the Aspen Highlands ski area. A soft-slab avalanche carried him 1,400 vertical feet, leaving debris that averaged two feet.
All the companions had beacons, and located him quickly, but it was too late. .
No country for poor men
BANFF, Alberta – As spectacular as the setting is, you can’t just up and move to Banff and live there happily ever after. Not even if you’re really rich.
You have to have a job there, or at least have worked in Banff National Park for five years before retiring. The land is located within the park, and hence subject to the rules set by Parks Canada.
Now, Parks Canada has decided to step up enforcement by insisting on supporting documentation, such as would be required by a bank lending money, reports the Rocky Mountain Leader.
Twelve miles down-valley at the entrance to the park, Canmore also has a rarified distinction. According to a new provincial report, Canmore has the highest cost of living of any town in Alberta as measured by rents, restaurants and a few other metrics.
Town officials interpreted the report as evidence to support the need for affordable housing initiatives. But realty agents and restaurants told the newspaper that the report was too narrow of a snapshot to prove much of anything.
Richard Greaves, a RE-Max agent, said real estate prices are constantly in flux, making a two-week window too narrow for conclusions. And restaurants said that the independent dining opportunities, unlike the chains found elsewhere, are superior, so of course they are more costly.
“I think that we are very lucky as locals to have such a variety of family-run independent restaurants for a town our size and we also have the opportunity to showcase this to our visitors from around the world,” said Todd Kunst, owner of the Sage Bistro.
I can see for miles … of panels
BASALT, Colo. – Again come questions about how green and clean renewable energy is. The arena for this latest questioning is in the Roaring Fork Valley, 20 miles down-valley from Aspen, where a developer called Clean Energy Collective wants to create a solar farm.
The company last summer created a solar farm in the area with 328 panels, which can produce 77.7 kilowatts. This new proposal ups the ante. It would have 4,300 panels, capable of generating 2 megawatts of electricity.
The Aspen Times reports that planning commissioners are mixed about the wisdom of the solar farm on land that currently has no particular use. Some see just too much visual intrusion, while others think the panels are something to be proud of.
Aesthetics aside, miles and miles of such solar panels will be needed to make a true dent in the CO2 produced by burning coal and natural gas.
Bedbugs in high-rent areas
HAILEY, Idaho – Bedbugs have arrived in the Wood River Valley, home to Sun Valley and other towns.
Joe Pearson, owner of Wood River Pest Management, said he used to get a couple of cases per year. Now, it’s two a month – and he has competition. One new company in the area, Bedbug Thermal Solutions, reports getting a couple of calls per day.
That puts the Sun Valley area into good company, as Google’s New York City office has had them. So has a Victoria’s Secret store. But bed bugs remain stigmatized, much like lice.
While some exterminators use chemicals, the bugs have built up resistance. One method now preferred is heating a home to a near broil of 130 degrees.
Multicultural festival for Whistler
WHISTLER, B.C. – What must a mountain town do to attract visitors?
In Whistler, plans are unfolding to host a multicultural festival. The 25 people who attended a recent planning meeting included those originally from China, Portugal, the Philippines, Quebec, Italy, the Dominican Republic and the Czech Republic.
Unlike other festivals held in Whistler, this one has no big-name sponsors and endowments. Instead. It will be a grassroots initiative “on a shoestring and a prayer,” said William Roberts of the Whistler Forum.
In Banff, the hotel hotel association is calling for a new winter carnival to help draw visitors during the dead weeks of February.
“The regional traveler at that time of year is coming to ski for the day and leaves in the evening, and we’re trying to create new and compelling reasons to make them stay the night,” said Darren Reeder, executive director for the Banff Lake Louise Hotel Motel Association.